Forget about it, the Emperor has so many other things to worry about all day long, who’s going to remember a poor, shabby little constable?
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The next day You Mengzhe slept until the sun had already risen three poles high.
The food and everything of use here in the manor were incomparably tasteful and of the highest quality. For breakfast he had quail congee: the quail had been torn into fine shreds, and when mixed with the porridge, the meat melted in his mouth, delicious yet not at all greasy. He did not know the names of most of the sixteen small dishes, but surely they were all the absolute highest-grade delicacies in the capital. He could only recognize the tea, which was Yuheng Mountain’s Maojian.
“You even have this tea,” You Mengzhe remarked.
The maidservant smiled. “This was part of Master’s tea collection. Uncle Zhang thought that Young Master must miss home, so we steeped a pot for you.”
Ever since the Demon Cult had occupied Yuheng Mountain, people could barely harvest any Maojian, and since the current emperor didn’t have a preference for tea, the sales of Yuheng Mountain’s Maojian had cut off. But even more impressively, Zhang Yuanshan’s fine tea had come from the absolute highest quality tea shoots.
“Were these all made from the kitchen here?” You Mengzhe added, “It tastes delicious.”
"Some were made here, and some were ordered from the capital. What’s truly delicious is our Master’s cooking."
After You Mengzhe finished breakfast, a servant boy tried to follow him, but You Mengzhe shot him a brisk “No need.”
The steward knew that You Mengzhe planned to go out, so he ordered servants to prepare a palanquin. You Mengzhe thought about it for a moment, then decided he might as well take the palanquin. In the sixteen years he had lived on the mountain, he had never sat in a palanquin before, and it looked pretty grand.
Hence, beating gongs cleared the way in the front, while servant guards brought up the rear, as You Mengzhe travelled majestically down the road, northeast towards the capital’s twenty-second alley to Yu Changqing’s yamen.
"That was pretty quick,” You Mengzhe remarked after getting off the palanquin.
All the servants thought to themselves: in a palanquin with eight carriers that also bore the ‘Zhang’ family name, even the six ministers and grand secretariat would need to make way for them. How could it not be quick?
Oblivious to all this, You Mengzhe gestured at them. "You can go back now."
The head servant responded deferentially, "Uncle Zhang asked us to stay here to await the Young Master’s orders.”
You Mengzhe waved him off. "No need, my friend will accompany me later."
The servant looked inside the yamen and asked, "Young Master, forgive me for rudely speaking out of turn, but I wanted to ask who is Young Master here to find?"
"Yu Changqing, is he well-known in the capital?"
At once the servant understood. He signaled for everyone to go back, bowed, and took his leave.
You Mengzhe still didn't quite understand why no one was guarding outside the yamen, or why it seemed so deserted inside.
"Brother Yu!" he called out.
Wasn’t this a yamen? Why didn’t they even have someone to notify them of visitors?
He shouted again, "Is Big Brother Yu there?!"
Someone rushed out from inside, laughing heartily—Yu Changqing.
You Mengzhe punched him and grinned. "I came to find you."
"You have internal force now?!” Yu Changqing had felt the ripples of his inner qi in an instant.
"I got myself a Shifu… and absorbed… learned a little. How have you been lately?”
They had finally reunited after a long period of separation. Although they had only known each other for less than a fortnight last year, after catching a thief and running for their lives together, they had indeed shared a kind of life and death experience. A sense of intimacy arose from the bottom of You Mengzhe's heart.
"My little brother is here," Yu Changqing turned back and called out, "I'll take my leave today. Brothers, please excuse me."
Someone responded from inside, and when Yu Changqing saw You Mengzhe carrying a rod on his back, he smiled. "Ohh, you’re even training with weapons now? Let’s find a place to show me your moves.”
With an arm around his shoulder, Yu Changqing brought You Mengzhe out of the yamen, and they updated each other on what had happened since they had last said goodbye. After Yu Changqing had returned, he had handed over the Emperor’s jade seal, and the reigning Emperor had summoned him to the palace hall and had indeed commended him. However, since the theft of the Emperor’s seal absolutely could not be publicized, the Emperor Li Yi didn’t really reward him with anything and had just treated him to a meal.
You Mengzhe frowned and asked, "Not even a single coin?”
Yu Changqing smiled, waved his hand, and said, "His Majesty has his own reasoning."
