Novel Name : After Rebirth, the True Eldest Daughter Starts Brewing Green Tea

Chapter 39 - ARTTEDSBGT Chapter 39

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Chapter 39 - ARTTEDSBGT Chapter 39

In her previous life, Li Zhizhi had just been brought back to the Li family and was not well-regarded. She was mistreated everywhere in the mansion, and even a servant dared to give her a hard time.
Li Zhizhi became even more cautious, fearing to incur the displeasure of Li Cen and Lady Li. But in life, the more careful you are, the more unlucky you become. One time, she accidentally knocked over a valuable inkstone that Li Xingzhi cherished the most. Li Zhizhi was immediately scared and at a loss, her face turning pale.
Seeing Li Xingzhi furrow his brow, and with Song Lingyun, who happened to be visiting the mansion, present, he smiled and said, “It’s just an inkstone; it doesn’t seem like she did it on purpose. Cousin, don’t be angry.”
Li Xingzhi didn’t say much in the end, only instructing a servant to clean up the mess. Li Zhizhi breathed a sigh of relief and felt a strong liking for this cousin of hers.
After all, she often faced many cold looks in her daily life, and it was the first time someone was willing to extend a helping hand to her. Li Zhizhi felt extremely grateful and always remembered that favor. She treated Song Lingyun with more warmth than others. However, this gesture was misunderstood by Li Suwan, who thought she had intentions towards Song Lingyun. She ridiculed her behind her back, thinking that she was trying to climb the social ladder without considering her own status. After all, she was just a country bumpkin who came from the countryside, and she didn’t even deserve to be a maid for Cousin Song.
At the time, Li Zhizhi was both angry and annoyed. Later, when Song Lingyun came to the Li family again, she deliberately kept her distance to avoid being seen by Li Suwan and any potential trouble. On the other hand, during that period, Li Suwan kept pestering Song Lingyun, talking about Cousin Song’s every move and showing off, saying that Cousin Song had brought her good things and inviting her to go out.
Li Zhizhi found it extremely tiresome to listen to all of this. Eventually, she accidentally discovered Song Lingyun and Li Suwan’s private affair. The two were holding hands and kissing behind the garden’s artificial hill. Song Lingyun was oblivious, but Li Suwan noticed that Li Zhizhi was watching and she even raised her eyebrows at her, with a smug smile on her face.
Out of gratitude for the favor that Song Lingyun had shown her, Li Zhizhi did not publicize the matter. She pretended not to have seen anything, until she accidentally learned a piece of news. It turned out that this “cousin” Song had already made a marriage agreement with his childhood sweetheart, and they were set to marry after the spring examinations. Yet, he was still entangled with Li Suwan, behaving affectionately with her.
Due to this, Li Zhizhi’s favorable impression of him hit rock bottom. Little did she know that this was not the limit. After a Mid-Autumn Festival banquet, Song Lingyun got drunk at the Li residence, and in a moment of confusion, he mistook Li Zhizhi for Li Suwan and attempted to do something inappropriate with her in a private room.
Li Zhizhi was terrified and panicked, desperately struggling to explain. Song Lingyun seemed to finally regain some clarity in his drunken state, his eyes still hazy, and after scrutinizing her for a moment, he nonchalantly said, “No need to worry. You’re attractive too, even more beautiful than Suwan. As long as you agree to be with me, I’ll go back and tell my mother to accept you as my concubine. It’s not any worse than being in the Li household, is it?”
With an attitude of benevolence, his breath still heavy with the scent of alcohol, he appeared polite and refined, bearing no resemblance to his usual mild and courteous self. He seemed more like a wild beast shedding its human skin, leaving Li Zhizhi feeling nauseous and repulsed.
When Song Lingyun attempted to make further advances and move in for a kiss, Li Zhizhi didn’t hesitate to reach for a paperweight on the table and struck it against his forehead. He rolled his eyes and promptly passed out.
Li Zhizhi managed to escape that ordeal and stayed hidden in her Shuyue Chamber for several days, avoiding any encounters with Song Lingyun. She feigned illness or stayed indoors, ensuring they never crossed paths again.
