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The candlelight illuminated faint light, shining quietly in the bedroom.
Ni Lie swallowed hard, his heart was beating violently.
He had a…very strange dream.
The desperate palpitations in his dream still had a lingering sound, causing a layer of cold sweat on his back. He touched his heart, and his adam’s apple moved.
The person lying next to him opened his eyes in a daze. He tugged at the corner of his clothes, and asked him with a sticky nasal sound:
“A Lie, what’s wrong?”
Ni Lie laid down slowly. The person beside him took advantage of this opportunity to get into his embrace and said in a daze, “Go to sleep….it’s already quite late now…..”
Ni Lie felt his heart soften. He smoothed his black hair that was scattered around gently, pressed the back of his head to his neck, then with the tip of his nose, he pressed against the top of his hair. He sniffed the cold fragrance on his body.
Gradually, that devastating feeling of palpitations that wanted to destroy everything was suppressed down.
It was nothing more than an inexplicable nightmare.
He borrowed the dusky candlelight to look at the person in his embrace that had long fallen asleep. He pressed his lips against him, and continued to hold him in his embrace, and closed his eyes.
It was a night without a dream.
In a blink of an eye, it was the day of the Mu’en Festival. At night, there was a pattering dripping noise of rain. Zhou Dawu didn’t sleep all night, worrying until the sky showed its white color of dawn. Unexpectedly, it was still Yinshi (3-5am) and the weather had already cleared up and became cloudless.
The weather was really cooperating.
Ni Lie had already led his troops in advance to the west of the city to deploy defences. Zhou Dawu and a team of sixty people were ready to set off. Just as they were on the horse, Ni Ying, in men’s clothing, came over while pulling along a horse.
Zhou Dawu frowned: “A Ying, there are a lot of people today, and it will be chaotic, you can’t leave the mansion. Stay in the mansion and look after it with Uncle Long.”
Ni Ying raised her pretty brows and said contentedly, “His Highness Gege has agreed to take me there.”
Zhou Dawu shook his head helplessly, knowing that this Da Xiaojie* definitely went to pester His Highness yesterday. He pointed his finger at her angrily.
(Da Xiaojie: like a term use to call the oldest daughter of the family, a bit bossy too)
His Highness always pampered her. If it were not for an important matter, he would almost always allow her to go with them. His Highness treating her differently like this, he didn’t know whether she would remain inside this King Guangan’s mansion in the future as his Guangan Wangfei*.
(Wangfei: First wife of the king (with Wang title)
He suddenly thought of His Highness’s special body, and he couldn’t help but sigh. If it weren’t for this kind of body, with his master’s talents and strategies, how could he not rise? Presumably, even His Majesty would also attach great importance to him and give him a few glances. It’s a pity that he was born with an ominous bisexual body and was despised by His Majesty. A 13-year-old child was thrown aside in this Lingnan, where the customs of the local people were as tough as nails. In these eight years, His Majesty did not show any concerns or interests. It was already difficult to even pass an account book to the imperial court, so this marriage, he probably had more or less thrown it to the back of his head already.
A magnificent prince to be seen like this.
The official noble families in Lingnan region knew more or less about King Guangan’s mansion affairs, so naturally, they were unlikely to send their daughters to this fire pit. However, with King Guangan’s mansion’s reputation flourishing day by day with prestige, this made people see the wind and set the helm (be flexible). One after another, they advanced to the mansion to squeeze in. In the first two years, there were a lot of noises in front of the palace, but His Highness didn’t even let out a sound from beginning to the end. Afterwards, everyone knew His Highness’s meaning. Thus, they stopped their thoughts of the marriage matter.
Zhou Dawu thought, His Highness probably planned to keep this child, Ni Ying. Thinking about it, it would be good. At least they knew her roots and knew her base. His Highness is also fond of her, so if it can happen, he would be really happy for him.
Originally, when he was recommended by Old General Li to be placed beside this prince who was hated by Emperor Mingde, although he didn’t say anything on the surface, his thoughts were difficult to calm down. However, over the years, he had watched with his own two eyes, how this thin body bit with all his might to obtain a piece of this world. His heart had long filled with admiration for him. Moreover, this master was gentle and upright, treating them with sincerity. He shared his sorrows and joys, never showing censure easily. Therefore, he didn’t know when he had started to follow after him unconditionally.
