On the entire journey back to the fu, Jiang Xin Zhi attempted to ask, in an indirect manner, what had transpired between Jiang Ruan and Xiao Shao the previous night . Jiang Ruan would only state that nothing had happened, but Jiang Xin Zhi did not look as if he believed her . And so, taking her to one side, he said, “Ah Ruan, you’re still young at present, and many things are still unclear to you . In future, when you meet men, you must open your eyes and not be deceived by them . Don’t let some flowery-tongued man trick you into giving him your affection . ”
Wasn’t this precisely the way of looking at men she had been taught from a young age?
Jiang Ruan sighed inwardly and said to Jiang Xin Zhi, “What kind of expectations does Dage think I have about men after I have experienced our father?
Jiang Xin Zhi was dumbstruck .
Jiang Ruan looked at him as she said, in a serious tone, “From the time I was young, I have witnessed this world’s most heartless and fickle man, so how could I possibly fall prey to some man’s flowery speech? Not just now, but even in future . When I reach marriageable age, I do not intend to be married to a stranger, to have to live out my life with him, to have to fight and scheme against others in the residence all day long . I only wish to follow Dage; it is of no consequence if I never marry . ”
This was indeed the truth . She had brought her hatred with her into this life, only desiring to send her enemies to h.e.l.l by her own hand . Those men that Jiang Xin Zhi was talking about – if she ever met one of them, she would still not be able to, no, she would be unwilling to be entangled with them .
Jiang Xin Zhi observed his own younger sister’s serious demeanour and his heart was shaken . Jiang Ruan had said all this dispa.s.sionately, but in that moment, he felt a kind of deep melancholy . Even though they were brother and sister, born of the same parents, with a close bond, he had no way to take on even the smallest portion of her burden . He could only gaze upon her solitary figure, like a ghost which would disappear from this world in the very next second .
After a heartbeat, he said softly, “That would also be inappropriate . . . although all the men on this earth have the same (lack of) moral values, if you wait you will eventually be able to find one or two who aren’t that bad . . . to remain unmarried your entire life also won’t do . . . ”
Jiang Ruan had nothing to say in response .
When the two of them returned to the Jiang fu, they found Lu Zhu and Bai Zhi waiting for them at the gate, having been informed of the news beforehand . When they saw Jiang Ruan, they teared up and called out, “Miss!”
Lu Zhu and Bai Zhi surged forward to support Jiang Ruan . When they saw the state of Jiang Ruan’s clothes they cried out in alarm, “Miss is hurt!”
Bai Zhi looked over her in panic, but Jiang Xin Zhi said, “Ah Ruan, I’m going to look for a doctor . You go ahead to your courtyard and rest . You two maidservants, go look for some ginger soup . She spent the night outdoors, and it will be a mercy if she manages to avoid catching a chill . ”
Bai Zhi and Lu Zhu hurriedly acquiesced and supported Jiang Ruan back to her residence . Once she was lying down on the couch, Bai Zhi set off in search of ginger soup, while Lu Zhu changed Jiang Ruan into a set of clean clothes . Jiang Ruan asked, “How is Lian Qiao?”
Lian Qiao had been dealt a blow by Li An which resulted in her coughing up blood, and Jiang Ruan did not know her current condition . Lu Zhu said, “Lian Qiao jiejie is alright . Young Master called a doctor over, who said that she would recover in half a month . But, Miss is hurt?” She brought clean water and very carefully helped Jiang Ruan to wash the wound which had been crudely treated the night before . In surprise, she said, “Eh, the wound has already scabbed over . That’s good . The flesh has knit together instead of the wound becoming worse . ”
Jiang Ruan followed her line of sight . Sure enough, the wound she had sustained the previous night had already formed a superficial scar . She gave it some thought, then drew out the celadon bottle Xiao Shao had given her from her sleeve and said to Lu Zhu, “This is a medicine for wounds, put it away carefully . ” The medicine was so effective, and they would more likely than not have to use it again in future .
When Lu Zhu looked at the medicine and smelt it, she knew it was a good product . Without saying anything further, she took the bottle and went off to look for a place to store it . Bai Zhi returned with a bowl of soup in her hands . Jiang Ruan received it and took a sip and felt her ice-cold appendages warming up slightly . She asked, “What’s the situation at Yan Hua Yuan?”
When Bai Zhi heard this question, she laughed and said, “In total chaos . Second Miss returned yesterday with her face covered in blood; it seems that she fell into th.o.r.n.y shrubbery when her carriage toppled over . It took a long time for the soldiers to find her and the opportunity to render her medical a.s.sistance was delayed, so the doctor says that her face may be scarred . ”
A delay? Jiang Ruan frowned . The previous day, the soldiers conducting the search were all either Guan family troops or Zhao family troops . However, it didn’t matter whose troops they were since they were all under the command of Jiang Xin Zhi . Could it be that this was deliberately done? Naturally, she was not going to shed any tears for Jiang Su Su .
