Chapter 39: Renew the bet
The news of Liang-shi rescuing the British duke’s wife and Gu Yu Qi finding the cause of the horse’s shock spread like it had grown wings. In a short while, the news had spread through the camp. When the accident happened, there were many noble ladies playing with their children around the racecourse and they saw Liang-shi’s heroic appearance with their own eyes. They also saw the young miss of the Marquis’ residence staying calm in the face of chaos. In addition, the guards who participated in the rescue also unabashedly praised the heroic deeds of his only daughter out of respect for General Liang. For a while, the madam and young miss of the Marquis’ residence had become the hottest topic in the entire camp. Gu Yu Qi’s deeds at the inn were mentioned again and after they were discussed back and forth, Gu Yu Qi and Liang-shi had become something of a legend.
Liang-shi and Gu Yu Qi did not know this. They said goodbye to Yun Yi after saving the wife and went back to their tent. Liang-shi changed Gu Yu Qi’s clothes and ordered Chun Xing to take Gu Yu Qi’s snow covered boots out to dry. She was afraid that Gu Yu Qi would fall ill from the cold again so she gave her more medicine.
They were just finishing up when they heard His Majesty’s reward coming from outside.
They had been rewarded two days in a row. Although it was nothing particularly valuable, this kind of glory had not been seen in the Qi dynasty in the past ten years.
The door of Gu Huai Zhong’s tent was about to be crushed by the nobles who came to congratulate him. Gu Huai Zhong did not know how to feel. He was happy but secretly, he felt slight trepidations.
He was happy that his daughter brought such credit. Now, she had gained face in front of His Majesty and as long as he continued to work hard in secret, he would not be far from his goal. What worried him was how he had seen the intimacy between Liang-shi and their daughter outside the racecourse, and the faint alienation in Liang-shi’s eyes when she saw him.
If the mother and daughter were really disconnected from him, then would all his previous efforts not be to the advantage of other people?
He made up his mind to be more gentle with Liang-shi in the future. However, if he was gentle to Liang-shi, then he was afraid Liu-shi would cause a fuss. For a while, Gu Huai Zhong felt very contradictory.
He indeed had feelings for Liang-shi, but after ten years of separation coupled with the hidden little knot in his heart, that little bit of tenderness at the beginning had been wiped out. On the contrary, Liu-shi, the one he had rescued unintentionally, had always followed him and braved the ruggedness of the outdoor life.
However, His Majesty’s two consecutive rewards made him elated. Sure, he was an upstart, but looking at those so-called aristocratic families, who else had gotten such an honour? Thinking of this, Gu Huai Zhong’s footsteps became lighter as he walked.
Not only had His Majesty sent rewards, but even His Highness Prince Jing and His Highness the Seventh Prince had sent people to deliver things. Although they had not specified who the recipient was, were those pastries not clearly for his daughter? He, the Ding Yuan Marquis, was an old man, why would he eat pastries?! The gifts were light but the meaning of it was heavy. Among the princes, apart from the crown prince, the most famous of them were His Highness Prince Jing and His Highness Prince Shun who was still at the Jiangbei camp. Gu Yu Qi had won the favour of His Highness Prince Jing which was a good thing. Gu Yu Qi was still young now and he also had time to find a worthy master among several princes to pave the way.
The British duke even came personally to his door to thank him and Gu Huai Zhong could not even close his mouth from the joy.
The British duke’s family was a well-established and famous aristocratic family. Although the merits from founding the country were very low profile now, the foundation of the family was still there. Normally, he would not be able to get close to them even if he wanted to. Now, the British duke had specially come to his door. Such glory was really heaven-sent.
In his pride, he forgot that this kind of glory had not been heaven-sent but had been earned by Liang-shi based on her own skills. Princess Ping Hu had also sent someone to bring things over and had even sent two imperial physicians to treat Liang-shi and Gu Yu Qi respectively.
In short, the most proud one in the entire camp was Gu Huai Zhong.
