After returning back to Shengjing, Zhong Zheng Lin could finally let out a sigh of relief.
As long as he left Qingzhou, left that place which made him feel awkward, Zhong Zheng Lin assumed that he would be able to quickly regain his usual meticulous personality and composure.
Furthermore, he would be no more troubled by the guilt and those strange emotions.
Just like how Zhong Zheng Lin has expected.
In the next few days, he has calmed his mind and collected himself.
However, he became even more strict with himself.
He believed that his mind had been disturbed by those improper thoughts about her.
Hence, Zhong Zheng Lin grew to be fond of practicing paintings and calligraphy in his spare time what contributed to the cultivation of one’s moral character and temperament.
The mood of her Ladyship, consort Shu, was completely different.
Unlike Zhong Zheng Lin’s serenity consort Shu was extremely anxious.
Tian Fu Shan has reported to her that after her younger son had returned to the capital, his temper seemed to become even colder.
As a result, consort Shu went all out with pillow-talking to the emperor.
This time Yuancheng Emperor consort Shu’s soft pleas took to the heart.
He had secretly investigated his sons’ inner yard situation.
He has found out that Zhong Zheng Lin was not the only one with problems!
The first prince Zhong Zheng Chung neglected his principal wife.
He favored a concubine of merchant birth, gracing her for three consecutive months.
The crown prince was even more contemptible! He actually kept male prostitutes! The fourth prince and his princess consort had a harmonious relationship, yet the fourth prince didn’t flourish with offsprings.
Up to now, he had only one son and one daughter.
The fifth prince Zhong Zheng Ming had two sons and one daughter.
However, he doted his shufei too much, to the point he let her gain the upper hand over two cefeis who were acknowledged by imperial lineage.
What a scandal! Since the sixth prince hasn’t married yet, his harem lacked such misconducted people.
But on the other side, his inner yard was so desolate it was not far from turning into a temple!
Yuancheng Emperor rarely showed interest in his sons’ inner yard affairs as he was busy with state affairs and his spare time was spent in the company of beautiful ladies.
But now that he did he became so infuriated he threw away on the spot the teacup.
He paced back and forth in the imperial study for quite a while before sending an imperial edict to Zhuzhou.
On the next day, he summoned his sons to the imperial study reprimanding each one of them.
He gave them strict orders to manage their inner yards properly and take good care of their offsprings’ upbringing.
His attitude was uncompromising.
He made everyone retreat except for the crown prince only to threw yet another tantrum.
As a result, when Zhong Zheng Lin returned to his private quarters, his expression was dark.
Due to Yuancheng Emperor’s orders, Zhong Zheng Lin has for the first time ever called for lady Kong and lady Wu to have a talk with them.
When the two came, he silently looked at them for a while and then coldly instructed: “From today onward, you two shall abide properly by the decorums, pay attention to your words and actions and engage in no conflicts.” After he finished his speech, he turned and left.
Lady Kong and lady Wu were both perplexed.
They could not make head nor tail of his highness’s reprimand.
They carefully contemplated the hidden message but came to no conclusion.
Tian Fu Shan who was listening to his highness’s chiding had directly turned dumbfounded.
When Zhong Zheng Lin received Yuancheng Emperor’s order, without much thoughts, he automatically focused on the part concerning the proper management of inner yard.
He listened to the issue of the offspring upbringing only out of convenience.
When Yuancheng Emperor heard from his secret agent that sixth prince had gone to reprimand his concubines after returning back, Yueancheng Emperor felt very helpless.
This son of his was way too disciplined.
The whole course of action went in the opposite direction to his original purpose.
Could it be that he had to summon him once more to the imperial study, point at his nose and say, “Your old man wants you to sleep with a woman!” for him to understand Yuancheng Emperor could not pull down his face to do so.
Fortunately, the imperial edict about the coming selection has been sent to each prefecture.
When the time comes, he will pick for his sixth son maidens with outstanding character, appearance and family background.
It should do for him.
He didn’t forget to blame consort Shu for misjudging people and picking two trolls for his son.
Henceforth, Yuancheng Emperor became very disgusted with those two concubines of his son.
On the next day, as Zhong Zheng Lin learnt that the selection will proceed ahead of time, a slightly surprised expression appeared on his face.
When he went to pay respect to consort Shu she told him that at the selection Yuancheng Emperor will personally pick him virtuous and beautiful maidens.
Zhong Zheng Lin felt an impatience sprout inside his heart.
It was a pity one mustn’t disobey the imperial order.
Consort Shu was, on the other hand, eager about the development.
Zhong Zheng Lin thought that it would be like offering a shelter to few more mouths thus he didn’t brush off consort Shu’s wishes because of these ‘small matters’ and he complied with a deep voice.
