The Emperor’s Strategy

Qing Yao

Chapter 11

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Scene 11: An Invitation


  As the morning arrived, the sun rays lit the yard. Su Li Li held a cloth and it was so wet that it dripped into the pail. She knelt on the floor and used the cloth to delicately clean Uncle Cheng's thin and weak hands. This pair of hands has carried her through the cold wind and rain, had never left her or disdained her.


  Yu Fei knelt by her side, and quietly accompanied her.


  When Su Li Li finished, she threw the cloth back into the pail. She told Yu Fei, "Stand up, carry Uncle Cheng's legs, we will place him in the coffin." Next to them, was the scented cinnamon wood coffin she had actually planned to sell to Mo Da.


  They always said that when the soul leaves the body, the body will become especially heavy. The two of them exerted a large amount of effort before they were able to place Uncle Cheng's slightly stiff body into the coffin.


  Su Li Li arranged his sleeves and flattened his hair. Yu Fei suddenly said, "Father Emperor was like this at that time too." Su Li Li turned to him in surprise, "What did you say?"


  Yu Fei was a little dazed as he said, "Father Emperor and my prince brothers laid like this in the palace, no one cared for them."


  Su Li Li stared at his eyes which were clear and distinguished, they held a weak sense of childishness,there was no trace of his father's brutality in him.


  Yu Fei timidly added, "Su Jie Jie (elder sister), why are you looking at me?"


  Su Li Li held the coffin cover, she turned her gaze to Uncle Cheng, and said softly, "When my father died, I was only your age. I held his feet, Uncle Cheng held his head... just like what we did today... and placed him in the coffin."*


  She silently gazed at Uncle Cheng's white hair, as if she could hear his warm words through time and s.p.a.ce consoling her, "Miss don't be afraid, although Master is no longer here, I will watch over you until I die."


  A sudden attack of weakness struck through her, Su Li Li leaned on the coffin top, but there were no tears to drop.


  Yu Fei's hand pulled her sleeves. Su Li Li's heart had a lot to say, but she did not say to him. Your father killed my father, but in the end there is no one to keep his corpse in the palace, in the end you are as pitiful as me.* Su Li Li suddenly lifted up her head "ha" and laughed, she did not know if she was sad or happy, she stroke Yu Fei's hair and said gently, "Are you hungry? I was so busy this morning, I have not gotten anything for you to eat."


  Yu Fei shook his head, he said softly, "I am not hungry." But his stomach made a "gu" sound in protest.


  Su Li Li pulled him up to stand, patted off the dust on her body and said, "Let's go and see the kitchen."


  Before she finished speaking, there was a person at the door. It was Teacher Zhang with four soldiers.


  Su Li Li lightly brushed a glance across them and said, "Since Teacher Zhang has come, you must as well look at Uncle Cheng, I am about to cover the coffin already."


  When Teacher Zhang heard this, he quickly walked up and looked into the coffin, "What happened to Uncle Cheng...?"


  Su Li Li pointed to a black coffin under the roof, "That's the coffin your wanted, you may carry it away."


  Teacher Zhang surprisedly gazed at Su Li Li's face and seemed to be surprised at her calmness. He said, "How do you know we are here to carry the coffin?"


  "Aren't the colour of their uniforms from the Qi Family's soldiers?"


  Teacher Zhang answered, "This child has lived here for a few days, I have come to bring him away."


  Su Li Li's hand grabbed the coffin cover, she was silent for a while, she turned her head to see Yu Fei. Yu Fei shook his head and hid behind her, "I am not leaving, Su Jie Jie."


  Su Li Li turned to see Teacher Zhang, he shook his head. She knelt down and took Yu Fei's hand, "You should go, don't be afraid, there are things in this world you cannot hide from. Since there is no use being afraid, why be afraid?"** Mu Tou said since there is no used to be afraid, why should you be afraid; the people in this world cannot beat us, the only ones who can beat us are ourselves.


  Thinking of this, she broke into a gentle smile, and brought Yu Fei before Teacher Zhang. Teacher Zhang seemed not able to recognise Su Li Li and looked her up and down, he did not speak, but held Yu Fei and brought him to the door entrance.


  Yu Fei's head turned towards Su Li Li, he did not seem to want to leave and looked like he wanted to cry.


  The four soldiers carried out the coffin that had the words, "Corrupt Worm That Robs The Country".


  Su Li Li said, "Wait. Where is Mu Tou?"


  "I don't know."