The British duke had received Yun Yi’s hint and also quickly found the cause for the startled horse. He escorted a few people back to the capital and as for the mystery surrounding it, it was not publicly released. Everyone was knowledgeable and knew how to act in a delicate situation, so they did not inquire at this juncture even though they were curious. They could only wait until they returned to the capital before slowly probing. The British duke was deeply impressed by Liang-shi’s and Gu Yu Qi’s kindness and he would remember this. Even his wife was grateful to Liang-shi. Not only was her life saved by Liang Huai Yu, but if another bodyguard was to rescue her, then there would inevitably be pulling and hugging involved and her reputation would have been ruined! So Liang-shi not only saved her life, but preserved her reputation. How could she not take this to heart?
The British duke personally thanked Gu Huai Zhong, but also did not forget to send salutations to Liang Huai Yu. In addition to expressing gratitude, they also invited them for a reunion in the capital. Liang Huai Yu was cheerful and naturally replied with a message. At the same time, she sent someone over with refreshments, making her favourability with the British duke’s wife skyrocket. Not only was she the British duke’s wife, she was the eldest young miss of the Wu kingdom’s duke. The wife of Wu kingdom’s duke loved her daughter and in gratitude for Liang-shi’s life saving grace, she also sent a message to thank Liang Huai Yu. As such, Liang-shi unknowingly befriended two noble families in two kingdoms.
In the Qi dynasty, there were only two remaining duke residences. Both were home to families who earned great merits in founding the country. Liang-shi had made friends with both of them in one fell swoop.
At night, all the families were resting in their tents. Princess Ping Hu called Yun Yi and Yun Ke over to ask questions. Her questions were about the inn and the startled horse during the day. She had heard her servants speak of it but she was not satisfied so she simply called over her two nephews who had experienced it. She had warmed some wine and asked them carefully.
The crown prince had received this news and naturally could not allow Princess Ping Hu to get too close to Yun Yi. So he took some of the prey he had hunted during the day and in the name of sending prey, he also went to Princess Ping Hu’s tent.
Princess Ping Hu’s tent was gorgeous and warm. Upon entry, there was a faint aroma of wine. Princess Ping Hu had changed out of her imperial palace dress and was only wearing a comfortable silk dress with a cloud brocade shawl draped over her shoulders. Yun Yi and Yun Ke had also changed out of their prince outfits and were dressed casually. The aunt and her nephews sat on thick animal pelts, leaning on soft cushions behind them at indescribable leisure. When the crown prince Yun Xuan entered, he saw such a happy scene.
His heart sank slightly and there was some envy in his eyes.
He had been designated the crown prince since he was a child. All his words, actions, and manners had been supervised with a whip. He knew how many eyes were on him at all times which was why he was careful with his words and actions. Even in front of his elders in the imperial family, he habitually maintained his good image for fear of making a mistake. He really was not as comfortable as Yun Yi and Yun Ke.
Even in front of Princess Ping Hu, he had to always keep his identity in mind so naturally, he would not be like Yun Yi and Yun Ke leaning against each other in a haphazard manner.
Seeing Yun Xuan enter, Yun Yi and Yun Ke hurriedly stood up and saluted. The harmony in the room just now like something out of a painting suddenly changed.
Even Yun Xuan himself felt a little dejected but he still habitually saluted Princess Ping Hu.
"Alright, come and sit." Princess Ping Hu had been listening at the height of excitement. She beckoned Yun Xuan to come and sit beside her. Yun Xuan walked over and sat down with a straight face. He glanced at Yun Yi and Yun Ke, both of whom were still standing, so he said, "Both Younger Brothers should also sit."
"Yes." Yun Yi and Yun Ke sat down again but not as casually as before. They straightened their waists and sat upright.
"Where were we up to?" Princess Ping Hu did not pay any mind to the change in the atmosphere. She asked enthusiastically, "Xiao Wu, when you went over, you saw that little girl from the Gu family looking through the snow?"
"Yes, Aunty," Yun Yi said with a smile, "That Miss Gu is incredibly cute with none of the airs of a daughter from a great family. She was probing in the snow for clues and her actions were indescribably interesting. She had just recovered from serious illness and dressed like a small ball, rolling to and fro in the snow. Aunty had not seen what she looked like at that time. Even this nephew almost laughed when I saw it. It would have been bad if I laughed. It was unknown whether the British duchess was alive or dead. If this nephew really laughed, who knows what would have happened."
