Translator: Atlas Studios Editor: Atlas Studios
Meng Fuyao gritted her teeth, glaring at him. Had she really described him as clean, pure, sparkly and flawless just a moment ago?
Zong Yue maintained a calm expression on his face.
After some thought, Meng Fuyao smiled.
"The pot is indeed empty, but I did not see any Vessel of Spring. And robber, you say? I am a wanderer that you had welcomed to stay for the night. Have you heard of anyone inviting a plunderer into their carriage to journey together?"
She finished with a crisp tone, clapping her hands and preparing to leave upon finishing her sentence. "As for the disappearance of your wine... ask your tummy," she advised with a laugh.
"King De is temperamental and will take revenge, no matter how small an offense," Zong Yue's calm voice reached her ears.
"He's sure to fly into a rage when he finds out that someone has gobbled down his life-saving wine. Yeah... heard that his troop, Scarlet Wind, is trained to track and assassinate..."
Meng Fuyao, who had lifted the curtain midway, paused. After a long while, she flung it downward with more force than necessary before whipping around and shouting, "So many tricks just to make me stay? Fine."
She took a big step backward and slammed onto the chair behind her. She opened the secret compartment in the table and pulled a dried fish, ham, bamboo shoot, lotus pastry from within. Upon gathering them in front of her, she shamelessly retrieved a jade cup and a pair of silver chopsticks and started digging in like never before. "Wanna keep me? Feed me well. I expect nothing less than this meal from now on, and you can just gift this set of utensils to me. I don't mind that you've used them before. As for clothes... that overcoat is great, but I don't like the white color on it. It's cheesy, so get me a black one. That's all for now."
Zong Yue fiddled with his purple plant as he responded, "Alright, but you can't get all that for nothing? Look at yourself, don't you think you're too plump?"
Meng Fuyao opened and closed her mouth a few times, but nothing came out. 'I'm plump? I'm plump? Am I plump? I have great curves, right where they should be. Are your eyes okay?'
The man before her made one feel cleansed, but why were his words so filthy? What a poisonous tongue, not fit for his pure-white robe.
Still unrecovered from shock, she converted anger into hunger, quickly sweeping the plates in front of her clean before replying with a cold smirk, "Even if I die from obesity, it's none of your business."
"It is my business," replied Zong Yue, unmoved. "My servant shouldn't be too ugly, plump, skinny or pretty."
"Your servant? Who?" Meng Fuyao repeated with more emphasis, narrowing her eyes.
Not answering her question, Zong Yue first sized her up, nodding reluctantly. "Not too bad. You're not pretty, neither smart nor too foolish, but your weight... can be reduced."
Meng Fuyao bit on her lips for a long while before smiling and nodding. "Not too bad. You're not pretty, not smart, slightly plump. You're obviously a vulgar man who dresses all holy and kind, exudes a softness like that of snow, but owning a nasty character; lying and setting others up...you have a ton of shortcomings, but I believe you can change for the better."
She let out a smile that could make one's blood run cold as she added slowly, "I will spend some time and effort to teach you."
"Alright," Zong Yue agreed, not the least bit angered.
"Let's see who's teaching whom," he nodded.
"I'm not an ordinary servant, and I expect a treatment no less worthy of my class!" Meng Fuyao protested, squatting before the door of King De's courtyard, Fragrant Garden, in an eastern alley of Zhongzhou City and swinging her servant uniform about.
Not getting any reaction from within the house, Yao Xun turned to hold her in place. "Aye, you kinda deserve this for drinking their priceless wine, Miss Meng. Aren't you going overboard..?"
"What do you know?" Meng Fuyao shut him up. "He's always acting like he's kind and guileless...I want him to admit defeat."
She started climbing up the windows, but they were shut tight. She then started jabbing the paper screen.
Jab, jab, jab... pop, pop, pop––– the screen window quickly turned into a honey bee's nest.
The beautiful image of the cold night wind blasting through these holes and attacking a certain someone's body pleased her very much. 'More holes, more holes...'
She felt a sharp pain shooting up her finger as if she had been pricked by a needle. She hastily retracted her hand and spotted a bead of blood oozing out. "An ambush? Seriously? What a vile person indeed!"
The window opened quietly, and Zong Yue sat by the ledge, his white robe fluttering in contrast against the falling maple leaves, whose deep red color and jagged yellow outlines were still visible through the frost. There was paleness amid the fresh, bright colors, allowing Zong Yue to blend perfectly with his background yet stand out with his prominent features.
There was a hollow needle in between his fingers, and he looked deep in thought at the blood within. "I met a divine woman, Lady Fei Yan in Fufeng once, who asked me to inform her if I ever chanced upon a 17-year-old virgin who's practicing supreme subliminal skills. She's been searching for this exceptional individual for many years but to no avail."
