Chapter 6 (Modified Version)
Speak of the devil. At that moment, clear cries sounded from outside the courtyard, followed by the sound of cloth snapping in the air. A deep and powerful male voice yelled, “Who dares to make mischief in the manor of the Marquess? Freeze!”
“Oh no, this voice belongs to…to…” Xiao Jingrui jumped up, startled. He felt a squeeze on his arm, and turned to find a solemn Mei Changsu gripping his forearm and saying gravely, “Quick, take me there!”
Without further thought, Xiao Jingrui hastily wrapped his arm around Mei Changsu’s waist. He summoned his inner energy, took a few great leaps over buildings, and flew to the scene of the disturbance.
They flitted across a side corridor and rushed into the main courtyard. Two figures were rushing about in intense combat. Not only did Feiliu possess peculiar movement abilities, he was also a fierce swordsman. The point of his sword sent cutting chills into his opponents with their vicious attacks. Yet, his current opponent did not lose even a slight bit of ground, deflecting and striking with his palm technique. His intense inner energy was fiery like the scorching sun. His attacks rendered the Feiliu incapable of escaping from his range, as if exposing all of the youth’s mysterious arts under its rays.
“Feiliu, stop!” shouted Mei Changsu. Xiao Jingrui quickly collected himself and followed suit, calling, “Commander Meng, please stop!”
Feiliu had always obeyed the commands of Mei Changsu without question. He immediately withdrew his sword and took a step back. His opponent did not press on and likewise stopped his attacks, though he remained on guard.
“Jingrui, what’s going on?” questioned an imposing voice. Xiao Jingrui finally realized that his father was present as well. The Marquess was standing in the southeastern corner of the courtyard, as if preventing Feiliu from entering the inner courtyard.
“Please forgive me, Marquess.” Mei Changsu stepped forward slowly and bowed. “This is a guard of mine. He is rather poor of conduct, and tends to go in and out without regard for customs. I am to blame for neglecting his discipline, and am willing to bear any punishment.”
Xiao Jingrui also hurried forward to explain, “This is definitely a misunderstanding. Feiliu always enjoys flying about, but he would never harm anyone as long as he isn’t provoked…”
His face still dark, Xie Yu interrupted his son’s words and spoke to Mei Changsu, “Mr. Su is a guest of ours, and naturally we would never inflict insult upon you. However, I’m afraid that this habit of your attendant must be changed, or a similar misunderstanding will repeat in the future.”
“You are absolutely right, Marquess. I will definitely be stricter in my discipline.”
Xie Yu made a sound of approval, and finally turned towards Feiliu’s opponent. Surprisingly, he gave a slight bow. He said apologetically, “Commander Meng came today as a guest. I did not expect to disturb you in this skirmish. Please accept my apologies.”
Commander Meng was about forty years old, tall with a solid build and firm features. His eyes were bright and piercing, yet refined. When he saw the Marquess of Ning coming over to apologize, he immediately waved his hand and said easily, “I was only surprised by this youth’s peculiar movements. He dared to fly across the manor of a Marquess, all the while remaining undetected by the guards. I thought he was some criminal with evil intents, so I decided to lend you a hand, Marquess. Since it was a misunderstanding, let’s just think of it as sparring.” He eyed Mei Changsu with curiosity, “If I may ask, who are you, sir?”
“My name is Su Zhe. I was acquainted with Mr. Xiao during my travels, and am lucky to be considered a friend. I came the capital for a short stay on his generous hospitality.”
“Su Zhe?” Commander Meng rolled the name over his tongue, and looked towards Feiliu, a youth who seemed so inconspicuous at first glance. He chuckled, “Mr. Su must be an exceptional man to have such a guard.”
“Not at all.” Mei Changsu smiled calmly. “I only happened to save Feiliu once from some misfortunes, and he decided to remain by my side in gratitude. I do not possess any outstanding characteristics to command such a skilled fighter.”