  Su Li Li's gaze was cold, "Since you come from the Qi Family, when you counseled Mu Tou to choose a master in this chaotic times, weren't you advising him to follow the Qi Family? When you brought him to the temple to play, weren't you bringing him to see Qi Feng Xiang?"


  Teacher Zhang had a looked of appreciation on his face, he said honestly, "Mu Tou has his own plans, my superficial words were not able to change them."


  "I only want to know - where is he?"


  Teacher Zhang shook his head and said, "I am not clear about this. He can be treated as an old acquaintance of Third Master (Qi Feng Xiang), although they talked for a long time, I did not know what they talked about." Teacher Zhang changed the topic, "Third Master just reached Capital and has a lot of political matters to settle. The Great Master Qi (Qi Feng Xiang's father)'s army is also arriving soon, so he could not leave and asked me to come here, he said he will come and see you when he is free."


  Su Li Li scoffed, "See me? There is nothing nice to see. Teacher Zhang, are you not going to look at Uncle Cheng? See how he was tortured to death by someone?" She reached out to grab Uncle Cheng's hands, his hands were stiff and could not be moved, there was bruising under his fingertips and the skin were purplish black.


  "Look at his hands, his hands were broken by someone. His ribs were also broken and his legs cannot be made straight." Su Li Li stroke Uncle Cheng's hands, "Only his face is fine. Why don't you say why would someone torture him like this? Did they want to force something out of him? What did they want to know?"


  Teacher Zhang was shocked, he loosened Yu Fei's hand and went to the coffin side, he carefully examined Uncle Cheng's body. Su Li Li watched coldly at the side. Teacher Zhang looked for a long time and said in a deep voice, "Are you suspecting Third Master?"


  Su Li Li was silent.


  Teacher Zhang said, "You are also not safe here, why don't..."

*** You are reading on ***


  Su Li Li said lightly, "Gentleman Qi is so free to be able to come here today instead of serving the Yuan King."


  Qi Feng Xiang filled up his cup again and said, "I thought for half a day, and thought that your place was still best. When I came here, indeed it was very good."


  "What is so good about my place? Gentleman Qi is a person who goes to war, aren't you afraid of getting some bad energy?"


  Qi Feng Xiang shook his head, "There's no bad energy in coffins, but it allows one to reflect about life and death. Before you returned, I was chatting quite well with your coffins."


  Su Li Li always thought she was the only one who chatted with coffins, who knew Qi Feng Xiang also did the same. Su Li Li silently gazed at the thin skinned coffin which was placed not far away, because of the renovation of the shop, there were not much wood materials left, the yard was especially empty.


 "What happened that day, Teacher Zhang had informed me."




  Qi Feng Xiang said steadily, "I have nothing to do with your old servant's death. I dare to do evil things, but there are some things I despise doing."


  Su Li Li was silent, she did not talk, she did not suspect, she was only trying to decipher why he had came today.


  Qi Feng Xiang did not pursue the matter, he only filled his cup again with wine, again and again, he smiled a little coldly, "Lady Su, you can relax and let down your heart. I am not a demon or a ghost, I have no evil intentions in coming today."


  Su Li Li couldn't help smiling, she replied, "In this big day, all the families are reunited, Gentleman Qi would seem a bit lonely."****


  Qi Feng Xiang nodded his head, "Sometimes, the closer you are, the more distant you will be. You will have to be careful about how you speak and act, you must as well find someone you are not familiar with, one can then talk honestly."


  Su Li Li looked at the sky, "Your heart has a home, you know what you want to do. But these days I have been very bored, I do not know what I should do." She had been reflecting repeatedly, her vengeance has been repaid, her love has gone, her close kin has died, only when she was alone did she realised that the world could feel so dark and lost. 


  Her words sounded like a common place complaint, but somehow she felt that Qi Feng Xiang could understand her deeper meaning.


  Qi Feng Xiang's long and narrow beautiful gaze lightly swept pa.s.s her, it was enough to melt the frozen waters in winter into the streaming spring water, he hid a smile and spoke in a light tone, "Has Boss Su never thought about marrying someone?"





*There is a kind of karmic circle here - Su Li Li's father was killed by Yu Fei's father, but gently and with peace in her heart, she takes care of Yu Fei instead.

** She uses Mu Tou's words that had once soothed her to soothe Yu Fei's fears.

*** It was a very long poem, so I've only translated the last part which I thought captured the gist of what he was saying.

**** On chinese new year's eve, families will reunite and have a dinner together.

*** You are reading on ***

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