Chapter 70 Heavenly moat
This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival banquet was no different from the previous years, except for the small episode in the middle.
Halfway through the banquet, Bo Yan suddenly stepped inside and whispered a few things in Emperor Yu’s ear. There was a little commotion on the stage, but it calmed down again.
Even someone as stupid as Ning Wang had his face turn not very good-looking.
Huai Wang and Qi Wang left the stage one by one, and after a stick of incense, they each supported their Royal Mother back to their seats under everyone’s suspicious eyes.
It could be considered that everyone is there on that side, and it was a happy time.
It’s not the first time that this drama has been staged and Liu Zhongming could guess it. Concubine Yu and Concubine Ming have not been called to the table before, so there will always be people who want to play some tricks.
Perhaps it was the alcohol coming up, but he felt a little stuffy in his chest, and his head was dizzy, so he withdrew from the side door.
After standing on the railing outside the hall for a while, the nimble little eunuch came over with sobering soup, in which he waved his hand to have him withdraw.
The things in the palace, how could it be better than the things on him.
Licking the hangover medicine under the base of his tongue, he suddenly missed the tree with the pear blossoms floating in the air, and the white pear blossoms under the tree. In a trance, he felt that the alcohol-selling girl had become Qu Chenzhou, raising the alcohol glass to him, asking him indifferently – do you want to drink?
It’s been so long, yet they haven’t drank together. Although he didn’t like the taste of alcohol, thinking that the person sitting opposite was Qu Chenzhou and tasting the mellow sweetness together, perhaps it may be the light he was pursuing at the end of his busy schedule.
He wanted to go home.
The yard with sycamore trees used to be just a place to escape, but now it had become his real home.
It’s only been half a month of not seeing, yet it seems like a lifetime away, so far away that he faces the deserted Marquis Mansion every day, wondering if his own courtyard really once raised such a proud little fox?
He originally thought that his memory would gradually become blurred, but in fact, as long as he closed his eyes, he could remember it so clearly.
The long hair that slipped between his fingers, the scarred but smooth and delicate back, the gently bent waist, and the two lower waist dimples.
And the glazed eyes under the mist. He felt troubled when he saw it, and even more troubled when he left.
Teaching him to toss in bed every day, so that he didn’t want to write any serenity scriptures; desire was a shackle, and he willingly wore it.
He was his, only he could think unscrupulously of him, and only he could caress him unscrupulously.
Qu Chenzhou was his.
That thought alone made him happy.
Fortunately, after the banquet was over tonight, he could go back overnight, he didn’t want to stay in the Marquis Mansion for half a minute.
“Zhongming?” Someone called him not far away: “Why did you come out?”
Liu Zhongming turned around, it was a familiar person, Second Uncle, Liu Weixian.
They sat far away tonight and did not say a word to each other, but people like Second Uncle usually didn’t say anything serious to him.
“Second Uncle,” he called out, shaking his clothes slightly, fanning himself: “The alcohol made me hot and it’s stuffy inside, so I came out to breathe.”
Liu Weixian was not in a hurry to go in and called the little eunuch to come over with a handkerchief so he could wipe his face, then said, “It is stuffy. What did you think about just now that you were so happy?”
Liu Zhongming raised his brows and smiled mysteriously: “If there are beauties, then thoughts will go crazy.”
“Okay,” Liu Weixian understood, then smiled and patted his shoulder hard: “Stinky boy, do you dare to be so unrestrained in front of your Father?”
“Second Uncle is wrong, isn’t this only because I have a good relationship with my Second Uncle?”
The two laughed together.
When they stood close, Liu Zhongming realized that the smell on his Second Uncle’s clothes was much fresher than usual. Every time he saw him outside, even in the yamen of the Ministry of Housing, he would smell like fresh powder.
Probably because of this reason, in their family, his uncle was the only one who has never been kind to his Second Uncle.
Fortunately, Second Uncle treated his uncle as his own family, and had a big heart and didn’t care.
At this moment, he suddenly couldn’t smell the fragrance, so Liu Zhongming couldn’t help but look at him a few more times. Second Uncle, who had no cosmetic smell, seemed naked and strange.
Liu Weixian saw him looking at him from the corner of his eyes and just pretended he didn’t know, and asked him, “So you decide to go to Dali Temple?”
“En, the Emperor should have told my Father about this just now, and it will be known in a few days.”
Anyone who knew him knew what he was running towards, and no one said much, so Liu Weixian wouldn’t say any words of condolences and sympathy, which would have torn at a person’s wounds.
