Let Go of that Shou Chapter 21

Chapter 21

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“Yu Changqing! Come out!”

You Mengzhe suddenly opened his eyes, and Yu Changqing immediately got up, put on his clothes, and got out of bed. You Mengzhe was still naked and asked, “Is someone looking for you?”

Yu Changqing said, “Don’t come out, no matter what, don’t come out.”

You Mengzhe asked, “Is it another debt collector?”

Yu Changqing said, “It’s nothing, just stay asleep, don’t think about anything else.”

Yu Changqing Yu quickly put on his clothes. Outside, someone started cursing. Yu Changqing pulled his robe, fastened his belt, bent down to put on his boots. You Mengzhe felt like he was caught in bed like a cheating dog.

Yu Changqing didn’t bother to take his sword as he went out. He turned around, reached his hand in from the window, blocked the door with a latch, and closed the window.

You Mengzhe, unable to fall back asleep after waking up, stretched lazily and got up to find water. He sat in the bed, hugging his knees for a while, then put on his clothes and got out of bed.

Yu Changqing’s home was not as well-serviced as the Zhang’s mansion. There was no one to attend to him, and even a cup of hot tea was unavailable in the morning. You Mengzhe, yawning, put on his clothes and leisurely walked out. He saw a group of people blocking the entrance of the Yu’s house – men, women, servants, and quite a few scholars in blue robes. It seemed like there was someone important among them. They were bullying Yu Changqing, taking advantage of his lack of power and influence, forcing him to admit wrongdoing and cover up their own shameful affairs.

Across the street, two servants in the teahouse were still there, grinning and looking around, enjoying the spectacle.

An elderly man spoke calmly, “So be it, sooner or later, there must be an explanation. Shall we go inside and talk?” As he spoke, the group seemed intent on forcefully entering Yu Changqing’s house for a discussion. Though they called it a discussion, it was more like a veiled threat and intimidation. With so many people approaching aggressively, there was no semblance of a reasonable conversation.

Yu Changqing stood in front of the mansion gate and said, “This matter will be explained to Old Zhen sooner or later. Please give me a few days, and I will personally come to the mansion to clarify things.”

As You Mengzhe stepped outside, a maid immediately said, “Master Wu! Yesterday, Jin Gui and the others saw it too. It’s this young man. It must be the two of them working together and strangling our young lady to death!”

You Mengzhe revealed himself, and the maid screamed, prompting the Zhen family members to rush forward, ready to take action. You Mengzhe exclaimed, “Hey, what’s going on! I know martial arts!”

The scene instantly descended into chaos. Yu Changqing, furious, rolled up his sleeves and shouted, “Who dares to touch him! I declare here that if anyone lays a finger on him, no one will leave today!”

“What’s going on, what’s going on!” The two servants across the street shouted loudly, their expressions extremely arrogant, drowning out the voices of the Zhen family servants.

Seeing an opportunity, You Mengzhe quickly said to the two servants, “Go back and get some people. Brothers, let’s fight back! It’s unfair for them to gang up on us like this!”

Yu Changqing asked, “Are these people from your Martial Uncle’s residence?”

The two servants glanced at Yu Changqing, and one named Zhu Jing exchanged a subtle look with the other. The latter then turned and brought a horse from the teahouse, mounted it, and headed back to report to the master.

Seeing that You Mengzhe, despite his simple attire, wore fine clothes made of valuable fabric and had a fresh appearance, the onlookers assumed he wasn’t an ordinary commoner. For the moment, no one dared to trouble You Mengzhe again.

Yu Changqing said, “Go back with them. I’ll find you after I settle this matter.”

While they were talking, someone from the Zhen family group made a sarcastic remark, “This matter may not be easily settled, Constable Yu. My sister was married into your family through proper procedures, but now you not only have a son but also conspire with others to harm her…”

“Who’s the son?”

Before the person could finish his sentence, the servant boldly interjected, “Who the hell are you calling a son? Say it again, I dare you!”

