Chapter 85 part 1: Winning a Prize in the Dart Game during the Joyous Qi Qiao Festival

    The Lunar calendar's seventh day of the seventh month, Qi Xi or Qi Qiao Festival, when the cowherd and the weaver girl were allowed their annual meeting.

    This was the holiday that women attached great importance to.

    Although the Northern Qi and Western Chu were officially at war, the arrival of this day caught more attention from the women of the ancient times than the chaotic flames of war.

    The weather was sunny and the sun was shining bright. In the morning, the different vendors and the various restaurants were already busy because this day was different from any other day in Western Chu. During the evening of this day, the vendors were allowed to set up their stalls in the streets to sell their products, while the precious ladies who were kept in their houses were allowed by their families to go out and have fun. It could be foreseen that tonight would surely be an extraordinarily lively Qi Qiao.

    For a time, all the streets and alleys showed scenes bustling with noise and excitement. The vendors displayed their best merchandise in front of the stall. The restaurants and teahouses were already fully occupied by gongzi from different families even before the sky grew dark, with each and everyone of them stretching their heads forward at the streets, planning to see with their own eyes the well-bred young ladies from well-known families and those pretty girls of humble birth.

    During the evening in xiangfu, Yun Qian Meng was holding the prescription Ying Xia had brought back and carefully was examining it. Although she did not understand traditional Chinese medicine, the use of poison in this ancient times was rather common. Yun Qian Meng took advantage of her free time these past few days to ask Mi mama to find her some basic books on medicinal materials and flipped through them in detail. Although there were quite a lot of things that she had not fully understood, she already had a scope of understanding for the characteristics and properties of some commonly used herbs.

    Therefore, looking through the prescription for Qu Ling Ao in her hand, Yun Qian Meng did not feel totally clueless. From time to time, she would point out some parts that she did not understand to Ying Xia, who managed to answer most of the questions she asked. It seemed like she really knew the principles of medicinal science well, so Yun Qian Meng felt more at ease.

    "Ying Xia, in your opinion, how long would it take for Xia mama's tongue to recover?" Yun Qian Meng was calculating the date that Su Qing would be giving birth in her mind, while her eyes looked at the fire-like setting sun outside.

    "Xiaojie, Xia mama didn't receive medical treatment at time she was injured, but after Ying Qiu's utmost care, she has already gotten a lot better. The injury to her tongue can heal up to 70% of before, which would enable Xia Mama to talk somewhat slowly in the future, but this is already the best outcome." Ying Xia was a pragmatic girl, although she was usually quite lively and cheeky, when dealing with important matters, she would unexpectedly become more mature and sedate than her age showed.

    Yun Qian Meng turned and looked at Ying Xia who had seriously answered her questions, she suddenly thought of Rong Yun He and felt that the kind of master who taught and guided the yatou would be similar in nature. Ying Xia and Yuan Dong usually kept their distance from people, but for those they cared about, the both of them really showed their concern wholeheartedly.

    Thinking about it, she had not seen Rong Yun He since their meeting in the palace.

    The matter Qu gonggong had come to report the other day was probably what Rong Xian taifei wished deep inside.

    After all, the reason Rong Xian taifei had agreed to adopt her was because of the pressure from the Empress Dowager and Chu wang.

    But after the matter of Qu Zhang Qing happened. Rong Xian taifei naturally manipulated Emperor Yu Qian anxiety and took this chance to press this thing down.

    This was actually very good for Yun Qian Meng. She definitely preferred to keep away from the deceptions common in the palace. After all, having more titles meant that the danger to her would also increase. Although Yun Qian Meng knew that the title of junzhi was revered by a lot of people, it would also attract hatred. It was more relaxing to simply be the da xiaojie of xiangfu.

    In the middle of their conversation, sounds of footsteps came from outside the door. Yun Qian Meng handed over the prescription to Ying Xia, then ordered her to open the door of the room. Yun Ruo Xue was leading Yun Yan and Yun Yi Yi over without waiting for someone to inform her.

    "What's with today that has brought three meimei to come to my Qi Luo Yuan together?" Yun Qian Meng stood up from the window and sat down beside the table. Her eyes glanced over the three who entered in a single file with a smile, and finally stopped her eyes at Yun Yan's face.

    Yun Yan naturally understood Yun Qian Meng's meaning, she blushed and shyly smiled at Yun Qian Meng, then lowered her head.

