Chapter 4

The Lord’s Escaped Consort had quite a few supporting male characters, simply because the female lead’s escape attempts had her meeting all sorts of men on the road. The only one she didn’t meet during her travels was the primary supporting character, the epitome of soulfulness, Song Jiaoyue. His personality was much like his name: a bright and noble moon. Unfortunately, he’d ended up utterly alone in the end.

Born to high status as the first son of Grand Scholar Song, he was also the eldest princess’ only son. In the fifty-third year of the sexagenary cycle, he’d obtained the rank of Number One Scholar [1]. As a result, everyone hailed him Sir Jiaoyue. Sir Jiaoyue was the only man whose status was on par with the male lead. Sadly, he never brought a beauty home.

Bai Xiangxiu’s thoughts trailed off at the sight of him. This man had threatened her host once he’d discovered she was antagonizing the female lead! Of course, that hadn’t happened yet. Their only relationship right now was her staring at him in a daze while her brain wandered all over the place. 

“I’m sorry, cough...I was thinking about something.” How awkward! When would she bring her mind under control? What if he mistook her for yet another silly, lovestruck girl? 

Song Jiaoyue didn’t mind. On the contrary, he found her reaction perfectly normal. But Bai Xiangxiu wasn’t exactly interested in a secondary character right now. It was more important to find out who was crying for help. It was then that she noticed a piece of cloth behind the supporting male’s shoes. A strange, black spiky object was sticking out from it. Her heart raced as she lightly pushed him aside. “Excuse me, make way.” Did I see wrongly? Could this be…

Song Jiaoyue was expecting this young maiden to be bashful, but was shoved aside to his great surprise. The next thing he knew, she was squatting on the ground, reverent and cautious as she stared at a pile of rags. The corners of his mouth couldn’t help but twitch. Since when was he less important than a heap of discarded cloth? He wanted to leave, but this girl’s strange antics had a magnetic pull, drawing him in. He didn’t know why, but he wanted to stay and see what she was doing. Sure enough, she carefully picked up the rag then cried out in pleasant surprise. “Found it! I didn’t expect to actually find it.” She reached out to grab the object that lay underneath, then leapt up with a cry.

Song Jiaoyue couldn’t help the frown that creased his forehead. It was clear that the object had thorns, but she had tried to pick it up anyway. This girl is really too careless. See how her hand’s been pricked... hmm? She seemed startled as well as she stared unmoving at the blood trickling out of her hand. She made no move to treat herself. “Miss, is your hand seriously injured?”

He was only being helpful, but it frightened the girl into backing up a few steps. She possessed none of her earlier joy and shook her head distractedly. “I’m fine.”

“That thing is full of painful spikes, you might as well leave it,” he warned as he saw her reach for it again.

This time, the girl picked up the rags along with the item. Though she was still in a poor mood, she thanked him and raised the bundle of tattered rags. “Who does this item belong to? I want to buy it.”

Song Jiaoyue wanted to laugh. It was obvious that this was trash, but this girl was being so honest. Yet somehow, a chuckle wasn’t forthcoming after seeing the blood on her hands. Apparently this girl didn’t take care herself very well. Sure enough, a merchant caravan that’d returned from a distant desert had thrown it away. They’d used pieces of this desert plant to alleviate sunburns. Lacking a need for such a spiky thing once they reached their destination, it’d been tossed aside until this girl found it. 

Song Jiaoyue quickly gathered all this after discreetly asking around. The girl didn’t say a word. As soon as she heard that they didn’t want it, she tookn the item and left without giving him a second glance. Song Jiaoyue rubbed his face with bemusement. He’d always thought he was a welcome presence, but had lost out to an ugly, scary plant today. He couldn’t resist a soft chuckle. It looked like there were indeed women in the world who weren’t attracted to one’s looks or power and influence. What then did those kinds of women want?

The girl who’d inadvertently earned this judgement was actually very simple. She adored tales of Cinderella and her prince. Sadly, she knew they were just stories and in comparison she’d rather just go back home to reality. It was only after being pricked that she realized she wasn’t going back, no matter how much blood she shed.That realization left her shaken and she didn’t have the heart to think of anything else.

With considerable care, she brought the cactus to where Sun Si’er had parked his cart and waited until he appeared. Both were silent as she climbed into the basket again and was brought back to the estate. His assistance ensured everything had gone smoothly. She was safely ensconced inside Winter Garden by the time the granny servants came to inspect the rear courtyards.

Xiaoshi was almost weeping from anxiety, but rushed to help her mistress change clothes and comb her hair. Still, she was alarmed when she saw the odd prickly plant her mistress had brought back home. 

“Find a flowerpot for me, I’m going to plant it properly.” It had taken so much effort to find this cactus. Even if getting pricked couldn’t send her back home, she still wanted it to live! 

Xiaoshi could only go hunt for a pot. She watched as her mistress repotted the plant using chopsticks and watered it before setting it by the window. When she finished, she just stared at it, lost in thought.

“Ah, Mistress Xiu, your hand!” Why are there so many wounds? Xiaoshi quickly found some ointment and smeared it on the cuts, adding reproachfully, “Mistress, you really aren’t taking care of yourself!” This little hand is so tender and delicate, but my mistress doesn’t care that it’s poked full of holes!

“It’s not important. There’s no need to fuss, it doesn’t hurt.” She was used to getting pricked while tending plants and flowers back home. Xiaoshi mistook her nonchalance for unhappiness. She knew that the lord had been busy ever since he returned and hadn’t taken notice of any of his concubines in the back courtyards. Her mistress possessed such beauty, but was forced to remain forsaken on the fringes. The mere thought made her grumble. Meanwhile, Bai Xiangxiu was contemplating what she’d do in the future. She’d finally found a cactus, but it hadn’t taken her back. What should I do?

“Thank you.”

You’re welcome,” Bai Xiangxiu responded reflexively.

“What ‘you’re welcome?’ Mistress Xiu, what are you talking about?” 

Bai Xiangxiu gave a start. “...didn’t you say thank you?” She really had heard someone thank her just then. But after thinking it over, she realized Xiaoshi had no reason to thank her. Was she hearing things again?

Xiaoshi shook her head. “Mistress Xiu, you must be tired after walking about all day. Why not rest a bit?”

“All right.” Maybe she was too exhausted? She decided to lie down for a bit. Not long afterwards, granny servants began wandering around in groups of three and five. The old madame didn’t require the concubines to pay their respects or dance attendance in any way, but she still paid close attention to the movements of these various mistresses. Thus, patrols were sent to each of the courtyards. These granny servants had served the old madame since youth. Every one of them was shrewd, capable, and experienced. Whenever they came, they simply sat down and exchanged a few pleasantries before taking their leave, asking after the concubines’ comfort. They were polite, but in actuality they were only there to spy for the old madame. It was useless to tell them if one was short on clothing or food. Chances were, they’d backstab the complainant instead.

  1. A rank bestowed to one who came first in the highest imperial examinations

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