The second son of the Yuan family, Yuan Jiangwen, had a big business in the Jiangnan area, but it was far from the capital and he was away from home for many years, so Fu Zhiyu didn’t see him more than ten times combined. But Yuan Jiangwen was a bright and cheerful man and had doted on his younger sister, Yuan Wanyun, since she was born. This doting spread to Fu Zhiyu as well, and every time Yuan Jiangwen came back, he would bring some rare things for Fu Zhiyu to cheer him up.
“Yes,” Consort Yun sighed, “I haven’t seen my two brothers for a long time, but recently, in addition to this, there is another big event.”
Fu Zhiyu was puzzled: “What big event?”
“It’s your birthday,” Consort Yun touched his head with a look of indulgence, “Zhiyu is going to be seventeen years old.”
In this dynasty, seventeen was the coming of age for men, the age when they could take a wife, obtain a title, or take on some other responsibility.
Fu Zhiyu was taken aback. If his mother hadn’t mentioned this matter now, he really wouldn’t have remembered it.
Fu Zhiyu thought for a while and said, “There is the imperial examination going on and my birthday is not a big deal. It’s not appropriate to make it a big event. If it’s possible, I would like to go to the Yuan residence. It would be nice for a few of us family members to get together.”
Consort Yun smiled and said, “Not yet, but maybe it will be possible in the future.”
“Not maybe,” Fu Zhiyu said firmly, holding her hand, “it’s definitely possible.”
It was true that he didn’t see Xie Ke during this time. Fu Zhiyu originally thought that now that Xie Ke knew that he was also reborn, he would be discouraged at least for a while. But it didn’t take long for him to eat the melaleuca cake with the familiar taste in Liuli Palace.
He could see that the ingredients of this melaleuca cake had changed for the better. After all, the ingredients in the palace were carefully selected, naturally different from the outside, but the craftsmanship of the owner of the small inn was unique.
It was delicious, but it didn’t mean that Fu Zhiyu wanted to eat it in the palace.
After inquiring about it, he learned that the Xie family had sent a group of cooks into the palace as tribute. This one who could make some folk pastries was specially sent to the kitchen of Liuli Palace by the emperor who said that Consort Yun liked the taste of those things.
“I really like it. Last time I ate a few more bites of this cake at the banquet. Now the emperor sent the cook to the kitchen of Liuli Palace.” Consort Yun was puzzled when she heard Fu Zhiyu specifically ask about it, “It’s just a trivial matter. Is there any problem?”
“…No problem,” Fu Zhiyu rubbed his brow and said, “I just asked casually. This cake is well made. Reward this cook with some silver. Let people treat her well in Liuli Palace. She shouldn’t be short of any kind of food and clothing.”
In the previous life, Consort Yun really liked to eat this melaleuca cake, and he often brought her some into the palace.
Fu Zhiyu sent the maid next to him to ask some questions carefully. The cook said that the old lady in her family needed money for treatment, and she happened to meet a nobleman from the Xie family. She got a large sum of money and entered the palace voluntarily. It was a great blessing to be appreciated by the master and her life here was good.
After listening to this, Fu Zhiyu sighed and could only reward some more silver. That was the most he could do for the cook. Her current happiness didn’t seem to be false, but what she had not yet realised was that it was both difficult to come in and go out of the palace. The cook who had been sent to the palace had to be of a certain age to go out. If you don’t reach that age, you will remain as a ghost in the palace when you die. But those things could only be experienced by yourself.
So, this was a very delicious cake, but Fu Zhiyu didn’t have the mood to taste it anymore.
Xie Ke seemed to be conveying a message to Fu Zhiyu through this cake that he would never give up, and it made Fu Zhiyu even more angry.
No matter what, Xie Ke would never change, he was still like that.
Fu Zhiyu didn’t understand in his previous life why Xie Ke could always be so high and mighty. He was a concubine’s son in the general’s mansion but Fu Zhiyu felt the arrogance in Xie Ke’s bones. At that time, he didn’t understand how this arrogance was formed; he just understood it as the pride of someone relying on talent, and Xie Ke did have the talent to be proud of.
But he later understood that Xie Ke, as an actor who played the protagonist, would naturally have a sense of condescension in the face of the data that had been set on the trajectory. This was higher than the strict hierarchical system of this dynasty. After all, Xie Ke was a predestined controller, and he could naturally play whatever way he wanted.
