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Published at 13th of June 2018 09:24:24 PM

Chapter 19

Yan Xun flew into a rage, gave Feng Mian a kick while on his horse, and shouted, "Idiot! I dare you to say that again!"


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Feng Mian yelped twice in pain . He immediately turned around and ran towards the Zhuge residence . He did not dare to repeat those words again .

Yan Xun huffed in anger . He saw all his subordinates staring at him and hollered, "I do what I want!"

Everyone hurriedly looked away in their own direction and did not dare to look Yan Xun in the eye again . Each of them thought the same thing and sighed to themselves . After all, the prince was only thirteen years old . It was no big deal if he occasionally threw a childish tantrum .   

By the time Chu Qiao reached the Zhuge residence, it was already late at night . Upon seeing Chu Qiao, the gatekeeper was slightly taken aback, as he recognized that this was the favored maid of Qing Shan court's young master . Hence, he did not make things difficult and even gave her a lantern to light the way .   

The Zhuge residence gave off an icy cold aura at night, and without the noise and liveliness of the daytime, the silence made the place feel like a pitch-black prison cage . Occasionally there were a few cries of some jackdaws, which were then promptly shot down by archers who had great precision . Any forms of noise was not tolerated while the masters were sound asleep; even animals could not be excused .

 

As Chu Qiao passed by the high walls of Lan Shan court, she heard a burst of suppressed cries . It was as if a female servant was hiding on the opposite side of the wall and crying, having erred and taken a beating .

Chu Qiao's footsteps gradually came to a halt . The gigantic moon in the sky, pale and round, reflected her small shadow onto the red wall . Her shadow seemed thinner and longer, which reminded her of past times when she had a taller figure . She suddenly felt a tinge of sadness . Perhaps, she would snap out of her trance and realize that it was just a dream . If it was a dream, all of these things would not have happened . Those lifeless corpses, the fresh blood that flowed, and those tears of despair…

The cries of the child on the opposite side of the wall persisted . As she was too short, she could not scale the wall . How could she give warmth to others if she herself was cold? Just like those corpses that were buried underneath the snowy plains . Her despair did not help the situation .


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Unexpectedly, she opened the front door of Qing Shan court . Chu Qiao was surprised . She had originally planned to spend the night in the firewood room; the fact that the courtyard's gate was not locked stunned her . Zhuge Yue knew how to take care of his own health . When he was not attending lessons in the General Academy Hall, he would stay in the garden either busy with his flowers or enjoy some tea and burn some incense . He also highly valued sleep, unlike the other young masters, who were only preoccupied with lust, often throughout the night .

As she carefully stepped into the courtyard, the glow of a lantern started advancing towards her . Huan Er hurriedly grabbed Chu Qiao's hand and whispered, "Finally! Where did you run off to just now? I've been waiting for you the entire night . "

Chu Qiao apologetically stuck out her tongue and replied, "My horse was scared away . I just came back . Where's the young master? How come the gate isn't locked?"

"You're lucky . " Huan Er curled his lips and remarked with a smile, "Young master is in his study reading . He has been there all night and he has not told me to lock up . He hasn't slept either, so I've been able to wait for you here . "

Chu Qiao nodded, walking towards Zhuge Yue's room . Huan Er hurriedly stopped her and said, "The young master was not in a good mood when he came back . I do not know who ruffled his feathers . It's late, let's discuss things tomorrow . Anyway, the young masters did not ask you to go to Xuan hall . You go and take a rest, I'll inform the young yaster on your behalf . "

Chu Qiao nodded and replied, "That works too . " She turned and walked back towards her own room . Huan Er dashed into the Xuan hall, spoke a few sentences and exited .

Chu Qiao was one of the maidservants in Xuan hall with a higher status . Her room was located close to the main yard . As she walked to the door, the light in the room behind her went out before she could manage to open it . She was enveloped by the darkness .   

Chu Qiao was a little dazed . She turned back slightly, looking in the direction of Zhuge Yue's room . As the last light was extinguished, the entire Zhuge residence fell into a deep sleep . Chu Qiao stood in the corridor for a long time . As the wind blew, she twitched her nose lightly . It was as if she could smell the scent of blood beneath the ground .

Zhuge Yue seemingly had a nightmare just after closing his eyes . When he woke up, the third sound of the drum had just been struck . The sounds of the watchman dragged on, carrying a soft tail sound, and drifting far away in the silent night .

In that instant, he thought that he was still dreaming . In the dream, there was a warm spring breeze and beautiful peach blossoms . The touch of his mother's hand felt as gentle as the warm spring water, elegantly brushing across his hair, combing a neat bun for him . However, instantly, the cold air permeated his senses, rudely awakening him . He sat up, his white pajamas drenched with sweat . The windows were not fully closed and the icy, cold wind blew onto him through the window slit . The teapot by his bedside was already cold . A few pieces of osmanthus cake sat in a small blue and white porcelain dish . It's refreshing aroma was still delectable, despite the distance . He did not feel like sleeping anymore . He put on his coat, took his long flute, opened the door and walked out .   


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The maidservants outside were sound asleep, not awakened at all by his movement . He continued to walk and pushed the room door open, seeing the snowy white moonlight in the courtyard . It passed through the trees and shone on the ground, forming streaky, barbed reflections . It was as if it snowed out of nowhere . The warm radiance spread around the courtyard . The midnight wind was slightly chilly and brushed against his sleeves . The fluttering sounds mimicked that of a butterfly's wings . Heading east of the courtyard, he was welcomed by a big plum plantation . Its red and white colors intertwined and gave off a fragrant aroma, spread about by the wind .

