Chapter 28: Lost person?
Although Gu Si Yang and Gu Si Yu had arrived at the capital earlier than Gu Yu Qi and her mother, this was their first time participating in such a grand event. The two children could not sit still in the carriage and kept looking out, unafraid of the freezing weather outside. Gu Huai Zhong rode on a horse and looked at the smiling faces of his children. He felt happy in his heart but it was unfortunate that Liu-shi could not come, otherwise the whole family would be happy.
While he was thinking this happily, Gu Yu Qi and Liang-shi’s side was much quieter.
"Ah Nan, are you feeling unwell?" Liang-shi felt that Gu Yu Qi’s hand was a little cold, so she put her hand warming stove into her daughter’s arms.
"Mother." Gu Yu Qi threw herself into Liang-shi’s arms and wrapped her arms around her mother’s slender waist. "Mother, have you thought about what we will do in the future?" She raised her face and asked Liang-shi.
"The future?" Liang-shi took Gu Yu Qi in her arms and used her own crane cloak to cover her daughter’s petite body with a peaceful smile on her face. "In the future, Mother expects you to marry a good husband and live happily with each other. In the future, when you have a child, mother will help you raise them. Mother doesn’t want anything else. " There was a hint of sadness in her beautiful eyes.
"Then what if I don’t want to marry and just want to stay with Mother in the future?" Gu Yu Qi asked tentatively. "I don’t want to leave you."
Liang-shi chuckled. Raising her fingertips, she scratched the tip of Gu Yu Qi’s nose. Then she said fondly, "You’re still young, so naturally you don’t want to leave your mother. When you grow up, you won’t think this when you see a handsome young man. You’ll get married after all. Don’t worry, Mother will definitely choose a handsome and reliable man for you. " Of course, the man’s family background must be good otherwise her daughter will suffer if she married. It was just that Liang-shi did not say this second half of the sentence.
"Did Mother not also think that Father was handsome and reliable back then?" Gu Yu Qi asked again tentatively.
Liang-shi’s smile froze for a moment and a haze covered her beautiful eyes. "Yes," she sighed and looked out of the car subconsciously. Through the blue screen window of the carriage, she could see the man riding on the tall horse. His silhouette was almost perfect, but it could not match the silhouette of the handsome young man she first saw in Jiangnan. "But Mother won’t let Ah Nan walk down Mother’s old path," Liang-shi silently sighed in her heart and then smiled reluctantly.
"Mother, how can you guarantee that the person chosen for daughter is really reliable?" Gu Yu Qi asked again, "Just like Mother who is clearly unreconciled, yet, you still hold back. If I also marry a man in the future and he betrays and bullies me, will I also have to endure it? Why? If I meet a heartless man in the future, I would definitely stay far away from him. He can live his own way and I’ll live my days freely. Rather than endure it all day, it would be better to settle it for once and for all. "
"This child, where did you get such a strange idea from?" Liang-shi’s eyelids twitched, "What books did you read that you shouldn’t have read?" Her voice became a little harsh. Chen Han Lin was the scholar of the era, so he would not instil strange ideas into Gu Yu Qi. This girl was born gifted with an extraordinarily retentive memory. Could it be that she went to Gu Huai Zhong’s study and read some books that were inappropriate books which lead to her having such rebellious thoughts?
"Mother, I’m serious." Gu Yu Qi had wanted to say these words for a long time. These days, she had been waking up early to practise martial arts and study the China Chronicles so that she could take Liang-shi away from the Marquis’ residence in the future and be boundlessly free. "Mother, look, if we can support ourselves in the future, why should we be trapped in the Marquis’ residence? The world outside is so vast. We can roam around the world. It’s better to walk a thousand miles than to read a thousand books. Mother, if your daughter grows up and wants to take you on a journey through the mountains and rivers of China and watch the sunset over the long river, enjoying the clear winds and rolling clouds, would you be willing?"
Liang-shi was shocked by Gu Yu Qi’s words and for a while, she did not know how to reply. Walking through the mountains and rivers of China, watching the sunset over the long river, and enjoying the clear wind and rolling clouds was a magnificent picture. Just thinking about it made her fascinated. This sentence actually came from the mouth of a ten-year-old girl. Liang-shi looked at Gu Yu Qi’s eyes in surprise. The girl’s eyes were firm and distant, and through her daughter’s eyes, her small body contained such a broad heart.
