Ling Miaomiao met no obstructions on the way to her destination as she hurried her way into the hall.
The official the palace sent to conclude matters here had just left. The fragrant tea used to welcome guests and calm one’s mind still lingered in the air. Smoke spiraled up from the censors, slowly ascending up. Behind it, the mayor sat paralyzed on the chair. He had poorly dealt with what happened earlier and now casually wiped the sweat off of his forehead.
“Oh! My child?” An animated expression surfaced on the pudgy face of the mayor as if he had suddenly been injected with energy. He happily shot up from his chair to pull another one to the table opposite him. “Come on over to father, are you tired?”
His pale forehead and philtrum were densely covered in sweat that he continuously kept wiping away with his hands, truly a person who loved to sweat.
Ling Miaomiao closed the door with a turned hand and proceeded to rapidly close all the windows as well. Only after doing all of that did she sit down opposite of the mayor with a face that was completely serious. “Father, was that person just now someone the palace sent out for the disaster relief?”
The mayor was stunned, “Aii.” He laughed, “Good daughter, do you recognize him?”
“I don’t.” Ling Miaomiao stared straight into his eyes. “The money this time, father you haven’t touched it yet right?”
The mayor’s smiling expression froze as awkwardness spread onto his face.
After a few seconds, he broke the silence with a fawning yet alarmed expression on his face, “My child, when did you start caring about such things?”
He saw that there wasn’t even the slightest hint of joy on Miaomiao’s face so he calmly tried to console her, “You don’t have to worry about these things. Father will take care of them. My beloved child, you don’t need to worry about anything…”
“Can I not care?” Ling Miaomiao interjected, “Father, are you really muddle headed or are you pretending to be? Is the disaster relief silver someone you can touch?”
“…” The mayor’s expression sunk. Then he put on a strange faint smile.
This faint smile of his was like a male lion’s pampering and indulgence in his aggressive young cub. “Yes yes. My child is right. Father should be hit. Father should be hit.”
He smiled for a while before following with: “How much the disaster needs, father knows well— Oh right, I heard the servants say that the cotton this year has lumps in them? Father will go collect another heap…”
Ling Miaomiao stared at his face in a daze, feeling quite at a loss for words.
Any revenue must be taken advantage of. He had gotten used to being an official long ago. Taicang County had fertile lands and as such gained special attention from the palace. Even if the mayor took more into his hands, he still wouldn’t feel like it was anything much.
Ling Yu’s mother died early but the mayor could be said to be an upstanding parent raising her by himself. He would give her whatever she wanted. However, towards her interrogative expression, he felt a bit of amusement— why amusement? He thought she was just a naive and ignorant young miss. How could she possibly know of the workings of officialdom? Yet she still tried to criticize him, how amusing.
“No need.” She sighed as her face fell even more, “No matter what I say you won’t listen, I won’t say anything more.”
”Don’t get angry?” He wound his way to her then made a funny face to tease her, “Beloved child, smile for me?”
”I won’t laugh.” Miaomiao didn’t want to go overboard so she purposely made her voice shake, “Father, did you know? I had a dream—” She bit on her lip as she put on a teary eyed expression. “In my dream, I saw that because of this matter, the palace searched and seized our house!”
The mayor’s residence had 200 people give or take. If they weren’t captured alive, they were given a fiery funeral. The only person to escape in the entire residence was her. She was entrusted to Fuyi and Mu Yao. And because of this event, she had been reduced to poverty and the drama of the later events occurred.
Naturally someone had to die in her place.
It was that 14 year-old little maid. She wore her clothes and shoes with a face that looked like rotten apples. The one that died in the cold wet mud with her clothes all in a shamble.
Ling Yu’s father wasn’t her father. She could’ve not bothered with these things but she couldn’t close her eyes and pretended it didn’t exist..
Other than being unable to close her eyes to this event, she also felt that the incident was rather strange.
”Father, I don’t care if you all disdain the words ‘honest and upright’. Your child only knows that dying poor is better than dying a violent death. Cowards live longer than those who refuse to see the truth!”
The mayor’s expression kept changing as a hint of unease appeared in the form of a frown. He wiped his sweat off again and made a forced smile, “Miaomiao only had a nightmare…” He hesitated for a moment before softening his voice and muttering to himself for a long time. “But in that case, my beloved child won’t have new skirts to wear all the time.”
