Always support our Chicken Lord by buying the original work whenever you can! Link for each platform's guide to purchase the raws can be seen on our FAQs.
"Yu Changqing! Get out here!"
You Mengzhe abruptly opened his eyes as Yu Changqing immediately sat up, put on his clothes, and got out of bed.
Still completely naked, You Mengzhe asked, "They’re here again?"
"Don't come out. No matter what happens, don’t come out," emphasized Yu Changqing.
"The debt collector again?"
"It's alright, just go back to sleep. Don’t worry about it."
Yu Changqing swiftly put on his clothes, as people outside began cursing and shouting abuse in the street. He quickly tied his robe, fastened his belt, and bent over to pull on his boots. You Mengzhe felt a bit like they were two sneaky dogs who had just been caught in the act. Yu Changqing emerged without even fastening his sword, then turned back and reached inside through the window to bolt the latch and shut it from outside.
You Mengzhe had already woken up and couldn’t go back to sleep. He stretched and got up to drink water, then hugged his knees on the bed for a while, before putting on clothes and getting out of bed.
Yu Changqing’s home wasn’t as nice as the Zhang Manor. There were no servants waiting upon him, nor even a cup of hot morning tea for him when he woke up. He yawned as he got dressed and leisurely ambled out of the room to see a crowd of people blocking the Yu residence’s main gate.
There were men and women, maidservants and manservants, and even quite a few scholars wearing dark-blue robes who all looked of great repute. They were all here to take advantage of Yu Changqing's powerlessness and his withholding of the truth, to force him to admit his wrongdoings and cover up their own family’s scandal. The two servants were still at the tea shop across the street, watching the excitement go down with cheeky grins on their faces.
An elderly man spoke calmly and rationally, "How about this, sooner or later you would have to give us an explanation. Why don’t we go inside and discuss?” Saying this, the swarm of people looked about ready to force their way into Yu Changqing’s home to “reason” with him.
They called it “reasoning”, but it was actually just threatening and intimidating him. With all these people bearing down menacingly, what space was there for “reason”?
Yu Changqing stood in front of the gate and said, "I will explain this matter to Elder Zhen eventually. Please give me another few days, and I will personally pay a visit to explain everything clearly.”
As soon as You Mengzhe came out, a maid exclaimed at once, “Fifth Lord! Yesterday, Jingui and the others saw him too, exactly this boy! They definitely conspired together to strangle our young lady to death!"
As soon as You Mengzhe appeared and the maid cried out, the people from the Zhen family swarmed up, ready to attack.
"Hey, what are you doing! I know martial arts!" You Mengzhe called out.
In an instant the scene descended into chaos, and Yu Changqing immediately flew into a rage, flicking his sleeves as he roared, "Who dares to touch him! I hereby promise, if anyone dares touch a single hair on his body, don’t even think about leaving here today!"
"Hey, hey, what are you doing?!" The voices of the two servants across the street rang loudly, their facial expressions extremely aggressive, overshadowing the Zhen servants’ clamoring in an instant.
You Mengzhe saw them at the perfect time and hurriedly called out to them, “Go back and bring back brothers to fight! They brought great numbers to bully the few, how absurd!"
"These are your Martial Uncle’s people?” Yu Changqing asked.
The two servants eyed Yu Changqing, and the one named Zhujing shot a meaningful glance at the other, who immediately turned and led out his horse in front of the tea shop, swung atop of it, and went back to notify the manor.
Everyone noticed that although You Mengzhe was not dressed lavishly, his robes were made of rare and precious material, and the servant appeared neat and noble, so they could infer that You Mengzhe wasn’t an ordinary commoner. For a moment, no one dared to trouble him.
Yu Changqing told You Mengzhe, "Go back with them. When this matter is resolved, I will find you."
As he spoke, someone from the Zhen family said in a tone dripping with sarcasm, "I'm afraid this matter can’t be resolved. Constable Yu, my little sister has rightfully married into your Yu family by the three letters and six etiquettes. It’s fine if you keep a boy in your bedroom, but you colluded with this rabbit to get rid of my little sister…”
“Who do you think you’re talking about?” Before the man could finish his words, the servant brazenly shouted, “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking about?! Say it one more time!"
