Chapter Two Sleepy city
The next day before dawn, Ping An had already gone out the door.
Once it was the afternoon, Li Yi started getting a bit worried. Ping An hadn’t returned yet, and it was obviously much later than the previous few days. The capital was unsettled these days. If Ping An didn’t come back, he would have to go out to look for him.
Finally, the old door creaked. No figure was seen entering, but a bag of rations was squeezed inside first.
Li Yi hurriedly put down whatever he was holding and ran over to take the bag.
Ping An’s short body was bent, and his back and head were hidden under the linen bag. As he walked backwards through the door, he felt the weight on his shoulders getting lighter and knew that Li Yi was here to help. “Young master, don’t do it, this slave can carry that bit of millet safe and stable,” he said anxiously.
Li Yi helped Ping An unload the bag before turning around and closing the wooden door.
While doing that, he looked around, but there were still not many people in the street.
It had been ten days since the rebel troops seized the city. Rumours were spreading that the new emperor failed to escape from the palace and had to commit suicide.
After the initial period of burning, killing and looting, it was now a rare moment of peace. However, blood stains on both sides of the street had not dried yet, and from time to time, in the capital corpses were buried and various things burnt emitted a strange smell. No one dared to walk outside casually.
Ping An put down the bag of millet, wiped his sweat and respectfully said to Li Yi: “Young master, this is the last bag buried. Fortunately, this slave knows some superficial kung fu, otherwise this bag wouldn’t be delivered today.”
Only then did Li Yi notice that there were bruises and scabs on Ping An’s arm. He grabbed it and took a look. Fortunately, it was not serious. “What did I tell you? Life is more important! Today you were lucky but if you are unlucky another day, is a bag of millet more important or you are?”
Taking into account the news he’d learned today, Ping An really felt that this bag of millet was more important than his pathetic life, but seeing Li Yi value him so much, his heart was full of gratitude.
It’s just that the news he got today would probably have a big impact on his young master, so he needed to ponder over how he should open his mouth to speak about it.
Li Yi watched Ping An go to the shed that was temporarily used as a kitchen. He returned to the dilapidated house and continued to deal with the watermelon rind that he had left earlier.
The watermelon pulp was cut out and put aside. Li Yi flipped the watermelon rind and shaved off the outer hard skin, leaving only the green layer of crispy flesh. Then he added salt and marinated it slightly, preparing to wait for the water to drain, then take it to the kitchen to shred.
When Ping An came out of the shed, he saw Li Yi wearing a washed out linen shirt but still looking elegant, while fiddling with a watermelon in his hands. It really didn’t look right, so he hurried forward to take over.
“Young master, how can you do these things? Be careful with your hands.”
Li Yi smiled. He was not a nobleman anymore. In addition to brush and paper, these hands could touch other things, too.
Ping An turned around and went to the kitchen with the watermelon rinds, his eyes a little red.
In the palace back then, the watermelon flesh was cut in the shape of dragon eyes, put in a crystal glass bowl filled with ice flowers chiselled in the big ice cellar and served with white curds. The young master might not even take a bite of that, yet now this was how he passed his days.
Naturally, Li Yi also felt that life was difficult, but it was not as difficult as Ping An thought.
He transmigrated as the grandson of the emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and he thought it was a blessing. How could he imagine that when he was one year old and barely able to speak, he would once say nonsense in his sleep. It was a dialect from his previous life. There was a similar place in this era, too. Being discovered by palace people, he was exorcized and had to drink talisman-infused water for days, nearly losing his life.
If it weren’t for his parents who really loved him and desperately hid this matter to prevent it from reaching the emperor’s ears, who knows what would have happened to him.
Only then did Li Yi fully realise that this was not a dream. If he dared to reveal the slightest irrationality and fail to conceal that he was a modern person and an adult soul in a child’s body, his life would be ruined.
Dozens of palace people surrounded Li Yi every day, and the rules in the palace were numerous enough to make one’s scalp go numb. Li Yi didn’t dare to show a bit of adult thinking until he was in his teens. After receiving the most orthodox education of the imperial family for many years, his etiquette and manners had become impeccable.
After living for more than ten years in a cage like this, no matter how good the external material conditions were, Li Yi was mentally devastated and felt his life couldn’t be called human.
When he confessed his guilt and was abolished as a commoner, others thought that the emperor’s grandson would not live long. They did not know that Li Yi was originally an ordinary person, and his mentality adjusted quite quickly.
Although the days since then had been hard, Li Yi was finally able to be himself with peace of mind. As long as there was no major chaos in the capital, Li Yi had a good life.
After a while, Ping An brought out lunch, millet gruel and newly pickled watermelon rinds. After being a commoner for many years, Li Yi didn’t stick to the rule about not talking while eating. “How is the situation outside?” he asked Ping An.
Ping An hid the most important news and talked about something else first: “Most of the people whose names we know didn’t have time to escape. The men were basically killed all at once, many boys did not escape either, and the women were even more miserable. Some were humiliated and killed themselves, some were reduced to slaves, while some were put in a situation where this slave couldn’t bear hearing about it. Nowadays, all the merchants in the city who have some money are afraid that they will be looted by the soldiers.”