The two of them walked and talked along the street, and You Mengzhe couldn’t help but exclaim, "Isn’t this cheating people a little too much?! Not even a single coin? Making people run all that way for no reason..."
Seeing that You Mengzhe didn’t seem to understand the ways of the world, Yu Changqing decided he might as well just tell him the whole story and explain it all clearly.
Just now You Mengzhe had visited the capital’s yamen. This yamen was originally in charge of cases inside and outside of the capital involving theft, civil disputes, homicides, and so on. One hundred years ago, the Great Yu’s Emperor established an organization called the Bureau of Internal Affairs to take care of matters and disputes among the Imperial Court’s ministers. Sentences and criminal cases were then handed over to the Ministry of Justice and the Imperial Court of Judicious Review, so after that, the capital’s yamen was just left with the job of catching small fry thieves in the outer city.
But above the capital’s yamen was also the Sili yamen, which was in charge of all the cases in Sili outside of the capital. There were many cases inside and outside the capital, and mixed with the reports hailing from Sili, they were all presented to the Sili yamen. Thus as time passed, the capital’s yamen became an official post with barely any responsibilities.
From time to time people would come to the gate to file a complaint, all the officers would cut corners, constables wouldn’t investigate their cases, no one would read the clerical documents, and everyone would waste away the time by idling around.
When Yu Changqing was young, he had apprenticed under the capital’s number one constable, learning the Liuhe Qingping Sword technique and Qinggong from him. Eventually the old constable retired, and for the past many years, the capital had enjoyed peace and stability, there were far fewer thieves, and the Sili yamen and the Ministry of Justice handled most matters of the court. Hence, the capital’s yamen had practically become defunct. The old constable had retired several years ago, and Yu Changqing, unable to realize his potential, had been benched and overlooked in the capital’s yamen.
This time the case of the stolen Emperor’s Seal had left the imperial court frantically rushing about like headless flies, and no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t find the thief. At last they had no choice but to request help from the capital’s number one constable from ages past. The old constable had recommended his own disciple, Yu Changqing, to investigate the case, promising that he would return the jade seal within half a year. Yu Changqing had traversed thousands of miles, first to Xichuan, then pursuing to Jiangzhou, before the opportunity finally came to prove himself.
According to Yu Changqing's words, since he had recovered the Emperor’s Jade Seal and the Emperor had seen him, even though His Majesty hadn’t publicly rewarded him or granted his family an official title, His Majesty would certainly remember him, and there would be other opportunities in time.
You Mengzhe smiled. "Yes, that's exactly it. Who knows, he might even promote you in the future.”
Forget about it, the Emperor has so many other things to worry about all day long, who’s going to remember a poor, shabby little constable?
Seeing Yu Changqing like this was a little depressing, but even though he had lived so pitifully all his life, his eyes were still bright and clear, with the confidence and spirit of a martial artist who had never been mired in the dirt.
"Where are you staying, Mengzhe?" asked Yu Changqing.
They both bought roasted chestnuts on the street to snack on, then You Mengzhe answered, "I’m staying at my Martial Uncle’s home. He hasn’t come back yet.”
“Then that’s good, I was originally going to invite you to stay at my home…”
“Let’s go visit your place then. Will I get to meet Sister-in-law?”
Yu Changqing hesitated for a moment, then thought about it for a while, before saying, "As long as you’re okay with it."
"How could I not be okay with it?" You Mengzhe asked with a smile.
Although Yu Changqing didn’t occupy a high official post, he enjoyed great popularity in the capital. He took You Mengzhe everywhere, winding in and out of the myriad streets and alleys, and compared to the main market on West Street, this place had its own flavor. The capital was well-designed, and past Wuliu’er Street were all private homes, which looked different from Zhang Yuanshan’s residence. There were also homes both large and small in the alley behind the stone bridge, with many peach blossom trees planted in their courtyards, the light pink petals drifting in the wind, drifting out from over the walls.
Yu Changqing purchased half a catty of the capital’s famous ‘Drunken Flower Shade’ wine, while You Mengzhe looked curiously at sugar-blown figurines spread out on the stand.
Yu Changqing smiled and said, "I also liked to eat these when I was young.”
You Mengzhe bought a sugar figurine in the shape of an opera warrior, brought it to his mouth, and blew on it loudly.
