by Qing Lu
Translated by Grenn
Chapter 25 – Cotton
The morning light of spring, warm and gentle, was softly sprinkling on someone’s body, making them feeling very comfortable. Last night until dawn, Zhuo Qing didn’t have the opportunity to take a good look at this small courtyard. When looking with attention, Zhuo Qing had no choice, but to admit that Lou Xiyan’s taste was very good. The house was situated at the rear of the courtyard, in front of the house there was a small open space where row of stone tables and stone chairs were placed. Looking at the scenery from there would make people feel like their soul was purify, because, in front of them, spread a lake so big that one sight almost couldn’t encompass it. It meld with the vast azure horizon in a peaceful sight. Zhuo Qing inwardly sighed, ‘Truly extravagant! Lands are extremely expensive in the 21st century. Who can possibly dig such a big lake in their home? I must say that Lou Xiyan really know how to enjoy himself. To wake up and catch sight of such a vast and limpid lake, even if you want to, it would be hard to be in a bad mood.’
Zhuo Qing stretched her waist. As she slightly lifted her head, she was surprised to discover that three to four mature cotton trees were planted in the courtyard, next to the lakeside. They were very beautiful. The tall branches were extending boldly and vigorously and, on them, the fiery big flowers were blooming splendidly. If it were watched from afar, it would look like a nest of flame. Combined with the dark green lake water, the two colors mutually highlighted and reflected each other splendor. Nothing more beautiful could be imagined. However, how could they plant cotton trees in Lou Xiyan’s courtyard?!
Her legs carried her over there. She lightly pick up the fallen flowers and was caught in contemplation.
First thing in the morning, Lou Xiwu rushed to see her brother, but caught sight of Zhuo Qing who was unexpectedly still in Lou Xiyan’s courtyard. Lou Xiwu called out, “Qing Feng, why are you still here? Let me tell you this. You better not think just because my brother let you stay in Zhai Xing Pavilion that you are the Lou family’s mistress. You are merely a concubine. Are you going to bear that in mind?!”
Zhuo Qing inclined her head and fixed her attention on the flowers. Lou Xiwu was puzzled. ‘What is so interesting about those damaged flowers?’ Lou Xiwu walked near her and shouted impatiently, “Hey! Did you heard my words or not?”
Zhuo Qing ignored her shouts. She gently stroked the thick and solid tree trunk and asked, “These cotton trees had always been in this courtyard?”
“You know these are cotton trees?” At first, Lou Xiwu stared blankly, then, she very quickly smiled with pride and replied, “Let me increase your knowledge a little. In Qiong Yue, we don’t have any cotton tree. Many years ago, a small country at the southern border of our country offered cotton seeds as tribute. In the whole Qiong Yue, only the West Empress Dowager’s palace has cotton trees. When Elder Brother took office as the Chancellor, the West Empress Dowager granted him some.”
“West Empress Dowager? So, there is an East Empress Dowager too?” Zhuo Qing asked what was on her mind.
“Yes, there is.” When she mentioned about it, Lou Xiwu’s head was raised higher. “The East Empress Dowager is our father’s sister.”
“Lou Xiyan and the Emperor are cousins?” It was no wonder Lou Xiyan and the Emperor didn’t have a normal ruler and subjects’ interactions last night.
Since Lou Xiwu saw that Zhuo Qing’s attitude today wasn’t very arrogant like it was yesterday, she didn’t dislike her as much. She nodded in a good mood and replied, “Yes, they are. My aunt is the East Dowager Empress. It happened many years ago. At that time, the favored imperial concubine of the West Palace who is the current West Empress Dowager obtained the favor of the previous Emperor. She gave birth to two sons and a daughter. The previous Emperor took the eldest son to be adopted and raised by my aunt. Furthermore, he was established as the Crown Prince. When we were children, Elder Brother and I often entered the Palace. Therefore, Brother and the Emperor grew up together like real brothers.”
Zhuo Qing pretended to nod. She said with a smile, “Then, such precious trees were given to Lou Xiyan. The West Empress Dowager is certainly fond of your big brother.”
Lou Xiwu gave a lovable smile and answered, “Of course! She still want her daughter, Princess Chao Yun, to be betrothed to my Elder Brother.”
Zhuo Qing gently removed the flowers petals in her hands as her brows creased. ‘So to say, it’s not an enemy. Then, why would that person send cotton trees? Was it unintentional, or…’
Zhuo Qing’s complexion became cold. Once again, she stared at the damaged flowers in her hand. Lou Xiwu misunderstood her and thought Zhuo Qing was worried about her position. She stepped forward and said in a low voice, “Anyway, rest assured. We, the Lou family, are not the type to like the new, and hate the old or ambitious people who love power. If you attend my Elder Brother properly, it’s unlikely that someone will bother you.”
Zhuo Qing recovered her spirit and couldn’t help forcing a smile. Who Lou Xiyan married had nothing to do with her! She was merely curious that’s all.
Under the cotton tree, there was two women with two differents thoughts. Suddenly, a teasing and frivolous male voice was heard, “Tsk, tsk, tsk! Where is that little beauty?”
