Hope everyone is staying safe still! Life has been busy, I’ve been taking summer courses while also doing 1.5 internships (technically 2, but one only counts as 0.5 since the format changed due to COVID), and also teaching in the morning. We are still shooting for a chapter a month!
Chapter 117: Crisis
“Someone with an injury?” Yan Yujin looked around and asked, “Who?”
“Did you see someone or not?”
“I was in the carriage earlier.” Yan Yujin patted the coachman and asked, “Did you see anyone?”
The coachman shook his head.
Xia Qiu knitted his eyebrows slightly. Did he chase in the wrong direction? Otherwise, the Yan carriage must have run into the fugitive. Unless…
“Xiao-Jin, where are you planning on going?”
“I’m going home! My old man* loves eating the braised pork shoulder from the Full Courtyard*, and being the son, there’s nothing I can do but crawl out of bed early in the morning to buy it—if you go too late, they’ll run out.” Yan Yujin muttered under his breath and complained, “Really, if my father loves Taoism so much, why doesn’t he become vegetarian like them too?”
“Did you manage to buy it?”
“I bought three!” Yan Yujin leaned into the carriage and brought out a large food basket. “Would Xia Qiu-gege like one?”
Xia Qiu was a food connoisseur as well, and with just a whiff of the wafting smell, he could tell that it was indeed the Full Courtyard’s limited quantity braised pork shoulder that only sold 100 a day. He smiled faintly and said, shaking his head, “I have some pressing matters on my hands, you filial boy should hurry up and head home.”
“Wait, wait, wait! Wait!!” Yan Yujin rushed forwards and made a dive toward Xia Qiu, who had just turned around to leave. Grabbing him, Yan Yujin blinked his eyes innocently, asking, “Qiu-xiong, who are you chasing? Is it a criminal? What crime did he commit?”
“Really,” Xia Qiu bent his fingers and knocked them firmly on Yan Yujin’s forehead, continuing, “How are you so curious? Even since you were a child, there’s never been anything that didn’t interest you! If you don’t hurry up, your pork shoulders will turn cold. Watch out, your father might spank you!”
“Hehe,” Yan Yujin laughed aloud, the corners of his smile lifting up with glee, “My father never even hit me as a child, and even more so now. Speaking of getting hit as a child, the only person who would ever do so is Xia Dong-jiejie. Is she not back yet?”
“No. I’m not sure what she is investigating out there.” Speaking of his twin sister, Xia Qiu seemed slightly anxious, and in addition to the fact that he didn’t capture the commander of the ambush, knew that there were still many matters waiting to be dealt with. He did not delay any further, and patted Yan Yujin on the back while turning to leave.
Yan Yujin watched to ensure that he left into the distance before commanding the coachman with only two words, “Hurry, go.” He then returned to his seat in the carriage, and draped down the heavy carriage curtains.
His carriage was four-wheeled and horse-drawn, so the interior was very wide and roomy. On the very inside, there were piles of wintersweet blossoms*, and there was a person huddling amongst them. Seeing Yan Yujin walk in, he shifted the position of one of the bouquets, standing up halfway and bowing in courtesy, saying, “Thank you, Young Master Yan, for saving my life.”
“You’re welcome, it’s not like I took any risks either. If Qiu-xiong had discovered you earlier, then I’d just say I was threatened by you to do so, and even then, he still wouldn’t do anything to me.” Yan Yujin casually shrugged his shoulders, continuing, “Anyways, in any case, your Chief had done a great favor for my father, so this is just a small one in return.”
The fugitive seemed slightly surprised, and quickly said, “Young Master Yan, you must be mistaken. I’m not quite sure what you are talking about…”
“Head Manager Li, there’s no need to conceal anything,” the young master of the Imperial Uncle household smiled faintly, “Though you’ve disguised your appearance, I remember the tattoo on your wrist well… Oh yes, is your injury alright? It’s quite fortunate that I bought half a carriage of wintersweet blossoms, otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to conceal the smell of the blood on your body from Qiu-xiong.”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s just an external wound.” Li Gang regained his composure and said, “Young Master Yan, please find a secluded area on the neighboring street for me to disembark.”
