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Chapter 7 (Modified Version)

Top rank of Langya, Mr. Mei of East River.

Xie Yu was descended from an ancient noble family and possessed the high rank of Marquess, but it was impossible for him to be unimpressed by this title.

“He glitters in the distance like ice, like snow. Serenely, a subtle fragrance floats along the winding river. Recognizing all heroes of this world, at the head of East River is Mr. Mei.”[1] This was the poem recited by Chief Shu Qitian of the northern superpower Cliff Dragon Sect when he first met Mei Changsu nine years ago.

At the time, the Gongsun family entered the East River area while fleeing from assassination. Shu Qitian crossed the river in chase. The newly appointed Chief of the East River Alliance, Mei Changsu, arrived in person at the riverside to greet Shu Qitian. The two men, unarmed and without guards, had a private discussion at the summit of Mt. He. After two days, Shu Qitian descended the mountain to return to the north, the Gongsun family was saved, and the River East Alliance’s fame spread throughout the lands.



“The Chief of the River East Alliance has always kept a low profile. Hardly anyone has ever seen him… How did you two become acquainted with him?” asked Xie Yu after pondered for a moment.

“It was my brother…” stammered Xie Bi. Xiao Jingrui took over, “Yes, Father. Last winter, I passed by Mt. Qin in my travels and was resting at a teahouse. Coincidentally, Su was sitting at the next table. He was staring at a branch of plum blossoms[2] I was holding, and seemed as if he really liked it. I gifted the plum blossoms to him without much thought, and we became acquainted. I was often under his care as I was journeying thereafter. Su has a frail body, and is in poor health. The elderly doctor, Dr. Xun Zhen told him that he must leave East River and ignore the affairs within his alliance in order to focus on recovery. So, I took this opportunity to invite him for a short stay in Jinling… As Father knows, Su’s fame is too widespread. He decided to use the alias Su Zhe in order to maintain a tranquil lifestyle…”

“So that’s how it is…” Xie Yu nodded. “No matter. Mr. Su is an honoured guest. You two must take good care of him.”

Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi bowed together dutifully, and slowly walked out.

As soon as they left their father’s study, Xie Bi grabbed Xiao Jingrui with inquiries. He finally learned about Feiliu’s fight with Commander Meng, and tutted in amazement. The two went to the Snow Cottage to inform Mei Changsu about their father learning his real identity. The Chief of the East River Alliance merely smiled faintly, and didn’t pay it much mind.

The next day in the early morning, the Empress’s nephew Yan Yujin came over finely dressed. He announced, “Su’s weariness from his travels should have been rested by now. So today, let’s all go out to play.” He dragged Xiao Jingrui and Mei Changsu out, and left behind Xie Bi, who was swamped in work with resentful eyes.

The tournament for Princess Nihuang’s hand in marriage was nearing, so the capital was blooming with talented young men from all over the lands. All the restaurants and teahouses were bustling with business. Occasionally, there would be some exciting brawls, as if people were taking the first round of eliminations into their own hands. The drama-loving Yan Yujin found all of this highly entertaining, and had been running around to watch shows since the day he returned. When he brought Xiao Jingrui and Mei Changsu out with him, he could already introduce with authority the restaurants with the most duels, and the teahouses with the highest level fighters.

They watched a day’s worth of brawls, and hardly saw any skilled fighters. (Of course, the real masters of martial arts would never make a spectacle of themselves by joining this mess.) Yan Yujin was still in high spirits, but Xiao Jingrui has been bored for quite some time. Normally, he would try to hang in there for his good friend’s enjoyment, but today they came with Mei Changsu. Once he saw him beginning to show signs of weariness, he immediately rejected Yan Yujin’s suggestion to go play in another restaurant.

“Why not? That place is really fun. I went there a few days ago, and saw someone with a morning star fighting another with dual swords. The person didn’t strike properly with his morning star, and it ended up flying back. He hit himself on the forehead and fainted. Oh, I had such a great laugh…”

Xiao Jingrui reminded him quietly, “Yujin, Su is tired.”

“Eh?” Yan Yujin saw Mei Changsu’s pale face and smacked himself. “I was too thoughtless. Su is sick, of course he would be different from us. Why don’t we rest here then? The food here is pretty good. Should I order some signature dishes for you to try out, Su?”

“We had snacks not more than two hours ago, how would we have room for more food?” Mei Changsu leaned back in his chair. Though he appeared weary, he still had some vigor. “Let’s sit for awhile then each go home. Even though we came out to play, we can’t be too extreme. We should let Jingrui return home to eat dinner with his family.”

“That’s true, Xiao Jingrui is a good child,” said Yan Yujin approvingly. “Unlike me. My father does not care in the least about what time I return home…”

Although he spoke in a light-hearted manner, Mei Changsu still detected a hint of loneliness. He turned to take a deep look at Yan Yujin. Xiao Jingrui didn’t notice, being too familiar with him. Instead, he waved his hand for a server and ordered him to go rent a clean pillowed litter[3].

A while later, the litter arrived, and the three parted ways in front of the restaurant. Yan Yujin continued to wander around, and Xiao Jingrui accompanied Mei Changsu to return to the Manor of the Marquess of Ning.

While they were exiting the litter in front of the manor, a servant who saw them in the distance ran inside to announce their return. Xie Bi rushed out to greet them immediately after. He called out as soon as he saw the two, “Why were you out for so long? Someone wants to see you. They’ve been waiting for quite awhile now!”

Xiao Jingrui’s response to Xie Bi’s complaints was an immediate inquiry, “Who wants to see us?” On the other hand, Mei Changsu paused his footsteps, and a hint of hesitation flashed between his brows. But, it was only for a brief moment, and he quickly recovered his calm demeanor.

Xie Bi took some measured glances at the two’s outfits and said hurriedly, “It’s passable, you don’t need to change. Hurry up and come in with me. The Empress, Mother, and Princess Nihuang wants to see you.”

Xiao Jingrui was shocked. The three women Xie Bi spoke of could be considered the most noble and powerful women within the Liang empire. The Empress reigned over the Inner Palace[4], and was the mother of the empire. Princess Liyang was the sister of the Emperor and the wife of the Marquess of Ning. Although Princess Nihuang had a lower status, she commanded the ten thousand cavalry units at the empire’s southern border. It was rare to see even one of the three, not to mention having them especially waiting here together. It’s safe to say that nobody has ever been received at such a rare gathering before.

“What are you doing so dazed?” Xie Bi gave his brother a poke, “It’s okay if you don’t want to go in. They mainly want to meet Su anyway.”

“Just listen to yourself.” Xiao Jingrui glared at Xie Bi unhappily, “Did you pique their curiosity by being too talkative and telling them about the fight between Feiliu and Commander Meng? Did you forget that Su is here to recover from his illness? He is not here to acquaint all the nobles. Will he still be able to relax peacefully if he is placed in the limelight?”

Xie Bi felt rather ashamed after being reprimanded, and apologized with embarrassment, “It was my fault. I accidentally let it slip while entertaining the guests with Mother. Please forgive me, Su.”

“No no,” said Mei Changsu. He spoke with indifference, “I should be thankful that Young Master Xie is introducing me to nobles. Who knows, when I greet them in a little while, the Empress will perhaps reward me with treasures in place of Prince Yu.”

———

[1] The poem is pretty vague. The gist of it is praising Mei Changsu for his beauty and serene air, then naming him as the leader of East River. Poems are hard to translate. :(

[2] Perhaps by design or perhaps by chance, Mei Changsu’s surname “Mei” refers to the plum blossom.

[3] A carriage carried by humans.

[4] The location for the Emperor’s harem.


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