This incensed the crowd, which burst into curses and shouts of abuse. Seeing that You Mengzhe did not stop him, the servant felt emboldened and continued, "Granddaddy recognizes you, aren’t you that surnamed Zhen working in the Ministry of War? Didn’t you, a lowly, vulgar scum raised by a worthless family, go out whoring with the Assistant Minister of Justice Wang’s son, get cheated by one of the many prostitutes, and even begged our Uncle Yuan to say some good words to Assistant Minister Wang? Now that your dog legs have grown, you’re out on the streets putting on airs trying to blacken people’s names?”
In a split second, Zhen Yang’s face turned blue, and even Yu Changqing didn’t expect the servant attending to You Mengzhe to be so unbridled.
“Mengzhe, your Martial Uncle’s family is…?” questioned Yu Changqing.
"Ai, it's nothing, it's just that guy surnamed Zhang living on Iron Hat Street," You Mengzhe replied.
The servant said, "It’s precisely that man surnamed Zhang! Open your dog eyes and take a good look, whose waist tablet does this belong to? This is Grand Tutor Zhang’s Martial Nephew, Young Master You. Even the Crown Prince would have to call him Martial Brother when he meets him! The Crown Prince’s Martial Brother! Do you understand now, you dog shit? What about you? Still dissatisfied? What’s wrong with my family’s Young Master finding Lord Yu for a chat? Not to mention, your family even came looking for a fight at his door! I’m specifically beating that dog mouth of yours!”
As he said this, the servant stepped forward, his left hand holding the waist tablet as his right hand gave Zhen Yang a sound slap across the face—PA!
That one loud slap made his cheek begin to swell and the corner of his lips bleed. The servant knew martial arts, so one slap was all it took to make Zhen Yang’s face swell intensely. The people of the Zhen family had all lost their nerve, and many of the scholars who had come to help, wanted to sneak away when they saw the situation take a turn for the worse.
Ecstatic, You Mengzhe asked the servant, "Can I hit him too?"
The servant responded deferentially, "Young Master may hit as he wishes, our Song’er has already gone back to notify Uncle Zhang. Later when the Minister of War arrives, we’ll have plenty of time after you’re done beating him to settle the situation.”
“I'll hit you, you..." You Mengzhe’s sleeves swung back as he charged toward Zhen Yang with his sleeves.
"Stop, stop, stop!" Yu Changqing’s mind was in a daze as he rushed to hold back You Mengzhe. “Forget it, let Big Brother take care of it."
The Zhen family’s people looked like they wanted to run but didn't dare to, and the servant challenged them again, "Run! Why don't you run now, then later I’ll see you at the Imperial Court of Judicial Review!"
"This..." Yu Changqing voiced. The crowd was solemnly quiet, and quite a few people from the neighborhood came out to watch the excitement, all of them pointing and talking quietly amongst themselves.
After a brief moment, Yu Changqing said, “I have already given you Yuyin’s divorce letter. She truly left of her own accord.”
Zhen Yang finally came to his senses and quickly acquiesced, “Yes, yes, yes, it’s our family’s fault. You… Lord Yu, this matter is difficult to resolve.”
You Mengzhe said to Yu Changqing, "You should also write a divorce letter and divorce her."
Yu Changqing chuckled. "Let’s not talk about the matter of who divorced who, you should go back now. Here’s a bit of silver, and in the future we can call it…” Before he could finish, they heard gongs beating in the street, and everyone turned their gazes towards Yulan Bridge to see a formation of people clearing the way, and sixteen bearers carrying a massive palanquin approaching majestically, led by servant guards holding a name tablet inscribed “Zhang”.
“How did they get here so quickly?” asked You Mengzhe.
The servant who had left to send word spurred his horse over and informed him, “Master returned to the capital this morning. When he heard that Young Master was out visiting a friend at Wu Hua’er Street, he didn’t rest and immediately asked us to prepare the palanquin to come here.”
The Zhen family had but just a minor official in the Ministry of Defense, and when they saw such a change in the situation, their legs went weak from the shock.
The servant added, "When Uncle Yuan caught wind of this matter, he stopped at the Ministry of War along the way. In a little while, the Minister of War will arrive as well."
