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Chapter 14 (Modified Version)

The youth vanished before everyone’s eyes. The Crown Prince stood dumbstruck, his face a shade darker. On the other hand, Prince Yu was getting cramps from suppressing his laughter.

The jade token was stamped with the Emperor’s Royal Seal. Besides the Crown Prince, it was not bestowed to even the other Princes. It was absolutely a symbol of status. The token would humble all officials wherever the bearer goes, and yet he casually handed such a generous gift for his guard to play with. Should one say that he was blind to its value, or that he was simply rude?

“Actually, sightseeing is really taxing on the body.” It was Prince Yu’s turn again to pull himself together. “Mr. Su should first nurse his health. By chance, I recently received a rare thousand-year knotweed[1], which is a great supplement. Also, I have a medical spring[2] at the Mt. Ling palace. Bathing in this spring is very invigorating, even Father constantly praises its effects. Why don’t I invite Mr. Su to go there for a short stay? I will be able to have a chance to discuss literature and prose with you. I am hoping to absorb some of the elegance and grace of the top rank gentleman.”

Even Xiao Jingrui was moved by Prince Yu’s suggestion. The thought back to their journey, where Mei Changsu’s colour drained and breath shortened with any light exertion. He often coughed for half the night as well. The thousand-year knotweed and the Mt. Lin medical spring were undoubtedly offerings difficult to refuse.



“Aren’t you really busy recently? I believe Father gave you a handful of tasks, saying you were very capable.” The Crown Prince sneered, “How would you have time to accompany Mr. Su to some Mt. Lin palace?”

“You don’t need to worry, brother. I’ve completed my tasks regarding the Department of Military Affairs and Qi Prefecture. I reported to Father yesterday, and was just about to report to you today. As for the case against Duke Qing, the Royal Commissioner has yet to return, so the trial cannot begin for now. There’s a perfect opportunity of some idle days right now. Shouldn’t you let your brother rest for a little while?” responded Prince Yu, smiling. His attitude was extremely respectful, but the Crown Prince felt great resentment. It looked to him that Prince Yu was simply itching for a beating. He wished that nobody was present so he could give him a few refreshing slaps himself.

“I will gratefully accept your kind intentions,” said Mei Changsu. He took a look at these brothers. They had the appearance of perfect respect, yet both hated each other to the core. He bowed slowly in respect and continued, “However, I have been taking medicine especially prepared for me by Dr. Xun. I cannot take unapproved supplements. The thousand-year knotweed is such a treasure, please do not waste it. As for the medical spring at Mt. Lin, I’m afraid I will need to write to Dr. Xun first. If he says that I may bathe in it, then I will go disturb Your Highness.”

The Crown Prince felt much better after seeing Mei Changsu refuse Prince Yu as well. He quickly cut in, “That’s right. One can never be too careful in nursing an illness. There’s no logic in gulping down any expensive medicine you find and jumping in any water you see. If you do not have any doctor better than Dr. Xun, then stop giving random suggestions to Mr. Su.”

Prince Yu understood that Mei Changsu would never express which party he prefers in front of the Crown Prince and himself. This meeting was simply an opportunity for everyone to be acquainted and observe each other in close quarters. The real battle will take place later. He shouldn’t rush things. Thus, he laughed with the perfect picture of benevolence and said, “That was careless of me. It’s a pity that there is no wine here, or I would certainly drink three cups in penance.”

The Crown Prince stood up. “Jinghuan, Mr. Su came here today to watch the tournament. Let’s not bother him any further. Shall we leave now?”

Prince Yu pondered for a moment. Although the jade token from the Crown Prince was handed off to his guard, the gift was ultimately accepted. How could he allow himself to fall behind? He quickly gave Xie Bi a look.

“That’s right, Su,” called out Xie Bi with immediate understanding. “Didn’t you want to pay tribute to the remnants of Mr. Li Cong’s teachings? I believe that he had some manuscripts…”

“Yes yes, they’re at my manor.” Prince Yu continued the conversation immediately. “I hold great respect for the great Confucian scholar Mr. Li, and thus collected a few of his manuscripts. Could it be that Mr. Su is also…?”

“Mr. Li had students from all walks of life. Su had also listened to his lectures,” contributed Xie Bi.

“What a coincidence.” Prince Yu clapped with a smile. “We would have a lot to discuss in the future.”

This really lined up with Mei Changsu’s tastes. His eyes sparkled, and he asked quietly, “Which manuscripts? Is there Absolute Discourse?”

“Yes, yes,” replied Prince Yu with joy. “It’s right in my library. If Mr. Su wishes to read it, please come to my manor whenever you wish to. Nobody would dare to block your path.”

He did not mention gifting the manuscript, instead only inviting Mei Changsu to his manor read it. Clearly, he wanted to use the manuscript as bait to create frequent interactions between them. The Crown Prince did not like where this was going, and was growing uneasy. He interjected hastily, “Jinghuan, aren’t you being too petty? It’s just a few manuscripts. If Mr. Su likes them, then just gift them to him. Don’t create such a hassle for him by making him view them at your manor… If you’re feeling too stingy, then name a price. I’ll buy them as a gift to Mr. Su.”

After receiving such provocation, Prince Yu had no choice but to say, “I was only afraid that Mr. Su would not accept the manuscripts. If you are willing to receive them, I will of course immediately deliver them.”

Mei Changsu replied lightly, “Since Prince Yu cherishes these manuscripts as well, I would not dare to snatch them away.”

“Oh, what are you saying? You are such a talented and knowledgeable individual. If Mr. Li was still alive today, he would definitely see you as his top pupil. These manuscripts should naturally be in your hands.” Prince Yu put on a benevolent façade. He couldn’t resist shooting an attack towards the Crown Prince, and said to him, “At the risk of offending you, my brother, I must say that there’s a problem with what you’ve just said. These manuscripts aren’t worth much in the eyes of an average person, but they are priceless treasures in the eyes of those who hold respect for Mr. Li. So, I’m afraid that you may upset Mr. Su with talk like naming a price…”

The Crown Prince was immediately upset. However, it was true that he did not enjoy reading and couldn’t understand the thoughts of these scholars. He was afraid of saying something wrong and offending Mei Changsu, and was forced to endure the attack.

There was no significant victory or defeat in the two’s skirmish. They saw Mei Changsu’s fatigue and knew that they couldn’t stay long. Each said some more words of concern out of courtesy, and the two left together.

———

[1] A traditional Chinese herbal medicine. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallopia_multiflora.

[2] Think hot springs, but filled with herbal medicine.


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