“Is that so?” One could not perceive whether or not he believed the explanation from his unchanging expression, but he did not pursue further. Xie Yu gave Xiao Jingrui a long look, but remained silent as well. He invited Commander Meng to take tea in the main hall, and the two left side by side.
As soon as they left, Xiao Jingrui slapped his forehead. He stomped in frustration and said, “Oh no oh no! My father is suspicious now. He’ll definitely call me over tonight to inquire after your real identity. What should I do?”
In contrast, Mei Changsu remained calm. He answered casually, “Just say I’m a friend you met during travels, and you don’t know anything else.”
“It’s not that simple!” grimaced Xiao Jingrui. “Do you know who that Commander Meng is?”
Mei Changsu’s eyes became slightly more focused. He sighed, “How many Commander Mengs could there be in the capital, who can receive such respect from the Marquess of Ning and possess such great skills in martial arts? He is, of course, the great general who commands the fifty thousand Royal Guards, Commander Meng Zhi.”
“Who is he, besides being the commander of the Royal Guards?”
“He is second in rankings to Xuan Bu of the Yu empire. I suppose he is currently the number one warrior of our empire…”
“Exactly. Think about it, a guard of yours could actually go neck to neck with the greatest warrior of Liang…”
“But Commander Meng didn’t even use his full power…”
“True, he wasn’t going all out. Even so, he’s still the greatest warrior of Liang. It’s astonishing that Feiliu can exchange so many blows with him without defeat. You know what kind of person my father is, there’s no way he’d believe you’re just an ordinary guest. Besides, even if I keep my mouth shut, my father will simply call Xie Bi and the truth will come tumbling out!”
“That’s true.” Mei Changsu tilted his head and thought for a moment. “Forget about it. If your father inquires further, then just tell him the truth. He’s only worried that you brought home someone with a mysterious background. It’ll be fine once it’s cleared up for him. It’s not as if I’m some criminal, I’m only hiding my identity to avoid disturbance. I can’t have you lying and deceiving your father just to conceal me.”
Xiao Jingrui felt very apologetic, and responded with embarrassment, “Su, I’m really sorry. But don’t worry, my father is a discreet man of few words. Even if he learns about your true identity, it’ll only be so that he can understand the situation. He won’t speak about it to others.”
“How could you be blamed? It’s my fault for being too relaxed recently and not thinking things through, thus allowing Feiliu to make a scene…” At those words, Mei Changsu saw Feiliu lower his head with apprehension. He quickly moved to comfort Feiliu, softly patting on the head, and coaxed gently, “No no, it’s not Feiliu’s fault. It’s because of that uncle. He stopped you, so you got into a fight, right?”
“That’s why, our Feiliu was not wrong at all! It was that uncle’s fault.”
Xiao Jingrui began to sweat again. Who disciplines a child like that?
“But you know, if Feiliu wants to go out in the future, you should walk out through the front door. When you return, you need to walk in through the front door as well. You can’t run around on the walls and rooftops like usual. The people here are very timid, but their eyes are very sharp. If they accidentally see Feiliu, they’ll be very scared… Okay?”
Xiao Jingrui couldn’t help but think to himself, Feiliu probably wouldn’t mature with this sort of education even if he did not have a head injury.
Mei Changsu did not seem concerned about the commotion. He brought Feiliu back to the Snow Cottage, and passed the time with music and games just as leisurely as before. On the contrary, Xiao Jingrui was anxious all day, thinking about this and that.
Sure enough, Xie Yu called Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi to his study at night. He went straight to the point and asked, “What is the background of that Mr. Su you’ve invited here?”
Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi looked at each other. They knew that their father’s suspicions must’ve been raised to question them like that. It would be impossible to conceal the truth. Not to mention, how could they, as sons, defy their father? There was a brief pause, and Xie Bi blurted out the truth, “Su… His real name…is Mei Changsu. I believe Father has heard of him. He is the current chief of the world’s largest clan, the East River Alliance…”
Xie Yu was shocked. He was frozen for a long time. Finally, he replied, “No wonder a mere guard of his is so skilled… So he is the top rank of Langya, Mr. Mei of East River…”