"She jumped off the cliff."
"What?" Zhu Shun was angry and instantaneously snapped, "You think I'm an idiot? You mean the lass from Jing household set you up and jumped to her death thereafter?"
"A bunch of nonsense," Zhu Shun shouted, "You were in here for four to five years and I have always treated you well. Your fight with Jin Zhu in Qing Shan Court is your own affairs, why did you drag me into it? What are you trying to do now? Are you trying to get me into trouble in front of the various masters?"
"Zhu caretaker, please believe me."
"Guys! Teach her a good lesson!"
A shrilling scream sounded.
Chu Qiao held on tightly onto a rope she had prepared previously and swung herself into a small cave. This octagonal mountain was made up of piles of charcoal rocks. Every spring, there will be purple moss appearing on the charcoal rocks. After roasting it, it has a unique smell which calms the soul. Every spring, people from Zhuge family will collect the mosses from the cliff and as time passed, they dug up a man-sized hole. Chu Qiao spent a lot of time in the backyard and was made well-aware of the existence of this hole. She carefully placed the withered grass she plucked apart and kept her rope, waiting for the crowd to disperse.
At this moment, warm breath could be felt in her ear, a male voice whispered with a chuckle, "This girl, how are you so wicked?"
Chu Qiao was shocked. She immediately turned around and hastily struck the person with the hook attached to her rope.
"It's hard to imagine you are a child who is not even ten years old yet." The person was agile and grabbed ahold of Chu Qiao's small hands with ease, his voice tranquil.
Because of Chu Qiao's small stature, this person pinned her down to the floor with just one hand. But she still unyieldingly raised her head and was surprised as she raised her eyebrows, "It's you?"
The man seemed to be stunned for a moment too and carefully scrutinized the child. He had an epiphany and smiled, "Who am I? So it's you, is the medicine still effective?"
The man had dashing eyebrows with a sharp nose, jet-black eyes with an incisiveness hidden below his gentleness. Impressively, he is a distinguished guest of today's gala, Royal Highness of Yan, Yan Xun.
Chu Qiao determinedly raised her head and said coldly, "Why are you here? What are you trying to do?"
Yan Xun grinned, "I should be the one asking you this."
Many thoughts ran across Chu Qiao's mind and she repeatedly considered the chances of pushing this man down the cliff. While she was considering, she tried to reach for the dagger hidden at her waist.
Yan Xun pointed at her and said calmly, "If you don't want to be discovered, you better be obedient and not have any other ideas. Such a small child, how can you be so wicked?"
Chu Qiao raised her eyebrow, "Compared to you people, I am far from wicked. With you hiding here, you are probably up to no good too. Pot calling the kettle black, don't be a hypocrite and act like you're a big help to me."
Yan Xun instantly stood up upon hearing this, plied open the worm and shouted, "Who's above?"
Chu Qiao gasped and did not manage to stop him in time. If she was exposed, Xiao Ba will get into trouble too. She immediately pulled out her dagger and thrust it towards Yan Xun.
Yan Xun did a hook with his natural reflex and lounged onto Chu Qiao's mouth, bringing her into his embrace. Just then, an alarmed voice came from above and Yan Xun stuck his head out and shouted, "His Royal Highness is here appreciating the plum trees, why are you guys causing a ruckus? Quickly disperse."
Zhu Shun was brought to the cliff by his men and upon seeing Yan Xun, he lost his dominance and bowed down for a long while before hastily bringing his men away.
Yan Xun grinned as he released her arm, spun around and said, "This counts as me giving you a big helping hand right?"
Chu Qiao is short and is below Yan Xun's shoulders. She stuck her ear out and listened for a while,realizing that there wasn't any movement above. She threw her hook above and ensured that it was ledged on properly before turning over and maneuvering her way up.
Yan Xun squinted and observed her. Although she is definitely more agile, she doesn't seem to be from a martial arts background. While she is brave, she is not reckless with nimble movements. The cave was merely a meter below, Yan Xun firmly held onto the cliff and with a surge of force, he jumped up.
Chu Qiao kept her hook and surveyed her surroundings to ensure her safety before leaving. She suddenly turned around and said coldly, "I don't like to owe people favors. Later on before making your way back, look carefully at your horse."
Yan Xun was slightly taken aback. By the time he recovered his sense, the child was long gone. In the distance, she seemed like a dog crawling on the rugged trail and was gone after a moment.
The young Royal Highness of Yan squinted and gave a slight grin, "Interesting."
Descending the octagonal mountain, she passed by a strip of exquisite rockwork before entering the plum forest.
Today the various vagrants of Huang City's great families were gathered at Zhuge Court, the plum forest area was under extra watchful eyes, hence extremely quiet. While treading through, Chu Qiao occasionally leisurely tiptoed to pluck some plum flowers.
