CHAPTER 2: REVEALING TALENT
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xiōng [~兄] – brother: a suffix used for a male friend
xiānshēng [ 先生] – Mr
dàgē [大哥] – elder brother
Jinling City always had an imperial air about it, so of course the heart of it would be the palace of the Emperor of Daliang.
From the Fifth Gate there was a paved road with red walls on both sides, going straight to the royal residences which had recently been established, that was connected directly to the palace. The size of these residences wasn’t very much, but if size was used as an indication of the status of the resident, then it would be very wrong indeed.
The main gate of the residences remained closed, on top was hung a black plaque rimmed in gold with the words, “Liyang Manor”.
Grand Princess Liyang was the only younger sister alive of the current Emperor, who was also the wife of the Marquis of Ning, Xie Yu.
The elderly within the capital still remember, as if imprinted in their memory, the powerful scene of the Grand Princess getting married that year.
The image of the newlyweds standing in Yingfeng Tower looking down at the people was the best example of “a hero and his beauty”.
A period of 20 years flew by quickly, the couple were still very much in love and treasured each other. They gave birth to three sons and a daughter who were all intelligent and well-mannered. In everyone’s eyes, it could be said that this was an example of the perfect family.
According the practices of the imperial family, after Princess Liyang married Xie Yu, Xie Yu would have had to change residence to the Princess’ Manor. People would call him Prince Consort instead of Marquis. Due to the wishes of the princess herself, not to mention that the Dowager Empress was always against the princesses being pampered, and weren’t allowed to experience the warmth of family, after the wedding ceremony, Princess Liyang moved to the Manor of the Marquis of Ning. She treated her in-laws according to the teachings of a noble family.
Grand Princess was a gentle and righteous person with a proper and decent personality. When she was in the Marquis’ Manor, her servants were ordered to call her Madam and for the palace maids she was even stricter.
Afterwards, Xie Yu was able to gain more and more military achievements. Within the royal court he became even more powerful while the princess always lowered herself. Because of this, everyone in court slowly became used to seeing the two as Marquis and Madam, rather than Princess and Prince Consort as they were meant to be.
The Liyang manor residence was built when the princess came of age to marry. After the princess married, it was left empty. Princess Liyang felt that leaving it empty was a shame, so she ordered people to plant a number of rare flowers, evergreen and fragrant. When the flowers bloomed, consorts within the palace and members of the imperial family liked to come visit. It became a place to go sightseeing within the capital.
On the days of fasting and observance or when the Empress Dowager came to visit, then the princess would move over and stay for a few days. The two, Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi returned just when their mother was at the princess’ manor.
Early that morning, the two brothers followed their father’s orders and went to Liyang manor to accompany the procession of the Grand Princess back to the Manor of the Marquis of Ning.
At the time, the elder marquis and madam had already passed away so there was no need to go greet them. So Grand Princess Liyang gave instructions to return directly to her daily residence.
Following the winding balcony along the edge of the gardens, in the veins of the walls were grown some cinnamon. It wasn’t yet flowering season so the scent still lingered. Princess Liyang slowed her pace as if to enjoy the fragrance heavy in the wind.
At that moment the sound of a zither came from over the walls. Although it couldn’t be heard clearly because of the distance but the tone was very clear, making anyone who listened feel as if they were cleansed of their worldly worries.
“Where is the person playing the zither from? Their abilities are amazing.”
Xiao Jingrui raised his head to listen for a moment then replied, “It is a close friend of mine by the name of Su Zhe. He accepted my invitation to enter Jinling to recuperate for a time, he currently stays in Snow Cottage.”
“Does mother want to meet this person?” Xie Bi hurriedly asked.
Princess Liyang laughed gently, “As he is a friend of Jingrui, then you two need to treat him well. Why would he need to meet me?”
“But you can’t hear very clearly from here, how about I invite Su xiong to the parlour and play for you while separated by a curtain?” Xie Bi suggested.
Grand Princess Liyang slightly frowned but held herself in a relaxed manner, “My son, this Su xiansheng has arrived as a guest, not an entertainer. How can you ask him to come over like that? If it is destiny, then I will eventually be able to hear him play. Otherwise if it isn’t fated then we can’t be too stubborn.”
As soon as he heard his younger brother’s suggestion, Xiao Jingrui also felt like Princess Liyang. Inwardly he felt a little unhappy, but after seeing his mother decline he didn’t say anything more.