Zhen Yang immediately plopped onto the ground, kneeling down on both knees under You Mengzhe, and hurriedly kowtowed. "Master You, great men have great mercy, this small one was blind and offended the Young Master. I beg Young Master to please…”
You Mengzhe shot a glance at Yu Changqing, and Yu Changqing said, "Why go to this extent? Get up, get up. Mengzhe, this matter was mine to begin with, so I shall handle it..."
You Mengzhe also thought that the situation had been blown a little out of proportion. Deciding not to make too much of a fuss, he said casually, “Right, right. In fact, I also have a certain responsibility..."
As he said this, he shot Yu Changqing a mischievous look, and Yu Changqing’s handsome face blushed imperceptibly. Then Yu Changqing cleared his throat, cupped his hands and said a few customary words to the crowd.
The palanquin stopped at the end of the bridge. You Mengzhe turned, gazing into the distance, and saw Uncle Zhang approach the palanquin and open the curtain. He nodded repeatedly, and seemed to receive an order.
“Sir Yu,” Uncle Zhang came over and cupped his hands toward Yu Changqing. “Our Young Master has caused you trouble.”
Not knowing this steward’s standing, Yu Changqing returned the greeting, neither authoritatively nor humbly, and smiled. “Not at all.”
You Mengzhe scratched his head as Uncle Zhang replied, “Why don’t you take the palanquin first? Let this lowly one take care of the rest?"
You Mengzhe hurriedly said, "Forget it, let them all go back. Leave quickly and don’t come back.” The entirety of the Zhen family had been frightened so terribly that they all scurried off.
Uncle Zhang nodded. From beginning to end, he hadn’t gotten a good look at that group of people, and spoke to You Mengzhe again, “Master has returned, and wants to invite Young Master back to the manor to speak.”
"Oh, then... let's go." Zhang Yuanshan was but a mute, so whatever could they talk about?
Uncle Zhang smiled at Yu Changqing again and said, "Forgive me, let’s all get together another day."
Yu Changqing smiled. "No harm done, when I am free I will personally pay you a visit. Mengzhe, go back and listen to your Martial Uncle. In a few days, let’s get together when you’re free.”
“Uh huh,” You Mengzhe winked, then followed after Uncle Zhang.
Uncle Zhang swept open the palanquin curtain and a young servant laid out a step stool on the ground. You Mengzhe stood nervously outside the palanquin, and uttered the words, “Martial Uncle.” Apart from the single glimpse they had shared at Mirror Lake, this was their first time properly meeting each other. You Mengzhe didn’t know whether to bow or kowtow.
Uncle Zhang whispered, "Young Master, please enter the palanquin. Master does not like formality.”
"Oh." You Mengzhe nodded, then waved goodbye to Yu Changqing before getting into the palanquin.
The bearers lifted the lofty sedan and turned back towards the manor. Uncle Zhang lowered the curtain, slightly dimming the light from outside. The space inside the palanquin was spacious, and You Mengzhe bent down to take a seat at the side, before facing Zhang Yuanshan. He couldn’t help but feel deeply stirred.
He hadn’t seen him carefully during that first, fleeting glimpse several months ago, but now that they were sharing the same palanquin, he got a good look at that mute’s appearance.
Zhang Yuanshan wore black martial boots, deep-blue robes with gold-stitched eagles, fastened with a white jade waist belt, on which hung an ancient jade pendant. He had a tall, upright, and lean physique, with broad shoulders, long arms, and distinct knuckles, wearing a jade thumb ring on his left thumb and two amber, tortoise-shell rings on his right fingers. Zhang Yuanshan’s face was slim, his nose bridge tall and defined, his skin color a shade deeper than Zhao Feihong’s, his eyebrows as deep as ink, and vital qi brimmed within the fathomless depths of his eyes, belying his outstanding martial might. There was a bit of dark blue in his pupils, as if he was of Dongyi blood. Sure enough, “the clothes make the man, while gold makes the Buddha.”
All Zhang Yuanshan did was sit quietly in the palanquin, yet he emitted an awe-inspiring grandeur. You Mengzhe again saw the judgment brush hooked on his waist, and remembering his inherited expertise in acupressure, he hurriedly voiced, “Hello, Martial Uncle.”
