Qinglian Chronicles - LightNovelsOnl.com
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[Might as well call it a field trip with all the d.a.m.n kids you brought, Chuchu.
Make sure you're reading on chichilations. Aggregators are bad, and reposts are never allowed.]
Zhou Zizhu only brought along one servant; a bald middle-aged man with a frightful scar on his neck. From the looks of the callus on his purlicue and bulging at his temples, he should be a martial arts expert or something. He's a man of few words and gives us no airs, not even looking much at Jinzi, but he's willing to take the role of a servant towards Zhou Zizhu with complete sincerity and respect.
And now, our Relief Money Embezzlement Investigation Squad has officially been established. The members are as follows: me, Jinzi, Zhou Zizhu, Hong Feng, the three Rect.i.tude kids, Zhou Zizhu's no-named servant, and my first-named coachman.
Our means of transportation is the biggest carriage my Residence has, pulled by those high-grade, severely-underappreciated, upper-tier-yet-still-being-used-to-pull-cart four piebald horses. Jinzi is riding his Xiaoshao, and I've brought my Hearth.
Jinzi expressed that he had no understanding of why I'm taking a heap of eye-catching horses to a secret investigation, but I ignored him. In my eyes, what matters most is speed, and acting hush-hush is second. Besides, we're bringing along three kids; who cares about the horses? And I had thought about putting a bit of pigmentation on them, or apply a bit of mud, or shear Xiaoshao's hair down short, or so on, but Hearth was the first to not allow that so I had to let it go.
Zhou Zizhu looked agape at my group of young detectives. I smile lightly. “My students and young maidservant. Bringing a few children with will make our ident.i.ties not to easy to make out.”
Bro Zhou clearly didn't endorse my hypothesis at all, but he didn't say much on it. Looking towards Jinzi, he cupped his hands in greeting. “Young Mister Yao.”
Jinzi indifferently returned the gesture. “Sir Zhou.” Then he turned back to and said, “Jinfeng.”
Jinfeng obediently came forward, first making a show of raising his head to size up Zhou Zizhu before saying very slowly, “I've seen Sir Zhou.”
Zhou Zizhu is somewhat astonished and hesitates. “This is… Second Young Master?”
Jinzi nods. “My younger brother.”
Zhou Zizhu's steed is a porcelain horse  and can be considered a good one, but his follower is riding a big spotted mule . I'm quite apprehensive about that, but now is not the time to make suggestions. I decided to wait until his servant fell behind later to bring up switching horses.
To my surprise, we've been making haste for more than a s.h.i.+chen and the mule actually hasn't fallen too far behind. Though Hearth and Xiaoshao weren't going at full strength and the piebalds were pulling a very big carriage, that's strange enough for a mule.
We had already ridden out of the capital at this point, the wind loud and sky distant, green fields and plants everywhere, the surroundings s.p.a.cious and empty. It's very sensational, but it's just a shame the sun is gradually getting fiercer and this time period doesn't have sunscreen. In order to protect my skin, I decide to return to the carriage and cram in with Hong Feng and the kids.
I suddenly stop my horse, and Jinzi and Zhou Zizhu rein in their own to look at me. The insides of my thighs have been rubbed extremely raw, and one's posture when dismounting is very graceless, yet they have no tact and keep on watching.
“It's nothing. “I reluctantly smile. “I'm tired, so I'm going to use the carriage.”
Jinzi kept quiet. Zhou Zizhu spoke warmly first, “Brother Zhang has been under the weather. Quickly get inside the coach and rest, alright? It would be no fun to fall ill while touring.”
I smile at him. “Thank you for your concern, Brother Zhou,” I say as I grit my teeth and crawl off the horse's back in a way destroys my image. I lurch over to the front of Jinzi's horse and hand him Hearth's reins; Hearth would have followed along without being pulled, in fact, but having Jinzi with the reins gives me some a.s.surance. He accepts them, gazes at me, and asks in a low voice, “Not feeling good?”
I know where his thoughts are straying from home he looks. Blus.h.i.+ng, I shake my head. “Just dreading the sunlight is all.”
