Monday, September 24, 2018

Spring Once More ch23

9/29 update: added manhua pic
Translator: ayszhang
Editor: Marcia
Beta reader: Dairytea

Spring Once More chapter 23
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! :)
(Traditional Chinese cover scanned by Dairytea)

Chapter Twenty-three

Hearing his voice, I let out a curious ‘Huh?’ and turn my head. The sword wielder is quite confused too. I chuckle dryly at the half-covered face.
“Life is full of coincidences. Say, Li’l Marquess Fu, what could possibly bring you to the manor of Prince Tai in the middle of the night with a sword in hand?”
“Well, Master Ma,” he retorts matter-of-factly,“What are you doing in the prince’s manor?”
Hearing this, my heart falls back into place. Seems like this guy doesn’t know yet that the Prince Tai his cousin hit with the silk ball is none other than me.
“Well, it’s a long story. Um, Master Fu, could you, uh, maybe drop the sword and talk civilly?”
With a slight movement he swings the sword behind his back, slick and quick. Geez, I couldn’t tell that he was a martial arts guy.
I throw out a probing question. “Did you scale the wall, Master Fu?”
He confirms with silence.
“Did you come for the little prince?”
Again, he confirms with silence.
I stare at the icy glimmer of the blade under the moonlight. “Master Fu, I hope you thought it through. Chai Rong is the little prince. You won’t be able to bury the news of his death, and your cousin will be a widow for life.”
Fu Qingshu pushes out a disturbing scoff. “Who said that I wanted to kill him? I’ll just make sure he won’t marry my cousin.”
I rub my nose. “The emperor will release an edict. I doubt a sword to his neck will be enough to intimidate him. What good would that plan do?”
Eyes flashing in the dark, Fu Qingshu waves his sword a little. “I’ll castrate him.”
A shiver runs through me. What a savage! Much smarter than the tanhua, I’ve gotta say. He knows to get to the root of the problem and simultaneously guarantee the prince’s silence due to… the sensitive nature – an excellent plan.
I dab at my cold sweat. “I recently arrived myself and don’t know where Chai Rong sleeps. You can keep searching, but I won’t be accompanying.”
Just as I make to turn, I find the shiny sword back on my neck. Fu Qingshu commands in a gentle voice, “Pardon me, Master Ma. You know the courtyards better than I. Please.”
I start walking as the intruder’s hostage and take random turns around the winding walkways hoping to throw him off. But I shouldn’t have underestimated him. After an hour or so, he seems to see through my ruse and ducks under a moon gate into one of the sleeping quarters. Kicking in the door, he pushes the blade closer to my neck.
“Make not a sound! Where is Chai Rong’s chamber?!”
Legs weak, I stare at the head that pops up from the bed – Oh, Master Pei!
I heard that Chai Rong adored you when he was alive, and I have been pretty good to you, too! Please don’t give me away!
Pei Qixuan peers with sleepy eyes first at me then Li’l Marquess Fu and proceeds to point to the left. What a brother! Good man!
Fu Qingshu takes me and kicks in the door to the chamber on the left. He lets out a grunt as he makes a great discovery. Su Yanzhi is teaching Hua Yingxiong to model calligraphy one stroke at a time, hand-in-hand. As soon as Fu Qingshu lifts the sword from my neck, I know that he will now target Su Yanzhi. The prince’s reputation alleges that he is accompanied by a male concubine every night, and the prince can’t possibly be the child. Therefore, it must be the older Su Yanzhi.
As expected, the intruder points the sword and his gaze at Su Yanzhi. “So you are Chai Rong?”
I nervously shake my head by the door. Hua Yingxiong is scared witless and opens his mouth to speak, but Su Yanzhi silences him with a hard sweeping glance. The older man doesn’t even look my way and simply stays quiet.
Fu Qingshu scoffs. “Then it must be you.”
His sword shoots forward, but I do, too. “Halt! It’s not him!”
Oh fucking hell, what kind of man lets an innocent take the blame? Fuck it!
The intruder’s eyes narrow. “What are you saying?”
I put myself between Su Yanzhi and Hua Yingxiong and the sword. “All right, I’ll be honest with you. I actually –”
“Harm not the others,” a lazy voice interrupts me. It’s a sleepy Pei Qixuan leaning on the door, his long eyes squinted. “What matter does this gentleman have at our manor?”
Fu Qingshu furrows his brows. He considers the situation for a moment and decides to put the blade to my neck again. “Speak! Which one of you is Chai Rong?”
“What impressive skill, mister!” Pei Qixuan raises a brow. “Why don’t you lower your mask and let us see if your face is as good as your martial art?”