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, gazing at You Mengzhe with an imperceptible frown. Hazy light shone through the palanquin’s window veiled by embroidered flower cloth, casting a shade of soft and gentle light upon his eyes and brows.
You Mengzhe couldn’t take his eyes off of him, thinking to himself how striking he was. To call him handsome… of course, it couldn’t compare to Zhao Feihong’s masculine charm, or Yu Changqing’s tender warmth, or Yuwen Hong's radiant vigor, and even Sun Bin's roguishness stood out more in comparison. He didn’t know why, but Zhang Yuanshan's gloomy expression, sword-shaped brows, and blue-black eyes seemed to contain words unspoken underneath the surface...
"My name is You Mengzhe." You Mengzhe spoke up again and recalled that this man had also known his mother.
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, removed the tortoiseshell ring from his right ring finger and gave it to him, motioning him to put it on.
"For me?" asked You Mengzhe.
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, and You Mengzhe recalled Zhao Feihong's orders—Should he kowtow?
Just as he was about to get up, Zhang Yuanshan seemed to know what he wanted to do, pressed one hand on his shoulder, and motioned for him to sit back down; no need to stand on ceremony.
You Mengzhe also nodded, trying to find something to talk about, but he just couldn’t think of a topic of conversation. Then Zhang Yuanshan made a gesture with both hands, which left a clueless expression on You Mengzhe’s face. He totally could not make it out.
Zhang Yuanshan didn't gesture any further, and You Mengzhe scooted over to the side of the palanquin and pulled open the curtains to gaze out at the city scenery outside, the tortoiseshell ring reflecting the sunlight.
"Martial Uncle.” When he turned, he noticed that Zhang Yuanshan had been looking at him all this time, so he smiled and asked, "Are you thinking about my mother?"
Zhang Yuanshan nodded and made another gesture, which utterly confused You Mengzhe, who had no choice but to ignore it. Before long, they returned to the manor, with Uncle Zhang following the both of them on foot the whole way there.
You Mengzhe didn’t know what to do next, so he asked, "So do I... go back to my room?"
Zhang Yuanshan waved his hand no and motioned at You Mengzhe to follow him. He signed again, the same gesture he made to You Mengzhe in the palanquin.
Uncle Zhang understood, and communicated with a smile, "Master said, the two words ‘Martial Uncle’ are too impersonal. You can just call the Master, ‘Uncle’.”
You Mengzhe nodded, thinking to himself that he already had a maternal uncle, so he would just have to call him his paternal ‘Uncle’. Zhang Yuanshan led You Mengzhe into the main hall, where the servants arranged a table of tea and light snacks. You Mengzhe's stomach was growling with hunger, and Zhang Yuanshan made another gesture. This time You Mengzhe understood—he wanted him to eat slowly. Zhang Yuanshan only took a sip of tea and nothing else, watching quietly as You Mengzhe shoveled food into his mouth left and right with a silver spoon in each hand, scooping the sweet fermented shrimp into his mouth like a powerful windmill.
A short while later, breakfast was served: congee with jade-like sponge gourd, dove legs roasted to golden perfection, freshwater shrimp and fish of all colors on a plate, and freshly pickled lotus root mixed with diced chicken. To his astonishment, You Mengzhe found that even the breakfast served at the Zhang Manor wasn’t seasonal. He had no idea where they got this food from.
You Mengzhe solely focused on eating, as Zhang Yuanshan sat and watched him, and the steward Uncle Zhang stood to the side serving the dishes. After a short while, another person came, bowed and greeted them, then acknowledged You Mengzhe, who nodded in confusion, wondering who this person was. He and Uncle Zhang were dressed similarly, and he presented an account sheet to Zhang Yuanshan, reporting on all the capital’s social dealings, and stuff like so-and-so’s manor sent what Lantern Festival gifts, or such-and such rent was collected from which field of land.
Zhang Yuanshan listened quietly, then nodded, and the man took back the sheet and retreated. Then Zhang Yuanshan suddenly tapped on the table with his finger.
Uncle Zhang hurriedly said, "Master still has orders."
Zhang Yuanshan made a gesture, Uncle Zhang and the man nodded repeatedly, then Zhang Yuanshan thought for a while, before signaling that he could leave.
