Chapter 154: Yellow Paper
Snow was falling outside the window.
It was the first snowfall of the winter this year, not particularly heavy, but it had been sporadic for several days, without much accumulation. However, it made the air suddenly cold.
In Qingxin Residence, the silver charcoal had been burning since early on, and the colder it got outside, the more comfortable it felt inside the house.
“Jingchen?” Emperor Yu closed his eyes, holding a warm hand stove close, and spoke slowly.
“It’s Your Highness’s,” Yu Dexi smiled and bowed, opening the paper in his hand. “It’s a yellow paper.”
Yellow paper was the commonly used term.
The matter of appointing the Si Tian Guan was already mysterious and unfathomable. Since the initial recommendation of candidates, the recommendation papers would either have yellow talisman paper used by the great immortals or descriptions of the great immortals’ extraordinary magical methods written on yellow paper.
Over time, these recommendation papers came to be called yellow papers. He had only seen the three Wangye’s present yellow papers before, it was the first time Mu Jingchen presented a yellow paper himself.
Emperor Yu glanced at it and sneered, “I didn’t expect Jingchen to have such resourceful thoughts. Where is he?”
“Your Highness, he is waiting outside Linxi Pavilion,” Yu Dexi hurriedly replied.
“Interesting.” Emperor Yu smiled and closed his eyes again, focusing on tracing the patterns on the hand stove with his fingers.
Understanding his intentions, Yu Dexi retreated for a moment and came back with someone. Mu Jingchen walked in the front as usual, and there was a person behind, their head lowered, appearing weak as if they couldn’t walk, supported by the other two.
On Mu Jingchen’s previous visits to the palace, he mostly took care of his mother. The interactions between father and son were usually limited to routine greetings, at most asking about Consort Xian’s health. All the kneeling and salutations followed the proper etiquette between monarch and subject.
Emperor Yu glanced at the table and took the initiative to ask, “Jingchen, is this your paper?”
“Replying to Royal Father, yes,” Mu Jingchen respectfully bowed his head. “Royal Father was frightened in the hunting ground, and I’ve been concerned. By chance, I encountered this person, whom I believe can divine fortune and misfortune. So, I brought him into the palace, hoping that Your Majesty would henceforth have good fortune and avoid misfortune, living to a hundred years in peace!”
It had been a long time since Emperor Yu heard such heartfelt words from his son. Although he often saw the other three princes, he understood that Mu Jingchen might no longer be willing to remain beneath others. When he thought about Consort Xian’s temperament and the current state of the Liang family, he unexpectedly felt some pity arising from compassion.
“It’s rare for you to have such concern.”
Mu Jingchen bowed again and stepped aside, saying to the person at the back, “Approach and pay respects to the Emperor!”
The person remained prostrated on the ground but slowly crawled forward upon hearing the words. They pressed their forehead against the back of their hand and softly said, “This servant pays respects to the Emperor…”
Even Yu Dexi’s gaze shifted towards the person.
A person like this would undoubtedly be searched before entering the palace, but there was no slave collar on their wrist.
“Royal Father, he is indeed currently under the status of a slave,” Mu Jingchen explained softly. “And he is not a house slave bought by me, but…”
Before he could finish his sentence, there was a commotion outside the door.
Yu Dexi hurriedly went out to take a look and returned after a while, saying, “Your Majesty, Shizi has arrived.”
“Zhongming has no manners. Let him wait. We’ll deal with Jingchen’s matter first.”
Yu Dexi bowed and said, “Your Majesty, Shizi says… he wants to find Your Highness and asks Your Majesty to do him justice.”
Mu Jingchen’s gaze flickered, and he took a few steps back, gesturing to the person kneeling on the ground by lifting their chin with a single finger.
“Your Majesty, I dare not hide anything. This slave was snatched by me from Zhongming. I don’t know if Your Majesty remembers him.”
As the person’s face was lifted, although they didn’t raise their eyes, the distinct color of their long and feathery eyelashes was particularly striking.
Emperor Yu exclaimed, naturally remembering not only those eyes but also this face, which was hard to forget.
“Why is it him again…”
There was a thud from outside the cotton curtain, as if someone had knelt on the ground, and soon the voice of Liu Zhongming came through.
“Your servant Liu Zhongming seeks an audience with the Emperor, begging the Emperor to arbitrate. In the laws of Da Yu, a lowly slave registered under the Control Division is privately owned by the master. His Highness forcibly seizing and taking him is a flagrant violation. I implore the Emperor to do justice for me.”
Mu Jingchen bowed.
“Royal Father, please discern the truth. Shizi was cruel and ruthless towards this slave. If it weren’t for my intervention, this young slave would have been subjected to humiliation and death by Shizi.”
Emperor Yu leaned to the side, pinching his brow with impatience, waving his hand dismissively.
“That’s Zhongming’s own business. You have always been disciplined and respectful. How did you get involved in such absurd matters? It’s just a trivial issue, and Zhongming has come to you for it. You go and talk to him yourself and take the person away.”
