Hai Yan’s Notes:
“After reading all your suggestions, I have come to the following conclusion: 1) reflection is always important; 2) the author is banging her head against a brick wall; 3) some readers’ comments are really just jokes; 4) if I don’t update, there will be fewer votes*; 5) silly little piggies are really very silly…..”
*this entire novel was written as part of some competition where readers voted for their favourite stories or something like that, and so before and after every chapter, she is always pulling for votes lol
After the new year, the tension in the city seemed to be loosening slowly, at least on the surface. In the palace, Consort Yue was focusing on giving a weak and fragile appearance, while the Empress was putting all her energy into taking care of the Six Palaces, and so the two had not had any major disputes in some time. In the court, although the Crown Prince and Prince Yu still disagreed on many aspects, because there had been no new triggers or inciting factors, they seemed to be clashing less often, and they had not had an open fight since the Emperor resumed court, and everyone was finding the atmosphere almost a little too peaceful.
Sure enough, the tranquil and idle days couldn’t last. On the twenty-first of the first month of the year, an enormous crash shook half of the capital.
Mei Changsu, who had been sitting by the window enjoying the warm winter sun, felt an almost imperceptible tremor, and about an hour later, he found out that the tremor had not been an illusion.
“The gunpowder stored in the illegal fireworks factory exploded by accident?” When he heard the news Li Gang immediately brought over, Mei Changsu closed his eyes and murmured to himself, “Prince Yu is indeed even crueler than I……that he could actually escalate the situation to such a degree….”
“They say it is because there has been no snow recently and the weather dry, and also because of the inauspicious position of Mars. The entire illegal fireworks factory was leveled to the ground, and by initial estimates, more than ninety households nearby have been affected, most of them by the great fire that arose in the wake of the explosion, which burned down half the street and left behind heavy casualties. Because not all of the bodies have been found, it is difficult to determine how many are dead, but there were a few dozen inside the illegal fireworks factory alone, and including the commoners who have been affected, there must be at least a hundred or more….”
"Nearly a hundred and fifty, with about thirty seriously wounded.”
“What about the fire?”
“Fortunately there is no wind today, so it has not spread to the next street, and it has largely been contained. But the blaze was very large initially, and there were only a few people from the Capital Magistrate Office there at the beginning, and even with the combined efforts of the commoners who came to help, they could not control it at all. The neighbouring houses were all rushing to save their valuables, while some of the worse crowds were making a rush for the goods in the houses, and when the Capital Patrol arrived, they spent half the time suppressing the crowds and the other half taking whatever profits from the situation they could, and the situation was really very chaotic until His Highness Prince Jing’s personal troops arrived and took control of the situation. Later, His Highness Prince Jing provided some of the army’s tents for temporary use by the injured and those who lost their homes. The physicians and medicines of the Imperial Hospital are officially regulated and so could not be sent over immediately, so His Highness provided funds for the use of resources in the community. I have already dispatched our Medicine Sect brothers in the capital to go over and provide what aid they can.”
“Well done,” Mei Changsu praised, adding, “Burns are difficult to treat, the Yun household of Xunyang district has a good salve for this purpose. Send someone with a fast horse to go and bring back a batch for Prince Jing.”
Mei Changsu’s gaze shimmered as he said, “The first month is almost over, and the time of greatest danger should have passed, but then a tragic accident happens at a time like this, the timing is a little too coincidental……pass on my orders to focus the investigation on Prince Yu, and to search out any possible evidence of his involvement in this accident. So many lives, we cannot just let them disappear without trace or sound…… if there are any developments, inform me in secret immediately.”
After Li Gang bowed and left, Mei Changsu got up slowly and walked over to his desk, took out a snowy white sheet of paper, and began drawing with brush and ink, wanting to settle his mind and emotions. Fei Liu came in and picked up a brush too, sprawling beside him silently as he drew, quietly keeping him company. As the shadows lengthened outside the window, Mei Changsu’s mind slowly calmed. He finished one piece, and as he stood, he felt a slight aching at his waist, and the youth beside him raised his head, his beautiful eyes wide with concern.
