Let Go of that Shou Chapter 19

Chapter 19

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On the twelfth day of the first lunar month, the capital was bustling with extraordinary excitement. Since Li Mou took control of the capital as a martial artist and Li Qingcheng exterminated two hundred thousand Xiongnu on the northern frontier, looking at the current situation, the accumulated prosperity of the Central Plains over three hundred years had reached its peak. With the enlightened emperor reigning, the wealth and abundance in the country were unparalleled.

The Great Yu was rich and militarily strong, and the people lived in peace and contentment. The capital had reached eight hundred thousand households, with four cities and eight markets, encompassing both the inner and outer imperial cities. As the Lantern Festival approached, people from all walks of life entered the city to enjoy the lanterns, and there were crowds of people outside the enormous city gates.

It was the first time in You Mengzhe’s life to witness such a grand scene. Upon arriving in the capital in the early morning, the lantern bridges over the moats had already raised their cables in preparation for the lantern festival three days later. Following Zhao Feihong into the city, one could see bustling businesses everywhere, with teahouses and restaurants filled to capacity. The entire city was splendid and magnificent.

Compared to the capital, Jiangzhou seemed like a rural place.

Here, the food, clothing, and accommodations are the best in the entire Great Yu. The entertainment options are diverse and abundant. Merchants from the Western Regions, swordsmen from Yizhou, warriors from the East Sea, and caravans from Hubei present a scene of prosperity with representatives from all nations.

There are cockfights, cricket fights, string instrument performances, street artists, sword duels, calligraphers, sugar figurine makers, sellers of copper fish, storytellers – everywhere you look.

You Mengzhe almost got lost several times, drawn towards the lively scenes. Every time, Zhao Feihong turned back, grabbed his collar, and headed in the right direction.

“What’s that, Master?”

“That one?”

“Tanghulu! I know that!”

“What about the ‘noodle man’?”

“What’s this? Why is there water?”

“Do these contraptions spin by themselves?”

You Mengzhe seemed like a rustic person, and indeed, both he and Zhao Feihong had a rural air about them. The master and disciple each carried a plain, dusty long staff, wearing shabby long robes. Compared to the well-dressed young men in the city, they looked like street performers who just arrived in the capital.

A grand sedan, carried by sixteen bearers, paraded through the streets with a lively atmosphere, accompanied by drumming and gonging of a rich person going to marry a wife. The crowd made way for it. When someone accidentally stepped on You Mengzhe’s foot, he got angry and grabbed a servant, saying, “Hey!”

“No causing trouble!” Zhao Feihong said displeased.

You Mengzhe had to let it go, and as they passed a shop, he couldn’t help but curiously look around.

“What’s this, Master?” You Mengzhe asked, holding a small item made of pure gold.

“Hey! Don’t touch it!” The shop assistant glanced at You Mengzhe, thinking he didn’t look like a customer. He explained, “This is a tool for the young ladies to smoke water pipes.”

“How much is this pen?” You Mengzhe asked again, giving a glance to Zhao Feihong, suggesting buying something to bring as a gift for Zhang Yuanshan.

The assistant didn’t mock him and simply replied, “Three thousand taels.”

You Mengzhe: “…”

Zhao Feihong chuckled and said, “Let’s go.”

You Mengzhe: “Three thousand taels for a pen? I could make a whole box with five taels of silver…”

Assistant: “Not three thousand taels of silver! It’s three thousand taels of gold! The handle is made of extreme oceanic sunken wood, the nib is from the heroic northern border wolves, and it’s crafted by a person from Kunlun Mountain! Our store has clear and marked prices, all in gold.”

You Mengzhe then went to look at the scholar’s four treasures: a jade bowl for washing brushes with carvings of nine dragons, a brush stand made from Mei Dai Mountain’s eyebrow-shaped black ink, an inkstone with dark red ochre and rouge colors, a table with root carvings, and a screen made of colored glaze. Each item seemed to carry a sky-high price tag of several dozen taels of gold.

The assistant took some water and casually poured it into a brush washing pot. Under the white light, in the almost translucent glass jar, numerous carved fish on the wall seemed to come to life with the shimmering water.

You Mengzhe marveled at the scene, and the assistant added, “The four treasures of the imperial study in our store are all top-quality.” With a stroke of the brush in the bowl, the ink dispersed like smoke, lingering without dissipating for a long time, resembling a wisp of black cloud frozen in white jade.