You Mengzhe shot a couple glances at that man’s retreating figure, while Uncle Zhang brought more food for You Mengzhe and said, "Young Master, that's Steward Yuan. We in the manor call him ‘Uncle Yuan’. He is in charge of affairs outside the manor, and this lowly one is in charge of affairs within the manor.”
"Oh." You Mengzhe remembered a servant boy had mentioned this before, and bobbed his head up and down. Again noticing that Zhang Yuanshan would only eat a bite and just sit there motionlessly, watching him eat, You Mengzhe asked, "Uncle, you’re not hungry?"
Zhang Yuanshan waved his hand. His hand looked very pleasing, with long, slender digits and slightly tan skin, without the slightest bit of a pampered young master’s effeminacy, but rather the robustness of a martial artist, tapering off with the soft curve of his fingertips. You Mengzhe suddenly remembered the feeling of holding Yuwen Hong's hand.
After breakfast, the servants boiled water and invited You Mengzhe to take a bath. Since You Mengzhe barely had a good sleep last night, he nearly dozed off in the wooden bath.
When he emerged, Uncle Zhang told him, "Master invites Young Master You to please go over."
After taking his bath, he felt relaxed and revitalized, pleasant from head to toe, with an ineffable brightness. Wearing a pair of wooden clogs, he walked through the corridor, past the West Chamber that he and Zhang Yuanshan had lived in before Zhang Yuanshan had returned to the manor. Now that Zhang Yuanshan had come back, the servants invited You Mengzhe into the East Chamber that he called home, where You Mengzhe’s eyes opened up to an enlightening expanse.
To his astonishment, there was a whole other sight to behold behind the East Chamber. Through the corridor and past the six halls and eighteen courtyards, they entered a garden in full, luxuriant bloom. A bamboo pavilion stood in the center of the pond, where babbling water flowed from an unknown source. Two palm-sized jade chimes hung from the eaves of the pavilion, with swallowtail butterflies shaped like bamboo leaves hanging from them, tinkling in the wind.
Zhang Yuanshan had changed his robes, and now wore a dark red robe which emphasized his upright, lean figure. Standing in the pavilion with his hands clasped behind his back and his black hair half-wet, he also wore a pair of wooden clogs, revealing his bare ankles. Indeed, only the saying, “jade tree facing the wind,” could describe this sight.
With a single glance, You Mengzhe was immediately enchanted, and couldn't help but feel inferior.
Zhang Yuanshan motioned for him to come over, so You Mengzhe entered the pavilion. The servants set up the charcoal stove and copper pot, stirred apart the tea brick, and steeped the tea for two. Zhang Yuanshan lifted his slender palm and made a gesture, and the young servants withdrew from the courtyard. The two people sat at the table, the sandalwood emitting a faint, natural scent, and smoke rose in spirals from the incense burner beside them.
"Uncle, do you want to chat?" asked You Mengzhe.
Zhang Yuanshan took out a brush and paper.
Great, we finally have a way to talk. He rushed to help him grind the ink as Zhang Yuanshan pondered for a moment, before picking up his brush and writing the words: As you wish, you don't need to worry about me.
You Mengzhe: "?"
Zhang Yuanshan placed his hand on the table, and You Mengzhe locked eyes with him. Then Zhang Yuanshan nodded after a moment, his eyes seemingly expectant.
You Mengzhe’s heart skipped, and he tentatively placed his hand on Zhang Yuanshan's palm, and Zhang Yuanshan took his fingers and clasped onto three of them.
You Mengzhe's heart jolted; Zhang Yuanshan's fingers were a bit cold, but they felt very nice to hold and gave him a sense of safety. Zhang Yuanshan used his left hand to flip over You Mengzhe’s wrist and with the other hand, pressed two fingers on You Mengzhe's pulse.
Right, he’s checking my pulse…
Zhang Yuanshan was absorbed in thought and didn’t look at You Mengzhe again, while You Mengzhe gazed at him tentatively. He felt that this man was seriously good-looking. That initial impression of gloom had vanished, which proved that impressions shouldn’t be taken at first glance. At this moment, Zhang Yuanshan had a bright and fresh aura, his fathomless eyes and brows knit in deep consternation. Unwittingly, You Mengzhe's heartbeat quickened.
