“It was a cold day that day, thick with dark clouds and strong wind. This slave was distributing fortune candies to the various imperial concubines. When I came out of Caiwei Palace, I happened to encounter Imperial Concubine Mu-niangniang setting out, so I withdrew to the corner of the wall. It was then I heard someone in the midst of reprimanding another. I took a peek and saw the eunuch-in-charge of Caiwei Palace arguing with Aunt Fuling inside.”
“Why did you keep silent on this matter during the first trial?”
It was quiet in the hall, except for the sound of record-taking. A few lamps had been lit. Kong Qiu, who had been investigating for several nights in a row, had already drunk many a pot of strong tea. Right this moment, both of his hands were clasped before him as he asked Yinzhu, who was kneeling in the hall.
Yinzhu’s mouth opened and closed. “To reply Your Excellency, this slave thought this was a trivial matter. And because of the strong wind that day, I really didn’t hear what they were arguing about. So I was afraid I would give the wrong answer.”
“If that’s the case, then why did you suddenly confess?” Fu Linye questioned.
Yinzhu wrung the corner of his clothes and gulped down his saliva in panic and trepidation. It took him quite some effort before he replied in a small voice, “I was scared to death by the beatings of the prison guard grandpa… Ever since I was thrown into the prison, I’ve been listening to the sound of whipping every night. This slave’s godfather was beaten half to death until he confessed everything regardless of importance. This slave is truly afraid now…”
“You are in the solemn place of interrogation. How dare you ramble on and on?!” Fu Linye rebuked in a stern voice.
Yinzhu was so frightened by him that he trembled and stammered while kneeling on the ground, “This slave… had no idea that she would commit such a despicable act!”
“It’s easy for one to be beaten into a confession under heavy torture. This person’s words cannot be trusted.” Fu Linye said to Kong Qiu. “How can such a confession be submitted before the Emperor?”
“The detailed discussions of the third trial are all recorded in writing. Whether it’s true or not, His Majesty will naturally make a ruling himself.” Kong Qiu said. “Once the statement has been transcribed and copied, the Secretariat Elder will require a copy on their end too.”
Fu Linye had never expected a Cheng Yaojin1 to come charging out of nowhere when the case had already progressed to this stage. He could stomp on Xiao the Second because he was certain that Xiao the Second could not retaliate this time. A Yuan Liu whose name could not be clear meant that he, Xiao the Second, would not have a clean name too. Who knew that Caiwei Palace would be dragged in as well? This was just great. Everyone was tainted. Could they even continue to investigate this case in-depth?
Fu Linye could immediately tell that this Yinzhu was not a simple man. He waited until the third trial before he was willing to voice this out. Most likely, someone had planted him here to wait!
Fu Linye was burning with anxiety. He was different from Wei Huaixing, who had the Wei Clan behind him, while the Wei Clan had ties to the other clans. Even if Wei Huaixing could not explain himself, he would only end up with a punishment based on the outcome of the investigation. But what about him? He had no influential clan to fall back on!
Seeing his expression undergoing several changes, Kong Qiu said, “Caiwei Palace is the imperial harem after all. It’s not appropriate for us external ministers to investigate, so we still have to discuss this matter before the Emperor. Your Excellency Fu, go back and get some rest. We’ll meet again before the Emperor.”
Fu Linye rose to his feet. Even though he was anxious, he could still plaster a smile on his face as he cupped his hands in respect to Kong Qiu and retreated in a hurry.
At this moment, the sky was still dark and bitterly cold. Fu Linye urged the groom on. The horse carriage crushed noisily over the snow as it rushed towards Ouhua Pavilion. Lifting the hem of his robe, he stepped down and hurried on upstairs.
Xi Hongxuan, who was versed in opera tunes, was presently discussing his new work with Shen Zechuan. Shen Zechuan was tired of the Imperial Bodyguards’ robe, so he was wearing a wide-sleeved garment as he leaned against the chair and listened, all the while opening and closing the folding fan in his hand.
Fu Linye was not expecting Shen Zechuan’s presence when he barged in.
Shen Zechuan closed his fan gently and turned a blind eye to Fu Linye’s sorry sight. Without rising to greet him, he merely said with a smile, “Your Excellency the Censor has come a little too late. You’ve missed the wonderful timing.”
