As a result, Chu Qiao was treated with even more respect by the others.
In the afternoon, Chu Qiao wore a brand new white cherry apple dress, white camel fur boots and two emerald jade flowers on her head. She looked adorable as she bounced along the lakeside in the backyard. She had just retrieved some agilawood incense from the outer courtyard and as she walked past the bamboo grove, a shadow suddenly appeared in front of her. The person let out a big laugh as he said, "Haha! Finally, I found you!"
The young prince wore a sapphire robe stitched with multi-colored birds and it was an assemblage of colors. He elated waved his whip in front of Chu Qiao, looked at her from head to toe, and said with a smile, "What's up? Today's weather is so good, let's go fowling."
Chu Qiao raised her eyebrows when she saw the young prince beaming with excitement. She shook her head and said, "I'm not free, I still have things to do, please excuse me." With that, she turned and left.
"Hey, don't leave." The young prince hurriedly ran to block her path by extending his arms and said, "It was not easy for me to find you, and I was waiting here in this garden for the whole afternoon. How about you tell me your name and which court you belong to? I will request Zhuge Huai to let you accompany me, what you do think?"
She raised her eyebrow, turned around and faced him. "You really want me to go with you?"
The young prince solemnly nodded his head and said, "Yes, among all the servants, you are the most pleasing to my eye. Let me designate you as my chief bodyguard. What do you think?"
Chu Qiao smiled and nodded. "Okay then, I will tell you my name. But whether you are able to request me from my master, we'll see."
"Rest assured!" He tapped his chest and proclaimed, "Even if I requested ten, Zhuge Huai still has to listen to me, let alone I am only asking for just you."
"Okay, listen carefully, I'm name is 'None' and I belong to the 'Exist' court. I'm under lady 'Tricks', and what I do is knead clay figurines for the masters and ladies to play with so that they would have fun. You must remember."
The young master's eyes shone brightly and he said, "You know how to knead clay figurines?"
"Yes." Chu Qiao held in her laughter and seeing that this kid was adorable, she tiptoed and extended her arm to gently pinch him on his cheek. She smiled and said, "I have many abilities and will let you see them first-hand in the future. I still have thores to run and I need to leave now. Remember to talk to my First Young Master."
"Don't worry, I will." The young prince nodded and grinned. "You better go back and pack first. I will pick you up in a short while."
Chu Qiao walked forward for quite a while and when she turned her head, the young prince was still standing on a boulder, enthusiastically waving his hand. Chu Qiao held back her smile and walked through the bamboo grove, holding her agilawood incense as she headed towards Qing Shan court.
"Named 'None', court 'Exist', servant of lady 'Tricks' and skilled in kneading clay figurines and have fun. How on earth did you come up with these?" A distinctly male voice suddenly rang out. Chu Qiao was taken by surprise and raised her head to see Yan Xun in a teal-colored light robe, sitting on the branch of a pine tree, smiling as he gazed at her.
Chu Qiao had already revealed her true self in front of him a few times and didn't find the need to hide anymore. She coldly glanced at him and angrily chided, "You climbed so high, aren't you afraid of falling to your death?"
"That should not be your concern. You are a wicked little kid, you should be more worried about yourself. The dark clouds are gathering, you can't be sure that there will not be thunderstorms during winter and that those who are guilty of wrongdoings will be struck."
With her small stature, she stood below the tree, looked up and said coldly, "No matter how many wrongdoings I commit, I couldn't compare with you brats that don't even blink when taking someone's life. All of you are swine and none of you are any good."
"How daring!" Even though his words sound serious, he still spoke with a casual tone and smile. Yan Xun sat on the branch, looked down at the child and said, "I purposely misfired my arrow to spare your life. To save you, I lost the winning prize of eight beautiful western dancers from your First Young Master. You aren't even grateful but insult me instead. What is your reasoning?"
"Reasoning is spoken to people, what's the point of speaking to swine? I have warned you not to harass me again, and don't even think of turning me in as a threat. If you dare to do that, you are bound to regret your actions."
Once she finished her words, she turned and quickened her pace. After taking two steps, she was struck by some object on the back of her head. She looked down and saw a pinecone still covered in snow. She was furious. She turned her head and glared at Yan Xun with anger. "Are you trying to provoke me?"
"Nope." Yan Xun smiled proudly and said, "I'm not provoking you, just bullying you."
Chu Qiao tilted her head and suddenly turned and left without uttering a word. Yan Xun purposely acted like he was deep in thought by half shutting his eyes, thinking that the child would argue with him. But to see her just leave like that, he was a little disappointed.
At this moment, a fist-sized stone unexpectedly soared through the air towards Yan Xun's face. Luckily, he had learned martial arts and had good reflexes. He managed to tilt his head and dodge the hit. He was secretly pleased but suddenly felt a burst of coldness on his back and a crashing sound ensued. From the impact on the tree, the accumulated snow scattered all over him.
The teenage Royal Highness in finery jumped off the tree, covered in snow, and was a mess. He raised his head and saw the little girl standing on the snow-covered ground, clapping her hand to dust off. She saw he looked towards her, raised her right arm and pointed her middle finger at him. She smiled proudly and turned to leave.
