There’s A Beauty
Chapter 44 — Painted Skin
After all, the Governor was a member of the officials, so he soon recovered from the shocking horror. He scolded the bailiff for spouting nonsense and asked him to show conclusive evidence. Everything was verbal, so there were no evidence left. The bailiff was almost caught tongue-tied with all those questions.
The Governor was quite proud, and asked Magistrate Zhao to invite the coroner to check the corpse while he waited. Since the higher-ups had made up their minds to kill the whole Zhao family, it would be useless for the coroner to do more work, unless they could find out where the real Sun Xique and Fang Sheng were. However, the higher-ups had already dispatched assassins to search for the two and kill them. It would not be long before the fake corpses were replaced with real ones.
As soon as he gave his orders, Magistrate Zhao waved his hands and said, “Since everyone is here today, there’s no need to ask for the coroner’s help. Let this official here bring the people you want directly.” After the words, he clapped his hands and there were a few people coming out from the crowd of onlookers as they pushed a man and woman, who were tied up, into the court.
“Eh? They have been standing beside me for a long time, why didn’t I notice them?”
“That’s right. I didn’t even pay attention to them even if they were in ropes.”
The people whispered and felt curious, but they did not want to look into the matter any further, because they knew that those two must be the real person who had died eight days ago— Sun Xique and Fang Sheng. The family members of Sun and Fang, who were crying miserably and desperately just now, now had pale faces and bent their bodies. They were strongly hoping to disappear into smoke at the spot.
The Governor was also shocked, wondering how the Zhao family could find people faster than the higher-ups’ assassins. Was it true that those two dead ghosts asked to help each other in their dreams?
Sun Xique and Fang Sheng stumbled into the court. Their clothes were in dilapidated condition and their heads and faces were stained. They had a hard time in the mountains and thought they could hide for ten days to half a month. When Zhao Youshu was sentenced to exile and Magistrate Zhao was dismissed and sent to Beijing, they would be able to take a hundreds of silvers to get married in another place. However, they did not expect to get chase and assassinated frequently. Fortunately, the Zhao family found them in time and brought them into the city. Otherwise, the two corpses placed in the courtroom would be themselves.
By that time, Fang Sheng had no intention of concealing anything and wanted to reveal the whole plan and its details. However, Sun Xique secretly placed her hopes on the son of Zhao family, thinking that he was so enthusiastic about her matters and wanted to take her as his true wife no matter life or death, feeling pity for herself. She thought that asking him for help and returning the favour with her body might let all the extortions pass like nothing as if she married into the magistrate’s family and be the First Lady.
She dreamed beautifully. Her eyes opened widely and looked at the young man with her pitiful puppy eyes that were slightly reflective due to tears.
It was a pity that she had bad luck. Who she met was Youshu from the future, not the previous Zhao Youshu. The phrase, “be tender towards pretty girls” had long been abandoned, and was replaced by “women and children should be on guard of girls like her.”
In order to settle the matter quickly, Youshu strode over, grabbed Sun Xique’s bun with his left hand, and grabbed her earlobe with his right hand. He brought her around in the courtroom and said, “A mole behind the ear, born with it. Everyone can take a look.”
Poor Sun Xique was slid around like a monkey and screamed in pain. After he let go, her earlobe was torn and blood was dripping down. She wailed tearlessly and called him, “Zhao Gongzi,” but the man did not even look at her. He squatted down and raised Fang Sheng’s feet while pointing at the soles of his feet for everyone to look at.
“There really are three moles, he is indeed Fang Sheng!”
“Then, it was no doubt that the corpses were the fake ones.”
“To know if they are the real ones, we can wait for the release of the results for the corpses on the ground. Their identities will be revealed in three to five days.”
The people talked a lot, but they noticed Zhao Youshu putting back Fang Sheng’s big feet on the ground, turned his back and fanned himself. He then took a handkerchief from Magistrate Zhao and wiped his hands desperately, as if he was dirtied by the two people. Many people laughed in kindness, and they felt that Zhao Youshu looked a little childish. He had fair complexion and he was well-behaved and cute. How could he be an evil person?
Since the real ones were found, the Governor no longer argued or objected. He swayed back to his original position, thinking hard about how to get out of trouble.
Magistrate Zhao did not give him a chance. He ordered Sun Xique and Fang Sheng to write a confession letter. Sun Xique did not know how to write, so she spoke and someone else wrote for her. After that, he ordered the family members of the two to explain the extortion process. Worried that the higher-ups would question the authenticity of the confession, Magistrate Zhao kept doing it and asked all the officials and the people present to be witnesses.