You Mengzhe laughed and said, “Can’t afford, can’t afford.”   

He realized that even if he were in that position, he wouldn’t be able to afford such luxuries. You Mengzhe, with a net worth of at most a few thousand taels of silver, understood that there were always people more affluent than himself.

“What is this for sale?” You Mengzhe stopped an old man and asked.

“Copper fish beards!” The old man carried a load on his shoulders. “Craftsmanship in the capital for three hundred years!”

The load was full of copper fish that swayed back and forth. You Mengzhe stopped to look at everything, prompting Zhao Feihong to finally say, “Let’s go. If you keep looking, it will be dark soon. A month won’t be enough to see everything. I’ll take you out again after we finish our business.”

You Mengzhe was pulled away, and at the East Market Gate, Zhao Feihong hired another carriage. The driver asked for one or two taels of silver, and Zhao Feihong didn’t bother bargaining. The carriage ride took about an hour and a half, with frequent stops and occasional waits in bustling areas.

When it was completely dark, they finally arrived outside the Zhang residence. Lanterns adorned the surroundings, casting the long street in daylight-like brightness. Two large red lanterns with the characters “Zhang” hung, and a gigantic lantern with the words “Suppress Evil” roared towards the sky, reaching a height of a person. The Zhang residence had four main gates and four side gates, but the main gate was tightly closed, and there was no sign of visitors coming and going.

Zhao Feihong went up to knock on the door, and a servant from the side door said, “The master has gone out to visit guests. Come back another day.”

Zhao Feihong asked, “Where did he go? I am Zhao Feihong.”

The servant frowned as he scrutinized Zhao Feihong. Recognizing him, he hurriedly said, “Zhang Bo! The master’s sworn brother has come!”

“Noble Warrior Zhao!” After a brief commotion inside, a man dressed in luxurious clothes, exuding an air of wealth, welcomed them. Zhao Feihong cupped his hands and said, “Zhang Bo.”    

You Mengzhe was unaware of the situation, thinking that it was Zhang Yuanshan’s father. He found it strange that Zhao Feihong didn’t ask him to bow, and then Zhang Bo explained, “The master went to Tianxian County three days ago. He left instructions inside.”

Zhao Feihong said, “Why would he do that? I thought we might have missed him on the way.”

It was then that You Mengzhe learned that the person in front of them was the steward. Zhang Bo led them into the residence. Inside, there was a front courtyard, followed by two gates. Behind the second gate was a martial arts training ground, and in front of it was a main hall. Two servants with lanterns came out, and Zhang Bo said, “Noble Warrior Zhao, please come this way.”

Walking through the front corridor, the courtyard was filled with dazzling lights. You Mengzhe felt dizzy from the grandeur. The Zhang residence was more luxurious than the main hall of the Demonic Sect on Yuheng Mountain, with six courtyards and three yards. There were probably over a hundred rooms. Finally, they were led to a large room in the west courtyard.  

The steward instructed to serve tea, and Zhao Feihong, without any false modesty, took a seat. The steward, standing, briefly explained that Zhang Yuanshan had received a letter a few days ago, prompting him to prepare a horse and personally set off for Tianxian County.

You Mengzhe secretly thought that it was better that Zhang Yuanshan wasn’t there, avoiding the risk of being forced into scattering his cultivation. While he was listening to the summary, a maid brought several dishes: hand-pulled sesame marten meat, deer lips marinated in soy sauce, bamboo fungus wrapped in ham, and a plate of deep-fried fish lips. Additionally, there were two cups of ginger red sugar water.

Having been hungry all afternoon, You Mengzhe thought it was time for a meal. He hadn’t had a satisfying one during these days with Zhao Feihong. Seeing this array of food, his eyes immediately lit up.

The steward continued, “It’s cold outside. Let’s warm up our stomachs with some snacks first. Young Master You, what do you like to eat? Any dietary restrictions? I’ll instruct them to prepare the meals accordingly.”

You Mengzhe: “!!!”

Unexpectedly, it was still just a light snack! You Mengzhe truly underestimated the extravagance of Zhang Yuanshan’s household.

Zhao Feihong said, “He’s a kid, here’s no need to spoil him. What does the letter say? Can I take a look?”

The steward quickly agreed and went to fetch the letter. Meanwhile, You Mengzhe devoured all four plates, casting a glance at Zhao Feihong.

