Chapter 7: Different Ways
Noble/Gentlemen: A title for a young man from a noble family, usually the son of an official. Translation from 公子 (GongZi)
Magistrate: A civil officer charged with the administration of the law, in this case a a minor judicial officer, who tries minor criminal cases and to conduct preliminary examinations of persons charged with serious crimes. Translated from 知府
Prefecture:The residence or housing of a prefect (a chief officer, magistrate, or regional governor), government official, or member of high social status.
xiao: An endearing, affectionate term added to the front of a person’s name, literally meaning “little.” Please note the difference of xiao, meaning little, and Xiao, a surname; Xiao will always be capitalized, and xiao lowercase, despite its position in the sentence.
ge-ge: A term for older brother, used either alone, or after a name.
Jiang Hu: The martial arts world where people join sects and fight each over and perform heroic deeds. Literally meaning among the rivers and lakes.
“Fei Liu, come out and meet these three gentlemen, we will be intruding upon them for quite a while.” said the Chief of the Jiang Zuo Alliance.
The second time they looked around, the trio suddenly felt a chill down their spines. Just a few seconds ago, in what had obviously been an empty room, suddenly stood a little boy dressed in blue clothes; and like the other side of the wall, he stood there silently, without the slightest trace of movement. Mei Changsu had said that after crossing the river, he would always be nearby, and it now made sense. This boy not only had astonishing skills, but after careful examination, it was seen that he was also a very handsome boy. It was too bad he looked so icy and isolated that it seemed as if he were partially frozen, causing no one to dare befriend him. His cold stare only warmed slightly as he gazed toward Mei Changsu, as if that were the only person who he would ever care for in this world.
The naturally warm-hearted Yan Yujin was most scared of this type of person, and thus shivered, hiding at a side.
“Fei Liu, come here,” Mei Changsu said, and before the words were fully out of his mouth, Fei Liu was already at his side, putting his hand in the one Mei Changsu extended towards him. “Fei Liu, look clearly at these three people; they are my friends, and sometimes they will joke around with me, but they will never hurt me. So if you see them making physical contact with me, that’s okay, and do not attack them alright? If I ever want you to attack someone, I will let you know, understood?”
Hearing him say this, the three gentlemen originally thought it was funny, but seeing the serious look on Fei Liu’s face as he earnestly nodded, sent a sudden chill through them.
This young boy, a master at martial arts, seemed to have a mental deficiency.
“Dear Fei Liu is still only a child,” Mei Changsu said, as he held Fei Liu’s hand, affectionately patting him. The warmth in Fei Liu’s eyes was an immediate reaction to Mei Changsu’s affection, and Fei Liu crouched down, resting his head in Mei Changsu’s lap. “See, he even likes being babied. Sometimes he can’t tell the difference from what’s real, and what is not, so just remember that when he is present, be careful not to be too rambunctious .
With Mei Changsu as the chief of the Jiang Zul Alliance, paired with his irresistible charisma, the three noble gentlemen had never planned on being rambunctious with him, but after hearing him say this, they quickly moved away and created a larger distance between themselves and Mei Changsu.
“You need not be so nervous, dear Fei Liu is quite good-natured.” Mei Changsu laughed, seeing the uneasy looks on their faces, “When we were in Lang Zhou, he was the most likable person in our alliance!”
This icy boy? Most likable? The three questioned this. What a lie, they would never believe it in a million years.
At that moment, came the sound of rapid footsteps coming down the hall. The magistrate breathlessly walked in, bowed towards Yan Yujin and said, “ Respected gentlemen, the horses and chariots are prepared for you, I have personally picked one hundred soldiers, please rest assured, we will protect your three friends, and ensure their safety back to the capital.”
“Oh,” Yan Yujin casually responded, “The plans have changed, I will be leaving too.”
