CHAPTER 8: There are still weaknesses

<< Chapter 07    Chapter 09 >>

Kickstarting 2018 three months in xD. By the gods, this chapter was long…

Sorry about the delay, I’ll be explaining more in my upcoming series review post ^.^

NOTE: I will be replacing Princess Nihuang’s title from here on out with Duchess. Not only is this to differentiate from the titles of royal born Princess’, but also because she is the ruler of her own territory in Yunnan.

[1] qing 卿/khanh: This title was given to Mei Chang Su previously as a special guest of the royal court. Ordinarily it would translate to minister, however in the context of this story, it isn’t used as such as he isn’t given any political power other than overseeing the written and martial examination, and only temporarily to find Nihuang’s suitor. As such, I will keep it the romanised qing from this chapter forward rather than using minister as I will do for those in positions of power.

[2] neijin 內勁/nội kình: literal translation is ‘internal power’ – the culmination and unification of refined Chi and cosmic Chi in the body that is the ultiimate peak of internalcultivation

In fact, this person could not be called a visitor because Snow Cottage, where Mei Chang Su currently resided, is originally in her home. It was just that after such a long time, she had never once come to visit him.

Although he was uneasy, Mei Chang Su did not let it appear on his face. After calmly soothing Fei Liu who had immediately run out upon hearing the disturbance and letting him return inside, he bowed in greeting to Grand Princess Li Yang.

“It has become windy outside, I have heard that Su xiansheng is in poor health, let us speak inside.” The Grand Princess’ face held a cold expression but her tone could still be considered polite. Seeing Mei Chang Su giving way to her, she entered the room assertively and took off her golden outer cloak made from silk as the air in the room was much too warm.

This time, she came here quietly on her own and so naturally there were no maids beside her. Mei Chang Su stepped forward and caught her cloak before hanging it on the nearby coat stand. He then took a teapot from the warmer and poured out a cup of hot tea for her.

Princess Li Yang picked up the teacup but did not bring it to her mouth, simply holding it seemed to warm her hands. After a while she started to speak, “Bothering xiansheng so late is very embarrassing, but if it was earlier, I am afraid…”

Seeing her only speak half a sentence before stopping, Mei Chang Su smiled and finished, “Princess is afraid that if you came earlier, Jing Rui would still be here. That means Princess has commands for me, correct?”

Grand Princess Li Yang raised her head to look at him. Su Zhe was originally a civilian, his status compared to the emperor’s sister was like the difference between heaven and earth. To use the word command was not being pretentious, but saying it from the mouth of someone with numerous relationships and seeming mysteriousness as Mei Chang Su made others temporarily unable to determine his identity.

In control of the world’s number one alliance, good friends and respected by the number one and two gongzi’s in the capital, and under him was a bodyguard able to match against the number one martial artist in Daliang. The Crown Prince and Prince Yu were both actively trying to recruit him and he was especially favoured by Prince Nihuang, with whom he had a complicated relationship. All these connections piled on top of each other, whether it was Grand Princess Li Yang above all others, even she was not able to simply see him as a normal civilian.

Still, it was because he was not an ordinary person that she knew he had the power that others could not compare with that she, someone who rarely went out on her own, came to this small guest cottage in the middle of the night.

“Whatever it is Princess should say it, there is no need to hesitate.” Mei Chang Su observed the constantly changing expression on his visitor’s face before saying slowly, “If what Princess commands is within the abilities of Su Zhe, then I will of course comply. Yet if it is not something I can do then I also will not speak too much of it, Princess can be assured.”

The look in Grand Princess Li Yang’s eyes intensified as if she had made a resolution, the teacup in her hand was also placed down on the table. She raised her head to look straight into Mei Chang Su’s eyes and stated clearly, “Su xiansheng,  xiansheng please save Nihuang.”

Hearing such a request, even as calm a person as Mei Chang Su was, his expression couldn’t help but show his surprise, “What does Grand Princess mean in saying this?”

“I heard that Nihuang greatly respects xiansheng, there must be some affection between you.” Grand Princess Li Yang waved her hand cutting Mei Chang Su off seeing him begin to correct her, signalling for him to listen, “Although Nihuang is smart, she still generally spends her time at the border, not knowing just how deep the waters in the capital run, how dark they are. She pridefully commands the mighty Yunnan, and is a master in her own right, wanting to play around in the selection for prince consort. Always feeling that everything was within her control leading to her carelessness.”

“Listening to everything that Princess has said, is there someone conspiring against the Duchess?”

“For their own goals, what is there that people in the capital won’t do?” Not knowing what she was thinking, Grand Princess Li Yang’s showed an expression of anguish. “Nihuang alone represents Mu Manor, represents the hundred thousand military power defending the southern border, is that not enough to cause someone to plot against her?”

Mei Chang Su furrowed his brows and slowly nodded.

