First Arc ー Chapter 2 (Part 2): Missing Fate
Furthermore, that woman’s voice was excellent and rich with feelings as she narrated. She gave such a vivid description as if it had come to life. The effects of the tense atmosphere and suspense she had constructed were of top quality, causing people’s small hearts to thump continuously as they listened. When they had finished listening to the section about “Shooting Little King Kang*”, Zhao Luan pulled her along as she walked out of the teahouse. She smiled and said, “How was it?”
*T/n: It should be adapted from an actual tale called “Shooting Little King Liang”. It is one of the many stories in the series of “Legend of Yue Fei”. Basically, King Liang was shot by Yue Fei and died at the end.
“During my father’s birthday banquet in the past, we had also invited the capital’s most renowned teacher from Jing Bi Shop to come to our residence for storytelling. I thought that his oral ability was already at the pinnacle but I only realized today that however strong someone is, there will always be someone stronger.”
“This storyteller Young Lady Qin(Qín) is a widow. Her husband was originally the storytelling teacher here but unfortunately, he passed away three years ago after being afflicted by a foul disease. The reason Young Lady Qin is currently a storyteller here is not to earn money for family expenses by revealing her face in public but because she believes that only by using this kind of method, can she honor the memory of her husband. She once said, ‘Every time I stand at where my husband had stood before, strike the gavel which was used by my husband and narrate the stories my husband had narrated before, I will feel that he hasn’t left me at all and has always always been accompanying me at my side.’ When I heard it back then, it felt so genuine that my tears were about to fall.”
Jiang Chenyu ruminated over those few sentences and was also involuntarily a little dazed.
Zhao Luan suddenly giggled and pressed near her ear to say, “Look over there, Elder Sister!”
Gazing in the direction of where her finger was pointing, she saw a man standing outside the window of the teahouse and gazing inside motionlessly. The man was roughly thirty years old, had a robust build with a handsome and highly esteemed appearance. It was such a cold day, yet he only donned a worn-out fur jacket and exposed half of his chest without fear of freezing. His carried a trotter and had a knife pinned to his waist. Judging from his attire, he was a butcher.
Zhao Luan explained, “This butcher’s name is Panfang(Pānfāng). He has liked Young Lady Qin for a very long time and often stands outside to peek at her storytelling.”
“You even know about this?”
Zhao Luan was pleased with herself. “Naturally. Is there still anything in the capital which I want to know but don’t know! Come, I’ll now bring you to see the most beautiful plum blossom plant in the whole capital!” They had yet to take a few steps when her expression suddenly changed. “Oh no!”
Jiang Chenyu had yet to react when Zhao Luan had already dragged her back to the teahouse and hid beside the door.
“What’s the matter?” Jiang Chenyu looked outside through the cracks in the wooden door and saw that things were as usual out in the streets. The passers-by were in small groups and the stalls were sparse. If she must say that something was different, it was that a horse carriage had turned out from a corner and was taking its time in approaching this direction.
Zhao Luan said nervously, “Why am I so unlucky, the capital is so big but we just had to bump into each other here! You saw it right?”
“Ah, the White Marsh*!”
*T/n: Bai Ze, legendary creature of ancient China
An example of an image here:
Her words were like a strike of lightning that shocked Jiang Chenyu until her whole body trembled. She focused her gaze and inspected carefully again. Indeed, she saw that although the horse carriage was simple and plain and not in the least eye-catching, there was a picture of a White Marsh on the shaft.
White Marsh, the mythical beast on Mount Kunlun*. It could speak human language, was well acquainted with the ways of the world and rarely roam about. If the world is governed by a sage ruler, it will arrive to present a book. Upon ascending the throne, the current Son of Heaven had bestowed this totem upon Ji Ying. From then on, the White Marsh had become the one and only emblem that stood for Marquis Qi Ao’s identity.
*T/n: As mentioned before, Mount Kunlun often exists in many legends
That also means that the person in the carriage is……Gentleman?
Why did Gentleman come here? Jiang Chenyu subconsciously grabbed her front collar. She saw the horse carriage drove closer and slowly halted. It happened to stop right beside that butcher named ‘Pan Fang’.
Afterwards, the carriage door opened. Ji Ying who was dressed in white alighted from the carriage and paid and cupped his hands to pay Pan Fang a grand greeting.
Zhao Luan lowered her voice, “Ah, so he came to look for Pan Fang. That’s strange, the two of them know each other?”
Ji Ying and Pan Fang started to converse with each other. As the sunlight illuminated this scene outside the teahouse, his every expression, every action and even every crease on his clothes were all that clear.
Jiang Chenyu could not help but lament in her heart. Was this considered as them being fated or not fated? If she were to say that they are not fated, the capital is so big while she only goes out once in a thousand years but they just so happened to meet coincidentally; But if she were to say that they are fated, when her family’s matchmaker went to his residence to propose marriage, he was not in his house but had come here instead.
Her ear caught Pan Fang saying, “Pan is just a boorish fellow and no longer has the interest in an official career. Why must Marquis insist on something that is against my will?”
