A Seductive Gentleman Chapter 25

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Chapter 25: The n.o.ble Gentleman – Part 8

Translated by: Kestrel

Edited by: Ritpoppy

The 13 Guardians promptly shut the door in alarm.

Fu Ling said, "I told you our Shaos.h.i.+ was bathing!"

Ming ChangYan asked, "Fu Ling, what's going on out there?"

Fu Ling replied, "The 13 Guardians is performing an investigation."

Ming ChangYan said, "Who are they investigating, are they investigating me?"

Huai Yu bent his long legs, half his face buried in the water, his eyes staring straight at Ming ChangYan.

Ming ChangYan said, "Let them search the room. Just pull out the folding screen for me."

The 13 Guardian cupped his hands, "This subordinate does not dare."

Ming ChangYan said, "Oh, you all heard that. It's not that I didn't let them search, it's them that didn't dare. Fu Ling, see off our guests."

After the 13 Guardian was escorted out, Ming ChangYan – dripping wet all over – said, "How'd the Eldest Prince just up and die all of a sudden?"

Huai Yu was the same, not a piece of him safe to look at, "I don't know."

Ming ChangYan pondered a moment, then decided to go ahead and speak honestly, "What do you think of what's been going on in the palace? First off, my being alive rules out the explanation that my ghost is haunting the place. But I've already been dead two years, so why are there still people who want to hurt me?"

Huai Yu didn't answer.

Ming ChangYan said, "What's wrong?"

Huai Yu said, "Your steamed bun."

Ming ChangYan lowered his head to look. When playing the part of a woman, this person had put the utmost dedication into his disguise, not forgetting to wear his two foodpanions even when taking a bath. At present, the mantous were floating on the water, looking extremely comical.

Ming ChangYan hurriedly picked them up, saying, "Sorry sorry, guess we can't eat these anymore. Huai Yu, you'd better not forget your promise, in a few days you're taking me to Egret Academy."

Huai Yu shot an unenthusiastic glance in his direction, not offering any sort of response, and a thought flashed across Ming ChangYan's mind.

"Gege! Huai Yu ge-ge! Just look at this memory of mine, I forgot again. Hahahahaha!"

Ming ChangYan gave him an enigmatic look; after the rain stopped, Huai Yu left.

Another three days pa.s.sed, Ming ChangYan tore the bandages off his now-healed hands, and Zhao XiaoLan came knocking at his door.

He was carrying a book as he rushed into Listening Lotus Building as if he were on fire, Fu Ling and Peony not daring to hold him back as he yelled, "Yan jie-jie! Yan jie-jie!"

Ming ChangYan stepped out the door, "Zhao XiaoLan, what are you running in such a hurry for, slow down."

He poured a bowl of tea for Zhao XiaoLan, who set down his things, hurriedly drank it, wiped his mouth and said, "Da Huang-xiong* died, though that doesn't really matter to me. I came to find you so we can go to Egret Academy."

(TN: Eldest Prince-xiong, or Elder Brother Eldest Prince, anyway it sounds better in Chinese.)

This was translated by , any repost of this is stolen and if you steal my work, I'm going to jab you with my donkey horns.

Ming ChangYan ignored his first sentence, eyes lighting up as he said, "Okay! When are we going, now?"

Zhao XiaoLan, "That's right. You can't go like this though, you should change your clothes."

He opened the pack he'd been carrying, and pulled out a man's outfit, "My royal uncle hasn't really been paying attention to you lately, so just change your clothes and you can go with us out of the palace."

Ming ChangYan didn't waste another moment in going to the inner room and changing into the man's outfit. The effect of the age-returning pills Hua YunChang had given him was gradually lessening as time went on. Compared to the day he first entered the imperial palace, Ming ChangYan was already a little taller, the outline of his face a little more clear, and overall he looked quite handsome.

Zhao XiaoLan tilted his head this way and that as he looked at him, before saying in a puzzled voice, "Yan jie-jie, did you get taller?"

Ming ChangYan laughed, "Did I? That means i've been eating well lately. If you eat more, you'll grow tall too. How old are you this year?"

"Eighteen."

Ming ChangYan gave encouragement as he finished with his clothes, "Eighteen, so you've still got room to grow. XiaoLan, do your best to grow, there's no need to be too jealous of me."

After they left the Listening Lotus Building, Zhao XiaoLan called out, "Jun, Duan Duan."

Jun was in the middle of playing with Duan Min's hair; after hearing Zhao XiaoLan's voice, she carefully tied a knot at the end, which even had a few ta.s.sels hanging from it, and gave the result a serious once-over before showing satisfaction in her newly-made dressup. It was only then that she let go of Duan Min's long braid and said, "What took you so long?"

Zhao XiaoLan, "We were already really fast, it's only because you want to meet Teacher Liu too much that you're blaming us for being slow."

Jun looked Ming ChangYan up and down, as he cupped his hands and said:,"h.e.l.lo Princess."

Jun asked, "How are your injuries, are you still spitting blood?"

Ming ChangYan said, "Many thanks for your highness's concern, I'm not spitting any more, and I'm eating just fine too. Let's not waste time on words, and hurry to Egret Academy."

