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Spring Once More chapter 31
(Traditional Chinese cover scanned by Dairytea)
I turn back to him. “What was that?”
He raises his head and straightens his back. “Milord, I want to learn martial arts.”
I swear my face becomes a bud that feels the first spring breeze on its petals, and a bright smile forms. I’m not hallucinating. Hua Yingxiong said he wants to train! Mhm, very good. He said it with determination, too. I see a great future ahead of him!
I walk back to him and pat his shoulder approvingly. “Good boy. Goals are important. Tomorrow I will contact some people and find you the best teacher to teach you the best martial arts.”
I hope Fu Qingshu is still willing to help…
And the answer is no, as expected. The next day he tells me with a strained expression that his teacher already retired from the jianghu. Accepting Wang-tanhua was already a breach of his oath and was done only to protect the little prince’s face.
Sitting in a private room in Xiaoshenxian, I try persuading him with a friendly smile, “An oath is really just an utterance. Breaking it once and breaking it twice make little difference. It’s broken either way.”
The young marquess ignores me. His jaws are tightly clenched. Damn it, give me some face, man!
I shake my head. “Li’l Marquess, I thought you were a clever child. How come you are this stubborn?”
His expression turns sour. “What did you say?”
“I said”—I rub my nose—“stubborn.”
He scoffs, “Master Ma, you are my elder and are more experienced. You do not lack for able and talented persons in your entourage. It is not wise to waste your precious time with a stubborn, green knave like me. By your leave.”
They say you lose a few inches of height when you need a favour. I pull a flattering smile while holding him by the sleeves.
“I admit I was careless with my tongue, but my little brother, you are a bigger man than I. We shall talk civilly. Boy, bring us more wine and dishes! Today I’m buying. Think of it as a thank-you for the help last time. No one is leaving sober!”
A few cups of alcohol later, Fu Qingshu’s face relaxes and points out a clear path for me. “On Tianzhu Mountain is a Xuanzheng taoist hermitage. The master, Xuanjizi, is equal in status to my own, and they both share educative lineage.”
I’m touched. “A true friend! A true brother!”
Xiaoshenxian has a fine selection of food, and I’m completely invested in devouring it. Fu Qingshu simply watches, amused, and finally comments with sympathy, “Do you not get a full meal at the manor, Master Ma?”
With a piece of eggplant stuffed in my cheek, I reply, “I got a whole posse watching me, so I have to eat like a prince. So fucking depressing!”
Fu Qingshu smiles. What a nice smile.
Half a month later, Hua Yingxiong goes off to meet his teacher and master the arts. I wanted to send him off in a few months’ time, but the kid seemed unusually keen on going and packed his things. Before he leaves, I pass him the sword, Chenqing, and tell him to study well and work hard and that he will soon be a hero admired by all in the land.
>He listens, head lowered. This kid’s been strangely quiet since declaring his intention to leave. Hasn’t even given me a full sentence in three days! I see him out the door, and as I watch him board the carriage, I suddenly feel a pang of sadness. I kind of don’t want him to go. I mean, he’s been with me for two months now, and he might be so naïve that he listens to me, but still. I approach the carriage and lift the curtain.
“Write when you have time. Send word if you need anything, or someone bullies you, or anything.”
Hua Yingxiong looks at me with teary eyes and purses his lips, obviously getting emotional. I feel like that I’m a father sending off his son for the first time.
I send a smile his way. “Take care out there. Safety is the most important.”
The driver brings his fists together towards me, and I nod letting go the curtain. As I step back, the man cracks his whip sending the carriage forth on its bumpy way. Sighing, I wave everyone back inside. I sit down in the front hall and drink some tea, another sigh escaping me. Pei Qixuan, standing farther down, suddenly smiles.
“I finally witnessed today how thoughtful you are, Milord.”
A few days later, the emperor summons me to the palace. The emperor summoning me to the palace is, eight times out of ten, him being bored and looking for things to do and the other two times, something bad. And whaddaya know! He greets me, “We hear you have had success reorganizing your inner courtyards.”
“Your brother and subject is forever conscious of your teachings and reflects constantly and tirelessly.”
He nods. “If so, we have something for you to do. Upon returning, you shall arrange your luggage to depart in three days and investigate two affairs in the Jianghuai region.”
Jianghuai? So he’s sending me on a business trip.
“Is it an investigation of corruption?”
“Very good,” he confirms, rubbing his moustache. “We’ve received several memorials from the region regarding the annual tribute. Considering your previous visit concerned the annual tribute as well, we have decided you shall go again. Rumour has it that several major officials are involved. Go forth and grab a few of them, so even if we don't get to the bottom of things, at least it will show others the consequences and clean the atmosphere a bit.”
I try my best at a flattering smile. “My dear brother, Your Majesty, I did indeed go last time, but I don't think it wise this time. Third brother and fourth brother are currently both in the capital, and either of them would be a better candidate than I. Methinks fourth brother is calm and calculated and would be the best choice.”
Sweet hell, I don’t even know how to read my own manor’s ledger, and you want me to investigate corruption?! Just gimme a bullet to the face while you’re at it now!
He smiles back at me stroking his moustache. “We just called a meeting with them, and both Prince Ren and Prince Kang strongly recommended you. They said you have grown wise and show boundless potential. You are the top candidate.”
I wipe my forehead with my sleeve. God fucking damn! They ran while they still had the chance!
“If so, it is settled,” says the emperor. “We will not release an imperial edict as this is a covert mission. Accompanying you shall be Fu Qingshu and some servants. You must act with prudence. A few of the officials still recognize you.”
I rub my nose. “My dear brother, Your Highness, you said that me an-, Fu Qingshu and I will go together?”
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Hua Yingxiong looks at me with teary eyes... ; o ;
I send a smile his way. "Take care out there. Safety is the most important."
Spring Once More by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.