Entering the villa
While sitting on the carriage and looking at the somewhat familiar scenery, Zhang Xiaohua felt as though he was still dreaming. That was the third time he travelled on the same road, but the first time without his second brother Zhang Xiaohu. As he looked at Qiu Tong who was sitting beside him, he felt that fate was really extraordinary.
If the thief had not stolen from Qiu Tong, and if he had run any bit slower and not get the money pouch back and thus become acquainted with this elder sister Qiu Tong, then he would probably be on the journey back to Lu town. After all, he was not accepted in Piaomiao sect and Lotus escort, and he could not possibly hold his second brother back from his promising future.
Thinking of Zhang Xiaohu, the edges of Zhang Xiaohua's mouth subconsciously turned upwards to form a smile. His second brother initially wanted to explore the world outside when he decided to go Pingyang city, but was pulled by himself to learn martial arts. Surprisingly, his talent led the instructor to be full of praises of him, and he could look forward to a different life in the future.
Qiu Tong noticed Zhang Xiaohua's eyes closing and she asked in concern, "Xiaohua, are you tired? If so, you can rest for a while, because you will have to be spirited when we meet the young lady later on."
Zhang Xiaohua smiled as he said, "It is no problem, elder sister Qiu Tong. I was feeling sore in my arms, and cannot call up any strength from them. I am not tired at all since I usually work from morning until night on the fields when I am at home, this little bit won't tire me out at all."
Qiu Tong looked at Zhang Xiaohua lovingly and said, "You remind me of my younger brother, but he is a scholar and do not have to suffer as much as you do. The heavens are unfair, it must be really hard on you to work so hard despite your young age."
Zhang Xiaohua shook his head innocently and said, "Elder sister, you don't know this because you have not experience farm life before. In the village, if one does not work in the fields, his household will not have anything to eat. Not just me, but every male in the village upon reaching a certain age will have to start farming. Therefore, I am already used to this, and I do not feel that it is unfair at all."
How would this Qiu Tong who only felt motherly love towards Zhang Xiaohua think of this all, she could only compare him to her little brother, and after learning of his difficult village life, she made the decision to protect him from hardship as long as he was under her wings.
Suddenly, Zhang Xiaohua seemed to have recalled something and he asked, "Oh right, elder sister. You said that I will be meeting the young lady later, who is she? Is there anything I have to pay attention to?"
Upon hearing his concern, Qiu Tong smiled and said, "The young lady is our Huanxi mountain villa villa master. She treats all of us well so you do not have to be wary of anything, just greet her politely later on. The young lady has always been kind-hearted so she would definitely accept you."
When Zhang Xiaohua heard the two words "accept", his previously calm heart went into turmoil again. Even though he had matured over the past few days, he was only a child slightly above ten years of age, and had been rejected time and again on the same day. Thus, it was natural that he would lose confidence in himself and the world although this is a necessary part of growing up. In this cruel world, one must learn to find inner peace among the chaotic surroundings.
The carriage continued to travel on the same road it used in the morning, but when it reached a junction, it did not continue towards the highway which led to the Piaomiao sect, but rather went onto a small road. There were quite a few people living beside the road, and the sun was beginning to set at that time so the smoke was rising from the houses which made Zhang Xiaohua feel as though he was back in Guo village.
The carriage continued to travel for a while as it passed by several small alleys until a large field suddenly appeared. The field was surrounded by numerous lush trees and it faced a door which was even larger than Lotus escort's main door. There were two stone lions outside the main door which looked even more majestic than the ones at Lotus escort station, but the lacquered red door was not opened and there were no guards around. A black signboard was hung at the door with four characters on it like the escort station, but Zhang Xiaohua could only recognize the two words "mountain villa", and he guessed that it must be Huanxi mountain villa.
Indeed, Qiu tong said softly to Zhang Xiaohua, "Xiaohua, this is our Huanxi mountain villa."
Zhang Xiaohua felt his heart moved and he asked, "Elder sister Qiu Tong, since our Huanxi mountain villa is so close to Piaomiao sect's mountain villa, do we have any relations to the Piaomiao sect?"
Qiu Tong looked at Zhang Xiaohua as she replied, "I did not expect your thoughts to be so thorough, I will tell you about these matters when you begin living in the mountain villa for real, but you will have to withhold your curiosity for now."
Upon hearing her reply, Zhang Xiaohua did not question any further but he thought in his heart, "What other relationship can they have since they are so close to each other. Hehe, do you still think of me as a child?"
Actually, the Zhang Xiaohua at that time had not thought on why he would think so much and how he could infer so much from Qiu Tong's reply. If it was one year ago, could he have seen through the spider webs and horse footprints to make the conclusion he have then?"
The carriage continued to head towards the large door but it did not show any signs of stopping. Instead, it turned before the front door and travelled along the high walls before it reached a side door on the wall. Even though it was a side door, it was large enough to fit four carriages at a time, and there were guards in front of it. The guard was familiar with Qiu Tong, and after he checked the goods on the carriage and inquired about Zhang Xiaohua, he waved his hands to motion the carriage to pass through.