Then he asked casually, “Brother Yu, what will you do if the Emperor doesn’t promote you?”
Yu Changqing was quiet for a while, so You Mengzhe continued, "I consider your business my own. If you don’t want to hear it, pretend I didn’t say anything.”
Yu Changqing grinned. “Big brother understands. Ai, what’s there to be done? What could I possibly do?”
“Didn’t you tell me before that there was some martial arts competition in the capital?”
Yu Changqing chuckled. “You still remember?"
"Your martial skill is pretty good, so why don't you go compete?"
"I did have that thought. The selection happens once every three years; it’s different from the imperial examination, they always stagger the years,” answered Yu Changqing.
Thrilled, You Mengzhe asked, "When is it?"
"Exactly the third month of this year."
You Mengzhe nodded slowly, and Yu Changqing asked, "Why? Do you want to compete too?"
You Mengzhe waved him off. "Nah, I’m not interested..." As he said this he thought of Zhao Feihong. His martial prowess was unsurpassed, and without even trying, he could easily place first.
Yu Changqing continued, "You like the capital’s lively atmosphere and want to settle down here, am I right?”
"En..." You Mengzhe answered, "Actually yes, a little bit."
"We’re here," Yu Changqing said with a smile.
Yu Changqing’s house wasn’t big, but it also wasn’t shabby. Out of all the houses in Wuhua’er Alley, it could be considered imposing. You Mengzhe followed him in.
There were no servants inside the house, and the courtyard had quite a few blossoming peach trees. The central building had six rooms, and it had two main chambers. An old servant was currently tending to the garden in the courtyard.
You Mengzhe asked, “Where’s your mother? Where’s Sister-in-law?”
"She went to my uncle's house for the New Year. And my wife...er, come, let's drink first."
Yu Changqing instructed the old servant to heat the water and wine, as well as prepare the food. You Mengzhe circled around the courtyard, looking left then right, when Yu Changqing called out, "Mengzhe, come and eat."
"Oh," You Mengzhe squinted and remarked, "The layout here is actually pretty nice. Ah, there’s even a small windmill…”
"Come, let’s drink," said Yu Changqing.
You Mengzhe came back and sat down, and the two men drank underneath the blossoming peach tree.
Yu Changqing said, "To be honest, I’ve already……you know."
"I know what?" asked You Mengzhe.
Yu Changqing smiled and said, "Just, you know," before laughing it off.
You Mengzhe was extremely confused, and Yu Changqing changed the subject. "I sleep in the east chamber. If you don’t want to go back tonight, we brothers can stay there together. Where is your Martial Uncle’s home? I can call someone to notify them later…”
“Sure.” In any case, Zhang Yuanshan wasn’t home, so he would just be bored if he went back. Even if Zhang Yuanshan did return, dealing with a mute wouldn’t be that much better, so he might as well just stay at Yu Changqing’s home and have some fun. After thinking about it more, he asked, “Would I be troubling Sister-in-law?”
After following Zhao Feihong for several months, You Mengzhe had learned some etiquette.
Yu Changqing smiled. "Not at all."
You Mengzhe nodded. "Good then," but as he said this he felt a little curious, so asked again, “Do you know the Zhang family living in the city?"
Surprised, Yu Changqing asked, "You know them too? Is it Zhang Yuanshan?"
“You know him?” Yu Changqing asked again.
“En… I know him, but he doesn’t know me.”
Yu Changqing grinned, then suddenly remembered something. "You went to the Wulin Alliance Assembly at Mirror Lake, right? I heard that Zhang Yuanshan’s sworn brother Zhao Feihong is currently gathering martial artists to deal with your..."
Without elaborating further, You Mengzhe continued, "Ai, that’s exactly it, is Zhang Yuanshan super rich?
Yu Changqing nodded and replied, "Rich and powerful. Shouldn’t you notify Uncle You to lay low for now?”
You Mengzhe thought for a while, then replied, "First I want to know how cocky Zhang Yuanshan is."
"He isn’t cocky, Zhang Yuanshan... The Zhang family was originally a great clan from Xichuan that disappeared three hundred years ago. Later they gradually rose back to prominence from a side branch, I heard. But ten or so years ago, rumors flew that Zhang Yuanshan was not actually the Zhang family’s son."
"Then who is he?"