The third month of Zhanghe’s eleven’s year.
Mu Xi Yao bid farewell to her parents and Mu Xi Cheng.
Taking with her Mu Xin Ting, they climbed into the carriage that went into Shengjing.
It took them a month to arrive to Shengjing.
Mu Xi Yao instructed Zhao Qing to directly drive their carriage to her maternal grandparents’ home.
She also didn’t forget to tell Hui Lan and Mo Lan to prepare everyone’s presents.
Before the retirement, Mu Xi Yao’s maternal grandfather served as chief minister of the third rank in the court of imperial sacrifices.
Her maternal grandmother had passed away in her early years.
Both of her maternal uncles held posts in Shengjing.
The first uncle was the vice minister of the fourth rank in the court of judicial review while her second uncle was the adviser of the fifth rank in the office of transmission.
Her two elder cousins were currently attending school, preparing for the next year’s spring exam.
There was only one cousin left who hadn’t married yet.
She was just eight months older than Mu Xi Yao and like her she was going to participate in the selection.
Mu Xi Yao took Mu Xi Ting to pay respect to her maternal grandparents’ family.
She has also ordered Mo Lan to give everyone gifts along with the local products of Qingzhou that lady Yu had prepared.
The whole family dined together in the merry and harmonious atmosphere and later engaged in the little talks.
Afterward, everyone went to their own quarters.
Only half a month was left before the primary selection.
The Mu sisters had temporarily settled in the same courtyard to avoid unnecessary stress.
The courtyard next to them was where Mu Xi Yao’s elder cousin resided.
In the next few days, the girls started to get familiar with each other.
One could see them often chit-chatting and drinking tea together.
Shortly after, Mu Xi Yao unexpectedly received a letter which made her very happy.
Di Wu Yu Ying has actually heard that she had come to Shenjing, hence she wanted to invite her to the flower fair on the next day.
This flower fair was widely acclaimed.
Since it was the end of spring and beginning of summer it was the best time to view flowers.
Xi Yao immediately accepted her invitation.
She was quite pleased with herself as she has learnt that Di Wu Yi Zhao had become the sixth prince Zhong Zheng Lin’s advisor.
Her efforts did not come in vain.
On the next day, Di Wu Yu Ying and her servant girls early on arrived at the appointed pavilion.
When Mu Xi Yao’s sedan chair arrived she made a light chuckle as she saw Di Wu Yu Yin over there stretching her neck and looking around for her.
She ordered Zhao Qing to bring along with him all the guards and wait for her in the teahouse.
Mu Xi Yao made an introduction for everyone (Di Wu Yu Ying, Mu Xi Ting and the cousin) while not forgetting to tease Di Wu Yu Yin for getting more beautiful every time she met her.
Subsequently, the four of them engaged in a pleasant talk.
The atmosphere around them was very lively.
The garden was full of colorful flowers, it did not lack any rare or uncommon specimen.
All of the flowers looked vivid and cheerful, making people feel delighted.
Since it was the time of selection, on their way they met a batch of young maidens who were all in the group of twos or threes whispering something to each other.
It just happened to comply that saying, flower-like maidens.
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They had a good time sightseeing.
Later as they parted with Di Wu Yu Ying, Mu Xi Yao proposed to go to a fragrance shop buying some goods.
Thus, the three maidens sat on their sedan chairs and set off.
Mu Xi Yao didn’t have a great liking for fragrances.
The only reason why she purchased ‘Ting Zhi’ was to cover the scent her body naturally produced after the consummation of spiritual pills whenever she went out.
After all, some merits could be enjoyed by men only in the private of lady’s chamber.
Moreover, men absolutely loathed sharing such joy with others.
Therefore, Mu Xi Yao had always been careful with these details.
She had early on come up with the countermeasures.
It took them approximately a lighted joss stick time to arrive at the doors of the fragrance shop.
Mu Xi Yao took a small step out and turned her head up.
Indeed, the fragrance shop in the Shengjing had four adjoined rooms.
Even its exterior appeared to be more grandiose than its branch in Qingzhou.
Many of the coming and going people were actually young women.
It seemed that their business was booming as it was busy inside and even the clerks at the doorway were engrossed in entertaining the guests.
The shopkeeper was very thoughtful.
He specifically arranged a spacious hut and seats at the rear of the shop to provide them with a place to store their sedan chairs and carriages and also let their guards rest.
Mu Xi Yao and the party entered one by one into the shop.
Each of them went to pick fragrances they were fond of.
After purchasing the shopkeeper personally sent them off to the doors and called for their sedan chairs.
Suddenly, one could hear a horse whining and people’s cry coming from the street.
