For a split second, Xia Jiang really wanted to drag Mei Changsu up and crush all his bones one by one, but with his many years of mental cultivation he was able to immediately restrain himself, barely holding his clenched fist in check.
Ultimately, because Mei Changsu was not Wei Zheng, not only did he have to be careful when torturing him, he also had to have a purpose for doing so. He wasn’t so infantile as to torture him just to vent his anger.
Moreover, with all his years of experience leading the Xuanjing Bureau, Xia Jiang only needed a moment’s contact to decide that torture would be wasted on Mei Changsu. This is because, first of all, the strong perseverance seeping out from within his bones could not be ignored. Secondly, he was in such poor health that one touch could result in a mishap. If that happened, even though he hadn’t actually extorted a confession from Mei Changsu, it would seem like he did.
Xia Jiang recalled Prince Yu mentioning Mei Changsu’s constantly wary expression before. At the time, he thought that Prince Yu was exaggerating. Today, after crossing swords with him for the first time, he realized that this Qilin talent was really somebody who wasn’t easy to deal with*.
*trivia: the metaphor used was “you couldn’t save oil with this lamp”
“Director Xia,” Mei Changsu seemed very pleased as he observed Xia Jiang’s pale face, and he remained smiling as if the moon was white and the wind was clear*. “I have known since early on that you would come and look for me. I could have fled. Even if I couldn’t get out of the capital, the capital is so big it would have been easy to hide. But do you know why I didn’t flee?”
*(I think) this is a reference to a poem. Essentially I presume it means “as if everything was just fine”. I’ve kept this simply because it’s beautiful.
Xia Jiang’s gaze hardened, but he tried to conceal his rising emotions. “You think that I wouldn’t be able to do anything to you.”
“Yes, you simply cannot do anything to me. I’m also not afraid of you.” Mei Changsu smiled faintly, and anyone who saw him would think him refined and elegant, except for Xia Jiang. Xia Jiang just felt that he needed a good beating. “Director Xia, you have no real intention for me to die here in Xuanjing Bureau because that would bring you more trouble than you would like. Leaving aside what His Majesty would think, Jiangzuo Alliance would be the first to come after you. Although Jianghu* people are not as noble as Director Xia, but put together, they will not be easy to deal with. And it goes without saying that I have a bit of a reputation and have made quite a few friends…..”
*explained in Lang Ya Scribe glossary
Xia Jiang’s face tightened and he said nothing.
“Not letting me die here means letting me live, but what’s the point of letting me live? Naturally it’s because you have more questions to ask me,” Mei Changsu looked into the distance and continued, “On this, you don’t have to worry. I cannot repeatedly endure torture, and don’t intend to be tortured. I’ll answer all your questions. But will my confession really be of any use to you? Would you be willing to allow me to be interrogated by His Majesty? Of course not. Because you wouldn’t be able to control me. You’re afraid that when the time comes, I would get confused and suddenly speak some undesirable words before His Majesty…..”
“You would definitely withdraw your confession before His Majesty,” Xia Jiang snorted coldly. “That’s why you confessed so happily.”
“That’s not all. I confessed so quickly because I was afraid you would resort to torture. I would have had to confess sooner or later. Why would I want to hold on to that guilt? Isn’t it just a confession after all? If that is what Director Xia wants, how dare I disobey……” At this point, Xia Jiang suddenly grabbed hold of Mei Changsu’s pulse*, and an internal force jolted forward. Instantly, it felt like icy thorns were piercing and twisting in his heart, causing such pain that Mei Changsu’s whole body contracted upwards.
*technically, one can only grab the wrist, but the translation was “pulse” and I’ve left it at that because it is a key gateway in TCM^
“Su zhe, it’s not a good idea to annoy me,” Xia Jiang shook off his wrist and coldly watched the person opposite lying on the table like a white sheet of paper. “You are in my hands now. I can treat you however I choose. It would be good for you to remember that.”
Mei Changsu chuckled softly as he pressed a cold hand to his forehead. “Alright, I will keep that in mind. So, how does Director Xia intend to deal with me?”
“I want the truth.”
“Isn’t what I said just now the truth? Could it be that I didn’t collude with Prince Jing, didn’t break in and rescue a prisoner, and didn’t arrange for men to fight with you?”
“You know what I’m asking,” Xia Jiang ignored his taunts and leaned his head a little closer to him, “Mei Changsu, why did you choose Prince Jing?”
