Dianxia Qingcheng - Chapter 123
Chapter 123: I’ll Hug You
January 11, 2023Merchie
Zhao Litang and Wu Quan ended up following them upstairs.
The waiter led the group into a private room to be seated. Shen Huan and Shen Shijiu had already sat down, while Yue Nu stayed at the side and stood obediently.
Shen Shijiu pulled him over to sit down, but he refused. He was a servant, what right did he have to sit with his master?
Upon seeing Zhao Litang enter the room, Shen Shijiu glanced at him, then at Yue Nu.
Zhao Litang followed his gaze and saw Yue Nu standing alone at the side, like a pitiful boy who had just been bullied.
And judging by the look Shen Shijiu gave him, Zhao Litang was the one who had bullied him.
“Don’t stand over there, come over here and sit with us.”
Shen Shijiu happily grabbed Yue Nu and wanted him to sit beside him, but Yue Nu was hesitant, and still looked too scared to sit down.
“Y-Young Master Shen… I don’t need to sit, I’m fine with standing at the side…”
Zhao Litang’s voice rose slightly. He really didn’t know what this child was so afraid of; all he had to do was sit down and have a meal with them, yet he still refused.
Yue Nu seemed to have been startled by Zhao Litang’s sudden outburst. His body shook, and hurriedly sat down beside Shen Shijiu.
Shen Shijiu whispered to him, “A-Yue, don’t be scared. General Zhao means well. He just wants you to eat with all of us. But I don’t know why he’s still being so mean.”
Yue Nu nodded, but he was still a bit nervous. He had never once sat down at a table to eat. In his previous master’s manor, he could only stand at the side and serve him.
In a few moments, platefuls of various delicacies were brought up to the table.
Shen Shijiu began to eat and drink without any reservations. After all, he wasn’t the one paying for it.
But as Shen Shijiu was stuffing his mouth full of food, he didn’t forget to place a bit of each dish in Yue Nu’s bowl.
“A-Yue, try this one, this one’s really tasty. And that one, that’s one’s also good… they’re all good, you should eat more.”
Yue Nu responded as he ate the food that Shen Shijiu had piled into his bowl. No one had ever been so nice to him before; no one had ever served him a dish or told him to eat more. As he ate, his eyes began to heat up, and a fat tear fell into his bowl with a splash.
Yue Nu hurriedly lowered his head, and wiped his tears with his sleeve. He didn’t want anyone to see him crying.
Indeed, no one else noticed his discreet movements. But Zhao Litang, who hadn’t been eating much during the meal, did.
They were almost finished. Zhao Litang raised his wine cup and said to Shen Huan, “Master Shen, I must thank you for your aid, otherwise I would have already died of poisoning. I toast you with this cup of wine.”
As he spoke, Zhao Litang gulped down the wine in his cup.
Shen Huan also raised her cup, “General Zhao, you are too kind. It was no trouble at all, no need to be so gracious.”
Then, Zhao Litang poured another cup of wine, and held it up toward Shen Shijiu, “Young Master Shen, thank you.”
After he finished speaking, he downed the wine once more.
Shen Shijiu followed Shen Huan’s example, but just as he was going to drink the cupful of wine, Shen Huan snatched it away.
“You’re a child, you can’t drink wine. You’ll drink soup!”
As she spoke, she gave Shen Shijiu a bowl of soup.
Shen Shijiu obediently held the bowl in his hands, but he muttered under his breath, “I’m not a kid, I’ve already grown up.”
“What did you say?” Shen Huan raised her voice.
Shen Shijiu blinked his innocent eyes, “I didn’t say anything, shifu.”
Then he tilted his head back, and gulped down the soup as though it were wine. After he finished, he even flipped the bowl upside down to prove that it was empty.
Shen Huan couldn’t hold it in. She burst out laughing at his absurd actions.
Yue Nu also lowered his head, and his shoulders began to shake; it appeared as though he was crying.
Zhao Litang had been looking at Shen Shijiu the entire time. But when his gaze shifted slightly, he saw the child beside Shen Shijiu with his head lowered. He noticed Yue Nu’s trembling shoulders, and his forehead creased slightly.
Then, Yue Nu suddenly lifted his head. The emotion in his eyes was clearly happiness. Usually, his little face was always tense; this was the first time Zhao Litang had seen him smile so joyfully, without fear or caution; even his crescent birthmark seemed to be shining.