Later, Li Zhizhi learned about Song Lingyun’s actions from her servants. It was rumored that he had refused to marry his long-time fiancée, who had already been promised to him, and had defiled her purity, leading to the cancellation of their engagement. This led to widespread gossip and scandal, eventually driving the young woman to take her own life by drowning.
Song Lingyun had also once tried to propose to Li Suwan. However, the Li family rejected his proposal, and Li Suwan was quickly married off to the Crown Prince’s heir. Subsequently, when the Crown Prince was dethroned and the Crown Prince’s heir became the Crown Prince, the Li family’s fortune rose along with his.
These were the events Li Zhizhi knew from her previous life. There might have been more things she was unaware of, but it didn’t change the fact that Song Lingyun was a despicable person.
Now, this despicable man, still wearing the mask of a refined gentleman, was responding to Li Cen’s inquiries with utmost respect and courtesy. Li Zhizhi didn’t particularly want to see him, as being exposed to filth for an extended period could sour one’s mood. However, it appeared that this “Mr. Song” not only intended to visit on the Coming of Age Day but also in the future, as they were considered close sisters and should not grow apart.
Since they arrived in the evening, the Song mother and son had decided to stay at the Li residence for the night. Later that night, as was her usual routine, Li Suwan came to Shuyue Chamber to do some work. Li Zhizhi, deep in thought, kept her eyes fixed on her.
Li Suwan felt uncomfortable under Li Zhizhi’s scrutiny, her scalp tingling, and couldn’t help but ask irritably, “What are you looking at?”
Li Zhizhi threatened her with a mischievous smile, “Suwan, you mustn’t use that tone to speak to me, okay?”
Li Suwan: …
She felt utterly frustrated. Over the past few days, she had endured Li Zhizhi’s attitude, but she couldn’t resist because of their current situation. Li Suwan’s only hope now was for May 18th, the day of her coming of age, when she planned to make Li Zhizhi pay back a hundredfold.
While Li Suwan was stewing in her thoughts, she suddenly heard Li Zhizhi ask, “Suwan, do you know that Song cousin of ours well?”
Li Suwan hesitated for a moment, turned to look at Li Zhizhi, and saw her smiling slyly. Li Suwan and Song Lingyun weren’t particularly close. After all, the Li and Song families were separated by a considerable distance in the city, and it took a substantial amount of time to travel back and forth. Li Zhizhi’s sudden interest in him puzzled Suwan.
In just a short moment, numerous thoughts swirled in Li Suwan’s mind. She recalled Li Zhizhi’s attitude when she first met Song Lingyun in the flower hall, how she had smiled sweetly and gazed at him for a long time. Could it be…?
Li Suwan cautiously probed, “We’re cousins, we’ve known each other since we were little, so our bond is indeed unique. Why do you ask about him?”
Li Zhizhi sat at the table, her hands cupping her face, and appeared somewhat bashful as she replied, “Oh, it’s nothing, I was just curious.”
Li Suwan began to suspect Li Zhizhi’s intentions and couldn’t help but sneer inwardly. In reality, she didn’t have any special feelings for their cousin Song Lingyun. While he was considered handsome, reasonably educated, and came from an average family background, he fell short of her own standards. However, if Li Zhizhi had taken an interest in him, it would be a different story.
Li Suwan’s mind raced with various thoughts, causing her to become distracted as she absentmindedly wiped the table. Li Zhizhi sat beside her, watching her with great amusement.
If these two ended up together, wouldn’t it be like “a bad pot paired with a bad lid”? Li Suwan couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for Song Lingyun’s childhood sweetheart. She wondered who that young woman was.
Li Zhizhi, on the other hand, contemplated whether it would be a good idea to inquire and find a way to discreetly warn that girl. Perhaps she could help her avoid a tragic fate, all for the sake of that despicable man. After all, it hardly seemed worth it.

The next day, in the Mingyuan Mountain Seclusion Hall:
“The plum, as the leader of the Four Gentlemen, is known for its independent and lofty nature, refusing to conform to common trends. It exudes a sense of maturity and self-pride. Therefore, when painting plum branches, your strokes need to be firm, and the plum blossoms should exhibit deep colors. Only then can they be both simple and vibrant…”
A piece of plain silk hung in the hall, and the scholar, dressed in a blue robe, was skillfully wielding a brush to paint. He explained the techniques slowly, making only a few strokes to bring several plum branches to life on the canvas.