    Yun Qian Mng saw an expression that had not seen before, while both Yun Ruo Xue and Yun Yi Yi had dressed up meticulously. She recalled the date in her mind and immediately understood intuitively. She smiled and said, "Have a seat."

    She then immediately had Ying Xia pour tea for the three, and waited for them to speak.

    "Why is jiejie still wearing casual clothes? It's already late, we're all waiting to go out!" Yun Yi Yi spoke right after she sat down as if she was the da xiaojie of xiangfu, without bothering to look at Yun Ruo Xue who had a somewhat gloomy expression.

    As she spoke, Yun Yi Yi's body straightened and she showed off her flat chest, directing people's attention to her exquisite dress that she seemed rather proud of.

    "Yi Yi is rather impatient. For those who are unaware, they would think that you are going out to meet your lover. Don't you forget that we are representing xiangfu when we go out, you can't show your bad practices from the province and get xiangfu into trouble." With regards to Yun Yi Yi's burning with impatience, though Yun Ruo Xue was anxious herself, she did not restrain herself from taunting Yun Yi Yi.

    Especially after seeing Yun Yi Yi bragging and showing herself off, Yun Ruo Xue looked down on her even more.

    Hearing that, Yun Yi Yi suddenly pulled a long face as sense of anger flashed in her eyes, then she coldly sneered, "Sister is right, but no matter how bad Yi Yi is, I'm still the eldest legitimate daughter of my dad. Uncle surely would not match Yi Yi with a concubine born daughter.

    "But sister is so pitiable. You're already concubine born, and now that Su yiniang isn't as favored as before, the marriage situation of sister is quite dangerous now. In the future, if you're married to a concubine born, I wonder how disgusted the people would be of children of two concubine born."

    While she spoke, Yun Yi Yi opened the fan in her hand, and, imitating the young ladies from the well-known families in the capital, she slightly covered half of her face, and laughed with a low voice. This caused Yun Ruo Xue to stare at her madly, wishing that she could only pounce on Yun Yi Yi and tear her arrogant mouth to pieces.

    Yun Qian Meng's smile somewhat faded after seeing the arrogant looks of Yun Yi Yi. "Since everyone's in a hurry to go out, why bother to come to Qi Luo Yuan? I feel that today's weather is really hot, and I really would not want to go out. Meimei better go ahead."

    Afterwards, Yun Qian Meng gave Ying Xia a look, who understood it immediately, then spoke, "Please go ahead, xiaojie."

    Seeing Yun Qian Meng unwilling to go out for such an important occasion, Yun Ruo Xue and Yun Yi Yi's eyes flashed with joy and their smiles widened.

    After all, Yun Qian Meng's name had circulated sprouting of spring grass in the ears of all the aristocratic families in the capital during this past half year where she had left a deep impression in these famous families. Moreover, she had gained the favor of both Chu wangfu and Rong fu. If Yun Qian Meng were to go out with them today, they were afraid that she would only steal away all the attention. Now that Yun Qian Meng refused to go out, how could they not be happy? If Yun Qian Meng herself said that she did not want to go out, they would have the an explanation to Yun Xuan Zhi.

    "Jiejie, father has instructed us to follow your lead out of the fu. Father said that sister is steady, so he would need to be afraid of things going wrong." Yun Yan had lightly spoken, causing the two others to glare at her, but Yun Yan was sincere in inviting Yun Qian Meng.

    Her steadiness was the best defense for Yun Yan. After all, Yun Ruo Xue was highly favored by Yun Xuan Zhi, and Yun Yi Yi, on the other hand, was loved by lao taitai. If the time came when the two argued, she would not be able to handle the situation. She was afraid that Yun Xuan Zhi and lao taitai would blame her. The only option was to invite Yun Qian Meng to go out with them, this way, she would have a layer of protection.

    How could Yun Qian Meng not understand the thoughts of Yun Yan? But facing the two arguing in front of her, Yun Qian Meng suddenly felt bored. She was about to open her mouth to refuse, but was forestalled by Yun Yi Yi. Yun Yi Yi approached Yun Qian Meng with a smiling face, held her arm and said, "Jiejie should go out with us! Recently, with the big issue that happened to Fu Guo Gong Fu. Although in the end Zhang Qing biaoge was able to wash away the injustice, jiejie surely worried a lot. Why not take advantage of today's occasion to go out and relax?"