“Ah!” Fei Xin cried out in surprise, “If the honored gentleman will be going too, one hundred soldiers is not nearly enough, allow me to…”
“It’s fine, too many people would be unnecessary; once we get to the capital, the Yan prefecture would need to be in charge of their food and accommodations too. What would we need so many people for? No need to worry about that stuff; I’m hungry, are you going to take us to eat?”
His words shocked Fei Xin, who hurriedly bowed and said, “My apologies, a banquet has been prepared for you in the back garden, may I seat Noble Yan and your honored friends?”
Yan Yujin felt obligated to walk in front, as he was the only one who revealed his true identity, that he was of noble status, to Fei Xin during the journey. Once they reached the garden, an extravagant feast of all sorts of drinks and dishes awaited them. It was too bad that they were all tired of eating such delicacies, and did not have any praise for the prepared feast. Only Mei Changsu warmly gave a few compliments, and Fei Xin sighed with relief.
Naturally, Fei Xin tried to get Noble Yan and his friends to stay the night at his prefecture. Though Yan Yujin declined at first, Fei Xin persuaded him to stay. They stayed in an independent guest residence detached from the main prefecture, which had a courtyard, as well as elaborate indoor decorations. The four each chose their own rooms, naturally with Fei Liu staying in the same room as Mei Changsu. Yan Yujin even specially requested the servants to add an extra bed into the room for him.
It was a tiring day, so when the sun had just barely set, everyone exchanged “good nights,” and returned to their rooms to wash, change, and prepare for bed. At this time, Fei Xin unexpectedly showed up again, and seeing Yan Yujin appear at the door in cotton nightwear, startledly asked, “Why, you are preparing to sleep already?”
“What else would I do at this time?
“Which gentleman of Jin Ling city sleeps this early? I was going to ask if you would like to go listen to some songs, or watch a dance?The girls of Fu Zhou are all so talented, and highly gifted in all the arts, whether it’s dancing, singing, playing instruments…”
“Don’t rush to tell me all their talents yet, let me ask you, are they as good as Miss Wan Bo from the Qin Huai River?
“Miss Wan Bo is well known for her beauty and talents, and she has made it onto the Lang Ya List; of course they can’t compare with Miss Wan Bo…”
“In that case, there is no need for me to go, but I’ll ask the others if they are interested.” Yan Yujin then proceeded to call out, “xiao Jing, xiao Jing’s little brother, are you guys in need of some lady company tonight?”
Xiao Jingrui pushed open his room window and scolded, “Stop being so frivolous, you will make a joke out of us in front of Brother Su!”
Yan Yujin turned his head, and saw Mei Changsu who had unknowingly come out, and was standing in front of his room door. Dressed in clothes as white as snow, with no belt, and his black hair loose on his shoulders, made him seem paler, and more frail than usual.
“Brother Su, it’s very windy today; you should return to your room, Mister Yan is just up to his nonsense again, there’s nothing good to see” Xiao Jingrui called out.
Mei Changsu smiled and said nothing, turned around to return to his room, and closed the windows tightly. Within the blink of an eye, he blew out the candle, and no more sounds came from his room.
“Looks like no one is interested,” Yan Yujin sighed, “Maybe next time we come we’ll meet the ladies of Fu Zhou. I think we will go to bed now; Magistrate Fei need not worry about us, go ahead and return to your house with your wife.”
Fei Xin realized that he had not quite pleased the gentlemen the way he wanted to, thought for a while and couldn’t come up with anything else, so he smiled, said a few kind words, and left.