Ji Ying smiled. “Brother Pan is really too humble. How many people are there in this world who can go solo on a horse to pursue roving bandits for a thousand miles and single-handedly capture the enemy’s leader when facing ten thousand soldiers? You have followed your father since young to enlist in the army. You are familiar with the art of war and adroit at using the long gun. When you were sixteen years old, you defeated Nation Yi’s Great General Yan Huai as a result of your tenacious effort. When you were nineteen years old, you were conferred as General of Fast Calvary*……Such glory. How could it be summarized with just the two words ‘boorish fellow’?”
*T/n: One of the high military rank held by Generals in ancient China. Generals with this position usually lead the group of soldiers who fight in the war using carriages.
Zhao Luan sounded “Wah” and moved close to Jiang Chenyu’s ears to say, “I didn’t expect that this butcher turned out to be that amazing!”
Jiang Chenyu held up a finger to signal her to continue listening.
Pan Fang was a little emotionally moved, but in the end, he instead smiled miserably and lowered his voice to say, “Marquis is indeed well aware of Pan’s past. Then you should all the more be aware of the reason Pan had lost the official position and was banished back to my hometown. How does the son of the general of an insurgent army have the face to be on the battlefield again?”
Ji Ying stared fixedly at him as his gaze revealed a tinge of sorrow. “I really didn’t expect……”
“That’s right, no one ever expected that my father would rebel……”
“What I didn’t expect is you.”
Pan Fang was stumped. “Me?”
“Yes.” Ji Ying’s gaze was especially bright. It stared at him, stared at him closely and did not leave for a single moment. “What I didn’t expect is that Old General Pan was a hero for his whole life but he actually ended up with such a good-for-nothing son. Not only did he never think of rectifying his father’s reputation and return his innocence, he even followed the herd, couldn’t distinguish black from white and willingly abandons himself……”
Pan Fang grabbed his hand and said anxiously, “What did you say?”
“What did I say? I said ー Did you really think that your father would rebel? Did you really think that he would leak out the military intelligence because he couldn’t endure the brutal torture after he was taken prisoner?”
Pan Fang’s expression could no longer be described by the two words ‘shockingly shaken’. He glared at the eyes which resembled bronze bells and said in a quivering voice, “You’re saying that……my father was accused wrongly? But there was evidently the letter of confession he had personally written back then and even his two subordinates also said that……”
Ji Ying sneered. “Brother Pan is well-versed with the art of war. Don’t you know the two stratagems* of ‘borrowing another’s knife to kill’ and ‘sheer fabrication out of nothing’?”
*T/n: I tried to stick to the original text as much as possible for this case. If you feel that it could have been clearer, please inform me.
Pan Fang was dazed for half a day. In the end, he slowly released Ji Ying’s hand and muttered, “Could it be that it was fake……Could it be that everything that year was fake?”
“The letter can be fake, the testimony of a witness can be fake, but,” Ji Ying’s sneer turned into a smile which was like the spring breeze caressing the lush grass, the morning dew embellishing the red flowers and he had the most gentle countenance in this whole world. “Your father is not fake, the feelings between you father and son are not fake. Could it be that even you don’t believe in him?”
Pan Fang stood there dumbstruck for quite a long while. All of a sudden, his fist slammed towards the wall and his eyes were reddened as he said, “I was wrong! Father, I was wrong! I was really gravely wrong!”
Ji Ying said pensively, “The past has already passed, but the future can still be redeemed. It’s still not late if you repent now.”
Pan Fang turned around and knelt towards him with a ‘thump’. He kowtowed and said, “This lowly Pan Fang is kneeling to implore that Marquis accept me under your wing. As long as I can redress my father’s grievances, I will definitely not hesitate to even dash my brains out on the ground and sacrifice my own life!”
Ji Ying helped him up. His gaze was resplendent like the stars and carried a smooth smile like water. “Brother Pan is being too ceremonious. Ying* originally had come out of admiration for your talent. It is Ying’s honor that Brother Pan is willing to allow. It’s just that……”
*T/n: Ji Ying is referring to himself
“It’s just that what?”
Ji Ying’s gaze passed through the window to look towards the silhouette behind the curtains in the teahouse. “The official career is treacherous. Ying has the resolve to go against the same enemy* but I don’t know if Brother Pan really has the courage to burn all your boats and cut off all your means of retreat?”
*T/n: Originally from a poem which expresses the brotherhood and friendship in the army. It’s basically about facing the same enemy and fighting and advancing together.
Pan Fang’s expression changed instantly and became ashen pale. He stared fixedly at that silhouette. His gaze flickered and it was obvious that he was hesitating and in pain to the extreme. From Jiang Chenyu’s angle, it could be seen that his hands at the end of his sleeves were clenched tightly into fists until his knuckles were beginning to turn white. In the end, that hand suddenly loosened and Pan Fang raised his head to say, “This lowly one understands already! Being as one as husband and wife and living a simple life in contentment was originally an unattainable wish of mine. From now onwards, I will never ever have this thought!”
Jiang Chenyu’s heart sank. When he said it like this, did it also mean that he was going to give Young Lady Qin up?