Money was tight and Uncle Tong was obviously a traitor. I was scared that Feng Zhao Wen would suddenly release a marriage decree and ruined my dream to be a common person. I had to step up my effort to earn money. Every day, I would run around the capital to make living; little did I know of the problem heading my way.
After receiving the money upon sending jars of wine, I saved it in my money bag and sent all the four personal maids back to our residence. I strolled around until afternoon. There was nothing left to see, so I simply head back home. However, on my way back home, a tan young man with bushy beard blocked the alley heading to my home. I originally intended to take this secluded alley as shortcut. The alleys around noble people’s homes were usually unfrequented by regular people. That man was a head taller than me. He walked towards me, looking very firm and imposing. I pretended to brush dirt off my boot while secretly taking out a dagger I hid in it. When that young man was right in front of me, I jumped on him like a rabbit.
He suddenly gave a familiar painful yelp, clutching his stomach while crouching on the ground. He yelled at me, “Xiao Yi! Xiao Yi, how can you treat me like this?”
His voice was too familiar, but the person in front of me was not. Deep inside, I did not have the courage to acknowledge who he was. It was when I pulled his ears to pick him up and he did not protest was I finally sure who that person was. “Xiao Huang, what are you doing here looking so shady like that?”
From my experience in the past, he would usually beg for mercy while trying to protect his ear. But today, his two hands were clutching his stomach. Blood was flowing out from the crack of his fingers while he continued screaming, too preoccupied to care for his ear.
I remembered that Feng Zhao Wen had ordered Tian Bing Qing to spread a verbal decree a few says ago, saying that the remnants of the Great Chen’s rebels had appeared in the capital. He told us to be careful.
…… Honestly speaking though, Uncle Tong and I were both remnants of the Great Chen…..
Xiao Huang tearfully looked at me, “Xiao Yi, you have gotten more and more violent.”
I poked at his wounds and caused him to cry out in pain again. I completely agreed with what he just said.
“En, I have gotten more violent. But you looked like you were going to rob me just now. Did you expect me to sit still and let you get away with it?”
Honestly, I wanted to throw 180 daggers to him. Not because of what happened for the past three years, but because of what his mother did to my father. But then again, there were chances that he was not the empress dowager’s biological son. I needed to verify that first.
Uncle Tong watched as I supported a young man in through our side door. My dagger was plunged into the young man’s stomach. He was shocked, “Xiao Lang, you assaulted a thug?”
I had never been one to uphold justice in society, his expectation for me was too high.
E Huang’s bulged eyes were watery as she retreated backwards, “You actually dragged the victim back here to get rid of the corpse.” She screamed out loud, “I would never steal the pears from the backyard again!”
I finally found out why there were so little fruits on that tree lately.
“I want to bury this person under that pear tree and turn him into fertilizer.”
E Huang shivered harder than Xiao Huang.
The four personal maids I had were truly competent and professional. They stepped forward and grabbed Xiao Huang before solemnly reassuring me, “Miss, it is better to leave these kind of things to us. We assure you, we will turn him into a fertilizer properly, not a single trace will be left behind.”
Did the concubines in the palace always ordered them to do this kind of things? They looked so experienced and skilled.
I massaged my shoulder before taking a deep breath and stopping them, “Send him to my room.”
This time, E Huang trembled harder than she did earlier, “Miss….. What if His Majesty finds out you are keeping a man inside your chamber? This servant will die without a burial ground!”
The four maids looked stern as well, probably suspecting me of giving His Majesty a green hat.
(TN: Giving your lover/spouse green hat means you are cheating on them.”
Xiao Huang stared at me unflinchingly while Uncle Tong advised me, “Xiao Lang ah, turning this kid into fertilizer is a lot safer than rearing him in your chamber.”
In the end, I lost under so many suspicious eyes. I could only rack up an excuse to defend myself , “I am just planning to help him treat his wound.”
Just like that, Xiao Huang stayed in our house in Uncle Tong’s room. Uncle Tong was also the one who tended to his wound. The rest of them had never seen the deposed emperor of the Great Chen before. As for Feng Zhao Wen, Xiao Huang was a fair-skinned fat boy when they met back then. His facial features were difficult to distinguish, so I was not afraid of getting exposed.
Once his wound got a little better, I represented everyone to urge him to get lost.
He gave me a pathetic look before proceeding to beg me, “Xiao Yi, it is when I am with you that I am finally able to sleep soundly and eat heartily. After parting with you for half a year, I haven’t had even one good night sleep…..”