He shook the needle in his hand without looking at Meng Fuyao. "She wants the Sacrificial Blood Body, and I've tried many, but they were all unsuitable. Wonder if this is the one?" he mumbled.
Meng Fuyao crouched under the window, laughing in response. "What else can you do other than threatening and framing others?"
Zong Yue looked up, tossing a basket to her and saying, "I'll let you see what I can do now. Please pluck and gather the soft tips of the Paris Polyphylla plant, and mash them in the cauldron. I'll need them. Remember, as fine as powder and only the softest tips."
Meng Fuyao pointed her nose toward the sky, producing no other reaction. Instead, Yao Xun rushed forward to haul her away.
"You pluck it then," Meng Fuyao grumbled and kicked the floor on the way out, her gaze reaching the grass by the path. "Aye, this grass looks exactly like Paris Polyphylla... Hey, collect and grind them, and give it to Zong Yue. Didn't he tell me to see what he can do? Let's see if he can recognize the difference."
Before Yao Xun could reply, she waved. "I'll go walk around."
Zhongzhou hadn't failed its name as the number one bustling city within the whole of the Five Region Continent. It was a mid-to-high-walled city, rich and still flourishing, where citizens enjoyed living leisurely and with satisfaction. From the young ladies selling flowers on the streets to the tea brewer in inns, from the loud officials in the inn to the merchants from different nations in the market, and from the fluttering red sleeves in the brothels to the slowly spreading fragrance of cosmetic powder, wine and meat in the gambling stalls, it could be seen that this city was an all-embracing and diverse one.
According to a very romantic saying by a famous wandering minstrel, a stable and secure city was no different from a bold and powerful man who possessed an influential and firm aura. Zhongzhou was like an intellectual and wise youth who indulged in refined education and an elegant, romantic life.
Meng Fuyao walked aimlessly on the street, casually buying little things along the way. She had money now, and while Zong Yue wasn't any good, he had provided her with sufficient resources. If not for the fact that he had taken responsibility for her meals and accommodation, she would've attempted to run away long ago.
She continued strolling, eventually passing the main street. The crowd thinned out, and the paths gradually became more spacious. In front of her, stood an exquisitely extravagant building complex. It looked nothing like a palace, and its walls were so short that she could easily jump over. There were still scattered homes around, and Meng Fuyao pulled a passerby over. It was an old man, who replied kindly, "You must be from another place. This is the temporary imperial residence of the crown prince."
"The crown prince?" Meng Fuyao repeated, evidently shocked. "There are people other than the emperor who can do that?"
"Is Wuji crown prince just any people? He had long obtained power from the nation, and it's only a matter of time before he ascends the throne," the old man explained, slightly displeased by now. "According to your logic, only the emperor deserves an honorific title? Doesn't the crown prince of Wuji have one too?"
"Oh? What honorific title?" asked Meng Fuyao heedlessly. "Looks like Zhangsun Wuji is quite popular at home too."
"Is that something we're fit to mention?" the old man hurried forward. "Just look around here, lady. The crown prince seldom comes over. It's a quiet place here, and from the looks of it, he isn't in at the moment." He then pointed at the low palace wall and continued, "See that wall? There are various kinds of herbs planted in the garden. They're free for the poor and sick to use; all they have to do is climb over and gather what they need. It's actually not that difficult to meet with the crown prince, but people choose not to disturb."
"Oh," Meng Fuyao uttered. "An assassin can easily infiltrate." As she saw the herbs in the garden, Meng Fuyao got an idea –'Steal, sell, money?'
Soon after, a sneaky girl could be seen entering the garden. A minute later, as she straightened her back, a big, full sack bulged out from her clothes. Meng Fuyao knew medicine, so she had picked only the most valuable ones, and was planning to sell them to Zong Yue to earn a hefty sum.
The weather turned slightly warmer half a day later, and Meng Fuyao's hands were muddied. She glanced about, searching for some water to wash her hands. Finally, she spotted a rockery with a pond. Opposite the pond stood a metallic red tree that bloomed black flowers. She frowned, noting that it resembled the Green-Red Soul Tree, whose bark was a quality herb that could help with energy cultivation and her Nine Cleaving Heavens. Greed took over her mind, and she slowly inched toward it.
However, before she could reach the target, two golden armor-clad guards appeared from behind the rockery and blocked her path with a pair of spears. "Behind is His Highness's hall. If you're here to gather herbs, you can't pass through."
"Oh," Meng Fuyao rolled her eyes to the side before giggling. "I can't go over, Brothers. But can I climb up the rockery to have a quick glimpse? I would like to see how it looks like and share it with my family."
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