I’ve not posted Hai Yan’s preambles, but the ones she posted for Chapters 130 & 132 resonated with me, so I have decided to translate them here.
<Hai Yan> I’m sorry for making everyone misunderstand. Hai jiejie is not unwell and just has an old illness that must be checked up every year. The results are not out yet but the doctor said my complexion is good, hehe…….
As for being worried that I would suffer from a mental disorder, that is unlikely because writing about a lunatic doesn’t make one a lunatic. Besides, Hai jiejie has not written about a lunatic yet. I make great efforts to make the words and deeds of the characters conform to their personalities and logic….so don’t worry about my state of mind. It is still normal for the moment…..
———————This is a healthy dividing line———————
As Xia Jiang observed Prince Jing’s expression closely, Prince Yu also fixed his eyes on his younger brother. In a flash, this prince knew that Xia Jiang was an old ginger with a really spicy kick*. With just one move, he had hit Prince Jing’s weak spot, suddenly balancing out their unfavourable position.
*I know this sounds awkward but I couldn’t resist retaining this. Essentially, it means that Xia Jiang was a veteran who still had all his moves. It’s also a play on his name, because the Chinese word for ginger is “jiang”
But it was a pity that the Liang Emperor did not see the violently shaken expression that flashed across Prince Jing’s face, because at that moment, his eyes were squinted, apparently trying to remember who Su zhe was.
“The person you’re referring to……is he the supposedly famous talent, Su zhe, whom Princess Nihuang recommended to be my chief examiner for the written examination?” It didn’t take this wise Liang Emperor long to recall this. “He also defeated that Northern Yan that….that person before….with three young boys. I really like that Su zhe. How is he also involved in this matter?”
“Is Your Majesty aware of this Su zhe’s other identity?”
“Oh? What is that?”
“Although Your Majesty is in the court, has Your Majesty heard of the Lang Ya Rankings?”
“Looking at the new list this year, Jiangzuo Alliance ranks as the largest secret society on earth for the fifth time in a row. This Su zhe is actually Jiangzuo Alliance’s current chief, Mei Changsu. Is Your Majesty aware of this?”
“I am aware.”
“Er….” Xia Jiang did not expect this. “Your Majesty is aware?”
“I have had a chat with Su zhe before, during a tea tasting session. He had informed me who he was at the time.” The Liang Emperor fixed his eyes on Xia Jiang. “Su zhe is certainly exceptional, and has the heart to serve the country. If it wasn’t for his poor health, I would have employed him. Why, do you mean to say he got close to Jingyan while recuperating in the capital?”
“This minister has not been back in the capital for very long and dare not speak carelessly, but everyone knows who Mei Changsu serves.”
Prince Jing met Xia Jiang’s gaze without flinching. “I don’t know how you came to that conclusion. After Su zhe was recognized by Your Majesty, nine out of ten in the capital strove to befriend him. Princess Nihuang is well-known for holding him in the greatest esteem. Xuanjing Bureau’s Xia Dong and Xia Chun have also been to the Su Residence as guests. The Su Residence compound was also recommended by Commander Meng. The number of times Prince Yu xiong had paid a visit to Mei Changsu far exceeds mine. The person leading the many processions to present gifts to the Su Residence was also Prince Yu xiong. If I manage even to get a seat (at his table), no matter how inferior a seat, I would consider myself lucky. In spite of all this, how does one finally conclude that Mei Changsu is serving me?”
The most frustrating thing for Prince Yu was that no matter how much he investigated, he couldn’t figure out how Mei Changsu and Prince Jing kept in touch when they so rarely had contact. He was going to defend himself at this point, but Xia Jiang was already a step ahead. “Very well. Since Mei Changsu does not serve Your Highness Prince Jing, it makes this easier to handle. Your Highness shouldn’t mind if I wanted to interrogate this person, right?
Prince Jing’s heart sank, and just as he was wondering how he should respond, the Liang Emperor said, “Since he and Jingyan are not particularly close, why interrogate him for no reason?”
“Your Majesty, every one of the rebels who attacked Xuanjing Bureau possesses the skills of a martial arts master. In the capital today, who else other than Jiangzuo Alliance’s chief is capable of organizing such a large group of martial arts masters? This minister believes that interrogating Mei Changsu will yield some results.”
