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Prince Nan’ning’s Estate, which had been still for many years, seemed to have become a high-demand sweet cake in the span of a night. Over several days, guests arrived in a continuous stream, heavy carriage traffic right before its gate. Jing Qi, feeling that his face had already gone somewhat stiff from smiling, thus sighed in lament. Leaning on the doorway and selling smiles to entertain the guests coming and going all the time was indeed a variety of physical toil.
Wu Xi, upon circling back from that day with Nuahar below Jadeite, couldn’t sleep a wink at night, as he thought that the man had made sense. So long as there was sincerity between them, whoever the other party was — man or woman — really made no difference. He had that figured out all of a sudden.
He was always thinking of him, and whatever he wanted, he would always want to get it for him, and he always wanted to make him happy, and he missed him if he didn’t see him for a while… was that not fondness to a T?
Priceless worldly treasures that were easy to obtain had always existed, whilst amiable people were difficult to find. Wu Xi believed, however, that as long as one strove hard, there would come a day where they would get the things, as well as the one, they liked. If success was not had, that merely illustrated that they had not worked hard enough.
Therefore, the very next day, he went to the Prince Nan’ning Estate.
This was quite strange, though. When he had gone to find Jing Qi before, the other would be pretty much doing nothing; given that it wasn’t the period at daybreak when he had gone to Court, whenever he came was whenever Jing Qi would inevitably be idling about. However, upon going to the Estate following a few days of hiding away, he discovered that the bloke had gotten busy all of a sudden, as he had made a few trips over there yet had never caught sight of his shadow. Even Ping An was going to and fro with his feet never touching the ground; only after he asked did he learn that this was to help get Jing Qi’s luggage in order.
As soon as he noticed that he had come over, Ping An hastily steeped some tea and poured water out for him, which was followed by Wu Xi asking him where Jing Qi had gone to. Ping An, seeing this as having caught someone to gab with, thus complained without end once he opened his mouth.
“Wasn’t it said that there’s people making trouble someplace in the Guangs? And I don’t know what…” He looked out to the side, suppressing his voice. “I don’t know what His Long-Lived Majesty was thinking, having our Master go act as some kind of Imperial Envoy. I’m telling you, that Lord of ours didn’t suffer through cold this winter nor endure heat this summer, gets clothed with a lift of his arms and fed with a lift of his mouth, has never walked more than a few steps during a journey, and doesn’t dare to be even a little late for every tea and snack break. This is a long excursion, but he told me not to abandon the Estate and won’t let me follow him. No one nearby knows what the hot or what the cold is, and he definitely doesn’t care, either, but how is that good?”
Once Ping An got to prattling away, he became unable to put a brake on it, though Wu Xi was faintly dumbstruck. “He’s going to go so far away?”
“Right?!” Ping An grumbled without rest, rolling his eyes as he thought that the most of what his Master did was precisely to go looking for trouble when he had none. “I’m not sure who’s gorged themselves to bursting now. There’s so many idle gentlemen in the Dynasty that grow weeds in their idleness, yet he was called to go.”
Naturally, Ping An overlooked the fact that their master, in the vast majority of people’s eyes, was also part of the clan of ‘growing weeds in idleness’.
Ruminating for a bit, Wu Xi pulled out about eight small bottles that he had stored on his person, then requested a brush and paper to distinctly write out the effects of the contents packed inside each, carefully handing it over to Ping An after. “Give this to him for me. They don’t occupy much space on the body to keep on hand. In such a faraway place, no one can come to look after him, so this is for him to use as self-defense.”
In spite of Ping An’s astonishment at this ‘if I can’t think up words shocking enough, I won’t give up on that until I die’ little Lord suddenly doing and saying things, he was still aware that what the Shamanet carried on him was — if not top-grade poison — then top-grade medicine, not to mention that any rarely-used stuff that would have gotten pushed to the recesses of his storage were about the same class anyways. Face propering up on the spot, he hurriedly expressed thanks.
Wu Xi silently shook his head, got up, and left. The next day, Jing Qi departed the capital at morning in an extremely low-key manner, only having enough time to dispatch someone to the Shamanet Estate to say thank you.
It had already become habitual for Wu Xi to rise before the sun came up everyday, but on this dawn, he didn’t go practice martial arts. Once he got up, he sat by himself on the roof of a restaurant neighboring the city gate, silently awaiting Jing Qi’s carriage. Then, he followed his departure out with his eyes, after which he soundlessly returned to the cage that was the Shamanet Estate.
This parting would take a further greater half of a year, as well, until fall and winter had passed and been cycled out for spring and summer.