“Okay.” Yan Yujin, took a long, hard look at him, but then said in a light tone, “Isn’t Su-xiong sick? How does he still have the mental ability to plan a conflict with the Xuanjing Bureau?”
Li Gang lowered his head, and was silent for a while, then responded, “If I said that our Chief has heard nothing of any of the happenings today, would Young Master Yan believe me?”
Yan Yujin thought for a moment, then honestly answered, “No.”
“But the truth is, he really doesn’t know about it.” Li Gang lifted his head, and with a bright and piercing gaze, said, “Young Master, your act of savior today, I will surely repay in the future. However, the happenings today really are completely unconnected with our Chief, please, I hope you understand.”
Yan Yujin looked at him for a moment, unconvinced, but then suddenly broke into laughter. “What are you so nervous about? It’s not like I would use the fact that I saved you and ask for something in exchange from your Chief. Plus, it isn’t like I demanded that you must return the favor either. Actually, regardless of whether you have either jianghu or governmental affairs related disputes with the Xuanjing Bureau, it is all irrelevant to me. If you think I am asking too many questions, just don’t respond to them. Rest assured, although I am curious about everything, I would never force someone to reveal something they do not wish to say.”
Li Gang knew that although the young master of the Imperial Uncle household seemed like an imperceptive socialite, he was actually sincere and open-hearted, and thus did not elaborate on the happenings, merely crossing his hands into a bow. The carriage took a detour into a hidden alleyway near the Su Manor, and Yan Yujin dismounted the carriage first, scouting out all four directions. Seeing that there weren’t any abnormalities, he waved his hand, and Li Gang swiftly leaped out of the carriage, disappearing into the alleyway.
The ambush aimed at rescuing the prisoner could be considered a complete failure. Not only were they unable to rescue him, but they also suffered heavy casualties. Luckily, there were only a limited number of soldiers led by the Xuanjing Bureau, and without the permission or cooperation of the Capital Patrol, they didn’t have the jurisdiction to initiate a citywide search. It was only because of this that those who had escaped had a chance to survive. Although Li Gang could not yet confirm the final death toll, when he returned back to the Su Manor, the look on Zhen Ping’s face told him that the situation was grim.
“Has Fei Liu returned?” The first words he spoke were to ask this.
“He came back a long time ago.” Zhen Ping assisted his comrade into the room, and ordered someone to bring water and medicine.
“He didn’t say anything to Chief, right?
“Chief is still sleeping. But seeing from the expression on his face, Fei Liu was very unhappy. I coaxed him for a long time, but I’m not sure it made a difference.”
Li Gang closed his eyes heavily. They needed to bring Fei Liu along, and thus coaxed him into doing so by saying there would be a great martial artist for him to challenge. The young man was very excited. However, although Xia Qiu could be considered a martial arts master, they left halfway into the battle, and so it was hard to say whether or not Fei Liu would complain to Mei Changsu that his Uncle Li had tricked him.
“What do we do now?” Zhen Ping dropped down to sit beside him, as if asking Li Gang, but himself as well. “We made three ambushes along the way into the city, and weren’t able to rescue him. Now that he’s imprisoned inside the bars of the Xuanjing Bureau, the difficulty of saving him has exponentially increased… I’m afraid when Chief wakes up, there’s nothing we can do but tell the truth…”
“What did Physician Yan say?”
“He said for us to hold on for two more days…” Just as Zhen Ping spoke, there was suddenly a sound in the courtyard, and he suddenly stood up. “I think Madam Wei is here.”
He had barely finished speaking when the doors of the room were pushed open, and the shadow of a slender and elegant lady seemed to float in. Dressed in a flowy light green dress and having delicate facial features, it was the Xunyang Physician, who was once a beauty on the Langya List—Yun Piaoliao. She rushed in and hurried to ask, “I heard Li-dage has returned?” She saw Li Gang and his many injuries as soon as the words left her mouth, and suddenly turned pale as flour, fighting to hold back tears as she gently asked, “Li-dage, you’re hurt? Are you alright?”