Naturally, the people all agreed, and the officials did not dare to object. They signed the testimony one by one, or stamped with their fingerprints.
After getting a thick stack of evidence, he put Sun Xique, Fang Sheng, their family members, the bailiffs and other involved parties into jail under his jurisdiction. Magistrate Zhao was satisfied and took his son to leave. As for the Governor, he had already fainted in the courtroom and was buried by rotten eggs and rotten vegetables thrown by the people.
As soon as the father and son left the government offices (衙门yámén), they saw Wang had prepared a carriage and was waiting on the side of the road. The family hugged each other and wiped a few tears together as they talked in a low voice behind the carriage.
“Son, did those two really entrust their dream to you?” Wang looked curious.
Youshu hesitated, and after a moment, he frankly said, “Mother, it’s not a dream, but they told me personally. I have eyes of the Yin and Yang, and I can see ghosts.” After he spoke, he stared at the expressions of the married couple. If they were disgusted and alienated themselves like the others, he would immediately leave the Zhao family and make a living elsewhere.
He already understood that being unique was not a fault, but a kind of talent. Why should he bear the harshness of others for that? He had long been used to those who distanced themselves from him if they did not accept him as he was.
Magistrate Zhao showed a look of horror and shock. He asked anxiously, “Son, why didn’t you say it sooner? If you see an unjust dead ghost while eating, wouldn’t it affect your appetite?”
Wang gave the husband a fierce glare, feeling that he did not care about the point at all. She hugged her son and patted him, “Don’t be afraid, my son. If you saw those, then pretend not to see them, they won’t come bother you. But, this is not fine, what if they followed you around? Mother will take you to the temple to ask for a talisman of peace, and then I’ll find a high-ranked monk to cast a spell for you. It’s nothing, don’t be afraid!”
Magistrate Zhao returned to his senses, quickly pushed open the curtain, and told the coachman to depart to Zhenguo Temple.
Youshu’s mood had great ups and downs, great sorrow and joy. He finally heaved a long sigh. Surely, only father’s and mother’s love were the greatest in the world. No matter how their children looked like, they could tolerate and accept them for no reason. From then on, he no longer had to hide, because he had no fault at all. Of course, according to the Zhao couple, they still had to take extra precautions when being around others. The art of controlling ghosts was nothing to him, but in the eyes of some people, it was an extremely useful tool.
He touched his warm chest and said briskly, “Father and mother don’t need to worry. Your son can control the Yin and Yang eyes, so he won’t see anything when he doesn’t want to.”
Only then did Magistrate Zhao and Wang let go of their cliff-hanging hearts. However, they still insisted on taking their son to Zhenguo Temple to ask for a talisman of peace. They also plucked some pomelo leaves from the temple and took them back to bathe their son. When a family of three left, the whole pomelo tree was almost “bald”, even the green walnut-sized fruits were not left out.
After returning home, Magistrate Zhao immediately wrote the whole incident in a letter, asking his father (老太爷Lǎotàiyé) to make the decision for himself. After knowing that the person behind all that was targeting the entire Zhao family, the old man felt that he could not condone that and immediately went to the Emperor to ask him to investigate. Emperor Zhongkang was an ambitious monarch who ruled very harshly and would not tolerate such tricks. He faintly noticed the familiar handwriting of a dynasty prince, which made him even more furious. He appointed someone to supervise the imperial history. Master Min Wenzhen, known as his iron-faced Yama, thoroughly investigated the matter and gave the most-treasured Fang sword, but “if the Emperor came first, the others would beheaded”.
The princes were frightened as soon as that ostentation appeared. Looking at their father’s superiority, they could not believe he would actually abandon his six sons! They no longer dared to intervene with the matters involving Lin’ An Prefecture. Calling back all the spies and assassins one by one, the Emperor regarded the officials involved as abandoned sons and ignored them, forever.
The poor Governor thought that his master would surely protect him, but when the royal officials came, they immediately sentenced him to death for the six types of crimes committed, while the others would be executed, whipped with a rod, or exiled. Each got what they deserved. Officials who were promoted by favouring the new Governor were removed one by one and never being hired again.