“Fei Liu, go out and play?”
“No!” The youth shook his head.
“Then……go out for a walk with Su gege?”
Mei Changsu took down a fur-collared cloak from a hanger nearby, put it on, and then walked out the door. When the guards in the courtyard saw him dressed to go out, they hurried to prepare his palanquin. The row of people left by the main gates and then followed Mei Changsu’s direction down a small alley, arriving a street filled with smoke.
Although a proper blockade had not been set up, the men of the Capital Magistrate Office had formed groups of twos and threes and were working to prevent people from entering the area, and from a distance, it looked as if half the street was a ruin of crumbled walls and bricks, the smell of smoke still lingering heavily in the air, and the glow of fire could still be seen occasionally as the soldiers of the Capital Patrol threw water over the burning areas. Mei Changsu got off his palanquin and walked into the street, and the guards, seeing his commoner’s attire, did not know where he had come from and so came over to inquire, though they seemed amiable in nature.
“I am……” Mei Changsu was just thinking about what would be most appropriate when he suddenly saw Lie Zhanying of the imperial Jing residence, and he lifted his head and waved in greeting.
Lie Zhanying had not actually spoken with Mei Changsu before, but he had developed a deep impression of this Mister Su who had led to so much reorganizing and retraining of the interior of the imperial Jing household, and so he immediately answered his greeting with a polite reply.
The guards looked at the two exchanging greetings and thought he was a member of the imperial Jing residence, and so they quickly retreated to one side. Mei Changsu hurried over and asked, “Where is His Highness Prince Jing?”
“Inside……” Lie Zhanying gestured, and then finding the situation a little unusual, asked, “Did His Highness arrange to meet Mister here?”
Mei Changsu turned to look at him and said purposefully, “No, His Highness has been hiding and refusing to see me, so when I heard he was here today, I came out to find him.”
“Ah?” Lie Zhangying was taken aback, but Mei Changsu had already strode on ahead, and by the time he caught up, Prince Jing was just appearing from the center with his personal guard, and the three met in the middle.
“Mister Su?” Prince Jing looked a bit surprised, but seemed to understand instantly. “Nothing that happens in the capital escapes the eye of Mister.”
Mei Changsu looked around. Although cries of mournful weeping could be heard, there were no survivors left homeless on the streets. Tents were set up on both sides of the road, and soldiers were carrying steaming plates of hot food between them. The herbal scent of medicine drifted over from another part of the street, and a stretcher draped in white cloth was carried past them.
“If this was a battlefield, it would be nothing remarkable, but such a scene in the flourishing capital of Da Liang is really too tragic,” Mei Changsu sighed. “Your Highness has worked hard.”
“They are all hardworking commoners, who had no way of knowing that there was a fireworks factory right beside their homes.” Prince Jing sighed as well, and signaled Lie Zhanying to retreat. “The timing is truly unfortunately, if only one more day could have gone by without incident….”
Mei Changsu raised an eyebrow. “Your Highness’ meaning is?”
“Shen Zhui was very excited when he told me yesterday that he had finally acquired enough evidence to prove that the Crown Prince had conspired with Lou Zhijing of the Ministry of Revenue in setting up this illegal fireworks factory for private profit, and it was only that he did not have the power to seize it immediately, so he reported it to the Emperor, asking for permission to have the Capital Magistrate Office assist in seizing this fireworks factory, confiscating all illegal goods and arresting the suspects. At the time, he told me very confidently that permission would be given within one or two days. Who could have thought……the report had only been handed over for a day when this tragic accident occurred, and a hundred human lives were incinerated into smoke and ashes……to most of those involved, this was an entirely absurd calamity.”
Mei Changsu looked at him deeply. “Your Highness believes this was an accident?”
Prince Jing’s gaze froze, and he slowly turned his head to Mei Changsu, his tone dripping with ice, “What is Mister Su implying?”
