002 – A Strange Situation
translated by Grenn
The Princess has escaped. Suddenly, a wind of panic swept everyone in the Prince of Valor mansion. In the chaos, it was a piece of cake for Mu Wanqing to slip out of the estate to the bustling main streets where she strolled around leisurely. On that street dwelled many royalties and wealthy families. Many splendid properties with tall walls were scattered along the road. Everything was orderly and neat, but rare was the presence of people other than the guards patrolling or the occasional carriage passing by.
After two hours of strolling, she reached the city walls at last.
She recalled a young patrol guard saying how the Prince of Valor mansion was near a city gate while massaging her sore legs. Mu Wanqing had to redefine her concept of “near” and reconsider if it was a possibility for her to walk to and fro the city gate every day. It was a four hours round trip, after all; Her physical strength ain’t up to par that’s for sure.
Fine, then! She would do that every three or four days instead.
She searched for a pawnshop and exchanged a golden ornament she took from Fragrant Garden for money.
With money in hand, she walked to a steamed bun stand and bought a bun for one coin which was the equivalent of 1 RMB. Earlier, the pawn shop gave her 20 taels for her ornament which should be equivalent to 20,000 RMB. A single little ornament actually gave her so much money; She couldn’t fathom how much the whole value of the Prince of Valor mansion would be.
This is the worth of the central figure of this empire’s army. How extravagant!
She continued to stroll along the streets while her internal monologue kept disdaining the prince’s wealth, but she never let go of the 20 taels in her hands.
Unlike her deserted courtyard surrounded by tall walls, the outside was bustling with energy and liveliness with all kind of stalls and stores set up everywhere. There were multi-floors restaurants with sumptuous decorations but also cheap stalls set up in the alley with only a pole and a banner. Despite being minimalistic, the vendors had more vigor than anyone – shouting, screaming and waving at the passersby. With so many gathered together, the whole place was covered in a permanent cacophony.
After wandering for half a day, she had bought a pile of sweets, candies and snacks, and started to feel a bit exhausted. Her eyes looked up, and she saw a building called “Drunken Immortal Restaurant.” The restaurant stood out like a crane in a flock of chicken; All the other stores pale in comparison. There was also an endless flow of customers, each one dressed more luxurious than the others. She could infer this must be a high-end restaurant or at least a renowned one. When she looked at the restaurant’s style, she remembered that damned Jiang Xiaofan. A smile stretched on her face at the memory, but it was soon replaced by frustration.
Among the three of them, Xiaofan was the most successful one. Her web novels were bestsellers; She had the looks and fame, yet she loved to be low-keyed – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Her most favorite hobby was to prank condescending employees retails stores or waiters expensive restaurants by dressing up casually in a t-shirt and jeans. Then, she came back the next day dressed in brands clothes to watch their reactions. Since she was never tired of doing this, it caused the rise in quality of the service industry in A city. It also made all the common travelers, who went there for a trip, praised to no end the customer service. They often said, “The waiters are impeccable. Even if I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, they treated me with the utmost care as those dressed in a suit or evening dresses!”
If her friend was there, she would have been in heaven and had a blast putting back those arrogant servants in their places.
When she reached the entrance, a waiter dressed in a brown uniform and a towel on his shoulder ran up to her. “Hello, Miss. Would you like to come in for refreshments or for a meal?”
He was very polite and eager.
He speaks the same way as in TV dramas! His behavior couldn’t be more similar too. Anyway, restaurants and taverns were the best places to gather information. She might as well stay there for a while before planning further.
Mu Wanqing smiled faintly at him. “A meal.”
“Good! But unfortunately, all our private rooms are booked today. I’ll inconvenience you to a seat in the common dining hall.” The waiter led her to a table at a corner while telling her that. Before she sat, he took the towel on his shoulder and wiped the table and chair with it as if he wanted to let Mu Wanqing know how clean this place was with a towel devoid of dirt.
Mu Wanqing had to praise him. “Waiter, this is clean enough!”
“Of course. I am not one to boast, but in the whole capital, our food tasted the best and so is our service. Nobles and rich customers are also a common sight here, even people from the imperial family will sometimes throw a feast here. Our restaurant is always busy!” Then, he added, “Please look over there. The plaques hanging at our counter is the menu. Miss, what would you like to eat today?”
Mu Wanqing looked in the direction he pointed and saw brown wooden plaques hung in on a string above the counter. On it, black ink was used to write in beautiful calligraphy the name and price of each dish. Those plaques called shuipai were like in six rows which totaled into at least 300 different dishes. This restaurant’s reputation wasn’t vain if they can offered so many dishes.
She chose a few dishes, and while the waiter was occupied with brewing her tea, she hooked her fingers on a string with coins tied to it and put it on the table. The meaning was clear, so she only smiled without saying a word.
The waiter’s eyes brightened at the sight and rushed to ask her, “What does Miss need this lowly one to do? I will try to do the best I can.”
“Is it really true that your restaurant received many powerful figures in the capital?”
The waiter blushed at once and pointed three fingers to the sky. “Miss, you have heard me. I swear that none of my words are untrue or I will be thundered!”
After working with Fang Jing, Mu Wanqing had learned many principles behind police interrogation. First, she had to tempt her target with benefits before she started questioning his credibility. The waiter fell straight into her psychology trap. With a composed smile, she crossed her arms and continued, “I can see your words seem true. Then, you must know about his Highness, the Prince of Valor?”