The crowd reacted, condemning the servant’s outburst. Seeing that You Mengzhe didn’t intervene, the servant became even more brazen and continued, “I recognized you, aren’t you from the Ministry of War, surnamed Zhen? Raised by a despicable family, he once had his leg broken in a scuffle over a courtesan in Chun Manlou, the son of Assistant Minister Wang from the Ministry of Justice. He had to beg and plead, getting our uncle to speak a few words on his behalf to Mr. Wang. And now, with his legs intact, he struts around the streets, spewing venom at people. Isn’t that right?”

In an instant, Zhen Yang’s face turned pale. Yu Changqing hadn’t expected that You Mengzhe’s servant would be so audacious. He asked, “Mengzhe, is your Martial Uncle’s family…”

You Mengzhe said, “Ah, it’s nothing. Just the Zhang family on Iron Helmet Street.”

The servant declared, “Exactly, the Zhang family! Open your dog eyes and see whose waist plaque this is. This is Young Master You, the nephew of Grand Tutor Zhang. Even the current Crown Prince has to address him as Senior Brother! Crown Prince’s Senior Brother, can you understand, you dog? What’s wrong if our young master talks to Mr. Yu? Yet, your family dares to come here and act like you’re in the right! I’m going to shut that big mouth of yours!”

With that, the servant approached, holding the waist plaque. He used his right hand to slap Zhen Yang across the face, making a sharp sound as blood flowed from the corner of his mouth. Zhen Yang’s face swelled up from the impact. The servant, skilled in martial arts, delivered another powerful slap, causing Zhen Yang’s face to puff up even more.

The Zhen family members were terrified, and some of the scholars who had come to help saw the situation turning unfavorable and attempted to slip away unnoticed.

You Mengzhe thought things were going well and asked, “Can I start fighting?”

The servant respectfully replied, “Certainly, Young Master. Our Song’er will go back and send a message to Zhang Bo. When the Ministry of War’s Secretary arrives, we can settle this after the fight.”

“I’ll fight you…” You Mengzhe rolled up his sleeves, ready to confront Zhen Yang.

“Hold on, hold on!” Yu Changqing’s mind was in a blur. He quickly grabbed You Mengzhe and said, “Forget it, let me handle this.”

The Zhen family members were hesitant about running away. The servant added, “Run if you dare! For now, you might as well run. If you run away, we’ll meet at the Ministry of Justice!”

Yu Changqing hesitated, and the crowd fell silent. Onlookers whispered and pointed fingers.

After a brief pause, Yu Changqing spoke, “You’ve seen the letter from Yu Yin. She indeed left on her own accord.”

Zhen Yang’s mind finally shifted, and he quickly said, “Yes, yes, it’s our fault, Lord Yu, this matter is not easy to handle.”

You Mengzhe suggested, “You should also write a letter of divorce and end things.”

Yu Changqing smiled and said, “There’s no need to talk about who divorces whom. You go back for now. Here’s some silver, consider it…compensation for the future.”

While they were speaking, there was a drumbeat in the street. Everyone’s attention turned to the head of Yulan Bridge, where a procession appeared. They carried a grand sedan chair, with a servant at the front holding a sign that read “Zhang.”

You Mengzhe asked, “How did they arrive so quickly?”

The messenger who went to deliver the message rode over and said, “Master returned to the capital this morning. When he heard that the young master came to Wu Hua’er Street to visit friends, he immediately sent a sedan chair over without taking a break.”

The Zhen family is just a minor official in the Ministry of War. When have they ever encountered such a situation? Instantly terrified, the servant continued, “Uncle Yuan heard about this on the way and went directly to the Ministry of War. Lord Secretary will be here shortly.”