After a moment of myriad trains of thought, Zhou Dawu sighed considerably with sorrow. Since His Highness has decided, then he will be more careful today and will carefully treat and take care of this future Wangfei.
The great streets and small alleys of Lingnan City were covered with colourful gauze weaving flags that symbolized blessings. The big streets were full of rubbing shoulders, following each other’s footsteps, noise and excitement, it was brilliant and varied. On such a special day, even the county guards were dispatched. Ten steps one person, one hundred steps one pavilion of defence. The pavilion was armed to ensure that the annual Mu’en sacrifice ceremony would not go wrong.
A high platform stood on the northwest corner of the city, solemn and dignified, rising high to the sky. The vast ground under the high platform was crowded with common people standing next to each other in sequence to attend the ritual, holding up high the incense burning with smoke, candles and other objects.
Lingnan region respected the gods. These common people rushed here before dawn, all of them wanting to obtain the first stick of incense placed in the censer (believed to bring good luck). Furthermore, many people were soaked with traces of the early morning rainwater, however, no one showed an impatient expression. They all looked reverent and solemn.
The serene cries of the horn belted out one higher than the next, then the echo of the bells and drumbeat gradually stopped. King Guangan took large strides out of the black door.
He wore a purple and gold crown, a vermilion nine-segment dung dragon gown, and black leather boots. His indistinguishable male or female face had a solemn and stern expression with an air of alienation and dignity, but without making one feel contempt toward it.
Ni Lie watched his master coming over. Half kneeling with the other feet planted on the ground, his hands raised up high and flat over his head, holding three gold incense sticks in his hands. Li Yuanmin took it, gently lifted his hem, and one by one up the steps.
After stepping on the first step, a shaman with four colours of paint applied across his whole face used a willow branch, dipped it in the water in a copper bowl, and sprinkled it on his body. This was meant to drive away evil spirits and purify the body. He was being led by the shaman child and ascended to the high platform. On behalf of the numerous Lingnan common people, he paid respect to the gods and deities, before solemnly inserting the incense into the huge incense burner.
Finally, he took the prayer manuscript handed by the shaman and read it aloud.
Suddenly, there was a burst of cheers from the crowd. This vassal state king from the capital had always attached great importance to farming mulberries, building water irrigations, and often bending over himself personally to plant. He experienced everything with the common people. This kind of vassal state king made them fond of him from the bottom of their hearts. They threw the buds, jujubes, japonica rice, lotus seeds and other things into the sky one after another, praying for a bumper harvest of all crops every year.
Seeing the lively atmosphere over there, Yuan Chongsheng who was sitting on the ritual platform, gave a sneer at the corner of his mouth.
This King Guangan had no other ability, but unexpectedly his favor from the people was extraordinary. But he was an unfavored prince, what is the use of this fame? Could it be that His Majesty would attach great importance to him? Still, it’s not as important as to think about how to feed his people inside the mansion in the future!
These days, he sent no less than ten spies to find out the harvest in various places in the farmstead fields. He originally thought that King Guangan easily giving up all the shares of the harvest must have something fishy, but he didn’t expect that this year was a very good year with a bumper harvest. The harvest was 20% more than in previous years. That 20% being used to offer the court the thirty thousand and two hundred taels of silver was more than enough!
This King Guangan… In the end, he was still the cowardly child of the cold palace. What if he had simulated this kind of appearance from his little learned experience, he must have overestimated him.
Since he intended to hand over the offerings, he naturally had to give the other a bit of face.
He immediately touched his beard with a smile.
Secretly pondering this job in Lingnan, he indeed had done it smoothly. Guifei Niangniang seeing him competent, perhaps after three years of examining his achievements, she may give him at least a first-class grade. When the time comes, he could go to the capital and walk around, rank raised and everything stable.
He was still fully content with his achievements when a clear and bright voice rang from beside him: “What is Yuan Xuntai thinking about to be so enthralled like this?”