She had deliberately chosen this kind of restaurant for a specific goal – fishing out information on her “husband.”
The waiter was afraid she wanted information on someone he doesn’t know, but lo-and-behold, she asked about the Prince of Valor. All his tension left immediately, and he answered her happily, “I don’t have much knowledge about other people, but it is another thing if it’s the Prince of Valor. His Highness is one of the more famous men in the whole Jing Hua Dynasty. Not only do I know about it, I even saw him in person!”
“Oh?” He got her full attention. Despite her interest, she didn’t show it on her face. On the contrary, she had a skeptical expression. “Didn’t we agree to a deal? But first, tell me about him. If your answers are good, this Miss will reward you handsomely!”
I’ll just give him the equivalent of 500 RMB! It took her much effort to get that much money how could a simple girl like her resist the temptation of money. Didn’t they say money is power?
Ah, the nature of humanity!
When the waiter heard he could get extra tips, he trembled in excitement. It was in full spirit that he informed her.
“In regards to the Prince of Valor, he is considered a legend in the Jing Hua empire. His origins couldn’t be more humble. He came from a poor family in Li province. Then, at the age of 13, he enlisted into the army and fought in the frontlines at every battle, reaping lives of countless enemies and earning himself a growing reputation. After that, his prowess fell into the ears of the Fifth Army commander, Old General Yun, who traveled personally to the barrack stationed at Li province to take a look of this rising talent. Once he assessed that the soon-to-be Prince of Valor was indeed a talented commander, he promoted him and ordered him to the battlefield where he fought his way through in a brilliant way. Afterward, when the Old General’s great age caught up, he appointed the Prince of Valor as his successor to the Fifth Army, a position that entitled him to lead the Empire whole army. Due to his meritorious service, the Emperor granted him the title of “Prince of Valor.”
Mu Wanqing couldn’t help but interrupted him seeing how enthusiastic the waiter was, spewing his saliva everywhere. “Hey, are you a storyteller or what?”
The waiter blushed and laughed with embarrassment. “Miss, you’re too sharp. My ancestors to my father’s generation were storytellers, so I learned the trade from them. This lowly one had traveled far and wide with my father, and one day, the boss here saw I was quick-witted so he hired me.”
…No wonder he expressed himself like a storyteller! Mu Wanqing hesitated a moment because knocking on the table. “Have you heard about his Princess?”
“Of course, I heard. Isn’t that a story talked countless times and known to many?”
“Ah?” She was dumbfounded. It was out of her expectation that the unfavored princess of the Prince of Valor was the “talk of the empire”.
“At the time, when his career was in ascension with outstanding military service, he became the number one men that many young ladies yearned for. Even the Emperor was tempted to marry Princess Qing Yang to him. Yet, he was adamant in his refusal. A true and passionate man! The reason being he couldn’t abandon his current wife who went through hardships with him. Therefore, he kneeled outside the palace gates for two days and two nights in apologize to the Emperor’s goodwill. Princess Qing Yang, who couldn’t bear to see the man she gave her heart to suffer, went to plead the Emperor for leniency. In the end, the Prince of Valor received the Emperor’s pardon. Not long after, his Highness escorted his wife to the capital which caused a sensation in the whole capital!”
“Doesn’t that mean they are very in love with each other?” Mu Wanqing muttered. She felt her treatment in the mansion didn’t match with the story she heard.
The waiter was unaware of her mental struggle as he continued, “Of course their love is undeniable. Otherwise, why would he refuse to marry Princess Qing Yang? However, it has been two years since they are married, but the Princess of Valor had yet given birth to an heir for the Prince of Valor. Despite so, his Highness didn’t take in a second wife. For such a loyal man, who knows how many young women in the capital are dying from envy!”
Envy my head! If they knew the Princess of Valor was house arrested in her own courtyard and had to trick the guard to escape, would they still envy her?
She asked him another question. “You told me you saw the Prince of Valor. How does he look like?”
“Months ago, his Highness set off on a campaign to the southern borders. Before he left, he came here, so I was able to catch sight of him. At that time, he was dressed in silver armor and draped in a scarlet cape. His long black hair was tied into a ponytail. His appearance was majestic and formidable. Tsk! Tsk! Such might exude from him. He was like a god, causing all the women in the restaurant to be spellbound.
After summing up the waiter’s information, Mu Wanqing knew her husband was handsome, competent and had feelings.
However, what is the story behind her cold treatment by the number one man in the empire? There is something fishy about it, that’s for sure! She pondered a moment then raised her eyes to see an anxious waiter staring at the string of copper coins on the table. A polite smile appeared on her face as she pushed the string of coins toward him. “These are for you.”
“Thank you very much, Miss!” The waiter beamed a joyful smile at her and put the money in his sleeve with haste.
Right at that moment, there was a clamor at the counter and the situation didn’t seem to be pacified, growing in intensity instead. A loud voice reverberated in the dining hall which had no wall to offer cover. Hence, everyone’s attention was attracted to the counter, forgetting for a moment their current conversation. It caused the hall to fall into a strange silence but soon interrupted by a hysterical shout. “This is a black-hearted restaurant. I swear even if I die I won’t let you be in peace!”