The beauty was taken aback but quickly collected her wits. She couldn’t quite figure out Zhao Zun’s intentions, but rushed to put on her clothes.
The beauty called out for a maidservant to bring in the zither and in a short while, the beauty sat inside the room and started playing the zither after calming her state her mind.
Though Zhao Zun only felt his annoyance growing and internally he was scolding himself for lacking courage. He continued downing cup after cup of wine, appearing like he had no intention of stopping.
“Lord, if you have something on your mind, don’t hesitate to say it out loud. This beauty also would like to help your lordship come up with some ideas.”
Zhao Zun wasn’t in a mood to converse. The beauty’s expression showed her embarrassment. It was the first time that she been ignored by a person, but the beauty didn’t get annoyed by his rejection but rather, only became more infatuated with Zhao Zun.
For the entire night, Zhao Zun was in deep thought, which brought hardship to the beauty who continued playing the zither for the whole night. She saw the sky outside turn light again but Zhao Zun still did not move.
The beauty tried to keep silent but couldn’t bear it anymore, “Lord…”
Zhao Zun violently put down his wine cup, his expression dark and gloomy. The beauty trembled again.
Zhao Zun didn’t even look at her and went directly to open the door, striding out of the room.
Humph! She wanted to run, but it wouldn’t be that easy for her. Seeing as how she had already caught Zhao Zun’s attention, she shouldn’t think about escaping. He had thought about it all night before Zhao Zun finally managed to persuade himself. He smirked, a smirk that carried a devilish intention.
Zhao Qi unexpectedly shivered. This smile. It could make anyone tremble in fear.
“Lord, Princess Jin Shu just sent someone over to deliver a birthday dinner invitation.”
Zhao Zun looked at him sideways, with two hands resting on his back, he continued walking. “No time.”
“Then this subordinate will reply accordingly to the Princess’s manor.”
This time when Xiao Yuan returned to the manor, Xiao Ying received her information.
Xiao Ying smirked. “Ninth sister really is very brave. Spending money hand over fist. Heading over to those commoner places. Grandmother and father both favor her. Which other young lady in this manor enjoys this kind of treatment?”
Lu Zhi nodded. “Not just that. Ninth Miss has such a playful nature and she’s gutsy. She’s brave enough to do anything. Normally, her words are sweet and capable of deceiving the old madam and making her happy. She’s even forced my lady into this corner.”
Xiao Ying glared at Lü Zhi, her expression dark and gloomy. Lü Zhi hurriedly kneeled before her. “This servant girl admits to making a mistake.”
“All right, get up.”
Xiao Ying lifted up her tea and took a small sip while the gears in her brain rapidly turned. Suddenly, a mocking expression appeared onto her face. She gestured for Lü Zhi to come over and gently murmured a few sentences into her ear. Lü Zhi’s face revealed that the request would be difficult for her, but seeing Xiao Ying’s expression, she could only force herself to do it and agree.
Lü Zhi nodded, turned and hurriedly left.
In one short day, rumors had already spread to outside of the manor. Yesterday, the person who had been spending money recklessly and got involved in a bidding war with the great prince had unexpectedly been Miss Xiao Ninth, who had dressed up as a man and purposefully got into a disagreement with the great prince.
The great prince had searched for a whole night and was surprised he hadn’t found this person. Just as he was scratching his head over it, he suddenly learned of this news. His expression darkened considerably and his hand tightly clenched into a fist.
Now that the great prince had a clue who it was, he might as well follow the trail. As he investigated, his suspicions turned out to be true as the investigation revealed a general idea of what happened that night.
“It was her again! How repulsive. How can this be so?”
She made him end up spending ninety thousand silver taels more than he should have. The great prince felt a deep animosity towards Xiao Yuan.
“Your highness, what should we do now?”
The great prince was fuming. “We don’t have any evidence and she’s the Right Minister’s daughter so what can we do?”
He could only swallow his anger. There was no rule that girls couldn’t participate in competitions. Moreover, everything she had done was fair and by the rules. Even if the great prince wanted to make things difficult for her, he had no grounds to do so.
The Right Minister had left the royal court and also heard of this matter. His expression was gloomy and he headed directly towards the Qingan Courtyard.
As he thought, he saw a pathetic looking Xiao Yuan standing in the middle of the courtyard while the old madam was lambasting her.
Xiao Yuan shifted her eyes and when she saw the Right Minister, her eyes lit up. Although, the Right Minister just rolled her eyes at her. Xiao Yuan pouted her lips.
“This child is just too unreasonable. How could she run off to that kind of a place?”
The old madam was besides herself. The Right Minister immediately joined in scolding her.
“Little Ninth. How come father didn’t know about this? When did Little Ninth become rich and imposing?”
