“Fourth Sister, Fourth Sister! Open the door, ah!”
The excited cry of a young maiden drilled into An Fei’s ears, causing the girl to quiver in Xiao Wen’s arms.
Just as the maidservant finished consoling the annoyed Fourth Young Miss of Wei and strode towards the locking mechanism of the door, the doors burst open from the outside, a person brusquely intruding into the study.
“Fifth Young Miss!” Xiao Wen rapidly blocked the path of the intruder.
“Fifth Young Miss, you must remember the Master’s decree!”
“Just tell Father later!” Wei Yan Yue retorted, pushing the maid aside. She then rushed towards the center of the study, her target being the seated girl leaning against the drawing table.
“Fourth Sister, you must play with Yan Yue, ah!”
Ignoring An Fei’s clear expression of distaste, the young maiden bounced around as she circled the seated girl, occasionally jabbing at her arm for any reaction.
Noticing her obvious discomfort, the maidservant quickly intervened, forcibly separating Wei Yan Yue and holding her at bay.
“Fifth Young Miss!” Xiao Wen shouted in anger, her fingers curled into tight fists.
“If the Young Miss dares to enact such cruelty to the Fourth Young Miss again, this maidservant shall display no respect!”
“You’re already shouting at me, what more disrespect can you display?” Wei Yan Yue pouted as she fiercely retorted.
“I just want to play with Fourth Sister, what’s wrong with that?”
“But the Fourth Young Miss doesn’t wish to play with the Fifth Young Miss,” the maidservant helpfully pointed out.
“The Fifth Young Miss’ entry just now nearly caused the Fourth Young Miss to choke on her medicine, what explanation shall this servant give when interrogated by the Master?”
Wei Yan Yue huffed, locating an adjacent chair before sitting down in pampered anger. Having been freed from her plight, Xiao Wen resumed the duties of a proper maidservant, adjusting An Fei’s sitting posture into a more comfortable position.
Resting her head against the drawing table’s smooth surface, An Fei directed a deep questioning gaze towards Wei Yan Yue, electing not to utter a single word even if the young maiden was to assault her again.
“Why is the Fifth Young Miss here?” having obtained a brief moment of respite, the maidservant asked in a curious tone.
“This servant doesn’t see the Third Young Miss anywhere, does the Fifth Young Miss have any knowledge of her whereabouts?”
“Third Sister? Third Sister’s attending a poetry meeting with the other young misses of Jiang’an.” Wei Yan Yue replied, before her gaze snapped back towards An Fei.
“Instead of worrying over that, Fourth Sister, let’s play, ah!”
Without waiting for anyone to respond, Wei Yan Yue jumped from her chair, heading towards the row of bookshelves at the far end of the table.
Watching the girl rummage through the shelves, pulling a book or scroll out from its respective location before slotting it back in disappointment, neither An Fei nor Xiao Wen knew how to react.
Soon enough, however, Wei Yan Yue’s jubilant cry resounded through the study, alerting the two other occupants in the room.
“I found it, I found it!”
“…found? What does the Master have that’s so important to the Fifth Miss?”
The maidservant repeated with an odd expression in a soft mutter. Xiao Wen soon raised her head to ask the gleeful Wei Yan Yue with a befuddled look.
“Fifth Young Miss, what exactly did you find amongst the Master’s book collection?”
“The fifth volume of Mencius’ Treatise of the Nature of the Mortal Mind!”
Wei Yan Yue proudly exclaimed, waving the book in her hands in an energetic manner. Somehow, the maidservant could feel the beginnings of a headache from that single statement.
…she wasn’t wrong.
Having acquired her treasure, Wei Yan Yue delicately tidied up the mess in the study, even going to the extent of not requesting Xiao Wen for assistance.
The contrast between the prudent, conscientious girl and the Fifth Young Miss that remained in her memories was too harsh, and thus Xiao Wen couldn’t help but direct anxious glances towards the bustling Wei Yan Yue.
Remaining in a lazy posture, An Fei eagerly observed the young maiden’s every action, an expression of curiosity on her adorable countenance.
Although she didn’t know how Wei Yan Yue acted on a daily basis, her memories of her previous younger sister, An Yan Yue, would only display this sort of behavior when preparing to either wheedle or manipulate another person.
