Huan Yuan finished composing two poems in a very short time. Chu Yu read them over, thought it was pretty good, but wasn’t certain, so she gave it to a servant boy beside her to hand it to Pei Shu. Pei Shu read it out loud, and everyone began praising; now Chu Yu believed that this poetry really was pretty good.
When the second melody sounded, the wine cup started flowing with the water again. Chu Yu began chanting in her heart again, but when the music stopped again, that wine cup again came to right before her.
Not one inch over, not one inch less.
Chu Yu subconsciously glanced at the youth in blue garments that was playing the zither, almost blurting out to ask him if he did that on purpose; but that youth was still gazing at the Chinese zither, his handsome features sealed by unapproachable frost, making it unable for others to guess his true thoughts.
Silently glancing at the youth clad in blue again, Chu Yu raised her cup and smiled at Pei Shu, then lifted her head and gulped it all down while paper, brush pen, and table were once again brought to before Huan Yuan.
Chu Yu smiled and patted Huan Yuan’s shoulder: “Show them what you got.” Now, she could only rest her hopes on Rong Zhi didn’t exaggerate, that Huan Yuan really had the poetic talent to come up with a thousand lines even if on a war horse about to go off to battle.
At the same time, she was also suspecting in her heart: two times when the music stopped, the wine cup both stopped before her. Was it by coincidence or on purpose? If the latter, why did the youth in blue do so?
Mountain peaks, flowing springs, listening to zither playing, pouring wine, reading poetry; this was supposed to be a very elegant event, but it was an utmost torture to Yue Jiefei. Listening to the distant zither music and then listening to the gorgeous poems, he silently tore two strips of cloth from his undergarment1 and rolled them into little clumps, stuffing them into his ears.
Two pieces of poetry were produced again like homework on an assembly line; when Chu Yu handed the paper with the poems to Pei Shu, his gaze at Huan Yuan was already a little like looking at a monster.
The third melody sounded, the wine cup began flowing down the stream again. This time, Chu Yu didn’t chant in her heart, just turning her head to gaze fixedly at the youth in blue, a faint smile hanging on her lips.
She was going to see, if this time there will be another “coincidence”.
Rong Zhi strolled out of the East Wing, seeming to be smiling but seeming to not be smiling too. At this time, Mo Xiang happened to be walking out from the West Wing, and seeing his smile, walked up after a slight hesitation.
Rong Zhi nodded slightly at him, then smiled: “Play a game of go2 with me.” Almost everyone knew that besides reading, Rong Zhi’s other hobby was playing go, and he occasionally asked the other male concubines at the palace to play with him.
The two came to Snow Shower Garden. Among the green bamboos and their shades, on the bluestone platform, was a go board; on it black and white go pieces formed a scattered arrangement.
This was a half-finished game.
This was not the first time Mo Xiang played go with Rong Zhi, so he very naturally went up and sat down on one side, picking up a white go piece from the go piece box and placing it down on the board, asking softly: “Master, you went to the East Wing?”
Rong Zhi followed and placed down a black go piece, smiling faintly, “I went to verify something. Don’t worry about it, I know my limits.”
Hearing him say this, Mo Xiang also smiled: “I guess I worry too much. Master has always thought everything out thoroughly before taking action, so there won’t be any danger.” He placed down another piece, then lifted his head, as if remembering something, “Master, I heard that the Princess took Huan Yuan out today.”
Rong Zhi replied, “Yes, I was the one that persuaded the Princess to do so.”
“Why?” Mo Xiang couldn’t resist frowning, “I still don’t know, why Master values Huan Yuan so much. He’s just a scholar with relatively more talent; what big thing can he do?”
Rong Zhi was picking up a black piece, but hearing Mo Xiang ask this, raised his head, and said slowly, “Do you know, who Huan Yuan is?”
Mo Xiang answered honestly all he knew: “I’ve heard a little about him. Huan Yuan seems to be the descendant of the rebellious Huan family.”