Zhen Yang immediately fell to his knees in front of You Mengzhe, his legs giving way. Zhen Yang quickly kowtowed, “Young Master You, I was blind and ignorant, offending you. Please…”

You Mengzhe glanced at Yu Changqing, and Yu Changqing said, “There’s no need for this. Get up, get up. Meng Zhe, this is also my fault. In my opinion…”

You Mengzhe thought this was getting a bit exaggerated and didn’t want to make too much of a fuss. He casually said, “Yes, yes, I also bear some responsibility…” Glancing mischievously at Yu Changqing. Yu Changqing’s handsome face turned slightly red, and he coughed, preparing to say a few diplomatic words. However, the grand sedan chair stopped at the bridgehead.

You Mengzhe turned his head to glance, seeing Zhang Bo approaching the sedan chair. He pulled back the curtain, nodded repeatedly, and received some instructions.

“Lord Yu,” Zhang Bo came over, bowing to Yu Changqing, “My young master has caused you trouble.”

Yu Changqing, unaware of this steward’s background, responded with dignity, smiling, “That’s nonsense.”

You Mengzhe scratched his head, and Zhang Bo continued, “Lord Yu, shall the young master board the sedan first? Shall I handle matters here?”

You Mengzhe quickly said, “Forget it, let them go. Hurry and leave, don’t appear here again.”

The Zhen family members were frightened and quickly scattered.

Zhang Bo nodded without looking directly at the group throughout. He then turned to You Mengzhe and said, “The master has returned and wishes to invite the young master to the mansion for a conversation.”

You Mengzhe responded, “Oh, alright. Let’s go then.” He thought, What could the mute Zhang Yuanshan possibly want to talk about? Zhang Bo then smiled at Yu Changqing, “I apologize for the inconvenience. We’ll meet another day when there’s time.”

Yu Changqing replied, “No problem. When I have time, I’ll visit your mansion. Meng Zhe, listen to your martial uncle well when you go back. After a few days, we can meet again.”

“Mm-hmm?” You Mengzhe winked at him and then followed Zhang Bo.

Zhang Bo lifted the curtain, and a servant provided a step stool. Outside the sedan, You Mengzhe felt uneasy. He called out, “Martial Uncle,” but apart from the brief exchange at Mirror Lake, this was their first proper meeting. He wasn’t sure whether to bow or kowtow. 

Zhang Bo whispered, “Young Master, please get into the sedan. The master doesn’t like formalities.”

“Oh.” You Mengzhe nodded, waved goodbye to Yu Changqing, and then entered the sedan. The sedan bearers turned around, heading back to the mansion.

Zhang Bo lowered the curtain outside, dimming the sunlight. Inside the spacious sedan, You Mengzhe sat down respectfully, giving Zhang Yuanshan a proper look. Despite a brief glimpse a few months ago, this was the first time he could thoroughly observe the mute master. You Mengzhe couldn’t help but be moved.

Several months ago, their eyes had briefly met, but they hadn’t observed each other closely. Now, sharing the same sedan, You Mengzhe had a clear view of the mute master’s attire and appearance. Zhang Yuanshan wore black martial boots, a deep blue woven golden eagle robe, a white jade belt, and an ancient jade waist ornament. His figure was slender and upright, with broad shoulders and long arms. His fingers were distinct, adorned with a jade thumb ring on the left hand and two amber-colored tortoiseshell rings on the right.

Zhang Yuanshan’s face was lean, with a high and straight nose. His skin tone was slightly darker than Zhao Feihong’s, and his two eyebrows were as dark as ink. His eyes were deep and profound, radiating a genuine inner strength, indicating a high level of martial arts proficiency. The pupils had a faint dark blue hue, as if carrying some Eastern barbarian lineage.

Indeed, appearance could be deceiving, and attire could elevate one’s presence. Even just sitting quietly in the sedan, Zhang Yuanshan exuded a commanding aura that left people in awe.

You Mengzhe noticed a judge’s pen hanging from Zhang Yuanshan’s waist, and recalling his family’s expertise in acupuncture points, he quickly greeted, “Hello, Martial Uncle.”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded and furrowed his brows slightly, gazing at You Mengzhe.