"Are you going to disperse my cultivation?" You Mengzhe asked.
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, both of them unspeaking, as a gust of wind scattered fragments of magnolia sprouts over the bamboo pavilion.
"Will it hurt?"
Zhang Yuanshan shook his head.
"Will it be over in one go?"
Zhang Yuanshan waved his hand no.
"Will it take a really long time? Will it be tortuous?"
Zhang Yuanshan nodded first, then shook his head.
You Mengzhe relaxed; it was fine as long as he didn’t suffer. It’s just too bad he’d have to lose all of his cultivation. As he thought of this, his expression dimmed.
"Ai, Uncle." You Mengzhe squeezed his fingers, and Zhang Yuanshan looked up at him.
You Mengzhe had so much to say, and had held it in for so long that he was about to go insane. With no more patience for formality, he blurted out, “You’re not married? Isn’t it boring living in such a big place all alone?”
Zhang Yuanshan shook his head and nodded again.
You Mengzhe poured water into the teapot, and casually continued, “Uncle, let me pour you some tea. Do you know my dad? Before when I lived on the mountain, the place I lived in was just like yours… Ai, it was so boring… Shifu wants to go up the mountain to fight my father, do you think he can do it? You sponsored the Wulin Alliance Meeting and he led it, so how about this. What if everyone stopped fighting, wouldn’t that be great? No harm, no foul......Why can’t you all let my father go, he hasn’t done anything that abominable."
Zhang Yuanshan didn’t give him a response. He just watched You Mengzhe attentively with an expression that looked familiar, as if You Mengzhe had seen this exact expression in someone else’s eyes before.
You Mengzhe instantly understood quite a few things. They were all seeing someone else through him.
"You liked my mother too, didn't you?"
Zhang Yuanshan's brows wrinkled slightly. "Or you...like my father?"
Zhang Yuanshan: "......"
"Or do you... like my Shifu?"
Zhang Yuanshan: "......"
The two of them stared at each other for a long time before You Mengzhe chuckled and said, “I was just joking."
Zhang Yuanshan didn’t respond, acting as if nothing had happened.
You Mengzhe thought out loud again, "Do you know Yuwen Hong? He is my Little Uncle."
Zhang Yuanshan shook his head, then nodded again.
"You haven't met him? No wait, oh, I understand. You have seen him, but you don't know him. He followed after my mother. Do you know where my mother came from?"
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, and You Mengzhe continued, "Apparently some place near the East Sea..."
Zhang Yuanshan pressed on his pulse with his left hand, and took a brush with his right hand to write three words: Azure Sea Pavilion.
"Exactly, I heard Azure Sea Pavilion is pretty amazing, is it true?"
Zhang Yuanshan didn't answer, and fell into deep contemplation. After a long while, he took out a silver needle from a small wooden box, heated it in the flame, and aimed it at the crook of You Mengzhe's thumb.
"AAHH—!" You Mengzhe immediately screeched.
Zhang Yuanshan had not anticipated that You Mengzhe would react like this, and was caught completely off guard, even thinking that he had pricked the wrong acupoint. He rubbed his palm until he saw a bit of blood and heaved a sigh of relief. Then he reached out to pet You Mengzhe’s head.
You Mengzhe: "......"
Zhang Yuanshan indicated that it was all done.
"So I just keep it stuck in there like this?"
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, and You Mengzhe asked, "When can I take it out?"
Zhang Yuanshan did not answer, so You Mengzhe asked again, "Tomorrow? The day after tomorrow? Is it hard to say?"
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, and You Mengzhe had no choice but to leave the needle pierced in the crook of his hand. At least it didn’t hurt after the initial prick, but it felt awkward. He tried to poke at it, but Zhang Yuanshan quickly stopped him.
You Mengzhe took a deep breath and focused his vital qi, which was still unhindered, and channeled it towards the yang ming meridian in his hand. However, the connection was intercepted, and he immediately understood a bit of theory.
"Can I go now? Where should I go? Is there anything I should pay attention to?"
Zhang Yuanshan shook his head, which meant that there was nothing to pay attention to, and made another gesture setting him free to do as he wished.
