Chapter 19: Ye Yin
At the time when Ren Fengyao had ordered men to search along the river, Zi Yinye and Chun Ri traversed along the Raging River all the way to the border of Dongling and East Zhi.
There, they followed Hua Jianli and journeyed non-stop, leaving Zi Yinye somewhat tired. Seeing her weary face, Hua Jianli felt guilt and said quietly, “Little Qi, hold on for just a bit. In less than an hour, we’ll reach Fengye city and you can have a good rest. Originally you could have lived just fine as a rich young lady, but for me… I have dragged you in!”
“Enough, stop acting so virtuous. It’s unlike you, Brother Jianli!” Zi Yinye smiled yet was not smiling as she glanced at Hua Jianli. “It is true I am tired, but in my heart, I am content. Reuniting East and West Zhi is a challenge I am excited to face, it’s not you dragging me in. Take a look at yourself. Clearly, you’re a manly fellow, but right now, you have such a pitiful expression. It doesn’t suit you!”
Hua Jianli was thirty or so with a tall stature, sturdy and well proportioned with thick, coarse brows. He could be considered handsome, but he emitted a wild aura. His personality was a mix between determined and lazy. It seemed if he joined the army, he would become a general, but if he were just a fisher, he would stay a fisher. All these aspects mixed together, he was an attractive, dependable man. But that did not matter to Zi Yinye.
“Brother Jianli, such a tender expression doesn’t suit you at all,” Zi Yinye teased. Hua Jianli remained silent, in a daze. “Make sure you never make that expression again, otherwise I’ll either be scared to death or laugh to death. Of course, if you really can’t help it, just show it to your wife. I’m sure she’ll be the only one able to withstand it!”
She pressed the horse to go faster. By the time Hua Jianli reacted, his face had greened and reddened. “Little Qi, explain yourself! What do you mean if I can’t help it? I was concerned for you, but instead of being grateful, you… You stop right there!”
Giddy and noisy the entire way, the three finally arrived at the city. There, they found an inn to stop at and the moment they lay down, they fell asleep. The journey had truly left Zi Yinye tired. When she woke up the next day, it was already the afternoon.
Hua Jianli had left the city in the early morning already. Zi Yinye understood that Hua Jianli was contacting the person they were going to meet – the future emperor of Zhi. She ate then went downstairs with Chun Ri.
The tavern was not considered big in Fengyao, but relatively quiet. The guests themselves also seemed to have hidden backgrounds. This was why Hua Jianli had chosen this tavern in particular.
Currently, many people were sitting in groups in the lounge, all of them there for lunch. Because she had already eaten, Zi Yinye selected to a seat in the corner to simply sit at and waved the waiter over for a pot of tea. While she waited for Hua Jianli, she listened in on the guests’ conversations.
“Old Liu, is your letter done?”
“Yup. The scholar right across the street wrote it. Hey, it’s pretty good! Their strokes sure are elegant, how pretty!”
“Yeah right, you don’t know how to write a single word. How can a guy like you understand if the words were written elegantly or not? But it’s true that that scholar has some reputation in Fengye. I’ve heard quite a few people with difficult problem came to him for help.”
The serving waiter overheard. “You guys must be talking about Shi Xia! The rumors are true, he is truly wise. There’s no problem he cannot solve. Not only that, he is skilled in calligraphy and painting. He is famous around Fengye, but he’s also pretty arrogant. The city lord took notice of him and wanted him to live in the city manor as a scholar, but he stubbornly refuses to, staying on the streets to sell calligraphy and paintings instead, not moving an inch.”
“Oh? He dares to oppose the city lord? Isn’t he afraid…” Old Liu inched closer.
“Haha! The city lord neither likes nor dislikes him. Although the lord is resentful he isn’t appreciative of his favor, he admires his talent, so he decided not to kill him, which is why he’s still perfectly fine, still selling paintings and calligraphy on the streets.”
The waiter then left. Zi Yinye smiled faintly. “It seems this Shi Xia is the real deal.”
“Young master, what do you mean?”
“Currently, East Zhi is fragmented in power. The emperor of East Zhi is merely a puppet and every city lord is independent with their own militias and laws. They are the equivalent of mini-emperors and won’t follow the orders of anyone. However, that Shi Xia actually dared to decline the city lord and still has the swagger to continue making a living out in the open. He must have a way to defend himself, else…”
Chun Ri nodded. The waiter was back, serving another two guests.
“I heard Shi Xia once analyzed Zhi’s circumstance and other scholars seem to agree. He said Zhi nation’s foundation is still intact. So long as an outstanding hero appears, Zhi nation will become anew.”
“A hero?” The guest surnamed Liu scoffed. “Did that Shi Xia decline the city lord because he’s waiting for a hero? Humph! Then he’s too naive! If there only needed to be a hero, the country would have reunited ages ago! The seat of emperor has changed hands so many times, but when has a single emperor who cared for the common people appeared?”