“As a successor accusing his predecessor of misconduct, even if Shen Zhui gathered piles of witnesses and evidence and raised this case to the heavens, in the end, it would only be a case of corruption and negligence. The Crown Prince is the Crown Prince, and so no matter how His Majesty chooses to deal with him, the punishment will not be anything significant. But now, with the explosion, the whole situation has become public knowledge, and when all is said and done, a hundred human lives have been lost, and so the passion and anger of the people will slowly grow into a rage of discontent. I fear the Crown Prince’s punishment will be much more severe than it would have been before. Your Highness, think carefully, this case implicates the Crown Prince, and the Crown Prince must take the fall, so who will benefit?”
“So Prince Yu has treated all these human lives as his playthings, only to increase the blow to the Crown Prince?” Prince Jing’s face was thunderous, his skin drawn tight over his rapidly darkening expression, lines like iron spreading out from the corner of his lips. After these furious words, he suddenly turned his glare onto Mei Changsu. “Is this the brilliant plan Mister Su has concocted for Prince Yu?”
At first Mei Changsu thought he had misheard, but when he turned his head and met Prince Jing’s eyes, he gradually realized that he had indeed said what he thought he had heard. Although it was a misunderstanding, and although, in the present circumstances, it was not really anything worth getting angry about, for some reason, Mei Changsu felt a sense of fury rising in his chest, and he controlled it forcefully for a long moment before answering coldly, “No. These are all conclusions I drew after the events took place, based on investigation and analysis.”
Prince Jing saw his expression and heard the coldness in his tone, and knew he had spoken wrongly, and he hurried to say apologetically, “It was my misunderstanding, please do not take it to heart.”
Mei Changsu turned his head indifferently, looking over at the rooftops darkened by soot and ash from the smoke, and did not reply. Prince Jing had always been proud and aloof, and was not given to apologizing a second time if the other person did not accept his first apology, and so a cold silence settled between the two of them.
At this moment, one of the historians of the imperial Jing residence ran over to report, “My lord, your servant has already completed the investigation by your orders, and aside from the supplies from the residence, two hundred tents from the military supplies were also used, as well as four hundred and fifty cotton quilts. These are all military supplies, should I make a report to the Ministry of War?”
“It is good that you reminded me, or I would have forgotten. Although this is not anything major, it would be better to report their use to the Ministry of War.”
“Yes, sir.” The historian was about to leave when Mei Changsu suddenly said something in a low voice, and he spoke so quietly that even Prince Jing, who was standing only a step beside him, was not sure whether he had heard correctly, but when he turned to look at him, he found that the other stood with his gaze lowered, his demeanor calm, showing no intention of repeating himself, and, feeling something stir in his heart, he turned back to his historian and said, “You have many things to deal with at present, carry on as if I had forgotten, and you forgot as well, and do not make your report to the Ministry of War for now.”
The historian could not think of a reason behind this strange order and stared at him open-mouthed for a long moment until Prince Jing raised an eyebrow, and he hurriedly answered, “Yes, sir,” before rushing away.
When he was a good distance away, Prince Jing said slowly, “Mister is aware that, although these military supplies have been distributed to me, if I use them for the care of the victims of this disaster, then I am using them for purposes other than those for which they were originally supplied to me, and thus, according to the rules I should notify the Ministry of War, so why did Mister ask me not to make the report?”
“Are we currently at war?”
“Is this a very large amount of military supplies?”
“It is an almost negligible amount.”
“Can tents and cotton quilts not be reused?”
“Certainly they can be reused.”
“Since this is not wartime, and the tents and cotton quilts lent out can be retrieved, then why such a great fuss?”
“Although it is a small matter, according to the regulations, I should still let them know….”
“What happens if you do not?”
A hint of doubt appeared in Prince Jing’s gaze. “Mister should know that the Ministry of War is the Crown Prince’s territory, and although this fault is small, once it has been seized by the Ministry of War, I fear they would use it against me.”
“I want them to use it against you.” Mei Changsu turned slightly, facing Prince Jing. “Your Highness cares about the public and has treated the victims with such kindness and generosity, is this a bad thing?
