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The fast finished, and cold winter flickered, then passed. The royal capital, which had been silent for three months, was celebrating with song and dance once more in warm cottonrose curtains, with light upon Fullmoon River. An evening of spring rain washed the chill away; the scent of apricot blossoms was strong, dampened clothes were not wet, green and hazy fog was upon the branches of willows, and flowers bloomed everywhere.
Passing travelers came and went at the base of the Imperial City, unable to help but empty their minds. Refusing to think of anything, they only went along with the warm breeze and delicate willows in lazing about, listening to the crisp song of a woman of unknown location, and getting drunk without alcohol.
The whole capital was placed within a very peaceful atmosphere. Out of the fasting months, Helian Pei seemed to sigh in relief. His ‘brilliant monarch’ addiction passed, and he refused to crawl up in the middle of the night on fifth watch(3-5am) for Court. Naturally, the Second Helian didn’t have the strength to make a fuss. Helian Zhao and the Crown Prince seemed to be competitively getting all the more low-key, declining to say a word more in anything and following their old man in wasting time all day long.
Like the calm before a storm at sea struck, they awaited the level sound of thunder.
And that thunder echoed when the fragrances of the human world vanished in April.
It was unknown where the person was, nor what anger they suffered, but they wrote a ballad named “Seven Frights, Eight Confusions”, and it spread among the streets, copies incessantly made and sent; it wasn’t until it reached the Two Hus that local officials discovered it. Under the pseudonym ‘Tempest Visitor’, it depicted the looks of the monarch, Generals, and Chancellors in Court one by one, the details as if there was a pair of hidden, unseen eyes in the throne room that just watched as everyone jumped from the rafters and played dead.
No one knew where this crap had streamed out of, but it seemed like the entire country came to know of it the span of a night.
Helian Pei had just been hit once on his left cheek, and his anger hadn’t yet smoothed out before another big slap fell out of thin air to hit his right cheek, thus making him furious. Believing that this reactionary ballad involved very many areas, and certainly a lot of henchmen, he harbored worries in his heart. He had never thought that there would be such an extremely bold person within the citizenry who dared to brazenly chastise him. Later, he couldn’t refrain from raging out of humiliation again, and vowed to surely pull up the weeds of this rebel party and destroy its roots.
In Court, three layers of waves could come in even without wind, to say nothing of ones from a huge event such as this.
Liang Jiuxiao was accustomed to strolling the streets and picked up a copy from who-knew-where; not daring to give it to his humorless sect-brother for a look, he presented his treasure to ‘enlightened Prince’ Jing Qi.
Gloom settled on Jing Qi’s face, and he admonished him on the spot. “What have you dared to ask me about? Do you want the Emperor to raid your house?”
Liang Jiuxiao got embarrassed, touching his nose. He wasn’t sure why, but in the presence of this young Prince, he constantly had a feeling that he was unable to lift his head when facing an elder. He always thought that it was because he had indiscriminately tried to assassinate him before, and therefore had guilt about it. He rubbed his nose. “Take a look, Prince. They’re speaking the truth, too.”
Jing Qi passingly seized a book and smashed it down on his head, entirely acting as Zhou Zishu’s substitute in educating him. “Liang Jiuxiao… you truly are Giant Idiot Liang. The Emperor is in the middle of having anger rush to his head. The entire city is in a panic right now, and even strongly desire that no one dares to speak aloud, for fear that the walls have ears. Yet, you dared to bring it back here; do you hate the fact that I and your sect-brother are long-lived, or what? Out, out, out, don’t dangle that in front of me! If I see you, I’ll want to get you with a ladle.”
The cooks in the Prince Estate were known for their good craftsmanship, as they had originally worked in the imperial kitchens. Ever since Liang Jiuxiao stopped fasting, he would always come running here every couple of days to freeload a meal, so he wasn’t unfamiliar with Jing Qi. Even though he intensely admired him, he wasn’t afraid of him at all, and still quibbled, “Aren’t there no outsiders here…”
Jing Qi ignored him, lowering his head to the sable in his arms. “You’ll go watch the door for me tomorrow and not let the Giant Idiot in. If he comes in, bite him. Do you hear me?”
The sable immediately flashed Liang Jiuxiao with extended claws and puffed-up fur.
When Great Idiot Liang first came to the Estate, he noticed that this little thing was pretty cute, so he very despicably groped it on the butt, becoming its enemy ever since. When it saw him, it was like it had seen a foe that had killed its father, relentlessly chasing after him as it insisted upon giving him a slash and a bite. Unexpectedly, the antidote Jing Qi had stored up was all used up, so Liang Jiuxiao had no alternative but to specially go to the Shamanet Estate to find Wu Xi and request a bit more.