Mei Changsu raised his head slightly, his mocking smile fading, replaced with a solemn expression. “Between the former Crown Prince, Prince Yu and Prince Jing, I of course choose Prince Jing, because he is the best.”
“Prince Jing is the best?”
“Of course.” Mei Changsu said coldly, “Even if my foresight is not always accurate, it’s still slightly better than Director Xia’s.”
“But you actually don’t have to choose anyone,” Xia Jiang fixed his stare into Mei Changsu’s eyes. “You are Gentleman Mei who holds Jiangzuo Alliance, the world’s largest secret society with all its fame and fortune, in the palm of your hands. You could be free and unfettered, and live out your life in Jianghu. Why do you want to get embroiled in this capital city’s murky waters?”
“Does Director Xia not know how I first came to be in the capital?”
“Qilin talent, obtain him, obtain the world. I am definitely familiar with this comment. At first, I also thought you really came here because you were being pursued closely by the former Crown Prince and Prince Yu, and so had no choice but to enter the capital. Now that I have taken you on, I can confirm that this was completely unfounded, because with your intelligence, nobody could force you to be involved in court affairs if you really didn’t want to be.”
“To be given such high praise, I can’t thank you enough.” Mei Changsu half rose in polite salutation.
“So, why are you doing this? Do you wish to have the wealth of a high ranking official? Or gain authority over everything on earth? Or a reputation to be handed down to all future generations?”
Mei Changsu asked him seriously, “All three of those that you have just mentioned, can I possibly desire them?”
“Or perhaps…..it’s for something else…….” Xia Jiang grabbed hold of his pulse again and said coldly in an ominous tone, “Mei Changsu, tell me the truth……”
Mei Changsu looked at him silently for a while, and asked, “This has nothing to do with Wei Zheng’s rescue.”
“Of course it has.” Xia Jiang’s pupils suddenly became deep and bottomless. “I had underestimated you before, so I didn’t think too much about it. Now, after being defeated by your people, I have begun to seriously reflect on things. The more I think it over, the more I feel I am unable to understand why you would help Prince Jing to do such a stupid thing…… For an advisor of your level, it’s easy to discern that the best way to deal with Wei Zheng’s case is to ignore it. The most insane and illogical course of action is to have a treasonous charge imposed on you for taking him by force…..why did you make the worst possible choice?”
“It’s not so simple,” Mei Changsu replied indifferently, “I wanted to ingratiate myself with Prince Jing. After rescuing Wei Zheng, my influence over Prince Jing would increase exponentially. My standing in Prince Jing’s household would also be different. Of course, there was a second reason. I truly believed that even if I chose the worst possible path, I would still beat you.”
“Do you think you have won?”
“Do you think I have lost?”
“Don’t forget, you are still in my hands.”
“That’s because I was willing to come. I wanted to see how long you can hold on to me, to see how you plan to make use of me…….”
“It seems that you really have no fear,” Xia Jiang’s finger tapped lightly on his pulse, “Mei Changsu, since establishing Xuanjing Bureau, there hasn’t been a prisoner I haven’t been able to deal with. You won’t be the exception.”
“Director Xia’s self-confidence doesn’t seem to be any less than mine,” Mei Changsu raised his other hand and pressed it down on his chest. “Shall I get ready for another round?”
“I was just playing with you. Other than causing you pain, it’s not a very useful tool.” Xia Jiang’s lips curled into a cold smile as he asked, “Mei Changsu, are you afraid of dying?”
Mei Changsu muttered momentarily to himself, then said, “If one is not afraid to die then why still bother staying alive?”
“Well said.” Xia Jiang’s smile became even more inscrutable, “I asked you just now why you wanted to get embroiled in the affairs of the court and you changed the topic, obviously unwilling to answer. It’s alright if you don’t want to answer me. In any case, whatever your purpose might be, you still haven’t achieved it today. I presume you would be unwilling to die before achieving them?”
“I’m also not willing to die after achieving them.” Mei Changsu smiled as he said that.
“Naturally. Once a person is dead, everything ceases to exist. Life is always the most important.” Xia Jiang sighed ruefully while removing a small bottle from within his robes. He turned it over and a small black pill spilled out. “Do you know what this is?”
“I’m guessing……it’s not medicine?”
“You intend to poison me to death?”