This mansion was probably only silent at this hour . Without the other noises, it was as if he was the only person left in this world . He spotted a pavilion located higher up and wandered along the mottled stone path leading up to it . Frost had just descended upon the night, causing the path to be slightly slippery . He bent down and walked slowly, seemingly minding his way, but not paying attention at the same time .

"Fourth young master?" a crisp sound echoed in the distance . He raised his head and saw a little girl sitting on a tree next to the pavilion . She was wearing jade-green clothes, her neck adorned by a ring of snow-white camel fur . Her black eyes were big and round and were staring at him . A pair of small green boots were swinging around in mid-air, just like two dancing grass crickets .

He slowly raised his eyebrows and asked, "Why are you here?"

"I couldn't sleep . " Chu Qiao was astonished to see him here at this hour as well . She remarked honestly, "Fourth young master, you couldn't sleep either?"

  

Zhuge Yue remained silent and slowly walked up towards the pavilion .

The Zhuge residence was originally constructed on a hillside . The sights here were marvellous and offered a view of almost the entire city of Zhen Huang . The hazy moonlight was just like a thin white veil, shrouding every corner of the city, and suppressing the hostility of the harsh northern winds which had chipped away at the city for a few hundred years . The moonlight made even the thick city walls, which had been stained with the blood of numerous people, appear gentler .

Chu Qiao looked at his back view, suddenly feeling a sense of disorientation . The peace after the bloodshed made her feel tired . She leaned on a branch, staring at that quiet youngster . She watched the wind tug at his bright-colored sleeves, just like two big butterflies flying about with the flow of the wind .

"Fourth young master, I lost the little red horse . "


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Zhuge Yue did not respond, as if he did not hear her words in the first place . The long flute was still in his hands, but he did not play it . He stood still silently for a while, before turning and walking down the hill .

Chu Qiao, seeing that he was leaving, climbed down the tree to follow him . However, she lost her footing and slipped . In desperation and confusion, she grabbed hold of the tree branch, only for it to slice a big hole in her clothes . The back of her arm was also cut and fresh blood oozed out of the wound .

Zhuge Yue stopped in his tracks and raised his head, only to see what seemed like a monkey—no, a child—hanging from a tree branch . He paused to think and reached out his arms .

Chu Qiao was caught off guard and questioned suspiciously, "Fourth young master, what are you trying to do?"

Zhuge Yue replied, "Jump down . "

"Ah?" She thought for a long while, before realizing his intention . Chu Qiao quickly said, "It's okay, Xing Er can make her way down by herself . "

Zhuge Yue frowned slightly, appearing rather impatient, and declared stubbornly, "Jump down . "

Chu Qiao could not insist further and she could only release her grip . In an instant, she dropped into Zhuge Yue's arms . She was still short, only reaching his shoulders in height . In his arms, she felt like a small cat .

"Let's go . " Zhuge Yue placed her on the floor and walked in front of her, Chu Qiao promptly followed . They were surrounded by plum trees and the floor was strewn with petals . They trod on the soft white snow, leaving behind two rows of shallow footprints .

By the time they got back to Qing Shan court, all the servants there were awake and frantically searching for the pair . Zhuge Yue did not elaborate and went straight back to his room . Huan Er dashed over to Chu Qiao's room and started to question her .

As they spoke, a maidservant reported that Young Master had caught a cold and that someone was on their way to get a doctor . All of Qing Shan court started to become busy . Huan Er brought a few maids and servants in and out to prepare warm water and change towels, until the doctor arrived to take the Young Master's pulse and prescribe some herbal medicine . Only then was everyone able to catch their breath .

Chu Qiao, having had some supper, was preparing to sleep, when she suddenly heard a knock on her door . She opened the door to see Huan Er standing outside, along with an elder who looked over fifty . Huan Er uttered, "Xing Er, the young master said that you were cut . Since the doctor is here already, let him take a look at your injury . "

Chu Qiao paused for a second, and then made her way for the doctor to attend her wound . After the doctor was finished, Huan Er stated, "Also, the young master said that he would sleep in tomorrow, so we need not wake up too early to work . "

 

Chu Qiao nodded in agreement, and Huan Er left the room joyfully .

The hazy moonlight shone on this silent courtyard, it was as if a layer of white frost had been glazed over it .  

The next day, first thing in the morning, Chu Qiao went to see Zhuge Yue . However, the young but mature young master was not in his room . Chu Qiao, aware that she lost the red horse, knew that she had to provide explanation to him . As she was about to go outside to ask for his whereabouts, she saw Zhuge Yue stroll into the courtyard, wearing a set of dark golden armor and holding a long sword . He was flanked by a group of servants and adopted a decisive and agile posture . Chu Qiao had not seen him like this before . Zhu Cheng, back bent, had a cloak draped over his arms . He followed closely behind .

Huan Er along with other maidservants hurriedly ran up . They served tea and water to Zhuge Yue, started burning the incense, wiped his hands clean, and started preparing for his bath .

Chu Qiao stood by the side of the main entrance and waited for Zhuge Yue to take his seat . And then she stepped up and confessed, "Fourth young master, I lost the little red horse . "

"Um . " Zhuge Yue acknowledged her lightly, drinking a mouthful of the tea that he received from Huan Er . Then, he ordered his other servants, "Go and fetch two pots of the cymbidium that was delivered yesterday and take away this incense burner . It irks my sense of smell . "

The servants quickly obliged and set about to run their errands . Chu Qiao stood in her original spot . Seeing that Zhuge Yue had no intention of punishing her or continuing with this topic, she smartly stopped talking . Just as she prepared to sneak out, Zhuge Yue put down his teacup, pointed at her and said, "Xing Er, hold on . "



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