Chapter 42 – It’s easy to dodge the spear in the open, but hard to avoid a stab in the dark
Chu Qing-Yan returned to her courtyard after being struck by a bolt out of the blue. After calming down, cold sweat formed on her back.
Truth be told, today was actually kind of a risky move. She wasn’t a person who couldn’t withstand hardship, it was only that she wasn’t clear about her situation in the prince’s manor. In the end, she was unsure of how Xiao Xu really saw her, therefore, she had to brave the danger of standing before the tiger to pull his whiskers, while putting her life at risk. All this to see if he would really take his anger out on her because of this marriage that was not to his taste.
But she had to say, the test results still left her puzzled despite much thought. From his attitude, she could feel that he treated her almost like a pet. Whenever he was in the mood, he’d tease her a bit, that kind of feeling.
This feeling was very subtle, but she didn’t feel any evil intent behind it.
On the contrary to the proposal he put forth today that she vetoed on the spot. Thinking about it now, if she really agreed at that time, would he really let her go and let her leave the manor?
She didn’t know the answer to that.
Chu Qing-Yan lightly sighed. Since she was already here, might as well make herself comfortable.
Finally putting these matters to rest, Chu Qing-Yan stretched her waist and suddenly felt her stomach was empty. Just at this moment, Xi Ning walked in, carrying a tray.
Chu Qing-Yan’s face spread out into a smile, ‘how timely’, she thought. But when she saw the things on the tray, she lost her appetite.
Xi Ning looked at the twitch at the corner of her master’s mouth and couldn’t help but lower her brows and guiltily say, “Master, when this servant went to the kitchen to get food, only these were left.”
Burnt vegetables, steamed buns without skins and thin congee that was no different from water.
Chu Qing-Yan pressed her forehead and waved her hands, “Put it there. To the people suffering in poverty outside, this is already considered pretty good.”
This was the first meal she had without having to eat with Xiao Xu. She never thought that this would be the treatment she’d receive as the future official consort. However, recalling the time she stepped into the manor, how Bai Hu showed his authority, the corner of her mouth pulled back and forth. Forget it, living under someone else’s roof means that you have to lower your head. This truth, she understood.
But when she chewed on this tasteless steamed bun, Chu Qing-Yan couldn’t help but miss the golden steamed buns Huang Yi made. That chewiness, that savory softness, imagining it almost made Chu Qing-Yan’s saliva flow out.
At this moment, Xi Ning watched on the side as her master ate, her heart was sad but also glad as she said, “Fortunately, His Highness only let you not have breakfast together. You can still have lunch and dinner at the Jade Courtyard. Then, Master wouldn’t need to eat these hard-to-swallow foods.”
Only now did Chu Qing-Yan recall the words Xiao Xu had said to her in the Jade Courtyard. He excused her from accompanying him in the morning, but she had to be present at all other mealtimes. To put it nicely, it was to let her adapt to her current lifestyle sooner. But Chu Qing-Yan couldn’t understand, what was there to adapt to in this lifestyle? However, when recalling the cold air given off by him, she immediately nodded her head in endorsement. Adapting was essential, what if a day came and she couldn’t handle his low temperature and became frozen stiff, what would be done then?
Thinking up to here, Chu Qing-Yan immediately rubbed at the goosebumps on her arm.
After she finished eating, there really wasn’t anything for her to do. So Chu Qing-Yan made Xi Ning talk about matters in the manor.
In fact, Xi Ning had only been in the manor for half a year. In addition, she was very young, so she didn’t really have a clear understanding of the matters in the manor. Consequently, Chu Qing-Yan was only able to understand a couple of points from her childish words. For instance:
The seven-colored senior servant girls were the generic name Chu Qing-Yan called those seven-colored maids. Such as Hong Yi and Cheng Yi, who had been at the prince’s side since young, and the other five people who were gradually assigned to his side. Such as Huang Yi, who was a descended from a famous cooking family but was sold into the prince’s manor because her family suffered a reversal of fortune. Because she cooked delicious food, she was chosen by the housekeeper and arranged into the Jade Courtyard.
