Sorry for being away from translating, here is chapter 10!
Commander General Meng: 蒙大统领
When Xiao Jingrui arrived at the Snow Cottage, Mei Changsu was no longer playing the guqin, and was flipping through a book under a tree. Upon hearing the rushed footsteps, he looked up towards the doorway and broke into a smile. With the sun shining down through the leaves, the sunlight danced across his face making the smile seem especially lively.
Xiao Jingrui involuntarily smiled back, greeted him with a bow1 and asked, “Brother Su, did you sleep well last night?”
“Are you worried that I didn’t sleep well?” Mei Changsu gestured him to bring over a bamboo chair and sit. “Those of us from the Jiang Hu, we are never picky about where we lay our heads. I was thinking of the excitement that will happen that Yujin told us about, and slept a little late, which is why I woke up late as well. Fei Liu said you had already come by earlier?”
“Yes.” Xiao Jingrui, glanced about and asked, “Where is Fei Liu?”
“Oh, this is Fei Liu’s first time in Jin Ling, I let him go out and play for a bit,” Mei Changsu said lightly.
Xiao Jinrui could not help but break out into a cold sweat. This chief of the Jiang Zuo Alliance, did he realize that he was no longer in his own territory? How could he allow this boy who was so childlike in mind, but had the martial arts skills of a master, out to play so carelessly.
“Don’t worry, dear Fei Liu won’t cause any trouble,” Mei Changsu said, as if he had read Xiao Jingrui’s mind. He then raised his eyebrows and smiled, continuing, “Even if he does cause trouble, with his skills, he would be able to escape so quickly as if he were to disappear, no one will blame the Marquis Prefecture about it.”
“I am not worried about the blame,” Xiao Jingrui forced a smile, “Brother Su has mistaken me again.”
“You…” Mei Changsu elongated the word, with a hint of lamentation, “We have only returned to the Marquis Prefecture for but one day, yet you already seem so reserved and stiff, and can’t even tell when it’s a joke…”
Xiao Jingrui’s first reaction was to refute his words, but after saying, “I….” could no longer think of anything to counter the argument, and after thinking a little bit actually froze in a daze.
“Do you know what your problem is?” Mei Changsu’s fingers tapped leisurely at the stone table at his side, “Eating appropriately will allow for a strong and healthy body, but eating too much will cause obesity; sleeping is good for the mind and spirit, but too much sleep will cause laziness. Paying attention to etiquette can make someone polite and virtuous, but too much can cause restrictions and boundaries on human nature.”
“But, my parents have taken the same approach to the upbringing of us brothers…” Xiao Jingrui could not help but argue.
“Yes, your upbringing is the same, but do you have the same personality?” Mei Changsu leaned back and changed to a more comfortable position, “When you have time, think about it: I do not wish to waste energy teaching you. Now I ask you, did you plan on coming to say hello, or did you intend to stay with me?”
“Brother Su has just arrived, of course I should stay with you the whole time.”
“I am not asking what you should do, I am asking, in your heart, what would make you happy?”
“In my heart….I would really like to stay with Brother Su…”
“Isn’t it good enough to say it like that?” Mei Changsu put on a teacher-like expression, bent his finger and knocked on Jingrui’s head, “Next time, whatever it is your heart wishes to do, then you should do it. You are over schooled, even if you were to follow your heart, you won’t do anything out of line.”
Xiao Jingrui rubbed the spot where there was some pain from Mei Changsu knocking his head, yet felt as if a weight had been lifted off his chest, and could not help but smile.
“You’re the one who’ve strung yourself too tightly, so only you can loosen yourself”a dim light in Mei Changsu’s eyes flickered and his smile slowly faded.“Actually, you don’t really have anything to worry about right now, what does it have to do with me? Who knows, maybe one day you will discover, that I am not one to help rid you of your problems, but will bring about much more trouble than you expect.”
“That wouldn’t happen,” Xiao Jingrui didn’t even think before responding, “Even though we have not known one another for a long time, I am very clear what type of person Brother Su is. Although I know that I cannot yet call myself your confidant, but Brother Su had long ago become my confidant…”
Mei Changsu’s eyes quivered, a sudden sharp pain shot through his chest and his face paled even more..
“Are you not feeling well?” Xiao Jingrui hurriedly asked.
“I often have symptoms of palpitations, they will go away in a flash; no need to be worried,” Mei Changsu said weakly, “Since you have said you want to accompany me, why don’t you go get a chessboard, we can challenge each other in a round or two?
Xiao Jingrui refocused himself and the momentary feeling of sympathy dissipated so quickly it felt as if it never appeared before. Hearing Mei Changsu’s request, he quickly stood up, and personally went to the nearby room to grab a chessboard and pieces, setting it up on the stone table under the tree.