Once this section was complete, he put down his brush, allowing the students to start their own paintings. Teacher Zhou was usually quite easygoing, except when it came to painting. During these moments, he was strict, and no one could fool him. He sternly instructed the students, “You have the time of one incense stick to finish your work. If you fail to complete a plum painting, your monthly test will be rated as ‘third class.'”
The students promptly sat up straight in their seats. The monthly test took place once a month and determined their grades, with ‘third class’ being the lowest, and no one wanted to be laughed at for a whole year.
Li Zhizhi opened her book bag and rummaged through it, but she couldn’t find the cinnabar dye she had prepared yesterday. She had clearly seen Su Tangyu put it in there, so why was it missing now?
Su Tangyu was seated at the adjacent desk and noticed something was amiss with Li Zhizhi. She looked at her in confusion and asked quietly, “Zhizhi, what’s wrong?”
Coincidentally, Teacher Zhou turned around and reminded, “Stay quiet.”
Li Zhizhi silently shook her head to indicate that everything was fine. Then, she took out her painting brush and began grinding ink. While contemplating, she suddenly recalled that Li Suwan had been near her desk yesterday. She had been too engrossed in her embroidery work at that time to pay attention.
With these thoughts in mind, Li Zhizhi turned her head in the direction of Li Suwan’s desk. There was a box of cinnabar dye placed on her table. When their eyes met, Li Suwan’s gaze flickered briefly, and then she lowered her eyes. It was such an obvious sign of guilt that Li Zhizhi had no further doubts.
She had thought that Li Suwan had been behaving herself these past few days, but it seemed she was still causing trouble behind her back. Li Zhizhi sneered inwardly and decided not to pay her any more attention. Instead, she turned her focus back to the Xuan paper in front of her. She had ink but lacked cinnabar, and it seemed that she wouldn’t be able to complete her plum blossom painting.
As the time for one incense stick slowly passed, Su Tangyu had already completed most of her painting. She noticed that Li Zhizhi hadn’t made any progress and asked in surprise, “Zhizhi, why aren’t you painting?”
She glanced at the teacher’s back in front of her and lowered her voice, “Is it too difficult for you?”
Su Tangyu remembered that Li Zhizhi hadn’t learned painting before, and it was indeed quite challenging for her to complete a plum blossom painting within the time limit of one incense stick. She felt concerned for her and suggested, “What if we switch? I’ll help you with yours.”
Calculating the time, there was still some left. She could probably paint a plum blossom quite quickly, although it might not be as detailed as Li Zhizhi’s original intent. Nevertheless, it was better than receiving a third-class evaluation from the teacher.
Li Zhizhi agreed and handed Su Tangyu a clean brush, whispering, “Dip it in cinnabar for me.”
Su Tangyu suddenly realized the situation and understood that Li Zhizhi had forgotten her dye. She handed over her cinnabar and said, “You can use mine for now.”
However, Su Tangyu hadn’t finished her own painting yet, and sharing a single box of cinnabar between them would likely be noticed by Teacher Zhou. He was known for his dislike of students doing things half-heartedly. In the past, when Zhao Shan accidentally broke Xiao Man’s cinnabar, he had to go to the Seclusion Hall empty-handed and received a scolding from Teacher Zhou right then and there.
Li Zhizhi didn’t accept Su Tangyu’s cinnabar. Instead, she asked her to help her dip her brush in the cinnabar. After a moment of contemplation, she painted a beautiful plum blossom on the Xuan paper. The plum blossom seemed to be on the verge of blooming, with a vivid and eye-catching shade of red.
Before long, a familiar voice broke the silence, “Teacher, I noticed Li Zhizhi and Su Tangyu talking as if they’ve encountered some difficulty.”
The speaker was Xiao Man. Suddenly, everyone in the painting hall turned their heads to look, as if they were witnessing a commotion. Su Tangyu’s expression stiffened, and she couldn’t help but glare at Xiaoman. However, Teacher Zhou had already walked over, his tone somewhat stern as he asked, “What’s going on?”