    Yun Yi Yi had looked at Yun Qian Meng with eyes filled with a true smile, but Yun Ruo Xue understood the hidden meaning in Yun Yi Yi's words. She broke into laughter then spoke in support of Yun Yi Yi, "Indeed, jiejie! Why not go out and relax with meimei. It's really boring to stay at this Qi Luo Yuan the whole day. Moreover, Fu Guo Gong Fu has now regained the trust of the Emperor, I believe that the xiaojie from the other families would not make fun of jiejie."

    Yun Yan did not expect that her statement to lead to the two ridiculing Yun Qian Meng.

    Nowadays, who did not know that the eldest grandson of Fu Guo Gong Fu had been suspected of being a traitor to the country? Although the accusations on Qu Zhang Qing were cleared, this incident had caused the people to drift away from Fu Guo Gong Fu.

    Yun Yi Yi and Yun Ruo Xue did not let anything slip past them regarding Yun Qian Meng. If Yun Qian Meng made a single mistake, they would immediately take the opportunity to sneer at her.

    Thinking of this, Yun Yan could not help the feeling of guilt and uneasiness. She looked at Yun Qian Meng with eyes filled with regret.

    But Yun Qian Meng replied indifferent smile, and with eyes that shone like black obsidian filled with with endless wisdom. At Yun Yi Yi's enthusiasm in inviting her, she smiled and unexpectedly agreed. "Since two meimei are enthusiastically inviting me, jiejie naturally cannot make any more excuses. But, if I involved meimei in being laughed at by others, the two of you should not blame jiejie. Go to the outer room first and wait for me, I'll go there as soon as I finish dressing up."

    After she heard Yun Qian Meng's words, Ying Xia led the three out of the inner room without looking at the faces of the two. Mu Chun immediately approached with a snow bluegreen outer coat and light green middle clothes that matched with a long white dress with a blue silk waistband. These would make Yun Qian Meng look elegant and graceful, totally different from the attires of Yun Yi Yi and Yun Ruo Xue.

    Mu Chun had also tied Yun Qian Meng's hair into a bun. She combed the hair on top of Yun Qian Meng's head all to one side and arranged her smoothly. Placing a small golden butterfly hairpin in her hair, it was completed with some flower hairpins of the same color as the outfit. This was the look Yun Qian Meng had today.

    "Xiaojie, those two xiaojie clearly do not have any good intentions." Thinking of the laughs of Yun Yi Yi and Yun Ruo Xue had with their evil plans a while ago, a sense of vigilance rose to Mu Chun's mind, as she worried that the two might do something bad.

    Yun Qian Meng smiled at Mu Chun from the copper mirror. She took a pair of white magnolia earrings from her accessory box and put them on her ears. She then stood up and ordered, "Let's go, so that the three of them need not wait any longer."

    Yun Qian Meng obviously knew Yun Yi Yi and Yun Ruo Xue had plans.

    If she took her reputation into account and refused to go out, it would fit exactly with their wishes.

    But if she went out with them, they would intentionally embarrass her in front of other xiaojies.

    She had to give them credit, the two of them were really capable. Though, she worried what might happen to the thick make-up on their faces once they began sweating heavily from the crowded streets.

    When Yun Yi Yi and Yun Ruo Xue were asked to go out of the inner room, they did so glaring at each other, after  which they looked away from each other to prevent their make-up from messing up.

    After waiting for half a cup of tea's time, Yun Qian Meng walked out of the inner room escorted by Mu Chun. Seeing that Yun Qian Meng looked quite plain today, their worried hearts immediately relaxed. The four of them went out of the gates of xiangfu together, stepped into the readied carriage, and headed to the marketplace with the protection of Liu huwei.

    Although the setting sun shone brightly over the land, nighttime quickly arrived.

    The carriage was not able to move any further once it arrived at the marketplace. Liu huwei softly reported from the outside, "Xiaojie, please come down from the carriage. The streets are currently overcrowded and the carriage cannot move any further."

    When the four in the carriage heard this, Yun Yi Yi and Yun Ruo Xue who sat at opposite ends of the carriage immediately opened the curtains beside them and looked at the lively night market outside. Their faces showed their lack of patience to wait any further. They did not even wait for Yun Qian Meng to speak or to go down the carriage first but strived to exit the carriage first with the help of their respective yatou.

    All the while, Yun Qian Meng slowly walked down the carriage with the help of Mu Chun. She felt a heat wave hitting her in the face, and she did not know whether it was because the weather today was rather hot or because the streets were overcrowded with people. She could only feel the heat-wave continuously hitting her face, and even she who did not wear overcomplicated clothes feel the impatience and hotness. She felt that there was already a layer of sweat on the hand that held the fan as she opened it.