“Of course not…”
“Your Highness has done a good thing, and has committed only a tiny fault that is not even worth mentioning, so the Ministry of War should look generously on your momentary carelessness, but instead, they will seize on it and refuse to let it go. Once it reaches the court, will the officials think that it is Your Highness’ crime that cannot be forgiven, or that the Crown Prince is using the Ministry of War against you?” An icy smile lingered at the corner of Mei Changsu’s lips. “The court is yet far from belonging to the Crown Prince entirely, and even if the Ministry of War attacks you, you have only to confess that you had a momentary lapse of memory in the urgency and complications of the situation, and then, even if Prince Yu does not speak up for you, there will naturally be upright officials who ill see the injustice and come to argue on your behalf, so what is there to worry about?”
Prince Jing answered proudly, “I am not afraid of what the Ministry of War will do to me, and even if Father Emperor punishes me strictly, I do not care about a little accusation such as this, it is only that this mistake could have been prevented entirely, so why must I make such a great deal out of it?”
Mei Changsu’s smile grew even colder. “Why should we not? The eyes of the court officials are still fixed on the Crown Prince and Prince Yu, so how many of them notice the things Your Highness is doing? Although you must work more and speak less, even if you yourself don’t speak, others may speak for you. Once the Ministry of War raises the issue, the Emperor and all the ministers of the court will see, while the Crown Prince and Prince Yu were busy quarreling, who was the one controlling the situation? Who was the one reassuring the hearts of the people? Who was the one working quietly without complaint or conflict, but who is now being attacked instead? Everyone has a scale in his heart to measure right and wrong, and to balance justice and injustice. On the other hand, if your Highness reports this now to the Ministry of War, although the regulations would be followed flawlessly, it would achieve the opposite effect, and end up burying Your Highness’ good deeds, and no one would come to know of them.”
Prince Jing’s thick brows furrowed. “I am not doing these things for others to see.”
Mei Changsu laughed coldly. “If, before you acted, you thought only of doing these things for others to see, then that would be a fault of Your Highness’ moral character. But if, after you have done these good deeds, no one knows about them, then that would be the fault of your strategist…. Even if only for my sake, pray Your Highness suffer this grievance.”
Prince Jing heard the mocking in his tone and the sharpness of his words, and knew that he was not entirely placated from the previous misunderstanding, and so he was not angry, and only answered indifferently, “Mister is only doing this for my sake, how could I speak of grievance? This is Mister’s thorough consideration, I am ashamed of my ineptitude. Let it all be done as you say.”
Wang Kai is perfect as our water buffalo in the drama, but I think I like the way Xiao Jingyan is portrayed in the novel even more. He’s a little less stubborn, a little quicker on the uptake, a little more nuanced, almost. Here, he apologizes by himself instead of Nihuang calling him out on it. -SPOILER ALERT- He figures out MCS’s identity on his own. And unless I am very much mistaken, the whole breakup scene in the snow doesn’t exist in the novel (and neither does MCS’s most perfect line in the whole show lol).
And although I LOVE THAT SCENE WITH ALL MY HEART, I really really like the novel version of their relationship. It seems that Jingyam doubts MCS less, almost trusting him in spite of himself, the way Nihuang does in the drama before she finds out who he is. I mean, even though he is suspicious of him, he trusts him enough to do what he says before he understands the reasons behind the instructions.
And I think the way the novel portrays Jingyan emphasizes less of his stubbornness and more of his rigid righteousness, and also his ability to see and judge people, so that even though he doesn’t know MCS well, he knows he is worth trusting, and is more willing to give him a chance.
ALSO. MCS continues his gentle schooling of the water buffalo. Lin Shu needs to just open strategy classes and tutoring sessions for Jingyan, Nihuang, and Meng Zhi, okay? Baby class special for the Sunshine boys. Mama Jing and Yan Que can give guest talks. Fei Liu can keep the snakes away.
(I…um. I think this makes 50 chapters translated? ☺)