He had thought about DUchess Nihuang’s value numerous times so was always finding ways to get her to support Prince Jing. Of course, others would not pass up this opportunity either.

It’s just that…with Duchess Nihuang’s current power and unyielding attitude, who would dare to touch this sharp blade, who really had the ability to scheme and conspire to reach their goal?

“I know what Su xiansheng is thinking.” Observing facial expressions was not a secret technique of Jiangzuo, Grand Princess who had lived with countless schemes since young would know as well. Her eyes glinted and her lips revealed a cold smile, “Nihuang is truly strong, strong to the point that she nearly doesn’t need protecting…But Su xiansheng isn’t aware, no matter how strong a woman is, she is still a woman, there are some things that to a man it means nothing, but to a woman, it’s the last blow that could shatter their mind. If Nihuang has someone in her heart then the blow would be even heavier, making her feel that regardless of who becomes her husband, how she lives in future, is no longer worth worrying about…”

When saying all this, Grand Princess Li Yang’s expression was very calm and tone, indifferent, but her eyes slowly became red-rimmed and her grip on the table belied her inner turmoil.

Mei Chang Su turned away to hide the fleeting sympathy that appeared on his face. It was as if he could no longer remember the outgoing and open Princess Li Yang, hot-headed like fire and that would compete with all the princes when out hunting. He only remembered that he had once complained to his mother that aunt Li Yang was too cold and didn’t like playing with him. At that time, his mother could only softly lament.

What happened that year, how did it eventuate? Why did it happen? It was truly mysterious and far away. Even after thorough investigation all these years, no more information could be found.

Maybe the truth was hidden deep in the hearts of those people, no one willing to speak of it.

“Your Highness, Grand Princess.” Mai Chang Su pondered for a moment before slowly speaking, “I admit that what you say makes sense, but I still cannot think of what method could achieve such an effect.”

Princess Li Yang’s lips slightly twitched, as if not wanting to explain. Yet she understood that if she didn’t give more information then there would be no way this person would trust her.

“From the people who passed the martial arts competition this time, there are two agreeable to the Emperor to couple with the Duchess, do you know who?”

Mei Chang Su of course immediately shook his head.

“Grand Commandent’s Sima Lei and Marquis of Zhong’s, Liao Tingjie.”

“Ah.” Mei Chang Su was not surprised when he heard this answer. Between these two people, one was of the Sima family and supporting the Crown Prince, the other was of the Marquis of Zhong supporting Prince Yu, very balanced. Was it intentional by the Emperor or merely coincidence?

“However, according to the rules this time, unless the Princess intentionally loses, otherwise neither of the two will have a chance of winning.”

“Yes.” Mei Chang Su nodded once again.

It was not just these two, all ten would not.

“So there are people becoming desperate. As Yunnan’s, Mu Manor’s support is so enticing, without taking advantage of when the Duchess is still in the capital to conclude this situation, then after returning to Yunnan, the result will be lessened.” Princess Li Yan suddenly, coldly smiled. “These people have early on stopped caring about Nihuang’s thoughts. People within the palace understand best doing whatever the can, there are some who know what happened back then and want to copy the Empress Dowager…”

Mentioning Empress Dowager, Mei Chang Su’s emotions couldn’t help but surge. That’s right, now thinking back, he remembered Grand Princess Li Yang rarely entered the palace to visit her mother. Even more, never saw her speak to the Empress Dowager. At the time, his life was full of happiness so he never concerned himself with this unusual situation.

Grand Princess Li Yang closed her eyes as if to settle her emotions. What she was about to say would be the key to the situation.

“In the palace, there is a type of wine called qing si rao, after drinking just one cup will cause hallucinations. If a woman drinks it she will think that the man next to her is the one she holds dear in her heart and due to the influence of the herb, she will take the initiative in seeking happiness. Not knowing the existence of such a wine, after recovering she will think that because she isn’t strong willed that she got drunk and lost her propriety. Furthermore, since it was she that took the initiative she would not be able to place blame on the man. Feeling embarrassed and without hope, she’ll believe that living is no better than death. Yet the most difficult thing isn’t dying, it’s that dying at this time would be extremely regretful. In the midst of losing all hope, if someone she trusted stood out and counselled her, she would no longer have the ability to struggle or resist, letting the other person manipulate her however they wanted…”

After saying the last part, Princess Li Yang’s tone changed, a sense of tragedy and grief, that would cause even the slowest of people to hear that what she was saying was her innermost feelings, could be heard.

Mei Chang Su stood up and slowly walked to the other side of the room with his backed turned not looking at her, quietly waiting for her to regain her composure.

After the time it takes to drink a cup of tea, Grand Princess Li Yang took a deep breath and slowly spoke, “Su xiansheng must think me ridiculous. The woman harmed that year was my closest sister, so it made me emotional, I hope you don’t think too much of it.”