These words struck directly at Jun's heart; upon hearing she could soon meet Teacher Liu, she was immediately bursting with joy. Duan Min was helping her carry presents for Teacher Liu. The four all struck out together, heading straight for Egret Academy.

Dressed in men's clothes, and accompanied by Princess YuNing and Zhao XiaoLan, Ming ChangYan was able to leave the imperial palace without anyone to stop him.

It had been many days since he'd entered the palace by this point, and on leaving for the first time, Ming ShaoXia was in quite a good mood, stretching out his limbs and hooking an arm over Zhao XiaoLan's shoulders, "XiaoLan, how long have you been studying at Egret Academy?"

Zhao XiaoLan politely answered, "Many years now. I've studied here all my life."

Ming ChangYan asked another question, "Then have you ever seen the Misty Chronicle?"

Zhao XiaoLan said, "That's on the mountain behind the academy, and we study in front; n.o.body's allowed back there without a pa.s.sword. I saw it from far away once, it's an especially tall rock. Teacher Liu mentioned to us before that when the Great Homage Feast comes around, this rock has to be carried outside, and whoever gets first place in the compet.i.tion, they'll immediately wipe off the name on the rock and write out the new one. Although-"

Ming ChangYan raced to answer ahead of him, "Let me guess, the number one name on the rock hasn't changed in many years?"

Zhao XiaoLan said, "That's right! Ever since Ming ShaoXia made his public appearance, the number one name on the Misty Chronicle hasn't ever changed!"

Ming ChangYan inquired, "It must have changed in the two years since he died though, right?"

Zhao XiaoLan paused a moment, then said in a voice filled with resolve, "I don't know!"

Ming ChangYan, "……"

Zhao XiaoLan continued, "But I think it probably hasn't changed, especially since the Common People's Order hasn't recognized anyone else!"

Ming ChangYan teased him, "But Huai Yu ge-ge has the Common People's Order, doesn't he? Maybe he's secretly unsheathed it before, do you think he could manage it?"

Zhao XiaoLan turned green.

This question was like when his mother had interrogated him in his youth: Who exactly do you like better, your father or your mother?

This really made things incredibly difficult for Zhao XiaoLan, like an ant on a heated pan, a fine sheen of sweat quickly beading his forehead.

Ming ChangYan hadn't for the life of him expected this lighthearted question to stump Zhao XiaoLan so badly, and he hurriedly said, "All right all right, I was just joking."

Zhao XiaoLan wiped the sweat from his brow, gave a tight squeeze to the book at his chest, and let out a sigh of relief.

Jun grew tired halfway through their walk, so the last half – which was an uphill mountain path – involved Duan Duan carrying her. She had a higher point of view than the rest of the group, and was therefore the first to see the great entrance to Egret Academy.

She let out a questioning noise, leading the others to crane their necks in that direction–only to see that the entrance to Egret Academy was shut tight.

Jun jumped down from Duan Duan's back, grabbed one of the guards at the door and asked, "Why are the academy's doors closed today?"

The guard gave her an extremely deferential salute, "To answer your highness, this is…"

"I closed them!"

A young man's voice sounded out from behind them. When they turned around to look, they saw Lu HangJiu and a few of his friends walking slowly up the stairs towards the entrance.

Jun said, "So it was you – what did you close the doors for?"

Lu HangJiu said: "Egret Academy forbids outsiders from visiting, did Princess YuNing not know about this rule?"

His gaze landed on Ming ChangYan.

Jun said, "Whether or not I know, it's none of your business to care." She turned her head, "Open the doors for me."

The guard stepped forward to open the doors.

Lu HangJiu refused to let the have their way, promptly saying, "Don't you dare! Egret Academy has a written rule that we aren't allowed to bring in outsiders; once you're found out you'll undoubtedly receive a heavy punishment! Chu JinHua, don't tell me you want Teacher Liu to be disappointed in you!"

Egret Academy did not discuss junior or senior status, treating all students as fellow schoolmates, and so Lu HangJiu called her directly by her proper name.

Jun stilled a moment, "Wait! Open it later."

Zhao XiaoLan said, "Yan jie-jie, it's true that Egret Academy doesn't allow outsiders. Normally we would have just snuck in, but now we've run into Lu-xiong, and he's a tattletale who likes to rat people out to Teacher Liu – so how about we just look around outside? Do you have to go in?"

Ming ChangYan nodded, "I absolutely have to."

He took a couple steps forward; Ming ChangYan was dressed as a man today, so while Lu HangJiu thought he looked incredibly familiar, he couldn't remember where he might have met him before.

Ming ChangYan said, "Have you ever seen a ginkgo tree bear fruit?"

Lu HangJiu stared blankly at the unexpected question, saying, "No."

Ming ChangYan said, "Of course you haven't. Ginkgo trees don't bear fruit." He asked again, "Have you ever seen a dog catch mice?"

Lu HangJiu pondered over that for a moment, "That's another no."

Ming ChangYan smiled, "That's how it should be, if dogs don't catch mice*, what're you meddling in other people's business for?"

(TN: "A dog who catches mice" is an idiom referring to a meddler.)

Lu HangJiu immediately reacted, "You-!"