Xi Hongxuan was a little displeased. He waved away the procuress who had hurried over and had her close the door. He did not get up either, and simply let Fu Linye take a seat on his own and said, “Linye, why have you come here? You should have sent someone over in advance to give notice! It’s just a few steps away. Did you have to hurry over like this and disgrace yourself so?”
Not only was Fu Linye older than Xi Hongxuan, his grade was also higher than Xi Hongxuan. Yet he was now being chastised by Xi Hongxuan like a junior being berated. This made him unhappy. He loathed the way Xi Hongxuan was acting all high and mighty.
“It’s extremely urgent!” It was as if Fu Linye did not hear the rebuke. He smiled as he lifted his robe to take his seat. He said, “I rushed here as soon as I left the Ministry of Justice. So you tell me if it’s urgent or not.”
Only then did Xi Hongxuan ask, “What’s the matter?”
Fu Linye looked at Shen Zechuan.
Shen Zechuan lifted his fan and said, “It is I who have been rude.”
With that, he was about to get up.
Xi Hongxuan hurriedly said, “Lanzhou, what are you doing? Sit down. We are in the same boat, weathering through thick and thin. What is there that you can’t listen to? Linye, go ahead and tell me! Don’t you recognize this Shen Lanzhou? He’s the great teacher of our Xi Clan!”
Fu Linye initially only saw Shen Zechuan as a lackey who toiled for the Xi Clan in an attempt to survive. Who knew that Xi Hongxuan would value him this much?
But tonight, Fu Linye had indeed come at the wrong time. If he had been a little earlier, or a little later, Xi Hongxuan would not have spoken so highly of Shen Zechuan. But they had only just finalized the follow-up plan to suppress the Yao Clan, closing the loop tight around the latter’s neck. Xi Hongxuan just happened to be thinking of showing Shen Zechuan some due respect. Now that he had elevated him, he would no longer be able to call him his buddy as he wished in the future.
Shen Zechuan smiled and looked at Fu Linye. Knowing what was expected of him, Fu Linye immediately said tactfully, “Your Excellency the Judge, please take a seat.”
Xi Hongxuan shifted his legs to step on the tiger skin and said, “Go on. What’s the urgency?”
Fu Linye said, “I was on jury duty earlier at the Ministry of Justice and heard the news that Fuling, who had instigated Guisheng into carrying out the assassination, was involved with Caiwei Palace. Second Young Master, the one living in Caiwei Palace in Imperial Concubine Mu-niangniang. This matter is going to be presented to the Emperor tomorrow morning. When the time comes, it won’t be a matter of investigating just Xiao the Second!”
Xi Hongxuan placed his hand on his leg for support. After a moment of silence, he said to Shen Zechuan, “You don’t know it—I forgot to mention it to you earlier, but our man is connected to Mu Ru.”
Most likely, Xi Hongxuan did not forget to mention it, but did not want to mention it. All this while, he had been on guard and that he had never uttered a word.
Shen Zechuan knew this all too well and merely said, “Isn’t Mu Ru originally Pan Rugui’s woman? I remember her younger brother.”
“That’s right.” Xi Hongxuan was unwilling to speak the truth and merely told half of the story. “Pan Rugui is dead. She has nowhere to go, doesn’t she? At that time, when his residence was searched and raided, they wanted to release her from Pan Rugui’s residence and had her fill in as an official courtesan.2 But His Majesty could not bear to let her be one, so he asked me to help. I made use of that bit of friendship I had with Yanqing and had her swapped out. Then I found a residence for the two siblings to hide in. Later, His Majesty could endure it no longer and insisted on getting her into the palace. Secretariat Elder Hai even made a scene over it. You know about this too.”
Shen Zechuan did not really seem to care. He nodded and said, “I’ve heard of it. This doesn’t bode well then. This case should have concluded already. Why did complications arise again?”
He looked at Fu Linye when he said this. Although he said it with a smile, it sounded a little like he was blaming Fu Linye for not keeping a close watch.
Xi Hongxuan was frowning too. He said, “You are on the jury to supervise. Can’t you just think of a way to suppress this matter? It will only stir up trouble if it gets presented to the Emperor.”
Fu Linye had plenty of complaints too, but he could only say, “Second Young Master, my words carry little weight. We’re talking about Kong Qiu here! He’s a stubborn man who doesn’t listen to advice. He’s Secretariat Elder Hai’s man. How would he listen to me? What’s of top priority now is to decide what to do next. If Imperial Concubine Mu-niangniang is involved too, then who would still dare to continue investigating? I’m afraid even His Majesty himself would not be willing to!”
