Chapter 11 Eyes to Eyes
All Qin Yunuan knew about Zhang Ruting was from Fang Ziying. She had described her cousin with two sentences. One was that he was glowing and towering, and the other was that his medical skills were outstanding.
Zhang Ruting had been waiting at the winding corridor for a long time. He looked gentle and modest with his white robe and the white ribbon on his neatly tied-up hair.
However, his greeting to Qin Yunuan who was walking towards him slowly was very offensive. “At last, The Third Miss of the Qin Family came.”
In his eyes, there was watchfulness, vigilance, and unspeakable disdain. Qin Yunuan understood all the emotions in his eyes in just a moment.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting.” Qin Yunuan made a curtsey politely and kept a three-step distance from Zhang Ruting carefully. She always bore in mind that between the sexes, there should be a prudent reserve.
“I am not going to beat around the bush,” Zhang Ruting frowned, “From now on, please stay away from Ziying.”
“Why?” Qin Yunuan smiled with her head tilted. Her smile was pure and innocent, with nothing else added, just like the first handful of melting snow in the spring.
Zhang Ruting was dazed by her smile. Then he turned his head, not looking at her face, and said with a cold voice, “I could help you this time, but next time… No, there won’t be another time. You are smart, but please do not use your mind on Ziying.”
Fang Ziying was Zhang Ruting’s cousin. Even if she had done something bad, Zhang Ruting would blame Qin Yunuan for her instigation rather than blame Fang Ziying. That was human nature. So, Qin Yunuan was not annoyed at all. Instead, her smile was more innocent than before.
She fixed her ear lock with seemingly careless actions and answered slowly, “If Dr. Zhang is confident that you can cover all the bases, then I will set my mind at rest and not bother myself with the safety of sister Fang.”
Qin Yunuan never really wanted to win Zhang Ruting’s understanding, but she had to let him know that she cared about Fang Ziying. She knew that one more enemy in the Imperial Palace would place her in a more dangerous place.
Zhang Ruting was a little numb. He replied blankly, “Anyway, do not involve Ziying in your scheme. She is just a little girl, and she knows nothing about these things.” Zhang Ruting turned back decidedly as soon as he finished those words.
Seeing that Zhang Ruting was not as serious as before, Qin Yunuan heaved a sigh and went back to the room without thinking twice.
The punishment on Shangguan Yee had finished while Qin Yunuan was supporting Fang Ziying who still looked pale coming out of the room. Shangguan Yee was held firmly by two maidservants to walk. She felt as miserable as she had fallen apart. Fortunately, the imperial servants who carried out the punishment were not silly. Though plank beatings seemed scary, it was actually done with little strength. However, what Shangguan Yee could not bear was the insult. She could not suppress her indignation!
“Are you going to confess your wrongdoing?” Empress Chen sat on the redwood armchair and looked down at Shangguan Yee who was at the bottom of the stairs, looking miserable.
“I… I never did that.” Shangguan Yee expressed her unwillingness in such a low voice that even the two maidservants beside her did not hear what she said clearly.
Empress Chen put aside the teacup and knocked the table with her fingernail guard, “Louder. I cannot hear you.”
“Your Majesty, sister Shangguan said that she lost her mind for the moment, and she would never do that again. May Your Highness take care of yourself and do not exhaust yourself on those tiny things.” Qin Yunzhuang replied to Empress Chen while she was hinting Shangguan Yee with her eyes that she should keep quiet and not make any trouble.
“If that was what she said, then it would be the best.” Empress Chen also turned a blind eye. She looked at Qin Yunzhuang with sharper eyes for a long time. Qin Yunzhuang, the eldest daughter of Qin Family, did have a way with words, but that was also her flaw. The more she flattered, the easier it would be to see her intentions just like now.
The carriage ran slowly to the Grand Commandant’s Mansion. Qin Yunuan was resting on the bolster in the carriage after a day of turbulence. Her carriage was arranged by her legal mother Dou Qing’e. It was clean and tidy, though it was not as beautiful and comfortable as Qin Yunzhuang’s carriage that had many tassels. Its inner space was so small that it could only allow one person to lean in there.
Nurse Liao whispered to Qin Yunuan who was inside the carriage while she was walking by its left side, “I guess the imperial banquet should be rigorous, so I prepared a pack of wick cakes under the bolster for you. The cakes were sent by your brother Dashi yesterday. You can eat some if you are not full. It’s very sweet.”
Brother Dashi was the son of nurse Liao, but she devoted more attention to Qin Yunuan than to her own son. However, brother Dashi was good-natured, and he had never fussed about those things. Instead, he tried his best to take care of Qin Yunuan as his mother did.
Qin Yunuan followed nurse Liao’s instructions and found a yellow paper bag from behind the bolster. The wick cakes inside were intact. With a glance, she knew that it was bought from Furui, the largest bakeshop in the Royal City.
“Have you found it? Have you?” Liao asked caringly.
