Chapter 150: World Shaking Secret

 

Translated by Gumihou

Please read this at kitchennovel dot com

 

“Thus far, that’s all the news I’ve gotten. However, I will never believe that he’s someone that would be so easily killed.” Duan Tingxuan looked seriously at Su Nuan Nuan. In a low voice, he said, “Half a year ago, Lord Long told me that he came across a secret legal case where King Xiangyang was seen with a palace woman. He came looking for me to consult over the matter. First, because we’re good friends of similar age and have always seen eye to eye; secondly, he knew that because of your father’s case, I have kept eyes on King Xiangyang. In fact, I’d even sought his assistance over some trivial matter relating to that matter, and he was smart enough to realise who I was really investigating.

Now that such a big matter had surfaced, I’d arranged the Imperial Censor post at Jiang Nan for him to better monitor the situation. Who would have known that he would be murdered like this in just half a year. If you tell me this is a coincidence, I will never believe it. The Hangzhou region is populous and rich, break-ins rarely happened, bandit attacks even rarer. Moreover, Long Pingzhang had always been a smart one, so how could he be so careless as to put himself in danger like that? However, I am too far away to ascertain anything and could only wait here for second hand news.”

Suddenly, he stood up and snarled, his fists clenched tight, “If he is really murdered, I must personally go over there and gain justice for him. It has to be the work of that King Xiangyang.”

“Don’t be impulsive, Duan Tingxuan, impulsiveness is the devil’s work.” Su Nuan Nuan pulled him down and urged, “Don’t just dwell on revenge. You’re a famous rising star of the imperial court, if you are to make your way to Jiang Nan now it would be too conspicuous. You dared to send Lord Long to Jiang Nan because you were confident of his skills and discretion, but even he met with an unfortunate end. How are we to guarantee your safety?

King Xiangyang had been operating in Jiang Nan for over 10 years, no matter how powerful or talented you might be, you could still lose to this local tyrant. Aside from status and imperial favour, it’s not like you’re any better than that Lord Long, right? Actually, if he’s appointed as the Imperial Censor, that’s a personal appointment by the emperor, so his status can’t be lower than yours.”

Duan Tingxuan eyed his wife for a long moment before saying, “My martial arts is better than his.”

Su Nuan Nuan, “… …”

“Fine, so your martial arts are better than his. But do you not know the term ‘A pair of fists is weak against four hands[1]’? This King Xiangyang actually dared to murder a man who is personally appointed by the emperor himself, what other things he would not dare? How odd, the consequences of this matter should be quite heavy, but why would King Xiangyang even risk killing him? Isn’t he afraid of the emperor coming after him? By the way, is being seen with a palace woman really that big a crime? Didn’t you say he was favoured by the dowager empress? What’s so weird about him being seen with a palace woman since he’s always popping by to see her at Ci Ning Palace? Isn’t the palace kind of his home too?”

“Ahem, ahem…”

Being interrupted by his wife like this actually mitigated Duan Tingxuan’s grief and indignation. As Su Nuan Nuan continues to mutter to herself, he softly reminded her, “Being seen with a palace woman and the access to Ci Ning Palace are completely different things…” he hadn’t finished speaking when Su Nuan Nuan’s eyes suddenly grew round. Then she covered her mouth. A long time later, she lowered her hand to whisper, “This being seen with a palace woman. Could it be… King Xiangyang had secret meetings with… an imperial concubine?”

Duan Tingxuan hesitated, but then, he nodded slowly: Normally this kind of thing was not spoken out loud, at all. However, right now he was really hurting and did not want to carry this burden alone. Right this moment, the only person he could really trust was Su Nuan Nuan alone, she was the only person he could say everything to.

Ever since the day the two of them secretly discussed King Xiangyang, the little marquis had committed himself to fully trusting this wife of his. In was unfathomable even to himself, but for some reason speaking to Su Nuan Nuan really gave him peace and a sense of relief. In fact, he had even come to rely on this woman.

In the eyes of other people, the An Ping heir was a man of unparallel greatness, but he was still human. A man who suffered from exhaustion and frustration, worrying over the honour and prosperity of his family clan. All other problems aside, just last year alone was hectic, due to a sudden scandal connected to the crown prince engaging in fraud. Though he was able to mediate the matter beautifully and gained commendations from the people around him, not a single person knew how he had run away to the countryside to scream and cry his frustrations out.

It just so happened that a fierce tiger decided to appear and became the victim of his frustrations when he killed it with his bare hands. He ended up coming home covered in fresh blood and dragging the corpse of a tiger. It was only after the whole ordeal had ended that he found out that everyone thought he had figured out the whole matter about the scandal and therefore had the leisure time and spirit to go hunting. No one actually knew how he had completely lost his composure under all that  pressure.

Spring this year, he stepped into Mei Yue Lou at dusk with a heart heavy with all kinds of worry. The endless court disputes, the threat of that shadowy hand that seemed to be behind every stumbling block in his path. There’s also the emperor and crown prince’s sudden fainting fit. It was while he was in the middle of this maelstrom, that he found his support. No, it would be more accurate to say he found freedom.

This freedom of his came from a change of attitude. The reason why he could bear these responsibilities now was because of this unusual woman before him.

Su Nuan Nuan gave him happiness. Because of her, he was able to let go of the pressures that had hounded him all this while, allowing him brief moments of unfettered freedom. It was as if a ray of sunlight had pierced through the fog of his heart, melting the mists of trouble that had been sapping his strength so insidiously that he only noticed it when it was gone. He found that his work went twice as quickly with half the effort as before.

