Chapter 52: Four Years
Four years can change many people.
In four years, a cultured, gentle youth became even more calm and collected. In four years, a bewitchingly beautiful young man became even more stunning. In four years, a thin and frail youth matured.
Many things can happen in four years.
In four years, Dongling prime minister Ren Fengyao weeds out all threats to emperor Dongfang Chao. In four years, the battle for the throne in Xili comes to a close. In four years, the empress of Nanrong’s position solidifies, and her cousin Nangong Piaoran gradually comes to the forefront. With the status of sage king*, he traveled the world. At the same time, he advised the empress wholeheartedly. In the same four years, East Zhi’s already had a mountain of staple foods, while West Zhi’s army secretly alarmed the bordering countries.
*a mere title given to royal members with goodwill, just proclaims them as a “sage” aka good person
In four years, the state of affairs had changed subtly. East and West Zhi’s conflictions grew more and more intense.
Four years prior, Ye Yin’s slew of actions shocked the world. Four years later, he and his wife, Xie Lanzhi, were dubbed the most affectionate couple under the sky.
Four years could change many people’s views.
In four years, Hua Jianli’s could face crafty plots and machinations expressionlessly. In this four years time, Ye Yin did not need to be guarded against Nangong Piaoran.
In a spacious and refined study, an elegant individual in plain clothes frowned as he started to write. After a while, it seemed he could not make up a decision, so he set down his brush and sighed.
In these four years, the youth’s appearance had not changed much. He still had the same androgynous, handsome face that could throw the world into turmoil. However, he appeared more mature. After four years, the youth now carried the lofty air of wintry plum flowers.
He grabbed a cloak draped on the back of his chair, then left the study. He had developed a habit over the years. Whenever he had difficulty making a decision, he would take a stroll in the streets, breathing fresh air while he pondered.
Two people silently followed from behind. Ye Yin did not turn back to look nor utter a sound. Because of the poisoning incident four years ago, Du Luo had specially looked for skilled martial artists to serve as his secret body guards.
Their names were Ji Nanyun and Xu Yesong. They treated him very deferentially, so deferentially that Ye Yin was suspicious who they actually listened to. They would listen to his commands, but if he told them to leave to do something on his behalf, one would always stay behind. It seemed that someone had ordered them to consider his safety first and foremost.
In fact, Ye Yin had overheard Ji Nanyun once say that it was not Du Luo who had found them, but they who stayed with Du Luo once they met him at the Intoxicated Dream brothel in West Zhi. Ji Nanyun was the person who had raised the bid on Rouge on Du Luo’s behalf that night.
In four years, Ye Yin understood many thing, but also grew perplexed at certain things. But Ye Yin did not intend to investigate these things, including who exactly these two individuals were and what Zhuo Ran’s words truly meant.
Slowly strolling, the streets were bustling as always. This was the fruits of his labor for the last four years.
To Ye Yin, these last four years had passed slowly. They were the most cumbersome four years of Ye Yin’s entire life. In these four years, he had traveled far and wide, meeting many people personally. In these four years, he had experienced all types of bitterness. He had been paid the price for everything he had done.
Four years ago, West Zhi was an uncooperative mess, but four years later, West Zhi was hard to look down. Four years of labor had set West Zhi on the right track. He now did not have to worry about lack of capable people, nor worry about public unrest.
As four years passed, Ye Yin became the most respected man in the eyes of the commoners. In the same four years, the large clans all hated Ye Yin to the bone, yet could not do anything about it.
Four years allowed them to learn what kind of person Ye Yin was. Four years allowed them to realize the true wielder of power was not Hua Jianli, but Ye Yin.
Four years ago, Ye Yin appeared to be completely harmless. Four years later, Ye Yin’s swift and decisive way of doing things alarmed people. He was even more fearsome than the emperor, able to kill without change in expression, but never bloodied his own hands!
In these four years, no one ever doubted Ye Yin’s true gender. Although there had been many rumors Ye Yin was the emperor’s pet, no one ever made the connection that Ye Yin was a woman, because no one could ever believe his actions could be carried out by a woman. Furthermore, Ye Yin was famous for dearly loving his wife – Xie Lanzhi.
Marrying Xie Lanzhi had not been Ye Yin’s original idea, but under the circumstances with rumors flying everywhere, Ye Yin could only accept Lanzhi’s proposal, to marry her.
Ye Yin didn’t know how she thought of the idea, but he knew that Lanzhi was very dependent on him. Lanzhi was afraid, afraid he would leave her.
The day Ye Yin married Lanzhi, Nangong Piaoran came personally to congratulate his marriage. Unfortunately, after staying for only a short period of time, his expression turned gloomy and he left. Ye Yin did not think much of it at the time. Whenever he talked about Lanzhi, Nangong Piaoran would always have an ugly expression. He was already accustomed to this.
Ye Yin did not know whether Nangong Piaoran harbored feelings for Lanzhi, but if Lanzhi did not like Nangong Piaoran, there was nothing he could do.
The day Ye Yin married, far away in Dongling, Ren Fengyao made a toast to the west. He did not have any expression, as if he were merely admiring the moon. However, Leng Canxing could sense that his senior brother was not calm. Perhaps he was recalling the day that he married, or perhaps he was regretting letting her go, allowing her to be farther and farther away. But whatever Ren Fengyao was thinking, Leng Canxing did not dare to ask. He already knew that Ye Yin was now his senior brother’s soft spot.