“I don’t need new skirts.” She felt her nose grow sour, “As long as father is ok.”
”…” A watery sheen seemed to cover the mayor’s eyes. He entered a contemplative state and after a while asked her a probing question: “You… what else did you see in your dream?”
“In my dream, Ji De betrayed you and took your account book to the palace.”
Ji De was the mayor’s assistant, someone who had been at the mayor’s side from a time before the mayor had become the mayor. Counting the years, they’d known each other for nearly twenty years.
The current Ji De already had white hair on his temples. His son already had four children, his wife and daughter lived near the mayor’s residence, and they were nearly like one family.
His personality had always been cowardly but honest. The book had arranged for him to suddenly commit a betrayal, so he was originally a bit fishy.
On top of that, on that night of towering flames, he brought a group of people all the way to the inner hall to try to capture the mayor alive. His voice had carried with it an ecstatic ruthlessness. It had truly been an unnerving sound; For it sounded as if he had been possessed by demons.
“Hah! Ji De doesn’t even have the guts to kill a chicken! How could he do such a thing?” The mayor didn’t know whether to cry or laugh.
“I don’t care. My dream was very real. Father, you have to be on guard.” She didn’t wait for the mayor to react before raising her voice, “Someone come!”
”Young Miss?” Ah Yi, wearing ash-coloured clothes, approached them with his head lowered. This was the mayor’s trusted aide. The vanishing act they put on that night to allow Ling Yu to escape was carried out by him according to the mayor’s idea. He knocked out the maid and changed her into the young miss’s silk clothes; Casting this sacrificial jutsu-like act.1  Sacrificial jutsu: Basically replacing someone with another to take their place. Dying for someone else I guess. >.>
“Go and call Mister Ji De over. Right now.”
”Father!” Ling Miaomiao frowned, “Bring him here and lock him in the firewood shed until the 30th of April. Don’t explain anything to him!”
By the time the 30th of April arrived, Ling Yu and the main lead group would’ve already reached Apricot Town. It was the most recent date Ling Miaomiao could remember from the original novel.
”Oh you child…” The mayor involuntarily laughed but still indulged her and let her do as she pleased. He picked up his teacup to quench his dry throat.
“Master, young miss! Mister Ji wasn’t in his room.” Ah Yi hastily returned with his report. His tone was rather hasty, “I also searched through the garden, he wasn’t there. Madam Ji also doesn’t know where he’s gone to.”
Miaomiao and the mayor looked each other in the eye, noticeable bewilderment in each other’s eyes.
The eaves of the roof cut apart light and darkness, the uneven surface reflecting many little stars of light. Moss grew out from the holes in the rocks. On the ground sat a person. His qipao2 Qipao: Ancient chinese long gown/dress for males and females. had turned white from being washed so many times. His legs were splayed out, paralyzed. He had graying hair on his temple. His forehead was brimming with cold sweat. His expression was full of confusion and fright.
In front of him was a youth wearing snow white clothes. A hint of scarlet was visible from his collar. This contrast of white and red generated the feeling of a red plum on a plane of snow; A vivid, enticing feeling overwhelming those who saw him.
The youth lowered his head to look at him, his hair lightly waving along with his movement. His skin was so clear, one could nearly see the cyan blood-vessels underneath his jaw.
The youth’s pair of glistening black pupils contained an unfathomable feeling of amusement as they landed on him.
“I… I don’t know what little brother here wants me to tell you…?”
He had not finished his words when he saw the youth move his hand to pull on his white hairband. The hairband was both thin and long. It was rather loosely tied up and as soon as he lightly pulled, the hairband loosened its grip slightly.
In an instant, the youth’s pupils seemed to have become depthless whirlpools. His fresh-looking face rapidly changed under the layers of light and shadow. His entire body seemed to exude a halo and instantaneously, his beauty seemed to turn unassailable. It was a kind of beauty that could cause people to turn crazy and charge towards their own deaths.
His voice was like music from heaven, both gentle and captivating, “Do you want to be the mayor?”
“I… I want to be the mayor.” He stared blankly.
“Unfortunately, Taicang County already has a mayor. What are you going to do?”
