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Chapter 6

(T/N: from this chapter onward, I will stop using the word kingdom and change it to state, which I find more suitable for this novel.)

Jiang Xiurun was quite satisfied with the agility of her maid as she stood at the gate.

In her previous life, she was not very familiar with this female general, but she had heard various stories about her and knew that she was straightforward and not a deceitful person.

A person with extraordinary strength, yet unwilling to succumb to banditry in times of danger, chooses instead to sell herself to bury her father. There was a certain moral bottom line, and with such an upright person by her side, Jiang Xiurun felt more at ease.

After settling the house, it was time to entertain guests. Jiang Xiurun remembered the agreement with Liu Pei. Although she didn’t know if he said it casually, since she had promised to entertain guests, she couldn’t go back on her word.

So, before the agreed-upon date, she sent someone to the hostage mansion of Liang State with a written note containing the address of the new residence. She also bought suckling pig, fine wine, various meats, and vegetables to prepare a feast for the guests.

Bai Ying, skilled in culinary arts, evenly colored the suckling pig, marinating it perfectly. The remaining meats were prepared into delicious roasted dishes following Jiang Xiurun’s instructions, blending the flavors of Bo State and Hui State. It was quite a feast.

On the agreed-upon day, the noise of carriages and horses echoed from the street. Jiang Zhi, being a hospitable host, stood at the door with Jiang Xiurun to greet the guests.

However, it wasn’t just one carriage that arrived; Liu Pei came with a group of friends. Behind his carriage, there were three or four more carriages.

After Liu Pei got off the carriage, he smiled at the Jiang siblings who came to greet him. “Originally, today a few friends were gathering to explain some ancient scrolls we accidentally acquired. When I received the invitation yesterday, I thought of the agreement with you two brothers. So, I decided to move the scroll gathering to your mansion. It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce some distinguished and cultured individuals to you.”

Jiang Zi responded with a smile: “Guests fill the house, and the fragrance of books permeates. We couldn’t ask for more. Please allow me to trouble you, sir, to introduce the esteemed guests.”

However, Jiang Xiurun, standing nearby, understood clearly. Liu Pei had forgotten the agreement with her brother and had another appointment today. Only after receiving the invitation did he remember, and, to avoid breaking his promise, he merged the two appointments into one.

She remained silent. As the hostage of the weak Bo State in the vast city of Luo’an, nobody cared about her. Liu Pei, as a prince of Liang State, was willing to associate with the hostage of a weak state. In the eyes of others, it was a display of virtue and not being overly concerned with power. If she were to make a fuss now, it would only make the Prince of Bo State seem petty.

However, when the people from the subsequent carriages arrived, Jiang Xiurun finally saw all the guests clearly and immediately regretted it. If she had known that today’s guests included those two people, breaking the promise wouldn’t have mattered.

Among the young men dismounting, surprisingly, was the current Crown Prince of Great Qi, Feng Liwu!

And by Feng Liwu’s side was Qin Zhao.

But it wasn’t surprising. Liu Pei and Feng Liwu were originally uncle and nephew, and before they competed for power over the world, the two brothers had a deep brotherly bond. It was not surprising that they were still on good terms.

So, as they approached, Jiang Xiurun followed her brother with a numb expression, saluting and inviting the esteemed guests into the mansion.

Feng Liwu was always aloof, with a face that seemed to carry a perpetual cold wind, giving no hint of his emotions. However, as he passed by Jiang Xiurun, he glanced at her.

After all, in the grand hall, there weren’t many people who presented themselves with a national letter to recommend themselves to their fathers. Even if it was a weak-state hostage not worth bothering about, it was inevitable to leave some impression.

However, the crow-like figure with eyebrows spread like wings on that day was now a handsome and graceful young man.

Taking a closer look, it seemed that the hostage from Bo State might not be as inexperienced as he had initially thought.

When Feng Liwu’s stern gaze swept over, Jiang Xiurun couldn’t help but wish to strangle Liu Pei, who had brought the wolf into the house. If she had known that the Crown Prince was coming, she would have definitely used charcoal to darken her eyebrows, so as not to be labeled as “demonic.”

Apart from the Crown Prince, the others were all prominent figures and literati within Luo’an City. Most of them were acquainted with Jiang Xiurun.

After all, a few years later, she became the belle of the ball in Luo’an City’s social gatherings, engaging in conversations about poetry and literature with these individuals.

Initially, in order to build connections, she had put in the effort to study books. Although her knowledge was superficial, compared to most women of the time who couldn’t even recognize characters, she was considered well-read. Many men were amazed.

However, Jiang Xiurun knew that the ink in her belly would be considered shallow if she presented herself as a man. So, when the guests were seated, sipping tea and chatting, she remained quietly on the side, avoiding becoming the subject of ridicule.

Her brother did the same. After a few perfunctory words, he quickly realized that his previous studies in Bo State were too shallow, and he couldn’t match up to the literati. He became silent, occasionally directing servants to serve tea and water to avoid appearing awkward.

Among the literati, there was one named Fan Sheng, a great scholar in Luo’an City, proud of his superior knowledge and looking down on ordinary people.

Originally, he was supposed to visit Liu Pei’s mansion today but was unexpectedly redirected to this humble alley and old house, causing him to feel dissatisfied.

Looking at the host brothers, the younger one with a hint of a local accent kept his head down, while the older one struggled to catch words a few times, showing a slight lack of exposure. Fan Sheng immediately felt disdain.

He had heard about Bo State’s national letter, which had become a laughingstock. They even wrote about offering their son, making him look down upon Bo State.

Now that this matter is right in front of us and he presents such an improper appearance, it’s evident that the rumors were not unfounded.

As the contempt in his heart gradually grew, he felt that the air in this cramped hall was filled with vulgarity.