Xi Hongxuan pondered over it in irritation, then asked, “Where is that Yinzhu?”
Fu Linye instantly understood his intention and hurriedly waved his hands and said, “We can’t kill him! Second Young Master, Secretariat Elder Hai is already on the alert now. If we silence him at this critical juncture, then it’d only prove to him that there’s something questionable about us!”
“It was originally going well. How did a Caiwei Palace suddenly pop up out of the blue?!” Xi Hongxuan covered up his teacup with the lid and said, “No. We can’t continue to investigate this case any further. Before the Emperor tomorrow morning, we have to think of a way to make His Majesty sever the notion of a further investigation.”
Mu Ru was still of great use. They must let no one else take her down right at this moment.
Fu Linye fidgeted in his seat and said, “That’s right. It’d be best to pin it all on Fuling! Conclude this case as fast as possible, and everyone can heave a sigh of relief. But from the way Kong Qiu looks to me, he clearly wants to get to the bottom of the matter!”
“The crux still lies with Secretariat Elder Hai.” Shen Zechuan pressed his fingers against the teacup for warmth. “Hai Liangyi was the one who reviewed Kong Qiu’s papers during the imperial examination back then, so Kong Qiu could be partially considered a student of Hai Liangyi whom Hai Liangyi selected for promotion. He usually has the most respect for Hai Liangyi.”
“Hai Liangyi wants to send him into the Grand Secretariat. He handles all his cases beautifully. He’s of the right age too, and he comes from a humble family in the Chijun Commandery. He hits all the right notes with Hai Liangyi.” Xi Hongxuan said, “What fucking bad luck! We set up Xiao the Second, and all of them secretly enjoyed the show as they waited to see Xiao the Second suffer in silence. Now that something has happened, they all want to feign ignorance after having benefited from it.”
“Let’s do this.” Shen Zechuan said, “Your Excellency Fu, when the confession is presented before the Emperor tomorrow morning, don’t mention Caiwei Palace. Just say the Imperial Army’s name is not clear yet. Yuan Liu has not admitted his guilt yet, right? This is an opportunity. As long as Yuan Liu is still around, then he, Xiao’Er, has accepted bribes. He won’t be able to clear himself of suspicions.”
Fu Linye rubbed his leg and said, “But even if I don’t mention it, Kong Qiu will still bring it up! We won’t be able to hide it.”
“Mending the fold even after the sheep is lost.” Shen Zechuan nudged the fan open bit by bit, then closed it again and said, “Earlier, Your Excellency’s speech before the Emperor was a righteous one said ‘for the sake of the empire and state’. If you were to change your statement because of a confession that has yet to be verified, then I’m afraid His Majesty will come to question your loyalty too. So why not latch on to Xiao’Er and put on an ‘upright’ appearance instead?”
“That’s right!” Xi Hongxuan said. “We can’t be thrown into confusion now. Since you have already stepped forth to make your stand, it wouldn’t look pretty if you were to pull out now. Let’s just continue with this. As for the rest, I’ll naturally have my own way. It’s almost dawn. You mustn’t stay for long. Head back first for a bath and a change of clothes. Just watch the way the wind blows when you are before the Emperor and improvise as the situation calls for.”
Fu Linye came in a hurry, then left again in a hurry without even taking a sip of tea. As soon as he left, Xi Hongxuan spat behind his back.
“If he hadn’t been so eager for quick success and instant gains and reported Xiao the Second’s Quancheng silk matter to the top without saying a word that day, Hai Liangyi might not have noticed it.” Xi Hongxuan felt fed up and continued, “Those who come from poor and humble households are the most short-sighted! For that bit of glory, he didn’t even dare to give us prior notice. See what happens now? What a waste of the chess piece Yanqing left us! After this, Xiao the Second will keep a tight guard over the account books. It’ll be difficult to get at them later.”
“Position and wealth are ailments of the rich.” Shen Zechuan said. “At present, we need to keep him from interfering in our plans. How is it going with the Eight Great Training Divisions’ matter?”
“Han Cheng’s younger brother took over the post.” Xi Hongxuan said, “Xiao the Second has set up the Eight Great Training Divisions into a heavily fortified network of relationships. We won’t be able to lay our hands on it easily. To think he managed to hold all the important posts firmly in his hand in such a short period of time. It’s not going to be easy to dismantle it.”
“Even so, there are also descendants of the Eight Great Clans among the soldiers he selected for appointment.” Shen Zechuan smiled and said, “You’ll still get your chance.”