“I… I…” He couldn’t get the words out as beads of sweat dripped down his temples and into his collar. But when he saw the youth’s eyes, he was immediately lost in that starry river-looking whirlpool in his eyes. “I should… should remove him and take his place.”
“How are you going to take his place?” He slowly and methodically continued.
“I’m… I’m going to lodge an accusation against him!” His eyes suddenly lit up, sending out red rays of light. “I have evidence, I have evidence of him embezzling the disaster relief funds… this is a great crime. He will be removed from his post… when the time comes, when the time comes…”
“But officials will cover up for each other. How are you going to lodge an accusation in a way that’ll succeed?”
”I’ll go… go to Governor Chen… he and the mayor are sworn enemies… I just, I just need to give him the account books… he will definitely, definitely take revenge…”
”Ok.” Mu Sheng straightened his back and clasped his hands behind his head, tightening the hairband. He then slowly and rather carelessly shot a glance over and said, “You can leave.”
The person on the ground got up in a daze as he stumbled and swayed on his way out; A touch of fanatic joy colored his expression.
That white-clothed figure had only just staggered his way to the border between the sunlight and the shadows when the youth suddenly raised his eyes and called him to stop. He stood in place hesitatingly for a while as his eyes shone, “Come back.”
He stopped his steps like a puppet without any ability to think of its own. Yet, he still hesitated. His face was covered with a hungry-wolf life gaze of greed.
Loathing flashed through Mu Sheng’s eyes. He reached out his right hand to grasp at the air. The man was dragged back as if an invisible rope had bound his limbs. In an instant, he had been dragged to the youth.
He squatted down and gave the man a slap: “Wake up.”
The man was knocked into a daze but in the next moment a psychotic expression once again covered his face; His eyes still shooting out red light. Mu Sheng frowned, “Wake up!”
The annoyance in the youth’s eyes turned into violence. His hand suddenly firmly wrapped around the man’s neck. The man started to choke as his eyes started to protrude out, croaking out hoarse sounds while trying desperately to breath.
He had a moment of indecision.
”Mister Ji? Mister Ji? Are you here? A voice far away suddenly appeared and Mu Sheng was shocked. With a palm he knocked Ji De out and with another, pushed him into the narrow crack beneath the bed. He then extended his hands to rapidly put the bed sheets back on.
Ling Miaomiao pushed the door open and entered. The west sideroom’s door still didn’t have a lock. Because it was located in an unfortunate place, far from anything and always wet and gloomy on the interior, it felt like the room was completely disconnected from sunlight.
Ji De didn’t bring the account book with him so he hadn’t gone to tattle yet. He couldn’t have possibly disappeared from the mayor’s residence in bright daylight so he must’ve gone somewhere.
They had already searched all of the locations in the residence except for this room.
Coincidentally, the black lotus was inside, sitting on a six-sided stool and staring into the dense, gloomy space within.
If this was also a coincidence, then Ling Miaomiao would be an idiot!
Ling Miaomiao made a hand gesture behind her back, commanding the ash-clothed Ah Yi to retreat. She entered the room by herself and closed the door behind her, “Young Noble Mu, you’re in quite a good mood.”
“What are you doing here?” Mu Sheng’s voice was calm and she couldn’t hear any indicators of his mood within.
Miaomiao raised an eyebrow: “I’m in my own house. I like to walk about everywhere. But you… why have you been bored enough to run to this west sideroom to contemplate life?”
“Last time, sister slept in here and left behind a hairpin. I’m looking for it in place of her.” Mu Sheng lowered his eyes and she couldn’t see his expression clearly.
“Oh, it’s not easy to find a hairpin. The same can’t be said for a living human being though..” Miaomiao suppressed the anger in her heart, “Our mayor’s residence has lost a Mister Ji, has Young Noble Mu seen him?”
 Sacrificial jutsu: Basically replacing someone with another to take their place. Dying for someone else I guess. >.>
 Qipao: Ancient chinese long gown/dress for males and females.
TLN: So. School started. Lol I’m doing free labor disguised as an internship while trying to carry my school project team on my back (Year long project). If I can’t keep up in terms of translations, I might have to……… give up my internship 🙂 hahaha almost got ya eh?
I don’t plan on posting less than 2 chapters a week, it’s already too few a week imo. Anyways, have a lovely day y’all.