OMF V1C106 Related to the Emperor

Mister Zhong might not be the sharpest tool in the box but he wasn’t totally dumb either. He couldn’t figure out what these three men were talking about but he knew he had to do something. They were definitely planning something with his son!
He grabbed Jing Yi by the shoulder and pulled him behind him, still trying to follow the golden rule of being courteous. “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you are saying, dear customer. What horses are you talking about?”
The women in the teahouse started gossiping at once. Fortunately, they had a good opinion of the Zhongs.
“That Li Bo again! My husband told me about him. He’s ripping off everyone in the capital just claiming whatever he wants.”
“Well, what can you do? He has a powerful backer. Even my uncle doesn’t dare to cross him!”
“Indeed, indeed. And his whole family is like that. Doesn’t he have two children? They’re even worse. Not caring for anyone. Li Bo gives at least some face to high ranking officials.”
“Some face that is! Have you heard what he did last week?”
“No. What happened?”
The women lowered their voices to discuss the latest developments to make sure Li Bo wouldn’t hear them. None wanted to embroil their husbands in the conflict.
But Mister Zhong had heard enough. So this is one of those hidden tigers Mister Pi talked about. He examined Li Bo but couldn’t find anything that seemed like a tiger. The man rather had the appearance of a fat pet cat pretending to be a predator. But maybe that backer of his is a real hidden tiger, Mister Zhong thought.
He wasn’t wrong, though he should probably take that crouching dragon of Mister Pi’s as a reference: Li Bo had some connection to the incumbent emperor. Not everyone knew which kind of connection that was but that was to be expected since these connections were always terribly complicated.
Indeed, summarizing it in one or two words was impossible. But one was still able to summon it up in one sentence even though it might not be that easy to understand then.
If one wanted to have a go, it might sound like this: The incumbent emperor was the elder brother of the husband of the sister-in-law of the cousin of Li Bo’s second wife Pei Chang.
The story behind the connection went like this: The incumbent emperor had five brothers. One of them he hated to the bones. With two of them, he had a rather lukewarm relationship and one he liked. And then there was the last one, his favorite brother, who was the person that constituted the link between Li Bo and the emperor.
This favorite brother of the emperor — as it was customary in the royal households — had two wives and five concubines. The third concubine was a woman named Hu Ai who — although she was said not to be the prettiest — somehow managed to monopolize her husband’s heart. This Hu Ai was the younger sister of a woman named Hu Chang who had married a man called Pei Wu. And this Pei Wu was coincidentally the cousin of Li Bo’s second wife, Pei Chang.
Saying it like this might not sound so impressive. But one could say that Li Bo had indeed a connection to the emperor and that was enough in the capital. Who knew how close Li Bo’s second wife was to her cousin and how said cousin doted on his wife? And what if that woman’s sister was so grateful to her for whatever she helped her with previously that she would fulfill every one of her wishes? That the emperor’s brother would do everything for that beloved concubine didn’t even need to be said. And of course, it was an easy feat for the emperor to grant his favorite brother every wish as long as he asked for it.
Since that was the case, nobody dared to cross Li Bo. And, to be honest, most people actually didn’t know how close the connection between the emperor and Li Bo really was so they just wanted to be cautious.
Mister Zhong didn’t know that, though. He could only repeat what he had said before: “I don’t know anything about any horses.”
“He still dares to lie!” Xiao Nuo sneered. “Xiao Guo, we better inform the justice court now!”
“Yes, yes, better inform them now!”
Li Bo continued with his patronizing smile. “Please, please, how can you be so hasty? Let’s just talk this over. I saw that you urgently need these horses for your teahouse”, he commented toward Mister Zhong. “I’ll consider giving them to you and forgetting about this whole incident. Of course, I’m a poor man and can’t live off nothing. So you should give me something in return.”
Mister Zhong frowned. This didn’t sound bad to him but how could he just decide this on his own? “This is my cousin’s teahouse. How about you speak to him?”
Xiao Nuo piped up in lieu of his master. “What does this have to do with your cousin, huh? I only see you here! Are you trying to get more time so you can flee with the horses? We’re not that easy to trick!”
“I don’t —”
“We’d better go to the justice court right now!” Xiao Guo grinned and crossed his arms.
Li Bo waved his arms as if to pacify them. To those who knew them, it seemed like a comedic act, though. For how long had they practiced this? “Don’t be hasty, don’t be hasty. Kind sir, you look like such a good and morally upright person. You wouldn’t want to be convicted for being a thief, would you? Think of your family! If you were imprisoned or exiled or even killed … What would become of them? Wouldn’t it be better to settle this without involving the justice court?”
“But I don’t know of any horses.”
“You’re still saying that!”
“Don’t you play dumb with us!”
Even Li Bo had some problems to cope with Mister Zhong’s approach of not relenting. Normally, people caved in as soon as they heard his name or at the latest when they saw him. Shouldn’t this guy know that it was futile to go against him?
“I really don’t —”
The servants had enough this time. The first one stepped forward and grabbed Mister Zhong by the shoulders while the second followed and punched him. The women in the teahouse shrieked, some of them withdrew to the back of the room while some leaped to their feet and hurried outside. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with this.
Madam Zhong finally noticed the commotion and came out of the kitchen. The tray in her hands dropped to the floor and she hurried forward. She grabbed her son and shoved him to Shao Hai, pushing the children behind her and glaring at the two servants.
“Let go of my husband!”
The two men eyed her but didn’t even think of letting Mister Zhong go. That guy still wanted to play dumb with them! Of course, they wouldn’t let him get away with it so easily.
Xiao Guo snorted and delivered a powerful kick to Mister Zhong’s chest. The other servant wasn’t even able to hold him because of the force. Mister Zhong tumbled to the ground and stayed motionless. He didn’t get up again.

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