After a while, dinner was served—a table full of delicacies. You Mengzhe ate until his stomach was round, lying back in his chair, content. Zhao Feihong only ate a little, then lowered his head to carefully read the letter. After finishing, he said, “Please lend me some paper and a pen.”

The steward replied, “Please follow me, Noble Warrior.” With that, he led Zhao Feihong to the study. You Mengzhe, dragging his feet, followed along. The steward laid out some paper, and Zhao Feihong, after a moment of contemplation, picked up the pen and began writing.  

You Mengzhe watched as Zhao Feihong wrote the letter, vaguely guessing the general situation. On the eighth day of the lunar new year, Zhang Yuanshan received a letter informing him of a martial arts gathering in the  Sichuan region. The thirty-six factions of Sichuan had never fully accepted the leadership of the Central Plains martial arts. The previously elected leader of the alliance, upon returning to his hometown, lacked the virtue and talent to gain the trust of the various factions. Consequently, he fell victim to schemes and provocations, leading to a major conflict.

Zhang Yuanshan, having received this news, personally went to find Zhao Feihong in Ting County, intending to travel together to Sichuan to resolve the situation. However, during that period, Zhao Feihong had just gone to the capital, resulting in a missed connection.

Zhao Feihong wrote another letter, instructing someone to deliver it to Ting County to locate Zhang Yuanshan and bring him back. The essence of the message was that Zhao Feihong would personally handle the situation in Sichuan and requested Zhang Yuanshan to return to the capital. He also informed Zhang Yuanshan about the incident involving You Mengzhe.

Shortly after, Zhao Feihong set aside his pen, sealed the letter, and instructed the steward to send someone to deliver it. He then stood up and said, “I need to borrow a horse.”

You Mengzhe had been silent all along. The steward replied, “I will arrange for a horse for you, Noble Warrior Zhao.”

Zhao Feihong added, “During my absence, I’ll trouble Zhang Bo to take care of my young disciple.”

You Mengzhe asked, “Are you going to Sichuan?”

“Yes,” replied Zhao Feihong.

The steward inquired, “Noble Warrior Zhao, won’t you wait for the master to return before you go?”

“No need. I can handle it. Meng Zhe, you stay at the residence. Yuan Shan is my sworn brother, I don’t want to cause him any trouble. Understand?” Zhao Feihong said.

You Mengzhe furrowed his brows, a hint of resentment on his face.

The steward, discerning the situation, smiled and said, “Young Master You seems to come from a scholarly family. There’s nothing here that wouldn’t meet your standards. Please, Young Master, bear with us.”

Zhao Feihong then instructed You Mengzhe, “Did you hear that? Why aren’t you saying anything?”

As they spoke, several people arrived at the backyard. The servants brought forth a spirited white jade dragon steed. Suddenly, You Mengzhe spoke up, “Didn’t you say you wouldn’t fight with my father? Don’t go.”

Zhao Feihong furrowed his brows, unable to find the words to refute him.

You Mengzhe continued, “You don’t have any deep-seated hatred with my father. Let Sichuan Jianghu be what it is.”

Zhao Feihong retorted, “Impudent! I’ve indulged you before. Since when did I allow you to make decisions? I said ‘we’ll see’ in the beginning. Besides, this matter is not trivial. You can’t handle it recklessly.”

You Mengzhe felt a burning anger inside, while Zhao Feihong’s expression softened a bit. He said, “Stay here quietly. You have friends to visit. Yuan Shan will probably be back in a few days. When he returns, follow his orders. I’m leaving.”

Zhao Feihong mounted his horse, and the steward brought a plate of dishes. Without hesitation, Zhao Feihong took it, indicating the genuine bond he shared with Zhang Yuanshan.

As Zhao Feihong sat on his horse, he looked at You Mengzhe, who was also gazing back at him. Zhao Feihong seemed to expect him to say something, but You Mengzhe remained silent.

After waiting for a while, the atmosphere became awkward. Zhao Feihong waited, hoping for You Mengzhe to speak, but he remained silent. Finally, Zhao Feihong bowed to the steward, took the reins, and left the rear alley.

“You’ve let me down! Zhao Feihong! You unfaithful scoundrel!” It wasn’t until Zhao Feihong was several tens of steps away that You Mengzhe erupted, shouting at him in anger.

Zhao Feihong suddenly pulled the reins, and the white jade dragon horse neighed, coming to a halt.

