Chapter 3 Makeover
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The old man held up a candle to scrutinize Lan Dan’s face, occasionally using a blunt silver pin to lightly poke at certain acupoints on her face, asking if it hurt.
Lan Dan shook her head.
The old man’s brows creased with unsatisfaction. “This will do for now. It will take more time before you can control your facial expressions.”
Lan Dan couldn’t care less. These days she was dazed and disoriented. Wrapped in layers of gauze, naturally her face was expressionless all day long but she didn’t find anything wrong with this. After listening to the old man’s words, she tried to frown. The corners of her mouth almost didn’t budge. She was not even curious about her current appearance, let alone worried about whether she could make expressions.
“You can go see him now.” The old man put down the candle holder and added tiredly, “I can leave now, too.”
There was no change in the old man’s attitude towards her. He still despised and loathed her. Lan Dan didn’t mind. On the contrary, she felt at ease. At least, he was consistently honest.
“Anyway, thank you.” She felt that she should at least thank him. This was the only words she uttered these days.
The old man twisted his lips resentfully. “Don’t be so eager to thank me. I’m afraid you may want to tear me apart in the future.”
Lan Dan smiled softly, just a very faint smile that didn’t even move the corners of her mouth. She shook her head. She understood that he was just acting on someone else’s orders, but regardless of his personal feelings, she respected his loyalty to his duty.
Also, she was a little worried about him. He was only responsible for altering her appearance. As far as the whole conspiracy was concerned, he was just an outsider, just like she had been back then. She hoped… that he could safely leave.
After a short silence, the old man said coldly, “I hope you will survive this ordeal and be reborn as a human being. A smarter one at that!”
Lan Dan wanted to laugh, but her condition didn’t allow her. The old man’s words were as precise and fierce as his silver needle.
She was indeed reborn as a human being, but she didn’t even have the qualifications to drink Granny Meng’s soup. Many of the things she wanted to forget were becoming more and more persistent these days.
On a soft and warm autumn afternoon, the sunlight shone through the window of the small hall, and Shentu Cheng stood in the pattern of light and shadows, holding her hand. She looked up at him, and his long, curled eyelashes were golden in the sunlight, while his deep pupils were dark and bottomless under the shadow of his eyelashes.
“Danyang.” He lifted his hand to caress her temples. “I like you so much. I want to spend my whole life with you. This is the only way.”
Princess Danyang of Yuehua Palace only heard the first part of this declaration, but the nameless fugitive in the mass grave looked back and realized that Shentu Cheng only meant the last sentence. This is the only way.
Shouldn’t she be smarter now?
It was only now that she could tell which of his words were true and which were false.
“He will come and pick you up tonight,” the old man said with a meaningful sigh.
Lan Dan heard it and understood.
In this world, there was no such thing as free lunch. If someone was willing to risk their life to save her, could they also take her away to enjoy a comfortable life? She just couldn’t figure out what she had that was worth this person’s effort.
Lan Dan took out a small cloth bag from the corner of the thatched hut. She had no luggage. Her only possession was the offerings that Second Sister left on her “grave”.
She opened the door and came out. At some point, it began to snow again. A faint and dying storm lantern was lit on the eaves of the thatched hut, casting a melancholic and forlorn mood over the desolate graveyard and its forgotten souls and spirits.
Lan Dan went straight to a grave and put down the cloth bag containing dried coarse snacks.
“Third Elder Brother, Ninth Elder Brother.” She choked up for a moment. After so many days of silence, she feared that if she didn’t say anything now, she would never have the chance to say it later. “Whether you hate or resent me, if you know anything down there, please guide me to fulfill my wish, and at least… move you to a decent grave and and give you a proper burial.” She owed them too much, and the only thing she could compensate for was this small gesture, but she didn’t even know if she could fulfill it.
Yes, only by being buried could one rest in peace. She, who wasn’t buried, feared that there would be endless dragging and grinding from now on.
Perhaps the true path to the underworld lies in the future, and she must navigate through her current difficulties and sufferings to reach her destination.
When Lan Dan returned to the hut, she was startled to find another person in the room. She looked inquiringly at the old man who was tending the kitchen fire, only to realize that he wasn’t the same cranky old man who had taken care of her.
“My wife and I are boiling water for the young lady to bathe,” the old man said in a pleasant and humble manner.
Lan Dan looked back at the shivering woman who was busy preparing things. She was dressed very similarly to her, or rather Lan Dan was dressed similarly to the woman. Her face was wrapped in a dirty cloth, and it seemed as though she really had some skin disease.
“You…” Lan Dan was puzzled.
“We are the grave keepers here. Recently, something happened in our hometown, so the village chief asked us to go back and take care of it first,” the gravekeeper said respectfully, his eyes flickering slightly.
Lan Dan nodded, not wanting to ask any more questions. This pair of grave keepers was only an inconsequential part of the conspiracy, what could they possibly know?
Through her experiences, she had gained some insights. She realized that conspiracies were like a chain, one link after another, and were not as simple as what met the eye. The appearance of this couple gave her a great shock, no less than her plan to commit regicide.
It turned out that if one want to accomplish something, they had to be very careful and thorough.
No wonder the handymen who delivered the corpses didn’t pay her attention when they saw her. Not only did her appearance change, but the woman she disguised herself as had already existed.
Although the old physician didn’t do much disguise, who would pay attention to someone as lowly as a grave keeper? With similar clothing and height, no one would notice. It was only because she had become familiar with the old man that she immediately noticed the difference.
While taking a bath, Lan Dan touched her face and removed the gauze. She had no idea what she looked like now.
She was about to step into a conspiracy, which made her a little bit curious about herself and the future. She tried to look at the blurry reflection in the water, but it was too dark to see anything clearly. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t too keen on seeing her new face. It was just another skin.
The change of clothes was neatly laid out on the bed. The elegant and gorgeous dress looked out of place in the rough and dirty surroundings. It took some time before Lan Dan managed to put it on. In the past, she was always served by palace maids. She did not expect that such a gorgeous dress could be riddled with complicated details.
When she went out to let the cold wind dry her wet hair, some crystal frost instantly hung on the strands.
Four strong guards and a luxurious carriage, which seemed to have fallen from the sky, was silently waiting outside the hut.
“Please.” The leading guard respectfully and gracefully helped her into the carriage. His every movement was very proper, so unlike how ordinary people acted.
Lan Dan didn’t say much. Her still unresponsive left leg and hand made her boarding the carriage a bit awkward, but the guards were well-trained to turn a blind eye.
She sat nervously, adjusting her clothes until the carriage started moving. This was the journey to her next life.
The night was quiet, with only the sounds of the carriage and horses on the road, so she could hear every word spoken.
“Master ordered that no one must be hasty. Wait for three days before taking action, and make sure not to leave any traces.”
Lan Dan understood the implication of these random instruction. The veins on her right hand jumped out as she gripped the handrail. She had been worried that the grave keepers would be silenced. She was a little relieved when all the guards left with the carriage, but it turned out that they still weren’t spared.
She didn’t speak out to plead for help, even she herself might become the next victim. What ability did she have to rescue others?
Judgement and self-awareness seemed to suddenly become crucial for her survival.
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