Yue Nu had been smiling at Shen Shijiu this whole time. His gaze suddenly shifted toward Zhao Litang, and their eyes met across the table. That smile immediately disappeared, and Yue Nu bowed his head in a panic.
Zhao Litang also averted his gaze.
The atmosphere in the room was relaxed and pleasant, when the sounds of a noisy argument came from outside. The noise still didn’t stop after a long while, which was quite irritating.
Zhao Litang ordered Wu Quan to go out and take a look. But Wu Quan was gone for a long time and still hadn’t returned, so Zhao Litang went out himself to see what was going on.
There were quite a few people gathered in the restaurant’s main hall, split into two columns. The two sides were still arguing relentlessly, and Wu Quan stood between them, preventing the two groups from resorting to a brawl.
One of the groups was headed by the restaurant manager, while the other, Zhao Litang recognized, was composed of ministers of the court. Also, they were all lackeys of the Empress’s family, so their power could not be underestimated.
“We lords are willing to eat here at your Yi Pin Xiang to save you some face, hurry up and clear out one of the private rooms so we lords can be seated!”
“There are no more private rooms available today. There is only space left in the main hall. If you are unwilling to sit there, please find another restaurant. Why must you lower yourself to my pitiful establishment?”
The manager was neither haughty nor humble, and wasn’t frightened by the power and influence of the people standing across from him.
“You dare to make lords sit in the main hall? It seems to me that your Yi Pin Xiang doesn’t want to hang around in the Imperial City anymore! You even dare to insult Lord Qian and Lord Wei! You really are too bold!”
“Lord Qian, Lord Wei. Our restaurant has been in business in the Imperial City for more than just a few days. All the other influential officials who come here to eat will send someone to reserve a spot in advance. There has never been a rule that allows people to come in here and drive the other guests out.”
Lord Qian pushed his attendant aside, and walked up with a smile, “All right, all right, that’s reasonable. This is indeed the largest, most prosperous restaurant in the Imperial City, but…”
Lord Qian’s expression changed, morphing into a disdainful smile, “… the more of these characteristics a restaurant has, the more this lord wants to eat there.”
He waved his hand, and a few attendants stormed in. It seemed that they had planned to stir up a fuss here today.
Zhao Litang wasn’t acquainted with these two lords. However, in the past few days, he had been hearing their names quite frequently.
Due to Pei Zheng’s suspension, the dark current of the Imperial Court gradually began to surge.
The sphere of influence of the Empress’s faction was growing wildly, and they were becoming more and more arrogant. They followed the example of the two lords downstairs, and their behavior in the Imperial City was becoming increasingly reckless.
But no one knew if the manager of the restaurant had any power or influence to back him up. If he continued to resist these two lords, he would definitely lose out in the end.
Zhao Litang glanced downstairs. When he saw that the attendants were about to drive the guests out and destroy the building, he decided to head down there himself to intercede.
Unexpectedly, before Zhao Litang could even walk down the staircase, the noise suddenly died down.
Someone had walked inside; it was the black-clad Cheng Feng, sword in hand. He walked right up to Lord Qian, and pressed his scabbard against Lord Qian’s chest.
The restaurant manager almost cried with joy when he saw Cheng Feng. If His Lordship had showed up any later, the building would have been destroyed.
Indeed, someone else walked in. He was dressed in an exquisite black robe, and was holding a folding fan in a rather lazy manner as he strolled into the center of the hall.
“My Lord! They’re, they’re bullying people!”
The restaurant manager let go of the imposing manner he had during the argument. His expression was full of misery; it was as though he had suffered the most terrible of grievances.
The corners of Pei Zheng’s lips hooked. He lifted his eyes and swept his gaze over Lord Qian and Lord Wei as they stood across from him.
These two had argued with Pei Zheng in court before. It was a pity that they lost miserably, and from then on, they didn’t dare to confront Pei Zheng directly. They would even avoid Pei Zheng the moment they saw him.
Now, although Pei Zheng was still suspended from his post, the two of them were still a bit fearful of him.
“I knew it, if it isn’t Lord Pei.”
That Lord Qian smiled, and tried to take a step forward. Unfortunately, Cheng Feng’s scabbard was still pressed against his chest, so he couldn’t move at all.
The attendant beside Lord Qian spotted this; he was so angry that he tried to bat Cheng Feng’s sword away, but Lord Qian reached out and stopped him.
Cheng Feng merely cast a cold glance at that attendant; someone like him meant nothing in his eyes.