Leng Canxing only had one thought: if a woman marries a woman, won’t the world erupt into chaos?
He took slow, unhurried strides towards An city’s most renowned restaurant – Fragrant Wisp. The waiter greeted him immediately. To commoners, Ye Yin was already a god-like existence, the person they respected the most.
“Young master, you’ve arrived. Your private room is always ready!” The waiter’s eyes were full of adoration.
Ye Yin laughed, shaking his head. “No need. I’ll just stay on the second floor.”
The waiter was the youth who had exhorted Nangong Piaoran that day, Xiao Ran. Ye Yin later brought him from Yue city, arranging for him to work at this restaurant. Xiao Ran was indeed quick witted, offering Ye Yin many useful services.
He sat down next to the window habitually, giving a nod in greeting to those who recognized him. In four years, he had become well integrated with West Zhi. Nearly all of An city recognized him.
Everyone recognized him, but never caused him trouble. They simply called him “Mister” or “young master” as he instructed. They never disturbed him nor tried to curry favor, because they knew Ye Yin hated people who tried to ingratiate themselves with him the most.
After Ye Yin was seated, already awaiting him expectantly, Xiao Ran smiled widely and said, “Young master, the usual?”
Ye Yin nodded. Xiao Ran turned to leave, but was stopped by Ye Yin. Ye Yin did a quick sweep with his gaze. His voice exceptionally low, he said, “Xiao Ran, has any merchants from Beiqi appeared here in the last few days.”
Xiao Ran thought for a moment. “Yes, there was a young man who has eaten here the past two days. Perhaps he’ll come again today. Do you want me to…”
Although Xiao Ran did not finish his sentence, Ye Yin understood what he meant. Smiling, he nodded lightly. “Make the alcohol a little stronger.”
Xiao Ran gave a knowing glance, nodding, then left.
Watching as Xiao Ran left, Ye Yin sighed with satisfaction. His decision to bring him here from Yue city was correct. Nowadays, Xiao Ran was already a pivotal spy!
He shifted his gaze to the window. The streets had an endless stream of horses and carriages, bustling with activity. This kind of country should satisfy those in the underworld!
Four years. How many four years are in a lifetime? These four years, he had been on pins and needles, making progress with great difficulty.
Sighing in his heart, a frustrated expression appeared on his face. He shouldered too many responsibilities, so heavy that he almost could not breathe, but he could not allow the slightest sliver of foreboding. He must carry on for another four years.
“Young master, could this gentleman share a table with you?”
Ye Yin turned at the sound of Xiao Ran’s voice. Without giving anything away, Xiao Ran gave him a wink. Ye Yin gave a knowing glance, then said amicably, “Yes, please sit!”
The person Xiao Ran brought tall, a bright and handsome youth. Although his skin could not be considered fair, it had a healthy tone. His eyes were very bright and warm. He appeared heroic, perhaps with a rebellious youthful air. Ye Yin felt he was easy to get along with, a candid youth.
As their gazes met, the youth froze. How was this young man so…
He had noticed the young man in white the moment he went upstairs. Because the young man had been peering outside the window, he did not know how he looked like, but he emitted a leisurely aura.
The moment he spotted the young man, he wanted to be friends with him. He was not a rude person, but looking around, all the tables were taken. He could only share a table with someone.
He had not anticipated that the waiter would bring him to this table, but he was pleased. Then, the youth turned around and he was breathless at the sight of his face.
His delicate refined features, his gleaming eyes with the tossing billows of waves in sunlight, and that faint smile… He felt as if a spring wind was blowing past as plum flowers blossomed. Unconsciously, he tried to sniff the air.
Ye Yin was slightly annoyed at the youth’s blank expression. In these four years, more and more people had become spellbound by his appearance. Fortunately, none of them had hints of perversion, otherwise…
Ye Yin’s eyes glinted coldly. He sighed. “Young master, please sit!”
The youth blinked, coming back to his senses. His face glowed. “Pardon me!”
Ye Yin did not say anything in response, only smiling warmly, dispelling the youth’s embarrassment instantly. He also smiled, sitting across from Ye Yin with a sweep of his robe. Then he said to Xiao Ran, “Bring your best dishes, and your best wine. Make the alcohol strong.”
“Good sir, from the sound of your voice, you are not from around here. Could you be…” Ye Yin started to ask after the youth seated.
“I am from Beiqi. I came to West Zhi to do business.” The youth smiled. “Before, West Zhi was too chaotic. I never came here to do business, but now… West Zhi’s favorable conditions for merchants is simply too enticing, so I came here to give it a try. Oh right, young master, you do not sound like you are from West Zhi either. Perhaps you are…”
Four years was enough time for Ye Yin to learn the West Zhi dialect, but Ye Yin never forgot that he came from Dongling. If he did not have to, he would still use the Dongling dialect, like today!
Ye Yin smiled. “Indeed, I am not from West Zhi. I am surnamed Ye, the seventh child of my family. I also came to try my hand at business here. Good sir, how about you? What business do you do?”
“I’m from Beiqi, so of course I sell horses. I am surnamed Ke, Ke Zhonglei is my name. I represent the Ke family ranch.” Ke Zhonglei said straightforwardly.
Ye Yin said with surprise, “So you are the young master of the Ke family ranch of Beiqi, greetings! Greetings!”
Ye Yin smiled, but his eyes glinted ineffably. The young master of the Ke family ranch, it was the person he was looking for!