Prince Jing responded through gritted teeth. “This is a case of giving a dog a bad name before hanging him. Doesn’t the Lang Ya Rankings include many unusually skilled and esteemed men? Just because you say it’s him, does that make him the only one? Aren’t you afraid that others would ridicule* Xuanjing Bureau for using intuition as evidence to handle this case?”
*Hai Yan describes this as “laugh until their teeth drop”
“But it’s just an interrogation. Why is Your Highness Prince Jing so anxious? Whether Mister Su is good or evil, he is after all His Majesty’s visiting guest. What can I do to him? It’s just a conversation to clear things up. It really has nothing to do with his affairs. I will make sure he leaves Xuanjing Bureau intact, without a single injury. That’s the sum of it.”
As he said these words, he deliberately set his eyebrows in a ruthless expression to make Prince Jing even more anxious. Xuanjing Bureau’s methods of interrogation had been passed on from one generation to the next. They did not leave a scar, yet left a person feeling as good as dead. Mei Changsu’s greatest weakness was his health. Imagining that weak and pale body entering Xuanjing Bureau, Prince Jing felt his heart twist involuntarily.
“Father Emperor, Mister Su is in poor health, of this you are aware. He is also someone with a great reputation. The court should value such talent, and treat him with the appropriate courtesy and respect. What kind of reputation would we have if we engaged in such bullying and humiliation as we please without any basis? What’s more, Xuanjing Bureau reports directly to Your Majesty and acts according to Your Majesty’s orders. In the event of any mishap, it’s not Director Xia who will receive the people’s criticism, but you, Father Emperor!”
“Jingyan aren’t you over-exaggerating?” Prince Yu said, “According to what you said just now, I have a better relationship with Mei Changsu, and I don’t think it’s a big issue. He might be a reputable scholar, but he is also after all, a royal subject, so why should he be untouchable? Father Emperor trusts Director Xia’s behavior. How can you not? In the end, it’s merely for the sake of asking Mei Changsu a few questions. Why do you behave like someone with a guilty conscience? At this moment, let’s not mention Father Emperor, even I am beginning to be a little suspicious of you.”
What he said wasn’t wrong. Prince Jing’s earnest attempts to defend Mei Changsu aroused the Liang Emperor’s suspicions. Moreover, the Liang Emperor believed in his bones that Prince Jing certainly had sufficient courage and motivation to pursue this matter of the prisoner rescue. He also believed that with Xia Jiang’s wealth of experience and keen judgment, he wouldn’t direct an attack at Prince Jing without any basis. Of course, he also understood in his heart that Prince Yu was taking advantage of the situation. In his view, however, it was acceptable for royal princes to fight because he believed in his ability to control and suppress them. But his greatest fear lay in the possibility of Prince Jing really employing force to break a prisoner out of jail without care or consideration, and succeeding unexpectedly.
Therefore, having to choose between suppressing Prince Yu or Prince Jing, he preferred first to suppress Prince Jing and investigate the matter thoroughly in order to set his own mind at ease.
“Minister Xia, I grant you permission to investigate according to what you have mentioned. Investigate it thoroughly. Make sure it is unequivocal and not something that is fabricated. Don’t go from pillar to post with me!”
“Father Emperor, your son thinks…..”
“Keep quiet! Do you not realize that you are yourself a suspect? Have you no fear of the law of your lord and father in your heart?” Prince Jing’s persistently stubborn expression reminded the Liang Emperor of a time before when another son was similarly unwilling to lower his head, and his face immediately turned ugly. “Regardless, your Capital Patrol has been implicated. If we don’t investigate, how would you be absolved? Deliver an imperial order. The Capital Patrol will be temporarily taken over by the Ministry of War. Prince Jing is to return to his residence to contemplate in silence and he is not allowed to enter the palace without an imperial decree.”
Gao Zhan stole a glance at the expressions of everyone in the hall and quietly responded with just a simple “Yes”.
This time the imperial debate was forcibly suspended by the Liang Emperor. The facade had been ripped apart. He had already observed that both Xia Jiang and Prince Yu had colluded to attack Prince Jing. But whether these two men were only “attacking” or “framing” he was unclear, which is why it was very necessary to allow this matter to cool off for a time and for more evidence to emerge.
After Xia Jiang left the court, he immediately summoned his men and headed straight for the Su Residence. He was worried that Mei Changsu had absconded, but he also harboured some hope that Mei Changsu would abscond because running away indicated a guilty conscience and fear of punishment for a crime committed. But if he really ran away and was unable to be captured, that would be a case of loss outweighing gains.