Of course Xie Bi didn’t mean to be rude in his intentions, it was just that he was affected by his childhood habits. He always felt as though his mother had a very high ranking position, if she liked the sound of someone playing the zither then he would immediately call them over to play a few pieces. He didn’t think carefully and so, was reproached by his mother and couldn’t help his face turning red.
Arriving at her rooms, Grand Princess Liyang sat down on a long palette near the window to rest. She was a very intelligent person and could see that her two sons were busy so didn’t keep them long. Only saying a few words before allowing them to leave.
Due to the nature of his birth, Xiao Jingrui had early on expressed that he had no intentions concerning taking over the household, so had given over the position of heir to Xie Bi. Furthermore, after coming of age, Xie Bi really had come to understand politics more than his dage. He was also very good at making and maintaining connections. So in the past 1 to 2 years, the Marquis of Ning, Xie Yu, had given over more duties to him. A lot of important matters were also given to him to look after, and so he was always busy. As soon as they left the rooms, Xie Bi had quickly disappeared leaving Xiao Jingrui, who was relatively free, to immediately visit Snow Cottage.
At this time, Mei Chang Su was no longer playing the zither, but instead was holding a book and reading underneath the shade of a tree. Hearing hurried footsteps, he raised his head, and looked towards the entrance of the courtyard, smiling slightly. The sunlight streamed through the leaves as if dancing along his face, causing his smile to shine even more brightly and lively.
Xiao Jingrui also smiled gently, walked up and brought his hands together in greeting, “Did you sleep well last night Su xiong?”
“Were you worried that I wouldn’t sleep well?” Mei Chang Su motioned for him to bring a bamboo seat over. “I am of the pugilist world, there is no such thing as worrying about a strange bed. It’s just that I spent some time thinking about the interesting events Yujin mentioned so went to sleep a little late. That’s why I woke up a little later than usual. Fei Liu tells me that you already came once today?”
“Yes,” Xiao Jingrui looked around, “Why don’t I see Fei Liu?”
“Ah, this is the first time Fei Liu has come to Jinling, I allowed him to go out and play for a bit.” Mei Chang Su replied gently.
Xiao Jingrui couldn’t help but begin to cold sweat.
Fei Liu had the mentality of a child but his martial arts abilities were exceptionally high. Yet, Mei Chang Su had allowed him to go out and play like that, he obviously had a lot of courage.
“You don’t need to worry, our Fei Liu won’t cause any problems.” As if able to gauge the worries of Jingrui, Mei Chang Su raised his eyebrows and laughed, “Even if he does cause problems, with his abilities he can immediately escape. People won’t be able to cause issues for the Manor of the Marquis of Ning.”
“I’m not worried about that,” Jingrui laughed exasperatedly, “Su xiong has thought badly of me.”
Mei Chang Su didn’t continue the conversation, simply knocked on the table twice, “Since you are here, go inside and bring out the chess set, let’s play a few games.”
Xiao Jingrui hurriedly stood up, ran inside and brought out the chess pieces and board. He set up the game on the stone table under the shade of the tree.
Although Mei Chang Su was very talented, but he also wasn’t good at everything. At least when it came to chess, he could not be considered the best.
On the way to the capital, Xiao Jingrui had come to know his abilities. Therefore, there was no need for him to use all his strength before he was able to force him into only defending, frowning and thinking for a long time.
After three games, Mei Chang Su was totally defeated.
Xiao Jingrui erased the board and laughed loudly, “Su xiong, though your moves are brilliant but you weren’t born very good at being strategic. I can definitively say that probably for the rest of this life, you won’t be able to beat me.”
“Don’t be so proud of yourself, wait till I teach Fei Liu then you’ll have to cry. Even though Fei Liu doesn’t think like a normal person but his ability to focus will alarm you. Out of all the people I know, there is no one as able as him.”
Xiao Jingrui didn’t pay attention to Mei Chang Su’s attempt at recovering his reputation, instead, turned his head to look outside and asked, “In the end, where did you allow Fei Liu to go play? It’s already midday and he hasn’t come back yet?”
Speak of the devil, and he shall appear. As soon as he finished speaking, he could hear a loud whistle echoing from outside, then the sound of clothing rustling in the wind.
