“Nan Hun Duke, this place is the residence that his Majesty has bestowed. From now on, you will be living here.” Xiao Zuo came down from the carriage with a slight totter, and when he lifted his head up, he saw a plaque of gold.
“May I ask when my servants will be able to come?”
That eunuch glanced at Xiao Zuo, “Didn’t his Majesty not say today? They will come tomorrow, what is Duke so hurried for.” Xiao Zuo pursed his lips. From that eunuch’s stingy cold gaze, he got a taste of the cold and warmth of the world. He took out a gold pendant from his sleeves, and stuffed it into the eunuch’s hand, “Then I ask that gong’gong you help aid in this.”
That eunuch took that pendant with an appropriate air, and nodded his head, “That is of course, Duke, do feel at ease.”
The ducal residence was an area with two courtyards. The inner courtyard had a neither big nor small flower garden, while the inside was planted with a few loquats and parasol trees. At this time, the parasol tree leaves spread over the entire area in the courtyard, so when Xiao Zuo was stepping over them, it would make a small rustling sound.
Once the eunuch brought him to the door, he left, leaving a few guards that the emperor sent by the entrance. Just at this time, there was a servant girl sweeping the fallen leaves in the courtyard. When she saw Xiao Zuo come in, she put the broom to the side in slight panic, then ran off, probably to notify the steward or something.
Xiao Zuo picked up a parasol tree leaf, and before he could look at it carefully, he heard hurried footsteps to the back, “Duke.” Xiao Zuo turned around, in front of his eyes was a man who looked to be middle-aged, wrapped in a thick cotton robe, and abidingly making a bow.
“This servant is the residence’s steward. Since the duke has already come, in a moment, I will have the servant girls and boys in the residence come out for introductions, then you can have dinner.”
The butler called a few times, and the servant girls and boys then sparsely gathered in the main hall. They must have thought that being sent to serve Xiao Zuo, this monarch of a fallen country, was no different from being sent off to the borders, with no days of rising to come, so each and every face was masked in a layer of death, lowering heads and staring at the tips of their toes, not saying a single word.
Xiao Zuo had been on the road for many days, and was long already utterly exhausted. Before this, he even forced the energy to face the emperor, and now was even more dizzy. When seeing this kind of situation, he truly had no strength to play along, so he randomly instructed a few things then waved his hand to have them withdraw.
Among them, one whose looks were slightly better seem to be a bit cleverer, and brought him to the bedchambers, and even prudently set the bed for him, “For dinner, does the duke have anything you avoid eating?”
“Never mind it, I don’t have much appetite, you can tell the kitchen to not busy themselves, and have them make some noodles.”
“What kind of noodles does the duke want to eat?”
Xiao Zuo froze. When he was young and did not have a good stomach, he would often get an upset stomach. Mother would bring in buckwheat noodles the kitchen made for him, buckwheat was gentle and was easy to digest, and each time he ate it for a week, it would get better. As time went by, he also came to like the taste of buckwheat, so when he did not have much appetite, he would always have the kitchen cook a bowl of buckwheat noodles plus some green vegetables.
“Buckwheat, then.” Xiao Zuo swallowed all those past memories back into his stomach in a flurry, afraid he would chew out something worrisome, and hurriedly added, “Plus some greens.”
“Yes.” That small servant girl received the orders, then went out the door.
The bedchambers was a bit big, all barren and empty. The windows were not closed tight either, so it seeped with slivers of cold wind. Xiao Zuo was slightly at a loss, standing in the middle of the room, and did not know what he should do for the time being. Just as he was hesitating, he heard the fine footsteps from the small servant girl- she pushed the door open then came in, with her hands holding a bowl of steaming buckwheat noodles.
“Duke, the noodles are here. Be careful, it’s a bit hot.”
Xiao Zuo took it, then took up the chopsticks and pulled at the leafy green, then casually asked, “Where are you from? Your dialect doesn’t seem to be that similar to the others.”
“This servant’s ancestors are from Nan Liang. When Mother was young, she migrated north along with family to Jin, and then resided in Jin.”
“Oh?” Not expecting that he could meet someone from his old home in another place at this time, Xiao Zuo’s heart surged and tumbled. He forcibly pressed down the heat at the bottom of his eyes, and very carefully asked, as though afraid he would startle something awake, “What a coincidence, what is your name?”
The small servant girl smiled, “This servant is called Qing Xing.”
“Of greens and reds and colours of fragrance, with apricot flowers filling Jiang Nan. It is a good name.” The small servant girl instantly turned red, and coyly muttered a few words, then urged on, “Hurry and eat, Duke, the noodles will go cold.”
Xiao Zuo then lifted the chopsticks up and picked up a few strands, and very expectantly sucked it into the mouth, but what entered the mouth was not a familiar taste. The soup was a bit denser, the vegetables were a bit overcooked, and the looks of it were far from that bowl of gentle noodles in his memories. He slightly dejectedly placed down the chopsticks, “It’s still a bit hot, I will eat it later. You can go busy with other things first.”
“If Duke has something, you can just call on Qing Xing, Qing Xing will be waiting outside.”