"Mother, if you don’t want to, then daughter won’t mention it again." Seeing Liang-shi staring at her with uncertain eyes, Gu Yu Qi let out a long sigh but she still curled into Liang-shi’s arms like a well-behaved kitten. "If Mother really wants this daughter to marry a good husband in the future, then daughter will listen to mother. Anyhow, if it makes mother happy then daughter will do it."
Holding her daughter’s small body and listening to her soft and waxy words, Liang-shi’s eyes stung. Although she had lost Gu Huai Zhong’s heart, she had such a well-behaved daughter.
Gu Yu Qi stopped speaking, but her words just now were deeply imprinted in Liang-shi’s heart.
She was not the kind of young lady in an aristocratic family who did not step out the door. When she was young, her footprints had travelled all over Jiangnan and she understood how free and happy she had been at that time.
Her daughter’s temperament had probably been inherited from her. Did she really want to keep her in the high-walled compound of a noble family?
Liang-shi also began to doubt whether her actions were really the best for Gu Yu Qi.
The carriage continued to move along the main road and from outside the carriage, Gu Huai Zhong could not hear the mother and daughter talking. At dusk, the carriage came to an inn that had been pre-booked by Gu Huai Zhong.
The entrance to the inn was full of carriages from various residences. This small town with only two streets was packed full. Every year at this time, lanterns hung everywhere in the town and the two streets were illuminated like it was daylight.
After making sure everyone in the family was settled in, Gu Huai Zhong went downstairs to greet his fellow ministers. The inn’s lobby was as lively as though it was New Year’s Eve. The ladies, sons, and young misses of each residence did not need to be too conservative at this time. Hence, after the Winter Hunting Festival every year, a number of engagements would be made. This was something that the ministers of the imperial court liked to see. After all, those who could bring their family to the Winter Hunting Festival all had some face in front of the emperor. If their children married, they would be of help to each other.
When it was time to eat, Liang-shi took Gu Yu Qi downstairs. Gu Si Yang and Gu Siyu already could not bear it and had run down to play with each other.
It was rare for them to come out and Gu Huai Zhong did want to restrict the two siblings too much. He just told them not to run too far and had servants follow them, letting them go crazy.
Liang-shi brought Gu Yu Qi to greet the acquaintances one by one and then sat down at a table.
Gu Yu Qi had been following Liang-shi step by step, but she always felt that the eyes of everyone present were drifting towards her. She had already tried so hard to hide herself and was just about to put on a cloak so she could become transparent and turn herself into an invisible person.
His Highness the Seventh Prince had a fan in his hand. Although it was the middle of winter, he often held it in his hand. The poem on the fan is said to have been composed by the young miss of the Marquis’ residence. The seventh prince was such a cold person, but he loved Gu Yu Qi’s poems. In addition, Chen Han Lin often spoke about his female student so it was difficult for Gu Yu Qi not to be famous now. Although the matter in the princess’s residence had passed, the ladies of the various residences still talked about it in private when they went back, which made it even more impossible for Gu Yu Qi to be an invisible person.
There was also word from the princess’ residence that she had given Zhang Wan Yi and Gu Yu Qi a jade pendant each, allowing them to enter and leave the princess’ residence at any time. Zhang Wan Yi was naturally restless and as soon as she had recovered, she could not wait to show off wearing her jade pendant. However, this Gu Yu Qi had not even gone out for a month so in contrast, it was more natural for them to pay attention to Gu Yu Qi.
Now she appeared in front of everyone with Liang-shi. Her hair was in double coils and she was wearing a bright red skirt with a beautifully crafted gold plated jadeite longevity lock around her neck. On her waist, there was only a small butterfly-shaped sachet and a rabbit pendant carved from white jade. However, the jade pendant from the princess’ residence could not be seen.
The noble ladies looked this way and they all felt that Gu Yu Qi was much more pleasing to the eye than Zhang Wan Yi. After all, she was not showing off unlike the young miss of the Zhang family who seemed to be afraid the whole world would not know she was in the princess’ good graces.
Everyone was jealous. Gu Yu Qi’s low profile naturally made Zhang Wan Yi’s high profile annoying to see.
Fortunately, Zhang Wan Yi was not at this inn. Gu Yu Qi looked around and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Oh, isn’t this the Madam and Eldest Young Miss of the Marquis’ residence?" Gu Yu Qi had just breathed a sigh of relief when she heard a strange laugh coming from the west side of the lobby.