Ming ChangYan said, "Me? Me what, huh? Does your family run Egret Academy, is that why you get to decide if it's open or not?"

Lu HangJiu raised his voice, "It's the rules!"

Ming ChangYan played dumb, "Turtle b.u.t.ts*? What turtle b.u.t.ts, oh–you're talking about tortoise b.u.t.ts. Have you seen a tortoise's b.u.t.t before?"

(TN: Rules 规定 and turtle b.u.t.ts 龟腚 are p.r.o.nounced exactly the same, down to the tone. (That's not how anyone would normally say turtle b.u.t.t though.)

Lu HangJiu yelled, "You're an annoying troublemaker!"

Ming ChangYan lifted a foot to kick him in the bottom, "Have you seen a tortoise's b.u.t.t now?"

His kick sent Lu HangJiu cras.h.i.+ng to the ground; before he could get back up to hurl verbal abuse, Ming ChangYan grabbed a sprig of blossoms like it was a club, raising it up in his hand, "Lu HangJiu, does this stick of mine look familiar to you?"

Lu HangJiu gaped slightly, then suddenly reacted, "You're that d.a.m.n woman!"

"Hahahaha, what d.a.m.n woman? Zhao XiaoLan, watch this, today I'm going to teach you the second Tianqing Six Sword Technique: Beating a Meddlesome Dog with a Stick."

Lu HangJiu's bottom began to ache on reflex upon seeing that stick; all Ming ChangYan had to do was scare him a little, and he began to wail like some tragic ghost, "Help!!! Save me!!!!"

Ming ChangYan laughed out loud, "I haven't even hit you yet, what're you screaming for help for?"

Jun was convulsing with laughter at this; Zhao XiaoLan started to laugh along with her, when suddenly he squinted his eyes, then began waving his hands, "Huai Yu ge-ge!"

Lu HangJiu's screams stopped immediately, turning his head around to see Huai Yu slowly walking towards them.

Ming ChangYan was struck dumb for a second, guiltily hiding the sprig of blossoms behind his back. Not even this tiny movement could escape Huai Yu's sight.

He didn't even lift his eyelids, asking, "What are you hiding, can you show me?"

Ming ChangYan knew he couldn't hide it, so he simply held the branch out in front of him as he tried to coax the other with a grin, "Didn't you say you weren't coming? Beautiful people deserve pretty flowers, so when I saw you coming I picked this to give to you!"

Huai Yu took the flowers; everyone was standing up straight and proper, their gazes flying everywhere except at him.

Jun said, "Huai Yu-gege, what are you doing here?"

Huai Yu said, "I'm just on a stroll." He lifted his head, "Open the doors."

Lu HangJiu didn't dare utter a word, allowing the guard to open the doors. Although Huai Yu wasn't much older than them, he had a high position and great authority, and was incredibly stern as well; they didn't dare to act rashly around someone even the emperor had to show some humility towards. Especially as they were all his juniors, not a single voice could be heard at this moment.

Only Ming ChangYan was reckless enough to keep chattering away, "Wow, Young Prime Minister you sure have a reputation, looks like I sent those flowers to the right guy."

With the entrance now wide open, a set of stone stairs so high you couldn't see the end appeared in Ming ChangYan's line of sight. Zhao XiaoLan gave an introduction, "This is 'The Hard Road', which symbolizes the trials on the path of education."

Ming ChangYan said, "Amazing, a real marvel!"

Everyone stepped onto the stairs together, except for Lu HangJiu and his friends, who trailed behind at a distance, as if monitoring them. Ming ChangYan couldn't help finding it odd, "This boy is the prince of the Kingdom of Liang, isn't he? Why is he going to the same school as our country's princess, that's really strange."

Huai Yu said, "The emperor requires all countries' leaders to send the son of their first wife to study our country's etiquette, firstly so that they will a.s.similate our way of thinking, and secondly as a way of maintaining the balance of power. The surrounding countries would never be willing to truly send their first sons, so the students here are all their least-favored princes. Egret Academy will groom them to become incredibly ambitious successors, then choose a fitting time to send them home again."

Ming ChangYan was both astonished and alarmed, "Starting power struggles in the royal family and weakening it at the roots, that's a real ruthless strategy. If you know, are you saying they don't?"

Huai Yu shot him a glance, "This country has unquestionable strength; as long as it is an imperial order, n.o.body dares to disobey."

Ming ChangYan could pretty much understand that, at least. Just speaking from personal experience, he was entirely in favor of the view that strength could overcome anything.

After they got through The Hard Road, Egret Academy's main gate came into view before them. As it was currently still on holiday, the school grounds were devoid of people, save for a pair of little page boys, dozing off one on each side of the gate.

Jun asked, "Zi You, wake up, where's your teacher!"

The boy on the left stood up, saw that the one calling him was Jun, and said, "Jun jie-jie, I didn't know you were coming. Teacher just left down the mountain, it'll be awhile before he gets back."

Jun's whole spirit seemed to droop, as she mumbled, "That's really too bad."

Ming ChangYan smiled, "Since he's not back, why don't we go check out the rear mountain?" He pointed at a plank walkway hanging high up in the air between two extremely high overhanging cliffs, and said, "Where does that road go?"

Huai Yu, "The rear mountain."