When Shen Zechuan emerged and got into the carriage, he saw a guqin3 placed within.
Qiao Tianya lifted the curtain. In disguise with the face of a burly chap, he said, “That qin is mine. Master mustn’t throw it away. It took me quite a lot of effort to swindle it away.”
“It looks valuable.” Shen Zechuan did not touch it. “Where did you get the money?”
Qiao Tianya laughed merrily. “A reward from the ladies.”
But this qin was obviously something that money could not buy. Qiao Tianya had no wish to speak of it because it most likely had something to do with his family. So Shen Zechuan did not probe further.
As usual, the horse carriage sent Shen Zechuan home to tidy up. After changing his robes, he entered the palace.
◈ ◈ ◈
Li Jianheng dismissed the morning court and told every important official to take a seat in Mingli Hall. He himself read the entire confession statement and stayed silent for a long time.
Hai Liangyi had only just recovered from his illness, so Li Jianheng got someone to serve him a bowl of warm goat’s milk. He took a few sips. No one in the hall said a word.
Li Jianheng said, “Why are we back to Caiwei Palace again? Yuan Liu hasn’t been fully investigated yet.”
Kong Qiu answered, “This matter concerns the imperial harem, so His Majesty should be the one to make a ruling.”
Li Jianheng immediately got anxious and said, “What ruling? Even if she went to Caiwei Palace, it can’t… have anything to do with Imperial Concubine Mu. Who knows if what he says is true or false?”
Hai Liangyi said in a steady voice, “Of course, it’s false.”
“Right, it’s false!” With Hai Liangyi as his backing, Li Jianheng’s voice grew louder and clearer. “The eunuchs are the most treacherous. To survive, what kind of lies can they not fabricate? He thought he could save his own life by getting close to Concubine Mu; I’m going to make that absurd and befuddled head of his roll!”
“Even so,” Xiao Jiming, who had not uttered a word regarding this case, raised his eyes. “This concerns the safety of the Son of Heaven. We can’t be slipshod when it comes to certain matters.”
He hit the nail on the head as soon as he spoke.
Wei Huaixing said, “Of course we can’t muddle through this. We have not investigated Yuan Liu yet, have we …….”
“The lead investigator of this case is the Minister of Justice. The Left and Right Censor-in-Chiefs of the Court of Judicial Review, as well as the Imperial Bodyguards, are on the jury. Your Excellency Wei has repeatedly intervened. This is inappropriate.” Xiao Jiming said with poise and courtesy, even giving Wei Huaixing time to speak. But Wei Huaixing did not dare to continue. And so Xiao Jiming kept going. “This case concerns the Imperial Army and the imperial harem; a scene should not have been made right out in the open. It’s not the reputation of everyone here that is at stake, but the dignity of His Majesty. More than ten days have passed since this case occurred. There is still no proof for one Judge of the Imperial Army, and no clarity on one confession statement from the brothel. Everything has been delayed in the hands of the Investigating Censor of the Chief Surveillance Bureau. From what I can see, neither the lead investigator nor the jury has done their jobs. Let’s leave aside the wasting of time and energy for now; it’s the overstepping of authority that is the real problem.”
Fu Linye thought of the words Xi Hongxuan had said last night. He found himself in a difficult position again when faced up against Xiao Jiming. But when he saw that Li Jianheng had not said a word, and that Hai Liangyi did not seem to have the intention to help him out of the fix, he could only brace himself to keep his composure. He said, “The Hereditary Prince has lived in Libei for too long; Qudu is not the frontiers, after all. There are many matters that are settled differently based on the difference in relevancy, so naturally …….”
“Any abuse of power within the military all falls under the charge of insubordination. Under the military law, the offender would be executed.” Zhao Hui, who held an official appointment in the military, stepped out and continued, “The Hereditary Prince should not be the one to speak on this matter, but it has been so long, and not even one of you has thought to remind His Majesty. Even Their Excellencies Censors-in-Chiefs seem to be in dreamland the way they handled this case in such a muddled way! The tablet of the Imperial Army Viceroy has been suspended for over ten days. The Censor has already conducted a search thrice. And what has the investigation thrown up? Ought we not to be given an explanation?”
Fu Linye said, “Didn’t we find out about the matter of the Quancheng silk?”
“You’re being asked about the assassination case right now!” Li Jianheng threw aside the confession statement. “Why are you dredging up this irrelevant case?”
