Continuing on from the last chapter, we find ourselves following Mei Changsu, Xiao Jingrui, Xie Bi, and Yan Yujin as they journey back towards the imperial capital, Jinling.
- “giving away a bride and loosing their army” this is a direct translation from 赔了夫人又折兵 this essentially means suffering a double loss after trying to trick the enemy
As the head of the Lang Ya gongzi list, Mei Changsu was not only just a flowerpot, instead displaying the beauty of his elegance in a manner of ways. The landscape and monuments, scenic attractions and stories, he knew about them all, adding to the beauty of the scenery with his clear voice. When they began to talk in depth, they were surprised that his knowledge in politics and economics didn’t lose to Xie Bi in anyway, in poetry and literature he was no less than Xiao Jingrui, and even his musical and instrumental knowledge caused the capital’s renowned critic Yan Yujin to become speechless in front of him, in regards to geography, astronomy, science, and other miscellaneous knowledge, the others couldn’t even contemplate the extent. A few days later, Yan Yujin began to excitedly say, “I used to think that Jingrui was already perfect, but after getting to know Su Xiong, I realized that the fact that Jingrui can only be ranked second cannot be more correct.”
Although his words were frank, Mei Changsu had always given people the impression that he was as warm and gentle as jade, even though it was obvious that he had a heavenly gift and was sharp as a cutting edge, he never pressed others nor showed any aggressiveness, therefore Xiao Jingrui did not feel any ill towards him, only smiling said, “So you finally realize today, what kind of a person is the owner of the Lang Ya Hall, when has he ever made a mistake in his lists?”
“How is there not a mistake? For years he didn’t place me into the list, isn’t that a grave error?”
Xie Bi burst out laughing, “In my opinion putting you on this year’s list is the gravest error he can make. I’m guessing by now, he probably regrets it so much he doesn’t even have to energy to count his silver.”
“Don’t even mention silver. Just thinking about how I gave the Lang Ya Hall so much money fills me with anger! ”
“What, did you go to the Lang Ya Hall to buy an answer too?”
“Yea, remember how they were discussing my marriage with the Sun family’s eldest daughter? Well I wasn’t quite happy with it so I went to the Lang Ya Hall to ask them what my future wife would be like…”
“My god,” hearing this even Xiao Jingrui couldn’t resist hitting his head, “what kind of a question is this? Do you think the people at the Lang Ya Hall are fortune tellers?”
“If I were the owner, I’d tell you the answer is worth 90 million silver coins and scare you so much you won’t dare go back,” Xie Bi said.
“He wasn’t that black-hearted he only charged me 1000 coins,” Yan Yujin’s eyebrows scrunched up, “but the answer was just too infuriating.”
“What was it?”
“It was very simple, childhood friend.”
Hearing this Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi burst out laughing, almost falling off of their horses. Mei Changsu didn’t quite understand and asked some more. Xiao Jingrui held his laughter and explained to him, “since he was young, Yujin liked to consort with girls, half of the ladies from reputable families could be said to be his childhood friend. With Yujin’s status, there’s no way his future wife wouldn’t be from one of those families. Like always the Lang Ya Hall’s answer is very correct!”
“Gloat for all you want,” Yan Yujin grunted, “wait and see, I will find a girl who isn’t my childhood friend and then I’ll go and demolish the Lang Ya Hall’s sign.”
“Yea, yea, yea, you want to find a girl from a reputable family who’s not your childhood friend? Is such a thing easy?”
“Why do I have to look in aristocratic families, don’t common people have daughters as well?”
“Marry a peasant, even if you’re willing, will your parents agree? Will her highness agree?”
“If they don’t agree, I will threaten them…”
“Threaten them with what?”
“I’ll threaten them saying….if they don’t let me marry the girl I want, I’ll marry Jingrui!”
“Hey,” Xiao Jingrui didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, “don’t bring me into it.”
“This threat is very good!” Xie Bi was almost in tears, “too bad that proves that the Lang Ya Hall is still correct. If talking about childhood friends, if Jingrui claimed to be second best, who would dare be first?”
