In the evening, the emperor wanted to leave and was bidding Uncle Tong farewell in the entrance gate. I held Uncle Tong’s arm as I waved at Feng Zhao Wen, “Be careful on the way back, Your Majesty! If you have free time, come to my place to play!”
Feng Zhao Wen narrowed his eyes, “You are not coming with zhen?”
I laughed as I nodded, “Your Majesty is kind. You personally sent this commoner home; this commoner is really grateful!” I stood there, admiring his gradually darkening face.
Uncle Tong joined in to add oil to the fire, “Thank you for sending our family’s Xiao Lang back home, Your Majesty. This servant is more than grateful.”
He stepped towards me. Just as I hid behind Uncle Tong, he pulled the money bag away from my waist. I tried to fight for it but immediately withered at one look from his cold eyes. I stared with bated breath as he opened the bag and checked the inside. He took out about 5 liang of silver and handed it over to me, “Once you are out of money, come back to the palace.”
I furiously glared at him, “Your Majesty is so stingy even your officials would laugh at you until their teeth falls!” I put out my hand to take the 5 liang of silver but failed when he put it in the pocket on his chest. He poked into the bag again and took out around 2 liang of silver. He looked like he wanted to keep that away as well. “Seems like zhen gave you too much.” He turned around to face Tian Bing Qing, “Xiao Tian, give Miss 100 coins. Once she runs out of money to buy food, she will naturally return to the palace.”
When those imperial guards stormed our residence 3 years ago, they took everything away. Even if there were rice in our cellar, it would have certainly grown bad after three years. In the past, we were completely dependent on Father’s salary and the previous emperor’s gifts. Uncle Tong only had one arm, he did not lead an easy life, he must have had a hard time maintaining our house for the past years.
I looked at Tian Bing Qing in a threatening manner: If you really give me only 100 coins, I will make sure your life becomes hell once I return to the palace.
He patted his chest for a long time before begging me with a bitter face, “Miss, it is better if you just come with His Majesty. You can still visit Uncle Tong in the future.”
I was secretly delighted inside. I blinked at him before staring sharply at the two liang of silver in Feng Zhao Wen’s hand. He seemed to be having a hard time. In the end, he placed two liang of silver in my palm. In front of others, it seemed as though he was just touching my hand. That sly thing….
“You can stay here for two days. If you miss your caramelized pork hock, you can come back even quicker.”As Feng Zhao Wen said that, he took off a piece of jade pendant hanging from his waist and placed it in my palm. “You can use this to enter the palace. Do not pawn it off for silver!”
Your Majesty, you really knew me! I did planned to do so.
I stood next to Uncle Tong with a red face while holding two liang of silver and the pendant. I watched with large eyes as Feng Zhao Wen boarded the carriage with the money bag that Tian Bing Qing gave me. In the blink of an eye, he returned to becoming a master. My heart was aggrieved. Just as I was about to return to the residence with Uncle Tong to lament over our fate, the curtain of the carriage was flipped open. Feng Zhao Wen looked out from inside in a casual manner, “Zhen almost forgot, you did not bring any servants with you today. Once we return, zhen will ask Xiao Tian to bring you four personal maids plus E Huang along with two other servants from Sa Sao Palace.”
I quickly knelt down, speaking in an earnest tone, “Your Majesty, this commoner begs you. I only have two liang of silver. There are so many mouths to feed, we cannot afford it!”
What a joke? Those four personal maids were martial arts cultivators, they ate as much as young men did. Wasn’t he basically forcing me to return to the palace early?
The carriage moved amidst the sound of his laughter.
I helplessly fell and sat on the ground, frowning, “Uncle Tong, what should we do?”
Uncle Tong laughed and helped me got up, “Though we have no rice, we have quite a lot of wine in our cellar.”
I patted the dirt on my knees, immediately excited once again, “Let’s sell them on the streets! What a brilliant idea!”
Uncle Tong shook his head, “I don’t think His Majesty would allow you to sell wine on the streets.” He smiled lightly, “Why don’t Xiao Lang return to the palace after accompanying me for two days?”
I felt so aggrieved I could almost cry, “I had been trapped in the palace for a good few months. I had only returned and Uncle Tong is already chasing me away……”
He was at a loss before patting my head just like he used to, in the past, “Alright, alright. Just stay here as long as you want, as long as the emperor isn’t pressing.”
Everything just felt so smooth-sailing. It had been a long time since I last enjoyed these kind of days. I felt satisfied beyond compare.
Four hours later, I was eating with Uncle Tong as the sky darkened outside. After that, we sat under the trees in the courtyard to take fresh air, chatting about what happened to us for the past three years. That was when the entrance gate was assaulted by a barrage of loud knocking. I opened the door and found four tower-like people standing outside. Behind them, stood a petite figure, “Miss! Miss! Do you have food in your house? His Majesty forbade us from eating the moment he returned to the palace. I am starving to death.”