Yan Xun frowned slightly and pointed his middle finger too. The thirteen year old Royal Highness Yan was quite confused, What does this gesture signify?
Eleven year old page boy Feng Mian ran out from the woods and aggressively called out, "Your Royal Highness, I will go and capture her for you to punish this disrespectful servant."
"You? Catch her?" Yan Xun snorted and raised his middle finger. "Feng Mian, what does this gesture mean?"
"This?" Feng Mian was slightly taken aback but decisively said, "It should signify an apology. She knows that what she did was overboard but she is still a child and is embarrassed to apologize upfront, so she used that gesture to replace her words."
"Apology?" Yan Xun frowned. "Doesn't seem like it."
"It must be, your Royal Highness."
"Is that so?"
In the main hall of Red Hill court, Zhuge Huai, Zhao Che and the rest burst out into laughter as they overheard the conversation.
Wei Jing smiled and said, "Zhuge, I didn't know you have such a bright girl here. Now even I wish to meet her."
Zhuge Huai shook his head and said, "My servant isn't sensible and put herself in a position to be ridiculed."
"What happened? Why are all of you laughing?" The young prince was red with embarrassment as he seemed to know that he might have been the butt of the joke, but was unaware of what he did wrong.
Zhao Che chuckled. "Named 'None', from the 'Exist' court, servant of lady 'Trick', can knead clay figurines to play and have fun. Put it together, it was 'none exists, play tricks and have fun'. It was all a lie. Thirteenth brother, she was just making fun of you!"
Zhao Song's small face was bright red with embarrassment. He stomped his foot in anger and ran out.
A rumble sounded out. A wave of happy firecracker explosions unexpectedly appeared, the sparkles mixed in with the large snowflakes on the ground. Along the streets, many children were laughing and playing as they covered their ears and ignited the cheaper 'thunder-cracker' which let out a thunderous sound but without sparks. They were having so much fun.
The twenty-fifth lantern festival after the ascension of the throne for Emperor Bai Zong of the Xia Dynasty arrived amidst the festivities. Everyone was overwhelmed with joy as they filled the streets. The authorities provided free firecrackers for the people, which successfully created a livelier and joyful atmosphere. Sheng Jin palace's master appreciated the actions of the capital magistrate and praised and rewarded him.
Amidst the thunderous sounds, Zhuge residence had also tightened their preparations for this important day. On this day, large amounts of snow fell, which looked like goose feathers floating everywhere. The elders in the city claimed that this year's snowfall was a little bit odd, as normally by this time normally there was only frost.
Chu Qiao wore her newly knitted pink dress with a fox fur coat, and her white jade-like face was covered by the fox wool. She looked adorable with her two bright eyes, and she gently removed snowflakes that landed on her sharp nose.
"Xing Er, Young Master is calling for you." The new servant, Huan Er, ran over with a thud, arms akimbo as she heaved while calling for Chu Qiao.
Chu Qiao nodded and said, "Let's go." She headed towards Xuan hall steadily and without a single tinge of anxiousness.
Frowning, Huan Er watched Chu Qiao walked away. After a while, she shook her head, hurriedly trying to catch up. Compared to Chu Qiao, Zhuge Yue was more slow-paced. When Chu Qiao pushed open the doors, she saw the fourth master of the Zhuge family sitting on his heated couch, reading a game of go. His eyebrows frowned as he pondered.
Chu Qiao had prepared and double-checked all the items required for later, and handed them over to the other servants. Once she was done, she poured a cup of tea and placed it on the desk beside Zhuge Yue. She then sat straight beside the incense burner as she held her chin and waited quietly for him.
A book sat on the table and the pages were flipped open. The pages were already yellowed which showed that it was a pretty old book. Chu Qiao was fixated on the book and saw that it was actually a Buddhist scripture, and became very curious.
Zhuge Yue could not considered to be too cruel, nor was he too sly. At a minimum, he was not as bad as rest of his aristocrat peers who participated in the game in the royal hunting ground that day. However, he was aloof and was extremely self-confident. Other himself, he did not think highly of anyone else, let alone believing in faith or religion. Why would he change his mindset and read Buddhist scriptures?
"What is written on that is not all rubbish," seemingly reading Chu Qiao's mind, Zhuge Yue muttered. He picked up a black go piece and placed it on the game board, while flipping over a few pages of the book. "Read it out loud."
"Living a life is like living in thorns. If your heart remains still, then your body remain calm and still. Your body remain still, then you would not get hurt. If your heart is perturbed, your body would follow and take rash actions, thus you would be hurt by the thorns. It would scratch your body, pierce through your bones, and thus you would suffer for all kinds of pain in the world…"
Zhuge Yue raised his head slowly, his eyes revealed a whirlpool of thoughts as he stared at her with a profound look. He finally smiled and said, "Not bad, you know so many words at such a young age. Who taught you?"
Chu Qiao had already felt something was amiss when she read the first line, hence she did not panic, but smiled. "Thank you, Young Master, for your compliment. I have loved reading books since I was young and learned from my brothers and sisters."
"Is that so? Do you understand what you have read?"
"I briefly understood." Chu Qiao replied, "Could master explain it to me?"
Zhuge Yue grinned slightly and did not speak before lowering his head and continuing to study his go game.