Guanshan Muyu Chapter 3

When Xia Xun woke up the next day, Qi Yan was not at home.

The maid that brought breakfast said that he left early in the morning to go to the court.

Xia Xun thought about the note and asked her, “Can I leave the house?”

The girl smiled:

“Is Young Master bored? Before this slave entered the house, she has learned to play some music pieces. If you don’t mind, would you like me to play the qin for you to relieve your boredom?”

Seeing Xia Xun’s lack of interest, she added:

“My lord said that you used to like to carve some small wooden figurines. The tools and materials have already been prepared. Everything is ready, this slave will bring them to you ——”

“No need.” Xia Xun interrupted her: “I don’t need anything. I like quiet. Tell other servants to stay away from me. I think they are noisy.”

She obeyed and left.

After a while, the voices outside the house faded away as the maid asked everyone to retreat outside the courtyard. She stayed in the courtyard alone, keeping a short distance from Xia Xun.

In this way, if Xia Xun had any orders, she would be able to hear them immediately.

Qi Yan’s mind was deep, and his maidservant was not a fool.

Xia Xun glanced at her coldly and closed the door.

It was enough.

Xia Xun was very familiar with the structure of the main house. There was a small door at the back of the house. He walked over lightly and quietly pushed the door open.

Outside the door there was a veranda. There were originally several servants tending to flowers and grass near to it but they were all sent away by the maid just now.

Around the veranda there was a garden full of flowers, ending with the eastern wall of Qi Mansion.

It was adjacent to the western wall of Xia Mansion, and one part of the wall was lower than other places.

In the past, Xia Xun often climbed over the wall there to come to Qi Yan.

Back then, Qi Mansion was in ruins, its walls broken and debris everywhere.

Xia Xun’s father, Xia Hongxi, was highly regarded in the imperial court at the time, and his house was so richly ornamented that it was described as extravagant and luxurious,.

After many years, Qi Mansion had regained its former glory, and the Xia family……

Xia Hongxi had been dead for many years. If he hadn’t been beheaded in public but had a grave, the trees  on his grave could have grown ten feet high.

Xia Mansion was sealed, uninhabited and in disrepair. Xia Xun didn’t need to look at it to know what miserable scenery would wait for him inside.

He looked back at Qi Mansion and wondered why Qi Yan still lived here.

Except for the renovation of the damaged areas, the layout and decoration of the courtyard were not different from before.

The low section of the wall still remained in its original state, with no trace of repair, and even the begonia trees that grew along the wall were still in their original place.

Xia Xun stepped on the tree, grabbed the top of the wall, jumped up and easily climbed out.

Between the walls of the two families there was a channel, usually dry. Water would flow through it only during heavy rains. There were stone slabs blocking both ends of the channel so that ordinary people couldn’t easily find it. The channel could be used for passage as well.

If it was not for Xia Xun’s love of playing and dislike of reading when he was a child, he would have never have discovered this place.

He crossed the dry channel, walked around the stone slab and came to the main road.

He was going to find He Cong.

He Cong’s father was a subordinate of his father, and the two of them were classmates when they were young.

After Xia Xun and his eldest brother faked their deaths in Lingnan to escape, only He Cong knew they were still alive.

When the news of Xia Xun’s death reached the capital, He Cong did not hesitate to sever his relationship with his family and rushed to Douzhou thousands of miles away, trying to collect Xia Xun’s bones.

The law stipulated that the bodies of exiled prisoners could only be left in the wilderness after death; not even a  small grave mound was allowed.

He Cong traveled all over the mountains and rivers, full of despair and sorrow, thinking that he would see Xia Xun’s scattered bones, never imagining that Xia Xun would survive and change his name.

He kept a secret and returned to the capital, and since then he had often assisted the two brothers.

The days in exile were difficult, especially in the first few years. Without He Cong’s help, the two of them would not have survived.

He Cong married three years ago, and now he had two children.