 The hazy daylight filtered through the flower-patterned windows on the sedan roof, casting a soft glow between the brows of Zhang Yuanshan. You Mengzhe couldn’t help but gaze at him, finding this person truly handsome. While not as robust as Zhao Feihong, as gentle as Changqing Yu, as spirited as Yu Wenhong, or even as quirky as Sun Bin, there was something intriguing about Zhang Yuanshan’s brooding expression, razor-sharp eyebrows, and the dark blue hue of his eyes.

“I’m You Mengzhe,” You Mengzhe added, recalling that this man had also known his mother.

Zhang Yuanshan nodded and took off the tortoiseshell ring from his right ring finger, gesturing for You Mengzhe to put it on. 

You Mengzhe asked, “Is this a gift for me?”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded. You Mengzhe remembered Zhao Feihong’s instructions about kowtowing. Just as he was about to rise, Zhang Yuanshan seemed to anticipate his actions. He placed a hand on You Mengzhe’s shoulder, signaling him to sit back down and forgo excessive formalities.

You Mengzhe nodded and was about to come up with something to say, but he couldn’t find a suitable topic. Zhang Yuanshan gestured with his hands, leaving You Mengzhe utterly puzzled and unable to comprehend the meaning.

Zhang Yuanshan didn’t attempt further communication through gestures. You Mengzhe leaned towards the side of the sedan, pulling back the curtain to look outside at the street scene. The sunlight refracted through the tortoiseshell ring, casting a beautiful glow.

You Mengzhe said, “Martial Uncle.” When he turned back, he noticed Zhang Yuanshan had been watching him all along. With a smile, he asked, “Are you thinking about my mother?”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded and gestured again, leaving You Mengzhe utterly confused, so he just went with the flow.

Soon, they returned to the mansion, with Zhang Bo following Zhang Yuanshan and You Mengzhe. Not knowing what to do, You Mengzhe asked, “Should I go back to my room?”

Zhang Yuanshan waved his hand, signaling You Mengzhe to follow him. He made a gesture that was the same as what he had conveyed in the sedan. Zhang Bo understood, smiling, “The master said that ‘Martial Uncle’ sounds too formal. You can call him ‘Maternal Uncle’ or ‘Paternal Uncle.’”

Note: both will be referred to as just uncle from now on.

You Mengzhe nodded, thinking that he already had a maternal uncle, so calling him ‘Paternal Uncle’ would be fine.

Zhang Yuanshan led You Mengzhe into the main hall. The servant brought tea and snacks. You Mengzhe’s stomach growled audibly. Zhang Yuanshan made a gesture, conveying that You Mengzhe could eat slowly.

Zhang Yuanshan only took a sip of tea and remained still, silently watching You Mengzhe. You Mengzhe, on the other hand, was busy with both hands, using two silver spoons to scoop up the pickled shrimp, spinning them like windmills before delivering them to his mouth.

After a while, breakfast was served: jade-like silk gourd porridge, golden-roasted pigeon legs, a plate of assorted river delicacies in four colors, and marinated fresh lotus root mixed with diced chicken. You Mengzhe suddenly realized that even the breakfast in the Zhang mansion consisted of seasonal and exquisite dishes, he wondered where they were sourced from.

You Mengzhe was engrossed in eating, while Zhang Yuanshan sat and observed. The steward, Zhang Bo, stood nearby arranging the dishes. After a while, another person arrived, bowing first to show respect and then acknowledging You Mengzhe. You Mengzhe nodded in confusion, wondering who this person was.

Dressed similarly to Zhang Bo, the newcomer held a list and reported various matters to Zhang Yuanshan regarding gifts received from certain mansions in the capital, rent collection from specific fields, and other business dealings. Zhang Yuanshan listened quietly, nodded in acknowledgment, and the person left after receiving the list. Suddenly, Zhang Yuanshan tapped the table with his fingers, and Zhang Bo promptly said, “The master has more instructions.”

Zhang Yuanshan gestured with his hands, and both Zhang Bo and the other person nodded repeatedly. After some thought, Zhang Yuanshan indicated that they could leave.