And by Xiao Xu’s side, there were also the accompanying imperial bodyguards, Gu Rong and Gu Yi, who were arranged by Empress Liang five years ago to stay by his side to protect him.
Xiao Xu usually didn’t bother himself with matters in the manor. The big and small matters that happened were basically handled by the housekeeper, and the back courtyard was managed by Hong Yi.
Chu Qing-Yan thought, it looked like Xiao Xu regarded this senior maid Hong Yi very highly. Having been here for a few days, she also felt that Hong Yi was warm and polite, and that the way she handled things were appropriately tensed and relaxed at the correct levels. Her words were also reasonable, justified and easily believable to people. She couldn’t help but admit that her abilities were quite good.
Now, Chu Qing-Yan was thinking, although Xiao Xu hadn’t taken a concubine from these exquisitely beautiful senior servant girls in the courtyard, she didn’t know whether Xiao Xu could control himself? Or could he have already indulged himself among the soft and tender ‘homes’? Thinking of this, Chu Qing-Yan developed a feeling of revulsion. She came from the modern world and received an education system based on monogamy. She completely couldn’t tolerate the ancient society’s idea of a large number of wives and concubines. She had somewhat of a headache thinking about the kind of behavior she should express, if by chance she came across Xiao Xu embracing another woman.
However, for someone like him that gave off an aura of not letting strangers get close from head to toe, could a girl even dare to get close to him?
Chu Qing-Yan shook her head back and forth. What do these things have to do with her? She was only a little over 10 years old. No matter how beastly he was, he wouldn’t possibly harbor those ideas on her body. Moreover, there were still several years until she was of marriageable age, who knew what kind of unknown variables might pop up before then!
Xi Ning was still young and couldn’t hide her words ,and also by chance, she really liked this master. So, early in the morning, she started to long-windedly narrate, racking her brains, trying to tell her master everything she knew.
Seeing her master listening with great interest, Xi Ning’s eyes turned, she recalled the matters she overheard today in the kitchen and immediately poured it all out.
“Master, today, this servant heard something related to His Highness.”
“What kind of thing? Tell it so I can hear it.” Chu Qing-Yan casually replied back.
Xi Ning, having heard what she said, immediately lowered her voice to say, “I heard Little Cai in the kitchen say that the reason why His Highness didn’t go to morning court was because there’s a minister in court who was found to be corrupt. Some people said that this minister was involved with His Highness, therefore, His Majesty had His Highness stay in the manor these days to rest. She reckoned this was so His Majesty could investigate the matter.’
Chu Qing-Yan couldn’t help but sit up straight when she heard this. Corruption and accepting bribery were a thorn in a sovereign king’s eyes. It wouldn’t be treated lightly. But how did Xiao Xu get implicated in this matter?
An ice-cold wolf-like figure emerged before her eyes. No matter what, he didn’t seem like the type to collude with villains right?
However, you can’t judge a person by appearance, just like you can’t measure the sea with a pot, what if it was true?
Chu Qing-Yan developed cold sweat because of this matter. If Xiao Xu was discovered to be stained with this matter, then wouldn’t she, as the convenient consort, also be implicated?
So the saying goes, being denounced at home as fake was fake. Being investigated was the real thing.
At this moment, Xi Ning, who didn’t realize the severity of matters, continued to speak, “His Highness is not that kind of person. Although he isn’t empathetic, doesn’t like being intimate with people, and is stern and unfeeling, this servant still doesn’t believe His Highness would plunder the blood, sweat and tears of the people!”
Hearing Xi Ning’s words that loyally defended her master, Chu Qing-Yan wiped off the cold sweat on her forehead and shook her head in her heart. It’s hard to tell what’s real or fake in government, nobody can say for sure. Also, it could be easy to dodge the spear in the open, but hard to avoid a stab in the dark. Since she had never met a government official that hadn’t given off smoke, she was unable to agree with Xi Ning’s words.
And just at this moment, Jade Garden sent someone to summon her.
Chu Qing-Yan took a glance at the sun. It was noon again.
She was about to meet up with that big block of ice again.