When Liu Pei suggested displaying the newly acquired ancient scrolls for everyone to see, he coldly snorted and said, “When I initially obtained these scrolls, it was like obtaining a treasure. I bathed, changed clothes, and burned incense. I sat in meditation for an hour, ensuring my mind was free of distractions, before daring to open the scrolls, fearing that I might tarnish the sage’s thoughts and elegant words. But the young master wants me to unfold these scrolls in this humble alley and modest house, alongside some borderland commoners, for appreciation. I’m afraid I cannot comply!”

Although the esteemed Crown Prince was present, the scholars of the time had their own temperaments. In private settings, those who adhered to their pride and did not go with the flow were even more respected. After he finished speaking, he instructed his book boy to put away the scrolls on the tray and then prepared to leave with a wave of his sleeve.

Jiang Xiurun, who had been silent, lifted her head when he mentioned “borderland commoners.” In her thoughts, she considered: If this person is detestable, it must be from head to toe, making it hard for people to like him.

In her previous life, this Fan Sheng had a long-standing conflict with Jiang Xiurun. How could someone who claimed to be lofty and pure tolerate a servant girl from the laundry department?

To assert his uniqueness, he had openly mocked Jiang Xiurun many times, even humiliating her brother in front of others.

Today, when Jiang Xiurun saw him among the guests, she initially intended to endure it, considering the significant differences between this life and the previous one. She was merely trying to survive with her brother and avoid making enemies.

However, Fan Sheng was utterly annoying, like a mad dog ready to bite, whether provoked or not. Allowing him to leave today could lead to rumors spreading throughout the capital about the disdainful views of the Jiang family from Bo State. If that happened, her brother would face the same fate as in his previous life, becoming the subject of mockery among the aristocrats. What future could they have?

Thinking of this, she looked at the scrolls coldly and said, “Just a few volumes of imaginative and unrestrained words from a hermit of the former dynasty, and it’s worth being so cautious and respectful? If you want to take them away, fine, so as not to let that rustic air pollute my hall. Qian’er, fetch some well water. Every tile that the book boy stepped on with the scrolls should be thoroughly scrubbed with water three times!”

Bai Qian, who had been guarding outside the hall, immediately responded upon hearing the conversation. She walked a few steps to the side, picked up a full water basin, and stood at the doorway. The menacing red birthmark on her face gave her a fierce appearance as she stared intently at the bookboy. From her posture, it seemed more like she was preparing to drown someone than washing the floor.

Inside the hall, everyone was startled by the sudden appearance of Bai Qian, holding the basin.

The arrogant Fan Sheng, however, was so infuriated by Jiang Xiurun’s words that his entire body trembled. He halted and turned around, pointing at Jiang Xiurun, “Ignorant one! How dare you defile the scrolls of the former recluse, Wei Zi!”

Jiang Xiurun, of course, knew that those were Wei Zi’s scrolls. In her previous life, Fan Sheng had flaunted this single copy, even writing extensive interpretations to expound on the thoughts and words of the great recluse.

Because of the conflict with Fan Sheng, Jiang Xiurun had actively sought opportunities to challenge him. She had spent a considerable amount of money to invite knowledgeable individuals to write refutations, which she then memorized. In public gatherings, she would call him out when he couldn’t step onto the stage.

Now, when she heard Fan Sheng’s angry rebuke, she changed from kneeling to a sitting position, supporting herself with one leg and holding a wine cup in one hand. She spoke with a frivolous tone, “Although I haven’t read it, judging from the preface on the outer scrolls, isn’t it just Wei Zi’s self-discovered teachings on self-cultivation? A person who, during the perilous times of the nation, neglected his responsibilities and solely focused on sending his talented younger brother into the world, immersing himself in the pursuit of fame and reputation in the mountains and forests. What is there to be respected about?”

In the past, Shen Zi, a prince of the former Wei Dynasty, refused to take over the throne, even when his half-brother set fire to the mountains to force him out. This virtuous act had earned him the admiration of many.

Now, the little prince of Bo State, Jiang Herun, presented a different perspective. Even the Crown Prince couldn’t help but look at this young Master Jiang.

Fan Sheng’s scholarly temperament was completely provoked by the rustic prince from Bo State. He even returned to his seat and, full of indignation, took out a scroll. Ignoring the possible contamination of the vulgar atmosphere, he unfolded the scroll and loudly began reading.

After finishing, he glared at Jiang Xiurun and said, “Considering your discourse, you must believe in your knowledge surpassing that of Wei Zi. Then tell us, How would you interpret the passage I just read?”

This statement caused Jiang Zhi to break out in a cold sweat. The expression and wording of the former Wei Dynasty were vastly different from those of the current era. Although he had studied the scriptures of the current era in Bo State, he was not well-versed in the works of Wei Zi from the Wei Dynasty.

The passage Fansheng had just read used obscure and difficult language, making it challenging for Jiang to comprehend. How could his little sister, who could only understand a few characters, possibly grasp it?

He was about to speak up to help his sister and apologize to Fan Sheng, but Jiang Xiurun calmly interjected, “This passage is about recognizing parents as benefactors who brought you into the world. Therefore, one should treat their parents’ worries as their own, exerting every effort to bring joy to their parents. If the parents reject their child, there is no need for self-pity. Instead, they should willingly retreat, like snakes and mice in a cave, hiding away without being seen during the day, so as not to disturb their parents’ gaze…”

Pausing for a moment, she narrowed her phoenix eyes and sneered, “This is nothing more than the self-pitying words of a discarded child who lost favor with their father. As the legitimate son, when the father loses virtue and favors the son of a concubine, instead of reminding the father to maintain proper conduct, the son chooses to become a rat and flee to the mountains… It’s nonsense, utterly repugnant! Qian, sprinkle water!”






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