“No wonder… no wonder King Xiangyang was so desperate to silence people. Such a major crime, no matter how much the emperor favours him, it’s not something that can be tolerated, right? Of course not, what emperor could bear to be made to wear a green hat[2]? Even if they are brothers of the same mother.”

“That’s not even the most crucial point.” his wife’s mystical ability to calm him down did not fail him, the little marquis was feeling much calmer already. At this point, he took a sip of his lukewarm tea and said, “Nuan Nuan, do you still remember our last discussion? How even if something were to happen to both the emperor and crown prince, the emperor’s crown would not land on King Xiangyang’s head?”

“Of course I remember. That was why you kept doubting your own suspicion, because no one, not even the emperor believe that King Xiangyang would ever rebel because of this fact. Open rebellion would only lead to death, assassination of the crown prince would bring him nothing since there are several outstanding adult princes. No matter what, he would not have a shot at the emperor’s title.”

“But, what if one of those outstanding princes was of his own blood?”

Duan Tingxuan’s gaze was as deep as the ocean, causing Su Nuan Nuan to start. Understanding dawn on her in an instant and again she covered her mouth. This was already the third time she made this tell gesture of shock.

“This is something only you and I know. It’s possible that the crown prince might have guessed, because Lord Long is one of his followers.” Duan Tingxuan already knew that Su Nuan Nuan was someone who kept her secrets close, but had to say it anyway. This matter has too great an impact on their country. How could it not, when it involved members of the imperial family? Especially in this feudal society.

Su Nuan Nuan nodded, acting uncharacteristically like a frightened little cat. Duan Tingxuan had to smile at this, he reached out to pull her hand, “It’s alright, there’s no need to look so frightened. You’re always accusing people of being weak-willed and over thinking matters, what about yourself now?”

“What nonsense are you talking about? This is a heavy secret, ah.” Su Nuan Nuan heaved a great sigh, and quite suddenly, she fiercely kicked Duan Tingxuan’s shin, “You disgraceful thing, why did you tell me these things for? My goal is to become a peaceful foodie with nary a conflict in my life. Why do you pollute my peace of mind with this kind of deadly secret?”

“What deadly secret? You’ve over exaggerated things. Also, it’s normal for us husband and wife to share our burdens. Now that I know it, naturally I mustn’t keep you in the dark.” the little marquis said shamelessly, hiding behind his ‘I am a good husband’ façade. The result of this little act earned him another kick in the shin.

Just two kicks were enough for Duan Tingxuan to recover his composure as he stretched out lazily out on the couch. With a teacup in hand, he said seriously, “If my deduction is correct, matters would only get thornier from here on. At the moment, princes who are qualified to be emperor are: the crown prince, second prince and fourth prince. Possibly the fifth prince too, but these brothers have always gotten along well. I really don’t want them to descend into disharmony just because someone encourages one of them to harbour evil intentions against his brothers.”

“I feel like that too. Whenever I read stories about legendary heroes, the thing I hate most are these familial backstabbing. It’s just too cruel and left one with an awful feeling about the world in general. Life is treated too cheaply in those novels. But, as you’ve said, it’s just a guess. How I wish you’ve guessed wrong.”

Duan Tingxuan gave a bitter laugh, “I, more than anyone, wished to be wrong. However, this is just too much wishful thinking. If King Xiangyang did not harbour hopes like this, why would he plot to kill the crown prince? If not to cover this huge secret, why would Long Pingzhang be killed? No matter what, he’s still an Imperial Censor, a Level 3 official personally appointed by the emperor himself. Even if he had died from natural causes, his death would have shaken the imperial court. Investigators would still be sent to ascertain the cause of death. This suspicious way of death? Unless someone is desperate, they would not have taken such risk.”

“Well, it’s not like we can do anything unless more news comes from Hangzhou.” Su Nuan Nuan sighed, she really did not want to talk about this anymore, and signalled this clearly with her next words. “What do you want for lunch? Thanks to your horrible news, I want to cook all my frustrations away today.”

Duan Tingxuan gave a bitter smile, “How lucky for me. Unfortunately, I don’t have the mood to eat thanks to this matter. I only want something cold to relieve the fire in my heart.” He raised his voice and called out, “Hong Lian, bring me another bowl of Snow Cream, use a big bowl.”

“You want to die? A large bowl of Snow Cream in this weather? What if you get a stomachache on top of a fire laden heart? Who are you going to blame for it?”

Su Nuan Nuan ranted angrily, but Duan Tingxuan did not care. Who was he anyway? A great martial artist, that’s who. If his muscle bound, iron clad stomach can’t take on a little Snow Cream, did it even have the qualification to be his stomach?

Hong Lian knew the moment the master came in that his mood was not good, and therefore did not dare to disobey him. A bowl of Snow Cream was fetched, and while Duan Tingxuan ate, Su Nuan Nuan cursed him “You just go ahead and die, ba.”

In response, he scooped up another spoonful of Snow Cream and laughed, “Surely you’re not being bitter over me eating your Snow Cream? Why don’t you think about how much Cream I’ve made for you…”

Before he could finish speaking, Cong’er’s voice called out, “Master, Si Ping is here with news. He said that the emperor has called for an assembly and that Eunuch Hong is now waiting for you at the front hall.”

 

[Gumihou: Who thinks that Duan Tingxuan will drink down his Snow Cream in a chug and regret it later?]

 

[1] A pair of fists is weak against four hands – A single person could be taken down by many.

[2] To wear a green hat – To be cheated on by one’s wife, to be cuckold.

 

 

 

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Translated by Gumihou from kitchennovel dot com.

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