A strong male voice shouted, “Where are you from young man, who dares to mock the Marquis’ Manor? Don’t hide!”
“Not good, that voice…” Xiao Jingrui immediately became afraid, suddenly sprung up and immediately felt someone pulling on his arm. He turned around and saw Mei Chang Su holding on to him, his expression very serious, “Quickly take me there!”
Things happened so fast, Xiao Jingrui couldn’t afford to think too much. He held on to Mei Chang Su’s waist and used his internal energy to quickly reach the scene of the disturbance.
The two ran from the west side, as soon as they entered the archway of the main courtyard they could see the outline of people in the middle of the yard between the second and third doors. The fight was very intense.
Not only was Fei Liu’s agility very peculiar but his swordsmanship was extremely cruel. Wherever the tip of the sword pointed, a feeling of cold would overcome. Of course, the person who was currently sparring with him never fell into a disadvantageous position. His fist fighting style was strong without fear of daggers or sword, internal energy as powerful as the sun was harsh and bright. It was as if the secret to Fei Liu’s speed had been exposed under the sun. The young man had become more daring but still could not escape the reach of his fists.
Xiao Jingrui had still not recovered his mental faculties when he heard Mei Chang Su shout next to him, “Fei Liu stop!” Then immediately called, “General Meng, please stop!”
With regard to orders from Mei Chang Su, Fei Liu always followed them without reservation. He immediately stopped the sword’s movement and retreated a step behind.
His opponent also didn’t take advantage of the situation and simply crossed his arms. Although the internal energy hadn’t been dissipated but at least the fighting stance had stopped.
“Jingrui, what has happened?” With this question full of seriousness, Xiao Jingrui realised that his father was also there with his hands clasped behind his back. He was standing in the south east corner of the courtyard. It was as if to stop Fei Liu from barging in.
“Begging the Marquis’ forgiveness!” Mei Chang Su slowly walked forward, bent his body and greeted him. “This is my personal bodyguard, he has always had trouble understanding courtesy, always entering without regard. It is my fault for not teaching him better, if the marquis wishes to punish him then I will accept in his stead.”
Xiao Jingrui also quickly added his explanation, “This is definitely a misunderstanding, Fei Liu has always liked to climb walls and over roofs, but you only need not to touch him and he definitely won’t hurt anyone…”
Xie Yu raised his hand to cut off his son’s words, expression still sombre, saying to Mei Chang Su, “Su xiansheng has arrived from afar as a guest, we won’t act towards you with nonchalance. It’s just that this habit of your servant may need to change, otherwise I am afraid that more misunderstandings may occur later on.”
“The marquis is very right in your teaching, I will definitely govern him more strictly.”
Xie Yu made a sound of agreement, turned to the person who had just fought Fei Liu, brought his hands together and asked for forgiveness, “General Meng, today you have arrived as a guest and yet have had to take action. I am sorry.”
General Meng was about 40 years old, with an athletic build and tall stature. He had a very strong presence, his eyes full of spirit but hiding a sharp gaze. Seeing the Marquis of Ning walk forward to ask for forgiveness, General Meng immediately waved his hand, “It is nothing, I merely saw the young man’s agility was very peculiar, daring to cross the walls and traverse the rooftops in the marquis’ manor, and yet none of the guards noticed. I thought it was someone with ill intentions, so attacked. Since it is a misunderstanding, everyone should consider it as merely a test of martial arts skills.” As he finished speaking, his gaze turned to Mei Chang Su seemingly with interest, “And this scholar is…”
“I am Su Zhe, finding that we get along well, have become friends with young master Xiao in the pugilist world. This time I have come by the grace of young master Xiao and have been here for a period of time.”
“Su Zhe?” General Meng repeated the name, looked at Fei Liu, and back at the young man who seemingly deserved no attention, smiled, saying, “You have such a bodyguard, you must be a very important person?”
“Not at all.” Mei Chang Su replied easily, “It’s simply just that I saved Fei Liu when he ran into some difficulties so he repays me by staying with me. It is not because I have talent more than any other man that I have an elite such as he as a bodyguard.”
“Is that so?” General Meng’s expression didn’t seem to change, and didn’t express whether he believed or not. It’s just that he didn’t continue the questioning.
Xie Yu looked quickly at Xiao Jingrui, and without saying a word, turned to General Meng and invited him into the main room to offer tea. The two walked away side by side.