“That depends on you.” Xia Jiang’s voice sounded cruel and heartless. “This Wujin pill* will show its effects seven days after ingesting. If the antidote is taken within the seven days, then death will not occur.”
*black gold / coal pill
Of course, Mei Changsu was an intelligent man, and Xia Jiang didn’t need to elaborate further. “If you are pleased with my performance when His Majesty summons me, you will give me the antidote. Otherwise I’m dead, is that right?”
“You are absolutely right.”
“Why should I believe that you would give me the antidote? What if you don’t follow through after that?”
“You are in my hands. You have no choice but to trust me.”
“So, let’s put it another way. Why are you so sure that I would definitely comply with your orders just to get the antidote? What if I am so loyal to Prince Jing to the extent that I would rather die than sell him out?”
“Reflecting on your true motive, you didn’t come to the capital to express your loyalty to Prince Jing. Although I do not know yet what it is, I will inevitably find out one day.”
Mei Changsu narrowed his eyes, looked directly at him for a while and smiled. “Director Xia, you don’t look at all like a gambler. Why are you suddenly taking chances? Based on this conjecture alone, why would you believe that I wouldn’t withdraw my confession when I am before His Majesty ?”
“Of course not. I have made other arrangements.” Xia Jiang raised his right hand and pointed his finger high up in the air in the direction of a weeping willow five steps away from the pavilion, snapping off a dry twig which fell straight to the ground.
“That’s a very good cut the air* move! Only one who is a specialist in interior martial arts** can do this.” Mei Changsu praised him and applauded in admiration.
*self explanatory – martial arts skill that uses air movement to kill
**translation may be inaccurate. I gather it refers to martial arts using cultivation of internal energy
“Once you appear before His Majesty, if you dare to speak foolishly at will, you would be like that dry twig before you’ve even finished speaking.”
“You intend to kill someone in front of the Emperor?”
“Since I can cut the air, I would naturally be some distance away from you. I wouldn’t even be touching you. Who would be able to say I killed you?”
“Director Xia is taking advantage of my lack of knowledge in martial arts. People are different from dry twigs. Let’s first ignore your competency and whether or not your cut the air move is skilful enough to actually kill a person. Even if you do, it is impossible to not leave a trace. Aren’t you afraid that Commander Meng would be able to see through it at the time?”
“Then can he see through this?” As Xia Jiang spoke, he flicked his finger very slightly, without moving his forearm, and the teacup on the table was overturned.
“He wouldn’t be able to see through this. But this can’t kill anyone at all, not even someone as weak as me.”
“It is of course not possible to rely on this alone.” Xia Jiang looked very pleased with himself. “But don’t forget, by that time you would have already taken the Wujin pill.”
Mei Changsu’s eyebrows lifted involuntarily.
“I only need to make the slightest cut the air move, briefly touch your Tianchan acupoint, and the poison from the Wujin pill would immediately take effect. Before you can utter a word, everything would conclude.”
“But if I die in front of the Emperor, wouldn’t His Majesty be stirred by anger to investigate?”
“There would be nothing to investigate. It will leave no mark on your Tianchan acupoint. The final conclusion would be…….that you committed suicide by taking poison.”
“Aren’t you afraid that His Majesty would suspect you of poisoning me?”
“If I wanted to poison you, wouldn’t there have been plenty of time and opportunity to do so in Xuanjing Bureau? Why would I need to drag you all the way to the palace and do it when you are in His Majesty’s presence? How would that benefit me? Isn’t that pushing it a bit too far?”
“That’s true,” Mei Changsu nodded his head in agreement. “”Looks like I must die.”
“Who says so? Of course, you don’t have to die. You just need to……think carefully about what you will say……” Xia Jiang fiddled with the Wujin pill in his palm, his voice cold as if it could freeze a person completely from head to toe.
Then, he got up and walked to the outside of the pavilion, and stood looking at the rough gray tiles on the surrounding wall, his hands clasped behind his back. He had stopped talking and no longer looked at Mei Changsu.
It was obvious that Xia Jiang wanted to leave this Qilin talent some time to seriously think things over.
^In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), the physicians usually feel the pulse to examine and diagnose a person’s condition
Mei Changsu raised his other hand and pressed it down on his chest. “Shall I get ready for another round?” ⇒ Hilarious! Mei Changsu obviously hadn’t lost Lin Shu’s sense of humour in Meiling!