This unsettled court atmosphere became calm when it reached the Su Residence. Mei Changsu remained peacefully in his residence. He did not abscond, even though this Jiangzuo Alliance chief had obviously already anticipated that Xia Jiang would come.
Previously, when he had said the words “And also…..” to Prince Jing, Mei Changsu was actually referring to himself. Though he was on the verge of saying what was on his mind, he held back because he knew that there would be no benefit in saying it. Prince Jing wouldn’t be persuaded by the words “Don’t argue with Xia Jiang when he wants to deal with me” to really look on and not speak, and would still be recklessly disobedient when the time came.
Li Gang had already brought Fei Liu out beforehand. The “Must Not Resist” order had already been sternly communicated to all his subordinates, so even though Zhen Ping had to grit his teeth until he nearly ground them to pieces while they waited, Mei Changsu calmly followed Xia Jiang, undeterred, to Xuanjing Bureau.
Actually, Xuanjing Bureau was not a place that was unfamiliar to him. He used to regularly tag along with Nie Feng to walk about its vicinity, but considering today’s circumstances, it’s as if it were a lifetime ago.
Xia Jiang did not interrogate him that evening, merely pushed him into a narrow black room, locking him for the night. It had just enough space to turn one’s body around, but to prevent him from freezing to death, sufficient bedding was provided.
The next day, Mei Changsu was dragged out of his quilt and brought to a pavilion facing the water. Xia Jiang was there waiting, dressed fully in black, standing with his hands clasped behind his back. When they met, he smiled genially.
“Mister Su, you have learnt a lot about the world, and have a lot of knowledge and experience. Do you know what kind of place this is?”
“Hell.” Mei Changsu looked at him, returning a faint smile, “Ghosts and malevolent spirits from the netherworld, nothing living, only demons and monsters.”
“Mister Su, you flatter. I’m just skilled at removing someone’s skin and flesh to reveal their real lungs and intestines, that’s all.” Xia Jiang gestured with his hand. “Please sit, Mister Su.”
“I don’t normally invite anyone here for no reason. Once I do, unless I let him go, he wouldn’t be able to fly out of here even if he had wings.” Xia Jiang pushed a cup of tea towards him. “Prince Jing knows that Mister Su is here as a guest, but he can’t even defend himself now, much less you.”
“I think so too.” Mei Changsu nodded his head serenely. He picked up the cup of tea with both hands, carefully looked at the color of the tea before taking a sip. Suddenly he frowned and said, “Isn’t this tea just terrible? The person in charge must be embezzling the tea money. Director Xia, why don’t you look into it?”
Xia Jiang did not pay attention to his words and continued.“I know Mister Su is a rare talent, with an extraordinary strength of will that is incomparable. But I have seen many such hard-boned* people. Do you recall a military embezzlement case I had handled before? The general who was involved had a mouth that was unyielding as anything, but after two days here, he surrendered a complete name list of his accomplices.”
*dauntless & unyielding
“He confessed? I heard he went mad.”
“He went mad after he had confessed. I didn’t allow him to go mad before that. I have always known how far to go and when to stop.” Xia Jiang said dispassionately, “I wonder what Mister Su thinks. Would you like to confess obediently or stay here for two days like that general?”
Mei Changsu held his forehead in his hands, seriously pondering for a good while, before finally saying, “Then I will confess.”
Xia Jiang had just entered a state (of being)*, but he was jolted out of it when he unexpectedly heard these words
*This is a literal translation which I struggled with. I presume it either means that MCS was pondering for VERY LONG or he was already preparing to extract a forced confession from MCS
“What would Director Xia like me to confess? That I colluded with Prince Jing?” Mei Changsu replied rapidly, “That’s right. I have been colluding with Prince Jing since early on. Wei Zheng’s rescue was instigated by Prince Jing and I orchestrated it. After we stormed Xuanjing Bureau and realized that the guards were too few, we knew it was a trap and withdrew. Oh yes, when we withdrew, the Capital Patrol helped us, which was why we managed to escape. Director Xia, you came back after that. My informer who was at the main gates of Xuanjing Bureau noticed that your actions were a little odd, and secretly followed behind you. When you led him to the Imperial Court of Justice, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that Wei Zheng was there. As a result, we were besides ourselves and immediately beat you up, before seizing the traitor. That’s how everything happened. Is there anything else you are unclear about?”