His gaze swept between Su Tangyu and Li Zhizhi, quickly noticing the issue, “You didn’t bring cinnabar?”
Teacher Zhou’s tone grew more serious, but Li Zhizhi remained calm and put down her brush, replying, “Teacher, the painting is already finished.”
Teacher Zhou instinctively took a look, and his gaze settled on the Xuan paper in front of Li Zhizhi. Unlike the others’ paintings, this one had a large blank space. It depicted a robust, twisting plum branch, exuding a sense of antique beauty. At its tip hung a semi-blossoming red plum flower, covered in pristine white snow. A bird, with its wings slightly folded, appeared to be about to land on the plum branch. Another bird was tilting its head in apparent curiosity about the plum blossom. The entire painting appeared exceptionally lively, charming, and full of life.
In addition, there was a pair of small cursive characters written next to the flowers, forming a poem: “The wind carries a faint fragrance away, while the bird gazes upon the pure beauty.”
These short lines of poetry, combined with the painting, were truly the finishing touch. Despite the rushed time, the painting wasn’t detailed and even had some rough strokes. However, it was precisely this seemingly hasty and rough quality that made the painting come to life.
“The wind carries a faint fragrance away, while the bird gazes upon the pure beauty” Teacher Zhou couldn’t help but praise, “A good painting, a good poem! Excellent!”
He repeated “good” three times, indicating his strong appreciation. Teacher Zhou was an art enthusiast himself and couldn’t resist picking up the painting for a closer look. His eyes shone brightly as he addressed the students, “I often say that painting requires precision and striving for perfection with every brushstroke to create a good painting. In reality, that’s not the case. It’s just because you have yet to grasp what truly makes a good painting.”
“If a painting can make people feel like they’re in the scene, hear its sounds, sense its presence, and even taste its flavor, then it’s a magnificent work of art,” Teacher Zhou praised the painting extensively, showing considerable excitement. While the students listened, they seemed to grasp only bits and pieces. Li Suwan and Xiao Man exchanged a glance but remained silent. They couldn’t understand what was so praiseworthy about a painting featuring just two birds and a plum blossom, as if it were drawn by a child without any special skill.
Regardless, they had safely passed this test. After Teacher Zhou left, Su Tangyu let out a sigh of relief and shared a smile with Li Zhizhi. She whispered, “I was so scared. I thought the teacher would scold you. I was desperately trying to come up with excuses for you. But then he suddenly praised you, and all my worrying was for nothing.”
Li Zhizhi chuckled but felt a hint of surprise within. She had experienced a similar situation in her past life, though at that time, she didn’t know who had taken the dye, and the person sitting next to her wasn’t Su Tangyu. She couldn’t even borrow a brush to apply the cinnabar, so she had to paint a white plum blossom in the end. Fortunately, that painting had also received Teacher Zhou’s praise, and Li Zhizhi hadn’t embarrassed herself during that class. However, after the class, that painting had also disappeared, and she didn’t know who had taken it.
With these memories in mind, Li Zhizhi’s gaze fell on the plum blossom painting in front of her. A peculiar feeling began to rise within her. Could this painting also disappear?
Nevertheless, when Li Zhizhi returned to the Seclusion Hall after having her lunch, the plum blossom painting was indeed missing. She didn’t panic, but Su Tangyu was quite anxious and asked, “Where’s your painting?”
She asked several people, but to no avail. During lunchtime, everyone went to the dining hall, and no one stayed in the Seclusion Hall. Jiang Ziyu shrugged it off, saying, “It’s just a simple painting. Even if Teacher Zhou praised it, it’s not worth much. Who would bother stealing it? Maybe someone used it to clean something. If she can’t bear to lose it, she can just paint another one.”
Su Tangyu was displeased and said, “How can it be the same? Even if she repaints it, it won’t be the same as before.”
Jiang Ziyu, with a hint of sarcasm, retorted, “If Li Zhizhi isn’t worried, why are you so anxious? You’re acting as if you were her sister, coming to question me. Do you suspect I stole it?”