You Mengzhe got up and lazily ambled away. The spring sun bathed him in a cozy light. Since You Mengzhe didn't know many people in the capital, he figured that it would be boring to wander around alone. After emerging from the corridor, he found a servant boy and asked, "Does Uncle go out for a stroll often?"
The servant boy didn’t seem to understand what You Mengzhe meant, so he bowed and replied, "Master rarely leaves the manor, except for errands."
You Mengzhe scratched his head and walked out to the front corridor, where he saw such a spacious garden that even had a red-crowned crane, tortoises, and brightly-colored pheasants. With nothing else to do, he circled around and came back to see Zhang Yuanshan still sitting in the pavilion.
Zhang Yuanshan looked just like a sculpture, utterly motionless.
You Mengzhe peered at him for a while, before calling over a maid and asking, "Does he usually sit in a daze like this?"
The maid whispered, "Yes."
You Mengzhe went back into the pavilion, and when Zhang Yuanshan saw that he had come back, his expression didn’t change. He glanced at the sundial in the courtyard, and You Mengzhe waved his hand hurriedly and said, "I’m still too full from breakfast, so I don’t want to eat lunch.”
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, and grabbed a teacup. You Mengzhe knew what Zhang Yuanshan meant: he didn’t want to eat either.
It was strange, You Mengzhe thought as his heart jolted; they had only known each for a day, so how could he understand him so well?
The tea leaves whirled within the cup’s pattern of clear skies and blue rains. You Mengzhe had seen this cup before; You Gutian also had one. It was an ancient artifact from the previous dynasty, and the firing process had long been lost to time. You Gutian only had one of them, and it was even missing a cover, but Zhang Yuanshan had several of these cups on this one table alone.
You Mengzhe didn't say anything, passing the time as the two of them faced each other and drank tea. The courtyard was extremely quiet, except for the tinkling of the jade chimes.
"Ai, Uncle." You Mengzhe broke the silence. In any case, his audience was a mute, so he didn’t have to worry about him spreading it to others. "I’ve always suspected that my father doesn’t like me." You Mengzhe explained, "The way he looks at me is different from the way you all look at me. It's almost like he’s a little disgusted… You know, from early on I felt like he was a bit, because he wouldn’t let me touch him. When you guys look at me, I can tell that both you and Shifu must have really liked my mother.”
Zhang Yuanshan listened quietly, and You Mengzhe continued, "Is it because my father hated my mother? I feel like Shifu treats me much better than my father, but that’s still my father. Shifu said that we must be filial, and those who are unfilial will receive heaven’s punishment. So I can’t say anything, do you understand? Uncle."
Zhang Yuanshan nodded. You Mengzhe leaned on the table, looked up at him and asked, “What about your father?”
Zhang Yuanshan naturally did not answer, so You Mengzhe asked, "Have you ever met him?"
Zhang Yuanshan shook his head, and You Mengzhe let out another sigh, before saying, "Shifu also didn’t say what he planned to do. When the time comes and he makes his way up the mountain, whether he hurts himself or my father, neither is good.”
Zhang Yuanshan reached out to hold You Mengzhe’s fingers. You Mengzhe thought he was going to take his pulse again, and flipped his wrist over. However, Zhang Yuanshan pressed his hand down onto the table, his warm, large palm covering his own. That’s when You Mengzhe understood; Zhang Yuanshan was comforting him.
"When I was a kid..." You Mengzhe began listlessly. But then he thought about it, and figured Zhang Yuanshan wouldn’t want to hear about this topic, so instead he asked, “What’s fun in the capital?”
Zhang Yuanshan made a sign, which You Mengzhe understood—he wanted him to continue what he was saying.
So, You Mengzhe rambled on, and Zhang Yuanshan seemed very interested, listening carefully. You Mengzhe started from the mountain, the martial arts scriptures in the Cangjing Pavilion, then Qinghua Hall, Jiguan House, and so on and so forth. He talked about his childhood, then talked about his journey and experiences leaving the mountain by himself. Zhang Yuanshan listened calmly the whole way through, and You Mengzhe asked, "I heard that you’re from Xichuan?"