However, that big change in Lin’ An Prefecture was no longer Magistrate Zhao’s concern. He received the official documents brought by the royal officials, orderinghim to return to the Capital to report on his work immediately. Due to his refusal to hand over his son several times, Magistrate Zhao’s reputation for “being not strict to his son while his son was committing murderous crimes” had long been passed into the ears of the Holy Spirit. He knew that his examination results would be not up to par, but he was lucky enough to keep his job. If he was unfortunate, he would have been demoted to a smaller official, and he could never return to the Capital in his life again.
Youshu searched for “Zhao Youshu” every day, but he only found himself every time, and gradually accepted his fate. He was worried that Magistrate Zhao would be traumatised, so he racked his brains to try out ways to comfort him before the confession came, but he did not expect that Magistrate Zhao was very open-minded. Stroking the boy’s head and smiling, his father said, “As long as my son is safe, other things don’t matter.”
“Yes, let’s live our own lives well. We are a family of three, and there are no hurdles we can’t cross. Your mother have so many dowries, it’s more than enough to raise both of you.” Wang smiled pleasantly.
Youshu squeezed out the small dimples beside his cheeks, and smiled after her, his eyes were especially bright. He liked that home very much… very, very much.
However, it turned out that what he thought of was too simple. In addition to the big room, the Zhaos also had second and third rooms, as well as the fourth and fifth rooms. If the relatives’ side were also included, there would be a total of three hundred and more people. If trouble arisen, the family’s relationship would more complicated than the international’s situation.
Youshu and his family came in from a side gate, and before they could put down their luggage, they were taken to the main hall to visit grandfather and grandmother. They also met the second uncle, third uncle, fourth uncle, fifth uncle, second aunt, third aunt, and so on. Youshu followed Wang and greeted them one by one, making him quite dizzy.
Grandpa Zhao led several sons to the study room to talk, while Grandma Zhao was left behind with Wang to recall the fine memories they had. She only favoured the family superficially, neither warm nor cold. Several aunts also had thorns behind their words. They unconsciously, or intentionally, mentioned that Magistrate Zhao could be demoted, their expressions were quite gloating.
The dream of a warm little family was shattered, and Youshu was rather depressed. He kept his face gloomy and did not speak. That made those women to grab his attitude to “threaten” him, calling him an ignorant and arrogant kid, being a spoiled brat like the rumours.
“When you return home, you should abide by the rules of the house. You are sixteen this year. You should read some books and bring yourself a good occupation through examinations. Look at your brothers. They were all talented beings before they were twelve or thirteen years old. They either studied hard in their rooms, or went out to participate in the literary conferences. Do you think there are like you? Walking around with cats and dogs, doing nothing, and forcibly robbing good women? It is also due to your great luck that made you escaped from your punishments every time. If there’s next time, you won’t be as lucky, so you’d better take care of those old habits of yours.” Grandma Zhao was clearly looking down on that concubine’s child with her words, while the others snickered.
Just at that moment, a handsome young man in big red brocade ran in, holding a bunch of red and white camellia in his hand. He trimmed the flower branches with scissors, inserted them into the bottle in a patchwork manner, and said with a smile, “I just went on an outing with the Ninth Highness and saw the camellias were well bloomed. The aroma was very rich, so I brought some back for Grandparents as a gift.” After he finished, he met Youshu and warmly greeted, “This is the fifth younger brother of Uncle’s family, right? He really is a good, talented being!”
He had a sincere tone and a bright smile, but Youshu’s five senses were keen, how could he not see the deep contempt hidden in his eyes. His mouth did not match his heart, and he was a pretentious being, the most disgusting person for mankind. Since Youshu was not willing to face him, he just shut his mouth.
However, his uncontrollable dimple ran out to confront him again, his shut mouth made it a little crescent, as if he was smiling. The young man did not notice the boy’s dissatisfaction at all.
Grandma Zhao, who was neither warm nor cold just now, smiled with creases all over her face. She pulled the boy into her arms, and said proudly, “Wang, you haven’t seen this nephew in a long time, have you?”
Wang smirked, “Isn’t this the second uncle’s son, Yusong (玉松Yù sōng: Jade, pine)? He really is just like the rumours, like the jade-carving of pine and cypress, tall and handsome, with extraordinary aura.”
Grandma Zhao then showed a smile to Wang, and continued, “Well, Yusong and the Ninth Highness studied together, and they had just passed the election this year. He was the first in our family to be chosen at the age of eighteen! Speaking of it, you wrote to me last year that Youshu also left for that field. How did he do?”