“Royal Father,” Mu Jingchen quickly knelt down. “I happened to encounter this slave at the banquet, and he confessed to me that he can divine fortunes. He begged me to save him from his suffering.”
“I brought him here not to save him, but because I believe he truly possesses extraordinary talent beyond ordinary people! That’s why I presented him to Royal Father.”
“Zhongming is wasteful and only knows how to indulge in pleasures. Royal Father cannot entrust the person to Zhongming to take away.”
Emperor Yu pondered for a moment and raised his eyes slightly.
Yu Dexi went out again and brought Liu Zhongming inside.
“Your Majesty!” Liu Zhongming hurriedly entered the room and was about to kneel down. But as soon as he saw the person kneeling on the ground beside him, he became furious and raised his foot to kick, saying, “This despicable person who eats inside and takes advantage of the outside!”
Yu Dexi quickly ordered the palace attendants to restrain him and smiled, saying, “Calm down, Shizi. How can you be so disrespectful in front of His Majesty?”
Liu Zhongming, feeling wronged, bit his lip and knelt down forcefully, saying, “Your Majesty, His Highness forcibly took the slave from my house. Ning Wang can testify to it. I implore Your Majesty to arbitrate and return the person to me.”
Emperor Yu chuckled. “Look at you two— one is a prince, the other a Shizi. You’ve made such a scene over a lowly slave. It’s enough to make people laugh.”
“Your Majesty, it was clearly His Highness who was at fault first. Why should I be ridiculed?” Liu Zhongming persisted, refusing to give in when Emperor Yu remained silent.
“Since I bought this slave, I have meticulously trained him for two years, and he has grown into such a remarkable appearance. Everyone in the capital knows that I have raised someone with exceptional skills! Even Ning Wang, I haven’t allowed him to touch him! Your Highness is going too far in mocking me!”
Emperor Yu smiled indulgently, as if looking at a child throwing a tantrum. “He’s just a little plaything.”
“But I have invested so much effort in nurturing him for several years… If it’s just a matter of seizing and taking, can I also go to someone else’s house and snatch people?”
“Outrageous!” Emperor Yu shouted, and when he saw Liu Zhongming pouting in dissatisfaction, he spoke after a long pause. “Zhongming, Mu Jingchen just said that this slave has exceptional talent and can divine fortunes. Is it true?”
Liu Zhongming straightened his back and looked at Mu Jingchen. “Where did Your Highness hear such rumors?”
Mu Jingchen locked eyes with him. “He told me himself.”
Liu Zhongming sneered. “Then Your Highness has been deceived. This slave is only motivated by self-interest and has no loyalty. He would say anything to escape. I have raised him for several years, and I have never seen him divine fortunes.”
“Who in the capital doesn’t know how harsh Shizi is? Anyone in his position would not openly confess to Shizi,” Mu Jingchen replied coldly before turning to Emperor Yu.
“Royal Father, two months ago, on the day this slave sought my help, he mentioned the first day of the eleventh month, at the hour of You, facing south. I found it suspicious and couldn’t forget about it. A few days ago, at the appointed hour, I happened to encounter him escaping from Zhongming’s villa.”
“At that time, Zhongming was truly imposing, nearly beating him to death. Fortunately, I arrived just in time.”
“I believe that if he didn’t possess foresight, it would have been impossible for him to calculate the time so accurately.”
Liu Zhongming stood up abruptly. “Absurd! Divination is just a gimmick used by swindlers in the past. If he had foresight, he would have run away long ago!”
Mu Jingchen responded immediately, “As a lowly slave with his appearance, how could he escape from the palm of your hand?”
“Your Highness took him, so I thought it better to be generous and let Your Highness have his fun before returning him to me. Why fabricate such stories?”
“Deceiving the emperor is a capital offense! But what if I’m not fabricating anything?” Mu Jingchen raised his head proudly. “I brought him into the palace today not to ask Royal Father for his judgment. He possesses this extraordinary gift from the heavens, and it should be fully utilized rather than being trapped in Shizi’s hands as a lowly concubine.”
“That’s just his misleading…”
“Enough!” Emperor Yu interrupted their dispute with a low halt and shifted his gaze. “Come forward.”
Yu Dexi quickly took a few steps forward and used his feather duster to push the person, who knelt, stopped at the foot of the steps.
“What is your name?”
Yu Dexi nudged the person and elicited a weak reply, “This slave’s name is Qu Chenzhou.”
“Qu Chenzhou… That doesn’t sound like a lowly name,” Emperor Yu chuckled.
“You just heard their conversation. You are Zhongming’s slave, yet you sought help from Jingchen and claimed to have divination skills while hiding it from Zhongming. A deceitful slave who plays both sides and betrays his master, shouldn’t you be dragged out and beaten with a club?” Emperor Yu declared.
The guards on both sides immediately grabbed Qu Chenzhou and were about to drag him outside.