Now that the matter was over, he was naturally able to joke around. After speaking, his gaze lingered on the crown prince. If today’s issue had not been resolved so quickly with Gu Yu Qi’s help, it was likely that his good elder brother would take the opportunity to have a hand in his downfall.
The Crown Prince Yun Xuan had a faint smile in his eyes, however, he felt an indescribable disappointment from the bottom of his heart. His father the emperor was gradually trusting him less and less and even Yun Xuan himself did not know why. For the past two years, he had been tasked with the safety of this hunting ground, but this duty had been given to Yun Yi this year.
He had really wanted to use this opportunity to ask for this duty to be returned to him, but Yun Yi’s luck was very good and the problem was solved on the spot. It was just someone in the British duke’s residence making trouble and the target was the British duchess, so it had nothing to do with other people.
"That little girl from the Gu family is interesting," Princess Ping Hu could almost imagine the sight of Gu Yu Qi dressed as a ball and digging around in the snow. She clapped her hands and smiled, "Say, this child is so clever. So many adults present were frightened, how could they think deeply? She was attentive and lucky, finding a clue at once. It helped Xiao Wu a lot!"
"Fifth Brother also has good luck," Yun Xuan said with a smile. "It was trouble within the British duke’s residence. If other people had been involved, it would likely have been difficult to deal with."
"Indeed," Yun Yi responded, but did not continue. He just pursed his lips and smiled.
Yun Ke lowered his eyebrows slightly. Listening to them discuss Gu Yu Qi, he felt neither happy nor angry.
Speaking of which, Gu Yu Qi had not experienced any of this in her previous life. Without the power of being a prophet, she was still able to handle the situation so well. It could only be said that Gu Yu Qi was truly intelligent. However, Gu Yu Qi was still cheating. Her ten year old body was not possessed by a ten year old soul, but a soul that had experienced the storm of the previous life.
But was he himself not also cheating?
Like this, it was likely that Gu Yu Qi would take up more and more of his imperial brothers’ thoughts. The blame could only be placed upon this damn woman who did not know how to restrain herself, being in the spotlight in everything. Her movements were even noisier than in the previous life.
If she really caught the attention of his imperial brothers and his father the emperor, he was afraid that it would be even more troublesome in the future.
Yet, Yun Ke had to admit that Gu Yu Qi was not intentionally trying to be famous. He could see that Gu Yu Qi had been working hard to restrain herself in this life. He had sent someone to investigate. Before, Gu Yu Qi’s reputation for being a genius had not been her intention, but had come from Chen Han Lin’s mouth which was different from her previous life. Could it be that it was all preordained that even if Gu Yu Qi did not want it, when it became the time for Gu Yu Qi to be famous, fate would arrange it in a different way and still have her emerge? If so, then Gu Yu Qi should still be his concubine in this life just like she had been in the previous life.
He recalled that soon, he would be arranged to marry Mu Rong-shi like in the previous life. He felt a bit conflicted and uneasy.
It was not long until his marriage. If he remembered it well, next spring the Virtuous Consort would call him to question him. He would be 16 in spring, the age at which he had been crowned a prince in his previous life. The Virtuous Consort would let him marry the daughter of the Minister of War, Mu Rong. Soon after he was crowned prince, she would take the opportunity to place him in the Ministry of War to pave the way for Yun Yi.
That was the path he should take.
However, Yun Yi’s tone when discussing Gu Yu Qi held a strong interest. Although Gu Yu Qi was still young, the noble daughters of the Qi dynasty generally married early. Getting married at the age of 13 or 14 was very common. In three years, Gu Yu Qi would reach the age where she could be married and there was no guarantee that Yun Yi would not lay his hands on her.
Maybe he really had to find a way to tie Gu Yu Qi to his side first, but what about Mu Rong-shi?
In his previous life, Mu Rong-shi had died early but he had used the strength of the Mu Rong family to gain a firm foothold in the Ministry of War.