As they left, Xiao Jingrui stomped his feet, tapped his forehead and said, “This is bad, very bad! My father has started to become suspicious, this evening he will definitely call me to ask about your real identity, what do we do now?”
In contrast to him, Mei Chang Su’s expression was very relaxed, and he simply replied, “You can simply say that I am a friend you met in the pugilist world, you don’t know anything else and that will be the end of it.”
“It isn’t that simple!” Xiao Jingrui screwed up his face, “Do you know who that General Meng before is?”
Mei Chang Su’s gaze turned serious, sighed and said, “In the kingdom, how many Generals can there be with the name Meng? That could be treated so highly by Marquis of Ning, the commander of fifty thousand imperial guards of the 9 entrances of the capital.”
“Other than the commander of the imperial guards, what else is he?”
“The only person above him in the pugilist world is Xuan Bu of Da Yu, he could be seen as the number one warrior of Daliang at the moment…”
“That’s right, think about it, a single bodyguard of yours that could stand up against the top warrior of Daliang…”
“Just now, Meng Zhi didn’t use all his strength…”
“Yes, just then he really didn’t use all his strength, but even then, he is still the number one warrior in Daliang. Fei Liu could match him stance for stance without being defeated, that is enough to make anyone surprised. How can my father believe that you are simply an unknown traveller? More to the point, even if I argued, my father only needs to call Xie Bi and he will know the truth.”
“That’s true,” Mei Chang Su tilted his head and thought for a moment “Ok, if your father adamantly asks about it, then simply tell him the truth. After all, he is only worried that you have brought home someone with an unknown identity. After questioning, there won’t be a problem. I’m not a criminal of the court, hiding my identity was simply to avoid attention. Thinking back on it, I really shouldn’t have asked you to lie to your parents to help me.”
Xiao Jingrui felt immensely uneasy, hesitatingly replied, “Su xiong, really please forgive me. It’s just that my father has a very cautious personality, and doesn’t have much to say. Even if he knows your real identity he will be discreet about it and won’t tell anyone else.”
“How can I blame this situation on you? It’s just that I have relaxed too much recently, and didn’t consider the situation carefully enough allowing Fei Liu to cause problems…” Saying this, Mei Chang Su looked to Fei Liu with his head bowed, expression disturbed, and hurriedly rubbed his head to ease his worries. He gently encouraged him, “No no, it isn’t our Fei Liu’s fault, it’s that uncle who went to stop you that made you attack him isn’t that right?”
Fei Liu nodded.
“That’s why our Fei Liu did nothing wrong, it’s all because of that no good uncle!”
Xiao Jingrui once again broke out in cold sweat.
Who taught children like that?
“It’s just that from now on when you go outside, our Fei Liu must follow the path from our gate to outside, when coming back you need to follow the path from outside to the gate. You aren’t allowed to run and jump the walls and rooftop anymore. The people living here aren’t very brave, and eyes are small, if they see Fei Liu they’ll be scared to death, remember?”
Xiao Jingrui couldn’t help but think, with the method he was using to teach him, even if Fei Liu didn’t have brain damage, he still wouldn’t be able to grow…
After everything had blown over, it was as if Mei Chang Su paid it no mind. He took Fei Liu back to Snow Cottage, played the zither and chess, and was still as cavalier and easy going as before. The total opposite of Xiao Jingrui who kept thinking about this and that, his mind never at rest.
That night, Xie Yu really did call both Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi to the reading room, without so much as a greeting, he asked, “That Su xiansheng that you invited, what is his identity?”
Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi turned and looked at each other, in their minds, they knew that since their father had asked this, then he had his suspicions. It couldn’t be hidden anymore, and anyway, as children in the family, after so many years under the rule of their father, what ability did they have to defy him? After a moments hesitation, Xie Bi sincerely revealed the truth, “Su xiong…his real name is Mei Chang Su…father must know, he is the famous chief Mei Chang Su of the world’s number one sect, the Jiangzuo Alliance…”
Xie Yu was surprised and froze for a while before saying, “So that’s why even a bodyguard under him is that skilled…So he is Sir Mei of Jiangzuo, the top person on the Lang Ya list…”
The top of the Lang Ya list, Sir Mei of Jiangzuo.
Although Xie Yu was a nobleman and a marquis, he could not help but worry about this reputation.