Zhuo Qing and Lou Xiwu turned their head at the same time to look. They saw a man in white clothes who came with Jing Sa. Zhuo Qing’s complexion sunk immediately. ‘It’s that man at Niu Jia village who wished for the whole world to be in chaos!’ She completely ignored him and turned around toward the nine twisting bridges next to the lake and walked away.
Who knew that, unexpectedly, Qi Tianyu was unwilling to give up this encounter and approached her. Zhuo Qing raised her head and coldly looked at him. The approaching Qi Tianyu discovered that, on the right side of the woman’s face, there was two deep knife scars which ruined her bright and clean like jade beautiful looks. Just a moment ago, he saw her in a distance, her body was covered in white clothes with flowers in her hand, standing there proud and aloof with imposing manners. As he advanced forwards, he discovered to his surprise that her face was badly damaged.
A normal woman in the capital with a ruined face would hide it with her hair or lowered her head to hide it from other people’s sight, but she was unlike them. Her knee-long hair was made into a braid, falling beside her without any ornaments. Her face was clearly and neatly showed to everyone, especially her eyes which were sharp and icily arrogant. And the way she looked straight at him made his heart skipped a beat. ‘This woman is truly interesting.’ Since he found her interesting, he blocked her way. Qi Tianyu raised his head and gave her a smile he believed was his most dashing one as he asked, “As it turns out, young lady is a cold beauty. I like it. May I ask for your name?”
Zhuo Qing lightly tossed the damaged flowers on the ground and coldly replied, “I dislike frivolous men. Filthy.”
Qi Tianyu’s smiling expression became stiff. As for Lou Xiwu, she covered the smile on her lips. When did she ever see Brother Qi Tianyu forced to admit defeat? As she looked at his embarrassed face, she replied with good intentions, “Brother Qi Tianyu, she’s called Qing Feng.”
‘Qing Feng? She is Qing Feng? How did her face become like this?!’ In Qi Tianyu’s mind, there was some doubts. He still cupped his hands in greetings and said with a smile, “Young me is giving my greetings to Miss Qing.” She didn’t like the frivolities that scholars were fond of!
“I still disliked superficial men. Nauseating.”
Qi Tianyu smiling expression went stiff appearing more like a grimace than a smile. Lou Xiwu couldn’t refrain herself from laughing out loud. ‘Brother Tianyu’s expression is extremely funny.’
Even for the cool and expressionless Jing Sa who stood on the side, he had trace of a suspicious smile appearing on the corner of his mouth
Qi Tianyu didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry as he didn’t think he had offend her.
“What’s the matter that made everyone laugh with so much fun?” Just at that moment when everyone was laughing without restraint, Xue Xianxin arrived with a few servant girls, meandering toward them.
Qi Tianyu gave her a slight greetings and said with a smile, “Long time no see. Madam didn’t change a little bit.”
Xue Xianxin had an exaggerated smile and laughed in a mystifying way, “Oh! It’s honorable Young Master Qi. No wonder our Xiwu laughed so happily. Ah! Really, when a girl is of age, she must be married off!” ‘It is best if she is sent out of this family early! Her crafty and unruly character perfectly fit with those sort of marketplace families like the Qi family!’
Lou Xiwu nervously sent a glance at Jing Sa who was on the side and shouted immediately, “Second Mother, stop saying nonsense!”
Zhuo Qing lightly raised her eyebrow. ‘It’s improbable that’s her first awakening to love. I wonder who her heart belongs to?’
Looking a Lou Xiwu displaying extreme anger, Xue Xianxin’s mood became good. She distorted the other’s words, “Still so bashful!”
Seeing Lou Xiwu rapidly clenching her hands, Qi Tianyu stepped in to mediate. He said with a laugh, “Madam, you’re making fun of me. Xiwu’s age is still small. To me, she’s like a good little sister.”
“Good then, you two are good brother and sister!” Xue Xianxin was also afraid that Lou Xiwu would start getting violent like yesterday. She put some distance between them. While distancing herself, she asked Jing Sa, “How is Xiyan? Is he awake yet?”
In the hands of the servant girl behind her there was a bowl of medicine similar to the one last night. Zhuo Qing thought about it. Then, she stepped forward and said, “Give the medicine to me.”
“Give it to you?” Xue Xianxin turned and walked around Zhuo Qing. She sternly said, “Are you really believing that you are this house’s mistress? Laughable! Last night, I saw that Lou Xiyan was sick and didn’t want to argue with you. You better know your place.”
‘So, it turns out she aims to be the Mistress of the house!’ Zhuo Qing indifferently replied, “I have no interest in the position of Mistress. However, I am currently in charge of all of his medicine.”
‘Not interest! She sure can criticize other with her ‘Not interest’!’ Xue Xianxin coldly sneered, “Such big talk! Who gives you the courage to behave like that in the Chancellor’s residence? Jing Sa, take her and throw her out!”
Jing Sa didn’t move nor made a sound. Xue Xianxin was about to flip out when the doors of the house slowly opened. Lou Xiyan’s deep and gentle voice sounded out, “I am the one who gave her the courage.”