Ming ChangYan clapped his hands together, raring to go. He'd only managed one step forward when Huai Yu grabbed onto his arm, "What do you think you're doing?"

Ming ChangYan said, "I'm going to the rear mountain to play!"

Zhao XiaoLan said, "Egret Academy's students aren't allowed to enter the rear mountain."

Ming ChangYan cunningly said, "I'm not a student at the academy. Besides, we already broke rules pa.s.sing through the first gate back down the mountain, breaking one more won't make much difference. I won't drag you guys into trouble though, I can go alone just fine!"

Huai Yu pulled him back, refusing to let go of his hand, "I forbid it."

Ming ChangYan was unable to pull free, and had no alternative but to say, "What're you getting angry for now? I have important things to do, let go already."

Seeing that he refused to be stopped, Zhao XiaoLan immediately abandoned his previous position, following Ming ChangYan's bad example by leaping forward and squeezing in: "Yan jie-jie, are you going to see the Misty Chronicle? I want to go too, take me with you!"

Jun was still downcast over being unable to meet Teacher Liu, idling around with nothing to do; when she heard the mention of the Misty Chronicle, she asked, "What's the Misty Chronicle? You guys were talking about it all the way here – it's just a rock on the rear mountain isn't it, what's there to look at?"

Zhao XiaoLan said, "It's not just a rock. It's an extraordinary rock! The names recorded on it are all those of the very best martial artists in the world. Ming ShaoXia's ranked number one on it!"

Jun asked, "Why is he number one? There's so many people in the world, how do you know there isn't anyone better than him!"

Zhao XiaoLan said, "They make the decision at the Great Homage Feast! Not only that, but the number one spot on the Misty Chronicle doesn't just refer to having the best martial abilities. You've got to be the best at everything, all the four arts*, a combination of strengths, do you understand!"

(TN: The four arts differ depending on where you look, but generally include calligraphy, math, music, chess, horseback riding, and/or painting.)

Jun, "And what if people refuse to accept it?"

Ming ChangYan laughed, "Then beat them up until they agree!"

This line was really just Ming ChangYan talking nonsense. The Great Homage Feast's selections for the Misty Chronicle were a legitimate general election, but aside from that, there was another place with its own ranking list, which also carved the names onto a rock. The Great Homage Feast's stone tablet was called 'Towards the Sky', whereas the heartless women of LingLong Pavilion had picked up their brushes and carved their own called 'Ends of the Earth'.

'Ends of the Earth' wasn't actually the horizon's edge or the corners of the sea. The names carved on this rock were also the rankings the came out after the Great Homage Feast every four years. The difference between this and Towards the Sky was that, aside from names, Ends of the Earth also included a list of bounties.

Heartless woman Xiu LingLong once spread the news that if you could kill any one of the martial arts masters, you'd be able to receive a corresponding amount of silver. If a commoner lacked the ability to kill people, they could use a considerably high registration fee to wager on it instead; once the wager was made, if anyone successfully a.s.sa.s.sinated the target, they'd get a bonus cut of the prize money. It was truly a wise money making strategy, and about as kind as eating steamed buns made with human blood.

After hearing Zhao XiaoLan's detailed explanation, including the price of Ming ChangYan's bounty, Jun couldn't help showing some misgivings, "If that's really the case, then why didn't the imperial family send out soldiers? The bounty on that Ming ShaoXia's of yours is already about equal to half the national treasury!"

Xiu LingLong had always been vicious and merciless, acknowledging money rather than people; Ming ChangYan held the number one position on the Ends of the Earth bounty list, the prize money a sky-high amount, and in ten years not a single person had ever succeeded. When the six great sects purged the n.o.ble Gentleman two years ago, he slipped and fell into the Yanbo River, finally dying for good, Xiu LingLong and those who'd bet on his death earned an insane amount of revenue, enough to probably even buy ten whole courtyard manors in the area surrounding the Imperial City.

Zhao XiaoLan pinched at his book, "I don't know…"

Lu HangJiu let out a supercilious snort, quietly sneering, "You really are pigheaded!"

Zhao XiaoLan didn't pay the slightest attention to his ridicule; he had an incredibly good temper, and was extremely naive on top of that, so he didn't at all feel ashamed to ask his senior, "Does Lu-xiong have a wise opinion to offer?"

Lu HangJiu brushed off his clothes, slightly lifted his head, and said in a louder voice, "Not only did the imperial family not try to stop him, they were perfectly happy to look on!"

Zhao XiaoLan asked, "Why is that?"

Lu HangJiu, "Let me ask you, how many powerful martial artists are out there who could kill people without batting an eye? How many great sects are there with expansive schools and thousands of disciples? Most sects are well trained and not to be underestimated; if they were to join forces and revolt, this country's armies are all stationed in the northwest, so how well could the imperial family contend against them? Regardless of whether or not they could succeed, a disturbance like this would be more than enough to give the emperor a headache!"

"If Xiu LingLong's way of handling things out there didn't have the imperial family's tacit acknowledgment, would she be able to do as much as she has? There's a thousand famous names on that list, distributed among all the great sects, all of them well-known figures who act as the pillar of their respective sects, if they couldn't protect themselves then how could they put up the effort to revolt?"