Zhang Yuanshan hesitated slightly, and You Mengzhe understood what he meant. "Who did I hear it from?" So You Mengzhe answered, "Shifu told me. Is Xichuan fun? Why did you move to the capital?"
Zhang Yuanshan took a piece of paper, and with just a few strokes, an inky-black dragon leaped from the page.
"You came to find the Emperor?"
Zhang Yuanshan proceeded to blot it out so as not to let others talk, and did not speak, just gazing at You Mengzhe intently.
You Mengzhe suddenly realized. "Not completely."
Zhang Yuanshan smiled and nodded knowingly. Seeing him break into a handsome, charming smile, You Mengzhe couldn’t help but feel taken aback.
However, at that moment, two maids were carrying plates with snacks. As soon as they saw Zhang Yuanshan smile, they were instantly stunned, and they didn’t even notice when their dishes clattered all over the ground outside the pavilion. The pastries flew into the pond, where several koi fish scrambled for the remains and then scattered.
Zhang Yuanshan wrinkled his brows in annoyance at the servants who regularly served the dishes, and they hurriedly begged for forgiveness. With a free and easy wave of Zhang Yuanshan’s hand, the two maids quickly retreated.
You Mengzhe also didn't understand why; for some odd reason, in all his life, Zhang Yuanshan almost never smiled. He always wore a rigid, cold, and detached expression instead. When his subordinates saw this unfamiliar Master, it didn’t take long before the whole manor caught wind of it.
"Oh! This pond has fish?" You Mengzhe exclaimed.
Zhang Yuanshan nodded, indicating that he could go see them if he wanted to. Then he conveniently picked up a chess piece and struck the jade chime hung in the corner of the pavilion. The clear and crisp ring traversed, and servants from outside entered the courtyard to receive orders.
So that’s what the jade chime is used for.
Zhang Yuanshan made a gesture, and the servant passed on the message. Immediately, people arrived with a bamboo strainer and cleared the thick layer of fallen buds from the surface of the pond, revealing a clear expanse of jadeite waters. The colorful koi fish in the pond weaving to and fro scattered as soon as they saw the light of day — a fleeting moment of beauty.
"Back on the mountain I would have nothing to do, so I would often go fishing in the creek. Next time I go back, I’ll bring you two golden dolls," said You Mengzhe.
Zhang Yuanshan nodded and gesticulated again at the servant.
A moment later, the servant brought over a bamboo pole. From the looks of it, the bamboo had been taken from the front courtyard. The teardrop bamboo growing in the Zhang Manor was of a rare and precious variety that had been transplanted from the Great Yu’s Imperial Garden. It only grew three cun per decade, and just like that, it had been chopped down and fashioned into an eight chi fishing rod for You Mengzhe, with even a supple and strong fishing line attached.
You Mengzhe hurriedly said, "No, no, I didn’t mean that I wanted to fish now… Ai, that’s fine, I’ll try. I haven’t played with this in a while.”
You Mengzhe straddled the railing of the pavilion, hooked the bait, and flung it into the pond.
The pond was vast, with the end connecting to another waterway elsewhere. The fish swam by but didn’t take the bait, almost as if they were intelligent. You Mengzhe narrowed his eyes, humphing from his spot on the railing, as Zhang Yuan stood with his hands clasped behind his back, gazing at their reflections in the pond.
You Mengzhe looked fine with delicate features, and within Zhang Yuanshan’s slim face, a faint sense of loneliness lingered in his eyes.
hey guys, i’m sorry for the delay! you ever feel like too much is happening that you don’t have the energy to even talk about it? In the last month I started summer school courses in college (cramming a semester into 1 month), an elderly cat we rescued off the streets began to have emergency health issues, my elderly dog’s health began to rapidly deteriorate and we think he’s going to have to be put down, I moved from Los Angeles to New York (Brooklyn) with my 2 cats, and in person school started. Just moved in last week and still acclimating, luckily the hurricane didn’t flood my apartment or anything. All of this impacted my mental health for obvious reasons. This was the last chapter I had and nothing has been translated after this, so the updates won’t be week by week like they used to be. I need to try to build at least a one chapter buffer, but wanted to release this whole chapter since it’s been 4 weeks since the last.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Ruini.