Zhang Xiaohua has never entered a mountain villa before and he thought that he would have to get off the carriage after passing through the entrance. However, the carriage has no intention of stopping as it continued to travel past several fields, some forests, and even a pond before stopping in front of a circular door.
Qiu Tong called Zhang Xiaohua to get off the carriage and the carriage went off after he got down.
When he walked into the small circular door, he saw a courtyard with another door inside. The courtyard had an extremely large board with green plants grown on it, the plant leaves were triangular and it moved with the wind. Under the board were a stone table and several stone chairs, and there was a pond in the corner of the courtyard. From afar, it seemed to have many red and green fishes swimming inside. On the right of the courtyard was a row of houses which were bigger than teacher Liu's house in Bali Gou, and on the left of the courtyard was empty space with some stone weights and weapons, like a common place to train martial arts. There was another circular door on the other side of the courtyard but it was unknown where it led to.
Qiu Tong brought Zhang Xiaohua into the courtyard, pointed to the stone chair under the board and said, "Xiaohua, you can rest on the chair for now. I will go and find the young lady and will bring you to meet her soon."
Zhang Xiaohua nodded his head in agreement and he put his knapsack on the stone table before seating himself on the chair. Upon seeing Zhang Xiaohua seated, Qiu Tong flashed him a smile and walked towards the other circular door, turned a few bends and disappeared from view.
Zhang Xiaohua waited on the stone chair for quite some while, but Qiu Tong still did not return so he grew bored. He stood up and walked to the shelf to look at the unknown plant before looking at the fishes in the pond, and finally he went to the weapons area. He took out a blade and waved it about, then took a spear and thrust it once or twice, and the other weapons which names he did not know were also not spared from his poking about.
Just as Zhang Xiaohua was getting excited from playing with the weapons on display, he suddenly heard a cough followed by a stern voice behind him, "Stop playing around and put the weapons back."
Zhang Xiaohua was shocked and he immediately returned the weapons to their original position before turning around, and he saw a tall and large old person with a ruddy face around fifty years of age with white streaks in his hair standing in the same position looking angry.
The old man took large strides over and asked severely, "Whose child are you from, how did you come here?"
When the other party approached closer, Zhang Xiaohua then realized that the old man's left sleeve was tucked into his waist, and only the right hand was worn normally, it turned out that the old man was single-armed.
Zhang Xiaohua quickly replied, "I am Zhang Xiaohua, elder sister Qiu Tong brought me over to tend after the medicinal field."
Upon hearing his reply, the old man grew angrier, paused in his footsteps and said, "What is this Qiu Tong thinking to bring this little child over, how can he have enough strength to do the required work in the field?"
After finishing his sentence, he did not bother about Zhang Xiaohua anymore and walked through the other door and like Qiu Tong, disappeared from view after several bends.
Hence, Zhang Xiaohua was left alone again as he returned to the shelf feeling ridiculous. He did not dare to move around this time and sat down obediently to count the ants.
When Qiu Tong left Zhang Xiaohua in the courtyard and walked through the inner door herself, she walked through a bendy corridor and reached a rather large red walled courtyard. If Zhang Xiaohua was following behind her, he would have most definitely lost track of his way and got lost.
There was a large hall in the courtyard, and there were intricate patterns carved on its door and windows. Even though the sky has not turned pitch dark yet, the interior of the hall was already lit up, and there were several tables, chairs and decorations in the hall which made a grand sight. There was even an incense burner at a corner from which incense smoke wafting through the entire hall bringing a slight scent along with it.
When Qiu Tong noticed that the hall was empty, she went and searched the other rooms but still could not find anyone, so she went out again to look in other places.
Not long after, Qiu Tong accompanied a lady around twenty years of age as they entered through the doors of the hall. The lady was wearing a red attire in the design commonly found in Jianghu and had a precious sword on her waist. She had dark black hair which was tied casually around her shoulder, her skin was white and even looked cold, while a pair of phoenix brows framed her eyes, all of which gave off a handsome and ethereal aura that is not seeming of a young lady but fitting for the villa master of Huanxi mountain villa.
The lady asked as she walked, "What is it, you still can't find a suitable person? You still do not need to resort to picking up a child from anywhere. How can you just let a person like that enter the mountain villa without checking his background?"
Even though her words were stern, her tone did not have any sign of abrasiveness which would make other people think that she was angry. Qiu Tong smiled as she said, "My good lady, don't you have any confidence in the way I handle matters? Furthermore, hasn't third master Qu who is clearly aware of the gravity of the situation recommended this solution?"
When the young lady entered the hall, Qiu Tong poured her a cup of water and continued to say, "His brother has also entered Lotus escort so a background check would be conducted over on that side. Hence we would be able to discover if there are any unusual points to their story. Lastly, the boy is quite interesting himself."