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Qinglian Chronicles Chapter 26

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When I was taken back that day, I was drunk.

Though ancient wine isn't strong and my const.i.tution is fine, I'd been drinking a bit too fast. But because I drank too fast, I left a good impression on some of those scholars, who felt that I didn't put on airs and am completely different from the rumors.

This would all be told to me by Qu Baifeng later.

Qu Baifeng is the same as that one impulsive Baifeng. He is also part of a large Jiangnan family, and is Zhou Zizhu's cousin from his mother's sister's side. He is a man of no ulterior motives, nor does he care about the successes and failures of the world, and though he's a scholar, he has a bit of a chivalrous disposition. To speak plainly, he's carefree, has a wealthy family, reads some books, and makes trouble all over the place.

I like people like this.

Ever since he heard the poem I'd plagiarized from Lu You, he resolved to treat me as a friend. In his words, “One who can write a poem like this simply cannot be of an indecent or malicious sort.” I don't object to this, but what a pity that these aren't my own writings, as I am of an indecent sort.

Fortunately, my drunken state is very good; I never lose my control under the influence and don't say much, merely giving a huge amount of smiles, and with Zhang Qinglian's good looks, a huge amount of smiles can only be an advantage.

When I woke up the next day, it was already almost noon. This is my first time missing morning court since arriving here, and I don't know how serious the consequences will be.

Hong Feng sat at the side of my bed, dampening a towel in water to wipe my skin with. There's worry on her face, and upon seeing me awaken, she can't help but speak with faint delight. “You're awake, Sir? Why did you drink so much? I was frightened when Mr. Xue sent you back. Tian Chun said that you were discussing poetry with a bunch of pedantic academics, is there anything that you're feeling upset about?”

I take a sip of the tea she had handed over, smiling and shaking my head. Hong Feng typically conceals her emotions; seeing that she's visibly unsettled, it can be a.s.sumed that she's very worried about me.

“Have you had any troubles recently, Sir?” She asks lightly.

Zhang Qinglian was likely a very moderate drinker before and very rarely got drunk, so that's why Hong Feng is so anxious, questioning me again and again.

Looking at her lovely face, I suddenly get the urge to tease her, just as me and my female cla.s.smates and colleagues did to each other in the past. I smiled cheekily at her. “No need to be such a worrywart, It's not like I got alcohol poisoning.”

Hong Feng glanced at me, then looked away at the speed of light, her face slightly red.

Hm. In hindsight, I shouldn't kid around with her like this. When Hong Feng had launched a night attack on me last time, I hadn't shown a lot of enthusiasm, so I still shouldn't provoke her. For that reason, I speak grimly immediately afterwards: “Morning court…”

“I already sent someone to report that you were ill.”

I nodded.

I drank a bowl of congee fixed with fresh bamboo shoots and slivers of pork liver, easing my alcohol-tormented stomach. What great fortune that I didn't need to get up early! Going to morning court every day really isn't how someone should live. Being a high-salaried official isn't easy.

It'd be great if I could get drunk on the daily so I wouldn't have to go.

I sluggishly got up, and Hong Feng helped me freshen up. I asked her, “Where's Jinzi?”

“At his ‘Dark Snow Pavilion'.” Hong Feng answered me with high efficiency, but, if I'm not mistaken, her expression dimmed.

I can't help her no matter what I do, but I really do want to console her. “Hong Feng, has it been busy in the manor lately? Would you like to take a nature walk when the gra.s.s is greener in a few days? Where would you like to go? Have you been window-shopping recently, and did you see anything you liked? If you have, tell me, anything is fine.”

She startled, looking at me despondently, her expression both touched and distracted. Then, she suddenly broke into laughter and took hold of my hand, speaking softly, “Qing, you're still the same. I thought you had changed, though sometimes I suddenly feel as if nothing's changed at all, and we're still back in those days, where that thing hadn't yet happened…” She abruptly became extremely sad and with hidden anguish. “Qing, do you hate me?”

I freeze. What's with this theatre dialogue? How can Hong Feng talk to Zhang Qinglian in such an irreverent tone? What… what happened in the past? What kind of relations.h.i.+p did they have before? What did Hong Feng do? Why would Zhang Qinglian hate her?

c.r.a.p, one wrong word right now and my cover's blown.

Therefore, I said zero words, only slowly shaking my head as I watched her.

Haha, shaking one's head can have a lot of different implications, just like when a fortune teller sticks up their finger and says that different paths can lead to the same outcome. The people involved will come to their own conclusions.