"Right, do you remember the bet you made in Aunt’s courtyard last time?" Princess Ping Hu suddenly slapped her thigh, pulling Yun Ke back from his deep thoughts. He looked up at Princess Ping Hu’s bright eyes.
"Of course we remember," Yun Xuan said with a smile. "This nephew has left a jade pendant with Aunt."
In fact, he regretted it at that time. As a crown prince, it was really inappropriate to bet on a noble girl so rashly. However, at that time, he had said everything in order to please Princess Ping Hu and naturally, it was not easy to take it back. Fortunately, although Princess Ping Hu was a little frivolous, she still had some self-control as she got older and would not cause any trouble so he stopped thinking about it.
"Look at how stingy you are." Princess Ping Hu gave the crown prince a sidelong glance and said displeased, "Would Aunt steal your jade pendant? Don’t you know that your fifth brother brought out a house? Your jade pendant is beautiful, but is his house not a good house?"
"Yes, yes, yes. Aunt is teaching well," Yun Xuan said with a smile. "Forgive me Fifth Brother, this elder brother is poor."
He spoke with laughter, but Yun Yi’s eyelids twitched. He had also been excited at that time and was actually so generous to bring out a house. Fortunately, his mother’s clan was not short of money if anything else. Everyone knew this but when Yun Xuan said this, he was kind of poking him in the eye.
"Crown Prince Elder Brother is joking," Yun Yi also laughed immediately. "It is Your Highness the Crown Prince’s beautiful jade. Let alone a house, it is incomparably priceless."
The eldest should not compare with the second. Who did not know the value of that beautiful jade? That was a tribute from His Majesty back then. Let alone an ordinary house, even three or four houses could not match its value.
The brothers were going at it tit for tat. Yun Ke just pretended not to understand.
Princess Ping Hu waved her hand, "Alright, alright. What do you mean coming to me one by one and crying poor? Are you betting or not?"
"Of course we will listen to Aunt," Yun Xuan immediately responded with a smile.
"Alright, alright." Princess Ping Hu winked at her personal palace maid who immediately fetched the crown prince’s beautiful jade, "Okay, take it. This jade pendant was given by my brother the emperor. It’s not a good bet if you bring it out."
Yun Xuan immediately took the jade pendant. Then he got up and saluted Princess Ping Hu deeply, "Aunt understands me still." It was this he faced difficulties with. If Yun Yi really won in the future and His Majesty asked, how would he answer? So he regretted it greatly. Even if it was a bet, he could not bring out the jade pendant and wager on it. Now that Princess Ping Hu took the initiative to return it, he was overjoyed.
Princess Ping Hu smiled and rolled her eyes at him, "This princess cannot bear to accept the Crown Prince’s salute." She pulled Yun Xuan to sit down and then said with a smile, "The jade pendant has been returned to you but I don’t want this bet to be voided either. Crown Prince, bring out some money!" She liked to have a jolly time, but safety was first. The crown prince’s jade pendant was too conspicuous. If any unnecessary trouble arose in the future, it would be bad for her too. Who born into the imperial family would not have the cunningness of a fox?
"Aunt is right." The crown prince let out a sigh of relief. Money was everywhere and it would not be noticeable. "This nephew will bring out money equal to the value of Fifth Brother’s house. I wonder how much Fifth Brother’s house is worth?" After speaking, he looked at Yun Yi.
"Not much, just 80,000 taels of silver." Yun Yi said with a smile, "It was gifted from grandfather to this younger brother on his 12th birthday."
80,000 taels! Yun Xuan only felt a slight headache… 80,000 taels was nothing to the rich and powerful Yun Yi… But it was a huge sum for his crown prince’s palace.
His words have already been spoken and there was no room for remorse, "Alright." Yun Xuan gritted his teeth and said with a smile.
"This princess will foot Xiao Qi’s share," Princess Ping Hu said to Yun Ke with a smile.
Yun Xuan suddenly felt that it was too unfair. Why did Xiao Qi only need to say that he was poor and someone would foot his share? Could he go back and say he was poor too?!