The next day, Mei Changsu and Xiao Jingrui went to the east city gates to see off Yan Yujin’s departure. The one hundred soldiers in their distinctive armor composed a nice squad, and it was evident that each soldier had been carefully chosen. Since they were on a journey to the bustling, flourishing city of Jin Ling, the soldiers all had exuberant spirits due to the fact that they were guards for the son of the Marquis, would be payed well, and also that they would be able to experience the “big city.” The lead of the squad was a robust, vigorous looking military official with the surname Huo; as he greeted Yan Yujin, he spoke loudly and clearly, much to Yujin’s liking. The four guards Mei Changsu had mentioned also arrived on time, all looking rather ordinary in appearance, and even after changing into military uniforms, did not seem outstanding at all. Xiao Jingrui, who was worried about the safety of his good friend, secretly went to test the skills of one of these guards. When he secretly snuck out again, Yan Yujin laughed at him for doing so.
Naturally, within the crowd seeing off the departure, was none other than the Fu Zhou Magistrate Fei Xin. He had been busy taking care of all the details of the trip the entire morning, and had even brought a box of “native products” as a gift, hoping that Yan Yujin would “kindly accept this small gift for his father, the Marquis.” Yan Yujin opened up the box and looked in, then shook his head and laughed. Fei Xin dared not insist on it, but proceeded to take out another well-sealed old wine together with a basket of mandarines, that are the local specialty, and asked the young gentleman, “Please bring this to my Great Teacher, your honorable grandfather ’s grave, to show respects and admiration of his student to him.” This time Yan Yujin accepted it without any hesitation.
Since it was only a temporary goodbye, and the one parting was very carefree, there was no lingering sadness; as soon as everyone was ready to leave, they waved good bye and left. Xiao Jingrui stood in front of the city gate for quite a while; it wasn’t until all the dust had returned to the ground that he returned back to the city with Mei Changsu. Fei Liu, who was busy amusing himself, appeared and disappeared often. Mei Changsu bought a little candy figurine, then called for him, and of course he appeared at his side within the blink of the eye. After eating his candy figurine, he disappeared again.
“Fei Liu’s abilities are very unusual, I’ve observed him for quite a while, and I can’t seem to figure out what type of martial arts he does.”
Mei Changsu smiled and said: “Although martial arts runs in your family and you understand many types, it is not strange that you can’t tell what type Fei Liu’s martial arts is. Not only you, I’m afraid even your father, Zhuo Manor Owner, who is ranked fourth on the Lang Ya’s martial arts list, and well known for his knowledge of martial arts, may not be able to tell the origin of Fei Liu’s abilities.”
Xiao Jingrui was surprised and doubtful at first, but then after careful thought asked, “Unless… he originates from outside the central plains?”
There was a touch of approval in Mei Changsu’s eyes, who responded, “Jingrui is very intuitive, Fei Liu is from the coasts of Qin Zhou, and was taken by Japanese pirates as a child, where he was taught secret Japanese martial arts.”
“Yes. Fei Liu was caught by a very mysterious Japanese organization. The leader of this organization buys children from the pirates who have great potential in martial arts, and cuts them off from all contact with the outside world. He uses drugs and poisons to control these children. When these children grow up, their mental capabilities cannot fully develop, and cannot tell good from evil, right from wrong. They lack common sense, but they are also highly skilled at the martial arts, and are controlled by the leader for acts of spying, stealing information, and assassination. What’s funny is that this organization, which had done many acts of evil, had not been punished. However, during one of their assassinations, they accidentally killed the crown prince of Japan, causing the downfall of the organization. In reality, the king of Japan knew about the existence of this organization, and did not interfere, but upon the assassination of his only son, he was outraged, and regretful that he hadn’t done anything earlier. These poor children had no ability to live independently, and after the execution of their leader, even those who escaped being captured or who were not hunted down by enemies, were not able to survive by themselves, and eventually died. Fei Liu was the youngest of the children, and had just been taught the tricks of their trade, but had not been released on any of their missions yet; he had no enemies, but was displaced from his home, left alone to freeze and starve to death. At the time, I had just so happened to go to Japan to to find a few medicinal herbs, and some other things, and coincidentally found him, so I brought him back with me.” When Mei Changsu got to the end of his sentence, he spoke in a sorrowful tone, still hurting as he recalled the condition the boy was in.