A turn of my head, and I catch Zhou Zizhu giving us a bit of an odd look. I recall running into gay people in modern times and also being a little curious, yet also feeling that my curiosity doesn't respect their subtle way of thinking; I can understand him.
Hong Feng lifted the curtain for me. Xiao Zhu wanted to come help me up, but got robbed by Xiao Lu and took her hand back with a reddened face. I send a polite smile her way. “Have you gotten used to it yet, Xiao Zhu? Are you uncomfortable?”
Her face gets even redder, and she can only shake her head.
The carriage is very big, but with two adults and three kids it's still kind of cramped. Hong Feng and I are sitting on one side, the three children on the other. Jinfeng looked out the window to the side and said derisively, “Really useless, how are you still a man?! Getting tired while riding a horse!” Xiao Lu quickly pulled on his sleeve, but Jinfeng shook him off.
I'm half-amused and half-annoyed again. It's useless to bicker with a small child, so I've no choice but to not make a peep. Jinfeng unexpectedly stood up and said, “It's too crowded! And boring! I'm going out to ride with my brother!”
I don't say anything and allow him to get off. I hate the crowding too, anyways. From the window I can see him say something to Jinzi, who shook his head. He pointed at Hearth, and Jinzi shook his head again. Following that, Jinzi got off his own horse and let him ride Xiaoshao, riding Hearth himself, Hearth obediently allowing him to.
Hmph. My Hearth has a big temper and it's difficult for strangers to get close, but along with me, it's solely fearful of Jinzi. As for me… it could barely be considered henpecked. What's Hearth like? Does it adapt to circ.u.mstances?
Xiao Lu carefully observed my expression. Not finding any indication that I'm annoyed at Jinfeng, his mood rises, and he starts to ask me about the East and West.
As I answered him, I noticed Xiao Zhu seemed constrained. I asked her, “Xiao Zhu, are you concerned about your little brother?”
She shook her head. “Someone is looking after him, and he's not hungry, I… this maid isn't worried.” She wrings her hands.
I nod, not speaking further on it, Xiao Lu still asking me about anything and everything. Even so, my head is getting heavy, the swaying of the coach like a cradle, and though the weather's warm, wind is coming through the window. The sleep debt I ama.s.sed last night begins to demand my repayment. Slowly, I lean against Hong Feng and fall asleep.
I wake up midway due to the heat, sweating, and discover myself pillowing my head on Hong Feng's leg, her hugging my upper body. This… it's… laying prostrate on a beauty's knee is fantastic and all, but it's still too hot today.
Opening my eyes, I'm met with Hong Feng's own limpid ones fixed upon my lovingly, the look in them complicated yet gentle, inevitably dazzling me. She asks if I want to eat something; I shake my head, mouth dry and tongue parched, and drink two mouthfuls of water with her help before going back to sleep.
The next time I awoke, the sun was already slanting to the West. I was still using someone's lap as a pillow, but the owner of said lap changed from Hong Feng to Jinzi. Seeing the face that warms my heart and pleases my eyes naturally puts me in a good mood. Just as I was about to give him a smile that could craze all living things, he said, “Wipe your drool off first.”
At the side, that little punk and my sworn-archenemy Yao Jinfeng childishly and deliberately laughs out loud! What an annoying brat!
It's near evening when we finally find a county city to spend the night in having only gone 400-500 li for that whole day, and that's with better horses. I can't help but inwardly sigh: if this was modern times, we wouldn't be riding horses but driving my BMW, this bit of the road would have been done in two hours.
This city is in a considerably large county, but is of course a far cry from the bustling and splendor of the capital. Though we don't want to flaunt ourselves, in such a small place, our things could be seen as beautiful people carrying might and prestige with our fancy carriage, fine clothes, and good horses. Since entering the city, countless people have come to watch the scene, and with children in two, there's no also no need to ask; someone naturally points the coachman in the direction of the biggest inn.
Coming to the inn's gate, the innkeeper had already personally come out to welcome us. Xiao Lu jumped out and said, “Our family's Young Masters have brought their women to go on an outing. If there's a quiet, standalone courtyard, quickly put it in order!”