You Mengzhe glanced at the departing figure of that person. Zhang Bo brought the dishes for You Mengzhe and explained, “Young Master, that’s the estate manager. People in the mansion call him ‘Uncle Yuan.’ He handles external affairs of the mansion, while I manage internal matters.”

“Oh,” You Mengzhe recalled what the servant mentioned earlier and nodded. Seeing that Zhang Yuanshan had only eaten a little before stopping, he asked, “Uncle, aren’t you hungry?”

Zhang Yuanshan waved his hand; his hands were quite attractive, with long, slightly tan fingers. There was no hint of a refined young master’s softness; instead, they exuded the robustness of a martial artist. The curves of his fingertips were gentle, and You Mengzhe suddenly recalled the sensation of holding hands with Yu Wenhong.

After breakfast, the servants heated water and invited You Mengzhe to take a bath. You Mengzhe, who hadn’t slept well the night before, almost dozed off in the tub. When he emerged, Zhang Bo informed him, “Master requests Young Master to come over.”

Feeling refreshed after the bath, You Mengzhe, wearing wooden clogs, strolled through the long corridor. Previously, Zhang Yuanshan had not returned to the mansion. Zhao Feihong and You Mengzhe resided in the western wing of the Zhang residence. Now that Zhang Yuanshan was back, the servant led You Mengzhe into the eastern wing where Zhang Yuanshan stayed, and everything suddenly became clear before his eyes.

Behind the eastern residence was another breathtaking scene. Passing through a side corridor, traversing six courtyards and eighteen gardens, they entered a flower-filled garden. Various flowers were in full bloom, and there was a pond in the middle, surrounded by many magnolia trees. It was early spring, and the ground was covered with fallen petals, creating a carpet around the small pond that measured three zhang square.

In the center of the pond stood a bamboo pavilion, with clear water flowing from an unknown source. Two palm-sized jade chimes hung from the eaves of the pavilion. The tinkling sound echoed as the wind rustled through the bamboo leaves, resembling swallows’ tails.

Zhang Yuanshan changed into a dark red robe, his tall and slender figure accentuated by the outfit. He stood with hands behind his back in the pavilion, his slightly damp black hair matching the clean lines of his attire. Wearing wooden clogs, he revealed pristine ankles. Truly, the phrase “jade trees facing the wind” could only describe such a sight.

Seeing the scene, You Mengzhe’s heart was instantly overwhelmed, feeling a sense of inferiority. Zhang Yuanshan gestured for him to come over, and You Mengzhe joined him in the pavilion. The attendants brought in a charcoal stove, a copper kettle, and began brewing tea. Zhang Yuanshan raised his slender hand and made a gesture, signaling the attendants to leave the courtyard.

Seated at the same table, the sandalwood table emitted a faint fragrance. The air was filled with the subtle smoke from the incense burner. Yon Mengzhe asked, “Uncle, do you want to chat?” Zhang Yuanshan took paper and pen, and Yon Mengzhe thought that finally, there was a way to communicate. He hurriedly helped grind the ink, and Zhang Yuanshan, after a brief pause, wrote three words: “As you wish, no need to consider me.”

You Mengzhe: “?”

Zhang Yuanshan placed his hand on the table, and You Mengzhe looked into his eyes. After a moment, Zhang Yuanshan nodded, his gaze carrying a hint of expectation. You Mengzhe’s heart skipped a beat, and he tentatively placed his hand in Zhang Yuanshan’s palm. Zhang Yuanshan closed his fingers, intertwining his three fingers with You Mengzhe’s.

A ripple of emotion passed through You Mengzhe, feeling the slight coolness of Zhang Yuanshan’s fingers, yet the grip was comforting, providing a sense of security.

With his left hand holding You Mengzhe’s, Zhang Yuanshan turned his wrist, and with his other hand, he placed two fingers on You Mengzhe’s pulse.

Yes, check my pulse, You Mengzhe thought.

Zhang Yuanshan focused on something, not looking at You Mengzhe anymore. You Mengzhe tentatively observed him, finding this man truly handsome. The initial shadowy and mysterious aura from their first encounter had dissipated, revealing a completely different impression upon closer inspection.