The Right Minister had just been puzzling over it. No wonder this morning it looked like something was bothering the great prince.
Xiao Yuan knelt before the Right Minister in a groveling kind of manner. “Father, daughter does know how to act with decorum. I wouldn’t just act recklessly. Moreover, hasn’t the great prince already spent his money? Now that the anger in my heart has been quelled, I can overlook everything that’s been done to me.”
As the Right Minister listened, he scowled at Xiao Yuan. He took out his arm and straightened his face, “Your father was asking you. Who gave you the guts to shout out a bid of seventy thousand tael? If the great prince hadn’t counterbid, what would you have done?”
The Right Minister was boiling mad. Seventy thousand tael! And she didn’t even flinch! She was actually willing to spend that large amount of money.
The old madam bristled at that news, “What Seventy thousand tael?”
The Right Minister unhappily retold yesterday’s events. Xiao Yuan shrank in shame and felt somewhat guilty. At the time, she had been caught up in the heat of the moment.
The Right Minister continued scolding her. Xiao Yuan had just been too careless and had even been discovered by the great prince. This deed was most certainly being remembered as Xiao Yuan’s doing. Despite all this, the Right Minister secretly felt a bit prideful. She could even involve the great prince into her schemes. Without a hint of bias, there was no doubt that she was his daughter.
At this, the old madam also wasn’t going to help bail out Xiao Yuan. Xiao Yuan put on a pained expression and clung onto the old madam’s arm.
“Grandmother, you also know that recently they’ve been spreading around various rumors. Yesterday, I only intended to see what the excitement was about, when I ran into the great prince and I was reminded about what I looked like after the third prince hit me. Something came over me then and I made a mistake.”
As Xiao Yuan explained, the old madam’s heart immediately softened. Xiao Yuan took advantage of the situation and continued talking, “And, Little Ninth disguised herself as a man. I wore male clothes so he definitely couldn’t have recognized me.”
Xiao Yuan thought about it. The great prince certainly couldn’t have recognized her and she had even considered the possibilities that rumors would start spreading. In a flash, a person came to mind.
The old madam rolled her eyes at Xiao Yuan. “You still have the nerve to talk. It’s already fortunate enough he hasn’t come to our doorstep and asked for his money back. What kind of young lady are you? Are you worth one million silver tael? And what is wrong with the great prince that he followed along with your nonsense. You, yourself, insisted on acting in a fit of anger so who can you really blame?”
As the old madam spoke, she unexpectedly felt some pride, making the Right Minister feel somewhat helpless. He knew that the great prince not coming to their doorstep did not mean that he had overlooked this slight.
The great prince had intended to strengthen his personal connections. The Right Minister shook his head; there was no point in arguing with the old madam. Even an old fox like the Right Minister had never won an argument with her before so he could only let her have her way.
The more Xiao Yuan spoke, the more reasonable she sounded and she had quickly persuaded the old madam.
“Little Ninth did right. He deserved to be taught a lesson. Lord Minister, tomorrow morning, don’t forget to bring up this matter with the emperor.”
The Right Minister now had no choice. It originally was a matter based on groundless accusations. Everyone was well aware of what had happened so why bother making the great prince suffer even more?
Xiao Yuan noticed that she was making things difficult for the Right Minister and hurriedly spoke to the old madam, “Grandmother, it also won’t be good if this matter gets blown up anymore. After all, Little Ninth was also bidding so I was an accomplice.”
The old madam had forgotten that detail and glared at Xiao Yuan, “Did you know that then! This matter is considered dealt with for now. No one in this manor is allowed to make any comments on it. Just act as if you don’t know what they’re talking about if they ask. Though, seeing as how you’ve made a mistake then you have to face punishment. For two months, you’re not allowed to leave the manor.”
Xiao Yuan had a displeased expression. She shook the old madam’s arm, “Grandmother, in five days time it will be the princess’s birthday feast. Little Ninth has already promised Qing Le that I’d attend.”
The old madam fell silent for a moment. Xiao Yuan and Qing Le got along very well. It wouldn’t be appropriate if she didn’t go.
“Then your punishment will be to copy the heart sutra one hundred times. We’ll wait until after you’ve attended the birthday feast to prohibit you from leaving the manor. No one is allowed to beg for leniency for you!”
Xiao Yuan happily smiled and clung onto the old madam’s arm.
She softly and sweetly said, “Thank you grandmother.”
This superficial punishment made the Right Minister feel helpless. In comparison to dealing with domestic affairs, he’d much rather spend everyday dealing with the matters of the royal court.
As the Right Minister was going to leave, he gave Xiao Yuan a displeased look. Xiao Yuan gave the Right Minister a giggly, smiling look. She wasn’t even the least bit frightened of the Right Minister.