“That’s true,” Yan Yujin deliberately said in an extremely regrettable tone, “in order to prevent their answers from coming true, Jingrui I must wrong you, in our next life, we can make up…”
Mei Changsu had been smilingly observing their exchange, seeing Xiao Jingrui speechless with rage, he beckoned him to walk ahead with him.
“Ah, he’s embarrassed, embarrassed, still like before, can’t take a joke can you?” Yan Yujin’s hearty laughter sounded from behind.
“Yan Yujin is very loveable, to have such a friend, you must be very happy,” Mei Changsu observed with a smile on his face.
“Pei, he’s just a shameless thing,” Xiao Jingrui spat, “crazy as a mad person, who would want to talk to him?”
Mei Changsu glanced at him, and slowly the slight smile on his face faded, and he whispered, “but you’re envious of him aren’t you?”
Xiao Jingrui started, turned around and looked at him, “what did you say?”
“You envy his casualness, envy his weightless heart, the wide sky in his heart….is it not so?”
Xiao Jingrui trailed behind him, only managing to say, “I…..I….” not being able to continue.
“Persisting to love Miss Yun, to this day that is the most capricious thing you’ve done isn’t it?” Mei Changsu gazed into his eyes, “loving a woman you’ve never met before with perseverance, even though you know you and her have no fate, besides wishing to preserve your first love, most importantly, it’s because she represents the only time you acted on a whim, right? Losing her is as if you’re losing the freedom that you fought for, gained from breaking free of your shackles, that is why you hurt so much, why your heart hearts, why your feeling so helpless…”
“….” Xiao Jingrui opened and then closed his mouth, he didn’t know what to say, his eyes were red.
“After our first meeting at Qinling, I asked about you, if we were to not look at your insistence on marrying Miss Yun, you’re like a standard sample, a sample that will make all the parents of the world proud. What they wish for you to become, you become. You’re obedient, you show filial piety to your parents, when they tell you to study literature, you do, when they tell you to learn marital arts, you do. Not once have you let your parents down, not once have you allowed them to think….this child is not our child….”
Xiao Jingrui took a deep breath, and difficultly turned his head aside.
“Actually, occasionally you can relax, do you really think Yujin has no worries? He is just better at relaxing than you. Born with responsibility, that is a good thing, what you have to learn is how to turn that responsibility into pleasure, and not turn all the fun into responsibility. Mei Changsu turned his head and looked at him, his eyes soft, “growing up for you……was very hard for you, wasn’t it?”
Xiao Jingrui bit his lip, his eyes downcast, and didn’t speak for a long while, finally he said, “yes, it was very hard…..double the love, in reality is double the suspicion, I seemed like I was Zhuo family’s son, but I also seemed like Xie family’s son. In someways however I didn’t seem like Zhuo family’s son nor did I seem like Xie family’s son. Since I was young, I felt that my parents’ requirements for me were specials, I forced myself to become what they wanted me to become, not willing to make any mistakes, not willing to do anything they didn’t want me to do, because deep down, I always felt…….that I was different from my brothers and sisters, I wasn’t that child who could do what they wanted but still be unconditionally forgiven by their parents….”
“But once you really did it, did they forgive you?” Mei Changsu asked with a smile.
Xiao Jingrui raised his head and stared.
“Miss Yun is six years older than you, they probably had objections. But because you said you liked her, they went and asked her for marriage. In reality, you are the same as other children, they seem hard on you, but that’s because they love you.”
Xiao Jingrui’s heart grew warm, as he slowly savoured those words, Mei Changsu looked at him and said,” let’s not talk about these things, they make one’s heart suffocate, let’s race our horses.”
“What?” Xiao Jingrui asked in surprise.
“Horse racing. The river is just up ahead, let’s race to see who will reach the riverbank first.”
Xiao Jingrui was shocked, he quickly grabbed Mei Changsu’s reins.