At this moment, Zhang Yuanshan exuded a clear and clean aura, his deep eyes and brows showing a concentrated expression. Unconsciously, You Mengzhe’s heart rate quickened.

“Do you want to help me disperse my internal energy?” You Mengzhe asked.

Zhang Yuanshan nodded. The two remained silent, and a breeze swept through, lifting countless magnolia petals that fluttered through the bamboo pavilion.

You Mengzhe asked, “Will it be uncomfortable to disperse the internal energy?”

Zhang Yuanshan shook his head.

You Mengzhe inquired, “Will it be quick?”

Zhang Yuanshan gestured with his hand.

You Mengzhe questioned, “Will it take a long time? Is it a torment?”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded and then shook his head.

“As long as it’s not too tormenting,” You Mengzhe sighed in relief. Unfortunately, he will lose all his martial arts skills. His expression became somewhat gloomy.

“Hey, Uncle.” You Mengzhe tightened his fingers, and Zhang Yuanshan looked at him.

With a mind full of thoughts, You Mengzhe felt like he was on the verge of going crazy. He couldn’t afford to be polite anymore. He casually said, “Aren’t you planning to get married? Living alone in such a big house, isn’t it boring?”

Zhang Yuanshan shook his head and then nodded. You Mengzhe poured tea for him and continued, “Uncle, let me pour you some tea. Do you know my dad? Back when I lived in the mountains, it was not much different from your place. It’s really boring… My master wants to go up the mountain to challenge my dad. Do you think it’s possible? You sponsored the martial arts competition for him, right? In my opinion, why don’t we all just stop fighting? Wouldn’t that be nice? No one would offend anyone… Why does everyone have a problem with my dad? He hasn’t done anything unjust or unreasonable.”

Zhang Yuanshan didn’t respond at all, just gazing at You Mengzhe. The look in his eyes seemed somewhat familiar, as if he had seen it from someone else’s eyes. You Mengzhe instantly understood quite a bit – were they looking through him at someone else?

“Do you like my mother too?” You Mengzhe asked.

Zhang Yuanshan slightly furrowed his brows.

“Or perhaps… do you like my dad?” You Mengzhe continued.

Zhang Yuanshan: “……..”

“Or is it that you like my master?” You Mengzhe pressed.

Zhang Yuanshan: “……..”

They locked eyes for a while, and then You Mengzhe chuckled, “Hehehe, just kidding.”

Zhang Yuanshan remained unresponsive, as if nothing had happened. You Mengzhe continued to mutter to himself, “Do you know Yu Wenhong? He’s my uncle.”

Zhang Yuanshan shook his head and then nodded. You Mengzhe said, “You haven’t met him? That’s strange. Oh, I understand now. You’ve seen him, but you don’t really know him. He’s with my mother. Do you know where my mother is from?”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded, and You Mengzhe continued, “It seems like it’s somewhere in the East Sea…”

Zhang Yuanshan used his left hand to feel the pulse and his right hand to write three words: Canghai Sect.

You Mengzhe said, “Yes, yes, Canghai Sect. I heard it’s quite extraordinary, isn’t it?”

Zhang Yuanshan did not answer and fell into deep contemplation. After a long while, he took out a silver needle from a small wooden box, heated it over the fire, and then gently inserted it into You Mengzhe’s tiger’s mouth.

“Ah!” You Mengzhe immediately let out a startled cry.

Zhang Yuanshan was completely caught off guard by You Mengzhe’s reaction. Thinking he might have hit the wrong acupoint, Zhang Yuanshan rubbed his palm and, seeing a flush of blood, finally relaxed. He reached out and gently touched You Mengzhe’s head.

You Mengzhe:”…”

Zhang Yuanshan signaled that it was done.

You Mengzhe asked, “Just leave it like this?”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded. You Mengzhe inquired, “When can it be removed?”