Fu Linye answered hastily, “Xiao Chiye is the root of all problems. He can’t clear his involvement in the other cases too. Your Majesty, the assassination case must be investigated. But the bribery case must be diligently followed through as well.”
“What bribe did he take?!” Li Jianheng stood up and pointed at Fu Linye, “Quancheng silk! Quancheng silk! Did you think I didn’t know of this matter? I was still hanging out with him on the streets back then! I know about this more than you do! The assassin had already killed his way right before me. Yet you aren’t anxious, and you are still fixated on this minor issue. Looks like the safety of the Son of Heaven is of no importance to you!”
Fu Linye did not expect Li Jianheng to turn around and rebuke himself after fastidiously deliberating over his words to reproach Xiao Chiye a few days back, so he could not help but kneel in fear and said, “Your Majesty! Your Majesty is this subject’s sovereign. It’d devastate me even if a strand of your hair was harmed. Your Majesty!”
“Everything has its own priority in terms of importance and urgency. For this assassination case, Minister Kong had not slept for several nights in a row.” Xiao Jiming said, “Ce’an had handed over his waist tablet too. To avoid a conflict of interest, he doesn’t even dare to ask about the progress of the case and has been reflecting on his faults the whole day at home. It would be better to clarify everything all at once now—the current progress of the case, the stage the investigation is at, and the future course of investigation. This way, my residence can be better prepared for it.”
The Vice Minister of Rites, Jiang Xu, stepped out and said, “The case is clear as day and involves the Imperial Army. It does not concern the Prince of Libei’s residence. Who went and conducted a search there? This is against decorum. Should the news spread, everyone will think that it’s His Majesty who is investigating the Prince of Libei, and the friendly relations between Qudu and the frontiers will be impacted.”
Li Jianheng knew of the search at the prince’s residence, but he had to feign ignorance. Dumb as he was, he still understood that Xiao Jiming had been observing everything that had happened these few days. There would be trouble if they kept on holding Xiao Chiye responsible.
Li Jianheng immediately kicked Fu Linye a few times with his foot and scolded him, “How dare you! Who allowed you to investigate the Prince of Libei’s residence? My order was for you to investigate the Imperial Army’s office compound!”
Enduring the kicks, Fu Linye hurriedly said, “It wasn’t this, this subject who investigated! Judge Shen was the one who went!”
Shen Zechuan was momentarily stunned before he said, perplexed, “I received the imperial edict to assist Your Excellency in the investigation. It was Your Excellency who exhorted me, saying that ‘the Imperial Army is as impenetrable as a metal bucket. I’m afraid there will be many accounts that are both authentic and doctored. When the time comes, Do a thorough search when you’re at the prince’s residence’, and so I went. At that time, there were many people who were serving tea and water at the hall. Just call in one of them for questioning, and they can all tell you that it was Your Excellency who told me that.”
Fu Linye said through clenched teeth, “I only told you to do a thorough search. I did not mention the words prince’s residence!”
Shen Zechuan said with a severe countenance, “I take orders from the Son of Heaven. I would never speak a word of falsehood before the Emperor. If I did not have Your Excellency’s order and went alone to the prince’s residence, then how could there have been an accompanying censor with me?”
Fu Linye saw the malice in Shen Zechuan’s eyes and knew that he had incriminated the wrong person in his moment of haste. He looked around and said, “Your Excellency Wei, didn’t Your Excellency Wei—”
Wei Huaixing instantly yelled to cut him off, “Shut up! How dare you implicate others before His Majesty for what you’ve done of your own accord! Do you have no shame? Delaying the case is minor; but ruining the good will between His Majesty and Libei is of grave concern! You really have no sense for the gravity of matters!”
At this point, Fu Linye already knew that he had been kicked forth to be the scapegoat. He had to take the blame for Li Jianheng, for Wei Huaixing, for Xi Hongxuan and company! And these were all people he could not afford to offend. When the higher-ups were in-fighting, it was up to him to clean up the mess.
Fu Linye immediately kowtowed and said, “This subject had a momentary lapse of judgment!”
“And yet you still dare to make excuses!’” Li Jianheng pointed at him and admonished, “Ce’an’s waist tablet may have been suspended. But before the case is concluded, he is still the Viceroy of the Imperial Army! Investigate as you will; but how dare you also have an attitude towards the Imperial Army! Seems to me that you aren’t investigating the case at all. You are clearly trying to eliminate the dissidents!”
