On the thirtieth day of the ninth month of the twenty-seventh year of Great Yong’s Wuwei era, although an unforeseen event plagued Jiang Haitao’s wedding, it still proceeded as if nothing had happened. In order to prevent all the guests from leaving disappointed, the rare treasures exhibition was held as planned. Taking advantage of all the gathered guests coming from the corners of the world, the success of the rare treasures exhibition naturally attracted even more investment and merchants into the ocean trade. As a result, those responsible for holding the exhibition, Hai Wuya and Hai Li, spared no effort to ensure that it was a success. Since it was rare that distinguished visitors from Great Yong, Northern Han, and Southern Chu were all going to be present, invitations had been sent out long ago. In addition, on the back of the invitation was a list of the treasures that were going to be auctioned off during the gathering. Within there was no lack of exotic and foreign treasures. As a result, many of the invitees who were ranking officials in their home countries were greatly interested.
Moreover, they had also received invitations from Jiang Zhe. In order to wait for the ship that would pick them up, they had to wait on the Marquis of the Eastern Sea’s island until the second day of the tenth month. If they did not attend this rare treasures exhibition, it would make it seem as if they were specially affected by the turmoil that the Eastern Sea had just underwent. As a result, everyone took part in the pageantry.
As expected, the exotic treasures that Hai Zhongying brought out were a feast for everyone’s eyes, allowing all to feel as if they had not made this trip in vain. As for the distinguished guests who attended the rare treasures exhibition—Prince Li Xian of Qi, Prince Li Kang of Qing, Princess Lin Bi of Jiaping, Crimson Clouds Princess Lin Tong, Grand General Lu Can, Marquis Jiang Yong and his son, Jiang Haitao—were the individuals who attracted everyone’s attention. They were all influential and powerful ministers of their respective countries. Each and every movement that they made was tracked, as everyone hoped to gain an inkling of their inclinations. After all, everyone knew that in the current world, the fires of war were already raging and dark clouds densely covered the state of affairs. Although the Eastern Sea was, at least for now, temporarily uninvolved, once war fully broke out, the lives of these merchants and their families were in the hands of these powerful individuals.
On the first day of the tenth month, the first to leave was the ship carrying the Southern Chu delegation. After departing from the patrol lanes of the Eastern Sea Navy, Lu Can walked to a secret cabin located in the bowels of his ship to meet someone who should not appear within the Southern Chu delegation—Wei Ying.
His expression icy and his eyes sinister, Wei Ying watched as Lu Can walked in. Taunting, he mocked, “General Lu is truly cautious, only coming to see me today. I wonder how General Lu wishes to handle me?”
With a tranquil and calm expression on his face, Lu Can retorted, “Head Wei was only afraid of disturbing the soldiers of the Eastern Sea. That is why you stayed in here. Moreover, don’t tell me that Head shouldn’t thank me for rescuing you?”
A hint of a gloomy and chilly smile appeared on Wei Ying’s face, as he replied, “That’s right. I should thank General Lu. General Lu dispatched someone to use the signal that this seat and Fu daren arranged beforehand, allowing this seat to bring my subordinates aboard the ship carrying the Southern Chu delegation. Unfortunately, waiting for us were General Lu’s elite troops. At present, this seat’s subordinates have either been killed or captured by General Lu. Right now, as the ship has left Eastern Sea waters, is General here to get revenge on me? Since that is the case, it is better to hand over this seat to Great Yong. With this, wouldn’t the benefits that General receive be greater?”
Lu Can sighed. “Why is the head speaking so in anger? This general could only act in spite of myself with regards to the recent situation. Prime Minister Shang was going to get someone else to do his dirty work, having me killed in the Eastern Sea. Of course, this general did think about executing you and Fu Yulun in order to prevent my Southern Chu from following in Great Yong’s footsteps. However, this general very clearly knows that if I killed the two of you, my Lu family would become hostile towards Prime Minister Shang. Prime Minister Shang is the King’s maternal grandfather, controlling all of the internal affairs of the court. If the military and the Prime Minister fall into discord, my Southern Chu will be finished without Great Yong needing to launch a southern invasion. Therefore, I will not kill you. You and your Fengyi Sect harbor an implacable hatred towards Great Yong, while my Southern Chu also holds deep animosity against them. Since we have a common enemy, we should be working together. If you continue to retain thoughts of framing me, you’ll have to think carefully to see if there’s anyone capable of replacing me and commanding the Southern Chu armies in battle.”