“Please spare me, Your Majesty! This slave truly has the innate ability to divine fortunes! My eyes can see the unknown!” Qu Chenzhou panicked and screamed, realizing he was about to be dragged out. Inside the room, however, no one spoke. Suddenly, he shouted loudly, “Your Majesty, Jinping Village…”
Yu Dexi’s expression changed, and he glanced at Emperor Yu, gesturing with his hand.
The guards pulled Qu Chenzhou back and threw him on the steps.
“Your Majesty,” this time it was Liu Zhongming who spoke, looking puzzled as if he had misunderstood Yu Dexi’s intention. “If Your Majesty doesn’t want to soil the palace, please leave him to me for punishment. I will make him suffer and serve as an example to others.”
Yu Dexi looked deeply into Liu Zhongming’s eyes and curved his lips. “Shizi, you’ve thought too much.”
Before Liu Zhongming could go and pull up Qu Chenzhou, he saw Emperor Yu raise his hand. However, just as he stopped, Emperor Yu spoke to Mu Jingchen.
“Jingchen, do you know where Jinping Village is?”
Mu Jingchen furrowed his brow, pondered for a moment, and ashamedly replied, “I am not familiar with the merchants’ residences outside the palace, Your Highness.”
Emperor Yu nodded and turned to Liu Zhongming.
“Zhongming, this is something you should know. Where is Jinping Village?”
“Replying to Your Majesty, I know,” Liu Zhongming answered confidently, seemingly oblivious to the fleeting panic in Yu Dexi’s eyes. “There are two Jinping Villages. One is in Yujiang County, engaged in silk fabric business, and I have some dealings with them. The most notable product in the manor is the emerald brocade.”
Yu Dexi quickly glanced at Emperor Yu, and his facial muscles twitched slightly.
“And there is another Jinping Village not far from Shuanglou Pass. It used to be a gambling den in previous years but is said to have turned into a money exchange business. The business has been poor, and they once asked me to buy the manor on their behalf, but I haven’t had the time to deal with it.”
Emperor Yu lowered his eyes, sipped from the teacup, and remained silent.
Liu Zhongming stole a glance and caught a signal from Yu Dexi. He hesitantly asked, “If Your Majesty wants to acquire Jinping Village, I…”
Emperor Yu waved his hand, interrupting him, and asked in a deep voice, “You mentioned Jinping Village… Where is it?”
Qu Chenzhou, who had narrowly escaped being beaten to death, trembled and cowered on the ground, not realizing at first that he was being asked. It was only when Yu Dexi pushed him forward that he timidly spoke.
“This slave doesn’t know… I don’t know where it is. But this slave can see the divination on Your Majesty’s body. Jinping Village is flowing with blood, not a single person alive!”
Perhaps it was the eerie gaze of those eyes or the unquestionable certainty in his words, but Emperor Yu’s teacup knocked against the edge of the desk, spilling tea on the tabletop.
Yu Dexi hurriedly supported him and scolded, “Outrageous!”
Qu Chenzhou prostrated himself on the ground again. “This slave’s divination… has never been wrong… Jinping Village…”
“Outrageous!” Liu Zhongming also shouted, kicking him in the shoulder. “How dare you spout nonsense in front of His Majesty!”
Qu Chenzhou was kicked to the side and suddenly shouted in a hoarse voice, “I beg Your Majesty to save this slave! I beg Your Majesty not to let Shizi take this slave away! This slave is willing to give his life for Your Majesty!”
Liu Zhongming was about to step forward again but was blocked by Mu Jingchen.
In the brief interruption, Yu Dexi nodded repeatedly beside Emperor Yu’s ear, interrupting the imminent conflict between the two.
“Your Highness, Shizi, please leave,” he glanced at Qu Chenzhou prostrated on the ground, “His Majesty wants him to stay.”
When the two of them were escorted out together, the scattered snowflakes continued to fall.
Mu Jingchen stood for a moment, expecting to hear something, but all he saw was Liu Zhongming’s gloomy expression, devoid of the previous enthusiasm. Liu Zhongming bowed to him, turned around without saying a word, and left.
Author’s Note: Ah, why were you all crying in the previous chapter? Weren’t you asking for some mistreatment of Shizi? Stop crying, stop crying. I’ll gradually bring the two back together, and Shizi can only watch his wife from behind the palace walls, unable to touch him.
Some people still don’t understand why Chenzhou would hide it from the Shizi. First of all, the Shizi suspects him, and Chenzhou is following the script based on the Shizi’s restored memories, which is not favorable for them to be together. After all, he doesn’t know that Zhongming eventually finds out everything. Secondly, Chenzhou wants to become the Si Tian Guan, and the condition for that is a public rupture in the eyes of outsiders. Additionally, Zhongming agreed to this approach, and if it weren’t for their current actions, Zhongming would never agree. In other words, if Zhongming were aware and willing to discuss it, he wouldn’t allow Chenzhou to endure injuries and suffer from the trials of Shuoye, and he certainly wouldn’t let him become the Si Tian Guan for the sake of his own family and future. Otherwise, I think the Gong should be changed.