Chapter 14: Jade Shattered, Pearl SubmergedFrom a distance, I caught sight of Jianye. I was overwhelmed by emotions. I had finally returned. Thirty li away from the city, the King and all of the civil and military officials came forward to welcome us subjects who had performed meritorious service and were returning in triumph. We all dismounted and kneeled to pay our respects to the King. The King exulted, holding the Prince of De’s hand, he said, “Royal Uncle has performed a great deed for our country. We have prepared a banquet to celebrate Royal Uncle’s meritorious deeds.” After I followed the army into the city, I could not be feel that someone was looking at me intently from the upper floor of a nearby restaurant. However, I could not sense any malicious intent.
After the celebration banquet, I hurriedly brought along Chen Zhen and returned to my home. I had received plenty of rewards for my services during this campaign against Shu. As a result, I had long ago decided to buy an estate on the outskirts of the city, especially as the Prince of De had agreed to help me get around the regulations and allow me to stay at home to convalesce. I was no longer restricted to living within the city walls. Before I had returned, Xiaoshunzi had already returned with Wang Hai. He had already picked out and purchased an estate for me, acquiring the deed from the seller. Last night, he had come to the posthouse to meet me and gave me the details. Following the information provided, Chen Zhen and I quickly found the place. The estate was a secluded and elegant small grange, and within included the pavilions and kiosks of a typical Chinese garden. Xiaoshunzi had already hired a number of servants and had them clean the estate from top to bottom.
After I had taken a bath, I entered my study room. Inside, Xiaoshunzi had already arranged my books. I had just picked up a history book to read when Chen Zhen entered. “Daren, there is someone outside asking to meet you.”
I froze momentarily. I had just moved here and had yet to register this address with the Ministry of Personnel.1 How could there be someone paying me a visit?
Seeing my puzzlement, Chen Zhen explained, “When daren returned, you rented a carriage. When the coachman went back, someone asked him where daren was living.”
I thought of a proverb, those who worked in those service positions should be killed regardless of guilt to seal their mouths.2 Sure enough, this was the case. At the same time that my mind was thinking of this, I asked, “Where is the visiting card?”
Chen Zhen presented me with the visiting card with both hands. To speak frankly, originally, although he was obedient, I could sense that he looked down upon me. But after I had written a poem and forced the King of Shu to commit suicide, his temperament changed, becoming reverent and respectful. I accepted the visiting card and opened it. Upon it was written the three characters of Liu Piao Xiang. I hurriedly said, “Is that person still here?”
Chen Zhen replied, “This lowly person has allowed them to wait at the gatehouse.”
I hurriedly replied, “Quickly allow them to come in … wait … I will personally welcome them.” As I said, I promptly rushed out. Arriving at the gatehouse, I saw a green robed scholar with a heavy black cloak draped over her shoulders and covering her whole body. She wore a bamboo hat with a black veil, hiding her features. But I recognized her from her figure and bearing. Without caring about the two serving girls dressed as boy attendants, I rushed over and grasped her two hands, crying out, “You’ve come! Was it you watching me from upstairs earlier today?”
One of the attendants coldly replied, “Ever since my lord zhuangyuan departed for war, my family’s young miss has been extremely worried and troubled.3 She even stopped going to the pleasure boat. If my lord zhuangyuan did not return today, the young miss would probably still refuse to leave her home.”
With great difficulty, I resisted the joy in my heart, continuing to hold Liu Piaoxiang’s delicate hands. I replied, “I knew it, I knew it, you also love me.” I watched as Liu Piaoxiang removed her bamboo hat, revealing her pale and sallow features. I was left speechless for some time before I stepped forward and hugged her tightly to me, saying, “You treat me so, even if Suiyun is to sacrifice my life,4 it will be insufficient to repay a beauty’s heavy grace.”
Liu Piaoxiang faintly replied, “After you left for war, I was uneasy day and night, worried about your safety. Seeing you return in triumph today, I was finally reassured. I originally did not want to come see you, but I wanted to personally come and ask you how you were.”
I gratefully replied, “In reality I wanted to come see you, but I thought that you may not necessarily want to see me.”
“Okay! You two, stop being so pedantic,” said the attendant with a smile, “This lowly servant is going to worn to death.”
Liu Piaoxiang and I looked at one another and smiled. Supporting her with a hand, I led her inside. The two attendants were naturally left for others to take care of.
Late at night, I watched Liu Piaoxiang’s sleeping posture. I rose and picked up paper and brush. My brush moved like flowing water as I began to write. At this moment, Liu Piaoxiang awoke. Walking over, she hugged me from behind. With a smile, she asked, “My lord zhuangyuan is writing another poem.”
With deep love, I looked at her briefly before embracing her at the waist and pulling her onto my lap, allowing her to take a look at my new work. Tying up her hair, she picked up the draft. It was poem entitled Immortals at Magpie Bridge: As slender clouds form clever shapes,
They secretly ferry across the wide Celestial River.
With more ecstasy than any human would encounter.
Their tender feelings are like soft water,
Unbearable to go back across the bridge built by magpies.
They don’t need to be together morning and night.4