Xiao Jingrui had been born into nobility, had wandered among the Jiang Hu, but had never heard of such cruel doings by people. He was stunned, and took quite a while before asking, “Then…the poison in his body…..”
“The drugs and poisons are already cleared and cured, but the injury to his mind can no longer be fully healed. Fortunately, this practice has died out. I have tried some things to help, but…” At this point, Mei Changsu seemed to remember something, and the sad look on his face softened, making room for a smile while he said, “In the Jiang Zuo Alliance, there is someone who seems to not fear death, and enjoys teasing Fei Liu; the teasing helps him open up a bit too. Look, he is much more sociable now!”
Sociable? Xiao Jingrui tried for a long time to connect this word with this icy little boy. He could see that the belief that the one who has raised a child has a different perception of a child, was true, and did not exclude the Chief of the Jiang Zuo Alliance.
“Ah, look, this hair band looks good on my dear Fei Liu,” Mei Changsu suddenly said, and turned around, walking into the store. Xiao Jingrui was dazed for a second by the change, and at the next moment, he saw Fei Liu already standing next to Mei Changsu at the store counter. The store owner took the hair tie Mei Changsu liked, and turned to hand it to Mei Changsu, since he was fearful of the cold-looking little boy.
“Jingrui, doesn’t this look good?”Mei Changsu said after helping tie the hair band for Fei Liu, and admiring it.
“Yes, it looks good,” Xiao Jingrui sincerely answered, as the royal blue color looked good with Fei Liu’s fair skin.
“Then we’ll buy it. After we are done taking care of all our business, we will go back to show brother Lin Chen … Fei Liu, do you miss your Lin Chen ge-ge?”
“Why don’t you miss him?”
“He’s mean! He teases Fei Liu!”
Mei Changsu laughed happily, but mid laugh, an imperceivable trace of sorrow drifted into his dark black eyes, and he dropped the hand that was gently stroking Fei Liu’s hair, softly whispering, “Actually, you probably do miss him, not only you miss him, I miss him too; it’s too bad that… we can’t go back yet…”
Xiao Jingrui stood at a side, and though from his angle he could not see the expression on Mei Changsu’s face, upon hearing these words, he also felt sad, and was about to comfort him when Mei Changsu suddenly smiled and said, “Well, we had better get a move on, Xie Bi is probably getting worried waiting for us.”
The three picked up their pace, walked through half the town, and arrived at the north city gates rather quickly. Xie Bi was standing before a large, beautifully decorated boat, dressed in rather eye-catching clothes, but he looked so sullen, he almost seemed hostile.
“Sorry, sorry,” Xiao Jingrui apologized before his little brother could say anything, “We did take a little too long, were you getting impatient? Do you have the boat arranged? All our luggage is on the boat? Do you need help leading your horse on board?”
“With the time you took, I could lead my horse on and off board forty times! What took you so long? I thought something had happened, and was beginning to worry!” Xie Bi angrily replied.
“So sorry, it’s my fault we walked slowly, and rested along the way. Don’t blame Jingrui, he tried hurrying us along.” Sir Mei of Jiangzuo smiled softly, like a light breeze, taking away the thin clouds, leaving the sky to the sun and its gentle warmth.
Xie Bi glared at his brother once again, saying “Brother Su is unwell, why would you rush him? Look at his sweat, and pale skin, it’s all your fault for hurrying him! I thought you used to be a considerate person!”
Xiao Jingrui was not sure whether he should have laughed or cried, and realized that it was not always a good thing to be so kind, look at the situation he was in, it seemed that no matter what, it was his fault…
“It’s okay, let’s board the boat now.” Mei Changsu wisely avoided further quarrel, and boarded the boat. The boatman welcomed them as they boarded.
The boat Xie Bi had arranged was beautiful, but old, and the head of the boat had a sign saying “Lang Teng League.” The boatmen were very polite, and the cabin furnishings and refreshments were quite exquisite, probably because they often had officials aboard.