The waiter thumbed their nose, laughing quietly before leaving to attend another guest. Zi Yinye said to Chun Ri quietly, “That Shi Xia’s analysis is not bad. He’s able to see the root of the matter.”
But Chun Ri did not understand. Seeing her befuddlement, Zi Yinye asked, “What is your impression of Zhi nation so far?”
“Chaotic! A complete mess, like a…”
“Like a sheet of loose sand*, right?”
*idiom for unable to cooperate
Chun Ri nodded repeatedly.
“Zhi nation is a mess, but have you noticed how the commoner’s state of living is pretty good? Although there are disputes everywhere, poverty is little and beggars are few. This is why Shi Xia’s insight is accurate. Although Zi nation is a mess, the foundation still remains. This is the crux of the matter. The only thing Zhi nation needs is a strong leader who is capable of winning the hearts of the people. As long as such a person appears, Zhi nation will be able to reunite.”
Chun Ri frowned, then nodded slowly.
“Do you know why I agreed to help brother Jianli reunite the country?”
Chun Ri shook her head.
“Because the people of Zhi have one common characteristic. Although they have internal disputes, they will definitely not allow outsiders to take advantage of them. They are ok with Zhi people hurting Zhi people, but they will never allow anyone else to hurt them. The moment an outside force intervenes, they will immediately unite against the foreign power. This is why Zhi nation has never been divided up between the four surrounding nations (T/N: poor Poland). Zhi nation is like a sheet of loose sand, but as soon as that sand condenses, it will become a powerful wave, like a sleeping lion. Well, not exactly a sleeping lion, but there is one thing about Zhi people that I am very familiar with. After East and West Zhi reunite, I look forward to what heights Zi nation will reach.”
Chun Ri was utterly baffled, so Zi Yinye stopped bothering to explain. She stood up. “Brother Jianli has returned. We should prepare to leave now.”
The youth on horseback was around seventeen or eighteen years old, cloaked in white, spotless. His features were refined, lips rosy red and bright eyed. His face was undoubtedly more beautiful than a woman’s, but he was not effeminate at all. Rather, he had the carefree nature of a man. Such an unnatural mixture, a bold yet androgynous looking youth. Hua Jianli felt a bit dazed. If he hadn’t known the youth’s identity beforehand, he would have thought “he” was not a woman!
Seeing Hua Jianli continue to eye her, Zi Yinye laughed as she dismounted and confidently let him size her up, not bashful at all. Her eyes glinted, unperturbed, but when Hua Jianli looked into her lustrous eyes, he felt a wave of guilt and suddenly looked away.
“Little Qi, you are still a girl. Be a little reserved and not stare at a man that way.”
***T/N *coughs up blood* I hate this line
Zi Yinye’s eyes slitted, smiling yet not smiling as she said, “That’s strange. Clearly, you were the one staring at me first. I didn’t even say anything and you’re accusing me. Why don’t you tell me what kind of stare is ‘that way’?”
Hua Juali coughed slightly and didn’t say a word.
“Brother Jianli, from this today forward, I am going to be your companion, so remember this: Zi Yinye does not exist anymore. From now on, I am your companion – Ye Yin.”
“Little Qi?” Hua Jianli gave a start, his eyes questioning. Zi Yinye smiled calmly.
“Zi Yinye is a little girl confined to her lady’s room, while Ye Yin is a hearty wanderer. Zi Yinye fell off a cliff and died ten days ago and does not exist any more. Currently, the bold Ye Yin is alive and will accompany you on your hardships, a man who will struggle with you. So, brother Jianli, remember! I am now a man!”
Hua Jianli stared in shock, wide-eyed at the youth who mounted on the horse and sat straight and tall, not knowing what to say. In the past few years he had known her, she had surprised him in various ways. He had seen her drink heartily with large groups of travelers in inns, a dazzling sight. He had seen her sip wine with gentry and literati, a cultured and refined sight. He had swam with her at night and even drunk with her at a brothel. She had become intoxicated before, but never before had he seen her reveal a womanly charm. She had the bold aura of a man the entire time, never shy or uneasy. She was only ever free and at ease, as free as the clouds in the sky, and now, she even had the heroic aura of a man. This was really a girl? What kind of household, what kind of environment could raise a girl with such a personality?
After a long time, Hua Jianli finally retracted his gaze, sighing quietly.
“Alright, I understand. This world only has Ye Yin. Zi Yinye does not exist any more.”
Zi Yinye smiled, pleased. She urged the horse forward and Hua Jianli followed from behind. They did not know at the time how important the name “Ye Yin” would be in the future.
And so, ten years into the reign of Dongling’s emperor, prime minister Ren Fengyao’s wife, last name Zi, first name Yinye, fell off a cliff and died. The same year, the historically famous young prime minister Ye Yin would meet the future emperor of Zhi for the first time.