Find Fault In
When Qing Le heard this, she almost couldn’t straighten back up and could only nod her head to express her approval.
The more Xiao Yuan spoke, the happier she sounded but suddenly her expression became frozen and she looked like she was seriously thinking about something.
“He…could he be gay?”
After she spoke, Xiao Yuan became stockstill. Her words made goosebumps appear all over her body. The more she thought about it, the more suspicious she became, “According to unrecorded historical accounts, many men in this world have strange tastes, such as gay people, who just like men and don’t like women. The more money and power someone has, the stranger they are. I know that the previous Minister of Punishment was exposed for liking a catamite* and being lukewarm towards his own wife.”
(TN: In its ancient usage a catamite was a pubescent boy who was the intimate companion of an older man.)
When Qing Le heard this, the tips of her ears went red and rushed to cover up Xiao Yuan’s mouth with her hand, “You’ve gone mad. What kind of garbage books have you been reading? Perverting the works of sages. I ought to wash your mouth with soap!”
Xiao Yuan stuck out her tongue and while she didn’t say her thoughts out loud, she was growing increasingly suspicious.
Could it be that he really was gay?
“We should go. There’s too many people here. Let’s talk in my room.”
Qing Le batted her eyes at her in an exasperated manner. Xiao Yuan laughed charmingly in response and nodded a few times.
While watching the two figures get further and further away, Zhao Qi suddenly felt a chill all over his body. The aura of superiority surrounding him had vanished.
He now finally understood the situation. The reason they had given so many gifts and tagged along with the great prince to the princess’s manor turned out to be because of Xiao Yuan!
After hearing Xiao Yuan say those things, Zhao Qi was still in shock. When did his lord become gay? How come he didn’t know?
Zhao Zun firmly pursed his lips together. Both of his hands were tightly curled into fists. His eyes were filled with anger. He curled his lips and with a voice as cold as ice said, “Let’s go!”
Of course! Zhao Zun badly wanted to strangle her. She actually dared to say those things. First, he was called incompetent and now she was calling him gay. Zhao Zun was trembling with rage.
In all these years, it was the first time that someone had made him so angry but also leave with him no room for a rebuttal.
After all, it had been him who had been with a woman and spent all night listening to her play the zither. As Zhao Zun thought of this mistake and the sound of that person’s laughter, a laughter dripping with schadenfreude, his chest began to feel tight.
“Lord, please wait for your subordinate.” Zhao Qi finally recovered from his earlier shock only to see Zhao Zun had already walked far away. He rushed to catch up.
“Go! Bring a few pretty, young ladies. The more the merrier. Bring them all to the Zhao Manor. Bring your lord some good things to eat and drink and let them attend to me!”
“Whaaat?” Zhao Qi thought he was hallucinating until Zhao Zun narrowed his eyes at him, startling Zhao Qi and he immediately straightened up, “Yes, this subordinate will leave and arrange for this.”
Zhao Zun nodded and walked with long strides out the door all while suppressing a heart full of anger.
“Lord, Miss Xiao Ninth has consistently been blunt with her words so why are you so mad? After today, you won’t see her again for at least another three months.”
Zhao Qi had quietly made this remark in an offhand manner to himself but Zhao Zun stopped walking and turned his head, “Why is that?”
“Because that day, when she competed against the great prince, it caused quite a bit of a stir. The old madam of the Minister’s manor has forbidden the Ninth Miss from leaving the manor for three months.”
At the mention of that day, Zhao Zun’s rage only grew more intense but he forced himself to ignore it. He stopped walking and against all odds, changed direction.
“We haven’t yet offered the princess birthday felicitations. Come on!”
Zhao Qi was confused once more, “Lord, the princess’s room is this way. You’re walking in the wrong direction!”
“If we go now, there’ll be too many people. Your lord is a businessman. How can I go there immediately? It’s not everyday that I get to pay a visit to the princess’s manor. The scenery here isn’t bad. I’ll walk around some.”
As Zhao Zun spoke, his steps changed direction slightly and Zhao Qi closely followed behind him. How was this admiring the scenery? He was clearly looking for the courtyard!
Zhao Qi rubbed his nose and couldn’t figure out what was happening or what his lord was doing. He couldn’t stay silent anymore and said, “Lord, Qing Le’s courtyard is to the west.”
As expected, when Zhao Zun heard this, his steps started shifting towards the west.