The thing known as ‘affection’ was very strange, sometimes. For instance, if he hadn’t had that bizarre and outrageous dream, he might currently still be interacting with Jing Qi as normal, occasionally scolding him or saying a few things to anger him, and occasionally being markedly earnest versus his nonchalance.
If he hadn’t cared so much to reflect on what that dream ultimately meant, he wouldn’t secretly trace the outline of the other’s features, again and again on repeat, every day on the sly. He wouldn’t involuntarily match up his looks together with the person from his dream, nor would he involuntarily miss him, yet not dare to go see him.
If it weren’t for that misfired conversation with Nuahar, or that songstress’s lyrics which were too touching to the heart…
If it weren’t for him having just thought to get a feel for him and gone to get close to him in conjunction with his own feelings, then, with Jing Qi leaving for such a long time, perhaps the minor sentiment produced in the midst of disorientation would have still not yet taken form, and died out within a sigh of ‘I took things for granted back then’ after however many years.
Yet everything appeared to be preordained from a previous life, coming in just perfectly.
Even if one looked at something every single day, they wouldn’t necessarily be roused much in their heart. Only when they couldn’t see them would they toss and turn at night, frequently reminiscing on the other’s looks, where each cun, thread, and hair slowly seemed to engrave into their soul. That was then their fate, where missing them changed its flavor, and pining was forever inside their bones…
It was just like a stretch of grass; the seeds were accidentally planted, inadvertently taking root and germinating, and departure was exactly what made it grow like mad via raindew and fertilizer.
The water before the palace ran out the years, and the interior of life lacked one person. With that big missing chunk, his juvenile feelings thus went out of control inside his vacuous adoration.
Juvenile feelings or whatever, in Jing Qi’s opinion, could be compared to floating clouds on the horizon, since he was hurrying down his journey urgently. Outside of Imperial City Guard He Ji, who had been appointed to him by Helian Pei, and a few guards from the Prince Estate, only Ji Xiang was brought to attend to him.
[T/N: It’s not the same He as He Yunxing.]
To speak with finality, the alleged ‘Guang insurrection’ was nothing more than a group of disaster victims that couldn’t keep living with being malnourished, thus they hefted up bits of broken metal and waved them all about. Seeing how very many people there were was very frightening, but in reality, it was just a mob. Even though the Dynasty could no longer put forward an army as powerful as when Great General Feng was alive, it still had a standing one. It wouldn’t be able to handle anyone else, but towards this band of ordinary people, it still had some clout.
Jing Qi rushed along at every speed, and by the time he arrived, the rebellion had since been suppressed. Its few leaders were all arrested and harshly interrogated, while the rest were simply purged clean.
Liao Zhendong had gotten the news long ago and brought people thirty li out to welcome him. They were both royal envoys, but Jing Qi was likely the one that received the most courteous treatment — Liao Zhendong was currently overwrought, and had ordered simultaneous death upon those that participated in the riot, killing them in ones and twos. He was well aware that if what he had done actually got exposed by someone, killing ten thousand in a row still wouldn’t be enough.
Unexpectedly, the Heavens had blessed him, as he heard that the gentleman coming had synergy with His Eldest Highness in the capital. Supposing that he incurred Prince Nan’ning’s favor right now, this affair would not reach its dead end.
Right after the Guangs flooded, hundreds of thousands of its victims had nowhere to settle in. Then, during this year’s cold season — as if the Heavens were doing so deliberately — it got frigid that it was soon impossible to live through, regardless of it only being November. In areas of the Guangs that had never seen even the dregs of snow in prior years, snow fell down heavily from the sky. The amount of nameless corpses that were added onto the ground after the fact could not be determined for certain.
Jing Qi’s arrival was right during a pause in this once-in-a-century snowfall. For fear that he’d freeze, Liao Zhendong had imperatively conscripted over ten-thousand people to construct a canopy, its end unable to be seen at a glance, in the period of a few days. It was covered entirely in first-rate satin to guard against the wind, which looked exceptionally good fluttering in the breeze, and the space inside was just enough for the carriage and its entourage to pass through.
Accustomed to seeing all sorts of luxurious things in the capital, Jing Qi still couldn’t resist sucking in a cold breath as it engulfed him, uncontrollably pausing in his steps. Ji Xiang and He Ji were at both his sides, and they heard him recite something almost inaudibly. “…Wholly adorned shopfronts, eaves and rooms as one, abundant canopies arranged, valued goods heaped, figures bustling about, vegetables sellers also using dragon’s beard mats…”
Neither He Ji nor Ji Xiang had studied any divine scriptures prior to this, so they only half-understood, though they could hear a bit of stifled wrath in his voice.