“Present everywhere across the land like icy snow, plum blossoms covering part of Lin Jiang, knows all the heroes of the world, at the head of Jiangzuo is Sir Mei.” This was a poem that Shu Zhong Tian of Precipitous Dragon Sect, known throughout the northern lands, recited upon meeting Mei Chang Su for the first time nine years ago.
Back then, the Zun Zhong family took refuge in Jiangzuo while Shu Zhong Tian chased after them across the river. The first time the chief of the Jiangzuo Alliance, Mei Chang Su personally went to the river’s edge to greet them, the both of them brought neither dagger nor sword, army nor soldier, just spending a few days on top of Mount Eyun. After coming down the mountain, Shu Zhong Tian returned to the north and all of the Zun Zhong family were protected. The Jiangzuo Alliance’s reputation became known across the entire pugilist world.
“The chief of the Jiangzuo Alliance rarely makes an appearance, and there aren’t many people who have seen his face…how did the two of you come to know him?” Xie Yu mused for a moment before asking.
“It was dage…” Xie Bi hesitatingly began before Xiao Jingrui continued, “Father, last winter, your son passed by Qin Ling and rested a while at a teahouse, Su xiong happened to be sitting at the next table. At the time, Su xiong kept looking at the snow blossom branch that I was holding, as if he liked it very much. I didn’t think much of it then and gave him the snow blossom branch, and so we came to know each other. After that, I went travelling in the pugilist world, and was often looked after by Su xiong. Su xiong’s body isn’t very good and is often ill, after treating Su xiong, the elderly physician Chen Tuan instructed him to leave Jiangzuo, ignore his responsibilities within the sect and focus on recovering. That’s why I took the opportunity to invite him to Jinling to rest for a while…Father, you also know that Su xiong’s reputation precedes him, in order to not cause a disturbance, we had to use the name Su Zhe…”
“So that’s how it is…” Xie Yu made a sound of agreement and nodded. “That’s fine. Su xiansheng is a special guest, you need to treat him well!”
Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi simultaneously bent their bodies in acknowledgement and acceptance, then slowly left the room.
As soon as they left their father’s reading room, Xie Bi grabbed Xiao Jingrui to question him. It was only then that he came to know about Fei Liu sparring with Meng Zhi and couldn’t help but click his tongue and sigh.
After that, both of them went to Snow Cottage to notify Mei Chang Su about the fact that their father now knew his real identity. This chief of the Jiangzuo Alliance simply smiled faintly without paying too much attention.
Early the following morning, Yan Yujin arrived at the manor dressed very well and announced, “Su xiong has probably rested now from the long, tiring journey. Therefore, today everyone will go out to play!” He then dragged Xiao Jingrui and Mei Chang Su out the door, leaving behind Xie Bi, who had numerous jobs to complete at home, full of complaints. The three of them went out for an entire day.
Because the tournament to choose Princess Nihuang’s husband was close, in recent days, the capital had become full of young men of talent and looks from all over the place.
It was as if all the wine houses and teahouses were full of customers everyday. It was always possible to catch glimpses of daggers and shadows of swords, fists throwing punches and sharp kicks. It was as if the first knockout round of the tournament had begun spontaneously, making someone drawn to entertainment like Yujin feel as if he couldn’t pass it over. From the day they returned to the capital, he had started to go everywhere to see all the attractions.
On the day that he took Xiao Jingrui and Mei Chang Su out to play, he was able to introduce, very carefully, which wine house had the most fighting, which teahouse had the highest level of sparring…
Watching scrimmages all day, yet they still hadn’t seen any masters, of course the masters wouldn’t go out to cause trouble at this time causing them to lose face. Even though Yan Yujin was still enthusiastic and energetic but Xiao Jingrui had early on lost interest.
If it was like before then he would try to allow his good friend Yan Yujin to watch to his heart’s content, but today they were with Mei Chang Su. As soon as he saw Mei Chang Su appear tired, he immediately rejected the suggestion, “Let’s go to Yue Jiu wine house,” of Yan Yujin.
“Why won’t you go? Going to Yue Jiu wine house will be very fun. A few days ago I saw a person using meteor hammer and another using twin blades fighting each other there. The one using meteor hammer advanced forward but wasn’t able to control his force, the result was that the meteor hammer flew backwards and hit him on the forehead. He fell unconscious right there, it was so funny…”
Xiao Jingrui lowered his voice and reminded him, “Yujin, Su xiong is tired.”
