"Yes, young master. Thank you!" The child respectfully lowered her head. After quite some time, she suddenly asked, "Does young master believe that sister Jin Zhu was set up by sister Jin Cai?"
Zhuge Yue let out a short groan. "Jin Cai is not a daring person, and even if she had the guts, she was not intelligent enough to come up with this plan. Zhu Shun is an elder here, but made a mistake and was punished for it. His ego was too big, and he wanted to find an excuse for his mistake, which is okay. However, he shouldn't push the blame to people from my courtyard, setting up a false image of a tussle between the servants in Qing Shan court in order to prove himself innocent. He hasn't learned properly from his past experiences."
"Then why doesn't young master help sister Jin Cai? She will get beaten to death by the court."
"If she really did it, I actually would save her. But she fell so easily into somebody else's trap, and that was enough to prove her stupidity. There's no point of letting someone like that stay with me."
The sun rays were piercing into the room from the window cracks and the refreshing scent of the plum flowers gradually emanated.
Ultimately Zhu Shun had already served in the Zhuge residence for over ten years and hadn't wasted his years being useless. Although he truly believed that it was due to the tussle between Jin Cai and Jin Zhu that he was incriminated, he was afraid that Zhuge Yue wouldn't believe him and might think that he was trying to wash away his fault by setting Jin Cai up. Hence, Zhu Shun didn't let the court beat Jin Cai to death, but instead wanted to wait until the next day to report to his First Young Master, who would be free then.
At night, the court was dead silent. In the pitch black woodshed, Jin Cai's flesh seemed to have been torn apart, with marks from whipping all over. She appeared to have received a heavy sentence. Chu Qiao stood in front of Jin Cai, scooped up a ladle of water and dumped it all over Jin Cai's face. Jin Cai groaned a little and slowly woke up. Upon seeing Chu Qiao, she raged and fiercely shouted, "You b*tch! You still dare to come see me?!"
Chu Qiao calmly stood in front of her and quietly listened to her cursing and swearing. After a while, she gently smiled and said, "If you really want to die, feel free to continue shouting."
Jin Cai's clothes were tainted red, her face ghostly white as she heaved heavily with hate filled eyes.
Chu Qiao shook her head and said slowly, "Even if I didn't have an intent to harm a snake, the snake still wants to bite me. I have warned you before, you shouldn't have repeatedly gone against me. If you didn't stalk me, you wouldn't have suffered this consequence. It ultimately was your own fault. How could you blame others?"
"You wicked b*tch, even if I was dead, I would haunt you as a ghost!"
Chu Qiao let out a sigh. "So you really want to die?"
Jin Cai was taken aback as Chu Qiao continued speaking, "I didn't intend to harm you, and whatever happened today was only to teach you a lesson. Too bad the fourth master refused to save you. Seems like you will be accompanying Jin Zhu in the Ting Lake soon."
Jin Cai's face became paler after she heard this. She looked at Chu Qiao and her eyes revealed a glimpse of her pleading for her life. She hurriedly said, "Xing Er, neither we were implacable foes in the past, nor did we had much hatred toward each other recently. Lin Xi's death was all Jin Zhu's idea, I just acquiesced. If you could come here without being noticed, I'm sure you can save me. Please save me, I don't want to die!" After which, she trembled and started bawling.
Chu Qiao sighed, placed her bag down and said, "Don't cry already. You think I'm here tonight to just chat with you? You do not deserve to die, and since I caused you to be in this situation, I definitely won't leave you to be. Put on this clothes and I will bring you out immediately." She came forward and undid the ropes tied to Jin Cai's body.
Jin Cai was delighted and asked, "Can we escape? The security here is very tight."
"Don't worry, I've bribed the guards at the back door. The master is returning home. You're just an insignificant maid; no one will bother to investigate. As long as you can escape, you won't die."
Jin Cai followed closely behind Chu Qiao, and they both slipped out from the window and passed the rockery of Red Hill court. Suddenly they heard footsteps in the distance. It was the guards who were patrolling. Both girls immediately squatted down and dared not take a step forward.
Chu Qiao turned back and handed her bag to Jin Cai. She whispered, "I will go distract those people, you make your way to the western gate. I've already made an arrangement with the gatekeeper. Once you are there, just mention my name and you will be free to go. Here is some money and clothing. It belonged to sister Zhi Xiang. They're a little small and I don't know if you can fit into them. I don't have much money and that's all I can give you. You take care of yourself after you leave and make good choices please." She turned and went to the other side, making some noise as she left so that the guards on duty would notice and chase toward her direction.
Jin Cai opened the bag to find that there was such a meager amount of money that she couldn't even afford to buy a roasted goose. She raised her eyebrows. The clothes were either torn or dirty, and they were ugly and gave off a weird smell. She was even more upset. She thought that instead of being a proper servant, she had ended up as a fugitive. If she was caught, she would definitely die. This was all due to Jing Xing Er, who acted like she was a good person. So shameless of her.
Jin Cai took the money and threw the bag on the floor. She didn't care about the consequences Chu Qiao had to face if people found this bag and its contents after she successful escape.
The cold wind blew and tugged on the corners of her clothes, the moon shone down brightly on the earth.
