Chapter 13 (Modified Version)
While Mei Changsu and Princess Nihuang were having a tête-à-tête on the Phoenix Building, the young people within the tent were feeling rather uneasy. They surrounded Mei Changsu as soon as he returned.
“What did the Princess say to you?” asked Yan Yujin, who rushed to the front with curiosity.
Mei Changsu smiled meaningfully. He blinked and answered, “The Princess praised me. She said I looked like a qilin…”
“Qilin?” Yan Yujin was startled. “Is it that odd looking sacred beast? Are you sure the Princess was praising you?”
“What’re you saying?” Xie Bi gave him a shove. “That’s the Princess praising him for being a qilin prodigy!”
Mei Changsu gave him a side-long look, but remained silent. Xie Bi finally realized that he said something wrong and coloured. However, Yan Yujin did not question further, and instead happily chattered to Mei Changsu about how amusing the recent fights were. Xiao Jingrui, whose expression wavered, pretended not to hear. He turned to instruct servants outside the tent to bring in some hot tea.
A new understanding washed over Mei Changsu. One of them was carefree and honest, the other was pure and kind. Yet, they were both more sensitive than Xie Bi, who was entangled in the schemes of politics. At least they knew when to ignore certain things.
But since Xie Bi knew about the “qilin prodigy” comment, his status with Prince Yu was clearly significant. Whether it’s a Crown Prince or a Prince, they will surely invoke the Emperor’s apprehension and anger if His Majesty hears about them recruiting some qilin. Thus, they would never tell this secret to anyone besides their closest confidants. Mei Changsu was still unable to deduce how Princess Nihuang came upon this news.
“…and then he dodged and dodged. At first, his opponent couldn’t do anything about it, but he forgot that he was on a stage. So, just as he was happily dodging, he stepped into thin air and fell down! Hahaha…” Yan Yujin roared with laughter. Suddenly, he stiffened his face and asked angrily, “Su, are you listening to me?”
“Isn’t it funny?”
“It is very funny.”
“But you’re not laughing!”
“I am laughing…”
Xiao Jingrui came over and punched Yan Yujin. “Su has dignity, and he laughs in a refined manner. You think everyone laughs their head off like you?”
Yan Yujin was just about to retort, but Xi Bi suddenly gave a cough. He said quietly, “The Crown Prince and Prince Yu are coming this way.”
The tent was immediately silent. Mei Changsu stood up slowly and called out, “Feiliu, the people coming here are guests. Don’t block them.”
A grumbled “Oh” sounded from outside, and a loud voice announced, “The Crown Prince has arrived! Prince Yu has arrived!”
One can tell at a glance that the two people walking in were brothers. They were both tall and well-built, with deep-set eyes and thin lips. The Crown Prince, Xiao Jingxuan, was thirty-five years old. He had two deep wrinkles by his mouth and a slightly nefarious air. Prince Yu, Xiao Jinghuan, was thirty-two. His features were more relaxed, and he wore a peaceful smile as he walked in.
Everyone in the tent bowed down in greeting, and were of course immediately supported upright.
“Jingrui and Yujin, you two went for a long trip again didn’t you? You make me so envious.” Prince Yu had once been in charge of these noble young men while they were studying in the Royal Schoolhouse. Compared to the Crown Prince, he had a closer relationship with the people present. He smiled and patted Xiao Jingrui’s shoulder, “I’ve heard awhile back that you three brought an honoured guest into the capital. Unfortunately, I have been swamped with work and wasn’t able to pay a visit.”
The Crown Prince made a slight face. Couldn’t find the time? If the two weren’t restrained by each other’s watchful eyes, Prince Yu would’ve immediately rushed over as soon as he heard the news from Xie Bi. Even so, didn’t he ask the Empress to go on a recruitment visit the very next day? Word says that he was deftly rejected. Serves him right!
“This must be Mr. Su. You live up to your elegant fame,” continued Prince Yu pleasantly. “The fourteen prefectures of East River have enjoyed years of peace and prosperity thanks to the efforts of your honoured alliance. I have been meaning to report this to the Emperor to request commendation for your alliance. I did not dare to act only in fear that your alliance may disdain material prizes with its virtuous spirit.”
Mei Changsu replied evenly, “My name is Su Zhe. I came to the capital with friends, and have nothing to do with the East River Alliance. Please do not misunderstand, Prince Yu.”
The Crown Prince was overjoyed seeing Prince Yu rendered speechless by the polite retort. He jumped on the opportunity and said, “That’s absolutely right. Mr. Su is just Mr. Su, why are you dragging in other things? I have heard that you suffer from poor health, and came to the capital for relaxation and amusement. What sights have you seen?”
“Ah, I gave Su a tour around the capital for a whole day. Qing Music House, Shangxu Market, Fuzi Temple, Xiyuan Pond… We’ve been to them all!” answered Yan Yujin innocently.
“These are all places you like to visit.” The Crown Prince glared at Yan Yujin accusingly, “Mr. Su has sophisticated tastes. How would he be able to enjoy these noisy and artless places? The scenic places of Jinling are mostly located at the outskirts of the city. Unfortunately, most have been absorbed by the Royal Gardens. If Mr. Su is interested, then please accept this jade access token. It is not very useful, but it will aid in clearing your path.”
His speech was modest, but everyone knew the importance of the stamped jade token he brought out. Xie Bi raised his eyebrows and glanced at Prince Yu.
The temporarily defeated Prince Yu pursed his lips and waited for Mei Changsu’s reactions. The Chief of the East River Alliance took the token casually and gave it a glance. A slight smile appeared on his lips, and he called out, “Feiliu!”
In the blink of an eye, the handsome and frigid youth appeared by Mei Changsu’s side. The young gentlemen were used to it, but the two Princes were given quite a fright.
“Here, take this. In the future, you can move however you want when you go out to play. If an uncle catches you again, then show this token to him. Okay?”
“All right, go play then.”