I stepped forward and poked him right on his wound. Then I laughed brightly while he grimaced in pain, “Your Majesty, why are you here this time? You still cannot get over that seal?”
His face was full of bushy beard, so I could not tell if he was blushing or not. His eyes flashed before he hung his head, “You used to sneak wine out of your house and brought them to me in the palace. That day, I drank some wine in a restaurant and could tell it came from your family. I asked that restaurant’s shopkeeper before waiting for you for a couple of days. I could not stop myself when I saw you, so I showed up in front of you.”
I poked at his wound again and again. Thinking about the number of rebels that was about to come knocking at my door, my head started hurting.
At this very moment, I really wanted to run back to the palace.
Your Majesty, I was wrong! I should not have left the palace unauthorized.
I had always distanced myself from those fanatical royalists. I admired their spirits regardless of whether they did this for name or glory. However, I was already contented living by myself in a small corner.
I knocked on Xiao Huang’s head, “You, as the leader of a radicalized faction- isn’t it better for you to burn the bridges between us?”
He looked at me with his clear eyes. It had been half a year since we last met, he had gotten tanner and taller. He even kept a beard now. He looked like a total stranger, but the grievance in his eyes looked the same, “I only unknowingly followed you. How could I know you would stab me with a dagger?”
I shamelessly rubbed my chin before asking him, “Did I stabbed you too hard?”
He shook his head, “It was light. It was light.”
I slowly took out the dagger from one of my boots again, “Do you want me to stab you a couple more times then?”
He recoiled from me, clearly not wanting that to happen.
I pressed the dagger on his face a couple of times before laughing sweetly, “Your Majesty, I’ve heard of a really curious rumor in the palace back then. I heard you are not the late empress dowager’s biological son, your real mother is actually her maid. Is it true?”
A trace of sadness flashed on his face, “It is true. She is not my real mother. My real mother is a palace maid. She took me away from her the moment I was born before killing her with whatever excuses she could find. When I was little, I always wondered why she would not pick me up. I was always scared whenever I met her….. Later, a maid from her palace was punished to be hit by planks. Before she died, she exposed everything. I was there and that was when I found out.”
I put away my dagger, “Leave. From now onwards, do not ever come to the capital again. This place does not suit you.”
A mountain cannot accommodate two tigers. Even though he was only a deposed emperor, Feng Zhao Wen would not let him be.
(TN: A mountain cannot accommodate two tigers (一山难容二虎) = A land cannot accommodate two rulers.)
He blinked at me, his face filled with delight, “Xiao Yi, you are no longer angry at me? If I did not pretend to be stupid and lazy back then, the empress dowager would never be at peace. Did you think I could live this long if she felt threatened by my existence?”
I patted his shoulders, feeling fairly regretful, “I thought if you are the empress dowager’s real son, I could exact my revenge on you. Who would have thought that we are actually on the same boat; she killed our parent. You are lucky to be let off this lightly.”
Personally avenging one’s enemy was indeed only a folk’s tale from the pugilist world.
He laughed, exposing his rows of white teeth before lunging at me, trying to give me a big hug. I jumped backwards and pointed at him, “Men and women should not be in close proximity.”
“Since when have things like that mattered to you and me?” He stubbornly held out his arms for me, just like when he was trying to get a hug from me when we were younger. He got rejected by me, straight-faced.
Remembering the hardship I went through for him, my eyes flashed, “I had to raise you for three years, you should at least pay me a maintenance fee, right? I mean, you can always buy me a shop!”
I had been looking around for ways to make money all over the place and always had to go home in disappointment every single time. It was hard to make profit while still saving face; however making profit while not saving face did not suit me. Such a dilemma.
He searched for something from inside the pocket in his chest and pulled out a banknote. I took it away from him by force and found out that it was actually worth 500 liang. I was immediately filled with delight. I stepped forward and slapped him on the shoulder, really wanting to give him a good hug, “What a good brother! You know how to share your fortune!”
While the both of us were having a friendly brotherly moment in Uncle Tong’s room, we heard a knocking on the main gate. I could hear Uncle Tong asking, “Who is it?”
“Open the door, Uncle Tong. The Master is here.”
My vein popped in my forehead, hastily trying to find a place to hide Xiao Huang in. That voice just now clearly belonged to Tian Bing Qing.
Xiao Huang stared at me oddly, “Don’t tell me the regent…..”
I glared at him, “I told you to leave earlier! The one coming is the emperor of the Great Qi!”
He looked at me thoughtfully. I hid the money away , “You stay here and do not go out….. Do not ever go out!” After thinking for a moment, Feng Zhao Wen was suspicious in nature. What if he knew I was hiding a man in my house and ordered his people to check every room? “Actually, you should come with me and welcome him with us!”