Li Jianheng had not lost his temper ever since he denounced Xiao Chiye that day, and now he was chiding Fu Linye until the latter trembled from head to toe. Fu Linye was sensible too, and knew to shed tears as he kneeled, completely restoring all dignity to Xiao Jiming.
Xiao Jiming waited until Li Jianheng rebuked to his heart’s content before saying, “His Excellency is just eager to investigate the case. Since the case has caused a commotion to such extent, why not dismiss Ce’an from his post? The Chief Surveillance Bureau’s impeachment memorials these days make reasonable sense, if you ask me, Ce’an cannot be excused for his negligence. He is indeed ill-suited to carry on his duties before His Majesty.”
With that, he smiled again.
“All the testimonies are pointing the finger at him. If he really did this kind of disgraceful, treacherous deed, then all nine generations in his clan should be executed. With everyone present here today, then to avoid conflicts of interests and to clear myself of suspicions, strip me of my Libei military forces waist tablet too. I have already sent a letter to Libei to ask Father to remove his crown and robe, and enter Qudu with my wife and son as commoners without rank4 to stand trial!”
At the drop of Xiao Jiming’s words, Li Jianheng panicked. It would not do for him to respond or remain silent on the matter, so he could only look toward Hai Liangyi.
Hai Liangyi held gazes with Xiao Jiming for some time. The older man suddenly laughed and said, “The Hereditary Prince jests. Isn’t this case already closed? So why tease this old subject again?”
Kong Qiu composed himself and swiftly followed up, “That’s right, the Secretariat Elder is right. Although Yuan Liu has bought a house on credit from the Donglong broker, that is, after all, a private affair between him and Fuling. It isn’t meant to be made public. The Viceroy oversees twenty thousand men; how would it be possible for him to investigate every single matter personally? As for the bribery case, Yuan Liu had been denying all this while, so we cannot only listen to Xiang Yun’s one-sided statement. This subject has already ascertained that Xiang Yun most likely bore hatred out of love towards the Viceroy, so her excuse doesn’t stand!”
Li Jianheng personally stepped forward and said, “Since the case is closed, then there is no need to mention it again! Hereditary Prince, please rise quickly!”
Li Jianheng did not want to investigate further either. The involvement of Caiwei Palace meant that it would involve Mu Ru too. Fu Linye was already a pawn to be disposed of at one’s convenience. To these people, Mu Ru was an even lesser being. If there were really something between her and these cases, then he, Li Jianheng, would really be all alone by himself 5 from then on.
Li Jianheng watched these people, who were still talking and laughing as usual, but he felt as though they were not human. What stood behind them were monstrosities that far surpassed that of the throne, like the unstoppable floods and hurricanes.
Being a sovereign did not mean that he was free and unstrained. Every single move of his could have repercussions on the situation. Those that he raged against and delighted in could all become vulnerabilities that proved fatal to him. He was no longer his own master. He was a prisoner chained to the dragon throne.
Li Jianheng hugged himself somewhere deep in his heart.
It was as if he was standing on thin ice when he stood beside these people. If he were to accidentally fall someday, then he would end up like his Imperial Elder Brother. In the blink of an eye, he would be trampled into a bloody pulp by the contending hooves of the various parties in the tussle for power.
His life and death were not in the least bit important. What’s important was merely the fact that he was the only one whose surname happened to be Li.
But, what if there was someone else in this world with the surname Li?
Li Jianheng trembled at the thought and instantly broke out in cold sweat.
He gloomily muttered to himself.
There won’t be.
- (半路)杀出个程咬金 Cheng Yaojin ambushes the enemy. Cheng Yaojin (589-665) was a general in the period between Sui and Tang Dynasties, who often ambushed his enemies on the roads. This proverb is used to describe a situation where someone shows up unexpectedly and disrupts a plan. It is also used to describe an unwelcome busybody who shows up where they are not wanted.
- Official prostitutes that provided entertainment for officials and scholars alike, not just with her body, but with her mind (e.g., they were typically trained in poems, songs, and the likes.).
(古)琴 (Gu)qin is a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. That’s the weapon used by Lan Wangji of MDZS is the guqin.
- 白衣, a man without an official title/post (who in former times was supposed to be dressed in white). i.e., a commoner
- 唇亡齿寒, when the lips are gone the teeth will be exposed to the cold; if one of two interdependent things falls, the other is in danger and will most likely share the same fate.