He shouldn’t have known that Xia Xun was brought back to the capital by Qi Yan, but Xia Xun was worried that in order to help him get out, his eldest brother might have asked He Cong for help.

He Cong had a fiery personality, an impulsive temper and often did amazing things.

Moreover, he once mentioned in his letter that his son loved to eat acacia leaf cold cakes very much and he often bought them.

Xia Xun suspected that he was the one who stuffed the note in the pastry.

The person who wrote the note asked him to go to Guangning House but he didn’t dare to go directly. There were a lot of people there. Someone might have remembered his appearance and recognized him.

He pondered for a while and decided to wait at the pastry shop.

The shop selling cold cakes was the only one in the capital, located deep in an alley.

It was late summer and the weather was still hot. Many idle people sat under the trees at the end of the alley to cool off. Xia Xun sat with his back turned to the passers-by, hiding in the shadow of the tree.

He Cong was not good at being an official, occupying a casual position in the shade of his parents. He went to the court at dawn and got back home by dinnertime. This alley was the only way for him to go home.

Xia Xun looked at the sun and when it was time, he started watching carefully, attentive to every carriage passing by.

In less than a stick of incense, the carriage with the He family sign slowly drove by and stopped at the doors of the pastry shop.

He Cong got out of the carriage and walked in.

Xia Xun followed closely.

As soon as the shopkeeper saw He Cong, he didn’t even need to ask anything. He quickly put the cold cake that had just been out of the pot into the food box and handed it to him respectfully.

Xia Xun whispered behind him: “Lord He.”

He Cong turned his head, expressionless at first, but in a few blinks of an eye, he recognized Xia Xun.

He drew in a sharp breath, shocked, his eyes widening, and he took a step back unconsciously.

“Why are you here?!”

Xia Xun kept silent.

The shopkeeper looked up at the source of the sound and He Cong’s little servant also looked puzzled.

He Cong calmed down quickly.

“——It turned out to be Master Dong, what a coincidence!” Pretending to be cordial, he grabbed Xia Xun’s arm: “Since you and I met by chance here, why don’t Master Dong come to my house and have a drink with me?”

“Dong” was the surname that Xia Xun assumed when he changed his name.

His eldest brother Xia Wen said that the climate in the south was bitter and hot, and if he kept the surname Xia, wouldn’t it be even hotter?

So, he called himself Dong. (Xia – summer, Dong – winter)

Xia Xun followed his example and took He Cong’s arm in return, squeezing it hard.

“It’s exactly what this humble official wishes for.”

He Cong hurriedly pulled him into the carriage and even forgot to take the dim sum, so his little servant paid for it and accepted the box.

The carriage rolled forward, and inside Xia Xun wanted to speak but He Cong stopped him several times.

He waved his hand and motioned to Xia Xun not to make a sound.

Xia Xun kept silent.

He Cong didn’t talk to him but kept staring at him, the word “worry” written in his eyes.

Xia Xun smiled and shook his head, as if to tell him that he didn’t need to worry.

When the carriage arrived at He Mansion, He Cong immediately took him to his study, sent away all the servants and ordered no one to approach.

When only the two of them were left in the room, He Cong’s suppressed emotions broke out instantly.

He stood in front of Xia Xun, frowning and questioning.:

“Why did you come to the capital?? Do you have any idea how dangerous it is here?! In case someone recognizes you, do you think you will have a chance to fake death again!?”

Xia Xun was stunned.

It seems that He Cong didn’t know that he was in the capital. It meant he didn’t write the note.

If it wasn’t him, who could it be?

For a while Xia Xun was speechless.

He Cong was about to spew out fire through his nose.

“I don’t care what you are here for, you must leave today! Hide in my house first and wait until dark, I’ll send you out of the city before the gates are closed, while the gatekeepers can’t see clearly!”

As soon as Xia Xun opened his mouth, He Cong immediately blocked him.

“No objections are allowed! That’s it!”

Xia Xun sighed and said helplessly.:

“I didn’t come by myself, and I can’t leave if I want to.”

“I don’t understand! What do you mean?”