“Princess doesn’t need to say it like that. This kind of thing is truly outrageous, even if it wasn’t princess’ sister, it would still cause others to feel anger and sympathy. It’s just I still don’t understand, princess…who was it that your sister so admired that would cause the Empress Dowager to be so against it that she would do anything…”

Grand Princess Li Yang’s gaze seemed to be looking into a distant past, falling upon a time long ago. “That person…a hostage…Southern Chu sent to Daliang…”

Mei Chang Su immediately understood and couldn’t bear to ask further.

“Nihuang, although she is not related by blood to me, her spirit and aura often make me remember the past, so in my heart, I hold great affection for her.” It was as if Princess Li Yang had managed to overcome her turmoil, her expression became calm once again. “If someone wants to resort to such despicable methods against her, then no matter what I must stop it. I hope xiansheng will help me!”

Mei Chang Su’s eyes flashed and he paused before eventually asking, “Your Highness, Grand Princess…how did you come to know of this conspiracy?”

Although Grand Princess Li Yang knew he would ask this but she couldn’t help but turn to avoid his gaze. “That child, Xie Bi, has been entangled in this, but he doesn’t have the cruelty for it. I discovered that he seemed a little off and after pressing him, he revealed it…”

“Ah.” Mei Chang Su nodded while he continued questioning, “With Princess’ status, there are many ways to stop this, why have you chosen me?”

Grand Princess Li Yang smiled deprecatingly and coldly replied, “Many ways? I don’t think so. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve gone to question the mastermind? They won’t admit it. Report to Hia Majesty, the Emperor? Just saying it without evidence, what’s the use? Go to the palace to stop it? How would I know when they would act? At times like this, what use is the status of Grand Princess?”

Mei Chang Su thought for a moment, he had wanted to ask why she didn’t seek help from her husband but then suddenly remembered that this ploy was the same as the one used that year. Even if Xie Yu was not an accomplice but was used by the Empress Dowager, he, in the end, was the one who received the most benefits. Discussing this with him would be a little embarrassing. Not to mention if Xie Yu were to help stop this then he would inevitably offend the mastermind. Xie Yu wasn’t naive, there was no guarantee he would agree to this. After thinking about it, her Royal Highness the Grand Princess couldn’t rely on anyone, it was truly sad and made others lament. It’s just that…

“Princess, even if I want to help, I’m simply a civilian, I’m afraid that even if I wanted to I wouldn’t be able to do anything…”

“Doesn’t xiansheng have a good relationship with Duchess Nihuang? Not to mention you will meet her tomorrow. Please inform her of this news, tell her she needs to be careful when dealing with the ladies of the palace to be safe.”

“Why do you not tell the Princess this yourself?”

“My nature has always been indifferent, even though I may secretly admire Nihuang but I don’t have a relationship with her, she may not believe me. More importantly, they know that I have discovered this matter. As soon as I enter the palace, there will be a lady accompanying me. There’s completely no chance for me to speak with the Duchess alone…It is lucky that xiansheng is here in Marquis Manor, here I still have a bit of authority. I believe that this midnight visit xiansheng can still be hidden from the eyes and ears of those people, it’s just that it will trouble you.”

Mei Chang Su studied her and spoke profoundly, “I am also not close to Grand Princess, yet you have placed a lot of trust in me, I am honoured.”

Grand Princess Li Yang was smarter than most so how could she not interpret his words, she faintly smiled, “Suddenly visiting is truly presumptuous. It’s just that one, there really isn’t anyone to rely on, two, I know that xiansheng has a good relationship with Nihuang and third, Jing Rui compliments you constantly before me. That child is pure-hearted, people that he respects definitely aren’t not ordinary. Before coming I also considered that doing this would cause xiansheng to offend these people in power, so even if xiansheng didn’t accept my request, it would be normal. I hope xiansheng will think on this carefully.”

After saying all this, Grand Princess lowered her head and quietly drank her tea.

Mei Chang Su looked at the black hair that had begun to silver and suddenly felt regretful, and a sense of panic, thinking.

“It is late, princess should return.” The sound of the night watchman’s drum entered the room through the window, Mei Chang Su brought the silk coat from the coat stand, gently draping it over her weak shoulders, gently saying, “Duchess is also my good friend, I will do everything I can. I ask that Grand Princess also enters the palace tomorrow so that we can act when the moment is right.”

Seeing that he had accepted, Grand Princess Li Yang did not say anything else and covered her head with the cloak’s hood, leaving the small courtyard and disappearing into the darkness not long after.

Mei Chang Su stood on the steps and gazed after her, the night wind blowing forth causing him to shiver. A pair of hands from behind pulled him inside with great strength. He turned around and found a pair of shining eyes that were slightly angry.

“Sorry, Su ge ge forgot to wear his cloak.” He patted the youths head soothingly. “Our Fei Liu still isn’t asleep yet?”

“She left, wake!”

“Ah, the disturbance woke you up?” Mei Chang Su smiled in apology before curling up tightly in his thick brocade blanket. “Go back to sleep, tomorrow we still have to go out and play.”

