All Under Heaven – Chapter 23

Zhu Yijun proudly declared: “He's mine!”
Amidst the sound of firecrackers, we let go of the old and welcome the new. Even if it is snowing, the snow didn’t dampen the colourful atmosphere from spreading across the whole of Beijing.

During this time, even the poorest families would still buy two catties1 Chinese measurement 1 catty = 600g of meat, a few pots of wine. The whole family would sit together, to eat a reunion dinner, and that would be the best way to start the new year.

Perhaps it was because it was nearing the date of the Metropolitan Examination, that countrywide juren were gathered in the capital. The atmosphere in Beijing this year was three times as lively as last year. Bustling with activity, outside of the Chenghuang Temple2City God Temple, people were guessing riddles on lanterns, joining in the fun, rows and rows of people gathered around the pond.

The city lights shone as bright as day with the display of fireworks and lanterns, there was indeed a vast crowd.

Zhao Su was holding a chubby little steamed bun in his arms, Feng Bao was walking next to him, whilst behind them there were two bodyguards in casual clothing from the Prince’s manor.

This time, Feng Bao had paid extra attention, he didn’t dare to to be sloppy, and lose sight of Zhu Yijun again.

“Princely Heir, Zhao gongzi is tired, why not let da-ban carry you?” Feng Bao approached trying to coax the child.

“No!” the child turned his face from him and continued to look around curiously.

The corner of Feng Bao’s mouth twitched, whilst he secretly cried inside. Little brat, if anything happens to you, I wouldn’t even be able to repay it even if I had an additional ten lives.

Zhao Su was trying to not laugh, but he could understand Feng Bao’s feelings: “Yongting-xiong, don’t be too worried, I will not let the princely heir out of my sight.”

Even in the coldest time of the year, Feng Bao was still sweating, he took out a handkerchief to wipe down his forehead, smiling he said: “Fortunately, last time the Prince and Consort Li were merciful, and only punished me a few times with the cane. However, I am still fearful. I have no choice but to be more prudent. If the princely heir loses even one strand of hair, I won’t have any face to keep on living.”

“Support one’s master and share in his worries, as it should be.” Zhao Su showed an air of compassion, sighing slightly: “I see that although Yongting-xiong serves upon the princely heir, however, you don’t have any any less worries than Tutor Gao and the others.”

Feng Bao had a sorrow in his heart but he liked Zhao Su a little bit more.

Although his position in the Prince’s manor couldn’t be considered low, ultimately, he was still a eunuch.

During the Ming dynasty, the Emperor created a class division between scholars, farmers, and merchants, eunuchs were of course at the bottom. Aside from during the reign of Chenghua Emperor there was the Eunuch San Bao, also known as Zheng He. From then on, the status of a Eunuch was much elevated. But when Jiajing Emperor was crowned, because of the corruption of the palace eunuch, Liu Jin3Very corrupt eunuch who dominated the Imperial Court of Zhengde Emperor (the Emperor before Jiajing). Jiajing did his utmost to suppress the powers of the eunuchs. The eunuchs had no choice but to tuck their tails between their legs. Someone like Feng Bao who was only a eunuch in the Prince’s manor, naturally was considered just a lowly person.

Gao Gong and the others had worked in the Hanlin Academy, with this kind of background, they of course completely disregarded him. But Feng Bao was not an ordinary eunuch in the sense that he loved culture and he was actually quite knowledgeable. So he was predestined in this way to feel a sorrow in his heart due to the treatment of others towards him.

Aside from the Prince of Yu and Consort Li, who would address him by his courtesy name, the other people addressed him to flatter him or to scorn him. There has never been anyone like Zhao Su who would be so respectful as to call him “Yongting-xiong”.
Feng Bao had worked for the Prince for many years, and was used to seeing the hypocrisy of others. There were some scholars who would boast about themselves, even when they hadn’t even got an official’s position and dare to look down on others. Then there were other people like Gao Gong and Chen Yiqin, so Feng Bao thought that a person like Zhao Su was truly treasurable.

Plus, Zhao Su and the Prince of Yu had not known each other for long but in a short period of time, and Zhao Su was able to enter and leave the manor as he pleased. Even Gao Gong, who always looked down on people from above, also looked at Zhao Su with admiration. It wouldn’t hurt to make friends with such a person.

The two had their own way of thinking, but both of them had the same goal, so of course, there was naturally a feeling of affection between their words.

Zhao Su was holding the child, on the one hand he was pointing out all the rabbit lanterns, whilst on the other hand he was keeping up the conversation with Feng Bao, nevertheless, he appeared to be calm and handled the situation with ease.

“Su, what is that!” The little child’s eyes light up looking far ahead.

“Call me Su-gege, or Shaoyong-gege.” Zhao Su poked his cheek.

“Susususususu!” Zhu Yijin, this little kid would always do the opposite of what someone asked him, the first time Zhao Su told him his name, the child directly called him by it. The second time, the child dropped his surname completely, there was no hope of him hearing another form of address from now on.

With this child, he could neither hit him nor scold him, Zhao Su said: “Sorry, I forgot to bring my ears today, I can’t hear what you’re shouting about.”

Zhu Yijin giggled, he reached out to grab Zhao Su’s ear with his chubby little hand, leant forward and then blew into it.

Zhao Su was tickled by him.

“Don’t blame me if I start biting someone!”

After he said that, he opened his mouth and bit down on his little hand and then let go.

The child shook his head vigorously: “Doesn’t hurt!”

“It doesn’t hurt? Then I’ll bite your ear!”
As he moved towards his ears, the little kid quickly screamed and went to protect his ears.  

