Chapter 39 Liu Qingru
Qu Chenzhou spoke so confidently that even though Liu Zhongming’s abacus was loud, he still couldn’t stand it and his ears went soft.
Bewitched just like that, he had asked his people to spread a message around so that Panhe specifically would hear of him selling the iron ore in Jingshan. But he didn’t expect Panhe to be so impatient that he decided to come to his door personally, much earlier than expected.
“Many have come to ask, but nothing has been finalized yet.”
Seeing Pan He’s delighted and greedy look, he knew that the deal was done.
“Shizi, you name a price,… I just happen to have some money to spare over here…”
“Pan Gonggong, I don’t regard you as an outsider. With our friendship, the price is of course going to be something easy to negotiate, and it definitely won’t cost a lot of money from Gonggong.”
Liu Zhongming stood indifferent, knocking on the railing.
“But there is something Gonggong needs to know first as Gonggong seems interested in buying the land. This is just to prevent Gonggong from buying it and then accusing me of covering up the ugliness of it.”
Pan He hurriedly replied, “I don’t dare! Please tell me.”
“There is a river under the mine. It looks wide, but it’s actually not deep. You can’t dump the processed slag into the river nearby, or else when the rainy season arrives, the river will overflow. But on the other hand, it also takes a lot of labor to transport it out. It’s because of this troublesome affair that I thought about changing hands and getting out.”
“It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, it’s just a few more trips.” Pan He breathed a sigh of relief. He had thought it would be something big: “Manpower is not a problem. I don’t want to hide it from Shizi. A few days ago I bought some cheap slaves. They will be perfect for this, so taking several trips back and forth would not matter.”
“That’s perfect. Then once Gonggong has some time to spare, please come to my residence for a chat.”
Pan He was overjoyed and walked away happily.
Liu Zhongming looked at his back, not knowing whether he should be happy or worried.
If he said he was happy, it would be for the fact that Qu Chenzhou was at home, and had no plans for the outside affairs.
If he had to say that he was worried, it was because every time Qu Chenzhou speaks from now on, would mean that he has taken the wrong path in the past, and therefore from now on, he has to follow Qu Chenzhou’s guidance.
But even now, he doesn’t know who Qu Chenzhou is, so he was just being led by the nose.
He was in a daze. In his periphery, he saw a few shadows at the Yuedong gate. Someone was coming over, again. He originally had no intention of feigning civility, thus planning to turn around and enter the room to avoid them, but when he saw the person clearly, he took the initiative to welcome them.
“Greetings to Concubine Xian, and Seventh Royal Highness.”
Seeing him coming, the lady in the royal robe who was escorted, stopped and stretched out her hand to help him get up: “Zhongming is too kind. Are you here today to visit the Imperial Concubine?”
“Yes, my elder sister is accompanying the Emperor to meet the Empress dowager, so I was waiting here.” Liu Zhongming stretched out a hand to allow Concubine Xian to have some support: “Niang Niang, do you need to sit down and rest?”
“I’m much healthier now, and not so delicate.” Concubine Xian smiled: “And thank you for finding the ginseng last time, it must have cost a lot.”
“I do not deserve any praise, Niang Niang. It’s just ginseng, and it’s all good as long as your body is well. Next time, I’ll be more careful.”
“Dear child, you and the imperial concubine are equally warm-hearted.” Concubine Xian looked at the young man who had been supporting her: “You used to play together when you were young. Do you not hang out with each other anymore? I’m usually too sick, so I haven’t asked much.”
The young man beside her only showed a hint of an expression. Besides nodding slightly to Liu Zhongming at the beginning, he had never said a word all this time. Now, he heard the question, to which he had only a simple answer: “No.”
Liu Zhongming answered hurriedly: “His Royal Highness is busy with official duties. Unlike me, an idler, all day long. Naturally, he can’t be the same as when he was a child.”
“Zhongming, calling him like that is akin to treating him as an outsider.” Concubine Xian chuckled and touched his head: “Call him Jingchen like before.”
Until Concubine Xian and her son left, Mu Jingchen didn’t say a few words to him, as if there was nothing in his eyes.
Liu Zhongming looked at that figure, and felt that His Highness’s temper was somewhat similar to Qu Chenzhou’s. After thinking about it, he laughed– why does everyone look like that little fox now.
Soon, an eunuch came to invite him to the Qing Liang palace.
As its name suggests, the hall was surrounded by running water, which was very cool. As soon as Liu Zhongming entered, he saw the Emperor in casual clothes leaning on the couch. Liu Qingru, sitting aside, was holding a bowl of fragrant soup, and feeding it to him with a spoon.
He had suddenly fallen ill a few years ago, so the Emperor, who was only a few years older than the Liu Marquis, looked much older. His hair was half gray, and his eyes were more muddled than before.