“Ah,” Yan Yujin looked at Mei Chang Su’s slightly pale face and could not help but tap himself on the forehead, “I was careless, Su xiong is ill, of course he is not like us. Then let’s take a rest here, the dishes here are good, let me order some signature dishes for Su xiong to try.”
“We only had lunch one hour ago, how can we eat anymore?” Mei Chang Su leaned back into his chair looking tired, but his spirit was still good. “Let’s sit for a little bit and everyone can return home. Even though it’s the first time going out, but you can’t overdo it either. Letting Jingrui go home to have dinner is better.”
“That’s true, Jingrui is a good child,” Yan Yujin agreed. “Not like me, my father never pays attention when I go out or when I will be home…”
When he said this, his voice was happy, but Mei Chang Su could tell the sense of loneliness and wistfulness that was carefully hidden. He couldn’t help but pay him some attention.
Because he was so used to Yan Yujin, Xiao Jingrui paid him no mind, simply waved his hands to call a waiter and ordered him to procure a soft and clean sedan chair.
After a while, the sedan chair had arrived and the three of them said their goodbyes at the entrance of the wine house. Yan Yujin continued his outside wanderings, while Xiao Jingrui and Mei Chang Su returned to the Manor of the Marquis of Ning.
As soon as the sedan chair came to a stop outside the doors of the Manor of the Marquis of Ning, a servant saw them and immediately turned to notify someone inside.
Xie Bi immediately ran out to greet them, and upon seeing them he loudly asked, “Why have you both only returned now? There is someone who needs to meet you both, they’ve been waiting for a while.”
Listening to Xie Bi’s complaints, Xiao Jingrui immediately asked, “Who needs to meet us?” but Mei Chang Su instantly stopped walking, a hint of hesitation appeared on his face. It was only momentary before passing by in the blink of an eye before he recovered his calm.
Xie Bi inspected their clothing for a moment before replying, “For the moment it’s ok, you won’t need to change your clothes, quickly follow me. It’s the Empress, mother and Princess Nihuang that want to meet you both.”
Xiao Jingrui could only stare.
The three women that Xie Bi mentioned could be said to be the most honourable, the most powerful in Daliang right now.
Needless to say, the Empress was in charge of the palaces and mother of the nation. Grand Princess Liyang was the sister of the Emperor and wife of the Marquis of Ning. Princess Nihuang, although her station was slightly lower, but she commanded 100 000 soldiers on the southern border.
These three individuals were usually hard to see by themselves, let alone them coming to wait here in particular to meet together. It could be said that no one has ever received such honour before today.
“What are you staring at?” Xie Bi poked his brother. “It’s fine if you don’t want to go in, after all, they wanted to meet Su xiong anyway.”
“You can still speak?” Xiao Jingrui was not happy, and raised his eyes at Xie Bi. “Did you speak out of turn regarding Fei Liu fighting with General Meng to outsiders, that’s why these three are showing their curiosity? Did you forget that Su xiong came here to recuperate and not to entertain guests? This time, with such a disturbance, will he be able to recover in peace?”
Being blamed like that, Xie Bi felt a little embarassed and stuttered an apology, “It’s my fault for not being careful, when I was entertaining the guests with mother I accidentally spoke of it. Please forgive me Su xiong.”
“Not at all,” Mei Chang Su replied indifferently, “You introducing me in front of such distinguished guests, I should appreciate it. You never know, in a moment when I go to greet them, maybe the Empress will reward me precious gifts on behalf of His Highness Prince Yu.”
After hearing that, Xie Bi was momentarily surprised, raised his eyes and could see that, although Mei Chang Su had a smile upon his face but his eyes didn’t smile. He immediately knew that the chief of the Jiangzuo Alliance had seen right through his small plan. He couldn’t help but feel embarrassed and quickly tried to come up with an explanation.
Due to his unique identity, Xiao Jingrui could be considered half part of the pugilist world. Before coming of age, every year, he only spent six months in the capital. After reaching adulthood, he was more often wandering all around, never taking part in politics. Even so, he still had the identity as the marquis’s son, on a small level, still understood the situation within the court.