“Ge ge sleep!”

“Yes, yes, yes, I will also sleep.” Mei Chang Su replied obligingly and closed his eyes. Outwardly he seemed calm, but mentally he began to consider everything old and new regarding the powers of the capital. From there he began to guess what this visit by Grand Princess Li Yang hid behind it.

Fei Liu didn’t return to his room but snuggled in next to Su ge ge, happily falling asleep. Mei Chang Su fixed his blanket before slowly laying down. Before truly falling asleep, he had one last thought, “The spy the Crown Prince placed next to Prince Yu, who is it?”

Due to falling asleep late the night before, the next day Mai Chang Su also woke up late. Fei Liu stood guard at the door not letting anyone in to wake him. Seeing that it was nearly time to enter the palace to meet the Emperor, everyone became more impatient.

In the end, it was still Yan Yujin who came up with an idea, standing outside the courtyard walls he shouted, “Su xiong wake up!” causing Fei Liu to chase after him angrily. Xiao Jing Rui took the opportunity to run inside Snow Cottage, who knew that Fei Liu had such sharp eyes, he immediately flashed in front to block the door. Yan Yujin on the other side wasn’t afraid of death and continued to call out. This cold youth became extremely angry, punching and kicking Xiao Jing Rui. Young master Xiao felt wronged and while defending himself said, “Why are you beating me…I’m not the one calling…”

Xie Bi had placed himself far away but still didn’t forget to analyse, “Fei Liu plans to beat you into unconsciousness before chasing after Yujin…”

Yan Yujin shivered and shouted, “Su xiong,” while encouraging his friend, “Just a little longer!”

For a moment, the situation outside Snow Cottage became chaotic. Even if the person inside slept like the living dead, they would have no choice but to wake up.

Mei Chang Su opened the door and ordered Fei Liu to let the people ouside, in. The servants quickly brought in hot water and breakfast.

Yan Yujin wanted to say something as soon as he entered but was stopped by Xiao Jing Rui. Only after Mei Chang Su had finished his congee and placed down his chopsticks did he release his hand and allow Yan Yujin to speak.

“Su xiong, this morning there was an imperial edict saying the written examination has been delayed until tomorrow.” Yan Yujin reported anxiously.

“Oh, why?”

“Because you need to deal with Baili Qi today!” Yan Yujin freely opened his fan and after only a few waves, Xiao Jing Rui had glared at him. He was stunned for a moment before realising that Mei Chang Su had to hide from the cold wind of his fan. He hastily folded the fan back but couldn’t help from playing cool and striking the fan on the palm of his hand. Those who didn’t know would think that the person dealing with Baili Qi today would be him.

Seeing young master Yan making as if he had no intention of continuing to speak, Xie Bi hurried to continue, “It’s like this, Prince Yu said that even if Su Xiong taught the children to beat Baili Qi then his qualification to compete would remain unchanged and he would still have to participate in the written examination. However, once beaten, his mindset would be heavily effected which would inevitably lead to unfairness. After all, the consort selection this time isn’t hurried one or two days, why not postpone the written examination by a day. It would also avoid the people of Northern Yan finding an excuse to complain.”

“This idea is very comprehensive, has the Emperor agreed?”

“He’s agreed.”

“Oh.” Mei Chang Su nodded. “Thank you for informing me. It isn’t early anymore, I will leave first.”

“What leaving first?” Xiao Jing Rui thoughtfully brought his cloak over, “We are all going together.”

Mei Chang Su looked at them, “Where are you all going?”

“Going to watch how you defeat Baili Qi of course!”

Mei Chang Su couldn’t help but laugh, “Wu Ying Hall is a palace hall, not the Ching Lok Square you visit regularly. Last time you could come was because the Emperor summoned you, you were meant to come with me today because after the competition there would be the written examination. Now that the written examination has been postponed, what reason do you have for coming to Wu Ying Hall? Even if you are all nobleman, then you would still need to at least ask permission first before entering!”

“Ah…” Yan Yujin jumped up and let out an anguished sound, “I forgot this completely! So much time has been wasted. I have to go ask permission to enter the palace, something so exciting, even if I die I have to go and see!”

Xie Bi,  on the other hand, wasn’t interested. He did not want to go anyway but Xiao Jing Rui was different, he busily stood up wanting to follow his friend but stopped and turned to look at Mei Chang Su not knowing what to do.

“Don’t worry.” Mei Chang Su smiled and pushed him a little, “Xie Bi will roganise the carriage for me, you go hurry and ask for an invitation unless, you don’t want to watch the excitement?”