What’s more, it was just a tiny role, a couple who lived an ordinary life and opened an inn, and Xie Ke could arrange them in any way, even if just using one of them as a tool to please someone.
Fu Zhiyu didn’t tell Mingdao and his mother about these thoughts. They both liked that cake. Although Fu Zhiyu couldn’t eat it because of his distress, the cook could only make these pastries. If the master never ordered her pastries, or even ate less of them, it would be noticed by the people in the palace. The palace servants were used to please the winners and attack the losers. If they felt that she was unimportant, they would bully her, and he couldn’t always keep an eye on her.
The melaleuca cake incident made Fu Zhiyu refresh his understanding of Xie Ke again. He only felt that this man was terrible, and sure enough, he had to stay as far away from him as possible.
Outside Liuli Palace, the imperial examination went very smoothly, and Fu Zhiyu heard about some things behind closed doors.
This year’s top students were all from humble families, and it was no surprise that the first prize in the literary examination was taken by Shen Yang. Xie Ke didn’t participate in the martial arts examination, so the man who was second in the previous life became the first. He was also a commoner, surnamed Wang. He was dark-skinned, obviously less than twenty, and looked like a small mountain. His name happened to be Wang Xiaoshan (little mountain).
The emperor set up the Qionglin Banquet in the imperial garden, which was very lively. Fu Zhiyu couldn’t avoid this occasion. As a prince who had already been made the Wang, it was impossible for him not to come.
So he came. Anyway, Fu Zhiyu just sat on the seat he should have occupied and didn’t speak. When he felt hungry, he took the fruit from the table and ate it with relish, ignoring external objects.
But just because he wanted to ignore others didn’t mean that others wanted to ignore him.
Xie Ke’s gaze alone was enough to make people uncomfortable, but Shen Yang, the winner of the first prize, didn’t accept the flattery of others and had to squeeze in front of him.
“Wang Zhao,” Shen Yang saluted him, “Do you remember me?”
Fu Zhiyu swallowed the peach in his mouth, glanced at him lazily, and said, “Champion Shen is now a celebrity in front of Father Emperor. How can this wang not remember?”
“It’s good that Wang Zhao remembers,” Shen Yang didn’t seem to hear the carelessness in Fu Zhiyu’s tone or just didn’t care and got closer with a smile, “It’s because of my good luck that I was favoured by the emperor, but in terms of talent, I can’t compare to Wang Zhao in any way. I still remember the time when, being Grand Master Xu’s student, I saw Wang Zhao’s painting. It is not an exaggeration to say that it was the stroke of God.”
“Really?” Fu Zhiyu raised his eyebrows, “But I can’t do painting anymore. Champion Shen should forget the things of the past. Remembering it so clearly, you will just waste your regrets.”
The Qionglin Banquet was a joyous occasion. This kind of banquet had always been unconventional. The emperor on his seat was also drinking happily. Although it was a little chaotic, it was lively, and he felt merry when he looked at it.
Shen Yang seemed to want to say something, but some people, probably his competitors, suddenly appeared behind him and tried to pull him away.
“Champion Shen, let’s keep drinking!” Those people were noisy and sincere, “We won’t leave until we get drunk!”
“If you don’t drink, you don’t give face!”
Shen Yang couldn’t deal with these people and was quickly dragged away, but he kept turning his head and looking at Fu Zhiyu. His expression seemed to be very anxious, and he kept trying to say something to Fu Zhiyu. It seemed that his mouth shape meant “Be careful”, but it was too noisy and his words were immediately drowned in the sounds of the crowd.
Fu Zhiyu ignored him, lowered his head and stuffed a piece of peach into his mouth. The peach that was offered as tribute to the palace was very sweet and moist, better than anything else at the banquet.
Shen Yang left, but another person came.
Fu Zhiyu heard the voice coming from behind him; low in pitch and not loud but hard to ignore.
“Zhiyu,” Xie Ke said, standing behind him at some point, “I think we need to talk.”
He no longer addressed Fu Zhiyu as Wang Zhao. They were the only ones who could hear each other’s voices at such a distance, and Fu Zhiyu understood it as soon as he heard it. Xie Ke was almost certain that he was reborn.