In the time it took for a single stick of incense to burn, Jiang Xin Zhi took Jiang Ruan and left without a care and the slightest loss or disadvantage, leaving behind Jiang Quan who was suffocating from suppressed anger. Unfortunately the Jiang Zhi Xin of today had received meritorious accomplishment from the army, and his temperament had greatly changed. No longer was he that easy to handle. Yet, Jiang Su Su even thought to add fuel to the fire, “Father, look at Da Jiejie….”
“Shut up!” Jiang Quan was still raging. Seeing Jiang Su Su’s weak and feeble stature he couldn’t help feeling even more agitated as he stated, “If you’re stained by a filthy spirit, don’t walk around. Go back to your own courtyard!” After that, he glared at Jiang Chao and quickly left.
Jiang Su Su could only watch Jiang Quan leave with astonishment while a trace of hatred flashed in Jiang Chao’s eyes. The two siblings kept silent, but, at that very moment, they hated both Jiang Xin Zhi and Jiang Ruan bitterly.
* * *
After a peaceful night, the next day at first light when Jiang Ruan woke up, Lu Zhu stepped in with rose pastries. “The rain is easing. It looks as though it’s going to stop.”
 T/N: Rose pastry/tart may refer to a common pastry formed like a rose made of flour and beans instead of the Yunnan rose petal filled pastry.
She looked somewhat worried, knowing a little of Jiang Ruan’s plan. How great would it be if the rain stopped now.
Jiang Ruan smiled faintly and looked out from the window. The dense raindrops had become sparse. The water dripped down much slower from the eaves. The air started to become milder, sweeping away the dark clouds from the past few days. It seemed that the sky would clear up before long.
Lian Qiao handed the boiled red dates and cassia honey to Jiang Ruan. “It’s not the time yet. Just wait.”
Jiang Ruan took a sip of the honey water and tapped her fingers on the table unconsciously.
Hmm, the rain looked like it’s going to clear up, but actually… it was the rising wind that foreshadowed the coming storm.
* * *
On the edge of the Bo Chang reservoir, the reservoir chief wiped his sweat, running back and forth eagerly, constantly flattering the highly respected nobles in front of him. “The water has been brought under control and the reservoir is very stable. After observing the rain over the past few days, it seems to have dwindled down a lot and it will probably clear up soon. The flood control is all due to the work of His Highness, Eighth Prince, and Second Young Master Li.”
Xuan Li smiled gently. “I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
The reservoir chief smiled like a blooming chrysanthemum when he heard this. His praise was even more dazzling. “Your Highness is modest. The lives of the people around the reservoir are in Your Highness’ hands. It is a blessing for the people to have such a man devoted to the people like Your Highness in the Great Jin dynasty. Later, this official will report Your Highness’ meritorious deeds to the court without fail.” He was full of thoughts; everyone knew that the Crown Prince was not in favour. Nowadays, the most powerful in the palace were Eighth Prince and Fifth Prince. Even though Fifth Prince was decent, in terms of authority in front of the emperor, he still lagged behind Eighth Prince’s birth mother.
After some consideration, Eighth Prince had a better chance of winning. Now that Xuan Li had done a good job in this matter, he should take the opportunity to please him. If he were favoured, his official career would be smooth sailing in the future. When he thought of this, the reservoir chief smiled even more sincerely.
Xuan Li’s smile was like a spring breeze. He neither denied nor approved it. There were a lot of people watching the bustling scene by the side of the reservoir. These days, Xuan Li made great efforts in flood control and the people witnessed it personally. They were both apprehensive and grateful for those in high positions who came down in person. Common people were always the easiest to satisfy. In addition, the reservoir chief excessively boasted about Xuan Li’s merits and so the people were even more grateful to him.
Receiving the admiring and respectful gazes from the people, Xuan Li’s smile deepened. Pride flashed in his eyes. This smile appeared very amiable when it came into the people’s view. Praises extolling the meritorious deeds of the gentle, handsome, and noble Eighth Prince rang out in the midst of the people.
In contrast, Li An, walking beside Xuan Li, still wore a gloomy expression. His expression made Xuan Li seem even more kind and approachable. While the people in the reservoir were giving praises one after another, there was an inopportune voice. “Disaster! Disaster!”
The voice was not ear-piercing in the midst of the praises, but it was exceptionally clear. Xuan Li turned his head to look at the spot where the person spoke from with a barely visible frown.
People gradually stopped speaking when they heard this. They saw a yellow-robed monk coming slowly from the crowd. He looked kind-hearted, his robe was clean without any dust, and he acted like a Buddha sitting on a white lotus, with a faint aura of holiness.
Someone in the crowd recognized him and spoke out, “Isn’t this Great Master Hui Jue? Why is Great Master Hui Jue here?”
“It really is Great Master Hui Jue! He is the senior monk in the capital. It’s Great Master Hui Jue who prophecies miraculous things!”
“What did Great Master Hui Jue mean by ‘disaster’?”
Xuan Li and Li An stared at this unexpected visitor. Hui Jue’s reputation was now very popular all over the aristocratic families in the capital, especially those families who worshipped the Buddha. They knew that this monk was very capable. However, Xuan Li and Li An were atheists and had no fear of supernatural beings, so they saw Hui Jue as a common swindler.
Hui Jue put his palms together. “Amitabha Buddha, this poor monk made a divination last night. The divination showed the collision of Western Dragon’s vital energy, while the Water Dragon raised its head. I’m afraid there will be a big storm. It will be dangerous; the dam may even be at risk of collapsing.”