Lord Qian said, “Lord Pei, what happened today has nothing to do with you. If you’ve come here for a meal, Qian-mou1 will offer you a small piece of advice. The people at this restaurant are just too arrogant and disrespectful. They must only dare to be this way because they have someone powerful to rely on. Leave it to Qian-mou to arrest the boss and thoroughly interrogate him. We’ll see who in the Imperial City dares to abuse their power to take advantage of others!”
The restaurant manager grew furious as he listened. Anyone here who had eyes could tell who was abusing their power to take advantage of others.
The folding fan in Pei Zheng’s hand closed with a “pa!”. His smile vanished, and he looked rather gloomy.
The matter of him purchasing Yi Pin Xiang had not been publicized, so outsiders wouldn’t know that the ownership of this restaurant had long since been passed to someone else.
“Lord Qian, you must have great authority.” Pei Zheng’s voice was ice-cold, “You want to arrest the boss of this restaurant?”
Lord Qian found Pei Zheng’s tone to be a bit strange; it sounded as though he and the boss were acquainted with one another.
“Lord Pei, it’s been a while since you’ve attended court, so you must be confused about the orders His Majesty issued recently. This Imperial City needs to be properly regulated.”
As he spoke, he exchanged a glance with his comrade, Lord Wei, who nodded in agreement, “That’s right, it’s understandable for Lord Pei not to know about this.”
The restaurant manager’s mouth was a bit quicker, and he shouted, “My Lord! They actually want to arrest you! Can the laws of our Celestial Dynasty allow them to do this?” The moment he said these words, everyone began to whisper amongst themselves, while Lord Qian and Lord Wei’s expressions changed.
“What do you mean by that?”
The manager’s face was full of contempt, “The two of you well-educated lords can’t understand something as simple as this? The boss of our Yi Pin Xiang is Lord Pei.”
The sounds of chatter and discussion around them became a bit louder.
Zhao Litang, who had been watching this entire fiasco unfold from the second floor, also understood at this moment why the staff at the restaurant held a different attitude toward the Shen master and disciple in comparison to the General’s Manor.
“Uh… Lord Pei, my deepest apologies. This, this was all just a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding…”
“Yes, yes, yes, it was all a misunderstanding. Since there aren’t any more private rooms available, w-we’ll just find another place to eat…”
Lord Qian and Lord Wei’s faces were flashing every color of the rainbow. Originally, they had wanted to flaunt their authority, but they never expected to flaunt it to Pei Zheng.
A skinny camel was still bigger than a horse. Even if Pei Zheng was an idle Prime Minister, they couldn’t just provoke him as they pleased. Besides, at the moment, Pei Zheng’s power and influence in the court was still enough to rival that of the Empress’s family.
All of the attendants hurriedly left and scattered, and the packed main hall emptied out quite a bit.
The restaurant manager hurriedly made an announcement to the guests in the hall and apologized.
Lord Qian and Lord Wei smiled in embarrassment at Pei Zheng for a long while, “Lord Pei, we won’t disturb you any longer. We’ll be leaving now.”
As they spoke, the two of them were about to walk out.
But Cheng Feng ended up being a step faster. He walked to the door and pointed his blade horizonatally, blocking the two lords’ path.
“Didn’t the two of you want to go to a private room upstairs?” Pei Zheng sneered, “This way.”
After he finished speaking, Pei Zheng walked up the stairs.
Cheng Feng silently threatened the two lords with his gaze. They didn’t dare to leave, so they turned and followed Pei Zheng up the staircase.
Zhao Litang was still standing at the door of the private room. When he saw Pei Zheng walking toward him, his expression darkened.
Unexpectedly, when Pei Zheng saw Zhao Litang, he didn’t look shocked at all, smiling as he greeted him.
“General Zhao, was the food to your liking?”
Zhao Litang snorted coldly and didn’t answer. His eyes passed over Pei Zheng, and he looked toward the two lords that had followed him here.
“Lord Qian, Lord Wei.” Zhao Litang greeted the two of them.
“General Zhao, why are you here as well?”
Lord Qian was visibly surprised, “Could it be… could it be that you and Lord Pei had planned to meet here?”
But didn’t everybody in the Imperial Court know about the discordant relationship between Zhao Litang and Pei Zheng?