"Hey you! Come over!" A rude voice shouted out, seemingly of a child's but was of an overbearing tone.
Chu Qiao glanced and saw a young prince dressed in an emerald robe with an intricate depiction of a fluffy snow white sable tail embroidered in golden stitches. He had a bright face and slightly crinkled sharp nose. His et black eyes stared at her and shouted, "Yes, you! I'm calling for you!"
Chu Qiao frowned but thought it best not to cause any trouble. She bowed down respectfully and said, "I still have things to do, please excuse me." Once she completed her sentence, she turned and left.
The young prince was taken aback as he did not expect this servant to leave as she wished. He wrinkled his nose and suddenly yielded the whip in his hand and shouted, "You mongrel! So daring!"
Once she heard the sound, she turned back immediately and grabbed the tip of the whip with her bare hands while staring coldly at him.
Little did he know that Zhuge household's servant was so ferocious, he used all his might and tugged but to no avail. He pouted and raged, "Do you want to die? I will tell my men to chop you up!"
Chu Qiao smiled coldly and nimbly spun the whip. The whip immediately slipped out of the young prince's hand and into her own. Despite being less than eight years old, having a small stature and with a tender face, her glare was definitely not of a child. She calmly edged forward and said without a tinge of emotion, "The whip is used for chasing horses and not for you to attack others." Once she finished speaking, she handed the whip back to him and turned to leave.
Seeing that this girl was smaller in stature but was full of confidence and was so nimble, he felt attracted to her. Seeing her leave, he felt anxious but he was not able to speak to her positively with his huge ego. He presumptuously ran up and blocked her path, "You are a servant from which Zhuge Court? What's your name? Do you know who I am? Do you believe I will ask my men to chop you up?"
Chu Qiao lifted up her head, glanced at him slightly and pushed his arm away. She raised her eyebrows in disdain, "You can't beat me so you will have to call your men, what a weakling. No matter your status, I'm not interested to find out."
The plum trees swayed as the young prince stood amidst the trees; he stared blankly at Chu Qiao disappearing into the horizon.
After reaching Qing Shan Court, she said her greetings to those around and headed straight to Xuan Hall. Zhuge Yue was lying on his bed with a lazy demeanour and just vaguely looked at Chu Qiao without lifting his head.
She walked towards a jade vase and removed the flowers from the day before, placing the plum flowers she plucked into the vase. After which, she went beside Zhuge Yue and kneeled down at the incense burner. She mixed the slush from the plum flowers with basil before carefully pouring it into the incense burner and gently fanned it. Immediately there was a refreshing smell, Zhuge Yue took a deep breath and slowly closed his eyes.
A long time passed and Zhuge Yue seemed to have fallen asleep. At this moment, there were sudden movements outside and he wearily opened his eyes.
"Fourth Master, Zhu caretaker deployed his man to inform us that at the octagonal mountain he had caught Jin Cai red-handed, laying out a pot of rattan and many poisonous snakes. She's being trailed now."
Zhuge Yue half-opened his eyes and leisurely said, "Even though Jin Cai is bossy, she is timid, she wouldn't dare to bring poisonous snakes with her. Did anyone hear what she said?"
"She said…"The servant's voice trailed off while darting a look at Chu Qiao quietly sitting in the corner. He whispered, "She said she was following behind Chu Qiao and even said that she had set up both Jin Cai and Jin Zhu. Her purpose is to take revenge for the deaths of the children of the Jing household."
"Xing Er," Zhuge Yue reclined on his bed, lifted up his teacup and said calmly, "Explain yourself."
Chu Qiao kneeled down and replied calmly, "I didn't do it."
"So where did you go?"
"Xing Er went to the plum garden."
"Did anyone else see you?"
The child shook her head but thought for a moment and said, "Xing Er saw a young prince at the garden. He isn't from our court, he's slightly over ten years old and was wearing a jade robe with a snow white sable tail. I don't know his name."
"Hm," Zhuge Yue nodded his head and told the messenger, "You go."
The messenger was slightly taken aback and said with uncertainty, "So for Miss Jin Cai…"
Zhuge Yue raised his head, closed his eyes and leaned on the bed. He gently said, "She has to pay the price for her mistakes, see how the court wants to handle her."
The messenger nodded and left. The house was quiet with the slight scent of the smoky incense.
"Xing Er, do you hate the court for killing your relatives?"
Chu Qiao looked down and replied obediently, "Master, Xing Er has been the court's servant from a young age. And only because of you, I have a warm bed to sleep on, warm food to eat and clothes to keep me warm. I'm still young and my heart can't contain so many thoughts. I only wish to serve my master well and live properly."
"Yes," Zhuge Yue nodded his head, "What you're thinking is right. Even though you are young, you are still reliable. Next time, the matters of Xuan Hall will be handed to you to manage."