Zhang Yuanshan did not answer, and You Mengzhe asked again, “Tomorrow? The day after tomorrow? You’re not sure?”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded, and You Mengzhe had no choice but to let the needle stay in his tiger’s mouth. Once it was in, it didn’t hurt much, but it felt awkward. When he tried to reach for it, Zhang Yuanshan quickly stopped him.

Taking a deep breath, You Mengzhe circulated his true qi. The flow of true qi in his body was unobstructed until it reached the Shou Yangming meridian, where the meridian was intercepted. He vaguely understood the principle behind it.

You Mengzhe asked, “Can I leave now? Where should I go? Is there anything specific I should be aware of?”

Zhang Yuanshan shook his head, indicating that there was nothing specific to be cautious about. He made a gesture, suggesting that You Mengzhe could go wherever he pleased.

You Mengzhe got up and lazily walked away.

 The warm spring sun shone on You Mengzhe as he wandered through the corridors of the capital. Feeling a bit lonely with no acquaintances in the city, he found a servant in the corridor and asked, “Does Uncle often go out for a stroll?”

The servant, unsure of You Mengzhe’s intentions, bowed and replied, “Master rarely leaves the residence except for official matters.”

You Mengzhe scratched his head, walked out to the front porch, and noticed a vast garden where immortal cranes, turtles, and brightly colored pheasants roamed. With nothing else to do, he circled around and came back, finding Zhang Yuanshan still sitting in the pavilion.

Zhang Yuanshan was like a sculpture, unmoving.

You Mengzhe peered for a while and then called over a maid, asking, “Does he often sit there daydreaming like this?”

The maid whispered, “Yes.”

Returning to the pavilion, Zhang Yuanshan noticed his presence but didn’t express anything. Glancing at the sundial in the courtyard, You Mengzhe hastily waved his hand, saying, “I had a heavy breakfast, not in the mood for lunch.”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded, raised his hand to take a teacup, and brewed some tea. You Mengzhe understood that Zhang Yuanshan also didn’t feel like eating.

It’s strange, You Mengzhe thought. They had just met the day before, how could they understand each other so well already?

The tea leaves twirled in the cup like a clear rain in a sunny day. You Mengzhe recognized the cup; his father, You Gutian, also had one. It was an ancient artifact from the previous dynasty, its crafting method long lost. You Gutian had only one, and it was lidless with a missing piece, while Zhang Yuanshan had several just placed on this table.

Neither of them spoke, just swirled their tea. The courtyard was very quiet, with only the sound of the wind playing the jade chimes.

“In this quiet moment, Uncle,” You Mengzhe began, figuring that since his audience was mute, he had little to worry about him spreading the word everywhere.

“I’ve always suspected that my dad dislikes me,” You Mengzhe said. “The way he looks at me is different from how you all look at me. It’s almost like a bit of disdain… You know, I always felt it. He wouldn’t let me get close to him. When I look at you and my master, I can feel that you both quite like my mother.”

Zhang Yuanshan listened silently.

You Mengzhe continued, “Is my dad resentful towards my mother? I feel like my master treats me better than my dad does, but he’s still my dad. My master says one must be filial, and those who aren’t will face heavenly punishment. I dare not say anything, you understand, Uncle?”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded. You Mengzhe leaned on the table, looked up at him, and asked, “What about your dad?”

Naturally, Zhang Yuanshan didn’t answer. You Mengzhe asked, “Have you ever met him?”

Zhang Yuanshan shook his head. You Mengzhe sighed again, saying, “My master hasn’t told me what to do. When the time comes to go up the mountain, it’s not good whether he hurts himself or my dad.”

Zhang Yuanshan reached out and held You Mengzhe’s fingers. Thinking he was going to check his pulse, You Mengzhe turned his wrist. However, Zhang Yuanshan held his hand and pressed it onto the table, his large hand gently covering the back of You Mengzhe’s hand.

You Mengzhe understood. Zhang Yuanshan was comforting him.