Xiao Jing Rui curved his lips into a smile while making a sound of agreement before running out. Xie Bi shrugged looking at his silhouette, sighing, “Everyday he becomes more like Yujin, before he didn’t like to watch such events…”

To Xie Bi who wasn’t knowledgeable about martial arts, Mei Chang Su didn’t want to explain why this sparring match was so interesting drawing the fascination of so many. He simply drew together his snowy white cloak and gently ordered Fei Liu before leading the three youngsters, who had earlier on stood waiting at the side, out of the courtyard.

The carriage and guards of the manor had been waiitng outside for a while. Xie Bi, looking right and left, jokingly said, “Today, Duchess Nihuang hasn’t sent over a carriage, is Su xiong disappointed?”

Mei Chang Su simply smiled without replying. He dropped the carriage’s curtain and the coachman raised his whip and the carriage headed in the direction of the palace.

Today, the number of people arriving in Wu Ying Hall was much less than last time.

Other than Baili Qi, there was no sight of the other nine candidates. The delegation from Da Yu had present only two people, the primary and secondary envoys.

Although Prince Jing had arrive early for Ting Sheng, but the Crown Prince and Prince Yu were nowhere to be seen. It was said that they had entered the palace early in the morning, most likely they would arrive with the Emperor.

The brother and sister pair from Mu Manor also leisurely arrived later, and so Mei Chang Su led the three children into the hall. Other than Prince Jing who had nodded his head in greeting from afar, no one had approached to say anything. The atmosphere was wearisome, quite different to the excitement of the other day.

However, Mei Chang Su liked this kind of quiet atmosphere.

He led the three to a corner of the hall, and in turn held each of their hands, smiling comfortably in encouragement. Not long after, the wary and afraid gazes became calm again and each of the three took turns to nod their head saying they would work their hardest to escape their lowly slave identity.

About a half hour later, Duchess Nihuang and Mu Qing walked over both wearing joyful expressions. Mei Chang Su smiled in greeting whilst thinking to himself how no matter when, or where, these two siblings always had a spiritful look and countenance very much contrary to the other nobility in the capital who always seemed tired. Only Prince Jing seemed to even come close to their temperament.

“Seeing Su xiansheng’s expression, you seem to be very confident?” The first person to speak was Mu Qing, stepping closer and slightly leaning forward to the three children, “Tell me, what has Su xiansheng taught you?”

Mei Chang Su felt that there would be no harm in letting the children get acquainted with the people in the hall so he ignored him, signalling Ducchess Nihuang with his eyes to take a few steps aside.

“What is it? Do you have something you want to say to me?” The female Marshal of the southern border joked.

“Someone has aksed me to remin Duchess of a few things.” Mei Chang Su whispered. “Now that there seems no hope of attaining you, there are people in the palace who use ploys to force you into submission. Duchess needs to beware of Prince Yu and the Empress…If anyone invites Duchess to a banquet along, if you can not go then it would be best…”

“Force me to submit?” After a moment of shock, Duchess Nihuang proudly smiled, “How do they plan to force me?”

Mei Chang Su was unable to go into too much detail and simply said, “Duchess must not underestimate the means of the harem, you must be careful of the food and drink…”

Wanting to elaborate, suddenly there were sounds of footsteps from outside. Yan Yujin pulled Xiao Jing Rui inside, laughing, “Thank goodness we made it. Su xiong, you haven’t begun yet?”

Mu Qing unhappily stood out and blocked the, frowning while saying, “It hasn’t started yet. Su xiansheng and jie jie were talking, you two don’t disturb them!”

Having him create such a situation, even Duchess Nihuang would not be able to continue whispering with Mei Chang Su any longer.

After all, it was not a good thing for an unmarried woman, in the middle of a competition to find her suitor to go against propriety.

Fortunately, the embarrassing situation immediately passed because at this moment, the Emperor had arrived.

As everyone speculated, the Crown Prince and Prince Yu, one on the left, the other on the right, helped the Emperor as he appeared. Princess Jing Ning followed behind with Meng Zhi as their guard.

After the Emperor was seated, the two princes and Jing Ning together stepped down the jade steps and led everyone in the official ceremony. After given leave to be seated, everyone returned to their positions.

“Su qing[1],” the Emperor smiled comfortably, “What are your results?”

“Anything I say would be meaningless, please observe carefully in a moment.” Mei Chang SU beckoned to the children to stand in a straight line and bow.

Emperor Liang looked at the three small figures, and then looked at the muscle of Baili Qi on the side. He was still feeling uneasy and couldn’t help but turn to look at Mei Chang Su for a moment.

“Your majesty, may we begin?” Meng Zhi took the opportunity to bow and ask for permission.

A notched arrow could not be withdrawn, the Emperor of Daliang hid the unease in his eyes and nodded.

The three children received the order and stood up, each holding a sword and standing in a triangular formation, resolute. This sense of calm and confidence was a world away from the fear and shyness of two days prior and immediately made those watching pay attention.

Baili Qi entered the fray without a weapon, looking disdainfully at his opponents in front of him and casually took on an offensive stance.