“Liu Zhongming greets the Emperor, and greets the imperial concubine.”
“Come and sit down, child,” Emperor Yu shook his head and said to Liu Qingru: “Now that he has grown up, seeing him properly greet me, it is as if his troublesome attitude from when he was young is gone now.”
Liu Qingru pursed her lips and smiled: “He’s already this big now. If he dares to go to the house and pick tiles now, no one would be as merciful as before.”
“How old is he?”
Emperor Yu pulled Liu Zhongming to the other side to sit down. Liu Zhongming hurriedly replied: “Your Majesty, I am eighteen this year.”
“Only eighteen. Let me tell you a joke. When Ah Zheng was eighteen, he wasn’t as stable as Zhongming. To get ahead and push himself to the front, after losing a game, he would even shed tears and get angry with people and jump down from the roof of Mingyue Tower.”
Liu Zhongming naturally did not speak. The Emperor had spoken about his father’s embarrassing stories several times. At first, he was curious to ask his father how he lost and who he lost to, and who he was angry with. The Emperor only said that he didn’t remember.
Every time he met with his father, he would suspect that the Emperor was just making up tales, otherwise, how could the eager-to-win and hoping-to-rise upwards “Ah Zheng” become so depressed.
Liu Qingru twisted a hawthorn and fed it to Emperor Yu: “Your Majesty, don’t praise him for his prudentity. If he jumps down from Mingyue Tower by any chance, what should we do?”
“Then I will go to see the excitement at that time.” Emperor Yu joked with the two of them, then took out a string of red sandalwood beads from his sleeves, and moved them one by one: “Zhongming, the thing I mentioned last time, have you figured it out?”
What they talked about last time, naturally, was about him becoming an official.
Liu Zhongming got up immediately and knelt down before him: “Your Majesty, I want to go to the.. Dali office, the Criminal Division.”
Emperor Yu who was stroking the prayer beads stopped for a moment, then he touched his head: “You still haven’t let go of Qingyan’s matter, have you? I wanted you to go to the Hanlin Academy to do script editing, and in the future to go to Zhongshu Province.”
Liu Qingru gathered her robes and knelt down silently.
“You two…” Emperor Yu sighed softly, “Fine, then I will follow what Zhongming says. Whenever you regret it, tell me again, since I have seen you grow up.”
Seeing the Liu family sister and brother bowing in thanks, he patted his shoulders, showing his exhaustion.
“Let’s talk at the beginning of next year and let Zhongming be at ease for a while. It’s rare for you sister and brother to see one another– Zhongming, this is your fault. I had told you to accompany your sister when you have time, yet you only play by yourself.”
Liu Qingru got up and laughed: “Your Majesty, please don’t blame Zhongming. Chen Qie had told him not to come. This concubine is very grateful for Your Majesty’s grace,, but Zhongming is a grown up. It’s not convenient to let him walk around in the palace. And it is unreasonable to see this concubine too often.”
“He is still young, so don’t restrain him. When he enters the government next year, whenever I call him into the palace, you will be able to see him. Qingru, take Zhongming out.”
Liu Qingru bowed, beckoned to Liu Zhongming, and the two of them retreated together and went to Lijing Palace.
The Liu family had successively inherited their title and was an official in the court. Not to mention Liu Zhongming, even Liu Weizheng was a frequent visitor to the palace when he was a child, and grew up with Shizis. Therefore, after Liu Qingru entered the palace, Emperor Yu had graciously allowed Liu Zhongming to enter the palace as well.
Madam Liu’s temperament was often moody, and the children had not been too close to her since they were children. In comparison, Liu Zhongming was much closer to her sister at home.
When he usually came over, Liu Zhongming would tell Liu Qingru various instructions from his father. The duo of brother and sister would chat about their daily routines, play a few games and the time would pass quickly.
He would never tell his sister about the troubles at home.
But with Qu Chenzhou’s initiation, many things in the past started seeming connected, making him feel horrified. Now that he saw his sister, he wondered whether his father knew about the actual situation inside the Liu family.
His father had been immersed in the court and its affairs for many years. Even if he didn’t know all of it, he shouldn’t be completely ignorant. But why didn’t he ever mention it before?
When the Liu family was caught in a dilemma, why did his father keep his silence and accept it?
Many of these times, he had felt that his father was only an empty shell, and his soul was dying.
He was thinking about what was going on when a chess piece fell out of his hand after a long while. Liu Qingru saw it, then waved her hand to clear the crowd, and tapped the chessboard lightly with the chess piece: “Zhongming?”
“Sister…” The palace was not an appropriate place to discuss these things. Liu Zhongming pondered for a moment, then asked with concern: “How is your health lately? Have you asked the doctor Xia to examine your pulse?”
Liu Qingru’s hand was stuck in the air, and the chess piece fell sharply: “Zhongming has really grown, and he has started to care about people now.”