This kid is being so articulate makes me glances at him a few times. Only then do I recall that he had been very intelligent at the beginning, but I'd forgotten that point since every time he saw me he'd get that starry-eyed, infatuated look.
A small area's inn having its own courtyards is uncommon, so there naturally isn't one here, only about 5-ish high-cla.s.s suites. Jinzi and I are in one, Zhou Zizhu in another, Hong Feng and Xiao Zhu in yet another, and Jinfeng and Xiao Lu in the last. Jinfeng expressed extreme discontentment with this arrangement, hooting and hollering that he wants to be with his brother; I have no objection to that, but unfortunately, his big brother very much did.
The dishes we eat are also relatively crude, only having dishes like Eight Treasure Duck, yellow river carp lips, pan fried deer's leg. Though it tastes too much of grease, it's a tough job to cook in this little place.
Because we were all extremely hungry, we found them all very appetizing, especially me, who hadn't eaten anything in whole day. While they had some dry goods at noon while on horseback, I didn't get a grain of rice.
Jinzi and Zhou Zizhu are a little awkward and don't say much. Xiao Zhu and Xiao Lu don't sit with us, instead going to a table with the coach driver and Zhou Zizhu's mysterious servant. Hong Feng is standing behind me to serve the dishes for me, but I pulled her down into a seat to eat.
Jinzi is sitting next to me, Jinfeng beside him, and Zhou Zizhu opposite me. Jinzi would give me a dish from time to time, resulting in Jinfeng giving me an increasingly bitter look, and retired early upon losing his appet.i.te.
Jinzi went to look for Jinfeng after the meal, probably to work on his ideological education, and told me to go back to the room first. Hong Feng had an inn's boyservant get hot water to help me freshen up when we suddenly heard the sound of a xiao coming in from outside.
The notes and clear, graceful, low, and slightly lonely. Though I'm unlearned in music, my heart twists upon hearing it. “Good xiao,” Hong Feng says in a quiet voice.
I can't stop myself from going out and searching for the sound's source. As I expected, I see Zhou Zizhu leaned against a rock in the rear garden and blowing away with his head down, reflected in the water from the moonlight, giving the air of a fine n.o.ble son high above the world's troubles now that he's not in his official's robes.
Seeing me arrive, he stops the xiao and raises his head. “Sorry for disturbing you, Brother Zhang.”
I break out in a smile. “Brother Zhou is very refined. Qinglian admires it.”
He gives a humble smile. “Brother Zhang is good at rhythm. Can you play a song for me?”
I shake my head. “It's shameful, but my rhythm doesn't translate well to that. You will find it laughable. If you keep playing, Qinglian will just listen. You needn't mind me.”
He smiles again, and doesn't give a firm refusal. “Pardon my disgraceful display.”
He changed the song to something slightly more calm and clear, like a tenderly flowing stream on this moonlit night, intoxicating me as I listen. He suddenly stops playing, looking behind me.
I look back to see that Jinzi had come to find me at some unknown time. “Forgive the poor playing, Brother Yao,” Zhou Zizhu says.
Jinzi coldly replies, “I've always heard that Sir Zhou is an expert musician, and he's really worthy of the praise.” He then pulls on my hand. “We're going back to the room.”
Before I went into the room I turn and see that Zhou Zizhu is staring at us in a daze with a very peculiar expression. Hey, the guy's a proper gentleman; though the matters of catamites and h.o.m.os.e.xuality in the upper crust of ancient times have never been few, it must still ve difficult for him to accept so plainly.
Things that make me cry: Chinese has 574923 ways to refer to someone as a brother but English has a one (1) whole term
 The one thing I'm never sure about in this novel is the b.l.o.o.d.y horse breeds… the term used here is qinghua (青花), roughly “blue pattern”, and is typically used to refer to the blue designs on white Chinese porcelain. My searches didn't yield any concrete breed, but I'm going to give a firm guess that it's referring to grey horses (like this one or this one). The gray patterning on white hair would at least be fitting.
 Just called a “patterned mule”, which honestly leaves too much to the imagination. I'm thinking something like a pinto.