Su Tangyu quickly clarified, “That’s not what I meant.”
Jiang Ziyu paid her no mind and walked away. Li Zhizhi held onto Su Tangyu and shook her head, saying, “It’s alright, it’s just a painting.”
Su Tangyu sighed and said, “I wanted to borrow your painting to show it to my brother. He’s an art enthusiast too. If he found out that you, who are younger than me, could create a painting that Teacher Zhou praised, he’d be very surprised.”
“Originally, I wanted to share it with my elder brother,” Li Zhizhi couldn’t help but laugh and changed the subject, saying, “You have a great relationship with your brother.”
Su Tangyu indeed shifted her focus and said, “My second brother is quite nice. It’s just that he has some health issues and doesn’t show up in public often. If there’s a chance, I’ll introduce you to him.”
“By the way,” she seemed to remember something and continued, “In a few days, it will be the summer solstice, and it’s also my birthday. I’ve invited a few of my elder brothers and sisters to a manor in the mountains to celebrate. Will you come, Zhizhi?”
Li Zhizhi gladly agreed. Just then, someone approached and stopped at her desk. When she looked up, she saw that it was Zhao Shan’er. Li Zhizhi was somewhat surprised and asked, “Is there something you need, Sister Zhao?”
Zhao Shan’er remained silent but glanced at Su Tangyu. Su Tangyu was puzzled, and Zhao Shan’er had no choice but to say, “Could Su Miss please excuse us? Li Zhizhi and I have something to discuss.”
Her attitude was so haughty, as if this mountain-colored hall was her backyard and everyone else was just servants. Without waiting for Su Tangyu to respond, Li Zhizhi smiled and softly said to Zhao Shan’er, “Tangyu and I are as close as sisters. She’s not an outsider. Whatever you have to say, you can say it in front of her, and she will never reveal it.”
Upon hearing this, Zhao Shan’er hesitated, and in the end, she didn’t say a word. She turned around and walked away. Su Tangyu watched her leave and said with a sigh, “I once heard from the old nurse that steaming a Buddha in the rice steamer is full of airs. Now I’ve truly witnessed it.”
Li Zhizhi couldn’t help but chuckle, and the two of them laughed together. Shortly afterward, Zhao Shan’er returned, but this time she didn’t ask Su Tangyu to leave. She only placed a small roll of paper in front of Li Zhizhi and said, “Take a look at this. Consider it as repaying your kindness from last time.”
After speaking, she walked away. Li Zhizhi picked up the paper and carefully unfolded it. Su Tangyu chuckled and said, “True to her reputation, it’s a note from Zhao Fourth Miss, and it even has a fragrant scent. Hmm, it’s Suhe incense.”
The small words written on the note made Li Zhizhi’s smile gradually fade. Su Tangyu noticed her change and asked, “Zhizhi, what’s wrong?”
Li Zhizhi handed her the note to read. The elegant calligraphy on it clearly stated: “Xiao Man took your painting.”
Su Tangyu was surprised and asked, “What did she take your painting for?”
Li Zhizhi was equally puzzled and shook her head slightly. If it was indeed Xiao Man who took her painting, then was the one from her past life also taken by her? What had she done with it?
While the two of them were lost in thought, a sharp voice suddenly rang out nearby, saying, “You’ve gone too far!”
Instantly, all eyes in the hall turned toward the source of the voice. It was Xiao Man and Zhao Shan’er. Xiao Man had one hand pressed firmly on the desk, her beautiful face filled with anger. She glared at Zhao Shan’er and said coldly, “I’ve tolerated you for a long time!”
Zhao Shan’er was unfazed and replied, “You could have chosen not to tolerate.”
Her tone matched her personality, and it exuded a sense of arrogance. Xiao Man’s expression became even more unpleasant, and she sneered, “Fine, fine! Zhao Shan’er, remember the words you’ve spoken today. Don’t regret it later!”
With that, she raised her hand and forcefully swept the desk clean, causing the inkwell and brushes to crash to the ground. Then, in the midst of this heart-pounding silence, she turned and left quickly.
As everyone watched the crimson figure disappear at the entrance of the painting hall, Su Tangyu was finally able to ask in surprise, “What just happened? Weren’t they the best of friends? How did they suddenly have a falling out?”