Zhao XiaoLan was stupefied, "I-I never thought of that."

Just then, the children by the mountain gate called out, "Teacher Liu is back!"

A clean and handsome man came walking up from among the flowers, carrying two jars of wine; this was Egret Academy's president: Liu Kuang.

Jun's eyes brightened on the spot, lifting her skirts to run to his side.

Liu Kuang said, "Jun, don't run so fast."

Jun held up a basket, "I brought this for you, Teacher! And this, this is a peace charm, if you wear it around your neck you can find happiness every day!"

Liu Kuang smiled as he said, "All right."

He lifted his head; Zhao XiaoLan and friends all bowed respectfully as they called out, "Teacher Liu!"

Liu Kuang nodded his head, then said to Ming ChangYan, "A rare visitor, I see."

Zhao XiaoLan promptly started talking, "That's right! Teacher Liu, this is Yanjie-jie, a few days ago she said she wanted to come to Bailu Academy, so I-"

Liu Kuang's footsteps paused, "Yan-jiejie?"

Ming ChangYan's complexion changed as Liu Kuang suddenly turned to Zhao XiaoLan, "Do you know who they are?"

Ming ChangYan's gaze turned cold, staring at Liu Kuang.

Zhao XiaoLan didn't notice in the least, saying, "She, she's Yan jie-jie, of course."

Liu Kuang paused a moment, then nodded, "Yes, yes that's right."

Ming ChangYan pulled his hand back from Huai Yu's waist; seeing that his hand had left the Common People's Order, Liu Kuang let out a sigh of relief.

Huai Yu lowered his voice to interrogate him, "Why are you touching my waist."

Ming ChangYan said, "I just felt like touching it, it's not like you're gonna lose a chunk of meat. Or you can grope me back if it makes you feel better."

He struck a pose, actually b.u.mping his waist against Huai Yu.

Huai Yu wasn't prepared for that at all, and the b.u.mp knocked him off-balance. Ming ChangYan promptly pulled him back, "You're like some rich young lady, can't even handle a little b.u.mp."

Huai Yu's gaze fell onto their interlocked hands, "What are you holding my hand for."

Ming ChangYan said, "You sure ask a lot of questions – not everything in the world needs to have a clear answer, you know. People hold your hand because they're being nice to you, they like you, they're looking after you, if you're gonna be that ungrateful about it you'll never find a wife."

Huai Yu snorted, then after a while began to turn fussy again, "Your pulling me is uncomfortable."

Ming ChangYan said, "I won't pull you then, you can walk by yourself."

He suddenly tugged his hand back–but it wouldn't budge.

Huai Yu wasn't looking at him, yet he was holding his hand in a vice grip and refused to let go. He kept nonchalantly walking forward, making Ming ChangYan stumble as he was tugged along.

"Ai! Slow down!"

This time it was Ming ChangYan's wrists that were hurting.

The two were in the back of the group doing this in plain sight, pulling each other along as if n.o.body else were around to see; indeed, aside from Lu HangJiu, n.o.body else noticed anything wrong.

He looked at Ming ChangYan, then looked at Huai Yu, his face as deathly pale as if he were mourning his deceased parents.

They pa.s.sed by a green-tiled, red-walled building; everyone within the building looked stressed, walking hurriedly around with bowed heads, all of them carrying stacks of white paper. Ming ChangYan offhandedly asked, "What's this place?"

Liu Kuang: "This is XiaoXiang Pavilion, where we print the National Daily News."

When Liu Kuang talked, Jun loved to ask all sorts of questions in order to extend the conversation, wis.h.i.+ng more than anything that he could talk with her for a night and a day.

"What's the National Daily News?"

Zhao XiaoLan said, "You don't even know the national daily news!?"

Jun glared at him, "I wasn't asking you, what are you answering for! Teacher Liu, tell us, what's the national daily news?"

Liu Kuang, "It records all matters big and small which occur across the land, publis.h.i.+ng issues every day with the help of the imperial family's funding, and uses post horses at relay stations to deliver papers around the country."

Ming ChangYan said, "This newspaper is boring and ugly, the only part I like looking at is the teatime gossip column!"

Jun asked again, "What's the teatime gossip column?"

Ming ChangYan laughed out loud, "What else could it be, it's obviously things like some capital's rich young mistress ran off with some poor scholar, or some sect's sect head lost a gamble, or some chivalrous minister snuck off to a cheap brothel behind his wife's back, that sort of thing."

Jun's face turned red as she turned her head away, saying, "That's obscene!"

Aside from private bedroom affairs, the National Daily News's gossip mostly focused on Ming ChangYan. For example: It was rumored he was especially wild in private, with this or that miss or madam…doing who knows what inappropriate things! Sleeping around at random, teasing respectable married women, showing no sense of shame, and so on. He was just about to mention some more of the gossip he'd seen, when Huai Yu pinched the palm of his hand.

"Do you often look at this sort of thing?"

Ming ChangYan paused a moment, then asked, "What's the matter?"

"I look at it once in a while. What of it? If you want to look, that's easy enough, next time I'll buy one and we can look at it together!"

Huai Yu didn't feel particularly happy for some reason, and said, "I've seen it before."