Wei Ying was silent for a moment, before responding, “I originally did not agree with Prime Minister Shang’s desires to weaken the defenses by trying to kill you. However, you are a student of Jiang Zhe. Prime Minister Shang cannot cease being anxious because of this singular point and neither can I forget. In addition, with regards to the Fengyi Sect, I cannot make all of the decisions. If everything proceeded according to my plans, I would not have given Xue Qiuxue an opportunity to exploit.”
“Although Sir Jiang and I are master and student, I am an important minister of Southern Chu,” replied Lu Can unflinchingly. “It would be impossible for me to betray my country and my liege. Moreover, to speak bluntly, I have learned at least fifty percent of my master’s strategy. I am not unduly humble. These last few years of continuous warfare, I have the confidence that my command abilities are not worse than anyone’s. As a commander-in-chief, at the very least, I can resist Great Yong’s cutting edge. If I’m replaced with a general trusted by Prime Minister Shang, Southern Chu will likely fall sooner rather than later. When the time comes, without anything to depend upon, how will you exact your vengeance upon Great Yong? In today’s discussion, I have no need for you to pledge your allegiance to me. I only want you to cease all attempts at interfering with Southern Chu’s military affairs and halt all intentions to betray your superiors. Everything else, I am disinclined to show any interest.”
Wei Ying’s expression changed several times before he replied, “I alone cannot make a decision on this matter.”
“I’m not in a rush,” stated Lu Can, smiling. “Right now, I’ve already seized the advantage. Therefore, you can slowly think it over. My original intent is to have you all eliminated. Although you can become a threat to Great Yong, in this general’s eyes, you are the source of chaos for Southern Chu. It is a pity that Prime Minister Shang values you so highly. As such, I cannot eliminate all of you. This time, although I have killed many of your subordinate who have vicious reputations as bandits, I believe that you won’t bother me about them.”
Wei Ying smiled faintly. He did not pay much mind to his subordinates who were killed by Lu Can. After all, with all of his trusted subordinates left alive, the losses weren’t that heavy. However, this was not a point that he would concede to prevent himself from gaining a reputation as an inconstant and heartless.
Seeing that Wei Ying had already calmed down, Lu Can spoke, “This general visits today because I want you to handle a matter for me. If you can do this properly, it may be possible to redeem the losses.”
Wei Ying fell silent, only revealing a look of inquiry. Lu Can lowered his voice, speaking some words. Wei Ying’s face was grave, the expression on his face changing several times. It was some time before he said, “As expected, General Lu is vicious. If this matter is successful, it will not matter if you kill my few subordinates; there will not be any problems even if you kill Fu Yulun. General, do not worry. Wei Ying will definitely strive my hardest and not be remiss in the slightest.”
A hint of distress flashed across Lu Can’s eyes. “Since that is the case, then I invite young master Wei to disembark in a little while. I have already made all of the preparations, so as long as the young master arrives at my indicated destination and hands over the token to the assigned individual, it is possible that your cherished desires are fulfilled.”
Showing a sinister smile, Wei Ying did not speak any further, although there was smugness and confidence in his expression.
On the second day of the tenth month, the heir of the Marquis of the Eastern Sea, Jiang Haitao, personally commanded a fleet of ships, escorting the Prince of Qi, Lin Bi and company to the Tranquil Sea Manor. The Tranquil Sea Manor was located on Penglai Island and was not far from the Marquis’s island base. Setting out at early morning, it took only four hours before the convoy arrived at Penglai Island. Standing at the bow of his ship, Jiang Haitao pointed at the small harbor up ahead and told the Prince of Qi and company, “This is called the Crescent Moon Bay, because it is in the shape of a new crescent moon. The waters here are calm. Even if there are great waves surging in the ocean, there will be no effects here. As a result, Sir Jiang specially constructed the Tranquil Sea Manor here. Sixth uncle, please look. The Tranquil Sea Manor is set against the mountains and faces the ocean. The scenery is elegant and refined. Sir is fondest of leaning on the railings to watch the seas. In fine, sunny weather, he even frequently sails a boat out. Little nephew once waited upon Sir as he was fishing.”