Xia Jiang had interrogated many people behind Xuanjing Bureau’s closed doors, but had never encountered such a prisoner and it took great effort to maintain his composure. Observing Mei Changsu, he kept his tone grim as he said, “Do you know what you have just confessed?”
“I know.” Mei Changsu said lightly, “You can write a statement according to what I had just confessed. When you have written it, bring it to me and I will put my signature on it. Once I have signed it, you can bring this statement to His Majesty then this case will be settled and everyone can relax.”
Xia Jiang suddenly understood Mei Changsu’s meaning. The implications of this case were too great, and as it happens, sorely lacking in evidence. The Liang Emperor would be unlikely to arrive at a final conclusion so easily based on such a statement. When the time arrived, he would definitely summon Mei Changsu in to personally interrogate him. Suppose this Qilin talent withdrew his confession then and charged Xia Jiang with “extorting this confession through torture and forcing him to incriminate Prince Jing”, he would really be unsure of the Liang Emperor’s reaction.
“Mei Changsu, don’t be too pleased with yourself. Things have reached such a stage and you are still so stubborn. Could it be that you desire to experience my Xuanjing Bureau methods?”
“That’s strange,” Mei Changsu put on an innocent expression. “I have already confessed and yet you still say that I am stubborn. Do you think my statement would sound a little better after you hit me? That as long as I have experienced your methods, His Majesty would not summon me for an inquiry? I have already confessed that I was instigated by Prince Jing. Is it possible that you have someone else whom you want me to confess about?”
“If you want to confess, you should confess thoroughly,” Xia Jiang came closer, saying, “Tell me, where is Wei Zheng now?”
“He has already left the capital.”
“Impossible!” Xia Jiang sneered. “Before I entered the palace yesterday, I had ordered men to keep guard at the Western Gate and examine all passersby. Even if the Capital Patrol wanted to leave, they wouldn’t be able to. Now that Prince Jing has his hands tied, this capital is even more like an iron bucket*. Unless Wei Zheng has a means of escape, he would never be able to get out.”
“These words are too boastful. If there is a way into the iron bucket, there is a way out. As long as people can leave the capital, there is also an opportunity for Wei Zheng to get away.”
“Mr Su certainly knows how to joke. I know that Wei Zheng has multiple injuries and cannot even stand and walk. These two days, nothing placed horizontally has gone out without being scrutinized by my men, not one carriage, travelling box, nothing that can carry a person. I have even ordered them to pry open and examine coffins closely. Come, tell me how Wei Zheng was smuggled out.”
Mei Changsu revealed a slight smile, “Do you really want me to tell you?”
“If I don’t, will you resort to your methods?”
“I’m glad you’re aware.”
“Then I have no choice.” Mei Changsu swirled his teacup, toying with it. “Your soldiers were very thorough, but….they still missed examining something…..”
“They did. For example, one of your people from Xuanjing Bureau.”
Xia Jiang’s pupils suddenly contracted. “I have already ordered men to keep watch on Xia Dong. She couldn’t possibly have….”
“Not Xia Dong. Xia Chun….”
“”Nonsense.” Xia JIang immediately gave a snort of contempt., obviously trusting Xia Chun completely.
“Hear me out. It was Xia Chun’s wife…..didn’t she receive news that her father was seriously ill yesterday, leaving the capital urgently to return to her family?”
Xia Jiang’s expression stiffened immediately. This was Xia Chun’s domestic affair so he didn’t pay any attention though he was aware of it. If it was Xia Chun’s wife leaving town, the Xuanjing Bureau soldiers would definitely not have scrutinized it too closely but how could Mei Changsu possibly have devised a way to smuggle Wei Zheng out as part of Xia Chun’s wife’s retinue?
“Xia Chun’s wife is from Wudang, right? She has a nephew called Li Xiao, right? As chance would have it, I had once done Li Xiao a favour, and in his gratitude, he would frequently visit me to pay his respects. Li Xiao accompanied Xia Chun’s wife this time so I asked him to help me relay a box of local goods to Langzhou. Do you think he would have refused? Once this box leaves the capital as part of Xia Chun’s wife’s retinue, arrives in a secluded place and gets seized by robbers, that wouldn’t be entirely impossible, would it?” Mei Changsu looked on leisurely as Xia Jiang’s expression increasingly contorted in anger. “Director Xia, Wei Zheng is no longer in the capital. You can no longer capture him. It’s time to give up.”