After leaving the dock, the boat trip was very smooth. Mei Changsu leaned against the bench, and looking out through the decorative window, enjoyed the shoreline autumn scenery. He felt content, and sighed, “Even though it is a longer route by boat, it is definitely more enjoyable. Too bad Yujin is probably busy on the road right now.”
“As long as it’s not dangerous, I don’t mind him having a little more arduous journey.” Xiao Jingrui then quickly added, “But he has the four guards Brother Su invited, so there should be no trouble at all.”
Mei Changsu glanced at him, and said, “Is it still bothering you?”
“Not really…” Xiao Jingrui reluctantly denied, but then admitted, “…It does make me feel uncomfortable, I thought that I…”
“Thought that even if you couldn’t make the top ten on the Lang Ya List, you were still considered very skilled at martial arts?
Mei Changsu shook his head and smiles, “No need to be depressed, the martial arts of the Tian Quan Manor is top notch, and with your hard work, you can’t go wrong. Actually, whether inner force, or movements, the four of them are not as good as you, but what you lack, is experience.”
“That’s right, the experience of actual combat. If you think about it, other than if you yourself initiate the challenge, how many other times has your sword come out of its sheath? After all, practice is not the same as actual combat. Even though you had once defeated the head of the Qian Lei Guild, in a match between life or death, the one surviving would not be you. When one has enough experience, you will learn how to predict the next move of your opponent, and thus be more prepared, on the other hand, when you lack experience, every move is unexpected, and it gives your opponent the upper hand. If there is a large gap between the skills, then experience is not important, but if there is little to no gap, then the difference between experience becomes very obvious,” Mei Changsu said, and after taking a sip of tea, continued casually, “These four people are masters of the golden rank that the Yang Wei Guard House lent me, and have had many years of experience among the Jiang Hu; you are already at a disadvantage against them.”
Xiao Jingrui froze for a moment, and looked down, a little discouraged.
Engage in actual combat? With his social status and personality, to engage in actual combat with others, how would that be possible?
Xie Bi had never liked practicing martial arts, and reassured him dismissively, “Martial arts is for self-defense, you do not need to rely on it for a future, plus you have your older brother Qingyao from the Tian Quan Manor to stand up for you, why do you want to be so skilled at martial arts?”
“Xie Bi is right, you shouldn’t mind too much,” Mei Changsu smiled again, “Even though the route by boat is smooth, the scenery doesn’t change much, and is a little boring. If you have nothing to do along the way, I’ll teach you a few moves.”
“Really?” Xiao Jingrui was overjoyed to hear this. Even though he didn’t know what Mei Changsu’s martial arts was like, he knew that if the Chief of the Jiang Zuo Alliance could help him out, it would have unimaginable benefits! Upon a closer thought, his smile lessened, he couldn’t help but still be worried, asking in a low voice, “Are you feeling well enough? Whether or not I improve my martial arts skills is not that important; I don’t want you to tire, and get sick!”
“I can help you without engaging in combat, so it’s not a problem. Actually, even though I know a lot about martial arts, I cannot practice it. Have you ever heard about me engaging in combat on the Jiang Hu? It’s just that I’ve observed a lot of combat, have a lot of insights, and can give you pointers. To really engage in combat, I probably couldn’t even beat Xie Bi!”
He had just finished speaking, and Fei Liu immediately glared at Xie Bi icily, who shivered in fear.
“Don’t worry, I’m just using him as an example, I won’t really fight with Xie Bi,” Mei Changsu reassured his little guard, “Don’t glare at him, come eat some pastries…”
Fei Liu held up his gaze a bit, till he slowly averted his eyes, and appeared at Mei Changsu’s side to sit down next to him.
“Whew…”Xie Bi sighed, and complained, “Please Brother Su, do not use me as an example again.”