Liang-shi and Gu Yu Qi both turned their heads and looked over. A lady was standing at a table on the west side, wearing an emerald green straight jacket and a white pomegranate skirt underneath. She was holding a hand warming stove encrusted in rubies. There were also two young girls and a middle-aged man sitting at her table. What a coincidence, it was Minister Zhao’s family. Madam Zhao, Zhao Zhi Xian, and Zhao Zhi Yue were all there. And was it not Madam Zhao who was standing up?
"Madam Zhao," Liang Huai Yu nodded slightly, smiling on the surface but unhappy from the bottom of her heart. This woman still dared to provoke them. However, there were too many people around now and she was the lady of the Marquis’ residence so it was not convenient to make a move on her. If she still had her temperament from her youth, she would have long beaten her to the ground! It was better when she was young!
Gu Yu Qi also nodded in greeting. However, she could not help smiling because she felt her mother tighten her hold on her hand, and knew that her mother’s anger towards them had not disappeared.
"Haven’t seen you for a month, but this Young Miss Gu just looks better and better. It’s no wonder that His Highness the Seventh Prince misses Young Miss Gu so much," Madam Zhao smiled and said in a playful tone.
Liang-shi’s face sank, "Madam Zhao, don’t talk nonsense. The little girl and His Highness the Seventh Prince had only met at the princess’ residence. How would he miss her?"
That Madam Zhao spoke harshly. Missing her was only implying that they had been exchanging things in private.
Gu Yu Qi was only ten-years-old. If she really gained such a bad reputation, how horrible would it be?
Gu Yu Qi secretly cursed the idiot at the bottom of her heart.
Perhaps they had not experienced Yun Ke’s power yet, but Gu Yu Qi was the person who knew him the best in the previous life. This person was only a prince now and he still had some restraint to his methods, but his temperament was ruthless and cold so he would seek revenge for the smallest grievances.
It would be fine if Madam Zhao was just stepping on her. However, if she also exploited Yun Ke and this matter reached Yun Ke’s ears, then she would not need to make a move herself because Yun Ke would take care of her.
"His Highness the Seventh Prince carries a fan every day." Madam Zhao looked around and saw that she had attracted everyone’s attention. She felt proud from the bottom of her heart and could not help covering her mouth to laugh and say, "Everyone knows that. Isn’t the poem on the fan composed by Young Miss Gu? If His Highness the Seventh Prince has no intentions, then why would he hold it every day?" After she finished speaking, she winked at the noble ladies and adults around.
The adults and noble ladies present laughed without saying anything, yet what they thought in their hearts was different as everyone was shrewd. They knew that Madam Zhao was deliberately trying to provoke Gu Yu Qi.
Gu Yu Qi was famous and she had caused a lot of jealousy. Nobody spoke and were all just watching for fun.
Madam Zhao wanted to make a place for herself. She had suffered a big loss last time at the princess’ residence and had been so embarrassed that she had not dared to go out for a month. She had just been thinking about how to humiliate Gu Yu Qi in public when it was as though the heavens took pity on her, and this happened.
"If just holding a fan with a poem is akin to having me always in his thoughts, then is Madam Zhao never forgetting her tailor?" Gu Yu Qi glanced at Madam Zhao and smiled lightly. "Otherwise, why are you always wearing clothes made by your tailor?"
Gu Yu Qi was obviously messing around, but there was some truth in what she said. For a moment, no one could not find anything wrong with what she said. Was this not precisely right?
If holding a fan was to think of someone constantly, then what about wearing clothes made by others everyday?
There were already some young noble sons who could not help but clap and exclaim "great". One way to argue was to use someone’s argument against them. After all, the other adults in the room were all from the imperial court and they thought that Gu Yu Qi was as indeed quick-witted as Chen Han Lin had said, it was just that her reasoning was a bit crooked.
"Girl, in front of so many elders and adults, what nonsense are you saying?" Madam Zhao’s expression changed. She had been defrauded by this little girl, Gu Yu Qi, again. She could not help but put her hands on her hips and say, "Don’t you know what a crime it is to slander an imperial court minister’s wife?!"