Seeing the two of them playing so happily, Feng Bao was dumbfounded.

He had never seen the princely heir get so close to someone, looking at the two of them compared to when the princely heir was with his father, it seemed like Zhao Su and the princely heir were more like father and son.

“Yongting-xiong, there are a lot of people here, why don’t we pose our feet at the food stall just in front?”

This thought flashed past in his mind when he heard Zhao Su’s voice, Feng Bao recovered his senses. They walked towards the noodle stand.

The snow had already stopped falling, so there were more and more people on the streets.

Next to the stall, there was someone selling pinwheels, they were multi-coloured, and turning in the wind, the princely heir was so enthralled by them, that he was twisting and turning in his arms to try to get a closer look.

Zhao Su could only let him down, and took him over to the pinwheel stall, the red, the green and the blue turned and turned in the wind, Zhu Yijun was getting dizzy, he thought each one was so pretty and he wanted each one of them.

Just as the princely heir was completely engrossed in the pinwheels, Zhao Su suddenly noticed that there was a little girl standing next to him, she was wearing a flowery robes and had her hair tied up in two buns, sucking her thumb whilst looking at the pinwheels, she was very cute.

“Where is this little girl from, is she lost?” Zhao Su patted her on the head, and asked the street vendor.

“Oh, this is Lao Wang’s daughter at the noodle stand next door. He is busy at the moment and must not have time to look after her, so the child came here.” The street vendor.laughed and took a candy and stuffed it into the girl’s hand. ” Sweetie, go find your father, don’t get lost.”

Zhao Su bought two pinwheels, one he gave to Zhu Yijun and the other he gave to the little girl.

The little girl pursed her lips shyly: “Thank you, da-gege.”

She pulled at the corner of his sleeve, seeming like she wanted to say something else.

Zhao Su bent down, the girl approached and said softly: “Gege is really handsome!”

Zhu Yijun also heard what she said, proudly trying to wrap his arms around Zhao Su’s waist, but his arms were too short so he could only grab his leg. With his arms wrapped around Zhao Su’s thigh, he declared forcefully: “He’s mine!”

“What’s yours?” Zhao Su was crying with laughter.

The little girl puffed her cheeks, there was the sound of meowing next to her, and a white shadow leapt into her arms.

“Maomao!” The white shadow poked its head out of her little arms. It turned out to be a cat.

Zhu Yijun’s eyes lit up, he reached out to touch it, but the kitten opened its mouth and bit his chubby little hand, leaving a small tooth mark.

After this, things went from bad to worse. The kid was stunned for a while before he realized the pain, his mouth slumped, tears already welled up in his eyes, it looked like the floodgates were about to open.

Zhao Su stopped Feng Bao from scolding the little girl, whilst he hugged Zhu Yijun and coaxed: “You are a big boy, look she is just a little girl. If you cry, everyone will laugh at you. It won’t hurt if I blow on it.”

The little girl also understood the situation, she brought the cat closer to Zhu Yijun: “Here you can touch her, touch her ears, they’re really soft but you can’t touch her chin. When she’s not happy, she will bite you.”

Zhu Yijun reached out with his hand coyly and touched the cat timidly.
Indeed, the cat lay in the arms of the little girl, let him caress it gently, the little boy found a new toy, too lazy to look at the pinwheels again, he finally burst into laughter.

While they were playing there, Feng Bao smiled bitterly at Zhao Su: “Shaoyong, you really have a way with him. Before, when he used to cry for a long time, it was impossible to stop him crying and he was impossible to coax.”

Zhao Su smiled and said: “Children are always looking for new things and something to play with. As long as you understand this, it will be fine. I have looked after my little nephew before, so I know a bit about children.” It wasn’t a lie that he had looked after his nephew before, but that is also a matter of his previous life. Children in modern times were becoming more and more precocious and crafty. Compared to them, Zhu Yijun wasn’t difficult to deal with.”

Zhu Yijun liked the new and grew tired of the old. After playing for a while, he felt bored, complaining that he wanted to go out in front to take a look. Feng Bao stretched out his hand to hold him, but he refused. He insisted on walking by himself. He didn’t go a few steps before he lost his shoe.

Zhao Su begrudgingly kneeled down, put the little kid on his knee in an embrace and helped him put his shoe back on.

The lights from the lanterns were shining on his face, making him look extraordinarily gentle.

Zhu Yijun was finally quiet for a while, staring at him blankly, he couldn’t help but lean closer.

Zhao Su thought that he was cold, so he helped him to fasten the straps on his coat, and then poked his nose teasingly: “Little devil, do I owe you from a past life?”

The kid giggled, put his arms around his neck, and moved closer to take a bite.

Feng Bao, feeling jealous, complained: ” Shao Yong, you and the princely heir have really hit it off, I serve upon his every need but haven’t had this honour.”

As he spoke, the sky suddenly brightened, no one had time to react, only seeing a flash of lightning breaking through the clouds, tearing through the dark sky suddenly.

Zhao Su just managed to cover both of Zhu Yijun’s ears when the sky burst with a loud noise. The pitchfork shaped strike of lighting hacked down and fell not too far away, and then the thunder sounded again.

After a moment of silence, the crowd suddenly rioted. The thunder did not stop, but it gradually diminished, but the panic did not seem to end there. Amidst the cries of ominous winter thunder as a warning from heaven, everyone was scrambling to leave.

Amongst a sea of people like this, it was impossible to make a quick getaway. The people running caused the people in front of them to trip backwards, knocking over everyone backwards.

Under all the chaos, it wasn’t clear who had shouted first.

“Someone is dead, someone has been trampled to death!”   
07/05/22 – Naming conventions updated.

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