On hearing Mei Chang Su’s statement, along with Xie Bi’s pained expression, Xiao Jingrui only took a moment to think before understanding the reason. He immediately felt the burn of anger, took a step forward and stood blocking Mei Chang Su. With a loud voice, he told Xie Bi, “You go and reply to the Empress and mother that Su xiong is feeling ill and unable to go and greet them.”
“Dage, what are you doing?” Xie Bi anxiously wanted to push him aside, “You aren’t allowed to interfere, are the people waiting inside the main hall ordinary people? To see them when you want to see them, to deny them when you don’t?”
Xiao Jingrui ground his teeth, turned his left hand to grab Xie Bi’s arm and exerted a small amount of energy so he couldn’t move. At the same time he looked straight into his eyes and spoke with all seriousness, “I think that mother and Princess Nihuang are merely curious, the person who really wants to meet Su xiong is the Empress, isn’t that right? So I say again, go and reply to the Empress that Su xiong is ill. He doesn’t mean to be disrespectful and asks for her forgiveness.”
Xie Bi attempted to struggle but could not escape the grasp of Xiao Jingrui. His face couldn’t help but become red, embarrassed and angry.
Although he usually referred to Xiao Jingrui as oldest brother, between the two of them there really was a deep bond of brothers, but in his mind, he didn’t really respect or treat Xiao Jingrui as an older brother. While Xiao Jingrui had a gentle nature and even as a child, often gave in to his siblings. He had never used his position as oldest brother, normally he was bullied by his younger brothers and sister and not given any consideration. Even when dealing with Xie Bi as heir, he had never taken to teaching him. Today, XIao Jingrui’s attitude suddenly became brusque, Xie Bi obviously became surprised as he wasn’t used to it.
“Enough, Jingrui, I…” Mei Chang Su took a step forward, reluctantly saying a few words before being cut off by Xiao Jingrui. Without turning around, he replied, “No! This is absolutely not ok!”
“I don’t care what plans you had in bringing Su xiong to Jinling, I only know that I invited him to Jinling to rest and recover his health. Everything else has nothing to do with him.” Xiao JIngrui’s eyes were firm, with no intention of backing down. “Whether it’s Prince Yu or the Crown Prince, what position you take and which side you favour is your own business. Father ignored it, and I, even more so, won’t interfere. But Su xiong is an outsider, even if he wields the number one sect, is a talent to rely on, you cannot use these means to force him to become embroiled in the battle without asking his opinion. Even if Su xiong was a stranger, then your actions still go against everything that is a mans’ character. Never mind that we have become close on the long road returning to the capital, whatever the outcome, at least it could be said that we have developed some emotional bonds.”
Xie Bi had never seen Xiao Jingrui so outspoken, not to mention he had no response, and so he suddenly lost his momentum, lowering himself to haltingly reply, “It’s just meeting the Empress, not making any decisions…”
“Only meeting?” Xiao Jingrui laughed coldly, “If it wasn’t for his outstanding intelligence and position as chief of the Jiangzuo Alliance then why would the Empress ask to meet him without reason? If when he goes to greet her, the Empress decides to express her will to draw him to their side on behalf of Prince Yu, how should Su xiong react? Without Su xiong’s agreement, you have, without reason, pushed him into a difficult situation. In doing that, do you have any sense of friendship left?”
Having been reprimanded so heavily by him, Xie Bi clearly expressed his embarrassment and shame. On his forehead appeared blue veins. Seeing that, Xiao Jingrui became soft-hearted, and lowered his tone, “Second brother, the concerns within the house have always been totally looked after by you. I rarely help you with anything, that is my fault. I also know that everything you do is for the Xie family, but even still, we can’t treat our friends in this manner. If Yujin knew about today, he would also curse you. Now, I will go with Su xiong and return to Snow Cottage. As for the Empress…I think that with your wit, you’ll be able to deal with it.” When he finished speaking, he turned around to pull Mei Chang Su along.
Xie Bi stood there blankly for a long time. In the end, he gave a long sigh but didn’t dare to go after them.
After returning to Snow Cottage, Mei Chang Su sat down on the long bench seat he normally used under the tree. Xiao Jingrui personally poured hot tea for him, moved a seat next to him and sat quietly with him for a while before gently saying, “I’m sorry…”
Mei Chang Su’s gaze slowly turned to catch Xiao Jingrui’s.
Right then, the young man with the dual identity had recovered his usual genteel manner, expression softened and eyes clear. There was no trace of the fierce and firm attitude from before. Yet, when Mei Chang Su looked at him, he looked as if his heart could not calm from the shock.