Wu Xi’s settling of the issue was very direct. He only called for someone to give him a small bottle, then informed him that it was a one-time use.
Liang Jiuxiao’s face was bitter. “Shamanet, this isn’t enough. It bites me once each time it sees me…”
“It’s an animal’s nature. I can’t manage it,” Wu Xi told him expressionlessly. “Since this is so, you can just not go to the Prince Estate.”
For that reason, once he saw the sable rising at him in demonstration again right now, Giant Idiot Liang’s heroic spirit disappeared by over half straightaway. “P-Prince, can you hold that little thing back?” he stammered out. “The Shamanet said that he wouldn’t give me any antidote next time… ah!”
Before he finished, he saw that, whether Jing Qi loosened his hands purposefully or not, the sable pounced out of the other’s arms at flying speed, rushing towards him aggressively. He screeched, declined hand-to-hand combat, threw down his helmet and armor, then fled the Estate without looking back.
Jing Qi took the copy of Seven Frights, Eight Confusions, then read it through carefully from beginning to end, laughing as he read. “Talented. This person is talented.
Finished reading and laughing by himself, he put the book face-down once again, then placed it close to a candle, burning it away. With only a pile of ash left behind, he called for no one, cleaning it up alone.
He mentally plotted that he’d have to go beat up Zhou Zishu some other day to make him look after his senseless, idiot sect-brother properly. Jing Qi didn’t understand; one master taught them, so how could Zhou Zishu, such a bright person, have a sect-brother like this that was missing some strings?
Matters became increasingly out-of-hand. The investigation of the commonfolk gradually changed course for the inside of the Court. Jing Qi had forecast that well; the Emperor had lost face twice, and was seriously looking for a chance to take this situation back. The atmosphere was unbearably pressurized. Those with keen senses of smell began to secretly burn the ballads and writings in their own homes.
It went without saying that this was going to be banned literature.
To put it even simpler, this was trending towards a persecution of writers…
It no longer became important who wrote that ballad; saying who wrote it was only that. A joke made in the composition of poetry might turn into proof of a party member’s conspiracy. The old Emperor was ultimately still the Emperor, and differed from the Scions that committed small-scale framing. He couldn’t do anything else, but for business like this, once he moved his hand, it was a world-shaking masterstroke — not one of the gentlemen that had filed against the Second Scion alongside Jiang Zheng remained, as each had been ‘taken care of’.
This situation of not prosecuting a crowd under law hadn’t existed from the beginning. There was no shortage of people wanting to act as officials; no one was the same.
Apart from Jiang Zheng, of course.
Helian Pei deceived others with his own self-lies an unusual amount, and thought himself bright as he hid his strength, as if no one else could understand that he was honing in his retaliation by doing it like this. From start to finish, he appeared to be targeting Jiang Zheng, yet also didn’t touch him from start to finish, which only made the old man on edge all day long, to the point that he ended up getting scared into serious illness.
And, when it rained, it poured. On the second day of Jiang Zheng’s bedrest, a ‘thief’ got into the Jiang family’s rear courtyard. The weird thing was that the thief didn’t steal anything, but firmly twisted the necks of several dogs that opened the door, as well as killed a young maid that had gotten up in the middle of the night. Unexpectedly, another maid had seen it and screamed without end, alerting the Jiang family, after which the thief desperately fled.
Generally, thieves would steal, not stir up lawsuits in human lives, and would have even drugged the dogs to knock them out and be done with it — that wasn’t a thief, that was an assassin.
It was unknown who was so bold as to attempt to assassinate a Dynasty official right under the Son of Heaven’s feet. Even Helian Pei was shocked by this incident. He immediately called for people to go investigate, then assembled several dozens of imperial troops to guard Jiang Zheng’s home. He also had Helian Yi visit the Jiang Estate on his behalf. Even though the Crown Prince had Lu Shen implicate Jiang Zheng, he now displayed unusual disregard for former hatred and joined forces against a common enemy, calling for Zhou Zishu and ordering him to summon some endurance to protect the Estate in secret.
Who Jiang Zheng had offended, and who was fond of making use of these nefarious means, was self-evident. At this point, the layer of dense, obscuring haze enveloped the capital all the more.