"This is a bet between His Highness the Crown Prince and Fifth Brother. I will not join in the fun," Yun Ke was unwilling to participate so he said this immediately.
"This child!" Princess Ping Hu raised her hand and hit Yun Ke, "Don’t spoil the fun!"
"That’s right, Seventh Brother, don’t ruin Aunt’s joy. I will pay for your share, don’t make Aunt spend her money. Aunt just needs to bet," Yun Yi said with a smile.
"This…" Yun Ke frowned. Yun Yi was rich and he also had confidence in Gu Yu Qi. He knew that Gu Yu Qi knew martial arts, but that did not mean he should bet on Gu Yu Qi. Although he hated Gu Yu Qi, he felt uncomfortable at the thought of Gu Yu Qi being used as a bargaining chip by Yun Yi and Yun Xuan.
"Don’t be like this, let’s just call it a deal." Yun Yi thought Yun Ke did not want him to spend money but did not think that it was because of Gu Yu Qi. He lowered his voice and said to Yun Ke, "I’m confident I’ll win."
Yun Ke lowered his eyes slightly, "Then it’s better to be obedient than respectful." He naturally knew that Gu Yu Qi knew martial arts and that Yun Yi would definitely win, but the point of his unhappiness was not about winning or losing, alright?
"Good, good, good. Xiao Wu is a good one." Princess Ping Hu was naturally happy. Now she did not even need to pay any money. No matter which side won, she would be excited to watch and she could still bet, so why not?
Princess Ping Hu thought for a while then smiled, "Since it’s agreed, then tomorrow, this princess will send a personal invitation to Miss Gu to come over. Then we’ll see the real thing."
The few of them chatted again and did not disperse until late at night.
After Yun Xuan returned to his tent, he felt a little distressed over the 80,000 taels of silver and was a little distracted.
"Did something happen when the Crown Prince went to Aunt’s place?" The crown princess asked carefully as she helped Yun Xuan change clothes.
Yun Xuan frowned, but still told his crown princess about the bet.
The crown princess had come from the Ding Hai Bo residence and it had been three years since their marriage but nothing had come out of it. Fortunately, the crown prince still gave her face and did not take a secondary consort. All the concubines in the crown prince’s palace had been given the infertility soup so they were just waiting for her to give birth to a son.
Yet, her stomach was so unsatisfactory and there had been no movement up until now. Li-shi was anxious and was always very watchful over the crown prince.
Seeing that the crown prince was willing to tell her about tonight, she felt happy and felt that she must share the crown prince’s worries.
"Does the Crown Prince know how it will be tested tomorrow?" Li-shi asked tentatively.
"It’s just a test of her riding, shooting, and so forth," the crown prince said absentmindedly. "Forget it, let’s sleep. Perhaps the Ding Yuan Marquis and his wife have not taught her martial arts." Even he did not believe these words anymore… The Ding Yuan Marquis was originally a military general. Today, the story of the Ding Yuan Marquis’ wife speeding on horse to save someone had spread through the hunting ground. How could he not know? The probability of their daughter not being able to do martial arts was simply too low to be any lower.
Thinking of this, Yun Xuan could not help but let out a long sigh. Those 80,000 taels of silver were practically thrown into the sea!
Li-shi was gentle and affectionate as she waited on Yun Xuan till he slept. The couple invariably made out. Li-shi noticed that Yun Xuan had something on his mind. Even when the two of them were touching, it was not like usual but rather hasty.
There was also a bit of sadness in her heart.
In the past two days, Gu Yu Qi’s reputation had been very loud and Li-shi was also very curious about Gu Yu Qi.
Originally, she had a good impression of Gu Yu Qi but now the crown prince was worried because of her, so Li-shi had a grudge against Gu Yu Qi.
Seeing that Yun Xuan had been busy all day and had touched herself then fell asleep tiredly, she got up quietly and summoned her trusted palace maid. She whispered a few words in her ear then seeing the palace maid take the orders, she cleaned herself up then went back to sleep next to Yun Yi.
If the crown prince did not like something, then she would quietly solve it for him. This was what a qualified crown princess should do, was it not?