Chapter 3 (Modified Version)
Yan Yujin was the eldest son of the Royal Uncle, the Empress’s nephew, as well as Xiao Jingrui’s best friend. The three noble gentlemen met Mei Changsu during their travels and originally planned to return to Jinling together. However, they chanced upon an elderly couple during their journey and saved them from assassination. They learned that the couple planned on entering the capital to sue the Duke of Qing, Bai Ye. At Bin Prefecture, home to the Duke, his relatives were guilty of pillaging farms, bullying citizens, stealing land, and manslaughter. As the families of the Marquess of Ning and the Duke of Qing have been long time friends, Xie Bi was afraid of being reprimanded by his father for meddling in this matter. On the other hand, the easy-going Yan Yujin answered the call of chivalry and offered to escort this old couple to the capital ahead of the party. He refused to allow Xiao Jingrui to accompany them, instead insisting that he should accompany Mei Changsu, who must travel at a slower pace due to his poor health.
“How are Uncle and Aunt Hu?” Mei Changsu naturally needed to inquire after the elderly pair upon seeing Yan Yujin.
“The complaint has already been submitted to the Royal Investigators, and everything is in order now. The Emperor ordered a special investigator to Bin Prefecture by secret edict. The case won’t start before the investigations are finished, so everything is still calm. Xie Bi, you needn’t be in such a hurry to be distant with me to avoid problems.” Yan Yujin spoke in a humourous tone, but his words were unyielding. “I wanted to come see Jingrui and Su despite it being so late, I didn’t come to see you! If you don’t like it, you can come bite me!”
“Bah!” scoffed Xie Bi, “Your skin is so thick, who can bite through it?”
“All right all right. Enough with the wisecracks, onto a serious topic now.” Yan Yujin pulled a chair over to the table and chugged a cup of tea. “I bet you guys don’t even know how great your timing is for your return!”
“Great timing?” Xiao Jingrui blinked, confused. “What are we in time for?”
“Haha!” Yan Yujin smacked his best friend’s shoulder with vigor, “You guys are just in time for a huge event!”
Hearing this, Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi’s eyes both widened with curiosity. The two knew Yan Yujin very well. This nephew of the Empress was the biggest drama lover in the capital. Wherever a spectacle existed, one would certainly see his shadow. Since he had seen so many events, his standards were naturally high. So, whatever it was, if it could be described by him as a “huge” event, it definitely couldn’t be boring.
“Stop torturing us! Spill it, what sort of event will there be? Will the Royal Court host a martial arts tournament?” urged Xie Bi.
“Even better than that,” said Yan Yujin, waving his hand. “Do you guys still remember who we saw outside the little town where we met Su?”
“We saw…” Xie Bi thought for a moment. “Ah, those envoys sent by the Yu empire to Liang! Weren’t they throwing a fit in the restaurant saying how they lost their letter of credence? They were smashing things and searching people. Those barbarians were just itching for a lesson! Have they entered the capital? What are they here for?”
“Hehe,” grinned Yan Yujin, “They’re here to request a political marriage!”
“Oh, is that so…” Xie Bi was rather disappointed. “The Emperor will examine the envoys as usual. It will be interesting, but hardly a huge event.”
“Hey, don’t jump to conclusions.” Yan Yujin gave him a sidelong glance. “Not only will this event involve the Emperor and the Yu envoys, it will also include a third party you’ll never think of! Take a guess!”
Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi had only begun to think when Mei Changsu said, “Have the envoys from the northern Yan empire also arrived at Jinling?”
Yan Yujin was slightly taken aback, but quickly regained his excitement. “Su is correct. The party of envoys from Yan is also quite sizeable. The two groups have been competing in Jinling for quite some days. The Emperor couldn’t make a decision, or perhaps he didn’t want to make a decision. So, he declared in an edict for there to be a fair competition in three days, outside the Vermillion Bird Gate!”
“This sounds more interesting.” Xiao Jingrui raised his eyebrows. “We’ve already seen Jindiao Chaiming as part of the Yu envoys. I don’t know if Yan brought Tuoba Hao with them, but their representative couldn’t be any weaker. A competition between these two parties will surely be a sight.”
“A competition between two? There will be three parties!” Yan Yujin laughed, pleased with himself.
“Oh?” The two brothers asked simultaneously, “Who else?”
Yan Yujin was enjoying the suspense. He was just about to tease them some more, when Mei Changsu chuckled and said, “I’m guessing our host. Gentlemen are enamoured by fair ladies. Shouldn’t our own brave warriors of Liang have a chance as well?”
Facing the inquiring gazes from the two brothers, Yan Yujin was forced to confirm. “Su is correct. This is the third interested party.”
Xie Bi was surprised. “His Majesty’s edict is strange. If he does not want a political tie, can’t he simply refuse? If he wants a political marriage, why is he dragging in our own men into the competition?”
“You don’t understand now, do you?” Yan Yujin was in good spirits again. “As I said before, they are here to request a marriage. They’re not simply negotiating for a political tie! Did you think it would be the same as the past, where if the Emperor agrees, a suitable princess would be simply chosen to enter the marriage? That the other party would not care who it is, as long as it’s a noble princess of the great Liang?”
“Are you suggesting that this time, envoys from Yu and Yan have come to ask for a specific princess in marriage?”
“That’s right.” Yan Yujin continued mysteriously, “A specific princess, a princess they’re willing to get beaten black and blue to marry… Do you want to take a guess…?”
Before he finished, Mei Changsu placed down his bowl of porridge and said, “I’m guessing it is Princess Nihuang.”
Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi both jumped up in shock, gasping, “What?!”
Yan Yujin glared at Mei Changsu in resentment. He said bitterly, “Su, even though your intelligence is really something to be admired, this bad habit of correctly guessing everything is really tiresome. It makes people feel very unfulfilled!”
“Sorry, I will reflect on it. I won’t be like this anymore,” chuckled Mei Changsu. “Please continue.”
“What is there to continue? I’ve basically told all there is to the story…”
“This is all there is?” cried Xie Bi. “What type of idiotic request is this from Yu and Yan? The Emperor should’ve rejected it from the start, not start some public tournament! Has none of the court officials said anything? How can Princess Nihuang marry to foreign land?”
A chilly smile appeared at the edges of Mei Changsu’s lips, so faint that it was barely discernable.
Indeed, how can Princess Nihuang marry to foreign land? She was not your average noble lady who grew up in some secluded inner palace. Princess Nihuang was a brilliant female general, commanding a hundred thousand cavalry units at the empire’s southern border. Ten years ago, Liang’s southern enemy Chu raised war. The Prince of Yunnan, Mu Shen was in charge of protecting the southern border, and died in battle. His daughter Nihuang was appointed commander in the crisis. The entire army battled Chu in cloths of mourning and annihilated thirty thousand enemies. After the war, the Emperor decreed Princess Nihuang to defend the southern border in place of her young brother. The whole southern army was under her command. The Princess also once swore to the heavens that she will not marry until her young brother can inherit the heavy duty of Yunnan. She is twenty-seven years old now, and still unmarried.