“You don’t even think about your own condition. Last night I heard you coughing in your room, if I really let you race on your own like that, it would be strange if the Jiang Zuo Alliance didn’t send assassins to kill me. No, you’re not allowed to run.”
“Not allowed to run? Are you going to order me around?”
“Of course I’m….” as this sentence blurted out, Xiao Jingrui looked in Mei Changsu’s laughter-filled eyes, feeling a burst of understanding.
Yes, everything was just a heart knot. Because he had two sets of parents, he had felt like he was being suffocated to death, not realizing that behind it all there was only care, concern, and love…
Just like this very moment, he had no reason to order Mei Changsu around, the only reason he had blurted out the “not allowed” without any hesitation was because he cared.
“Hey, what secrets are you telling each other, I want to listen too!” Yan Yujin’s voice came from behind them. The two turned around and then looked at each other, and laughed.
“Laughing like this, you must have been saying bad things about me,” Yan Yujin caught up to them, looking with skeptical eyes, “hurry up and confess, what were you saying about me?”
Mei Changsu smiled, “We said you’re good at horse racing, that besides Jingrui you have no rival in the capital.”
“What?” an expression of disbelief appeared on Yan Yujin’s face, “why excluding Jingrui? Does that mean he’s better than me? Shameless, let’s race now.”
“Good,” Mei Changsu encouraged from the side, “how about you race from here to the river? Do you dare to compete?”
“What’s there to be scared of? Except you and Xie Bi will surely lag behind, we won’t have any witnesses!”
“I think you and Jingrui are not the type to shamelessly proclaim victory when they’ve lost. Besides the heavens will know, what is there to witness?” Mei Changsu smiled a brilliant smile, Xie Bi joined in the fun, “Jingrui is not the type, Yujin is hard to say.”
“Che, looking down on people, let’s compete. Su Xiong, give us the signal. I’ll make that kid bow before my horse.”
Xiao Jingrui wanted to race for fun, and thinking that they were still in Jiang Zuo territory, leaving Xie Bi and Mei Changsu behind wouldn’t be unsafe, so he didn’t protest and went to stand shoulder to shoulder with Yan Yujin.
“Ready…..go!” At Mei Changsu’s command the two stallions raced off like arrows released from a bow, in the blink of an eye, only two trails of dust could be seen.
“Let’s rest a bit and then go, we don’t want to eat dust.” Xie Bi was a sensitive person and saw that a sheen of cold sweat had appeared on his forehead, he knew that his physical health was weak so suggested, “there isn’t any pretty scenery along this path, why don’t we go in the carriage?”
Mei Changsu didn’t protest, nodded his head and agreed. Along the way, the carriage had been following behind them, the groom, seeing Xie Bi wave at him hurriedly caught up. Xie Bi helped Mei Changsu into the carriage, the two of them found some light topics to talk about, such as the jianghu’s anecdotes, and speculations in the capital. Just as they were talking, they heard the horse neigh and the carriage came to an abrupt halt, it seemed like the groom had encountered an unexpected emergency and had had to stop.
“What happened?” Mei Changsu helped Xie Bi, who had fallen against him in a heap, up.
“Gongzi lord, two people suddenly rushed in front of the carriage….ah….” the groom suddenly cried out, “heavens, they’re covered in blood….”
Mei Changsu slightly frowned and lifted the curtains. Not far from the carriage crouched two people covered in blood, although their faces were facing down, from their tattered clothing, stooped stature and white hair, they seemed to be a poor, old couple.
“Quick, help them up.”
Mei Changsu commanded as he jumped down from the carriage, seeing the groom standing frozen in fear, he stepped forward and extended his arm towards the old couple. Xie Bi followed him out and surveyed the situation, after all, he was the son of a marquis, he hadn’t wanted to get close to the bloodied, old couple, but after seeing that Mei Changsu didn’t care at all, he still blushed in shame, and hurried to help.