At this moment, Roulan walked over pulling along Li Lin. Smiling, she said, “Uncle, Uncle! Daddy loves to fish! However, he can never catch anything. Up until today, Lanlan has never eaten a fish that Daddy caught himself. Even Lanlan, herself, was able to catch a big fish. All four seasons, there’s always plenty of fish and shrimp.”
“Was it that time you were pulled into the water by the fish?” asked Jiang Haitao, laughing. “I have heard that that was truly a big fish. However, I wonder if it was a human fishing a fish or a fish fishing a human?”
Hearing this, Roulan angrily stuck both of her hands onto her hips. “Elder brother Tao is the rottenest, always exposing other people’s shortcomings! Oh! I’m not talking to you … Daddy and mommy are both on the dock!”
Finished speaking, Roulan jumped up and down, gesticulating wildly, as she ran towards the distant Xiaoshunzi. With practiced ease, Xiaoshunzi helped Roulan onto his shoulders. Afterwards, Roulan waved her hand, as she shouted, “Daddy! Mommy! Lanlan has returned! Lanlan has returned!”
However, at this moment, no one was paying attention to her excited antics. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the shore. The master of the Tranquil Sea Manor stood at the small private dock in front of the manor.
Although the distance was still large, practically everyone present had trained in martial arts. Most of them could clearly see the features of those standing ashore. Standing in front was a scholar in azure robes. From his features, he had not yet reached thirty years of age. Although his hair was a silver color and his temples were flecked with white, from his graceful and calm manner, the moving radiance from his countenance, no one would mistake him as an old man. Instead, his appearance exuded a special temperament that was peaceful and remote. Standing half a step behind him was a lucid and exquisite, young married woman as charming and tranquil as an immortal. She was Princess Changle. Behind her stood a pretty woman of thirty in the dress of an unmarried woman and a youngster in his late teens. The youngster’s clever and handsome appearance carried crafty astuteness.
Lin Tong’s eyes did not gaze at Jiang Zhe. Although she had voiced her curiosity before, in her heart, what she was most interested in was the individual as famous as her sister, Princess Changle. With her sharp vision, Lin Tong had continuously and carefully sized Princess Changle up. Lin Tong could see that although the princess’s appearance was elegant and exquisite, her looks were a bit inferior to her own elder sister’s.
With the end of autumn approaching, the princess wore a luxurious dress with silver lining. Wrapped around her was a cloak the color of autumn yellow. Although she was only standing there, it was actually impossible to call her gentle and elegant. Her jet-black hair was only held in place by a single jade hairpin. Aside from a pair of earrings, she wore no other ornaments on her body. Simple and yet elegant—this was the deep feeling that she gave everyone. At this moment, an ice-cold sea breeze blew. Princess Changle frowned. Turning her head, she gave an order. The teenager standing behind her immediately handed her the black cloak that he had been holding. Everyone watched as the princess took a step forward and spoke to the scholar in azure robes. Because of the distance, Lin Tong naturally could not hear what the princess had said, but she could see the slight frown on the princess’s long, shapely eyebrows and the annoyance in her smile. Afterwards, the scholar in azure draped the cloak around his shoulders. Princess Changle revealed a faint smile, reaching out and helping the scholar tie the cloak. Although these were a few simple and uncomplicated actions, the sincerity of those actions completely made the enmity in Lin Tong’s heart illusory. Lin Tong truly felt that only this kind of woman was worthy of being compared to her elder sister.
Standing on the dock, I gazed at the familiar and strange guests on the deck of the ship. An indescribable mood welled up from within. At long last, I had once again returned to the battlefield where the fate of the world was to be decided. Although I regretted that the happiest and most tranquil days of my life were about to end, my decision had already been made.