Seeing Yun Piaoliao, whose heart was evidently burning with anxiety yet could only hold it back and first ask about his injury, Li Gang felt very touched, and hurried to respond, “I’ll be fine, but Madam Wei, I’m so sorry. General Wei Zheng…. We weren’t able to rescue him…”
In reality, as soon as she saw the circumstances that Li Gang was in, Yun Piaoliao had predicted that there would again be no success, but still couldn’t help but feel heartbroken when hearing him say the truth aloud. It took her a long time to force herself to stay steady, and with a shaky voice asked, “Then did you see him? Is he… Is he okay?”
“Madam Wei, please rest assured, there is nothing life-threatening to him at the moment.” Li Gang sighed, “Only that, once we’ve entered the city, Wei Zheng will be immediately locked in the Xuanjing Bureau Prison. With his criminal charge as a Chiyan traitor, they only need to inform the Emperor, and there will be no need for another trial. He could be executed at any moment, which leaves us little time.”
Yun Piaoliao felt her legs give out beneath her, and dropped down to sit in the chair beside her, softly speaking, “Other than using brute force, are there really no other alternative options? In terms of financial resources, the Herbal King Valley of Western Yue ranks seventh on the Langya List of Wealth. Wei Zheng has been Valley Chief Su’s* adopted son for the past eight years, and he’s single-handedly managed all necessary affairs these few years. Surely he would be willing to put in all the wealth he has in order to save him, and in addition to the Yun family of Xunyang and the Jiangzuo Alliance, that should be more than enough… Unless, even if we all join forces, we still wouldn’t be able to buy back Wei Zheng’s life?”
“If General Wei Zheng was discovered by anyone else, there could potentially be more leniency in the situation. But Xuanjing Bureau’s Xia Jiang… He isn’t an easy one to rival. No matter how wealthy the Herbal King Valley and Yun family are, they are only rich in their respective regions. The saying that with great wealth, one can rival the country, is really nothing more than a saying. In this world, what can rival governmental forces? What can rival the mighty imperial power? The Li Nanhua family that once ranked third on the Langya List, wasn’t it exactly because they felt self-assured that they had great wealth, fought against Prince Yu over some land with outstanding fengshui? It ended up costing them the lives of many, a lost lawsuit, and ultimately resulted in the collapse of their status.” Zhen Ping was more calm and rational out of those present at the moment, and analyzed with a heavy voice, “Now, it is no longer a matter of only Wei Zheng’s life. Exactly how ambitious the Xuanjing Bureau is, we aren’t clear yet. Xia Jiang captured General Wei Zheng, and could possibly accuse the Herbal King Valley and Yun family of harboring rebels. In that case, I’m afraid there could be a darker storm to come. Even more, on the route the escorts took back to the capital city, it seems that they purposely took great measures to avoid the Jiangzuo Alliance’s 14 provinces, heavily restricting our ability to take action. It seems that Xiang Jiang has begun to suspect the connection between the Jiangzuo Alliance and the survivors of the Chiyan Army.
“Not necessarily,” Li Gang shook his head saying, “General Wei Zheng has never been in direct contact with the Jiangzuo Alliance. In reality, Xia Jiang captured General Wei to challenge Prince Jing, and now that many are aware Chief has devoted himself to Prince Jing, it would be natural for him to view the Jiangzuo Alliance as part of the enemy party as well. It may not necessarily mean that they have suspected General Wei and Chief have an even more direct connection.”
Zhen Ping thought in silence for a moment, and agreed, adding, “That’s right. Our Jiangzuo Alliance has hidden our true identity for more than a decade, and will not be so easily discovered by others. Fortunately, we had considered in advance the failure of the operation, and deployed our undercover forces from the borders of Jinling. Their knowledge is limited, so even if they were arrested, it wouldn’t implicate us. Only… Given the current circumstances, it is completely outside of what we can control. Chief is currently seriously ill, do we really want to alert him?”
Li Gang stomped his feet, saying, “If only Young Master Lin would be willing to come to Jin Ling and control the situation for a couple of days, then there would be no need at all for us to bother Chief at such an untimely moment. Yet he’s currently having fun in Da Chu right now, and distant waters are powerless against near fires*.”