She heard Bai Zhi continue saying, “Furthermore, Second Young Master is truly a blockhead . While all of this was going on he simply sat alone in the carriage and emerged without a single scratch . Thus, he has been regarded as being in collusion with the rebels and seized . Yan Hua Yuan is now in a pitiful state, thinking of ways to rescue Second Young Master . ”
Jiang Ruan was somewhat amazed on hearing this . She put down her bowl and said, “He’s actually been seized?”
“He’s clearly suffering the consequences of his own actions,” Lu Zhu said, having returned after storing the medicine away . She continued, “I heard that Second Young Master sat in his carriage the whole time leisurely drinking tea and completely at ease . When the soldiers found him, their faces turned green . ” She found what she had just said funny, and laughed out loud with a ‘pu pu’ sound .
Jiang Ruan pondered deeply . With Jiang Chao’s temperament, it was not unlikely that he had behaved this way . He was conceited, and had no idea what forbearance was . Once he felt that a situation was slightly favourable, he would get carried away and become complacent . Perhaps, at that time, he had been positive that the person who would meet with an accident was Jiang Ruan, and the panic which the carriages of Jiang Su Su and the other young ladies had been thrown into was merely for show . He definitely did not think that the soldiers would reach their location so quickly, and with such speed that he was unable to put on the mask of someone who had been terrorised by mountain bandits in time .
Truly, an utter blockhead .
However, Jiang Ruan also knew it would not be possible to convict Jiang Chao of the crime of colluding with rebels simply based on this alone . As long as no definite proof turned up, no one could convict Jiang Chao . However, even though he would not be sentenced to death, it would certainly not be easy to help him escape from that oppressive prison .
Xia Yan, I’m afraid you’ll have to rack your brains to resolve this matter .
As she was engaged in thought, a third-ranked maidservant knocked timidly at the door . Jiang Ruan motioned her to enter, and the maidservant said, “Miss, Furen’s personal servant, Lin Lang jiejie, is asking you to pay a visit to Yan Hua Yuan . ”
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Who put this idea in her head?
“What is Furen thinking of?” Li momo asked .
“One who is unwilling to take risks will not achieve anything* . Right now, Chao’er’s life is of utmost priority,” Xia Yan said through gritted teeth .
* 舍不得孩子套不住狼 (she bu de hai zi tao bu zhu lang) – (proverb) one who is not prepared to risk his child will never catch the wolf; fig . one who is unwilling to take risks will not achieve great things .
* * *
In the Jinying w.a.n.g fu, Ye Feng knelt down without warning and said, “This subordinate has erred . Master, please punish me . ”
He had blundered with the ident.i.ty of Xiao Shao’s saviour, and had even identified the enemy of Xiao Shao’s saviour as the saviour . Even if Ye Feng were to die ten times over, it would still not be enough . He was not afraid of death, but instead feared that, from henceforth, Xiao Shao would not allow him to stay by his side . He could not help but feel rather discouraged- who could have guessed that Jiang Ruan would disguise herself as a maidservant and infiltrate the group . And, it just so happened, on that same day, the only person who was publicly stated as having gone to the temple to offer incense was Second Jiang Miss . It was really ill-fated .
Xiao Shao said, impa.s.sively, “Go to Bai Zhang Lou to receive your punishment . ”
Ye Feng breathed a sigh of relief, only to hear Xiao Shao continue, “Jin Yi will temporarily fill your position . ”
Ye Feng: “…”
Ye Feng left with his head hanging low . As he exited, he caught sight of Steward Lin, who was listening by the door . His face full of sympathy, Steward Lin said, “Ah Feng, how did you provoke w.a.n.gye to anger? Hey, wait, don’t walk so fast, tell me what happened last night between w.a.n.gye and Eldest Jiang Miss . How did it come to pa.s.s that he jumped down to save her?”
Xiao Shao waited for Ye Feng to leave before he picked up his brush to write a few words on the paper before him, then rolled the paper into a little scroll and inserted it into a small, perfectly straight, copper tube . He flicked the bell on the table and a pure snowy white pigeon flew in through the window, calling out ‘gu gu’, and perched on the table .
Xiao Shao tied the copper tube onto the snowy pigeon’s foot . It tilted its head to look at him and extended its beak to peck at his fingers several times . Xiao Shao stroked its head before raising his hand, whereupon the bird flew out of the window .
He lowered his head, and his gaze fell upon the jade die lian hua pendant earring on the table .
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