There was a carriage in the distant. Tian Bing Qing gave me a sly smile before waving his hands and going away.
…….. Your Majesty, you were too cruel! You really did what you said you would!
Uncle Tong looked at the five people on the dinner table and gaped at their manner of eating. Then, he secretly asked me, “Xiao Lang, does everyone in the palace eats like this?”
I looked at the clean-sweep scene in front of me with an aching head. The personal maids who have eaten two barrels of food were adding trouble to our already existing livelihood problem. If they continue on this way, my two liang of silver would be gone real soon!
On the next day, Uncle Tong woke early to buy rice using my two liang. He stood in the courtyard and watched me along with the five other girls curiously, “Xiao Lang, what are you doing, waking up so early?”
…… Could I tell him I was too anxious and almost didn’t sleep the entire night?
I raised my head to look at the rising sun; it was a troublesome morning ah. I pointed at the four large maids, “All four of you are strong; follow Uncle Tong and help him buy rice and other food.”
After Uncle Tong left, E Huang stood behind me for a long time. She looked at the bright sky outside before carefully saying, “Miss, why don’t you return to your room and rest for a bit more?”
I turned around to look at her. She avoided eye-contact. “Be honest with me. All five of you could not sleep last night because you overate.”
Her face turned red as she glanced at me. Then, she quickly lowered her head in guilt. She bit her lips before kneeling, her eyes turning red, “Miss, His Majesty told us that our sole purpose here is to eat as much as possible so you wouldn’t have any money left. Then, you’d have no other choice but to return to the palace.”
Your Majesty, you were too heavy-handed! You did not have the proper conduct of an emperor at all!
Three years ago, once the news of me perishing in the fire in Jin Xiu Pavillion was spread out, the servants in our residence scattered. It was hard on Uncle Tong since he was the only one to care for this large courtyard. Last night, as we sat in the courtyard, we both sighed in satisfaction. “I really did not think Xiao Lang will return alive. I’ve always thought it was just His Majesty trying to coax this old head.”
Later, when Feng Zhao Wen assumed the throne, he made a special trip here. He ordered people to repair the rooms and even sent money and rice over. Even though Uncle Tong did not understand why the new Emperor of Qi would be so determined to repair the residence of the previous dynasty’s regent, his heart ached at the previous condition of the residence. Therefore, he accepted the help whole-heartedly. The rice and money though, were sent back.
Once the rooms were repaired, Feng Zhao Wen gave him a visit again, asking why he returned the money and rice. Uncle Tong told him, the Old Master had died and Xiao Lang had perished in a fire. They would never return again. His sole purpose in life was simply to guard this residence. Now that it was done with the help of Feng Zhao Wen, his wish had been fulfilled.
Even though Feng Zhao Wen had not insists him to accept his help any further, he had told him, “Your family’s Xiao Lang will return eventually.”
He said Feng Zhao Wen was really confident when he said that back then. Because of that, he too would be hopeful at times. Waiting to see me standing in front of him. After saying that, he sobbed in tears again, his aged voice filling the entire courtyard. There was a burst of sourness in my heart. Uncle Tong was all alone in the past three years. I wonder how hard life was to him.
I had grasped his hand with a face full of tears, “Uncle Tong, I will honor you the way I would to Father. You can rely on me from now on.”
Morning came and I became really embarrassed of my empty word. Not only did I not have the ability to make money, I even attracted five really hungry servants……
After we ate breakfast, the sun was already high in the sky. I beckoned the four maids and brought them down to the cellar so they could move a couple of jars of wine out, “An Manor has never hired idle people who only knows how to eat. Figure out a way to sell these, take it as a way to pay for your rice!”
Father’s cellar had a lot of wines. They were really old too. They should be enough to help us live.
The four people’s faces twitched as they looked at me in grievance. E Huang hesitated before stepping forward to persuade me, “Miss, these four jiejies are officials. How can they go around selling wines in the street?”
I maliciously glared at her, “Little yatou, you too ate a lot last night. You should not be idle today. Your voice sounds fragile and sweet, you ought to attract a lot of people once you go around selling this in the streetside.”
The five people gave me a helpless look. They took out a wheelbarrow from the storeroom in the back courtyard before placing the jars on it. With a bitter face, they head out.
I stood at the door, cheerfully waving at them, “Do not sell it cheap! Those wines are old!”
Uncle Tong came out of the kitchen with a basket at hand. There were incense, paper money and pastries inside the basket. “Xiao Lang, since you are here, why don’t you go to the Old Master’s tomb to worship him?”
I never thought I would stumble upon Yan Ping in my Father’s grave.
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