I examined each of the individuals on the deck of the ship one by one. The Prince of Qi, Li Xian, possessed a domineering aura that had not declined in the slightest. He also had acquired an intense, gloomy, and dense killing aura. It seemed he had been suffering bitterly these last few years. Standing not far from the Prince of Qi was a man in luxurious clothes. His appearance was a bit similar to Li Xian’s. His disaffected expression was full of lofty arrogance. This must definitely be the Prince of Qing, Li Kang. Wasn’t the one standing behind him with shining eyes in a set of fluttering blue robes someone I had not met for many years, Gou Lian? Beside them were two women in tight-fitting clothes and cloaks with precious sabers at their waists. Both of them were beautiful beyond compare with countenances radiating heroic spirit. These kinds of heroines amongst women could only be the Lin family’s sisters from Northern Han. As for the young lady standing beside Jiang Haitao in red clothes the color of fire and with a frosty appearance, she must be the new bride, Yue Qingyan. After I had scrutinized everyone, my eyes fell upon the young man in azure robes standing at the bow of the ship with a fussing Roulan on his shoulders. I could not help but smile. Aside from him, there was no one who could complete such a task so perfectly.
After the ship stopped, a gangplank was lowered. As expected, the first one to descend was Roulan. Having not seen her for several days, she seemed to be more vivacious than before. Bouncing up and down, she ran over. Behind me, Zhen’er laughed and said, “This child, Lan’er, is always so naughty and lively. She was originally personally raised by Imperial Sister-in-law … How did her temperament become so restless?”
With a guilty conscience, I did not dare respond. Roulan’s bad habits were most likely the product of my actions. If I had not constantly teased and chased her about with all kinds of snacks, she would likely be an even-tempered and calm lady.
At this moment, Roulan arrived at my side. Like a little monkey, she jumped into my embrace. Using all my strength, I held her small, delicate body, once again sighing mournfully. In my mind, I lamented, Everyone says that a scholar doesn’t have the strength to even truss a chicken. It looks like it’s indeed the case. Helpless and vexed, I said, “Lanlan, it seems you’ve gotten heavier in the days we haven’t seen you.”
Roulan’s face flushed red with anger. In retaliation, she reached out and pulled on my hair. As I cursed my bad luck in my mind, Zhen’er helped me out of the embarrassment, stating, “Lan’er, stop messing around with your daddy. There are guests present.”
Thinking with her head cocked for a moment, Roulan unwillingly jumped out of my arms, going to stand by the side.
By now, Li Xian had taken the lead and walked in front of Princess Changle and me. Princess Changle took a step forward and paid her respects, stating, “Is sixth brother well? Are Imperial Father and the Empress Mother well, too?”
Li Xian carefully regarded Princess Changle. Smiling, he answered, “Imperial Father and the Empress Dowager are both well. However, both of them miss you greatly. You are really bold, a grand Imperial Princess leaving without saying anything, truly causing me to sit up and take notice in shock.”
Princess Changle’s face reddened, and she ignored this teasing sixth brother of hers, going off to greet the Prince of Qing. The Prince of Qing and Changle had only met on a few occasions. As a result, their sibling affection was thin. Although they exchanged greetings, it was only in accordance with the proper rites. However, towards Lin Bi and Lin Tong, Princess Changle was extremely cordial and enthusiastic. Stepping forward, she smilingly welcomed, “Changle has long heard of Your Royal Highness’s name. I have heard that Your Royal Highness defends Daizhou for Northern Han, rendering celebrated military service and is a heroine amongst women. Changle has always been scholarly and weak, and has also respected and esteemed women like younger sister. It is an honor to have the privilege of hosting the Princess’s visit to my son’s grabbing test celebration.”
Lin Bi returned Changle’s courtesy, replying, “Princess is being too modest. Bi has long heard of Your Imperial Highness’s heroic heart and intelligence. Being invited by Sir Jiang to the Tranquil Sea Manor and to be able to see such a virtuous and worthy couple ought to be Bi’s honor. Having come hurriedly and failing to bring a congratulatory gift for your esteemed son is already an act lacking in manners. However, neither Your Imperial Highness nor Sir Jiang are people of the mundane world, so presumably neither of you will take offense.”
“Your Royal Highness, there is no need to be so courteous,” promptly returned Princess Changle. “For Princess Bi to be willing to come is already Suiyun and Li Zhen’s great fortune.”
At this moment, Princess Changle caught sight of Lin Tong yawning as she stood behind Lin Bi, her almond eyes hazy. Lin Tong seemed to be extremely tired. As such, Princess Changle inquired, “Is the Princess tired? If you do not look down on it, Li Zhen can arrange for the Princess to nap for a short period.”