What the fuck? What does Mr. Pei think he is doing?!
The sword points a new direction. I puff up my chest. “He is lying. I actually –”
But Pei Qixuan interrupts me again. Pulling on the collar of his sleeping gown, he asks in a husky drawl, “Gorgeous, did you come to us tonight to find warmth and solace in our arms?”
The exposed part of Fu Qingshu’s face turns completely dark, and the hairs on my neck flick towards the sky. Why is Pei Qixuan doing this? For fuck’s sake, let the man have a chance to shine! I spot the gleam of the sword, and Pei Qixuan is still standing there. I slide forward, barking ‘halt,’ and reach for the blade. At last, I’m able to spit it out. “I’m Chai Rong!”
Fu Qingshu stiffens. Hah, so my words are powerful after all.
You’re Chai Rong?!”
I push out my chest. “Correct!”
Damn, why does it feel like I’m outing myself as an underground member of the Party?
Eyes burning with righteousness, I meet the intruder’s gaze. “If you wish, you can request the empress dowager to come identify his son for you. Rong is my name, and Chai is my family, and nothing in this world will change that. What I’ve done is on me and me alone. If you wish to take a life, let it be mine!” I find myself sounding more and more intense, but it quickly takes a different tone. “But seeing that we share some affinity in this short life, I ask that you chop my head off and spare the other parts.”
He doesn’t move a muscle as I make my conclusion. “It’s but a round scar. In twenty years, I’ll have my turn again.”[1]
I really have no idea why I chose that as my conclusion.
I stand still genuinely waiting for Li’l Marquess to swing his sword. Fuck it, there ain’t nobody more familiar with the Bridge of Helplessness than me anyways!
A moment later…another moment later…
Fu Qingshu’s eyes flash, and he lets out a frustrated ‘hmph.’ He draws the sword from my hand and turns right around. Seeing Assassin Fu leave is like a construction team stopping before installing the roof.
“Say, Master Fu, if you don’t get rid of me for your cousin now, not even Buddha can help you when the emperor releases his edict tomorrow. You’d better reconsider.”
He turns his head and practically stabs me with his glare before vanishing into the night. I rub my nose. Geez!
I catch a strong rusty smell. It turns out to be the two mangled, bloody gashes on my right palm. I’ve sure been having bloody luck these days! Being a hero is no easy task.
Master Pei rips off a hem and presses the wounds. Master Su sends Hua Yingxiong for the doctor. The half-awake Dr. Goatee snaps to attention when he sees my hand.
“May Your Highness live a thousand years. What happened?”
“I wasn’t paying attention,” I say. “And this happened.”
Dr. Goatee’s eyes wander all over, but he says no more. He pours a bottle of medicinal powder onto the wound, wraps it up with bandages, grabs a sheet of paper from the desk and scrawls out a prescription. Before I know it, he’s gone.
The irrelevant one has gone, leaving the tricky ones. Hua Yingxiong watches me, tears brimming. Su Yanzhi looks at me meaningfully. But the worst is Pei Qixuan. His gaze makes my little heart flutter. Bodhisattva, please don’t tell me he is into me!
I clear my throat. “Just a brief interlude in the night. Let us go to bed. Ha, ha. Let us sleep.”
A good thing about Hua Yingxiong is that he is obedient. After hearing my instruction, he leaves, though it looks like he has a lot to say. Master Pei’s gaze lingers on my face for a moment longer before he bids goodbye.
“Then I shall retire. The night is cold and damp. May Your Highness take good care.”
A slight tremor runs through my body.
That leaves Su Yanzhi and me in the room. He chuckles all of the sudden. “The gentleman earlier, he should be the son of Marquess Anguo. Do you know him, sir?”
I give him a look of approval. What a smart guy! “I wouldn’t say very well. I’ve only seen him a few times in the streets. Master Su, it is nearing midnight. You should go have a good night’s rest.”
He chuckles again. “This is my chamber. Where else do you want me to go, Master Ma?”
Early next morning, I finish the morning routine and am about to eat when Zhong-shu brings in someone.
He’s a very dignified attendant. He approaches me and kneels down – with much dignity – and proceeds to hand me a very dignified invitation.
The card is red embossed with gold and filled with inky writing. Half guessing, I make out the main thesis at the end:
Your grateful servant humbly invites Your Highness, Prince Tai, to a brief rendezvous at his lowly house. Yours respectfully, Shenshu.

[1] Refers to reincarnation.

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