Yu Changqing lowered his voice and simply said, "The Mute Hero Zhang Yuanshan is said to be the reigning Emperor’s younger brother, the Great Yu’s seventh prince."
You Mengzhe: "!!!"
Yu Changqing continued, "Rumors have been saying that from the start. Afterwards, Zhang Yuanshan went to the capital to seek an audience with the Emperor, and His Majesty bestowed him with a large manor. Thus he moved everything from Xichuan to the capital."
You Mengzhe nodded and asked, "He wasn’t granted an official title?"
"He was conferred the Grand Tutor of the Crown Prince, but he never enters the East Palace or teaches the prince. He just stays at home every day, and I heard that the Emperor occasionally summons him to the palace to chat. All of the officials of the Six Ministries and the Grand Secretariat have to yield to him. The tablet hung over Yanhe Hall and the “Long Life” character for the Empress Dowager’s birthday were all written by him."
You Mengzhe’s brow wrinkled as he asked, "Where did he get all his money from?"
Yu Changqing chuckled. "He probably brought it from Xichuan, I wouldn’t know. With such a great clan, solely their ancestors’ savings would be enough to support dozens of generations. You must not know that back when the Sun family was raided, the silver taels were counted by the millions.”
"Then since he’s the Seventh Prince, how can he belong to the Zhang family?"
Yu Changqing said casually, "The former Emperor liked to travel the lands, and Elder Zhang from Xichuan bore no sons. Whether there were any unspeakable affairs we would never know for sure. I don’t dare to speculate on these matters, it’s just what I’ve heard.”
You Mengzhe thought for a while. If the previous Emperor had visited the Zhang family in his youth, slept with someone else’s wife, and couldn’t figure out who the child belonged to, then that would make sense.
“But doesn't His Majesty have any brothers?" You Mengzhe continued, "Why does he treat him so well?"
Yu Changqing replied, "His Majesty does have other brothers, but something happened in the palace ten years ago. Several princes died or went mad, and the remaining princes don’t dare to get too close.”
You Mengzhe nodded, only half-understanding.
Yu Changqing leaned into You Mengzhe’s ear and whispered, “Whatever you do, you must not speak of this outside, otherwise not even my head would be enough to compensate for you…”
You Mengzhe chuckled and pinched his ears. "Of course not, who do you think I am…?"
As they spoke, the two of them seemed undeniably intimate, and with You Mengzhe's rosy lips and dazzling smile, and Yu Changqing’s radiant, handsome charm, they looked simply like a match made in heaven.
"Hey, Yu-daren!" A man's voice sounded. A group of people had arrived outside.
You Mengzhe: "......"
Yu Changqing responded right away, "Big Brother will go out for a bit, you... don't come out."
You Mengzhe’s brow wrinkled slightly, and he crawled on top of the wall to take a look. It turned out to be a creditor who had come to the gate.
Yu Changqing hurriedly said, "Extend the date just a few more days. I will pay you back after I receive my official salary for the month."
"How many times have you said that?!" the man clamored, "I’ve yet to settle my little sister’s affairs with you, where did you send her off to?!"
Yu Changqing didn’t know what else he could say or do. You Mengzhe wanted to speak out and help Yu Changqing pay back the money, but then he had a feeling that this group most likely had other business with Yu Changqing, so decided to ask about the manner clearly before offering.
Yu Changqing reasoned with them all the way to the bridge on the street, where shouting and quarrelling sounded in the distance. The neighbors seemed like they were all used to this, not finding it strange at all. Yu Changqing reasoned with them for almost half a shichen, when You Mengzhe finally couldn’t stand it anymore and walked out.
“How much money does he owe you?” he asked them.
“He owes us a person!” a man shouted loudly, "Want to hear his dirty scandal?”
Yu Changqing paled at once, then took a deep breath. The rims of his eyes reddened, and the hand on his sword couldn’t help but tremble.
He wants to kill someone? No way.
I MISSSSSSSSSSS CONSTABLE HE IS BAAACKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!
as a reminder constable was actually the first gong YMZ met when he ran away from home in Chapter 1! They haven’t done it yet hehe. But they will. Next.
also, ch 20 was the longest chapter so far (21 pages in my google docs lol) so I had to separate it, but part 2 (SMUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT) will come soon. I just need to meet some deadlines.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Ruini.