It was because of this that the Empress’s family had taken great lengths to try and secretly win Zhao Litang over. But Zhao Litang stubbornly refused. So far, he hadn’t agreed to getting involved with the Empress’s faction. But today presented itself as a good opportunity; not only could the two lords observe the relationship between Zhao Litang and Pei Zheng, perhaps they would be able to use this as a way to persuade Zhao Litang to join them.
“We didn’t plan this. I just came to have a meal with a few friends. We met purely by chance.”
But Pei Zheng wasn’t here by chance. It was because he knew that Zhao Litang was taking Shen Shijiu to Yi Pin Xiang that he abandoned all the reports that he hadn’t finished reading, and instead rushed over.
Ignoring the disingenuous small-talk between the three people behind him, Pei Zheng pushed open the door and walked into the private room.
In truth, Pei Zheng had ordered this room to be reserved for the small man only. Who would have guessed that due to a strange twist of fate, this room would actually be filled with so many annoying people.
However, Pei Zheng had purposely brought that Lord Qian and Lord Wei up here so that they would come into contact with Zhao Litang.
Pei Zheng also wanted to use this opportunity to gauge what kind of attitude Zhao Litang had.
The moment he entered the room, he saw the four people who were sitting inside.
Shen Shijiu was sitting with his back facing the door. When he heard someone come in, he turned his head to look; he thought General Zhao had returned.
“Gen… My Lord!”
Shen Shijiu stood up from his chair, and scampered up to Pei Zheng in just two or three steps. His eyes were shining, “My Lord! Why are you here?”
Pei Zheng saw that his bright red lips were still stained with oil. He really looked too adorable, standing beside him with his head raised to look at him.
When Wu Quan and Yue Nu saw Pei Zheng, they also stood up from their seats and bowed, before they silently stepped to the side to stand.
Only Shen Huan leisurely finished drinking her soup, before she finally gave Pei Zheng a sloppy bow.
Pei Zheng didn’t even notice the movements of the other three. He reached out toward the small man in front of him, leaned toward his lips, and gently wiped them with his fingertips.
Those tender, pink lips reddened slightly at his touch.
Shen Huan had already witnessed Pei Zheng’s attentiveness toward her little disciple, and didn’t think too much of this.
But Wu Quan and Yue Nu had never seen it before. The two of them both lifted their cuffs and wiped their own mouths.
“Have you eaten your fill?”
“Mm!” Shen Shijiu nodded.
“Then let’s go out to play. Wait for me, okay?”
“Mm!” Shen Shijiu nodded again.
Pei Zheng glanced at Shen Huan, and she gestured to show that she understood.
Then, Shen Huan led her little disciple out of the private room, and took Yue Nu with her as well. They maneuvered their way around the people outside the door and walked down the staircase. They planned to take a stroll through the streets.
The waiter hurried inside with a bunch of helpers, and they quickly cleared away the plates and leftovers, before they served up a brand-new spread of exquisite delicacies.
Pei Zheng sat down at the table. Then, Zhao Litang, Lord Qian, and Lord Wei came in.
The delicious food on the table was ignored; all four of them were in different moods, and none of them ate much, but they all drank quite a bit.
Because Zhao Litang had only just recovered, he drank a bit less.
Pei Zheng drank the most. Whenever the two lords toasted him, he would raise his cup and gulp down its contents, and the other two could only do the same.
But Pei Zheng’s alcohol tolerance was high, so he wasn’t drunk.
But those two lords were stumbling all over the place; they probably wouldn’t even remember what they said or did.
Pei Zheng sent someone to escort the two of them away. Only Zhao Litang and Pei Zheng remained in the room.
“General Zhao, you heard it too, those two lords invited us to go swimming in the lake tomorrow.” Pei Zheng swirled the wine in his cup, “General Zhao, are you going?”
“How can you call that ‘inviting’, you just forced them to agree.”
Pei Zheng smiled, “So what? Several important ministers are having a little meeting in private. Who knows, what if they’re plotting some treasonous crime?”
“Plotting some treasonous crime?” Zhao Litang looked at Pei Zheng, “Isn’t that right up your alley?”
“General Zhao, why do you say that?”
Pei Zheng was still smiling. He tapped his fan against the table, and looked very carefree.
The emotions that Zhao Litang had held in for so long finally surged out, “You really have lost your memory. The way I see it, you don’t give a damn about what happened! If I had known that this would happen earlier, I would’ve killed you that night!”
Pei Zheng lifted his eyes, “How do you know that I forgot?”