For a while, neither of them made a sound. Had Li Yi still been the grandson of the emperor, he would have died for sure by now. Things in the world really depended on blessings and misfortune and were quite unpredictable.
Ping An sighed and continued, “At that time, when the news of the rebel army’s siege came, young master was wise and asked me to dig a pit in the vegetable plot in the backyard and hide all the food I could hide. Only this way did we escape being looted, otherwise there would definitely be nothing left.”
At that time, the master and servant couldn’t take all the grain at once. They packed what they could and carried gold and silver as they fled to the Northern District, the place where the poor of the capital lived.
Li Yi knew that although his standing in the Li family’s world was very low, unfortunately, his bloodline was too pure, so he would inevitably not be able to escape. His first choice was to move to the slums to take shelter.
“It’s a good thing you know some kung fu, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to stay here in peace.”
As soon as Li Yi praised him, Ping An immediately smiled shyly. He was a eunuch who had followed Li Yi since he was a child. Li Yi saved his life in the palace once. When Li Yi was in trouble and was abolished, Ping An voluntarily left the palace to follow him.
When they arrived in the Northern District, it looked like a patchwork of shacks. Sure enough, they found a house abandoned by its owner. The soldiers were in turmoil, no one cared about anyone, and there were quite a few doves occupying the magpie’s nest.
It was just that in this kind of place where three religions and nine nations lived together, some sharp eyes naturally noticed that Li Yi was not really poor and entertained some ideas about him.
After Ping An used his fists twice, no one in the area dared to provoke them.
“Young master, let’s keep hiding here. Until the outside is more stable, let’s not rush back.”
Before coming to this slum, Ping An was very disapproving. He felt that Li Yi had been a commoner for many years and the rebel army wouldn’t care about him.
After the initial burning, killing and looting passed, he went back to the old house safely and explored, and found that someone had been there and took away all the furnishings, calligraphy scrolls and paintings. After that, he didn’t dare to take it lightly anymore.
He didn’t know if those people came to kill Li Yi, but he couldn’t imagine anyone snatching those things without a purpose.
After Li Yi finished his meal, he put down his chopsticks and said, “Let’s not go back to the old house anymore. We have to take advantage of this chaos and change our names and leave the capital. The farther we hide, the safer it will be.”
Ping An nodded, “As the young master says.”
At night, borrowing the moonlight, Li Yi was counting their rations. Ping An had gone back to the vegetable plot of the old house several times before and basically brought all the hidden food.
Now with just the two of them, if they were a bit frugal, they would have enough to eat for two months. Li Yi was a little proud about his adaptability, and there was an involuntary smile on his face.
Ping An watched Li Yi anxiously from the side. It was already dark. He still couldn’t think of any good way to reveal the news hidden in his heart. However, the matter was so important that he couldn’t delay it anymore. He had to be cruel and say it straightforwardly.
“Young master, the King of Southern Yunnan with his army has besieged the capital this morning.”
Li Yi was taken aback for a moment and repeated involuntarily: “You said that the King of Southern Yunnan led his troops to the capital?”
Ping An looked at Li Yi’s sudden state of shock. He felt sad in his heart, but still bit his lip and said, “Yes. Rumours are spreading on the streets that the soldiers are coming to the city!”
Li Yi didn’t speak again. After sitting for a while, he stood up staggeringly and ran to the shed behind the kitchen.
Ping An hurriedly followed, saying in a panic: “Young master, what are you going to do?”
Li Yi turned his back to Ping An. Only he knew his lips were trembling as he said, “I need to grind the millet and make cakes quickly. The more, the better. We’ll make dry cakes and take them with us. When he attacks, we have to take advantage of the chaos to escape. If we slow down a step, we won’t be able to get out. And even if we dig three feet into the ground, this man will find me and kill me!”
When the peasant army rebelled, it was still possible for Li Yi to slip through the cracks and sneak out of the city, but the King of Southern Yunnan would definitely remember his bloodline. He would never let Li Yi hide under a mossy stone and he would find someone to kill him and get rid of him for good.
Ping An did not comfort Li Yi, saying that the King of Southern Yunnan might not be able to attack the capital.
Several brothers of the King of Southern Yunnan were brave and good at fighting, especially his younger twin brother. He was well known to the women and children in the Qing Dynasty as being the God of War.
In the ten years after the new emperor ascended to the throne, he wanted to consume the power of the King of Southern Yunnan and ordered him to conquer the east and the west. Who expected that his younger twin brother would be invincible. Not only did he gain a reputation but also in these wars he absorbed a lot of the captive population. The emperor wanted to steal a chicken but lost the rice (wanted to take advantage of someone but became at a disadvantage).
The moon was in the middle of the sky, and the light from the house shone through the wooden fence window, painting Li Yi in red and looked like a layer of spilt blood.
He turned his wrists unconsciously and looked at the two hideous, deep old scars.
The nightmare turned out to be a reality, and the King of H*ll was already waiting outside the city.