Wu Xi disregarded everything except for the matter of expressing to Jing Qi that he wasn’t going to give up, so he concentrated on earning his ‘wife money’. Zhou Zishu held an advantage therein, too, and knew that he had a good relationship with Prince Jing; being quite considerate of him, he acted under the name ‘Witch Doctor Valley’ in the outside world. Slowly, via Zhou Zishu, some Nanjiang warriors that had been idling in the Shamanet Estate stealthily left the capital to depart for elsewhere.
Zhou Zishu wouldn’t conceal his actions from Jing Qi, naturally. The latter knew that the kid was growing, and his mind was growing, too. He had spent so many years in the Great Qing; going into Court was a no-go, so wanting to leave his influence behind in jianghu was reasonable… of course, he acted like he had never heard any nonsense like ‘afraid that you’ll suffer from coming with me later’, merely closing one eye and opening the other.
With Zhou Zishu being commanded to defend the Jiang Estate on the sly, Liang Jiuxiao had finally found something to do. He regarded this mission as matchlessly glorious; he had heard of Sir Jiang before, and he was a good official, making this the defense of a loyal subject. As a result, he diligently wandered around the vicinity of the Jiang Estate, not having the time to stir up trouble every which way at last.
This caused his sect-brother Zhou Zishu, who was constantly worried for him, and Jing Qi, who was constantly so annoyed by him that his ears received no peace, to both sigh in relief.
Against expectations, there was a day that Giant Idiot Liang got free time again, then remembered Jing Qi’s private stash of good wine in the Prince Nan’ning Estate, then got greedy for it, then ran off to there. Upon joyfully following Ping An into the garden, the flash of a shadow suddenly came before his eyes, and he promptly had some unclear premonition. Sensing that his cheer was about to be turned into sorrow, he abruptly leapt backwards. In spite of his movement that could be judged as swift, there was still a mark left behind on the back of his hand — the sable had scratched him.
He sucked in a cold breath, quickly sealed a couple of major acupoints on his arm, and spoke to the sable, which was crouched on the doorsill and licking its paws in immense satisfaction, with a pained face. “Great Ancestor, will me begging you still not do? How much hatred is there between us for you to hold onto it up to now?”
Ping An, who had brought him in, quickly went to inform Jing Qi, who felt glum as soon as he heard it. “Why is he here again…” he asked somberly, holding his forehead.
Thus, he went to get the antidote, didn’t find it, and then remembered that he had long since allowed Giant Idiot Liang to eat it all like candies.
With no means, he said to Liang Jiuxiao as his one hand hung miserably at his side, “Go ask the Shamanet for it.”
Liang Jiuxiao curled his lips. “Prince, the Shamanet said the last time that he wouldn’t give it to me again.”
“Mn, then just bear with it. The poison on the sable’s claws isn’t as severe as the poison on its teeth, so you can probably survive for a couple of days before you die,” Jing Qi said, voice like cold wind.
“Prince, for the sake of this lowly one that follows your every order, you mustn’t watch me die and not save me!” Liang Jiuxiao howled.
Jing Qi rolled his eyes. “I should’ve made it bite you so you could go into reincarnation as soon as possible and save me from having to make trips for you.” Saying that, he picked up the sable by its scruff, then stood up and took him to Wu Xi.
Wu Xi welcomed him with delight. As soon as he saw the bothersome object that was following behind him, he knew why he had come, and his face immediately sank. “Why is he here again?”
Jing Qi thought to himself that pets really did resemble their owners; Wu Xi and the sable he raised looked at Liang Jiuxiao with practically carbon-copy expressions.
Seeing Liang Jiuxiao look at him pitifully, Wu Xi huffed, then tossed him a small bottle from out of his sleeve. “Antidote. Take it and go,” he said irreverently.
Without even glancing at him, he turned his head and his face immediately softened to Jing Qi, talking as he led him inside. “I have always gone to your place. You haven’t come in a long time, can you eat dinner here tonight?”
Before Jing Qi could answer, he kept going, “The season of growing and dying plants is when you should have supplements, pay attention to your diet, and nourish the liver and blood. I made medicinal food; I know you don’t like things with heavy flavor, so I specially made it with no taste. Come try it.”
Knowing that the Shamanet didn’t want to see him either, Liang Jiuxiao very tactfully took the antidote and ran to the Prince Estate to freeload alcohol. He still had this speck of minor craftiness; he knew that the Prince had no conscience, but Grand Steward Ping An would certainly be apologetic. He prepared himself for a good while so that he wouldn’t be an eyesore there.
Jing Qi had no choice but to get hauled away by Wu Xi. Who could’ve known that, for this meal, he truly would suffer an accident?
The translator says: LJX… why do you keep going to the place with a poisonous attack sable for the sake of booze…