Embarrassed, Lin Tong nodded her head. She had not slept properly last night, her mind completely filled with thoughts of meeting that legendary couple. After meeting the two of them and with her excitement gone, sleepiness had consumed her.
Smiling slightly, Princess Changle ordered, “Xiaoliuzi, attend to the Princess and take her to rest. Invite her over to the hall when noon arrives and it is time for the feast to begin.”
The clever and refined looking youth walked over. Extending his hand, he indicated for Lin Tong to follow him. Lin Tong was different from Lin Bi and had grown up in Daizhou. Her father’s household did not have any eunuchs. In addition, she had never been to the Northern Han royal palace. Seeing that Princess Changle had a young man to accompany her, Lin Tong could not help but be stupefied. Lin Bi and Princess Changle exchanged grins, understanding why Lin Tong was so confused. Laughing lightly, Princess Changle explained, “Xiaoliuzi is an inner attendant bestowed upon Us by my Empress Mother. He is most clever and quick-witted. If the Princess has any requests, feel free to ask him.”
Only then did Lin Tong understand. Blushing with shame, she laughed, realizing that this Xiaoliuzi was a court eunuch who had been brought along by Princess Changle from the Yong imperial palace. Settled, she bade her farewells to Princess Changle and Lin Bi.
Although Lin Bi was conversing with Princess Changle, she was always mindful of Jiang Zhe, watching from the corners of her eyes. After all, he was the individual that she was most concerned about.
When I walked forward to welcome my two brothers-in-law, I was filled with awkwardness. Before, I had always felt that my elopement with Princess Changle was our own private matter. After all, neither of us owed Great Yong anything. However, meeting the Princes of Qi and Qing today, it was obvious that they had something to ask of me, and yet I felt completely uncomfortable. I did not have my usual confident, easygoing, and composed mentality. Cautiously, I advanced and bowed, stating, “For the two Imperial Highnesses to arrive at the Tranquil Sea Manor is Zhe’s honor.”
The Prince of Qing showed a gentle smile. Returning my salute, he said, “This Prince has long heard of Suiyun’s talented name and has long wished to meet you. It is only a pity that Suiyun is mimicking the yellow crane, gone never to return, making it difficult for this Prince to find traces of an immortal. Now that you and Changle are already married, when you return to the capital, your rank will be the Commandant of the Attendant Cavalry. You must not copy Fan Li’s1 and Ziling’s2 conduct. This Prince wishes to ask for your advice to bring peace and stability to the country.”
I smiled slightly, thinking inwardly, There are naturally those capable of bringing peace and stability to the country, not just I alone. This Prince of Qing is too vulgar and tacky. However, with his status, I could only courteously reply, “Zhe has engraved Your Imperial Highness’s instructions into my heart.”
The Prince of Qi was smiling strangely on the side, and he voiced, “What a good Jiang Zhe! Usually, this Prince took you as a cultured and refined individual, thus spoke with proper etiquette. Now that you have kidnapped Changle and have even had a son together, this Prince does not know whether to first give you a punch to teach you a lesson on behalf of Imperial Father and the Empress Dowager, or to first thank you for leaving Changle’s face aglow with smiles, no longer possessing the misery and bitterness of the past.”
With a grin on my face, I watched as Xiaoshunzi silently stood behind the Prince of Qi when he spoke of punching me. I expressed, “Your Imperial Highness, please spare me. Although Zhe’s health has recovered, if I were to take Your Imperial Highness’s heavy fist, it is likely that Zhe’s life would be lost. Although there is no need for Your Imperial Highness to worry about my life, if someone were to retaliate, Your Imperial Highness would likely suffer for your actions.”
Li Xian could sense the cold aura behind him, promptly uttering, “I’m just joking, only joking! All right. The sea breeze here is too windy. Let’s go take a look at my little nephew. I wonder if he resembles you or Changle.”
Seeing Li Xian admit defeat, I seized the opportunity to help him disentangle himself, stating, “Zhe has prepared refreshments at the Hearing Surf Pavilion. The scenery there is beautiful and secluded, able to watch the tides, sunrise, and sunset. My son’s grabbing test will be held there as well, scheduled for the noon hour. There are still two hours until then. I would like to invite the ladies and gentlemen to the Hearing Waves Pavilions to partake of refreshments and gaze upon the ocean.”