A girl nearby whispered, “I’m not sure what happened. Just now, Xiao Man came in from outside and said a few words to Zhao Shan’er. I was far away, so I couldn’t hear clearly, but it seemed like she was asking Zhao Shan’er what she was doing. Zhao Shan’er replied that she could do whatever she wanted and didn’t need to report to Xiao Man. That’s when they started arguing.”
It seemed like they had completely fallen out with each other. Li Zhizhi lightly brushed the note with her fingertips and suddenly smiled. It was a great tearing, and from now on, they would likely become enemies. It would be interesting to see them bicker and bite each other in the future.
In the evening, after finishing school, Li Zhizhi didn’t return to the Li Manor but instead went to the Princess’s Mansion. The Grand Princess was sitting in a garden pavilion, sipping tea and smiling. She warmly beckoned Li Zhizhi over and said, “Shall we dine here this evening? A’yang has been mentioning you all day in my ears.”
As she spoke, she raised her chin, and Li Zhizhi followed her gaze. Indeed, beneath the lush flowers and trees, Xiao Rulei was playing with butterflies while holding a fan. When she spotted Li Zhizhi, she called out in delight, dropped her fan, and ran over, panting as she said, “Sister!”
Li Zhizhi quickly embraced her, and Xiao Rulei clung to her for a while before suddenly remembering something. She rummaged in her pouch for a while and eventually pulled out a gardenia flower. She presented it to Li Zhizhi as if offering a treasure, saying, “This is for you, Sister.”
Then she pulled out another flower and placed it in front of the Grand Princess, saying, “This one is for Aunt.”
Li Zhizhi looked at her pouch, which was still clean and unsoiled after several days. Qianluo, who was standing nearby, couldn’t help but laugh and said, “Your Highness must treasure this pouch. It’s washed every day and only placed on the fragrant stand to dry properly. She won’t go to sleep until it’s completely dry.”
Li Zhizhi felt touched in her heart and replied with a smile, “Next time, I’ll make an even more beautiful one for A’yang.”
However, Xiao Rulei shook her head and said seriously, “Sister, making these is hard work. A’yang will cherish this one. You don’t need to make anything else.”
The Grand Princess chuckled and said, “Oh my, our A’yang is learning to be considerate of others.”
Everyone shared a laugh, and then the Grand Princess turned to Li Zhizhi and said, “Last time, I had the palace’s tailoring department measure your size. They are currently sewing your coming-of-age attire, which should be ready in a couple of days. When the time comes, we’ll bring it for you to try.”
Li Zhizhi hesitated for a moment and said, “Unfortunately, Your Highness, I promised a friend to accompany her to the country estate in North Ping Mountain on the summer solstice for her birthday. So, I might not be able to come for the fitting.”
The Grand Princess smiled and replied, “That’s not a problem. We can arrange the fitting whenever you’re free.”
Li Zhizhi agreed, but Xiao Rulei was curious and asked, “Sister, where are you celebrating your birthday?”
“It’s not my birthday,” Li Zhizhi explained, “I’m accompanying another sister to North Ping Mountain in the suburbs of the capital for her birthday.”
Xiao Rulei blinked and asked, “Is North Ping Mountain a fun place?”
With the conversation having come to this point, Li Zhizhi understood her meaning. After a while, Xiao Rulei seemed a bit hesitant and said, “Arya wants to go too. Can she come?”
Li Zhizhi hesitated and replied, “I’m afraid we’ll need the Crown Prince’s permission.”
Given Xiao Rulei’s special status, Li Zhizhi didn’t want to take her out without proper authorization. Moreover, the Crown Prince probably wouldn’t agree to it, would he?
So passed another day, at the Shanglin Park Horse Racing Field.
The weather was gradually getting warmer, and people had changed into lighter clothing. The summer solstice was approaching, and a gentle breeze carried the scents of unknown flowers and trees from the distance.
It was the afternoon, and the spacious horse racing field was covered with lush green grass. From a distance, it looked like a soft blanket. The sound of galloping horses filled the air, and young riders on horseback, dressed in silver-white attire, held longbows. They raced across the field with carefree and graceful movements.