In the front courtyard, the news of Liu Qingwu being bullied had managed to make it to Princess Jin Shu’s ear. Princess Jin Shu’s expression changed somewhat.
“Go! Go take a look!”
Qing Le had been dragging Xiao Yuan all the way to the flower pavilion but had been stopped by Liu Qingwu. Qing Le looked displeased but before she could open her mouth, she heard a scolding coming from far away.
“What is all this about? How come you’re all gathered here?”
When Liu Qingwu heard this, she rushed to use her handkerchief to dab at the corner of her eyes and lowered her head.
Princess Jin Shu gave Liu Qingwu a sideways glance. When she walked over, she also noticed Qing Le was once again being aggressive towards Qingwu.
She spoke with a cross tone of voice, “Qing Le! You’re bullying Wu again! Disgraceful! You’ll only be satisfied if you’re making me angry, aren’t you?”
Princess Jin Shu didn’t ask for any clarification of what happened but instead, immediately began to tell off Qing Le in front of the crowd of people. Just like what the rumors said, Princess Jin Shu didn’t treat her like a daughter at all.
Xiao Yuan spoke out about the unfairness of the situation on Qing Le’s behalf. She could tell that even though Qing Le appeared unconcerned, her eyes hid an unmistakable hint of grief and anguish.
Who would’ve been able to accept getting criticized by their mother while in the presence of an audience?
Qing Le raised her eyebrow, “Mother, why don’t you ask her? Today is your birthday but yet she’s crying and wailing. If someone didn’t know better, they’d think that a funeral was taking place in the princess’s manor!”
At this, Liu Qingwu rushed to shake her head in disagreement, “Mother, this has nothing to do with the princess. This doesn’t concern the princess. I was being careless and a gust of wind blew some sand into my eye.”
Princess Jin Shu had, in an instant, become aggravated at the sight of Qing Le’s indifferent attitude so her rage couldn’t be easily mollified. With one hand she grabbed onto Liu Qingwu, “Wu, don’t hide things on her account. This temple is well aware of her attitude.”
Qing Le laughed carefreely, “Well then, mother, why don’t you don’t tell everyone what kind of attitude I have? Miss Liu, even if you have suffered some kind of injustice, at least confidently point it out, seeing as how not only mother is helping you out but there’s also this many people watching.”
Princess Jin Shu choked on her words. How could she have given birth to this kind of a daughter? Who’s willing to go against her all day long? Who doesn’t care in the slightest about her own reputation?
There were more ladies arriving in the courtyard and while they weren’t aware of all the details, they saw there were quite a few spectators gathered. Everyone started discussing the situation.
“This stepchild really is something. Managing to coax the princess to not care for her own biological daughter and to treat her better. No wonder the Empress Dowager is so doting of Qing Le.”
“Not only that, two days ago I heard that the princess asked for a fief to be granted to that young girl on her behalf. I really don’t know what was going through the Princess’s mind.”
“Hehe, if you think about it, wouldn’t it be because of the husband…”
After that one person in the crowd finishing speaking, an expression of realization dawned on all the women.
Princess Jin Shu was so enraged that her face had turned stark white as she heard the abuses being uttered by her side. She fiercely glared at Qing Le.
Liu Qingwu was also taken aback. She had never thought that this many people would come out to help Qing Le and would even go against Princess Jin Shu.
Qing Le had a half smile on her face. The Princess was still at the doorstep of the Emperor, yet she treated it like a fiefdom. She was just one person but she thought she could do whatever she pleased.
“Mother, this really has nothing to do with Qing Le. You’ve misunderstood.”
Liu Qingwu looked directly into Princess Jin Shu’s eyes and she sounded very serious.
The more Liu Qingwu spoke, the more Princess Jin Shu didn’t believe her and it furthered her belief that Qing Le had mistreated Liu Qingwu.
Xiao Shu quietly got close to the old madam’s ear. The old madam nodded solemnly.
Xiao Yuan smirked, “Princess, I can serve as a witness. I really don’t understand why Lady Liu likes crying this much. I heard that there’s a kind of illness that people are born with where they’ll cry if they encounter any wind. We didn’t even have time to respond before she burst into tears. Qing Le was just thinking about the Princess’s birthday when she casually made a request to her but Lady Liu ran away crying. What was the reason for that? Why not explain it to everyone?”
Liu Qingwu was taken aback and the color of her face alternated between blue and white.