The two of them had their own concerns and stopped talking.
It was the beautiful Mid-Autumn Festival and the full moon was out. Liu Zhongming didn’t want to go in and see the foul atmosphere, he just wanted to get through the rest of the night as soon as possible. Liu Weixian didn’t seem to notice that they had nothing to say and stood with his hands behind his back.
The two just stood there for a while, and another group of people gathered from outside the Taiji Hall. They hurriedly got down from the steps and came forward to greet them.
Concubine Xian was still the same as always, looking weak, with Mu Jingchen supporting her and smilingly accepting the greeting. However, she did not leave immediately, she only looked at the shadow on the ground that was casted by the moonlight and the candlelight, and then turned to the side. Looking over at Mu Jingchen, who refused to speak, she returned the greeting slowly, “Liu Shangshu.”
Liu Weixian cupped his hands upwards and respectfully called, “Concubine Xian.”
He took a step back and looked at Concubine Xian and Mu Jingchen. The minister walked step by step, followed by the rest, entering the hall together.
Liu Zhongming walked at the end. When he saw Mu Jingchen looking back, it wasn’t at him, but as if he wanted to focus on his Second Uncle, yet when he saw his gaze, he turned back.
He originally only focused his attention on Mu Jingchen, but soon turned to Concubine Xian.
He didn’t know if it was his illusion, or if the moonlight was too bright and dazzling tonight, but he felt that Concubine Xian’s makeup today was clear and bright, which was different from usual. When he raised his eyes just now, even the little sickness was properly put away.
Maybe it was just… an illusion.
When it was Xushi (7-9pm), the Emperor was tired, and went back to the palace to rest early. Everyone sat for a long while, and when Yu Gonggong came out to pass the word, they dispersed one after another.
Liu Zhongming saw Bo Yan when he was walking out of Zhuque Gate, and stopped to say a few words, only to find out that the harem had a fire in the middle of the banquet. The emperor was scared the concubines would be frightened, thus announced them to sit together.
He thanked him and left. Even if he didn’t ask, he knew that the concubines gathering together, when the emperor returned to the palace tonight, there would be a fight between powerful contenders.
Will his sister win?
What if she wins now, can he keep that child safe for his sister?
In these past few years, has his sister looked at Father and his back, disappointed again and again?
He whispered in his heart, suddenly wanting to hug that person.
After returning to the mansion and changing clothes, it was already Haishi (9-11pm).
Liu Zhongming didn’t want to hear his Mother’s untimely cries, so he usually just said his goodbyes to his Father and return back to his courtyard. His Father would not go back to rest immediately. Every year when he left, he would see his Father drinking alone in the water pavilion.
He stepped on the water pavilion. There was only a lantern hanging on the eaves, swaying in the night wind. The shadow from the water pavilion landed on his body, splitting his body in half: half in yin, half in yang.
The sounds around him seemed to be swallowed by the water, and the silence was terrifying. He didn’t dare to disturb him, and said softly, “I’m going back.”
The shadow-shrouded half body moved, and Liu Weizheng called him: “Zhongming, come and sit. “
Liu Zhongming sat down opposite and a glass of alcohol was pushed in front of him.
“Zhongming, you should have guessed that the Emperor spoke to me today about your future plans. The Emperor said that you want to take charge of the criminal department.”
His eyes fell on the alcohol glass, and he asked calmly: “No good, right? The Emperor will not deny it completely for the sake of the Liu family, but he wants me to take charge of the civil affairs?”
Liu Weizheng knew of his obsession with his brother’s death. Being so calm at this moment, there was a little bit of worry. Thinking for a moment, he sighed softly.
“Zhongming, do you really want to become an official? Once you enter officialdom, you can’t be as self-willed as you were before. If you just want to look proper, you don’t have to.”
“Father, if I’m not just going for big brother’s sake, will you support me entering officaldom?” Liu Zhongming saw his Father’s puzzled eyes, and asked again, “If I want to do more, will you support me?”
“What do you want to do?”
Liu Zhongming straightened his body and took a sip of the alcohol. After drinking it, those eyes were like blades, illuminated by the star-lit candles of the lantern.
He didn’t know if it was because there was no one by his side for half a month and he was feeling so empty recalling those absent-minded tears over and over again, or if it was because of his sister’s dignified smile at the banquet that hurt his eyes, or if it was because Ling He gritted his teeth and said “Congratulations.”, but he wanted to speak out.
He wanted to get his first ally, the most reliable backing.
“I think that Dayu will no longer be displaced by a mere flood.”