“Begin!” As soon as Meng Zhi gave the order, suddenly a gentle breeze appeared and the three children moved around spinning. Their steps interlaced life butterflies in a flower garden and their originally clear silhouettes became fleeting. Those with lesser martial arts watching this would become dizzy.

Golden Eagle Chai Ming of Da Yu was immediately entranced and sat upright. As he was planning to look closer, he suddenly felt a murderous aura coming from beside him. Frightened, he couldn’t help but turn around to look and only found the number one martial artist in Daliang, Commander General of the Imperial Guards, Meng Zhi daren staring sullenly at him. A great sense of anger was visible in his stare as if the two had a hatred stemming from patricide or wife stealing. Chai ming couldn’t help but shiver and while attempting to steady his mind, he was thinking about what he could have done to offend Meng Zhi.

As soon as Duchess Nihuang saw the silhouettes of the children begin to fade in and out she was completely taken in. She was leaning forward to observe more closely when suddenly a frightened sound was made by Mei Chang Su next to her. She couldn’t help but startle and turned to look at him, only seeing that he had knocked over the teapot and was fumbling and leaning away to avoid the tea dripping down the edge of the table. The stupid look compared to the normal calm grace caused the Duchess to smile.

While the two were distracted, sounds of pain could be heard and immediately, a thud. The three children retracted their swords and leapt back and the illusion, shattered. When everyone looked again, Baili Qi was half kneeling on the ground supporting himself with one arm with an angry and unwilling expression.

“They won!”

“They won!”

Yan Yujin and Princess Jing Ning cheered at the same time.

Although Emperor Liang was a King, but at this time, he also revealed a smile.

Chai Ming was steadfastly fighting against the anger permeating from Meng Zhi when he suddenly felt relaxed. General Meng Zhi who had just had an expression of not wanting to exist under the same sky as he had changed completely, revealing a genuine and friendly smile. In teh blink of an eye, he truly felt that he had just been dreaming.

“Warrior Baili, what’s wrong?” The principal Envoy for Northern Yan urgently and angrily rushed forward.

“Emissary daren does not need to worry, we wouldn’t injure our guests.” Mei Chang Su smiled on the side whilst signalling to the children, ” You are not thanking the Emperor yet?”

The three small swordsmen immediately kowtowed causing the Emperor of Daliang to laugh uproariously, “You have been meritorious, I won’t go back on my promise. Your slave identity will be removed so you can find a place in a bureau or settle with family and friends.”

Princess Jing Ning was extremely happy and immediately said, “Imperial father is truly benevolent.”

The Emperor of Daliang looked at his daughter a while when he suddenly had a thought, “Jing Ning, you really like these children? Since they have such a sword array, you can have them serve you. You’ll have guards stronger than normal and they’ll not have to worry about food or clothing, it could be seen as a life of comfort…”

As soon as the words were said, Mei Chang Su and Prince Jing both lost colour in their faces, especially Prince Jing who seemed as if he wanted to immediately stand up and object but Mei Chang Su was able to stop him in time with a look.

“Your Majesty, what you say is not right.” At this time, the person to object was Xiao Jing Rui. He stood up and bowed, saying in a loud voice, “Your Majesty has decreed that they be released from the servant prison, that is allowing them to be free in the future. The decree has been made, how can it be withdrawn? Weapons cannot be carried while serving the princess, this sword array would be useless. Jing Rui believed that even Princess Jing Ning may not want them inside her palace.”

Princess Jing Ning quickly added, “That’s right, that’s right, inside my palace there are many young eunuchs, why would I need them? Imperial father should gift Ning’er something else.”

The Emperor of Daliang had always cared for Xiao Jing Rui, so hearing him speak so straight-forwardly he still didn’t anger, simply waved his hand for him to sit down and let the situation pass.

Mei Chang Su was covered in cold sweat.

“Su xiansheng has taught them very well and should receive first merit. Wait until the Duccess’ written examination is over, We will bestow you a reward.” Now, the Emperor of Daliang was in a good mood and personally poured a cup of wine before calling someone to bring it to Mei Chang Su. “First, a toast to success in battle.”

Mei Chang Su gave thanks and, receiving the wine, drank it in one go but couldn’t help but cough. He tried to hold it back, his face becoming flushed.

The Emperor of Daliang pretended to reassure Baili Qi and the Northern Yan envoy before happily returning to the palace.

As soon as the Emperor had left, Mei CHang Su covered his mouth with his hand and doubled over. Xiao Jing Rui jumped over the table and ran over to pat his back. The Crown Prince and Prince Yu also rushed over to see.

“It’s okay…His Majesty’s royal wine is just a bit fragrant…” After coughing for a while, Mei Chang Su lowered his hand to rest on Xiao Jing Rui’s arm and raised his head.

The Crown Prince and Prince Yu standing nearby expressed their concern. Just like last time at the banquet in Wu Ying Hall, neither of them carried the scent of ambergris. It could then be seen that this was deliberate and not just a coincidence.