He had thought that Xiao Jingrui was a simple young man, never thinking that when dealing with friends, dealing with a man’s character, he would have such conviction.
Although going to meet the Empress right now was not Mei Chang Su’s wish, but if he really had to then it wasn’t as if he couldn’t deal with it. Though having Xiao Jingrui cover for him, watching him put his all into protecting him, Mei Chang Su still felt very moved.
If people everywhere could be like Xiao Jingrui then the world would be a better place. Unfortunately, there were too many people who couldn’t do this, including himself…
“Su xiong, I hope you won’t be angry at Xie Bi…He really doesn’t have any bad intentions, it’s just that he has always supported Prince Yu, and highly regards your scholarly abilities.” Xiao Jingrui couldn’t guess at to what Mei Chang Su was thinking from his facial expression so was a bit uneasy. “You originally came to Jinling to get away from the pugilist world, the result now is that you are facing all these problems….”
Mei Chang Su smiled, bringing his hand up to pat Xiao Jingrui’s knee, gently spoke, “I’m not angry yet…I know that no matter what anyone does, they all have their own reasons, Xie Bi is the same. It’s just that everyone thinks too much of themselves, a lot of the problems in existence also stem from that. The pugilist world is like that, the court is like that, what difference is there? Northern Yan, Da Yu are full of the sights of blades and shadows of swords because of the fight for the throne. Daliang is also not an exception.”
“At the beginning, before arriving at Jinling, you had said that you needed to conceal your identity.” Xiao Jingrui bowed his head, seemingly depressed. “I obviously agreed with you but couldn’t do it…”
“How can this be blamed on you? The root of the matter is that I forgot to instruct Fei Liu carefully…”
Xiao Jingrui shook his head and sternly replied, “Su xiong do not try to make me feel better. After today, we both understand. Even if that day Fei Liu hadn’t accidentally encountered General Meng, then Xie Bi would still tell Prince Yu about Su xiong’s identity…”
“How about we leave the capital right this evening?” Mei Chang Su jokingly replied in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere.
“Su xiong!” Xiao Jingrui responded, not knowing whether to cry or laugh.
“It’s ok, no need to worry!” Mei Chang Su smiled, leaning into the seat. “If there is a situation it must be resolved, just walk and there will be a path. At this time, the both of them are exerting effort looking for talent. Unfortunately they have taken an interest in me. Even if I hide away back at the Jiangzuo Alliance, I would only bring problems along with me. Not to mention being scolded by the people in the sect for bringing trouble back home. Might as well stay in the capital to watch the entertainment, and wait for them to observe for a period of time. Naturally they will find that I am merely a useless scholar, then, even if I wanted to get closer, they would not bother accepting.”
Even though Xiao Jingrui knew that things were not that simple but he till couldn’t help being amused. The sadness in his heart also quickly disappeared.
The issue of refusing audience this time eventually didn’t lead to any large disturbance. The Empress and Princess Nihuang quietly returned to the palace. It looked like Xie Bi’s plan wasn’t ordinary.
Dinner that night was very calm, Marquis of Ning and princess Liyang both didn’t mention anything about the guest staying in Snow Cottage. Xie Bi was sulking, only eating half a bowl of rice before standing and returning to his room.
Xiao Jingrui followed him, and he also didn’t get angry at his older brother. Only asking Xiao Jingrui to ask Su xiong for forgiveness. After that, he gave the reason of feeling unwell and headed to sleep early.
The next day, Yan Yujin came looking for everyone to go out, the result being, he was surprised to find that nearly everyone didn’t have the spirit. Immediately he began to suspect that he had missed out on seeing something exciting. So he grabbed Xiao Jingrui and pressed him for details, but after a while he still couldn’t get any answers.
Luckily he still remembered that tomorrow was the first day of the general assembly to choose a husband for Princess Nihuang. He definitely had to rest well so that he could achieve his goal of bringing home a consort, because of this, he ended his questioning of Xiao Jingrui and reluctantly returned home.
<< Chapter 01 Chapter 03 >>
As always, please be kind ^.^ if I have made any mistakes, let me know below and I will endeavour to fix them. If you would like to help with the translation, do leave a comment ^.^
As I continue the translation, names of people / places may change as I come across better transliterations.