Ming ChangYan saw he was angry, so he didn't say anything, instead thinking to himself: There it is again, he's mad again.

Liu Kuang gave the two a meaningful look as he said, "I see you two get along quite well."

Huai Yu shot him a cold glance, "That's none of your business."

Liu Kuang choked, swallowing whatever other teasing words he'd originally planned to say.

The group all reached a pavilion halfway up the mountain. Having walked The Hard Road, Jun was already exhausted by this point; Duan Duan made to carry her on his back, but she waved her hands in refusal, saying only that she wanted to rest.

Zhao XiaoLan said, "It's not much farther until we arrive, we just have to hold on a little longer."

Lu HangJiu said, "If you can't make it up there, you might as well just stay and wait here."

Jun hated being looked down on more than anything, and immediately retorted, "Who says I can't make it! I can still walk! I just, I just wanted to stop to get a drink of water."

Ming ChangYan, however, was definitely tired out; he took the initiative in stepping into the pavilion, plopping himself down hurriedly down on the seat as he gasped for breath.

Huai Yu spoke up, "We're stopping."

Liu Kuang finalized it by saying, "Then we'll sit down and rest a while."

The pavilion wasn't large, but you could still manage to find s.p.a.ce for everyone to sit if you tried. Ming ChangYan was thirsty; catching glimpse of a well outside, he promptly left the pavilion in search of cool refreshment, bending over and using his hands to drink.

He'd only just taken a sip when a hard stick poked him in the head. Ming ChangYan lifted his head to look, only to have a pair of big, damp eyes abruptly intrude on his field of vision. He stared blankly for a good long while, murmuring to himself, "What a big pair of donkey eyes–what a big donkey!"

Without warning, that 'donkey' b.u.mped heavily into him. Ming ChangYan let out a cry of pain, and fell back on his bottom.

Huai Yu said, "YouYou, don't move."

Ming ChangYan shouted, "Huai Yu, is this your donkey!"

Jun laughed out loud, "Look a little closer, does that look like a donkey to you?"

Everyone stepped out of the pavilion at that. Ming ChangYan rubbed his forehead as he got up, complaining, "A donkey this vicious would make a terrible millstone donkey."

While Huai Yu was helping him up, Zhao XiaoLan hurried out past them in a flash as he went to stand in front of that 'donkey'.

"It's been a really long time since I last met it."

Liu Kuang said, "This little white deer must have known Yun Qing was coming today, for it to come running out from deep in the mountains."

"Deer?" Ming ChangYan exclaimed in a grieving voice, putting on an act as he said, "Are you sure it isn't a donkey?"

Zhao XiaoLan said, "A donkey and a deer are too different to be mistaken for each other."

Ming ChangYan objected, "Too different? As far as I can tell they've both got two eyes and four legs, so they're pretty much the same."

He squinted his eyes to look – what stood before him really was a little white deer, as snow-white as a cloud, absolutely spotless, exquisitely beautiful and nimble.

Jun said, "This little white deer was given to Huai Yu ge-ge by my royal mother; my father the emperor wouldn't allow it to be raised within the palace, so we brought it to Egret Academy. It will only get close to Huai Yu ge-ge though, if anyone else tries it'll kick them with its hooves, its temper is so bad!"

Ming ChangYan was inwardly rueful: Just look at the rich-girl att.i.tude of the owner who raised it.

The little white deer pawed twice at the ground with a front hoof, then obediently walked over to Huai Yu's side, turning circles around him. Once it had finished spinning, it noticed its little master had an unknown guest beside him and immediately b.u.t.ted Ming ChangYan with its antlers, pus.h.i.+ng him off to the side. Ming ChangYan had a weak const.i.tution, and had let blood a few days ago as well, so he was currently no match for this deer; after a bit of fighting, he really was pushed away.

"This horrible donkey certainly looks majestic, but why does it have to be so rude!" Ming ChangYan clung desperately to Huai Yu's sleeve; the more the deer tried to separate him from Huai Yu, the closer he tried to stick to him in retaliation, doing exactly the opposite of what it wanted. He and the little beast were having a standoff. "What're you shoving me for, do you think having antlers makes you so special!"

Ming ChangYan spoke energetically, his limbs wrapping around Huai Yu in a self-satisfied manner. Seeing them get increasingly closer, the little white deer anxiously began to spin in circles, biting Huai Yu's clothes and trying to pull him away.

Huai Yu said, "Stop causing trouble."

Ming ChangYan promptly shot the deer a glare, "Hear that, he told you not to cause trouble, so you'd better let go!"

Having been scolded by Huai Yu, the little deer lost much of its vigor, but it still refused to leave. It rubbed itself against him, then made another attempt to sneak attack Ming ChangYan.

This time Ming ChangYan had an overwhelming victory, and felt incredibly pleased with himself.

After they'd rested, the group set off once more. Ming ChangYan plucked a foxtail and used it to bully the deer, "The deer cries you you, eating wild weeds. A good name, a good name!"

He inclined his head toward Huai Yu, "Can your donkey be ridden?"

Huai Yu corrected him, "It's a deer."