Although Mei Changsu was ranked at the top of the Lang Ya List, that did not make him perfect. In terms of chess, he was not the greatest player at all. During their trip to Jin Ling, Xiao Jingrui already knew much about his opponent, and without using too much effort, could make the chief of the Jiang Zuo Alliance knit his eyebrows and think for quite awhile.
After three rounds, Mei Changsu had undoubtedly lost. Xiao Jingrui smiled and messed up the chess pieces saying, “Brother Su is skilled but not good at keeping count, I dare say that in this lifetime, you most likely will be unable to win against me.”
“Don’t be too pleased with yourself, just wait until I teach Fei Liu– then you will have much to cry over. Although Fei Liu does not have the intelligence of a normal person, he has an astonishing level of concentration: out of all the people I know, not one can compare to his.
Xiao Jingrui disregarded Mei Changsu’s comeback, lifted his head and looked around, asking, “Brother Su, where did you let Fei Liu go to play? It is already noon, and he isn’t back yet?
As the saying goes, speak of the devil, and he shall appear; Xiao Jingrui’s words had barely left his mouth when he heard startled cries followed immediately by the sound of clothing rippling through the air. Xiao Jingrui had just jumped up, when a deep and vigorous voice shouted, “Where does this boy come from! How dare you behave so atrociously in the Marquis Prefecture, do not think you can escape!”
“Oh no, the voice is… is…” Xiao Jingrui was startled and overwhelmed, and stood at a loss, yet a sudden tightening on his arm caused him to turn his head, and he saw a grave looking Mei Changsu grabbing his arm, saying, “Quick, take me there!”
Everything happened so fast that Xiao Jingrui didn’t have much time to think, so he looped an arm around Mei Changsu’s waist, summoned his qi and took several great strides, rushing towards the scene of the disturbance as quickly as possible.
Passing the corridor on the west, they had just rushed through the moon gate to the main courtyard when they saw that between the two or three doorways of the small courtyard, was the silhouette of two figures, flipping about and engaging in fervent combat. Fei Liu not only had peculiar movements, but also had extremely vicious swordsmanship. Where the blade pointed, the chill would seep into the bones, yet this opponent was not at a disadvantage at all, not even losing the slightest bit of ground as he deflected and struck back with both great skill and ease. His strength was as fierce as the blazing sun, as if exposing all of Fei Liu’s mysterious skills under his rays, rendering the boy’s skills useless and unable to escape from the control of the man.
Xiao Jinrui hadn’t even recovered from what happened when he heard Mei Changsu yelled sternly next to him, “Fei Liu, stop!” and thus instinctively called out, “General Meng, please stop!” as well.
Fei Liu always obeyed Mei Changsu’s commands without hesitation, so he immediately withdrew from his attacking stance and took a step back. His opponent did not take advantage of him either, drawing his two fists back to his side, and although he maintained his stance, he stopped his offense as well.
“Jingrui, how did this happen?” it was not until the stern question arose that Xiao Jingrui realized that his father was on the scene as well; standing in the southeast corner of the courtyard with his hands clasped behind his back, looking as if he were trying to block Fei Liu from going into the inner courtyard.
“Please forgive me, Marquis.” Mei Changsu slowly stepped forward and bowed. “This is a guard of mine; he always been rather immature, and tends to go in and out without regard to the rules. I am to blame for neglecting his discipline, if the Marquis should punish anyone, I am willing to accept all responsibility..”
Xiao Jingrui hurriedly explained, “This was a misunderstanding, Fei Liu has always liked to come and go from up in the air, but as long as he is not provoked, he would never hurt anyone…”
Xie Yu raised his hand to interrupt his son’s words, his expression still rather solemn, and said to Mei Changsu, “Su-xiansheng is our guest, our prefecture will not neglect your needs, but I’m afraid the habits of your dear companion will need to change, otherwise misunderstandings like the one today, are bound to happen again in the future.”
“The Marquis is right, I will be sure to discipline him more strictly.”
Xie Yu faintly huffed in acknowledgement, then turned to the man who had engaged in combat with Fei Liu, and surprisingly, bowed to him, apologizing, “Commander Meng originally came to be a guest, but unexpectedly I bothered you to engage in this skirmish. Please accept my sincere apology.”