“Rebellious?” Rong Zhi tilted his head and thought about it, then smiled, “True, to the dynasty of the Liu family, the Huan family are rebels. But if talking about rebels, the Southern Dynasties’ Gaozu3 , Liu Yu, is also one. In such a warring period, loyalty is as weak as a piece of paper; Ji Fa destroyed the Shang Dynasty and founded the Zhou Dynasty, Liu Bang rebelled against the Qin Dynasty and established the Han Dynasty, Sima usurped the Wei and founded the Jin Dynasty; almost every person that established an empire, no matter from which generation, had to overthrow the dynasty of the previous generation. So who isn’t a rebel?”
“Those who succeed become kings; those who fail become the bandits. If the one who failed was Liu Yu, then today it would be the people from the Huan family ruling the world, while the people from the Liu family would all be slaughtered.” Although his tone was gentle, he had no respect to the founding emperor, even indifferently addressing the founding emperor of the Southern Dynasties by his name.
Mo Xiang wasn’t disturbed by this at all. He didn’t even show any astonished expression, just silently listening to what Rong Zhi had to say.
Rong Zhi smiled, the put down another go piece: “The reason why I spoke so much today, is because I hope that you won’t place your insight on only one family and one surname. Observe the affairs or the world with an eye of the world, and you will understand a lot more clearly.”
“Among the top nobles that held the power of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, only the Huan family and the Xie family rose to prominence by its own working. But the rise of the Xie family was over the course of several generations working hard, while the Huan family depended on only one person: the ancestor of Huan Yuan, Huan Wen. With only the strength of himself, within the short period of a little more than ten years, he developed a top-notch nobility family. Huan Wen was a stunning hero; he wasn’t able to establish a lasting legacy only because he died early from disease. But his son, Huan Xuan, was an idiot whose aspirations and abilities didn’t match, and so became the stepping stone for Liu Yu’s rise to power.”
“The legend of the Huan family should have ended here. But when I saw Huan Yuan, I knew, the last hope of the Huan family still remained on him.” After pausing for a while, Rong Zhi continued, “I heard, the reason why the Princess knew Huan Yuan existed, was because the others of the the Huan family found a way to send over a message; at that time, the Princess’ father was still the emperor, and he was about to murder the last of the Huan family, and kill the last bloodline. They had no other choice but to make Huan Yuan seen by the Princess, so that he can enter the Princess’ Palace and keep his life.” Huan Yuan’s life was preserved like this. Besides him, every single one of the people of the Huan family died.
This was the first time Mo Xiang heard about this. He couldn’t help being surprised: “So Huan Yuan doesn’t know this?”
Rong Zhi smiled gently, “Of course he doesn’t know. I wouldn’t have let him know at that time either.”
“And why is that?”
“You can’t tell how much Huan Yuan can achieve because his talent has been limited. He has been under house arrest since young, and although he was wronged and controlled, he has never seen any of the true complexity of humans and worldly affairs, and all the things that happen in the world. All he knows came from books or his family, who were also under house arrest. But look at the revolting plan he conspired last time. Does it seem like one thought up by someone who had completely no experience?”
If, geniuses really existed in this world, then it must be Huan Yuan. Without any social experience, without having gone through any conspiracy or intrigue, but able to plan such a detailed and comprehensive plot, with ingenious links connecting all the parts; although it still had loopholes in his eyes, it was just because he was more experienced than Huan Yuan.
Maybe the born-with political talent of the ancestor of the Huan family, Huan Wen, has been re-aroused in the blood of this generation; even though growing up under an environment as oppressed as that, its brilliance still unremovable.
1. Undergarment: no not underwear or whatever some of you might be thinking… in ancient china basically another set of clothes but probably with different material and just one color all over, usually white (i think, at least from watching Chinese tv shows and stuff). The white ones in 中衣 (search on google if ur curious) basically.↩
2. Go: ancient board game. Well, not really “board” game since the “board” is really a piece of cloth, but I’ll call the “board” go board just b/c that’s easier. Although the chinese, 棋, can be referring to any of a bunch of different chess-like board games, in this case it is go. Also, it usually means go in the context of ancient china, cuz that’s most all they had.↩
3. Gaozu: a title for this specific emperor. Though some other emperors in history have used the same title↩