At this moment, Lin Bi had already followed Princess Changle over and arrived by my side. Hearing my words, she smiled and stated, “Imperial Highnesses, the Princes of Qi and Qing, are Sir Jiang’s in-laws. Speaking of guests, it is only We who can be considered as such. We are interested in leaning on the railing to look at the ocean.”
My gaze fell upon Lin Bi. This Princess of Jiaping was the Northern Han King’s niece and adopted daughter. Having defended Daizhou for generations against the northern barbarians, the Lin family’s position within Northern Han was extremely majestic. In her capacity as the current leader of the Lin family, having the status of a royal princess, and finally her engagement to Long Tingfei, this woman was an important figure in determining whether Great Yong would be able to bring Northern Han’s territory into the fold. That was why I had invited her. She, like me, would greatly value this opportunity to meet today to study the enemy at such a close distance. This was not a normal opportunity … it was only a pity that I could not meet Long Tingfei.
Only now did Jiang Haitao have the opportunity to bring his new bride over to pay their respects. I smiled and greeted, “Although you are my student, you are a guest today. Come with us. Duanniang, lead the young mistress to pay a visit to grandfather.”
At this moment, the middle-aged, beautiful woman walked over and voiced her compliance. Li Xian’s memory was excellent, immediately recognizing this woman as the former head maid of Princess Changle’s residence, the Jade Phoenix Palace Hall. He remembered that she was surnamed Zhou. Duanniang was probably her given name. Yue Qingyan already knew that Jiang Zhe’s grandfather who they were going to meet was the Medical Sage, Sang Chen. Whether she could be cured or not relied upon that person’s medical expertise. She could not help but grow tense. Before, she did not fear death because she knew that she had no hope for survival. However, now with everything to live for, she would naturally not be reconciled to death. The middle-aged woman seemed to notice Yue Qingyan’s tension, gently tugging her arm, guiding her into the manor.
Although Yue Qingyan was nervous, she could not help but take in the Tranquil Sea Manor from the corners of her eyes. After all, this place’s master was the one who had resolved the desperate crisis, Jiang Zhe. With these examinations, she could not help but become filled with respect. The Yue family could be said to be a regional overlord with its inheritance passed down for over a dozen generations. Naturally, as a result, their main residence seemed to extend forever into the distance, splendid and majestic.3 In addition, Yue Qingyan was knowledgable with the arrangements and furnishings within a palace. Now, she used this expertise to inspect, seeing that all of the rooms, although in seeming disorder, possessed a charming effect. It was elegant and refined to the utmost; not a single location did not move the heart. Walking through the manor, she felt her worries fall away and her spirit relax. From all this, she concluded that this manor’s master was truly extraordinary.
Everyone followed the host couple up the smoothed limestone pathway up the mountain. On the wide and level mountaintop, a two story hexagonal pavilion occupied a quiet corner, almost as if it stood alone in the world, arrogant and unyielding. This was the Hearing Surf Pavilion.
The Hearing Surf Pavilion’s location was the highest point in the entire manor. There was nothing blocking the view of the entire surroundings within a hundred paces, be they foliage or other buildings. The pavilion looked graceful on the outside and stately within. On each corner of the pavilion was hung brass wind chimes. Those wind chimes would jingle with every gust of wind. Each and every one of them was carefully designed, but with subtle differences, causing their blended jingling sounds to be like that of nature.
Li Xian’s gaze fell upon the blue robed young man standing at its entrance. This man’s appearance was well-favored, his skin fair to the point of sparkling and being translucent. He recognized this man as Jiang Zhe’s personal guard, Dong Que. However, with more than two years having passed, although the figure remained the same, his features had undergone minute changes, causing Li Xian to almost fail to recognize him. Li Xian always had his doubts about this man. Although he had met this man years ago by Jiang Zhe’s side, Dong Que always seemed to avoid him, whether intentionally or otherwise. Li Xian had once suspected this man. However, later, when he became completely swamped with military affairs, Li Xian did not think much of it. Meeting him again today, although a hazy thought appeared in Li Xian’s mind, he did not pay Dong Que much attention.
Dong Que advanced and reported, “Young master, everything within the pavilion has been prepared.”