Commander Meng looked to be about thirty-seven or eight, had a robust build, was tall and strong, and was extremely masculine. His eyes though brimming with radiant vigour and vitality was composed and reserved, and upon seeing the Marquis of Ning apologize, immediately waved his apologies away and said, “It was only that I thought the movements and abilities of this boy were extremely peculiar, daring to jump the walls of the Marquis Prefecture while not being discovered by a single one of the guards that are all over the courtyards, which caused me to think that he was an outlaw with ulterior motives and wanted to help the Marquis take care of him. Since it is a misunderstanding, let us view this as an exchange of skills.” As he said this, he shifted his eyes towards Mei Changsu with extreme curiosity, “May I dare ask that this gentleman is…”
“My name is Su Zhe, I met Young Master Xiao among my travels in the Jiang Hu, and became good friends with him. Upon his generous invitation, I came for a short stay in the capital city.”
“Su Zhe?” General Meng repeated the name, looked at Fei Liu, and then looked at this young man, who was rather unnoticeable at first glance, then smiled, “To have such a guard, there must be something exceptional about you as well…”
“Not at all,” Mei Changsu smiled with great composure “It was only that I just happened to save him when he was met with misfortune, and remained by my side in gratitude. I am not exceptional enough to order about such a skilled martial artist.
“Is that so? There was no change of emotion on Commander Meng’s face, and one could not tell if he believed it or not but he did not question any further. Xie Yu took a long look at Xiao Jingrui, but did not say anything more either and instead bade the commander to follow him to the main hall for tea, walking off together, side by side.
Seeing the increasingly distant shadows of his father and Meng Zhi, Xiao Jingrui stomped his foot and slapped his forehead in frustration, crying, “Oh dear, oh dear! My father has become suspicious, and is sure to call me in and question about your real identity tonight, what should I do?”
In contrast to him, Mei Changsu seemed rather at ease, casually responding, “Just tell him I am a friend you met on the Jiang Hu, and don’t know anything more than that.”
“It’s not that easy!” Xiao Jingrui grimaced, “Do you know who that Commander Meng is?”
Mei Changsu’s gaze fixed slightly, sighing, “How many commanders with the last name of Meng are there in the capital, that can be treated with such respect by the Marquis of Ning, and possesses almost the highest level of martial arts there is? Of course it is the guard of the capital city and its nine gates, commander of fifty thousand guards, first ranking general, Commander General Meng, Meng Zhi.”
“Other than the Commander General, what else is he?”
“Second on the Langya Martial Arts List only closely after Xuan Bu from Da Yu, he’s probably the best martial arts master in Da Liang…”
“Yeah, think about it, to think your guard could go neck to neck with the greatest martial arts master of Da Liang…”
“Meng Zhi didn’t even use his full power…”
“Yes, he didn’t go all out, but even so, he is still Da Liang’s greatest martial arts master, for Fei Liu to withstand so many moves–it really is quite astonishing. You know what my father is like, he would never believe you were a nameless Jiang Hu guest. Anyways, even if I keep my mouth shut, as soon as Father calls Xie Bi over, the truth would come tumbling out!”
“That is true,” Mei Changsu tilted his head and thought for a second, “Nevermind, if your father inquires closely, just tell him the truth. He is only worried that you brought home someone you don’t know the background of, and after he is clear about who I am, there won’t be anything else. It’s not like I am a criminal of the court, I only concealed my true identity to save some trouble. Thinking about it, I can’t have you deceive your own father, just to help hide my identity.”
Xiao Jingrui felt extremely apologetic, and said, rather embarrassed, “Brother Su, I am so sorry. But my father is very prudent, and doesn’t speak more than what is necessary–even if he knew you were the chief of the Jiang Zuo Alliance, it would only be to become aware of the situation. He won’t speak of it to others. “
“How could I blame you? It is because I’ve been too relaxed lately, and didn’t think things through and allowed Fei Liu to bring upon this mess….” Mei Changsu had barely finished these words, when he saw Fei Liu lower his head in apprehension. He hastily moved to comfort Fei Liu by patting his head, gently coaxing, “No, it’s not our Fei Liu’s fault, it is because that uncle stopped you, causing you to engage in combat with him, right?”
Fei Liu nodded.
“So, it’s not our dear Fei Liu’s fault, it is all that uncle’s fault!”
Xiao Jinrui felt a cold sweat run over him. Who teaches a child like this?
“But in the future, when our dear Fei Liu wants to go outside, just walk out through the front door, and when you come back, walk through the door as well, don’t jump in and run along the roof. The people here are easily alarmed, and have very good eyesight, if they accidently see Fei Liu, you will scare them…Understand?”
Xiao Jingrui couldn’t help but think, with this type of education, even if Fei Liu didn’t suffer from head injuries, he probably still couldn’t mature…
After such commotion, Mei Changsu didn’t seem to think much of it at all, led Fei Liu back to the Snow Cottage, leisurely playing music and games of chess, and was very much at ease. On the other hand, Xiao Jingrui was restless, thinking anxiously of what was to come.