He fixed his eyes. King Guangan walked towards him with a gentle smile on his face.
It turned out that he had finished praying to god. On the high platform, a number of county guards had replaced him to maintain order, while the common people lined up one after another to climb up to burn incense at the temple.
Yuan Chongsheng stood up and paid his respects: “King Guangan has worked hard.”
Ni Lie, who was following behind Li Yuanmin, immediately moved a cap chair.
“It’s no bother, Xuntai Daren sit down.” Li Yuanmin invited, and sat down on his own. He spoke casually: “Having been in Lingnan for a while now, has Yuan Xuntai adapted to the Lingnan scenery?”
“It is acceptable,” Yuan Chongsheng said with a smile, “I have troubled King Guangan to be worried.”
Li Yuanmin took the opportunity to tell him a lot of the embarrassing matters that he had experienced when he came to Lingnan. The two talked and laughed, the atmosphere was unexpectedly relaxed and harmonious.
“Right,” Li Yuanmin closed his fan and moved closer, “The new method for farmstead fields, how have Xuntai Daren decided?”
“We’ll follow the prescribed order, and wait a few more days.”
Yuan Chongsheng didn’t want to talk to him in detail, he just poured tea for him.
Li Yuanmin calmly took the handle of his fan and dropped his hand: “Then, did Xuntai Daren already discuss in advance with every farm field consul?”
Yuan Chongsheng broke into laughter, “Ben Guan is the official from the imperial court and issued here by the imperial court’s law. There is no need to consult these commoners. Your Highness, you really know how to joke.”
He glanced meaningfully at Li Yuanmin: “I think Your Highness doesn’t need to exhaust yourself about this. This Mu En Festival strains one’s energy, only to earn a bit of reputation. It’s better to stay at one’s mansion and relax. Your Highness, do you agree?”
“Haha, what Xuntai Daren said is true.”
Li Yuanmin brushed the tea foam, took a sip of the tea, then a soft smile appeared on the corner of his lips.
Yuan Xuntai made a little bit of a roundabout speech quickly, his heart was a little pleased: “Today is lively. Taking advantage of this day, this subordinate has hosted a banquet in Yang Chunlou, I wonder whether it is possible for King Guangan to do me a favour tonight, and come over for a drink?”
“How can Ben Wang not go on such occasions?” Li Yuanmin naturally responded immediately.
Soon the sun gradually shifted to the center. The sky was getting hotter. Yuan Chongsheng just came from the capital, and he was more or less uncomfortable with the dampness and heat. He was oily, dry and wet, it was not comfortable at all. He immediately exchanged some pleasantries in a few words and took his leave.
Li Yuanmin looked at his back, with a smile still on his lips, his eyes were deep.
His field of vision dimmed. It was Ni Lie who squatted down. There was some mud on his black boots, and Ni Lie was wiping it.
Li Yuanmian softened his heart and wanted to reach out and touch his cheek, but immediately held back.
After cleaning up, Ni Lie threw the dirty towel aside, half-kneeling to look at him,
“There was no need for Your Highness to remind him.”
Li Yuanmin’s lips twitched, “I just want to see how capable this capital official is.”
The biggest difference between Lingnan and the other places is that this group of common people, despising them. It was equivalent to playing with fire. The drought in the previous life and the uprising of Lingnan refugees, although it was later suppressed and pressed down, it also damaged most of the Jiangbei great camp’s strength. Later there was also a danger buried within the riot of the eight vassal state kings, but it is a pity that Yuan Chongsheng, an official, who keeps boasting about himself, still did not understand.
He didn’t want to continue to talk about this disappointing topic, he only softened his eyebrows and said in a low voice: “Let’s go back too. You still have to follow me to Yang Chunlou dinner banquet.”
Then something suddenly came to his mind: “Go to my courtyard later. I asked the kitchen to make some sour plum soup and iced it specially, it’s very tasty.”
He was clearly the King Guangan who was calmly confronting others, but in a blink of an eye, he unconsciously showed such a childish look.
This kind of side, only he knew.
Ni Lie looked at his gentle appearance, and his heart softened.