What they spoke of, from outside, seemed to be no different from the small chat moments ago. But Liu Zhongming’s eyes flashed, and he looked at the chessboard below.
“Being family, I would naturally be concerned about my sister’s health and well-being. It seems that it is getting hot these days, and it is easy to get hurt by the heat. Would you like to hire more doctors for yourself?”
Liu Qingru covered her mouth and smiled: “How could I be so delicate?! Moreover, Doctor Xia, the Empress’s doctor, has been appointed to me, and he has been very good to me after following me all these years.”
“That’s good.” Liu Zhongming nodded, “I also have a few doctors in my shop. If he has some time, I will have to bother Doctor Xia to give them some pointers. It’s only appropriate for me to take care of my sister.”
Liu Qingru put down the chess pieces and looked at him quietly, seeming to wonder about the said words.
Liu Zhongming looked up, his eyes clear.
“Sister, when can I be an uncle?”
Like when he was a child, Liu Qingru gently stroked him from his forehead to his cheek, and then gently pinched the tip of his ears: “Zhongming, you have really grown up.”
She has waited for a long time with that sentence in her mouth. It was the hope of the Liu family, but something that would also put a heavy shackle on her younger brother.
“Zhongming…” She whispered, “Sister is waiting for you to grow up.”
Liu Zhongming smiled with a sore nose when she said that, so Liu Qingru stared at her brother in wonder, then laughed a moment later— How could her younger brother be scared by a few words?
Even back then, with the matters related to their eldest brother, her younger brother was not knocked down.
“Sister has been underestimating you, only treating you as a snotty kid who used to cry at every turn.” Liu Qingru’s finger touched his forehead: “You’ve really grown up.”
Liu Zhongming ‘s hands curled up and loosened under the table. He pressed down the bitterness, and messed up the unfinished chess game.
“Sister, when I was waiting outside just now, I saw Concubine Xian and Jingchen.”
Liu Qingru said, “The two ginseng you sent last time made her look much better. If there are some, find some more.”
Before entering the palace, Concubine Xian had frequent contacts with the Liu family. The two had a good relationship with Concubine Xian, so naturally, she had a good relationship with Concubine Xian in the palace, and her concern for her was also true.
“Okay.” Liu Zhongming thought for a moment, then asked: “Hasn’t anyone found anything about Concubine Xian’s sickness after so long?”
Concubine Xian had only one son, His Highness Seventh, Mu Jingchen. Reportedly, there were some complications when she gave birth to him. So when Mu Jingchen was three or four years old, Concubine Xian suddenly became seriously ill and fell into a coma. Although they tried their best to save her life, she couldn’t regain her original constitution and had to take medication all year round.
Concubine Xian’s natal family was supposed to gain power through Concubine Xian and Mu Jingchen, but because Concubine Xian was too weak to accept grace, she fell out of favor and her status plummeted.
Among these crowned Shizis, Mu Jingchen was the only one who had not been crowned Wang, and was still called Dian Xia. Everyone could tell that the Liang family had fallen in grace.
“No.” Liu Qingru simply replied.
Since the imperial doctor said that he couldn’t see it, then he couldn’t see it.
She looked up and saw that Liu Zhongming couldn’t hide worry in his eyes, and she smiled: “Believe your sister, I won’t be the next Xian concubine.”
Liu Zhongming was about to say something when he heard a voice from across the bamboo curtain. The palace lady Mingzhu announced softly: “Niang Niang, Yu Gonggong is here.”
The two siblings went out to see that it was indeed Yu Gonggong, the one who usually stands next to the Emperor. He was in his early thirties, with a lean body, and his face was pleasant and kind.
“Greetings to the Imperial Concubine and Shizi.” Yu Dexi flicked his horsetail whisk and was about to salute, but was held up by the court lady on the side.
“Yu Gonggong has worked hard. What is His Majesty’s order?”
“I thank Niangniang for asking.” Yu Dexi turned sideways and let the little eunuch behind him carry the tray.
“His Majesty is worried about Shizi not coming into the palace often, and the empress dowager is also talking about Shizi, so he asked me to send the waist card over. The Emperor specifically instructed Niang Niang not to stop it.”
Liu Zhongming stepped forward happily and took the waist card: “Sister, the Emperor won’t let you stop me this time.”
“Little devil,” Liu Qingru sneered, “You have been spoiled by the Emperor and the Empress dowager.”
Yu Dexi stood aside and laughed. After receiving a reward, he turned around and left.
The smile on Liu Zhongming’s face faded, and he flipped the waist card in his hand.
“Zhongming, look,..” Liu Qingru’s fingertips pointed at the waist card: “after all, the Emperor still wants to show his favor to the Liu family, and the Liu family…will definitely not be the next Liang family.”