In the evening, Xie Yu called Xiao Jingrui and Xie Bi to his study, just as Jingrui had predicted, and strictly questioned them about Su Zhe’s true identity. Under the pressure of their father, how could the two resist against his questioning? Xie Bi blurted out the truth, and Xiao Jingrui did not deny it.
Hearing that Su Zhe was actually the chief of the world’s greatest clan, the Jiang Zuo Alliance, Mei Changsu, Xie Yu was taken by surprise. However, he now understood why his guard was so incredibly skilled at martial arts, and dispelled much of the confusion he had. As to Mei Changsu’s real motives for coming to the capital–whether it was like what his two sons said, that he was here to rest and recover, or if he had other matters to take care of–Xie Yu couldn’t quite determine it yet. But to the Marquis of Ning, as long as he could confirm that the guest in the Snow Cottage was indeed someone of status among the Jiang Hu and Da Liang, and not a foreign spy, anything else amongst the Jiang Hu, he wouldn’t interfere with, and left his sons to do as they pleased.
As soon as they left their father’s study, Xie Bi pulled Xiao Jinrui over to ask him about what had happened. It was only then that he learned about Fei Liu’s encounter with Meng Zhi, and was agape in amazement. After the two brothers went to notify Mei Changsu that their father knew about his true identity, the Chief of the Jiang Zuo Alliance merely smiled faintly, and didn’t think much of it.
In the early morning the next day, Yan Yujin who was all dressed up, came over to announce that “Brother Su should already be well rested from the long journey, so that they can now go out and about together,” and thus dragged Xiao Jingrui and Mei Changsu out the doors for the entire day, leaving a very resentful Xie Bi behind, who had many affairs to take care of.
Since the day of the tournament for asking for Princess Nihuang’s hand in marriage was coming up, the capital city these couple days was packed with talented and handsome young men from all parts of the country. The local restaurants and tea houses were all bustling with excitement, with customers who came and went like clouds in the sky, and contestants showed off their skills, almost as if they had a preliminary elimination round of their own. Yan Yujin, who had always loved excitement, was very much entertained and enjoyed the happenings; ever since he had returned to the capital city, he had been roaming about to find spectacles like this to watch. By the time he brought Xiao Jingrui and Mei Changsu out with him, he could already recommended with authority, the restaurants with the most duels, and the teahouses with the highest level contestants.
They watched duels the entire day, but barely saw any skilled fighters. (Of course, the real martial arts masters would never make a spectacle of themselves by joining this mess.) Yan Yujin was still enthusiastic and interested, but Xiao Jingrui has been bored for quite a long time. Normally, he would most likely hang in there for his friend’s enjoyment, but today he had come here with Mei Changsu as well. As soon as he saw him beginning to show signs of weariness, he immediately rejected Yan Yujin’s suggestion to go see the happenings at the other nearby restaurant.
“Why not? There is a lot of excitement there, just the other day I saw someone who was using a meteor hammer duel another who was using a double-headed sword. As he struck out, he didn’t use the hammer properly, and it returned to hit himself square in the forehead, fainting on the spot. It was absolutely hilarious…”
Xiao Jingrui quietly reminded, “Yujin, Brother Su is tired.”
“Ah?” Yan Yujin took a look at Mei Changsu’s slightly pale face, then smacked himself in the forehead, “I am too careless, Brother Su is still ill, of course he is not like us. Then let us sit here and rest, the dishes here are pretty good, and I will order a few of their specialties for Brother Su to taste?”
“It was only two hours ago that we had some pastries, how could I fit in anymore”” Mei Changsu leaned against the back of the chair, looking rather weary but still spirited. “Let us rest a bit and then return, even though we are out having fun, we must not over do it, and should allow Jingrui to return to eat dinner with his parents.”
“Yes that’s right, Jingrui is a good child, “ Unlike me, whose parents never expect me to return on time after letting me out. Just as Brother Su said, let us drink some tea, rest a bit, and return.”
Xiao Jingrui turned toward Mei Changsu, and slightly leaned toward him, whispering, “I’ll call for a carriage, you can take the carriage back. Your health is the most important, it is my fault that I didn’t take more notice, making you walk to so many places…”
“It’s not a problem, the places Yujin brought us to were all very interesting,” Mei Changsu smiled, “I am a little tired now, but all I need is a little bit of rest.”
Xiao Jingrui, being the considerate person he is, understood that Mei Changsu did not want Yan Yujin to feel bad, and so did not insist. The three called the waiter to bring them some fruit, and they chatted a bit while sipping tea.
But after only a quarter of an hour, Mei Changsu began to regret that he hadn’t taken up Xiao Jingrui’s offer, to leave earlier in a carriage.
- Bow- A bow with joined hands is a greeting and a symbol of respect used frequently in ancient China