She asked that even though she knew! Didn’t I write to the old man about his results? Wang gritted her teeth with hatred, but she still smiled. She did not want to mention that uncomfortable matter. The mother could not bear to criticize her own son, so she changed the topic and asked, “Why don’t I see Yulin?”
Zhao Yulin was the son of the woman from the third room. Like Zhao Youshu, he was also a useless being. He only knew to have fun and play all day, which made him grab the title of “Zhao family’s curse star”. As soon as she said that, Grandma Zhao’s face changed, and the expression of the third wife, who was smiling happily just now, also slightly stiffened.
Seeing that the trap had taken effect, Wang took her son and left. If you think my son is useless, then take a look if your son had wiped his butt cleanly first, hmph!
Back in the remote and deserted small courtyard, the mother and son hurriedly asked the servants to pass their meal, but they saw Magistrate Zhao walked in stupefied as he sighed while hitting the table.
“What’s the matter? Are you scolded by the old man?” Wang asked cautiously.
“Scolding is the second thing. I pity my son for being the scapegoat for me.” Magistrate Zhao rubbed his forehead, and said that he had hoped to be transferred to the Lianghuai Salt Transport Envoy. Now, the Emperor is still hesitating, and I don’t know who this errand will fall on. In order to prevent corruption caused by salt transport, the imperial court will issue an extra three hundred silvers for nourishing integrity every year. Therefore, there is a saying in the dynasty that the first grade of the Capital was not as good as the third grade of Lianghuai Salt transport Envoy.
Magistrate Zhao was greedy for power, but he valued gold and silver. Passing the rich-resourced errands to someone else surely made him felt pain in his heart.
Wang patted her husband’s thick shoulders, and said with comfort, “Forget it, this is a foregone conclusion, don’t think about it anymore. Come, let’s eat.”
Youshu was very guilty and whispered, “Is there really no way for remedy?”
Magistrate Zhao frowned, thought for a moment, and said, “There is, but the road is a bit difficult to cross.” He looked at his son, “Son, you have to get along well with your third big brother in the next few days. If he went out with Ninth Highness, you have to follow him, and help your father find out the highness’s hobbies.”
“Why do you want your son get the third’s favour? Didn’t you know that the old lady used the third child to criticize our son? It was very irritating!” Wang felt uncomfortable.
Magistrate Zhao had no choice but to explain carefully to the mother and son. It turned out that although the Emperor was extremely harsh on the princes, there was one exception, that was, the ninth prince, Yao’er. The ninth prince was not only the queen’s sons, but on the day of birth, auspicious clouds were everywhere and music echoed in the sky. The fortune teller counted his birth date and told that he was an outstanding fellow. Aside from the wrong birth year, he was as good as the Emperor! What was more mysterious was that the ninth prince could speak at the age of half a year, could already read the museum books at the age of three. He was masters of literary and military skills. The older he got, the more he resembled the Emperor in the portrait.
A Taoist monk asserted that the son had an extraordinary origin and was the reincarnation of the Emperor of the Overlord Sect. He would surely conquer the whole dynasty, cross rivers and mountains, and spread his great name.
The Emperor was still a little sceptical. However, seeing that the ninth prince grew more godly and mysterious, he accepted it with pleasure. He was very harsh on all the princes, except Yao’er, who he looked up to like an ancestor, only waiting until he was eighteen years old to be named a prince.
The ninth prince was seventeen this year, and he would be eighteen in a few months. No wonder the other princes were eager and blatantly fighting for power.
The Lianghuai Salt Transport Envoy was the important economy route for the country. In order to pave the way for the ninth prince, the Emperor naturally had to transfer people under his command. Zhao Yusong, the son of the second room of the Zhao family, was selected as the companion of the Ninth Highness in his early years, and the Zhao family was naturally regarded as the aid of the Ninth Prince. Because of that, it was probably why the extortion matter was almost blamed on Magistrate Zhao. It was a pity that their approach was being confused by others, otherwise the family would be able to move to Yangzhou to eat and drink in a few months.
Listening to his old father who named the specialty snacks of Yangzhou one by one, such as Yangzhou fried rice, crab soup dumplings, fragrant lotus baos, braised silver carp head… A line of saliva flew down three thousand feet from Youshu’s mouth. His eyes were bright more than ever.
As for the reincarnation of the Ninth Prince being the past Emperor, he did not believe it with seeing it with his own eyes. He was afraid there would be no such good character as the Emperor.
