99.56% Sound of the Rain / Chapter 230: At the Gate

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Chapter 230: At the Gate

"You're very polite to me today, Miss Jiyue." Zhao Jing purred. He folded his arms and looked at her with a nasty expression in his eyes.

Jiyue smiled, unfazed. "My Madame has seen that it would be advantageous of us to have your good favour and help. If you would only agree, Master Zhao Jing, you would find that Lady Yang is a generous patron. She will definitely speak well for you before Lord Yang, and if you ever need anything she would be invaluable. Do not forget that after all, Sir Mao is her father. Would it not be wise to make this connection? Lord Yang is a deep-minded man. Who knows when you will fall out of his favour? It would be an alliance that benefits both of us."

He chuckled, amused. "Miss Jiyue is a smooth talker. Lady Yang is lucky to have a smart girl like you helping her. Let me tell you, Miss Jiyue, I'm not that naive. I know why Lady Yang is so anxious to win me over. And let me tell you, I am Lord Yang's man."

He came towards her, with a suddenness that was almost threatening. Jiyue backed swiftly, but she kept her hands folded demurely and head bent, without a flicker of eyelashes as he breathed down her neck.

"Your Lady wants me to help her hide up her naughty deeds, doesn't she. She's offering me gold? Well, Lord Yang isn't a stingy master. Isn't her money from Lord Yang, after all?"

Jiyue bit her lip. Zhao Jing watched her expression with satisfaction, and laughed softly. "Thought I was that simple, did she. I'm Lord Yang's man, Miss Jiyue. Don't expect me to come over to Lady Yang with a skip and a jump! That Lady of yours--tell her to behave herself, the way Lord Yang's wife should. Sit pretty, and she won't need to worry about me."

He lowered his voice. "Judging from how anxious she seems, don't tell me your Lady's done something she's afraid I'll tell Lord Yang about?"

She said nothing, but looked up briefly as if startled by his words. Zhao Jing was immensely pleased by what seemed to be panic revealing itself in her face. "Oho, did I strike a tender place there?" he said softly.

Jiyue looked down, having acted her part. She had already known that Zhao Jing would sneer at any attempts to win him over. What he did not know that she was buying time for Xiaojun. She debated if she should say something else to lead him on. Surely Xiaojun was done by now. Or should she stall him for a while longer, just to be safe?

As he moved to turn away, she quickly opened her mouth to stop him, when a voice rang out, startling them both.

"Lord Yang arrives!"

A clatter of horse hooves and the rumble of carriage wheels. The servants hurried to open the gate.

Zhao Jing frowned. "So soon?"

Jiyue felt her heart leap nervously. She had not expected this, that Lord Yang would be back so suddenly. Thank heavens Xiaojun was retrieving the letter! If they had waited any later--

Lord Yang came slowly down from the carriage, and the servant helped him over the threshold. Zhao Jing and Jiyue hurriedly bowed to him. "Your lowly servant welcomes Lord Yang back!" they chorused.

"Why, what are the two of you doing there?" he interrupted them, waving them aside dismissively. "Is everything well? Where's Madame, eh?" to Jiyue.

"Madame is fine," Jiyue replied smoothly, with a graceful bow. She was about to continue, when there was a commotion.

"Thief! A thief, my lord!"

They turned to see two house servants dragging Xiaojun between them.

Jiyue said nothing, but she turned a shade paler, and the muscles in her throat tightened convulsively. They had caught her. That little fool, she couldn't even accomplish a simple task like this without making a mess of it. She thought desperately, knowing that their lives could all be on the line.

Lord Yang frowned. "Thievery? That is no light matter in the Yang manor. Which wretch dared to do such a thing in my house?" he thundered. "Have you no respect for me?"

With a rough push, Xiaojun was thrown before him. She cowered on her knees, trembling, with ashy lips.

In a quick motion, Jiyue ran up to her, catching her by the shoulders with a gasp. "Xiaojun? How could it be you?" she cried loudly, in distress, shaking her. "Madame and Lord Yang have always been so kind to you. How could you repay their kindness by stealing?"

She hissed in Xiaojun's ear, "Did you get it? Where is it?"

"In my clothes," Xiaojun's voice was a mere breath.

Jiyue grabbed the front of her robe with both fists, and energetically shook her, pummelling Xiaojun hysterically. "Ah, Xiaojun, what have you done? You foolish girl, why didn't you just ask Madame or me if you needed anything? What have you ever lacked in the Yang Manor?" she wailed.

Lord Yang averted his eyes in digust, and Zhao Jing sighed, rolling his eyes. Jiyue's grasping fingers detected the paper under Xiaojun's clothes and she deftly crumpled it into her palm as she continued shaking Xiaojun roughly.

"Enough," Lord Yang said curtly, motioning the servants to pull Jiyue off. She backed away, sniffling, the paper squished inside one fist unseen. Dazed, Xiaojun sank back on her heels, disheveled and bewildered. She whimpered as she saw Lord Yang staring grimly at her.

"Do you know what the punishment for stealing in the Yang manor is?" he said sharply.

She shook her head, feeling herself start to tremble again. Her voice had died, shrunk away with her breath; she could only look speechlessly at Lord Yang, with dread written all over her white face.

Zhao Jing laughed contemptuously. "I say, miss, Lady Yang's personal maid is not exempt from the rules. This is Lord Yang's house. You, your mistress, and everyone who lives here belongs to Lord Yang. Like everyone else here, you ought to get your hand cut off for stealing."


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