No Sight Better than their Smiles
“Could kill two tigers.”
“How about you don’t. They’ll go extinct. You people have no love for animals.” Shen Yiren picked up a hairpin when they walked by a stall selling ornaments. “This hairpin is pretty. Its quality is good, and the design is fresh. The flower pearls are nice, too.”
Shen Yiren casually slotted the hairpin into her hair. As men walked past, they couldn’t stop themselves from staring.
“Drink?” Ming Feizhen passed over a cup of alcohol.
Shen Yiren accepted the drink, but she didn’t drink.
“Boss is unhappy, huh.”
“What do you think?”
“Want to tell me about it?”
Though her pace was leisurely, Shen Yiren’s expression told a different story. “Feizhen, we’re going to war.”
There were people who were ecstatic over Emperor Yuansheng’s declaration of war, and there were some who were defeated. There were glory-seekers who were preparing to chase glory and people who were waiting to see how it played out. Only Shen Yiren mentioned war despite supporting Emperor Yuansheng from a business and personal perspective.
“I wonder how many casualties there’ll be this time.”
Ming Feizhen was aware that Shen Yiren was only focused on the casualties despite all the possible turmoil, battles of wits, and wars of morals would be waged. She was prepared to spill blood, but she couldn’t stand watching the innocent bleed. That was why everyone knew that Liu Shan Men couldn’t be taken over. Whether Liu Shan Men collected power and authority or dispersed it, they wouldn’t disappear as long as someone with Shen Yiren’s mindset was in charge.
“Feizhen, there are many innocent people. Song Chi can be unscrupulous for his family’s sake. He said it back home that all of his decisions and actions were for the sake of protecting Song Clan. From the perspective of the White Princes, he may be a traitor, but who has any right to say that his family deserves to die for someone else’s ambitions? While there’s no arguing plenty of members of the Seven Champion White Princes commit sins, not all of them do. They’ve had a hold over Jiangnan’s martial arts community for too long. Many have lost their freedom to choose. We should give them what they deserve. Perhaps they should’ve created the conditions for their demands long ago, but they were slow. As soon as the war commences, they’ll have to struggle for their lives. There will be a lot of unnecessary bloodshed.”
The civilians of Jiangnan were bound to be plunged into the flames of war once the imperial court and the Seven Champion White Princes started fighting. In order to take the seven down, the imperial court would’ve had no choice but to attack akin to a hurricane moving with urgency. Otherwise, there would’ve been a lot of variables that’d be hard to account for. If the war moved west, if the White Princes expanded their territorial boundaries to resist, or if foreign opportunists joined the fray, then the war would become an even tougher one. The imperial court would’ve consequently been forced to send out a force dozens of times larger, turning it into an even bigger war. No matter how swift the war went, lots of innocent lives would inevitably be lost, nevertheless.
The civilians who would become collateral damage were innocent; however, even some of the participants in the war didn’t want to fight. The imperial court’s warriors were citizens of the country, were they not? They would have to fight their fellow countrymen, would they not?
Shen Yiren continued, “Not everyone should be their pawns. They should have lives with more value. If fighting is inevitable, it should be honourable.”
Ming Feizhen set his empty wine jug down. “That’s something my shifu vehemently disagrees on. He says that everyone is a pawn, many of whom have no say, and many of whom are granted an existence. They can be angry and hopeless, but it won’t change the fact. Trying to find a release is but comical and delusional. When has a forest burnt itself? When has a river dried itself up?”
“How about you?”
“I argue people are people. Tragedies are inevitable. People want to eat people, don’t they? Of course, there are people who don’t, but there are people who do. It’s not complicated; joy and sorrow are part of being alive in this world. There are forests, rivers, the sun, stars, grass, and the wind. Everyone has the power to become better than they are today. That power gives the world the potential to be better than it is today.”
A sense of tenderness came to Shen Yiren’s gaze. “Do you think we… can have that sort of power?” she asked, squeezing a hairpin in hair hand dangerously tight.
Ming Feizhen took the hairpin off Shen Yiren and straightened up her posture. “Don’t move.”
Ming Feizhen pressed down on Shen Yiren’s shoulders to stop her from lifting her arms. Though she was shy, she relaxed her shoulders as the corners of her lips subtly raised without her awareness.
“I might hurt you if I’m not careful. Boss, grab me a flower.”
It felt as though it had been ages since Shen Yiren had seen Ming Feizhen’s playful smile.
“A pomegranate flower that’s like a cut-up piece of red silk. Don’t let its struggle in summer go to waste.” Ming Feizhen slipped the black hairpin into Shen Yiren’s hair smoothly.
Shen Yiren titled her eyes with a smirk as if to ask, “Does it look good on me,” but she asked, “Are you really illiterate?”
“Only when it’s convenient.” Ming Feizhen looked into Shen Yiren’s eyes and smile, making her a rosy tinge come to her cheeks.
The sound of cicadas had never been so relaxing. The warm wind had never felt so smoothing. The ruthless sun had never felt so perfectly warm.
“Feeling better now?“
“What do you think?”
They left the stall with a relaxed stroll and sweet smiles.
Ming Feizhen’s literacy – Ming Feizhen made a reference to Bai Juyi’s line on how pomegranate flowers like cut up red silk. It’s considered a clever line from someone highly literate since the comparison isn’t something illiterate would’ve thought of or had heard.