Chapter 14 – The Past, Belongs to the Past
Tsuri: Hi, erm, what do you think of the long reply?
I rode the carriage all the way to master’s courtyard, and just walked through the gardens to my rooms. As I passed master’s room, I saw that his lights were still on. I was just debating whether to knock on his door when the door open, and the man himself stood there, backlit by the lights from his room.
“Xiran… you’re back?” looks like master really did not expect to see me tonight, he looked a little uncomfortable, but it certainly seemed like he had been waiting for me nevertheless.
“Yes, are you looking for me, master?” I respectfully inquired.
“Xiran, you still remember that time when you’re about to enter the palace, you told me that you wish to know about your father’s death? I have considered for a very long time whether to tell you, but I feel that you have the right to know. Come in with me, we’ll talk.”
Master looked like he had weighted the decision very carefully before calling me to his room.
As he closed the door, I sat at the table watching the candle flames waved, wondering whether this knowledge would end up being a good thing, or a bad thing for me.
“Xiran, you only know that your father was an Imperial Chef, but did you know that he also used to be the prime minister of Great Yan?”
As these words, I felt like I had been struck by lightning, the shock was unspeakable.
Master looked at me for a while before moving towards the window. Then, slowly, he started to speak of the matters from the past…
It turned out that master and my father were friends who grew up together as boys and went on to become officials at the same time. Later, they also became disciples of the same sect.
He told me that Father was a man of great talent and gifts, there was nothing he could not do. Father was also a man who could get along at almost every level of society, and by the age of 20,became the youngest prime minister of Great Yan.
Unfortunately, these good days did not last. Three years later, Great Qi waged war against Great Yan. Through great military strength, the Great Qi conquered the Yan borders and took over the country.
Looking at master’s sad expression, these memories were clearly things that still haunt him after all this time.
After that, the emperor of Great Yan led his remaining ministers to the south to evade capture, waiting for an opportunity to regain their homeland from Great Qi. However, the Great Qi was a country of great strength and power, there was no way they could win via a direct show of strength, so what could they do?
Thus, the emperor ordered my master and father to learn the art of cooking in order to sneak into Great Qi’s imperial kitchen and find an opportunity to assassinate the Great Qi emperor, in order to regain the throne and territory of Great Yan.
Thus, with the hopes of the people of Great Yan on their shoulders, these two men set out.
This was how they became sect brothers, both studying to learn under a great chef. It was also here that they met the great chef’s daughter, their junior sister disciple and my mother, Gu Xin.
According to master, both of them fell for my mother at first sight. The three of them spent their days studying from the best, it was the best time of his life. Whenever master talked about his junior sister, my mother, his eyes lit up with uncommon tenderness, and even his speech grew gentle.
They trained with the great chef for two years, in those two years his performance was fairly average, however, my father showed talent for cooking and won over the great chef’s approval with his talent, and eventually my mother’s heart.
The great chef bestowed his beloved daughter to my father, however, as a friend, no matter how unwilling, my master choose to maintain this friendship and silently bury his feelings and bless their union with all his heart.
As master spoke, I finally realized why, after all these years, there was no sign of a wife or a concubine. Looks like he still carried a torch for my mother. Nevertheless, I continued to listen, even as he fell silent for a while.
After a sip of tea, he continued.
Once my parents were married, master advice my father to forget about his revenge duty and to flee the country with my mother. However, whenever this subject was brought up, both parties would grow angry with each other, with master accusing father for not appreciating his happiness, and father accusing him for forgetting his responsibilities.
He knew that in father’s heart, the past glory of Great Yan remained dear to him, and as a prime minister of Great Yan, he could not simply let go of his hatred against the country that destroyed his home.
As for master, the longer he stayed in place, the more settled he felt. He did not want to provoke war, nor did he wanted to break this hard won peace. The past, after all, should belonged to the past.
“Master, was that why my father killed?” I could no longer stand my curiosity, and began to ask.
“That’s right, I could never persuade your father to let go of this mission, but neither could I allow him to take all the risk himself, so I followed him to the palace. With his ability, it wasn’t long before he became well liked by the emperor.”
“And, what about master?”
“At that time, I was a mere kitchen hand. In the same year, he saw an opportunity and insisted on poisoning the emperor’s food. I kept trying to advice him till the end, even if he could poison the food without problem, what if he was found out? If he was found out, what about your pregnant mother? However, he was insistent. Unexpectedly, someone close to the Great Qi emperor had already been suspicious of him for a long time.”
“In the end, the assassination failed, and the emperor issued an order to kill off all three generations of the assassin’s family, he also issued an order to kill of all the thieves and rebel party hiding in the south of Yan City. Luckily, your mother managed to escape, I was also lucky to escape with my life. As for the matters that follow, you should know better than me.”