Mei Chang Su once again believed that there was a spy from the Crown Prince beside Prince Yu.

“Are you alright? Do you need to rest a while before going?” Duchess Nihuang had been asked aside to speak with a female officer and so could only now come over to inquire.

“It’s fine.” Mei Chang Su gave a faint smile and turned to the Crown Prince and Prince Yu saying, “Your Highnesses are busy with state matter, if I delay you then I really can’t accept the responsibility.”

The Crown Prince and Prince Yu really looked as if they had matters to attend to, furthermore, they couldn’t be seen getting too close so they politely said a few words before leaving.

Mu Qing used one hand to grab Yan Yujin, and the other to push Xiao Jing Rui but couldn’t.

“Su xiong still cannot stand.” Even knowing Mu Qing’s intention was to allow his sister to stay with Mei Chang Su, Xiao Jing Rui continued to stand still.

Duchess Nihuang couldn’t help but feel amused and interestedly watched young master Xiao a moment before speaking quietly to Mei Chang Su, “The Empress really has invited me to a banquet, I cannot decline, I will go now.”

“Duchess.” Mei Chang Su hurriedly called, thought for a moment but there was nothing else to instruct so he simply sighed, only having two final words, “Take care!”

After Duchess Nihuang left, there were only a few people left in the hall.

Mei Chang Su felt extremely uncomfortable but the palace forbid the use of carriages and palanquins so he had to sit down and rest for a moment. Xiao Jing Rui and Yan Yujin naturally stayed behind with him.

Princess Jing Ning who had been speaking with Prince Jing had now finished so Prince Jing came over to inquire after him. After a few words, both sides had nothing left to say. Prince JIng then took the opportunity to call Tingsheng over and while speaking with him, walked away.

As the Emperor had gone directly to the concubine’s residence, Meng Zhi wasn’t allowed to follow. Quietly worried about Mei Chang Su, he also didn’t leave but stayed behind in the hall. Calling the children still there, he ordered them to demonstrate the formation for him to see. Yan Yujin came over and watched with interest. Only Xiao Jing Rui carefully returned to Mei Chang Su’s side and saw that his forehead was drenched in cold sweat. He lowered his voice and asked urgently, “Was the wine that strong? Is it your illness?”

Mei Chang Su tried to subdue the feeling of pain, he understood that the strong alcohol had irritated his old injury. He didn’t want to speak and simply closed his eyes in meditation.

Meng Zhi had looked over a few times and finally couldn’t help but walk over.

“How is Su xiansheng?”

“I don’t know.” Xiao Jing Rui said with a trembling voice. “He’s rested for a while but doesn’t seem to be getting any better.”

“Let me see.” Meng Zhi reached for his pulse and his brows immediately furrowed. He concentrated a moment before transferring a portion of neijin[2] to calm his injury.

At this time, Yan Yujin, Prince Jing and Princess Jing Ning noticed that something wasn’t right and also came over.

The three children were also worried and stood there watching.

Nearly half an hour later, Meng Zhi let out a long sigh and tired expression.

Me Chang Su retracted his hand and whispered his thanks. He sounded stronger and not as weak as before.

“You scared me…” Yan Yujin was most afraid of such a heavy atmosphere, he exhaled. “It’s good that everything is alright. Su xiong’s body is weak, you really must recuperate well. Jing Rui, let’s hurry and bring Su xiong back, it’s likely the planned polo match today won’t be able to be played…”

“Of course there won’t be a match. Do you have the mind to play polo?” Xiao Jing Rui was very unhappy.

“I also didn’t plan to play, it’s just that we still have to let Tingjie know, after all, we did make plans.”

“You tell him then, I’m not going.”

Mei Chang Su listened to these two talking, feeling something odd that he couldn’t take hold of and couldn’t help but furrow his brows in thought.

“What’s wrong? Feeling uncomfortable?” Xiao Jing Rui hurriedly asked.

“No…just then you said…who did you plan to play polo with?”

“Liao TIngjie, you don’t know him, he’s the son of Marquis of Zhong…”

As if a light went off, the odd feeling from this morning once again appeared. Mei Chang Su suddenly thought of a few things and his heart couldn’t help but shudder uncontrollably.

The Duchess had been invited into the palace, in principle, the Empress and Prince Yu should have thoroughly organised the ploy this time, but…but why is the person designed as the Duchess’ consort this time in Prince Yu’s camp, Liao Tingjie, having an appointment with someone else to play polo?

Every word from Grand Princess Li Yang last night quickly appeared in his mind once more and the most unusual point was immediately explained.

Grand Princess said that she became aware of the plot because Xie Bi was hesitant and seen through by her only to be pressed to reveal it. Yet this morning, Xie Bi was in a good mood and when he went out he was making a joke about Duchess Nihuang not sending a carriage over. Completely unlike he was keeping a secret or having any sense of guilt. From another angle, the ploy by the Empress and Prince Yu this time was extremely risky. At most, only a few people directly involved would be aware, there would be no way for it to reach the ears of others.