Xia Xun lowered his eyes and said hesitantly.:

“It was… Qi Yan who brought me back.”

He Cong’s anger turned into horror in an instant, his mouth opening wide and his eyes bulging to the point they were about to fall out. He spoke incoherently:

“He found you? Did he know you were not dead?? How did he know?!”

Xia Xun said slowly:

“A month ago, I cleaned my own grave and met him there. He recognized me at a glance. He asked me to go back to the capital with him. When I refused, he threatened to reveal the identity of my eldest brother. What could I do? I had to go back.”

He Cong collapsed on the chair:

“It is over… what can we do about it…!”

Before Xia Xun could catch his breath, he rose to his feet again.

“Then we can’t waste time! I will send you away now! The fastest horse in my house can gallop for hundreds of miles in one go! By the time he finds out, you will have disappeared long ago!”

Xia Xun refused:

“It’s easy for me to leave but what about my brother? He has a wife and children and they can’t run away.”

He Cong looked at him in worry, his whole face crumpled:

“What the hell did he want when he brought you back?! Your parents and second brother are dead, and you almost died in Douzhou yourself! What else does he want?? Does he still hold a grudge against the Xia family? Still won’t leave you alone?!”

Xia Xun calmed him down.

“I don’t know, I took the risk to come to you today to ask…”

There was a knock on the door suddenly. It was the maid of He Cong’s wife. She said that the lady sent her to ask when He Cong was free. If he had nothing else to do, he might as well come to the inner courtyard to play with the young master and young lady for a while. They were clamoring to see their father.

Xia Xun swallowed his words.

He had originally intended to tell the truth about the note and ask He Cong if he knew who could have written it.

But he really didn’t want to involve him in his grievances with Qi Yan. He Cong had a family and it was safest for him to stay out of it.

He Cong asked the maid to deliver a message, telling the lady to wait a little, he would be coming soon.

After the maid left, he returned to the conversation: “What did you want to say just now?”

Xia Xun asked instead, “What is Qi Yan’s position in the court today?”

He Cong said:

“As I wrote in my letter, three months ago, he was promoted to Zhongshu Shilang.” (Zhongshu, the Palace Secretariat or Central Secretariat, one of the departments of the Three Departments and Six Ministries government structure in imperial China; Shilang, ancient official title) 

Xia Xun asked again: “Then do you know why he suddenly went to Lingnan?”

After Xia Xun and his eldest brother faked their deaths one after another, He Cong  set up their graves in Douzhou.

The matter was quickly reported to the emperor.

Perhaps thinking that the two of them were not unforgivable, the emperor did not order the graves to be shoveled off but rather tacitly approved.

Except for the two of them, all the rest of the Xia family died and naturally there was no one to sweep their graves.

In the first few years, the graves were covered in weeds; but when the wind died down gradually, Xia Xun started coming to take care of them from time to time.

In seven years, Qi Yan hadn’t been there once.

He must have resented Xia Xun so much that he refused to take a look at his grave even after he died.

He Cong told Xia Xun that there was no particular reason for Qi Yan to go to Lingnan, only to carry out his official duties.

It turned out… he didn’t go to him on purpose.

Xia Xun had mixed emotions, and he couldn’t tell what those emotions were. He was a little reassured. But he also felt a little disappointed, even though he didn’t want to admit it.

He had fantasized countless times about how Qi Yan would feel when he learned of his death.

Would he be sad and remorseful?

If his death could make Qi Yan regret it for a moment, Xia Xun could be proud for a lifetime.

Look, you killed me for revenge, and you are the one who is heartbroken.

Now that he thought about it, he was so naive.

Qi Yan had a heart of steel; he would never be as indecisive as he was.

There was another eager knock on the door.

He Cong shouted:

“I’ll go back to the inner courtyard later, don’t worry, madam!”

Outside the door was not the maid who’d come earlier but the guard from the gates of the mansion. He said anxiously:

“Lord Qi Yan is here! His carriage is already at the gate!”

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