“I think that widows and young children will be able to fill their stomachs, and men can earn money and rice to support their wives and children.”
“I think that traitors and criminals can be brought to justice.”
“I think people who worship the powerful will not fill the court.”
“I think, Dayu will abolish slavery,” he thought of the dying figure curled up at Du Quan’s feet.
“I want my sister… to have her own son, and I want that child to sit in the highest position.”
Every time he heard a sentence, Liu Weizheng’s heart jumped a little more. At first, it seemed like just a juvenile rant, but when he heard the last sentence, his heart seemed to be hit hard.
He suddenly found that his memory of his son seemed to be in the past, still the child who was thirteen or fourteen years old, lying on the coffin and crying loudly.
But in a blink of an eye, Zhongming has grown far beyond his imagination. The person who has stayed in the past was himself.
Not only was it stagnant at where Qing Yan died, maybe earlier, as early as several decades ago, his time had stopped.
This young, frivolous and ignorant appearance was like how he was before, which made his nose sour.
When they were young, when did they not think about fighting the wind and the waves, replacing the old and brandishing the new? They did exactly that, pushing themselves forward.
On the eve of the crown prince’s ascension to the throne, they also celebrated happily, drinking alcohol.
At that time, they thought that they were only one step away from their ideals. It was not only the ideals of wealth and prosperity, but also the promise of a home. He thought that by tomorrow, he would be able to grow old hand in hand with that person.
But he didn’t know that this step was to be separated by a heavenly moat, and he couldn’t take a step further.
In fact, he should have known long ago. His Liu family has deep roots, the Bai family was the shield, and that person commanded three battalions. No matter who they were, they were enough to be the Emperor’s worries. How could they be allowed to be together?
The imperial decree did arrive, but it was Tang Xiyu, who had never met him, a member of the Empress’s family, that made the Emperor at ease.
He didn’t dare to look at the man’s face, he just lowered his head and accepted the imperial decree. That was the most cowardly time of his life, and it was also a nightmare that made him toss around in the middle of the night for the rest of his life.
He thought more than once, what would have happened if he broke the imperial edict and went with that person to the ends of the earth? But that was just an illusion after all, he was carrying the Liu family and could not afford to be willful.
The shadow cast by the eaves of the water pavilion covered his wry smile, and he swallowed the alcohol together with his choked throat. He knew that his son was waiting for his answer, but he couldn’t promise anything.
Sitting here, he was no longer the little Shizi Ah Zheng who could not think things through. He was just an empty shell.
“Zhongming,” he said slowly, his voice hoarse, “Tonight’s words, it’s good if it’s just us who know. If you go to Dali Temple after the new year, don’t put on the air of being a Shizi. Be harmonious with the top and bottom, no negativity in dealings, only ask for what is needed and understand your limits.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his son’s tall and straight figure loosen, as if he was extremely disappointed with his answer.
He was ruthless and continued: “Your Mother and I have nothing to ask of you. We only hope that you will be honest and studious, keep your body clean, and be worthy of the kindness of the emperor, so you can comfort our ancestors.
“The Liu family has amassed years of favour. It looks deep, but it is like walking on thin ice. Every step you take is related to the future of the Liu family, don’t act rashly.”
Liu Zhongming sat quietly for a while, and wanted to get up and leave several times, but he was full of unwillingness. The glass in front of him was filled, he drank it in one gulp, filled it again, and drank another.
This alcohol had a taste that he never tasted before. It was mellow in his mouth at first, but after swallowing it, his tongue was full of bitterness and astringency that would not go away for a long time.
“Father,” he asked softly, “I heard that the ancestors of the Liu family, like the Bai family, were born as military commanders. They fought on the battlefield to expand their territory before they were named Marquis of Anding. What about their bravery and blood?”
Liu Weizheng twitched his fingers. Holding the fluttering alcohol glass, the fine porcelain rubbed against the hard calluses in his palm, and he no longer felt any pain.
“It’s not what it used to be,” he said.
“Your son understands.” Liu Zhongming took the jug and poured a glass for each of them. “Father, it’s getting late, after drinking this cup, I’ll go back.”
He placed down the jug and when he moved away, he caught sight of the handle on the white pot – Intoxicated Feast.
Intoxicated feast, the host and guests enjoyed themselves, prosperity dissipated, leaving nothing but loneliness.
The author has something to say: This story not only involves the past and present life, but also the grievances between the upper and lower generations, so it will be a bit long. Ahh, next time if I write such a long story, I will be a dog! ! Wang Wang*!
* dog bark sounds
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