“When I was a child…” You Mengzhe said, feeling bored. After a moment of thought, he figured Zhang Yuanshan probably didn’t want to hear about this topic, so he changed the subject, “What’s fun in the capital?”

Zhang Yuanshan gestured, and You Mengzhe understood – he signaled him to continue with the previous topic.

So, You Mengzhe rambled on, and Zhang Yuanshan seemed quite interested, listening attentively. You Mengzhe talked about the arrangements on the mountain, the martial arts scriptures in the scripture repository, the Qinghua Hall, the mechanical tower, and more. He shared stories from his childhood and recounted his experiences after leaving the mountain.

Zhang Yuanshan remained quietly attentive. You Mengzhe then asked, “I heard you’re from Sichuan?”

Zhang Yuanshan hesitated briefly, and You Mengzhe understood his meaning: “Who told you that?”

So, You Mengzhe replied, “My master mentioned it. Is Sichuan interesting? Why did you come to the capital?”

Zhang Yuanshan took a piece of paper and made a few strokes. A majestic ink dragon emerged on the paper.

 You Mengzhe asked, “To find the emperor?”

Zhang Yuanshan casually wiped it away, avoiding potential gossip. He remained silent, gazing at You Mengzhe.

You Mengzhe suddenly realized, “Not entirely.”

Zhang Yuanshan smiled, nodded knowingly, and You Mengzhe, seeing him smile so charmingly, couldn’t help but be momentarily stunned. However, at that moment, two maids carrying plates of pastries approached. Upon seeing Zhang Yuanshan smile, they were instantly mesmerized, and one of them accidentally knocked over the plate, spilling pastries all over the floor.

With a clatter, the pastries fell into the lake outside the pavilion. Several koi fish scrambled to snatch a bite before swimming away. Zhang Yuanshan frowned, looking displeased as he glanced at the servant who brought the food. The servant quickly apologized and begged for forgiveness.

Zhang Yuanshan casually waved his hand, and the two maids hurriedly retreated.

For some reason unknown to You Mengzhe, Zhang Yuanshan, who rarely smiled in his lifetime, unexpectedly displayed a charming smile. His usual stern and indifferent countenance, akin to an unfamiliar master to the servants, became a topic of discussion within the residence.

You Mengzhe remarked, “Oh, you keep fish in the pond?”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded, indicating that he could take a look if he wanted. He casually picked up a chess piece and hit the jade chime in the pavilion corner. A crisp sound resonated, and soon, a servant entered the courtyard to attend to them.

You Mengzhe learned how the jade chime was used. With a gesture from Zhang Yuanshan, the servant left to inform, and shortly after, someone brought a sieve, removing the thick layer of fallen petals from the surface of the pond. The clear water in the pool was revealed, and the colorful koi fish swam freely. As soon as they saw the daylight, they scattered in all directions, creating a delightful sight.

 You Mengzhe said, “Back when I had nothing to do on the mountain, I often went fishing by the stream. Next time I go back, I’ll bring you a couple of goldfish.”

Zhang Yuanshan nodded and gestured to the servant. After a while, the servant arrived with a bamboo fishing rod. It seemed to be broken from the front yard, and the bamboo plants in the Zhang residence were all precious varieties moved from Dayu Royal Garden. They grew three inches in ten years. Now, they handed You Mengzhe a fishing rod, nearly eight feet long, with a flexible fishing line attached.

You Mengzhe hurriedly said, “No, I didn’t mean to fish right now… Well, okay, I’ll give it a try. It’s been a long time since I played.”

You Mengzhe mounted the railing of the pavilion, baited the hook, and cast it into the pond. The pond was quite large, connecting to a waterway whose origin was unknown. The fish swam by, but they seemed to possess a sense of intelligence and avoided getting caught on the hook.

You Mengzhe squinted his eyes, sitting on the railing, humming to himself. Zhang Yuanshan stood with his hands behind his back, observing the reflections of the two figures in the pond.

You Mengzhe had delicate features, while Zhang Yuanshan’s face was slender. The air between his brows and eyes carried a faint sense of loneliness.

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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