“Go to Yangzhou! We have to go to Yangzhou!” He made a fist with his left hand and punched the palm of his right hand in a decisive manner.
“If my son wants to go, then let’s go! Let’s send out anything the Ninth Prince likes!” Wang also followed his motion.
In that way, the family set their ambitions to go to Yangzhou. The next day, Youshu patiently dealt with Zhao Yusong. Fortunately, his lip line was naturally-crescent in a nice way, even if he did not smile, he seemed to have a great smile, and there was a sweet dimple bonus as well.
Zhao Yusong did not reject him, but he could not talk about intimacy. If he was happy, he would say a few words to bait him away. After a long period of time, Youshu was so embarrassed and impatient. He originally planned to send the little ghosts to find out what the ninth princes like, but the ninth prince carried dragon spirit, and the ghosts dared not get close, so they had to give up.
One day, for some reason, Zhao Yusong took the initiative to invite him out, and reminded him repeatedly that the Ninth Prince would be there, so he told him not to be rude.
The ninth prince was worthy of being the Emperor’s biological son. He treated others very seriously. Except for several companions who grew up with him since childhood, it was difficult for others to know his true preferences. He could talk sweetly in front of a person and be gentle, as if he admired the person very much. Soon, he would find an excuse to send the person off when he turned around. Youshu felt that even the Emperor himself could not figure out what his son was thinking.
Outsiders could not reach the North, so they could only rely on speculation. After a long time, some unreliable rumours would naturally spread. Knowing that his son was going to travel with the Ninth Prince, Wang bothered to inquire about it and asked the tailor to rush to make a set of gorgeous and extraordinary brocade robe overnight and personally deliver it to her son’s house.
“Mother, are you sure the Ninth Highness like this style of clothes?” There was a sceptical expression as he pulled the sleeves and hem.
That cloth was so beautiful that it had reached the bedazzled point. Large groups of peonies were painted on the hem, collar, front placket, back, etc. The colours were mainly blood red and dark purple. The background colour with black and gold was more magnificent. What was even more exaggerated was the flower stamen, which was strung with rice-sized pearls with gold thread, and filled in with a fine outline. It was really shining and dazzling, as if it was the next stop to the sun.
When Youshu looked in the mirror while wearing it, he blocked his eyes with his hand, fearing of blinding.
Wang still felt that it was not enough, so she put a ruby-inlaid butterfly on the front pocket at the chest. She looked around, then cut out a pink camellia and put it next to his ear.
The corners of Youshu’s mouth twitched, but he had to endure it because he was considerate of Wang’s feelings. Until she finally picked up a box of powder and was about to apply it to his face, he muttered, “Mother, are you sure that the ninth prince like this attire?”
“Hey, all the children in the Capital dressed up like this, but the ninth prince especially like gorgeous objects.” Wang waved her hand disapprovingly. Great Xia was more prosperous than the other four countries, so their attires tend to be extravagant. Besides, men went out to socialize more than women, so they paid more attention to appearance. Wearing brocade clothes was just the basics. They would also wear wakeup and foundation, along with hairpins and jade.
It was not surprising if Youshu walked out in that attire, it was just a little more gorgeous than ordinary people’s.
“My skin is already pale, if I apply foundation, I would look like a dead person. Forget it.” Youshu could not accept the Great Xia’s fashion for the time being.
“What nonsense are you talking about? Don’t just say the word ‘dead’! I’ve seek for a lot of information. The Ninth Prince really likes teenagers with red lips and white teeth and a crown-like face. You don’t have to put foundation but you have to apply lip balm. He sees you pleasingly, that’s why he spoke to you. We’ll only fawn on him this time. When we go to Yangzhou, who cares about him?” Wang grabbed her son and firmly applied a line between his lips.
That kind of lip balm was very precious. It was mixed with natural raw materials such as honey, flower juice, lard, and beeswax, very sweet. Youshu stretched out the tip of his tongue to lick it, then looked at the mirror again, and felt that only the middle and inner side of his lips were slightly reddish, and the other parts looked natural, so he accepted that.
Just at that time, Zhao Yusong’s coachman came to greet him and said that the carriage was ready and he could leave immediately. Youshu was still a little embarrassed at first, but after walking a few steps, he let it flow naturally. Naked-walking on the street was not uncommon in the past days, so it was fine to dress more gorgeously and elegant.