As the gate was opened, Xiao Huang and I walked out of the room. I could see the emperor walking in while wearing a dark royal blue brocade robe that was decorated with the pattern of a dragon and a tiger. Tian Bing Qing carefully followed him.
Feng Zhao Wen seemed really happy to see me. He beckoned me over, “Come here, Xiao Yi. You are about to receive a really good thing.”
I had no doubt that it’d be good, whatever it would be. All the items that he had were extraordinary. Thinking about the money problem that was plaguing me, I happily made my way to him. He gave me a piece of paper and I quickly realized that it was not money. I immediately lost interest in whatever it was, “It is just a piece of paper, not even worth anything.”
He laughed at me and encouraged me to open it, “Look at what is written on it.”
I opened it and in the end, had to read it more than once. This piece of paper was actually a Xuan paper and it was basically the draft of an edict. The draft said, I was virtuous and gentle, worthy of being a role model to women out there. I was more than suitable to sit at the very center of the harem. It was basically the draft of an edict to appoint me as the empress.
(TN: Xuan paper is actually one of the best papers out there. It is produced in the County of Jing, under the jurisdiction of Xuanzhou.)
He winked at me, as though saying, ‘You and I both know just how different you really are from that description. I am just trying to fool those ministers.’ He slowly walked and signaled me to walk along with him, “Let’s come up with the specific date together. There is no need to rush….. Anyway, zhen heard you brought back a man to your house.” I glanced at Xiao Huang who was standing a distance away, from the corner of my eyes.
If he was a regular commoner, he would have stepped forward to greet Feng Zhao Wen even though he didn’t know his identity. But Xiao Huang was used to people stepping forward and kneeling in front of him, so he was particularly ignorant to things like this.
I beckoned him to come over, “An Er, come here and greet him!”
Xiao Huang obediently stepped forward and greeted Feng Zhao Wen. I laughed while pointing at him, “You know how old Uncle Tong is. He needs people to take care of him. I bought this little servant from the streets to take care of Uncle Tong.”
Uncle Tong sighed in front of Feng Zhao Wen, “I don’t know who is taking care of who…”
Cold sweat was about to form on my forehead; he seemed to consider me a thorn in his eyes the more he looked at me. He kept on trying to find ways to push me out of the manor…. Were all fathers like that towards their daughters?
Feng Zhao Wen swept his eyes over me and Xiao Huang, “I heard a different version of the story though. I heard you mistakenly injured this young man. Then, you brought him back to destroy the corpse. Only when everyone collectively persuaded you, did you finally decide to let him live…”
What kind of version was that?
I searched for E Huang’s silhouette in the courtyard….. I really could not keep that girl anymore!
E Huang hid herself behind those tall personal maids and squeaked out another report from where she was at, “I heard Miss and the young man talking in Uncle Tong’s room just now. Had Your Majesty not come…..”
She was the most annoying little spy I had ever encountered.
His Majesty was wise and smart, he turned to Tian Bing Qing, saying, “Bring this kid to the palace today. Castrate him and wait for the wound to heal first before sending him back here to serve Uncle Tong.”
“N-No, Your Majesty!” I grabbed Feng Zhao Wen’s sleeve, secretly scolding him in my heart: You already stole the guy’s land, and now you want to steal his manhood. You are too poisonous.
His Majesty smiled at me as he held my hand. He rubbed it and pinched it before asking me with a warm face, “Tell me, why are you unwilling to send An Er to the palace to get castrated?”
I raised my neck as my face reddened. He purposely rubbed and touched my hand in front of everyone, especially in front of Xiao Huang. Even with my thick face, I felt embarrassed. I whispered to him in protest, “An Er is my family’s servant. He still needs to get married and have children in the future!”
“What does him marrying and having children have anything to do with you?” His Majesty remained calm while pressing me with his questions, looking like he was enjoying the way I blushed.
“Once he has wife and children in the future, they will all be the citizens of the Great Qi. They will have to pay tax and contributes to our kingdom’s treasury. I am only thinking for Your Majesty!”
Xiao Huang was still standing in his spot. His Majesty gave him a few more glances before whispering to my ears, “I think this kid’s background is very suspicious. If you continue protecting him, people would think you two are old acquaintances.”
Half of my body was already in his embrace. I froze, cold sweats forming on my back. From his shoulders, I could see Xiao Huang biting his lips from where he stood. Veins seemed to have popped on his forehead……
Was he upset?