As expected, Hong Feng had her own interpretation, and revealed a very disappointed look. “You really… aren't ready to forgive me…”

She didn't say anything more, only lowering her head and tying up my belt. “Alright… Sir.”

I don't know why, but seeing her hands slightly tremble as she tied it and hearing her say “Sir” in a low voice made my heart ache. Is this a spontaneous reaction from Zhang Qinglian's body?

I've learned long ago that once Hong Feng switches to calling me Sir, it means that our communication is over, official business has started, and her emotions will not be leaked out.

No no no, don't get emotional about things you can't change. This is one of the rules that I insist on dealing with things by.

I chase off my dropping mood and smile. “Thank you for your trouble, Hong Feng.” Then I left.

Jinzi's in the Dark Snow Pavilion? He hasn't been going there much ever since he started sleeping with me. I had really wanted to see him when I returned yesterday. Though we had to have slept together that evening, I don't have any memory of it.

Plum blossoms have recently begun to flourish and reclaim the landscape around the Pavilion, the original “obliquely shadowed” feel nowhere to be seen. All the faraway and excessively luscious pink clouds of flowers are quite a bizarre sight.

I saw Jinzi under a tree a distance away, performing a sword dance. The swings of his blade stir up countless petals into a continuous rain falling all around him, and there for a moment I suspected that these were actually sakura blossoms.

No matter what, Jinzi's sword… is really beautiful.

An amateur like me can't think of what to compliment him on. Could I say “drawing an audience like mountains lost among themselves, Heaven and Earth following his motions as he moves back and forth?” [1] But with the combination of his beauty and strength, interwoven with his own style and artistic direction, I don't believe anyone would doubt his giftedness and artistic accomplishments.

He's a cheetah pacing back and forth on the African savanna, illuminated by the burning red glow of the evening sunset on the horizon – which is a lot like a poem Cen Shen would write.

He ceased his dance, restrained his momentum, and stopped his slashes.

I wanted to go over to him when I saw someone had beaten me to it, subconsciously stopping me in my tracks.

Woah, it's a young woman that's walking over. She's wearing a dress as green as lake water, and her black hair is done-up in a gorgeous design – a major beauty.

I take extreme caution, holding my breath as I try to find the best place to eavesdrop from.

This pretty girl is a bit sweet, a bit charming, a bit proud, and a bit shrewd. Why does she seem awfully familiar, and when did such a character arrive in my residence?

The girl step-step-steps towards Jinzi. Her way of walking as if she suffered from acute epilepsy made me remember something: that one servant named Zi Luan who was my harem supervisor, with the obstinate personality and lack of close a.s.sociation with me.

She seems to be familiar with Jinzi. Which alley did Zhang Qinglian get a great aunt like this from, anyways?

She rushed in front of Jinzi, looked up at his face, and spoke through gritted teeth: “I finally got the chance to talk to you one-on-one, Zizi!”

Zizi! That's a… very affectionate name!

I've always felt like being jealous is beneath me, yet I currently have half a mind to kick this beautiful girl out.

Jinzi's face is as expressionless as always. He speaks coldly, “What's Young Lady Xue seeking me out for?”

Huh? Young Lady Xue?

Zi Luan looked at him, and suddenly her eyes went red around the rims. She stamped her foot. “How can you still be so cold? I-I infiltrated such a filthy place for you, holding myself back, having to call that scoundrel Zhang Qinglian ‘Sir' when I saw him… you…”

Jinzi wasn't moved. “Men and women are different. Young Lady Xue should value her own status and reputation instead of rashly changing her name and surname to mix about in a young chancellor's home.”

Young Mistress Xue was furious, but barely managed to keep it down, lowering her voice. “Zizi, do you have a grudge against my mom and brother? I…I didn't agree to calling off the marriage! It was all my mom's stubbornness! I've had so many fights with her over this… I couldn't find you at the beginning, but I later learned that you were here and thought of a million ways to sneak in! So I planned to manage his…” The Young Mistress thought the word ‘catamite' to be vulgar and unsuitable for a cultured daughter to say, so she turned red and changed her wording, “…his people with a despicable job — but you weren't in there! I have to run back to deal with my family for a while, then run back here to deal with Zhang Qinglian for a while – if it weren't for my personal maid and big sis Hong Feng's help, I don't know how many time I would've been caught! After I knew Zhang Qinglian locked you in the stone prison, I asked big sis Hong Feng to save you all hush-hush like, but she refused to… I was so worried about you!”