Ming ChangYan said, "It has such big eyes, and such long lashes, and such a bad temper, and it's so handsome too, why does it seem to me more and more like a certain someone?"

Huai Yu said nothing.

Ming ChangYan giggled, "Its tail is like a furball, it's real soft."

The white deer walked with a proud and long-legged gait; Ming ChangYan was beset with a sudden urge, reaching out to pinch off a bit of tail fur. Right when he plucked it, the deer startled, rear legs kicking out on a conditioned reflex. Ming ChangYan let out a cry of surprise, not because he'd been kicked, but because he'd crashed into Huai Yu.

Ming ShaoXia patted his solar plexus, "What a horrible temper, that donkey's a real menace!"

Huai Yu said angrily, "Who said you could touch it!"

Ming ChangYan said, "Is it so precious I can't even touch it?"

Having said that, he suddenly straightened up, forcing an awkward smile, "Thanks a lot, by the way."

Ming ShaoXia let go of his hand and turned to look at You You again, only to see that the little white deer was still angrily glaring at him; he proudly turned away again, feeling particularly cheerful.

Once they entered Egret Academy, Liu Kuang made arrangements for Zhao XiaoLan and the rest, then turned to Ming ChangYan and said, "Come with me."

Zhao XiaoLan put down his book, promptly following close behind Ming ChangYan, only to hear Liu Kuang say, "Su He, what are you following him for?"

Zhao XiaoLan's name was Zhao Lan, but his courtesy name was Su He. Because the empress liked to call him XiaoLan, over time, everyone within the palace began copying her in calling him Zhao XiaoLan. He studied at Egret Academy, and had registered there with his courtesy name, so Liu Kuang was used to calling him by that name instead.

Zhao XiaoLan said, "I'll go together with Yan jie-jie."

Liu Kuang said, "Wait in the outer room, I didn't tell you to come along. I just need your…Yan jie-jie to come in."

Although Zhao XiaoLan had his misgivings, he was particularly obedient to his teacher, so if Teacher Liu wouldn't let him enter then he'd stop right at the door. Jun called out, "How come Huai Yu ge-ge is allowed to go in, but the rest of us aren't!"

Everyone looked to see that Huai Yu was confidently following along at Ming ChangYan's side, and showed no signs of stopping.

After Jun shouted, Huai Yu looked at her and said, "There are so many people in this room, yet why is it you are the only one who talks so much?"

Jun went silent, her expression growing timid as she shut her mouth tight and proceeded to stop speaking.

Liu Kuang pushed aside the cloth screen, "Come in."

Ming ChangYan strode in together with him; the room was decorated very plainly, and in its very center stood a gently smoking incense burner.

He backed up half a step, moving a little closer to Huai Yu. Huai Yu said, "What are you doing?"

Ming ChangYan said, "I don't like the incense in this room." He wiggled his nose, then smiled, "You're different, you smell really good."

Huai Yu stared blankly, "What?"

Ming ChangYan mouthed, "I said you smell good, Young Prime Minister."

Liu Kuang said, "Excuse me for interrupting. I'm sorry to ask, but did either of you hear a word I just said?"

Ming ChangYan lifted his eyebrows, "Did you say something? Liu SanQing, that's certainly improper of you, talking while other people are chatting."

Liu Kuang said, "The guilty party files the suit. I'm not going to argue with you over this; Lord Ming, you really are quite lucky, to fall into the Yanbo River and manage not to die. Although I never imagined you'd run off to the imperial court–and from what Su He was saying, you ran there to play a woman?"

Ming ChangYan said, "Of course not. I went to be the emperor's wife."

Liu Kuang cupped his left fist with his hand, laughing, "I should expect no less of you. You're the only person I know who could do a thing like this."

Ming ChangYan laughed as well, "Heaven helps the worthy. Liu SanQing, let's not beat around the bush. I came to find you because you have the fastest and most reliable information. I don't trust what everyone else is saying, so you tell me, why did the troops that purged me then include people of the imperial family?"

Liu Kuang said, "You received the Common People's Order at a young age, and have long been a thorn in the sides of everyone in the martial circles. The imperial family wanted to join forces with you to control the martial circles of the central plains, but you both refused and ignored them; If I was the emperor, I would consider you – Ming ChangYan – to be a serious hidden danger."

"Moreover, you are of a different ethnicity from us, so how many people in the central plains truly obey you? I reminded you a long time ago not to put yourself too far out in the public eye. The emperor is naturally disposed towards suspicion, and in the years he's been on the throne, he's racked his brains trying to find a way to weaken the martial circles' power; how could he tolerate the existence of a person like you? Lord Ming, you must know the popular nursery rhyme about the Common People's Order."

Ming ChangYan said, "I know it. The Common People's Order commands the common."

Liu Kuang asked again, "Then do you know the latter half of the saying?"

Huai Yu gave Ming ChangYan a look, "Who under heaven does not know the lord."

Ming ChangYan said with a bitter laugh, "That's thinking way too highly of me!"

Liu Kuang said, "It isn't necessarily thinking highly of you. TianQing at the time was the number one greatest sect in the country, and with you, the n.o.ble Gentleman, to oversee it, if you decided to band together to wreak havoc, it would need only be the work of a short moment."