Arrogantly and ignorantly labeling both people as the same existence in her mind, An Fei waited for the customary plea for help from the girl.
“I’m done! Fourth Sister, let’s play, let’s play!”
Wei Yan Yue exclaimed as she dusted her palms.
Picking up the book, an enormous stack of stationary paper, and two complete sets of writing implements, the girl marched towards the drawing table.
Opening the book neatly on the center of the table and placing the sets of writing implements on either side, the young maiden casually divided the stack of paper into two.
“Fifth Young Miss…what are you doing?” the maidservant inquired with a bemused tone.
“Stationary paper, sets of writing implements, and a treatise from Mencius, don’t tell me…”
“En!” The Fifth Young Miss nodded, before beginning to tug gently at An Fei’s left sleeve.
“Fourth Sister, ah! You must help me finish my punishment tonight, otherwise the First Madam would punish your younger sister!”
“But the Fourth Young Miss does not know how to read nor write,” Xiao Wen pointed out before An Fei could even respond.
“Fifth Young Miss, how would the Fourth Young Miss assist you in completing your punishment?”
“What do you mean, Fourth Sister doesn’t know how to read or write!?” Wei Yan Yue cried out in indignation.
“Xia over Heaven, the Divine Palace’s crest breaks the dawn of Jing. Even Mother and the First Madam were talking about this during breakfast, and they claimed such information came from Father’s own words!”
Puffing out her chest, Wei Yan Yue glared at Xiao Wen. Pressing on with undiminished momentum, the young maiden continued speaking in a righteous tone.
“Since even Father, Mother, and the First Madam all stated that Fourth Sister can write, why do you say that she can’t?”
“…Because this servant has remained with the Fourth Young Miss all day long for every single day since she awoke?” the maidservant numbly spoke.
“Neither this servant, the Master, or anyone else who had rightful permission to enter this study had seen the Fourth Young Miss practice calligraphy or read books, so where did this rumor come from?”
“This… Anyways, it’s just repeating several statements, not writing poetry from a single thought!” Wei Yan Yue protested.
“Even Father would approve since this would help Fourth Sister with her calligraphy, right?”
As the maidservant stared agape in a mix of bewilderment and confusion, the young maiden forced An Fei into a proper sitting position before grabbing her right arm.
Resting the girl’s right elbow onto the table and raising her wrist, Wei Yan Yue slowly guided An Fei’s thin fingers to grasp the practice brush at the midsection of its length.
Dipping the brush in freshly prepared ink, An Fei was put through a slow torture of writing a long string of vertical characters – of course, strictly mandated by Wei Yan Yue’s hands grasping the former’s arm and steadying their wrist.
“Man knows no disposition at conception,” Wei Yan Yue read, enunciating each word carefully.
“Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom are present within the soul, and must be tempered to bloom and reveal their delicate glorification.”
Staring at the string of characters printed neatly on the stationary paper, the maidservant was unsure of what to say.
“Fifth Young Miss,” Xiao Wen finally spoke in an uncertain tone.
“Your intention is…?”
“Of course, write thirty copies of this statement by lunchtime!” Wei Yan Yue declared, waving her brush towards the maidservant.
“Not only will this complete my punishment task, but it will also assist Fourth Sister’s practice with calligraphy!”
“But…” the maidservant slowly deliberated.
“This… the Master said he would personally-“
“Then that’s even better! If Fourth Sister knows a little about calligraphy now, then when Father starts teaching her, wouldn’t he be pleasantly surprised?”
Xiao Wen could only helplessly declare that she couldn’t find a proper argument to refute Wei Yan Yue’s statement. Technically, if they were to be questioned later, the Fifth Young Miss could leverage the difference between status and her externally, mutually beneficial statement to evade punishment.
Gazing at the brush grasped within her right hand, the stack of paper allotted to her side of the drawing table, and the phrase needed to copy from the book, An Fei didn’t feel that aggravated compared to Xiao Wen. On the contrary, she felt a little rejuvenated.
People would naturally become tired after sleeping all day long.
Moreover, this was an excellent opportunity to tinker around with a thought that had been simmering in her mind over the last few days.