“Master…” Ji Xiang whispered.
Jing Qi gently closed his eyes. When he opened them again, the tense lines on his face had already softened, and the eyes that had just been wintry brought a familiar smile back to them.
Liao Zhendong led folks from far off to receive them.
All the people gave big bows, Jing Qi said ‘the sacred form of the Emperor is in health’ — this was but a spectacle of custom. He then rubbed his hands, tightened the cloak around himself, and smiled. “I never could have imagined that there would be a time of such cold here. I’ve just gotten off the carriage, yet the northwestern wind nearly bowled me over. Sorry to trouble you with thinking of how to assist me, Sir Liao.”
Liao Zhendong quickly smiled apologetically. “You rushed over here without fear of the long roads, Prince. This humble official has merely exhausted a bit of meager strength that’s within my capabilities. If there are places in the border area that are improperly looked after, please do not take offense.”
He let out a sigh of relief on the inside. Seeing Prince Nan’ning’s demeanor, the majority of it was quite satisfactory, and there was politeness in his words, as well; he had no fixings that would flagrantly make things difficult. Seeing how old he looked, he also came to have a bit of an understanding; the Eldest Scion had privately sent him a letter telling him that he didn’t need to be worried, as the Emperor is unconcerned with the Guang rebellion, and he only need give directions at will for the other to handle it. Seemed like that was the truth.
Once the rock was off of Liao Zhendong’s heart, his speech was promptly revitalized.
The Superintendent of Education, Li Yannian, was one most able to accommodatingly provide impromptu clownage. Upon seeing an opportunity, he acted upon it, amusing Jing Qi with a bit of talk. Adding to that, Jing Qi was someone who would be fine with water splashed from any direction, so he intentionally ingratiated himself towards him, making for momentary harmony.
Immediately following that, Liao Zhendong grandly set up a reception banquet for Jing Qi to wash the hardships of travel off himself. No matter what the latter was thinking of on the inside, others wouldn’t be able to make it out, and he was always glad to accept things on at least the surface. The entire sum of the several hundreds of Guang officials came to help entertain him; on exhibition were eighty-one rare delicacies and sixty-four types of seafood. Jing Qi had formerly believed himself to be an uncontested connoisseur of eating, drinking, and making merry, but he had never tasted more than half of these things before.
“Guard He, have you ever once seen so many names when imperial dishes were served?” he couldn’t help jesting with He Ji.
He Ji immediately paused for a long while. “This subordinate has learned just today that I am akin to a villager in the countryside,” he replied quietly.
“Right? This Prince has also learned just today what they like to call, ‘having enough wealth for a whole nation’,” Jing Qi said with a smile.
The instant that came out, Liao Zhendong swiftly broke into a full-body cold sweat in the middle of this frosty winter. Weren’t those words, inside and out, saying that he had eclipsed the Emperor…? Th-th-that was immensely disrespectful!
He raised his head to look at him, insides quivering in disarray, but he saw Jing Qi just smiling brainlessly as he spoke to him. “I can’t blame them all for scrambling to come here, if going abroad is actually so lucrative an assignment. How fortunate the Emperor’s fondness is. Pitifully, this Prince has been in the capital year-round, having never even had the time to go out and view the world. You’ve been very courteous today, Sir Liao, so if you come to the capital in the future, my Estate is available. I’d like to return the invite.”
Was this guy actually a dimwit, or purposefully…? Peering at Jing Qi’s innocently smiling face, Lian Zhendong agreed to him like a yes-man, his mind a mess.
Changing direction towards the rear courtyard by means of leaving for the latrine, another was beckoned over with a wave, and such-and-such was explained.
That was why, right when everyone had drunk and eaten their fill, someone was vaguely heard to be causing a commotion. Before anyone else could react, Lian Zhendong went roaring. “Sir Imperial Envoy is present! Who is it that’s eaten an ambitious leopard’s guts, since they’ve dared to make a racket?”
With that said, Jing Qi also put down his chopsticks and looked over.
 A reference to Setting Spring’s Farewell at Chan River: “Passersby mustn’t listen to the water before the palace, as that’s the sound of years passing by.”
 The author says: From Zizhi Tongjian/A Mirror for Governance Aid, which states that Emperor Yang of Sui, in order to demonstrate the nation’s strength, fixed up the marketplace prior to the arrival of foreign merchants, providing those of each country a tour. Every store underwent revamp, with minor peddlers of vegetables having to spread out carpets in their shops. Silk was even used to wrap around trees by the road, but the outcome was that the merchants were baffled by how there was so much affluence, yet the curbs still had the immoral occurrence of beggars.