    Looking afar, Yun Yi Yi and Yun Ruo Xue were already quickly going through the crowd. Looking at them, they seemed to be totally unrestricted by the their heavy clothes.

    "Liu huwei, leave some people behind and go take care of the two of them." Yun Qian Meng ordered when she saw that Yun Yi Yi and Yun Ruo Xue were already almost out of her sight, "Remember, watch over the two xiaojie carefully, don't let anything bad happen."

    Liu huwei understood the hidden meaning of Yun Qian Meng's words. He immediately left a few bodyguards with best martial arts and left with others to protect Yun Ruo Xue and Yun Yi Yi.

    "Yan'er, you can pick some accessories you like. Don't need to restrain yourself too much." Yun Qian Meng said smiling when she noticed the surprise and yearning in Yun Yan.

    Yun Yan felt happy when she heard Yun Qian Meng say so. As she was just about to take a step, a turbulent stream of people on the streets came, everyone walked past one another, blocking Yun Yan from going either forward or backward. The heat emitted by the people and the hot air they exhaled caused her to sweat nonstop so she stepped back at once.

    But her watery eyes filled with joy were staring at the street in front. Both sides of the long street were lined with small stalls, each had many delicate items displayed in front. There were even countless colorful lanterns hung on top of the stalls, decorating the streets colorfully.

    The young ladies who were in their youth and even those furen would be happy to go out and have fun if they saw the beautiful decorations.

    Yun Yan still was not able to contain her desire. She bit her lips and entered the flow of people with her yatou following behind.

    "Xiaojie, where will we go now?" Yuan Dong, Ying Xia, and Mu Chun sheltered Yun Qian Meng in a protective circle. Although the three of them also wanted to have some fun, their responsibility of protecting Yun Qian Meng pressed down their urge and they only thought of protecting their xiaojie.

    Since they were out of xiangfu, Yun Qian Meng naturally would not let the three yatou be unable to walk around and buy things, but the flow of people in front was really scary. Perhaps they would already be squashed even before they managed to pass through the crowd. Looking afar, compared to the overcrowded middle of the long street, there were relatively less people in front of Tian Fu Lou. Thus, she led the three carefully across the layers of people towards Tian Fu Lou.

    When they were about to arrive at Tian Fu Lou, a crowd of people suddenly poured over, directly pushing Yun Qian Meng and company over to the restaurant beside Tian Fu Lou.

    Yun Qian Meng quickly raised her head too see Mu Chun and the other two were still tightly following her and were not dispersed by the crowd, so she felt somewhat relieved.

    Dang, dang, dang...

    At this moment, the deafening gong suddenly sounded over the top of their heads.

    Everyone raised their heads and looked up to see a middle-aged shopkeeper standing on the second floor of the restaurant. The young servant beside the man held a gong and was beating it heavily. Once the people were all focused on the second floor, the shopkeeper signaled for the young man to stop.

    "To all the xiaojie and young ladies, good evening! Today is the joyous Qi Qiao Festival. For this occasion, we Fu Yuan Lou will be holding a dart game. If someone were to shoot a dart from their hand to the prize on that pole, then they win the prize!" the shopkeeper was excited at the people gathered in front of the restaurant and spoke so loudly than the weak and delicate xiaojie and young ladies below frowned and felt embarrassed.

    Yun Qian Meng followed the direction shopkeeper was pointing and saw a bamboo pole, ten meters high, in front of that Fu Yuan Lou. On the pole, starting from the six meter mark, had prizes hanging. Ever few intervals upward, the prizes became more precious, while on the very tip of the pole was a delicately carved jade hairpin. Even through the night, when the lights were dim, they could still see the fine lustre of the hairpin that reflected the moonlight. Looking up from below, they could still see the moon hanging in the sky through the jade. Evidently, this jade hairpin was surely extremely precious, otherwise, it would not have been placed on the highest and most difficult position.

    The height was not yet the hardest part. If these prizes were simply fixed onto the bamboo pole, it was still possible to be shot by someone, but the organizers were rather crafty. They used a thin red string to tie the prizes onto the pole. Now that the wind was blowing, the red strings were swaying along with the wind, so it was now too hard for someone to shoot the prizes. Needless to say, these xiaojie did not even have the strength to truss a chicken with their hands.

    "Shopkeeper, can men also join this dart game?" Suddenly, a sharp voice sounded from the crowd of people; the crowd followed the voice and saw that a servant asked for her xiaojie.
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