You Mengzhe was startled and quickly hid in the backyard. Zhao Feihong turned and glanced back, as if wanting to say something, but after a moment of silence, he turned around and disappeared into the night of the capital, leaving the Zhang residence.

You Mengzhe peeked out again, watching Zhao Feihong leave all alone. He felt a surge of anger and hatred, returning with a sour face.

The steward was discerning and knew when to speak and when not to. You Mengzhe wanted to vent his frustration and find something to throw, but it was in someone else’s house… Oh, money! Zhao Feihong didn’t leave him any silver, what to do?

That night, the steward arranged two followers for You Mengzhe, heated water for his bath. Unaccustomed to being served, he returned to his room to find a plate with sixty small gold ingots. Relieved, he noticed the fragrant bedding, and his clothes were sent for washing. While he was still bathing, the steward sent someone to buy new clothes, following the color selection of a sky-blue martial robe. Despite the luxurious materials, wearing it instantly lifted You Mengzhe’s spirits.

In comparison to that drab martial robe, it was like heaven and earth. The room had a silk canopy, five or six layers of warm brocade quilts, and on the floor lay camelhair blankets from the Western Regions. Examining the paintings on the wall, You Mengzhe recognized each one as a masterpiece by renowned artists.

There was also a piece of cursive script by Zhang Yuanshan: “Hearing the qin, untying the jade, the couple of immortals cannot be retained, the broken robe cannot be kept.”

On a shelf, there were scattered antiques from the previous dynasty. While not numerous, they were all quite distinctive. You Mengzhe, who also possessed a collection of antiques, noted that even in any random guest room of Zhang Yuanshan’s house, the items displayed were of a higher class, representing centuries of wealth accumulated by the Demonic Sect.

“Really wealthy,” You Mengzhe thought, wondering where all this money came from, perhaps even more than what You Gutian had. Where did he get all this wealth?

It was still early, and You Mengzhe’s anger dissipated after a while. Upon reflection, he realized that he was currently relying on the hospitality of others. If the other party hadn’t been accommodating to Zhao Feihong’s face, providing both accommodation and necessities, You Mengzhe might not have received such treatment. He found it challenging to harbor strong resentment towards Zhao Feihong, given the complex mix of emotions.

You Mengzhe took a stroll outside, and the servants quickly followed. Waving them off, he signaled that they didn’t need to accompany him. Accustomed to being the young master of the Demonic Sect, even though he didn’t spend much time with You Gutian, he still carried a certain air of authority.

The Zhang family residence was immense, with large courtyards nested within smaller ones, and big rooms connected to smaller ones. Wandering through the garden, You Mengzhe explored casually. When the steward learned that he was wandering around, he personally came to accompany him.

“You have quite an impressive estate,” You Mengzhe casually remarked.

The steward smiled, “Oh no, Young Master You’s residence must also be grand. Please don’t mock us.”

Raising an eyebrow, You Mengzhe asked, “Do you know who I am?”

The steward respectfully replied, “Only an esteemed guest like Young Master You would praise us so. If it were someone else, they would only look around when entering the mansion, afraid to speak for fear of saying something wrong or causing a misunderstanding.”

You Mengzhe chuckled. The steward was quite articulate.

He inquired, “Is this… Martial Uncle Zhang’s residence?”

The steward replied, “Master doesn’t mind such things. Young Master can address him as he pleases.”

Not daring to exaggerate to the point of calling him a “mute,” You Mengzhe nodded, refraining from entering the room and instead observing from a distance in the courtyard.   

The room was about the same size as the side chamber in his own Qinghua Palace, with numerous furnishings. However, You Mengzhe felt something peculiar; Zhang Yuanshan’s bedroom was almost identical to his own in terms of layout and decor.

The bed was large, and shelves were filled with books. Valuable blue-and-white porcelain floor vases were stuffed with calligraphy and paintings, giving the impression of wanting to fill the room to the brim.

Living alone in such a place must be quite cold. You Mengzhe, who used to enjoy collecting various items and filling his own room during his childhood, understood the sentiment. Even with the occasional cleaning during the eradication of the Demonic Sect, he couldn’t resist bringing in new items every few days.

Seeing You Mengzhe standing at the door for a while with a look of wanting to enter but hesitating, the steward said, “Young Master, if you wish, you can go in and take a look.”   