So she's Mr. Xue's younger sister. Seems the Young Mistress always had Jinzi on her mind, full of deep affection towards him. Hong Feng actually went behind her employer's back and helped her, which is very odd. She called Hong Feng ‘big sis' – what's the relations.h.i.+p between the two?

I'm currently more concerned about Jinzi's response, though.

Jinzi watched her, his face relaxing a tad. “What Madam Xue did… was originally for your own good, and she wasn't wrong. You should listen to her.”

Young Mistress Xue looked extremely disappointed, then looked terribly indignant, raising her fair chin to say, “Does not having to marry me actually make you very happy? …What if I told you that my mom and brother now want me to marry Zhang Qinglian?”

The atmosphere stills.

I didn't dare breathe too loud. My gaze automatically dropped down 45 degrees to see the hands hanging down at Jinzi's side slowly clench into airtight fists.

“He won't marry you,” he says in a confident voice, fighting hard to suppress something else that had caused a ripple in his flat tone.

Zi Luan was greatly incensed, raising her voice. “How would you know? Because he likes you? — There's a lot of advantages for him to marry me! Could it… could it be that you actually do like men?”

Jinzi's face was cold. He didn't make a sound.

I was deeply touched at the a.s.sured tone Jinzi used to say “he won't marry you”. I'd actually still been bothering with plotting and weighing the pros and cons of marrying the Xue family's young miss just now, but with that answer I'm also determined not to go through with it.

Ah, seems that Qu Baifeng and I are both fools that let their emotions control their actions.

Zi Luan was breathing unevenly, taking a long time to settle herself. She stepped forward and tightly grasped Jinzi's sleeve, her words earnest. “Zizi, are you in fact staying here to wait for an opportunity for revenge? It just… Uncle Gu sent someone here a few days ago to get in touch with you, why did you ignore them? Uncle Gu has a lot of trust in you. He says you must have your own plans, but other people don't know that. They say things that are hard to listen to, like how you've forgotten your father's enmity and now only care about that lowlife Zhang Qinglian… and that… you're romantically involved!”

Oh my, the Qingliu party has already started to play their cards? And they've tried to contact Jinzi? That's not surprising; he's the son of Yao Ganjin, a former cornerstone of the Qingliu.

Jinzi gave a bitter laugh and shook off Young Mistress Xue. “Have my own plan? Of course I have my own plan! I'll take my revenge by myself, with no one else taking part! Gu Yunzhi and the rest saw that my martial arts are recovered, and they only think of me now that I have use to them, is that it? Where were they when my family was wiped out? Where were they when I was captured? How come no one thought of coming to rescue me in these two years? …Do they think I'm that stupid?”

Zi Luan was aghast, stumbling backwards a few steps from the force Jinzi used to pull his sleeve away. Only when she steadied her stance, and spent a long time speechless, did she speak again, ” …But…Uncle Bao was too deeply implicated, and Uncle Yao also said at the time that other people shouldn't get involved, in order to preserve the loyals in the royal court… they didn't know that you were taken by Zhang Qinglian, and it took me a long time to figure out, too!”

“Oh, yes, after listening to my dad's words, did those people breathe a sigh of relief? They were worried about their own reputations and their own family's lives, of course, and this way they'd get the best of both worlds, fealty all around! They didn't know? You think they're the same as you?”

Zi Luan's mouth hung open, no words coming out.

Jinzi leveled his emotions, and spoke with a mild gentleness, “…Don't play dumb anymore. Listen to your mother. She's an astute woman, and she knows what's best for you. Your brother is, in fact, much smarter than you… go home soon, and don't ever come back. If you do, I'll tell Zhang Qinglian your ident.i.ty.”

“You—” Young Mistress Xue was bitterly angry. At her wits end, all she could do was viciously stamp her feet. “Then I won't come! Worst comes to worst, I'll listen to my mom and marry Zhang Qinglian!”

She ran off in a huff.

I watched her madly rus.h.i.+ng away with the same lack of elegance. I was trying hard to digest what I had just heard when Jinzi's cold and indifferent voice met my ears.

“Come out.”

…Jinzi better get a hug at some point.

I don't like the bots stealing my stuff, so for this week only I'll be doing this fake-chapter stuff so their archives will be permanently messed up (hehehe). Next week I'll post normally.

[1] From Du Fu's . Funny how MC quotes a poem about a beautiful, female sword-dancer… Jinzi must be real pretty.

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About Qinglian Chronicles Chapter 26 novel

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