“What?” The woman with the baby in her arms immediately panicked and said, “Is everything Great Master just said true?”
Hui Jue put his palms together and nodded in deferential manner.
Xuan Li and Li An walked slowly towards Hui Jue. When they got near him, Xuan Li smiled gently. “Did everything Great Master just say, true?”
“A monk never tells lies.” Hui Jue answered faintly.
Xuan Li and Li An looked at each other. Li An suddenly stared at Hui Jue. “Great Master, what do you suggest we do next?”
“Disaster has arrived and is imminent. We should not treat the lives of thousands of people downstream of the reservoir as a trifling matter. Please evacuate those families near the reservoir overnight to a higher ground so as to avoid flooding.”
On hearing this, Li An chuckled.
Xuan Li looked at Li An and smiled. He still appeared gentle, but there was a chill in his voice. “Does Great Master know the fate of disturbing people’s hearts?”
Hui Jue returned his gaze indifferently, neither avoiding nor yielding. He was as lucid as the lotus that rose above the profane world.
Xuan Li initially thought he was a common swindler. But when he saw that the Buddhist monk possessed a remarkable temperament and repeatedly insisted that the people downstream be relocated, he became suspicious. His subconscious told him that this man must have been someone that Fifth Prince sent over to rob his merit. Moving all of the commoners’ families was not a trifling matter. If he really did so, when everything turned out to be safe and sound, not only would the people’s power be wasted, but he would also be sneered at by everyone under the heavens that he was gullible, believing the evil monk’s lies.
Staring at Hui Jue’s face, Xuan Li felt increasingly repulsed. The Astronomical Bureau’s personnel also said that the rain showed a sign of stopping. As his meritorious deed was in plain sight, Fifth Prince wanted to meddle? That’s treating his people as idiots!
 T/N: Astronomy in China has history. As tradition dictated that the rulers of China, first kings and later emperors, should receive their political mandate from the sky, astronomy soon became a dominant science in China. The main responsibility of political power was to keep the Earth in total harmony with the sky. This obligation was called the ‘Mandate of Heaven’ and the emperor himself was called Tian Zi 天子, the Son of Heaven. The stars themselves were bestowed with astrological meaning, both enabling predictions that influenced daily life as well as major political strategies, and thus astronomy swiftly became a powerful political tool. One very positive consequence of the Mandate of Heaven on Chinese history was the appointment of a special group of imperial officers who included astronomers, astrologers and meteorologists. These officials were ordered by the emperor to monitor the sky, looking for astrological omens and astronomical phenomena. More details here.
“Is there any evidence for Great Master Hui Jue to say so?” Xuan Li was calm and composed.
Hui Jue bowed his head. “Amitabha Buddha. It’s a divination using the trigrams. The divination image has been revealed, this poor monk has no evidence.”
“If there is no evidence, your remarks are the equivalent to deluding the public with lies.” Xuan Li spoke. Fifth Prince’s trick was so clumsy, he simply didn’t put too much thought into it.
“Great Master is not that kind of person!”
“Yes, everything Great Master said has come true!”
“What Great Master said must be true!”
To Xuan Li’s surprise, most of the crowd went along with Hui Jue. Even though his brows wrinkled, Xuan Li remained calm and collected. Did Fifth Prince invite such a person to use Hui Jue’s reputation to force him to give this order?
He sneered in his heart. Unfortunately for them, he had never been manipulated by others! “Without any evidence, it’s just empty rhetoric, Great Master. Out of the mouth comes evil.” Xuan Li still wanted to settle the matter easily, to maintain his image as a good nobleman.
Hui Jue sighed. “The commoners praise the benefactor for his wisdom and determination as well as his kindness to the people. Isn’t it worth taking a risk for the lives of thousands of people in the lower reaches of the Bo Chang Reservoir?”
 Shīzhǔ ( 施主 ) – benefactor (term used by a monk to address a layperson).
Xuan Li’s expression changed. The crowd around him looked at him with less affection than before, replaced by a look of suspicion, anger and doubt.
The monk was stirring up public opinion and provoking his supporters!
However, before he could give a response, Li An gave an order. “Where did this evil monk come from? He unexpectedly made rude remarks to His Highness. Somebody, arrest this evil monk for me!”
The corners of Xuan Li’s lips rose up slightly. There were many things that were inconvenient for him to do, but Li An could do most of them. He kept Li An not only because of his rare intelligence, but also because he was an expert at perceiving the will of the people.
The crowd was agitated. Xuan Li spoke out at the right time, “Great Master is a monk, and I will not treat a monk rudely. But, if Great Master continues to spout nonsense, it will have a great impact on law and order in the capital. I will find a place for Great Master to rest and recuperate for a few days. When the rain stops, it’s not too late for Great Master to come out again. “
Hui Jue bowed his head. “Amitabha Buddha, this poor monk is a mere mortal and has no scruples about dying. But, thousands of people in the lower reaches of the reservoir should be evacuated tonight or there will be many lives unsettled.”
A glimmer of light flashed in Xuan Li’s eyes. He spoke gently. “From today on, people in the lower reaches of the reservoir are not allowed to leave. Those who leave will be deemed as breaking the rules and will be cut down.”
It had become a tit-for-tat confrontation.
Now that the water situation had stabilized, if the monk’s lunatic ravings disturbed the original calm of the people’s sentiment, it would be very disadvantageous to the “merit” he had created.