You Mengzhe nodded and walked in without disturbing his belongings. There were quite a few bottles and jars. He asked, “Does Martial Uncle often fall ill?”

The steward smiled and moved aside a white jade plum blossom jar. Inside, there was a bit of dust, and it was empty. At the bottom of the jar, there was a cluster of something resembling withered fluff.

Very curious, You Mengzhe didn’t reach in and asked, “What is this?”

The steward replied, “Potatoes and crickets. Young Master raised them when he was a child. They’re all dead now, but he kept them and didn’t want to bury them.”

You Mengzhe nodded. It turned out that Zhang Yuanshan used to enjoy raising crickets. He also noticed a pair of calligraphy hanging on the wall:

“Managing a great nation is like cooking small fish.”

You Mengzhe smiled and said, “Why hang this pair of words here? Aren’t they supposed to be in the kitchen?”

The steward bowed slightly towards the north and said, “These are words that Master wrote for the current emperor. His Majesty didn’t like them, so they were replaced with a pair saying ‘A prosperous era, a picturesque land.’ This pair has been hanging here ever since.”

You Mengzhe was moved and said, “He even knows the emperor!”

The steward smiled and said, “Master has known three people in his lifetime: the emperor, Noble Warrior Zhao, and Young Master You.”

You Mengzhe: “…….”

You Mengzhe thought to himself that the flattery seemed a bit excessive. His lips twitched as he asked, “He doesn’t have any other friends?”

The steward replied, “No, when others come to visit, they are all politely turned away.”

You Mengzhe asked, “No one has proposed marriage to him?”

The steward smiled and waved his hand. You Mengzhe continued, “With so many people, do you all just serve him alone? Do you usually chat with him? Oh, I mean…”

The steward said, “Master lets us do our own things on regular days. We all have our duties in the residence.”  

You Mengzhe thought that this person’s temperament was really strange. Suddenly, he felt that they were quite similar. Wasn’t he the same when he was on the mountain? Roaming around, there was always a part of him that couldn’t be filled. It seemed that the people in the Demonic Sect had little to do with him. You Mengzhe also thought of Yu Wenhong and the indescribable longing he felt for him, especially after being bullied by Zhao Feihong. He just wanted someone to talk to.

It didn’t necessarily mean asking Yu Wenhong to stand up for him, just venting and complaining, having someone to listen to him. Then he thought, isn’t Zhang Yuanshan even more pitiful? He can’t even speak, let alone talk to himself. Everything is bottled up inside. If You Mengzhe were to become mute, he would probably go crazy.

Feeling a bit melancholic, You Mengzhe didn’t expect the steward to continue, saying, “Before the New Year, Master received a letter from Jiangnan. He was delighted to hear that Young Master You is learning martial arts under Noble Warrior Zhao, and he was happy all night.”

You Mengzhe thought it made sense. After all, the steward eventually knew his identity. Zhang Yuanshan should also recognize his mother. Zhao Feihong mentioned before that the three of them had a drink in Jiangshan Pavillion….. He wondered if the mute person would express joy by clenching his fists and shouting loudly or how he showed happiness….

“How does he express happiness?” You Mengzhe casually asked.

The steward smiled and said, “On the day he received the letter, he personally wrote a phrase for Young Master. Please have a look, Young Master.”

The steward led You Mengzhe to the study, took a scroll from the bookshelf, and handed it to him. You Mengzhe opened it and saw six characters: “A gentleman conceals his strength like a dragon in the deep”.

Note: A gentleman conceals his strength like a dragon in the deep: This expression is often used to convey the idea that a true leader or virtuous person does not always display their abilities or reveal their full strength openly. Instead, they may keep their talents, skills, or capabilities hidden until the right moment or situation arises. The metaphor of the dragon in the deep refers to the powerful force lying dormant or hidden beneath the surface. This saying emphasizes the virtues of humility, patience, and strategic thinking in a person of noble character.

Looking left and right, You Mengzhe couldn’t figure out the meaning. He chuckled and said, “Hehe, thank him for me.”

The steward replied, “When Master returns, Young Master can personally express gratitude to him.”

Pursing his lips, You Mengzhe had to admit that the handwriting was indeed better than his own. He put away the scroll and returned to his room, planning to visit Yu Changqing tomorrow after asking for directions in the capital.

Huge shoutout to @_nyanmaru_ on Discord for commissioning this! The chapter will be posted regularly, show your support for Ciacia at Kofi.

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