After the horses had galloped about fifty paces, one of the young riders suddenly turned around, bent his bow, and drew an arrow. His gaze was sharp as an eagle’s, fixed on a distant target. With a quick release of his fingers, the arrow shot out with a sharp, lightning-fast sound, disappearing into the distance.
If one ignored the result, the scene was indeed visually stunning, pleasing to the eye. However, it didn’t take long for Xu Tingfeng to ride over and report that the shot had missed.
On the viewing platform at the horse racing field, Pei Yanchuan wore a somewhat awkward expression. Meanwhile, Xiao Yan pretended not to see and calmly enjoyed his loquat. After a while, he spat out the pit and nonchalantly commented, “You’ve learned quite well from your older brother’s dramatics.”
Pei Yanchuan scratched his nose and responded casually, “My brother was the top scholar in the martial examinations. How can I compare to him? Besides, he used to learn martial arts with that person.”
Xiao Yan didn’t seem to mind and just glanced at him with a smile, his handsome face carrying a hint of amusement. “With the former Crown Prince, right? What’s there to be afraid of? He won’t behead you.”
Pei Yanchuan playfully said, “You can call him by his name directly, but I dare not.”
Xiao Yan accepted the arrow from Xu Tingfeng, weighed it in his hand, and examined it carefully. Then he asked, “Alright, what do you want?”
Pei Yanchuan had specially invited him out today. After sharing drinks and listening to music, he had come to the Shanglin Park to ride horses and shoot arrows. It was clear that he had a request. After some flattery, praising the Crown Prince’s martial prowess and intelligence, Pei Yanchuan finally got to the point, “I heard that Your Highness has a country estate in the northern hills of the capital. Can I borrow it for a while?”
Xiao Yan, who was slowly and deliberately stringing an arrow, raised his phoenix-like eyes to glance at Pei Yanchuan with curiosity. He asked, “Why do you want to go there?”
Pei Yanchuan hesitated for a moment and then replied, “I want to invite a few friends from my school to have a banquet.”
Xiao Yan couldn’t help but squint his eyes while handling the arrow. He seemed nonchalant as he asked, “Why? Don’t you find the wine at Snow Willow Pavilion to your taste? They all want to go to the northern hills?”
On ordinary days, Xiao Yan was very generous and didn’t care much about material possessions. Whenever Pei Yanchuan wanted to borrow something, be it a car, a horse, or any other valuable item, he would casually agree, saying, “Take it,” without minding when it would be returned.
But for some reason today, he had to ask for such detailed information. Pei Yanchuan had to rack his brains to come up with a response. Before he could figure it out, Xiao Yan suddenly smiled and asked, “Do you think I can hit the target with this arrow? If you guess correctly, I’ll give you that estate.”
Pei Yanchuan hesitated, glancing at him and then at the distant target. He asked, “Your Highness, which one do you want to shoot at?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Xiao Yan thought for a moment and said, “As long as there is something on the arrow, it will be considered hitting the target.”
Pei Yanchuan thought, “Isn’t this too simple? Even if you shoot off target and the arrow lands in the ground, it would still count.” So, he hurriedly said, “Your Highness will definitely hit the target.”
As soon as he finished speaking, Xiao Yan released the arrow, and Pei Yanchuan shouted, “Wait—”
Then he was stunned, his eyes wide open, staring at the arrow as it made a whooshing sound and disappeared into the vast clear sky.
How could that possibly hit anything?
Before Pei Yanchuan could complain, suddenly a bird plummeted from the sky, flapping its wings desperately, its body pierced by an arrow, and splashes of bright red blood staining the green grass.
Pei Yanchuan was filled with shock, and he looked at Xiao Yan. The young crown prince wore a look of regret and said, “My eldest brother once shot a bird in the sky with a single arrow, but it’s a pity…”
No one knew what he was regretting, and no one dared to speak.
The evening at the horse ranch was tranquil, with only the gentle breeze blowing. Xiao Yan tossed the bow and arrow to Xu Tingfeng, and he smiled at Pei Yanchuan, saying, “You guessed correctly. You can have that estate.”
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