“Yes, I found it.” Qin Yunuan answered quickly, and her eyes became red unconsciously. What happened was like a dream. But now, the schemes that she had experienced in the Imperial Palace were not that important to her. She had a caring nurse, two loyal servant girls, and a five-year-old brother. What mattered to her now was being alive and being together with dear people.
The carriage ran at a steady speed. Suddenly, it stopped. The way ahead was noisy, and there seemed to be a quarrel.
“What happened?” Qin Yunuan leaned out her head and asked. But then she got back to the carriage under nurse Liao’s persuasion.
“We met the carriage of Prince Ning’s family. Now the intersection was blocked, and the two sides are quarreling. Look at the decoration of the carriage. I guess it is a young master or a lady of Prince Ning’s family.” Nurse Liao rubbed her hands and frowned.
Somehow, it reminded Qin Yunuan of the Iron General. Wasn’t he the third son of Prince Ning?
The quarrel ahead was getting fiercer.
“Our miss said that we would give you three hundred taels of silver in the name of the Grand Commandant as your compensation. Now, get out of the way.” It was Qin Yunzhuang’s nurse, nurse Gui, who was arguing.
“It was your people of Grand Commandant who blocked the way first and hit our coachman. If our Master had not stopped you, he might have been beaten to death by you. And now you wanted to let it go with only three hundred taels of silver? Are you taking we people of Prince Ning as beggars?” Standing beside the carriage, a big fellow of Prince Ning’s family shouted.
Wow. Three hundred taels of silver were just almsgiving to beggars for them? How rich was the family of Prince Ning? Qin Yunuan thought to herself.
“Who is in the carriage behind? We are not so stingy as you are. Our Master said that let that carriage go first, and we do not block other people’s way,” said the big fellow who had given a look at the carriage of Qin Yunuan.
“Humph,” nurse Gui sneered, “The carriage behind also belongs to the Grand Commandant.” The reason why she did not say the name of Qin Yunuan was probably that she thought the name of a concubine’s daughter did not deserve to be known by the public.
“Well, such a shabby carriage… Those who do not know may think it belongs to….”
“Xue Si.” Before the man finished speaking, the one who sat in the carriage of Prince Ning’s family stopped him, “Today is the Flower Fairy Festival. Maybe the two ladies just return from the banquet in the Imperial Palace. Give way to them.”
Leng Changxi never liked taking a carriage. But since his mother had specially arranged one to pick him up, he could only accept it instead of riding a horse. Unexpectedly, they ran into the carriage of the Grand Commandant. What a strange combination of circumstances!
“Master,” Xue Si said dissatisfiedly, “It was they…” Their Master was a valiant and invincible general on the battlefield. Why would he let two young chicks go that easy?
“Thank you, sir,” Qin Yunzhuang said behind the curtain, “Please save the money for the medical costs of the coachman, and let the servants have the remaining money for a cup of tea.” In her mind, Leng Changxi, an illegitimate child, had few chances to see so much money. At the same time, he would take her as a rich and generous person.
“No need. This is not over,” said Leng Changxi. His voice was very cold. Other people felt that it was like a pot of ice water had been poured on their backs. “I will remember you, Miss Qin, the elder.” Lao Wang, who drove the carriage for Leng Changxi, had followed him for a long time. He knew that anyone who hurt his master’s man had to pay a price. There was no exception yet.
“Strange man.” Qin Yunuan said in a low voice, but deep in her heart, she was panic. She could not help thinking of the scene when Leng Changxi dealt with Ding Yue at the banquet. But she still looked down upon the illegitimate child who knew nothing but killing from all aspects.
Every word of Qin Yunzhuang was heard by Leng Changxi. Sitting in the carriage, he showed his scorn with a sardonic smile. But what he said was still very polite, “Please.”
The road became wide immediately as soon as Leng Changxi’s carriage moved. Qin Yunuan’s carriage followed suit. “This Master was expectedly generous,” nurse Liao murmured outside.
However, out of no reason, Qin Yunuan’s heart thumped wildly several times. Just as Qin Yunuan’s carriage met Leng Changxi’s, Qin Yunuan could not help but lift the carriage curtain, and Leng Changxi did the same thing at the same time.
For an instant, they looked at each other eyes to eyes. Leng Changxi looked over Qin Yunuan calmly. His eyes were sharp and clear, without the coldness at the banquet. But they were not so kind as the eyes of nurse Liao. Even Qin Yunuan was afraid of his means and decisiveness.
After a second, Qin Yunuan put down the curtain in a hurry.
However, Leng Changxi did not put the curtain down until all the carriages of the Grand Commandant had passed. He was still thinking about the eye contact with Qin Yunuan and her shabby carriage. And then, he thought of her switching flower sachets in the Imperial Palace and the report from his entourage about the banquet.
“Do embroidery with eyes covered? The girl from the Fang family?” Leng Changxi spoke out unconsciously with a smile on his face.
Well, what you said might be right, Zizhan. Her life in the Grand Commandant’s mansion was not good. Leng Changxi changed into a more comfortable position and smiled suddenly. But she was not that weak and helpless. Why did I think that she had protected herself very well?