In the secrets of the palace, Xie Bi can do nothing to help, why would Prince Yu talk about it with him?

So Grand Princess Li Yang had lied, lied about what she felt was unimportant, more so was unable to speak of because she didn’t become aware of it from Xie Bi. The source of the information was likely from her husband, Marquis of Ning, Xie Yu. The schemes of the Empress Dowager that year, only a few knew about and Xie Yu would be counted amongst them.

If he laid out the plans for the person he supported and Grand Princess Li Yang heard, only a few words would be enough for her to completely understand.

The most critical misunderstanding appeared at the last step. Grand Princess Li Yang did not understand the situation so used Xie Bi as a shield, and Mei Chang Su knew that Xie Bi belonged to Prince Yu so he automatically thought that the person who would carry out such an evil ploy would be the Empress. What he had not thought of was that this ultimately had nothing to do with Xie Bi but was the work of his father, Xie Yu.

As for Xie Yu’s position…Xie Yu’s position…

Mei Chang Su breathed rapidly, his jaw clenched tight.

What is keeping neutral? What is placing oneself outside the battle for the throne? Others wouldn’t know, but he knew well what type of person Xie Yu was. His past was tainted so he knew he couldn’t be a simple minister. Now that the Emperor was aging, how could he not plan for his future? Xie Bi loudly supporting Prince Yu like that had already offended the Crown Prince. Once the Crown Prince succeeded then the Xie family would be pressured. In this situation, neutrality was completely meaningless. Being as savvy as Xie Yu, why would he do something so meaningless? The truth was that he allowed his son to conspire with Prince Yu while he pretended to be someone who would not help either side.

This spoke of how he already had a seamless plan, a plan that would allow him to enjoy honour no matter who attained the throne.

Xie Bi publicly supported Prince Yu, Xie Yu secretly supported the Crown Prince while telling the Crown Prince that Xie Bi supported Prince Yu to be his spy. From time to time he would reveal some information to prove it and so Prince Yu would be in the dark and the Crown Prince would be even happier.

As long as it was hidden successfully then the future would be: Prince Yu wins, because Xie Bi supported Prince Yu, the Xie family would not fall. The Crown Prince wins, Xie Yu and his son are meritorious and are even more favourable.

Therefore,  Xie Yu is really in support of the Crown Prince.

Thinking about this caused cold-sweat to run down Mei Chang Su’s forehead.

The real danger isn’t in the Empress’ Zhengyang Palace but in Noble Consort Yue’s Zhaoren Place, the Crown Prince’s birth mother.

Now that the Duchess had been in the palace for so long, if she listened to his suggestion to beware of the Empress then wouldn’t she be careless around Noble Consort Yue and fall into their trap?

If the worst was to happen, calculating the time, maybe there’s still time…

“Your Royal Highness, Prince Jing, please immediately enter the palace to inquire, if the Duchess has entered Noble OCnsort Yue’s Zhaoren Palace then Your Highness must follow and find her no matter what.” Mei Chang Su suddenly stood up, grabbing Prince Jing’s arm tightly, and spoke seriously. “Duchess Nihuang is in danger, I will explain everything to Your Highness later, but now Your Highness should leave quickly, quickly go!”

Although Xiao Jingyan didn’t understand head nor tail but seeing his expression so serious to the point that it could be called almost stern, he believed immediately and turned around to quickly run out.

“Princess Jing Ning, may I ask that you immediately go to Great Grand…to the Empress Dowager and invite her immediately to Zhaoren Palace, it is also to save Nihuang, Princess must make haste…” Mei Chang Su turned to Xiao Jing Ning speaking hurriedly, “You must still remember that you owe me a favour, I hope Princess returns it now.”

Princess Jing Ning took two steps back, confused, but hearing that it was to save Nihuang jie jie, her heart began to tremble and without thinking, she also stood up to leave.

“General Meng, let me trouble you to immediately organise people to lie in an ambush outside Zhaoren Palace. If you see the Grand Commandant’s Sima Lei, immediately seize him on the grounds of external personnel entering the inner palace, would that be a problem?”

Meng Zhi didn’t ask too many questions, patted his shoulder and said, “Don’t worry!” Before speeding off.

In the throne room was left the two gongzhi’s standing stupidly, not knowing what was happening, simply standing there looking at Mei Chang Su.

“Su xiang…this…what’s going on?” After a while, Yan Yujin finally stutteringly asked.

Mei Chang Su closed his eyes, his expression extremely tired and let out a heavy sigh, mumbling, “It’s all my fault, I misjudged…hopefully…the worst case has not happened…”

<< Chapter 07    Chapter 09 >>

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.



One thought on “《琅琊榜》 NIRVANA IN FIRE – CH 08 2ND EDITION

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