Ming ChangYan said, "I never wanted to be emperor."

Liu Kuang: "Whether you wanted to or not doesn't matter; it's whether you could or not, and whether or not the emperor believed you wanted to."

Ming ChangYan said, "Not long after I'd gotten the Common People's Order, the imperial family came looking for me, and the list of conditions they gave was so long I got dizzy just looking at it. No matter how many advantages they offer me, I'm not going to accept all that; if I was that uneasy, what would be the point of me leaving Tokhara to come to the central plains?"

Liu Kuang poured two cups of wine, but Ming ChangYan rejected the offer, "I don't drink. Do you have tea?"

Liu Kuang said, "I'm afraid even if I had tea, you wouldn't be able to drink it."

Ming ChangYan restrained a smile, and said, "Back then it was me that was too impatient, I just wanted to stabilize TianQing's position in the central plains as soon as I could. If I knew this would happen, it would've been better to let Yi Yue stay in Tokhara for a few more years. Now that things've turned into this whole mess, forget bringing her to the central plains, even going back to see her is difficult."

A particularly odd expression suddenly flashed across Liu Kuang's face at hearing his words.

Ming ChangYan didn't notice at all; he downed half a cup of tea, feeling as if its bitterness was seeping into his heart and lungs.

He lifted his head, realized that Liu Kuang hadn't spoken for a while, and suspiciously asked, "Something wrong?"

Liu Kuang opened his mouth, "There was something strange about what I heard you say just now – the beginning and end didn't quite match up. At first I thought I was just being oversensitive, but I'm beginning to think that's not entirely the case." Liu Kuang paused a moment, as if he were somewhat hesitant to continue.

For some reason, a peculiar feeling suddenly swelled in Ming ChangYan's chest.

"Lord Ming, what nonsense are you saying? Back when you killed Wan QianQiu…"

He really did kill Wan QianQiu?

"It was because he murdered your twin sister."

Ming ChangYan stared blankly, a distracted look on his face.

…What did Liu SanQing mean by this?

Wan QianQiu killed his little sister? Who?

Was he talking about Yi Yue?

After a long silence, he abruptly threw his teacup onto the floor, letting out an ear-piercing screech before the porcelain shattered; droplets of water rolled slowly through the air, stretching and twisting into the shape of bygone years, before splas.h.i.+ng all over the floor with a bang.

Something seemed to be converging together, one drop after another squeezing into the sea of his mind. He trembled softly, as a fragmented ringing noise suddenly sounded by his hears; Ming ChangYan's body abruptly turned empty, inconsolably mournful, a vacuous expression on his face, his ears gone deaf, light and darkness crisscrossing before his eyes, like a resplendent sea of stars, or a G.o.ddess chasing the moon.

Suddenly, a small window was pushed open, and a young girl rested her chin on her hands, looking at him with a smile.

"Brother draws such ugly eyebrows, and the sh.e.l.ls you pick up aren't as pretty as mine; are the sh.e.l.ls in the central plains the same as the ones here?"

"……"

"Why aren't you talking, brother? If I'm the only one talking, it feels like I'm being noisy."

"……"

"I don't like the moon, it's so big and boring."

"……"

"Brother's lying. When will you take me to the central plains? You said you would last year, and the year before that too!"

"……"

"Brother, take me with you to the central plains."

The moment she smiled, the moment he blinked, black clouds covered the moon, plunging the sky into darkness. All of this was false, like a dream within a bubble.

The only thing left that he could see was – at the foot of XiYue Mountain, wrapped in a white cloth, already devoid of any sign of life – a girl with nearly the exact same face as his.

Liu Kuang frowned as he called out to him: "Lord Ming?"

Huai Yu shared a look with him; Liu Kuang said, "Something's wrong with him."

Huai Yu yelled, "Ming ChangYan? Ming ChangYan!"

Liu Kuang's face paled, "Yun Qing, hold him down!"

Just as he'd surmised, Ming ChangYan's face twisted, looking to be both sorrowful and pained, like his soul and body had been fully extinguished, like all his insides had ruptured at once. His suffering was at a breaking point, beyond saving by G.o.ds or buddhas, his heart hurt, and it felt as if his head were bursting; tears of blood mingled together as he suddenly lost strength, vomiting a mouthful of blood–a portent of qi deviation!

He remembered.

Yi Yue, his younger twin sister, had long since ceased to exist at that distant FuYue sh.o.r.e.

Nor did she exist in any other corner of the earth.

This was translated by , any repost of this is stolen and if you steal my work, I'm going to jab you with my donkey horns.

DUN DUN DUN!!!

There are mysteries to unravel and murders to solve. But that comes in the next chapter, which is a flashback by the way. I think this will be the last flashback. I count flashbacks by how long they are. There's going to be short snippets of the past that are written in this novel, but you're brought back to the present halfway or near the end of the chapter so I don't count those.

It really took a turn there at the end huh. Is this was second-hand embarra.s.sment feels like when you witness your parents do PDA.

If you see any translation/grammatical errors, then please notifying me or commenting down below! Love your comments, they're the best.

Anyway, see you guys in a month! Love you all~

A Seductive Gentleman Chapter 25

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A Seductive Gentleman Chapter 25 summary

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