"So you also know that you’re the wife of an imperial court minister." Gu Yu Qi tilted her head and blinked, "As an imperial court minister’s wife, you should set an example for the women in the world, act righteously and speak earnestly, and be dignified in appearance." She looked Madam Zhao up and down, "What’s the difference between Madam Zhao with her hands on her hips and a shrew in the market?" After speaking, she paused and then nodded, "Hm, there’s a difference after all! You look like a teacup with two ears."
Madam Zhao was relatively rich so when she put her hands on her hips, was she not just a two-eared teacup?
The adults present held back their laughter. The noble ladies and young ladies were embarrassed to laugh so they could only bow their heads slightly and find something to hide behind.
Liang-shi could not help but laugh. She did not hold back as much so she just burst out laughing.
That was right, she did it on purpose. She had not even gone to this woman to settle the matter at the princess’ residence last time. Today, she was here causing trouble again. If she was allowed to cause trouble, were others not allowed to laugh?
Liang Huai Yu’s laugh was like a spring flower blooming, brightening people’s eyes. It made that Madam Zhao seem vulgar and the adults present could not help but shake their heads secretly. Someone had already pulled Minister Zhao’s sleeve, indicating that he should quickly tell his wife to come back so everyone could just relax.
Minister Zhao had long been embarrassed but this woman in his family was too powerful. Even if he wanted to pull her back, he had to actually be able move her. Minister Zhao could only cup his hands in apology to everyone around. Then he sighed, shook his head, and sat down.
Seeing that her mother was deflated and had become the laughing stock, Zhao Zhi Yue could not sit still and stood up suddenly, "What are you pretending for? My elder sister and I saw you and His Highness the Seventh Prince alone in a small courtyard for a long time with our own eyes with not even a maid by your side. Who knows what you said or did inside! What’s wrong with what my mother said?!"
Her shouting made everyone present look at Gu Yu Qi and even Liang-shi was slightly surprised. Although her daughter was still young, staying alone with a prince in a small courtyard for a long time was not a good thing.
Gu Yu Qi only now understood why these two were so angry that day and wanted to push her into the water. It turned out… She looked closer at Zhao Zhi Xian and Zhao Zhi Yue and only felt that their eyes were really covered with lard, actually secretly adoring that scumbag, Yun Ke.
Of course, her own eyes had been covered with lard in her previous life.
Seeing that Gu Yu Qi did not say anything, Zhao Zhi Xian and Zhao Zhi Yue could not help but become complacent. They raised their small faces and said disdainfully, "So what if you’re a talented girl. Not learning well when young, instead learning something lowly."
"Oh? It’s so lively here." A clear and cheerful voice sounded at the door. The door of the inn lobby opened and a cold gust of wind blew in. A group of people were standing at the door. The person at the front was distinguished and handsome, wearing a light blue robe with mink fur trim. He was followed by a young man with a face like an ice sculpture, standing tall and straight like bamboo in a black robe trimmed with mink fur. They were surrounded by bodyguards holding umbrellas for them. In the wind and snow, they looked extravagant and noble.
Everyone in the lobby stood up and saluted, "Greetings, His Highness the Fifth Prince, His Highness the Seventh Prince."
Yun Yi stepped into the lobby, shaking the scattered snowflakes on his body. He spoke with a smile, "No need to be so polite, just do as is convenient when we are outside." After speaking, he walked to the middle of the lobby then smiled at Gu Yu Qi, "I heard someone talk about you and Seventh Brother from outside the door just now."
The warmth in his eyes made Gu Yu Qi’s heart warm. She lowered her eyes and said in a low voice, "It was just a small matter, it has disturbed His Highness the Fifth Prince."
"It’s not a disturbance at all. Tonight, I am also going to live here with Seventh Brother." After speaking, he looked at Zhao Zhi Xian and Zhao Zhi Yue, "What the two young misses saw that day was not wrong. Seventh Brother did indeed spend time alone with Young Miss Gu, but it was not what you were thinking. It was just that Imperial Aunt asked Seventh Brother to give Young Miss Gu the jade pendant from the princess’ residence."
Everyone went "oh" and nodded to each other. So it was like that.
Behind Yun Yi, a trace of a cold smile appeared on Yun Ke’s lips. His icy gaze swept across Zhao Zhi Xian and Zhao Zhi Yue, causing them both to shudder.
Gu Yu Qi’s eyebrows raised slightly. She was a little surprised. Why was Yun Yi and Yun Ke speaking for her?