“If you remembered, you wouldn’t be as nonchalant as you are now!” Zhao Litang pointed at the door, “Do you have the balls to tell me who that little disciple really is?”
Pei Zheng’s smile disappeared. With cold eyes, he looked at Zhao Litang and didn’t say a word.
Zhao Litang became even more enraged, “All right, you won’t say it, so I’ll say it for you. Do you have any ulterior motives toward him? Or have you two already fallen in love? I’ll admit it, the two of them look similar… but, you shifted your affections to another so easily, were your feelings that shallow? Did your guilt and regret disappear just like that?”
The folding fan in Pei Zheng’s hand snapped with a “pa!”. He let go, and the broken pieces of the fan fell onto the floor.
Although Zhao Litang was only asking Pei Zheng such pointed questions because he didn’t know the truth behind the matter, Pei Zheng still felt a deep, stabbing pain in his heart.
He never wanted to recall those things that had happened in the past, but there was always a voice that pricked him like a needle, reminding him:
You owe him too much. You can’t forget, you must continue to treat him well, so you can make it up to him. But even if you spend a lifetime doing this, you will never be able to make up for the past. So you must carry this guilt and regret for the rest of your life…
Pei Zheng curled his fingers, and felt a warm and sticky sensation on his palm. It turned out that after he had broken the folding fan, his hand had been pierced by the splinters, and it had begun to bleed a bit.
But he didn’t feel any pain at all, because of the emptiness in his heart.
Zhao Litang had already flicked his sleeves and left. The door was slammed shut with a “peng”.
Cheng Feng walked over and said, “Master, your wound needs to be bandaged.”
Pei Zheng stood up, and he was overcome with dizziness for a moment. The wine still had a bit of a delayed effect on him.
He steadied himself and walked out. He slowly walked down the stairs, and out of the restaurant, before he stood on the street.
After the cold wind blew over him, his mind cleared up quite a bit.
It had been extremely cold during the past few days; it seemed that it was going to snow soon. But it still hadn’t fallen yet.
The blood on Pei Zheng’s palm dripped down, and several droplets fell onto the stone tiles, blooming into bloody flowers.
“Why are you bleeding again? Does it hurt?”
A voice sounded from behind him.
Pei Zheng turned and saw Shen Shijiu standing in front of him. His head was lowered as he examined Pei Zheng’s bleeding hand.
Shen Shijiu reached out and carefully cupped Pei Zheng’s hand in his own. Then, he had Pei Zheng open his palm to let him see the wound.
Although the wound wasn’t deep, it was bleeding, so it would definitely hurt.
Shen Shijiu’s nose warmed up as he continued to examine the wound, and his heart ached a bit.
He called softly.
Shen Huan and Yue Nu had already gone back to the General’s Manor. Only Shen Shijiu was still waiting outside Yi Pin Xiang.
Pei Zheng didn’t answer, and suddenly withdrew his hand.
Shen Shijiu looked up at him and pouted. It was obvious that he was holding back tears.
Pei Zheng opened his arms, and bent down slightly. He took a small step forward, and gathered the small man into his arms, holding him tight.
One hand was on his back, while the other was gripping his waist. Their bodies were pressed tightly against each other, with Shen Shijiu’s body nestled into his chest. Then, Pei Zheng buried his head in the other’s shoulder and didn’t move.
The street was full of bustling crowds, loud and lively
But there was only silence in Pei Zheng’s ears. He couldn’t hear anything else, only the soft, shallow breaths of the person in his arms, one after another, gentle and warm.
“Pei-gege, let go of me first… I need to stop the bleeding from your wound, and then I have to bandage it…”
Pei Zheng pretended not to hear him.
Shen Shijiu patted him, and became a bit anxious, “Pei-gege… let me go, okay…”
“But I can’t treat your wound like this…”
“Don’t treat it.”
Shen Shijiu was immediately rendered speechless. Why did he feel like His Lordship was acting like a little kid, clinging onto him, as though he were a spoiled child.
But it also seemed like there was something that was causing him sorrow.
Shen Shijiu gently stroked Pei Zheng’s hair, and his voice was soft.
“Pei-gege, don’t be sad. I’ll hug you, just be good and listen to me, okay?”
Long chapters are back!
Thanks for reading~
1.Uh, I wasn’t sure how to word that, so I left it in Romanized form. Sorry if it looks weird; it’s a way for officials to address themselves to other higher-ranking officials.