At that moment, in Zhu Shun's room, a man's heavy breathing and a woman's tender moaning with dirty talk could be heard. The winter night was freezing, and the guards had long found warm places to take a nap. The small child tiptoed her way to Zhu Shun's door. She didn't make a single visible action or audible sound.
Chu Qiao knelt outside Zhu Shun's door. Her eyes shone like diamonds in the pitch black environment, showing her wise and calm demeanor. The man inside let out a groan, followed by the rustling sound of him putting on his clothes. Chu Qiao picked up a stone and threw it at the door. The rock hit with a soft thud, but enough to be heard by the people inside. Zhu Shun raised his voice, "Who's out there?"
Chu Qiao did not reply but picked up another stone and again threw it at his door.
"I'm coming!" the man said frustrated. "In the middle of the night, who's that?"
The door was pulled open but no one was to be seen, Zhu Shun raised his eyebrows astonished, stuck out his head, and started walking out. Once he lifted his leg, he was tripped by a rope that he didn't notice before crashing to the ground.
"Ouch!" he screamed in pain and was about to curse. A black sack was placed over his head, obscuring his vision. He was shocked and realized that something was amiss. He started shouting and throwing his hands around.
The night was dark and freezing. Chu Qiao held her sharp dagger, her eyes and lips revealed a cold-hearted expression. She directed her dagger at his chubby hand and slashed it. A loud shriek that sounded like a pig going through a slaughterhouse erupted. Zhu Shun held his wrist painfully and rolled around on the ground. Chu Qiao immediately escaped westwards, towards the direction of the flowerbeds.
Behind her, a clutter of footsteps from the guards followed and a sharp scream from a woman could be heard. "What happened? Ah! Who did this to you, Steward Zhu?"
The woman's clothing was not on properly. She was shocked and said, "I did not clearly see who it was. I could only tell the person was short, seems like...seems like a child."
"Where did the person head towards?"
Over ten people's footsteps made their way in front of her and swept past her. She tried her best to crouch and hide among the bushes. The voices slowly drifted away and the surroundings quieted down. The child patted the soil and dirt off her body before standing up and leisurely started to leave. Her pace was unusual casual and confident.
As she passed by the rockwork of Red Hill court, she saw her bag with its contents messily sprawled about, as she had expected. She sneered, picked up her bag and walked towards Qing Shan court. She carefully climbed through the back window and changed into white pajamas. Voices outside became louder and the torch was glaring, lighting up the sky.
Chu Qiao ran her hand through her hair and rubbed her eyes before opening the door with a sleepy expression. She coincidentally met a few of the other young maids who just opened their doors.
These few servants were already thirteen to fourteen years old but their status was not as high as Chu Qiao's. They blankly shook their heads. Then, the opening of a door could be heard from Xuan hall, and they hurriedly ran over there.
Zhuge Yue was gloomy and saw the unkempt Chu Qiao and the other servants. He asked his bodyguard, "What happened? Why is there so much noise?"
"Young Master, there seemed to be an assassin. Steward Zhu's hand was cut off. Guards at the western door captured Jin Cai trying to escape. She was brought back to the court."
Zhuge Yue was shocked but a chuckle followed. "Who would've thought Jin Cai had such a temperament."
The guard carefully looked at Chu Qiao. "When Jin Cai was caught, she screamed that she was set up by Chu Qiao and that she had done nothing."
Once this was said, all attention turned to Chu Qiao. She wrinkled her small face and her big innocent eyes blinked as they watered, and she felt she was wronged. She turned and looked pitifully at Zhuge Yue and sadly claimed, "The fourth master, I've…I've been in my room sleeping this whole time. I-I didn't…"
"Fourth Master, Xing Er was in her room the whole time, we all saw," a third-class maid stepped forward and said.
Other servants started standing up for Chu Qiao.
Zhuge Yue nodded his head and told his messenger, "Tell the court, if that woman continues spouting nonsense, don't even bother to give her a trial, just throw her into the lake. How old is Xing Er? How could Jin Cai's talk get more and more ridiculous?"
The servant immediately nodded his head and left.
Zhuge Yue looked at his young maids and said, "Go back to sleep," and went back into Xuan hall.
Chu Qiao stood in her spot, her face revealing her displeasure from being wronged. A few of the other servants tugged at her and said, "Xing Er, don't be afraid, we are your witnesses. She can't accuse you."
Chu Qiao nodded her head and with a weeping voice, said, "Thank you, sisters."
It was already late in the night and the cold wind continued blowing. Today was the seventh day after the children from the Jing family had left this world. The people who caused their death had finally paid their dues with their blood.
However, this little amount of pay back, was far from enough.
The "assassin" incident was a hot topic and causing chaos until the next day. Zhu Shun was left with one hand and took his rage out by ordering his men to beat Jin Cai to death. She was already injured previously, and was killed within two hours. She was thrown into the lake with a straw mat to feed the crocodiles.
Zhuge Yue had been a loner and was unsociable. Xuan hall initially only had Jin Zhu and Jin Cai, but within a few days they died one after another. Now, only Chu Qiao was left. She was still young and was not even eight years old. She had a baby-like face and spoke with childish voice. No matter how capable she was, outsiders still more or less felt weird that she would be in charge. In less than half a day, rumors had spread throughout the residence, claiming that the fourth young master was following in the old grand master's footsteps, and had developed an abnormal liking for the ungrown young girls.