With satisfaction, I nodded my head. These last few years, Dong Que had managed the Tranquil Sea Manor properly, performing his duties as the manager well. Xiaoshunzi, aside from my personal matters, did not pay attention to anything else.
Leading everyone, I guided them to the second floor of the Hearing Surf Pavilion. Because there were outside guests, my subordinates had practically not made appearances. Only Daoli and Chiji followed everyone into the pavilion. Daoli had nothing to worry about. As the Hai family’s young master, he naturally had the qualifications to take a seat. Chiji had come in his identity as my former servant. Under normal circumstances, he would not have been able to even enter the pavilion with such a status. It was the Prince of Qi who treated him as an attendant and brought him inside. As a result, the Hearing SurfPavilion, aside from the people of the Tranquil Sea Manor, had eight guests—Prince Li Xian of Qi, Prince Li Kang of Qing, Princess Lin Bi of Jiaping, Gou Lian, Hai Wuya, Hai Li, Jiang Haitao, and Chiji. Although the reception hall of the second floor of the pavilion was extremely wide, when a large table was placed in the middle, the movement area was greatly reduced. As a result, all of the distinguished guests leaned on the railings and gazed upon the sea.
The view here was quite expansive. Standing within the pavilion, one could overlook the landscape inside and outside the bay. Within the bay, it was tranquil and calm. The turquoise waters were like a mirror. Outside the bay, there was a precipitous difference. The waves were swift and rapid. As a result, within this pavilion, one could see the ocean’s two faces. It was, as expected, a perfect building to gaze upon the sea.
However, Lin Bi realized that this Hearing Surf Pavilion could clearly see the entire Tranquil Sea Manor. If someone with excellent martial arts were to keep watch, then they would be able to protect the entirety of the manor.
At this time, Dong Que led a group of servants to deliver and serve refreshments. The aroma of the fragrant tea and exquisite pastries quickly inundated the entire pavilion. Stepping forward, I saluted Lin Bi, stating, “As thanks for the Princess’s visit, my wife, fond of cooking, has personally prepared refreshments. Princess, please have a taste.”
With a smile on her face, Lin Bi expressed her thanks. “For Sir Jiang to dwell at such a paradise with the company of Princess Changle, and living such a leisurely existence truly leaves one filled with envy. No wonder Sir is unwilling to pay notice to the affairs of the mundane world. In fact, Bi truly envies Sir for being able to keep far away from war. It is not everyone that has this kind of good fortune. Casting aside needs and wants, treating riches and honor as no more than fleeting—this truly deserves Bi’s admiration. If I were Sir, I would definitely not abandon such a life and once again tread upon the dust of the mundane world.”
Hearing this, I happily laughed. “Your Royal Highness has forgotten one thing. ‘Now that I’ve got a son, everything’s done.’ Now that I have both son and daughter, I am reluctant to lightly part from such a life.”
Hearing this, Li Xian’s face changed. His goal for coming was exactly to extract Jiang Zhe from seclusion in the Eastern Sea. However, with Lin Bi speaking thusly, it was clearly a hidden warning to Jiang Zhe to not become involved in the conflict between Great Yong and Northern Han, while Jiang Zhe had vaguely expressed his unwillingness to part from such a life. Although it was impossible for Jiang Zhe to completely cut off his ties to Great Yong, Li Xian knew that Jiang Zhe was especially fond of such a leisurely and carefree lifestyle. If Jiang Zhe refused to come out of seclusion, even if Li Zhi were here, Li Zhi would be unable to force him to do so. Thinking of this, Li Xian could not help but become vexed. Could Jiang Zhe’s special invitation be because of his desire to tactfully decline?
Fan Li (范蠡) originally hailed from the state of Chu, but served the state of Yue (越国) during the Spring and Autumn Period. He helped King Goujian of Yue (越王勾践) rebuild the state of Yue and conquer the state of Wu. After this success, Fan Li was said to have resigned from his positions and spent his life living as a hermit at Lake Tai (太湖).
Yan Guang (严光), styled Ziling (子陵) was a fellow student and close friend of Emperor Guangwu of the Han Dynasty. After helping Emperor Guangwu restore the Han Dynasty, he retired into seclusion, becoming a hermit within Mt. Fuchun (富春山).
富丽堂皇, fulitanghuang – idiom, lit. sumptuous mansions; fig. splendorous and majestic