Zhen Ping, in a slightly resigned tone, continued, “There’s nothing we can do about it. Unlike the rest of us, Young Master Lin isn’t a survivor from the Chiyan Army, and only joined the Jiangzuo Alliance for fun. He does as he pleases, and no one can tell him to do anything otherwise. Exactly what background he comes from, I reckon that only Chief would know.”
Li Gang was just about to continue the conversation, but turned his head and saw that at the moment, Yun Piaoliao had tears silently flooding across her face. Understanding her longingness and anxiety, he bent forwards to comfort her, saying, “Madam Wei, please don’t be sad, we haven’t exhausted all possibilities yet. Chief will find a way for sure.
Yun Piaoliao immediately shook her head saying, “I’ve felt Chief Mei’s pulse. We cannot disturb him at all right now. Although there are many things that I don’t know about yet, I do know exactly how important Chief Mei is to Wei Zheng. Besides being Madam Wei, I am also a physician. No physician would allow a patient who already has such critical symptoms to then be alarmed, concerned, and required to tax both his mind and body.
Hearing her words, both Li and Zhen fell quiet, feeling a little dejected. Ever since Lin Shu had his own Chiyu Battalion to lead at age 16, Wei Zheng was always one of the three Vice Generals, and the only one to have narrowly escaped death in the flames of the battlefield. Everyone was clear that alerting him of this news would greatly impact Mei Changsu, and could bring about extremely serious consequences. But the happenings were completely unpredictable, leaving them unprepared, and the Xuanjing Bureau only used less than half a month to both capture and escort Wei Zheng back into the city. As soon as the Jiangzuo Alliance received the news from the Herbal King Valley, they hastily organized two operations to rescue him during transport, but failed due to the lack of time to prepare and put resources together. Today, being their last chance before the prisoner convoy entered the city, they went all out and even brought Fei Liu along. Yet the heavy precautions taken by the opposing side resulted in their failure again, leaving their rescue efforts in vain.
Just as the three of them were at a loss for what to do, the investigator that Zhen Ping had sent out as soon as Fei Liu returned, hurried into the room, reporting on the current situation within the city. Yun Piaoliao understood that they had important matters to discuss, and excused herself to the back courtyard. Although Li and Zhen were not intending on hiding anything from her, they didn’t want her to overthink and worry either, and thus didn’t urge her to stay. They went into the inner chamber and questioned the investigator about the happenings thoroughly.
The investigator had been carefully taught by Zhen Ping himself, and was extremely bright and capable, bringing back critical points based on information he gathered. According to what he reported, out of the hundred or so people who took part in the ambush, other than the thirty or so who had died in battle, eight had been arrested. The others had fled outside the city, into the woods, or hidden by undercover spies in the network*, and were safe from the possibility of arrest for the time being. Most likely, Xia Qiu wasn’t interested in anyone other than the high-level commanders of the ambush, and didn’t pursue to capture them. Instead, he quickly restored order and escorted Wei Zheng and the others back to Xuanjing Bureau.
“Was there anyone to collect the bodies of our brothers?” Li Gang asked in a pained voice, feeling heart-wrenched while fighting to hold back tears.
“Yes, after all, it was in front of the city gate. The Capital Governing Office quickly ordered people to clean up the situation, and sent the bodies to the burial site. Manager Li, rest assured, we will ensure that they are laid to rest in peace.”
Zhen Ping patted Li Gang on the shoulder, saying, “Don’t worry about comforting and compensating their families, I’ll take care of it. You must pull yourself together, now that Mister Shisan is forced to go into hiding and the Miaoyin House has closed, it is our responsibility to reorganize and integrate the different branches of the hidden spy network and undercover information channels. Even if General Wei had not been captured, there is much to keep us busy.”