After listening to him, I still felt incredulous. My father was the destroyed Yan City’s prime minister?! He tried to assassinate the emperor!? My brain spun, these matters were just too weird.
Seeing my half mistrustful, half believing expression, he said,
“I know you might not believe me, but these are the things that happened. It’s already been 18 years since, but the memories are still quite clear. The reason why I told you this is because I heard some news that there has been some loyalist from Great Yan who escaped with the crown prince. Therefore, master wants to advice you to be careful. If you get involved in these matters, you might find yourself making the same mistakes as your father!”
I really could not understand master’s words. These were all things that had happened a long time ago, shouldn’t it have ended by now?
“Master, though my father died under the hand of the Great Qi emperor, but that’s in the past. Even my mother don’t want me to get involved in all those things. Moreover, it’s been 18 years, why can’t those people just get over it?”
Master looked at me for a long while, before heaving a sigh.
“Aih~ though I wish that is the case, but there are some people who could not just let things go. Already escaped with his life but…anyway, I’m afraid his highness, the crown prince would contact you, so be on your guard.”
“I don’t even know the crown prince, so why should he contact me? Even if he contacts me, I’ll just ignore him. I won’t get involve with that kind of people, so please be at ease.” I told master with a firm tone.
“Oh, right, master. My mother is in Qi City now. She’s staying with Wei Qi, I’d like to request a day off tomorrow to take her sightseeing.”
“What? Your mother is in Qi City? When did she arrived!”
He was immediately drawn in by my words, eyes sparkling with unnecessary brightness.
Pfft ~ This master of mine, did he really need to be so excited? Looking at his happy expression, I thought about how they haven’t meet each other for over 18 years, and thought that it was probably reasonable to be this excited.
“That’s right, master. My mother just arrived yesterday, that… my leave, is it approved?”
“What should I wear to see her? What is the most auspicious day to see her? Ah… your leave, fine, fine, take it, take it. Xiran, ah, you must remember to tell your mother that I wish to invite her to lunch at my place, I will personally prepare a welcoming feast for her.”
All heavy thoughts had fallen out of master’s head, right now he was more interested in grilling me about mother’s current condition.
Seeing him so happy, I was not stingy with the details. There was no need to guard my tongue at this. Finally, I managed to bid him good night and returned to my room.
Back at my own room, I lightly lay upon the bed. Staring at the canopy, I thought about master’s words, to me, these matters were like something out of an incredible drama. So, it turned out my father had died under these circumstances, should I take revenge for him?
No, these were all things that happened in the past. What if I succeeded, revenge would only breed revenge, wouldn’t it? Moreover, I have two people to protect, though I have heard these things, let’s just let it fly away with the wind, ba.
The next day, Wei Qi sent someone over to master’s place. Master had also instructed me to take Xu Mo and Xuan’er with me. Both of them had also worked for a long time without any real vacation. Thus, when the carriage reached the courtyard entrance, I greeted Wei Qi and mother, and passed along master’s message to mother. She was surprised at first, but then happily say that she must go and visit this old friend someday.
As we all chatted, Wei Qi mentioned that there’s a temple near the city that has a wonderfully beautiful scenery, that we should go and visit there first. Mother was a devout Buddhist, thus she readily agreed to this suggestion.
The morning air was crisp and refreshing outside the city. Songs of birds and chirps of insects accompanied us as we chattered cheerfully within the carriage. The atmosphere within was happy and harmonious.
After a while, we reached the temple mentioned by Wei Qi. Though it was quite remote, the size of it was not small, it stood on a hill wreathed in the scent of incense.
We all headed towards the temple and had a vegetarian breakfast there, and then decided to spend our time just wondering around.
“Wei Qi, where are we going now, ah?”
The trees here all looked strange and old with luxuriant dark leaves, I am quite lost, did he really know where he was going?
Wei Qi turned around and said,
“There’s a mountain temple in the back next to a large lake. The water will change colours according to season, during good weather days it will taken on all seven colours. I’ve already been here a few times, but was only able to see this incredible view once. Since today is such a nice day, I thought foster mother would like to feast your own eyes on this view. As long as mother is happy, Qi’er will be happy too, and this trip would not be in vain.”
“Qi’er is certainly a good child, foster mother is really lucky…”
Mother had not finished speaking when suddenly, from within the depths of the forest, three men dressed in all black leaped into view. Swords in their hands, their eyes fierce and cold.
The moment they saw us, they rushed at our group, immediately surrounding us on all three sides.
[Translator: No! Wei Qi you didn’t! The classic lure them to the temple and trap them skill? That’s too old school, how could you? Tell me it’s all a misunderstanding!!!]