Although the two were lying on the ground, they were not unconscious, feeling that someone had come to help, they struggled to stand up. Mei Changsu observed the two, they were not severely injured, just old and tired, just as he opened his mouth to ask a question, the sound of clanging swords could be heard from the left rear. Upon closer inspection, a group of assassins, seventy-eight to be precise were heading in their direction. Surrounded in the centre was a middle-aged man, strictly speaking, he wasn’t surrounded, he was desperately trying to stop the group from advancing forward. The man shouted, “grandpa Hu, granny Hu, run!”
The old man’s body shook, he stretched out a fragile hand and helped the old woman up, when they were half way up, they both crumpled to the ground again.
Mei Changsu’s complexion had turned bad. No matter what the reason, this was clearly hunting to kill. They were still on the left side of the river, naturally he couldn’t tolerate such blatant atrocities, he immediately retrieved a small jade flute from his sleeve, blew a few soft notes, the song was simple and clear, yet revealed a hint of steel, anyone who had any knowledge of the jianghu could tell, that song was the Jin Ling of the world’s largest sect, the Jiang Zuo Alliance.
Even though the sound of the flute still lingered in the air, a few of the black-clothed assassins had stopped their movements, the middle-aged man took the opportunity to break loose and rushed towards the old couple.
From these results, Mei Changsu confirmed his hypothesis, these assassins were from the jianghu. If they were officials, they wouldn’t have had such a reaction to that song.
For Xie Bi, this was the first time he was so close to jianghu business, he felt excited and worried, to avoid bothering Mei Changsu, he quietly stepped back a few steps. In contrast to him, after lowering his flute, Mei Changsu stepped forward, and after coldly sweeping his eyes over the group of men, he icily said, “gentlemen, you have honoured my by visiting my Jiang Zuo’s fourteen states, but your actions are somewhat rude. If it is only personal matters, we, the Jiang Zuo Alliance is willing to be mediators, however, if it is killing matters, then I advise to think twice before acting. We do not conduct business like this in the Jiang Zuo fourteen states.”
The black-robed assassins exchanged glances, they had been chasing the old couple for quite a while now, they hadn’t noticed that they had already crossed into the Jiang Zuo Alliance’s territory. Now that they had already disturbed the Jiang Zuo Alliance, even if he was only a sickly youth, but as he already played the Jin Ling of the Alliance, if they were to completely ignore him, they would inevitably offend the world’s largest sect. Of course, if they were to offend them, they would not be able to complete their mission, that would be like giving away a bride and loosing their army.
After such analysis, the choice was obvious, assassins do not normally negotiate with others, hearing Mei Changsu’s words, they only stood there for a second before leaping away into the skies, without a word.
“Wow, the Jiang Zuo Alliance’s reputation is very useful….” Xie Bi sighed in a whisper, while walking towards Mei Changsu and helping him bandage the wounded. When the three of them had calmed down, they began to inquire the reason.
The results came as a shock to Xie Bi.
As it turned out, grandpa Hu and granny Hu were farmers in Bin Zhou, they had set out on their journey to head to the imperial capital to go to court, and the person they wanted to sue had an impressive background, the current Duke of Qing Guo, Bai Ye. Looking at their honest, sorrowful expression, what they said about the Duke’s family’s rampant behavior, stealing crops and land and oppression of the people must be true. But the Duke and the Ning Guo Marquis’s families got along quite well, and as the Duke resided in the capital year round, there was no guarantee that he knew of what was happening in Bin Zhou, thus Xie Be hesitated.
As refined and exquisite Mei Changsu was, just a glance told him why Xie Be was hesitating, he didn’t say anything, only retrieving medication for the more serious wounds of the middle-aged man. The man claimed to be called, “Ba Dao Zhu Ming Hai,” and although he was not on the Lang Ya Bang of martial experts, he was a famous cavalier, seeing grandpa and granny Hu getting hunted, he righteously protected them after hearing their story. But who was to know that there would be so many assassins, it would be difficult for him to defend against so many, this time if they had not accidentally fled into the Jiang Zuo Alliance’s boundary, it was possible they wouldn’t have lived to see another sunrise.