Li Gang took a deep breath, sighing, “Speaking of Miaoyin House, I still can’t imagine that Tong Lu would betray…”
Zhen Ping’s expression turned cool, saying, “We are still unable to confirm whether he really betrayed, or was just threatened and deceived. It was fortunate that Mister Shisan had quick reactions, and disbanded all spy operations, ordering everyone to go into hiding as soon as Tong Lu disappeared. It was because of this that the officials had no trails to follow at the Miaoyin House, but many of our brothers and sisters are forced to stay undercover for the time being… “
Li Gang nodded his head, pacing back and forth inside the room. What concerned him the most was not the disappearance of Tong Lu. This young man who was in charge of passing on information didn’t understand or have knowledge of the most deadly secrets hidden at the core of the Jiangzuo Alliance. Even if he betrayed, the most he could do was betray Mister Shisan’s whereabouts and any previous information he had passed to Mei Changsu. Now, Mister Shisan had successfully gone undercover and much of the past information had become irrelevant. The secret that Mei Changsu was actually helping Prince Jing was no longer a secret either, so the damages brought about by Tong Lu’s betrayal were very limited. At the moment, the most pressing matter was how to rescue Wei Zheng, whose identity had both been exposed, and had also fallen into the hands of the Xuanjing Bureau.
“Li-xiong,” Zhen Ping seemed to know exactly what Li Gang was thinking, and his eyes darkened, saying with his teeth clenched, “Although Chief agreed to retreat to recuperate, and allowed us to manage all affairs by weighing our options carefully, with the seriousness of the current situation, can we really continue to hold up ourselves, and not notify Chief?”
Li Gang knitted his eyebrows tightly and was silent for a long time. Right when he lifted his head and was about to speak, the doors of the inner chamber were abruptly pushed open from the outside, and Fei Liu’s poised silhouette appeared outside the door. He lifted his chin and called out with his bright voice, “Calling you guys!”
“old man” — Yujin is referring to his father here, translates directly to: old father
Full Courtyard — a restaurant that is apparently famous for its braised pork shoulder, and only sells 100 a day.
Wintersweet blossoms — the only species widely grown as an ornamental plant, and are prized for its attractive and sweetly scented winter blooms. They look similar to plum blossoms, but are yellow and white. Look how pretty they are! Source: 1, 2, 3
Valley Chief Su — the character Su is different from that of the one in Su Zhe/Mei Changsu’s name, so don’t be confused and believe that the two are related, since they are the same in pinyin.
Distant waters are powerless against near fires — an idiom, in this case, meaning that Lin Chen is useless in the scenario because he is all the way in Da Chu.
Network of Spies — reminder that Mister Shisan leads MCS’s spy network in Jinling (Langya Scribe), previously headquartered in the Miaoyin House.
This chapter has a lot of interesting details about Yujin, that are all small but pretty fun to consider. He calls his father “old man” (translates directly to: old father), which shows their close relationship as it was relatively uncommon to use such casual language to one’s parents in this time period, especially those with a royal status. It also shows how their relationship has somewhat been mended compared to the beginning of the novel. Li Gang also mentions that he knows that Yujin is much more thoughtful than he shows, but how does he know that if it seems that even Xia Qiu doesn’t?
The fact that Xia Qiu would have believed Yan Yujin if he had been threatened makes it seem that Yujin really has done a good job making himself seem careless and innocent. We know from the descriptions that Xia Qiu is quiet meticulous and attentive to details, so does this mean that the relationship between Xia Qiu and Yujin is just too close for one to question the other (since the Xia siblings pretty much watched Yujin grow up), or that they just feel they know him too well? Probably the latter in my opinion.
It’s also quite interesting that Yujin merely calls it a “conflict” and doesn’t mention anything about the violence, which shows his “neutral” stance. He really does trust Mei Changsu and is willing to almost question what the Xuanjing Bureau is doing, even though he grew up in the city where he should’ve been taught to believe what the Bureau is doing and support their efforts.
The details of the entire chapter are quite special, like the part with the wintersweet blossoms, which helps show exactly how skilled Xia Qiu is. The possibility that he could have detected Li Gang just by the scent of blood is quite interesting, and really shows how those trained by Xia Jiang and from the Xuanjing Bureau are quite martial art masters.
When Yujin doesn’t believe Li Gang that Mei Changsu wasn’t involved, I can almost imagine how Mei Changsu (maybe more so Lin Shu) would say to Yujin, how dare you think I was involved! We would have succeeded if I had planned it. 🙂
The deep bond that runs through the survivors of the Chiyan Army is honestly so touching… I think about what they could’ve been + become when I read these parts.