Mu Xi Yao’s senses were sharper than those of ordinary people, thus she promptly turned her head to look.
She saw a mad horse dashing out from the corner of the street and sprinting toward the direction of female visitors who stood at the doorway of the fragrance shop.
Mu Xi Ting and her maidservants stood in the front.
She would be the first to bear the brunt of the clash.
“Xi Ting!” Mu Xi Yao cried out in alarm.
Mu Xi Ting was already stunned.
She was so startled her knees gave out.
Beside her, faces of servant girls paled, unable to make any reaction.
Mu Xi Yao quickly started to pull womenfolk inside the shop.
She raised her voice to instruct the surrounding people to take shelter inside while running toward Mu Xi Ting.
As soon as they got inside, Mu Xi Ting and her servant fell down on the ground gasping for the breath and feeling extremely terrified.
At this time a startled cry of Mu Xi Yao’s elder cousin came from the outside.
It turned out that the frightened crowd caused chaos on the street as they scattered in all directions and began to trample on people.
Mu Xi Yao’s elder cousin was pushed onto the ground with a person lying on top of her.
It seemed like she had a difficulty to stand up.
Seeing that the mad horse was getting closer and closer, Mu Xi Yao let go of Mu Xi Ting and her maidservant.
She wanted to rush out of the shop but was hindered by the people swarming inside the shop, hence delaying her actions.
She only managed to push away the servant girl that lay on her elder cousin, there was no more time for her to escape from the startled horse that was approaching them.
As she was immersed in a deep anxiety, she saw Zhao Qing coming from the backyard, by-passing the crowd and darting toward her.
Mu Xi Yao struggled to support her elder cousin getting up.
She turned her head to shout out an order: “Zhao Qing, kill the horse!”
Following Mu Xi Yao’s orders, Zhao Qing drew out his sword and charged toward the sprinting horse to slash its leg with a full force.
Behind him an arrow was shot, nailing directly the center of horse’s head.
The startled horse collapsed with a sound of bang on the ground.
The blood splashed everywhere, some of it even made contact with the hem of Mu Xi Yao’s skirt, tainting it red.
The whole scene was a dreadful sight to behold.
The danger has passed.
Before Mu Xi Yao could relax she saw her elder cousin passing out from the scare.
In a frenzy, she went over to help her get up while making her body lean onto her.
At this time, tearful Mo Lan and Hui Lan who were separated by the crowd found her and began to reprimand her: “Miss, how could you leave us behind and rush out to save people!” They were so frightened that they even ignored their servant status.
Mu Xi Yao calmed down the two distressed orchids and ordered them to quickly help her elder cousin into the sedan chair.
She then turned to search for Mu Xi Ting.
It took her another round of soothing to coax Mu Xi Ting so she was willing to get out of the shop and return home.
The people on the street have also calmed down.
The area where the horse had collapsed reeked of blood.
Nobody dared to approach the place.
Mu Xi Yao was worried about her elder cousin’s situation, thus she had people send her quickly back.
Next, she ordered Zhao Qing to look for the owner of the arrow, properly thank him and also tell him to not take into his heart their lacking manners as everything happened too suddenly.
Furthermore, they will without a doubt pay him a visit to express their thanks.
After everything was said, she hurried to depart.
It was busy after they returned back.
When everything was settled and it was time for her to take rest, the moon was already shining high on the sky.
Mu Xi Yao was so exhausted she immediately fell asleep.
On the other side.
The owner of the arrow fifth prince Zhong Zheng Ming had investigated about the mad horse episode till the evening.
Subsequently, he went to the Ministry of Revenue to deal with its aftermath.
He reached his residence late in the night.
In his spare time, he recalled the events that have happened during the day and that maiden.
She was indeed outstanding.
Based on her age and attire, he assumed that she was one of xiunus.
There was some distance between them so he couldn’t see her clearly.
He felt a little regret as he couldn’t see the appearance of such a resolute woman.
But didn’t that maiden say that later on she will pay him a visit to thank him It just so happened to suit Zhong Zheng Ming’s taste.
Just, how long was this ‘later on’
 Shengjing was the capital city of Great Wei
 Shufei is a title given to the tertiary wife of imperial princes (one rank below cefei).
Although their rank is higher than those of ordinary concubines, they were still inferior to cefeis as their name was not recognized by imperial lineage
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#if possible, please support the original translators by reading the translations from the original source.
 Pull down the face is an idiom meaning disregarding one’s feeling
 Few more mouths in this context mean people
 Spring exam refers to the metropolitan examination that is held a year later than the provincial ones.
It takes place in the second lunar month every three years in the capital city
 Xiunu (lit.
Beautiful/Elegant woman) were daughters of officials and noblemen, who were selected to be wives or concubines for members of the imperial family