What on earth was happening?! She had never experienced this in her previous life. In her previous life, Liang-shi had been sick during this time so how could she have possibly brought her to the Winter Hunting Festival?
Since the prince had already said this, there was no more doubts. Everyone looked at the mother and daughters of the Zhao family with contempt and disdain.
Zhao Zhi Yue and Zhao Zhi Xian were unconvinced, "But she didn’t have any jade pendant on her at that time! When my elder sister and I wanted to push her, we stepped on her cloak but there was no jade pendant on her at all." Zhao Zhi Yue was anxious and slipped up. Zhao Zhi Xian could only anxiously pull her sleeve, but it was not until she had finished speaking that she realised.
If she had not been forced and angry, how could she have spoken without thinking?
"You finally admitted that it was you who wanted to push me into the water?" Gu Yu Qi was quick to respond and immediately seized on Zhao Zhi Yue’s slip up. She spoke with a shadow of a smile.
Yun Ke also looked at the Zhao sisters coldly.
So, this woman was the victim.
Madam Zhao almost could not breathe. She just felt like the world was spinning. How could she have raised two such idiots?!
"Disgraceful!" Minister Zhao could not bear it any longer. He slapped the table and stood up, "All of you go back to the room!" As a minister for so many years, he had been careful and conscientious, not wanting to lose face greatly, especially in front of so many fellow ministers and two princes. Him slapping the table was giving Madam Zhao a way to retreat. She dragged her two daughters away immediately and they left the lobby as though they were fleeing.
Minister Zhao almost stopped breathing like Madam Zhao had, but he forcibly endured it. He stepped forward and bowed deeply to Liang Huai Yu and Gu Yu Qi, "Our domestic discipline was poor and it has harmed the Young Miss. I beg the Madam and Young Miss to be benevolent. This Zhao is willing to accept punishment on behalf of his wife and daughters."
Minister Zhao spoke earnestly and his deep bow was akin to kneeling on the ground, which made Liang Huai Yu embarrassed. However, she hated the mother and daughters who wanted to frame her daughter and for giving false accounts of true facts, so she just turned away.
Gu Huai Zhong came over and helped Minister Zhao up, "Forget it, it was just a rift between young daughters and it had not caused a disaster. Who has not done something thoughtless when they were young?"
With his mediating, all the adults around them also spoke up one after another.
Only then did Minister Zhao straighten his waist. He waved his hand and said, "I’m too ashamed." He said goodbye to his fellow ministers then he hitched up the hem of his clothes and went upstairs to hide in the room, refusing to show his face again.
With the whole Zhao family hiding in the room, the atmosphere in the lobby changed. The adults gathered around Yun Yi and Yun Ke to chat while Liang-shi took Gu Yu Qi to sit down at the table they had reserved.
"Where’s Gu Si Yang and Gu Si Yu?" She saw that they were the only ones at the table. Gu Huai Zhong was also hovering around Yun Yi. She asked in surprise, "Didn’t your father say he came to watch over them? Where are they?"
Right now, Gu Huai Zhong was beside Yun Yi so she could not go and ask. Liang-shi made Chun Xing go to find the two siblings. Chun Xing searched all over the inn but could not find them and she could only come back to report this. Liang-shi became anxious now, "What can your father do?" She said angrily, "I said those two needed to be watched. He said he would do it, but now under his watch, where have they gone?" Although she did not like the two siblings, they were still family after all. She was also angry out of anxiety when they were lost.
"Mother, don’t worry, this daughter will go out and look for them." Gu Yu Qi said to Liang-shi.
"I’ll go." As Liang-shi was about to stand up, Gu Yu Qi grabbed her sleeve and said, "This daughter will go." She dared not mention that she was familiar with this town, when it was Liang-shi’s first time coming here.
She had passed through here many, many, many times in her past life.
"It’s windy outside, so let Chun Xing go," Liang-shi shook her head. This time, she had only brought Chun Xing.
"Then daughter will go with Chun Xing." After Gu Yu Qi finished speaking, she got up and left through the back of the inn while pulling Chun Xing.
Yun Ke coldly watched Yun Yi who was being surrounded by everyone. He had hid himself to the side. He caught a glimpse of Gu Yu Qi sneaking outside from the side door of the lobby with a maid. He looked around and seeing that everyone was focused on Yun Yi, he also stood up and walked over.