The Power of a Young Person’s Direct Approach
On the second day of the Lunar New Year, a few retired shadow guards visited their master’s home and had a reunion dinner together.
Lin Yan and Cao Yun were not present due to their mission, so the only person Ming Qin was familiar with was Song Shu Qing.
Although the food made by the master’s wife was far from the food box they had eaten at Mu Ronghan’s, Ming Qin, who cherished her blessings, still ate the food without changing her expression.
After finishing her own portion, she even helped Song Shu Qing finish hers, and then belched and stood in the courtyard watching her master and senior sister play Go.
“Qin Qin, after the New Year, there will be a new mission for you,” said her master, holding a white piece and lifting his sleeve.
“Will I have to leave the capital again?” Ming Qin approached the Go table.
After making a move, He Jingshou stroked his beard and said, “No, it’s the task of guarding the eleventh prince every day.”
Guarding a prince in the palace? Ming Qin scratched her head in confusion.
Most of the tasks assigned to her before were either delivering letters outside the city or carrying out assassinations.
Her master was always worried that she might accidentally offend someone important if she entered the palace, so he always entrusted palace tasks to his wife or Cao Yun.
Even if the entire shadow guard camp was rotated, she probably wouldn’t have been chosen.
Why would she suddenly be assigned the job of protecting the imperial heirs today?
“This is the Emperor’s will,” said He Jingshou, not stopping his Go moves.
“The eleventh prince is ten years old now, and he will start studying at the Guozi Jian (an academy) after the sixth day of the Lunar New Year.
Your new task is to protect him secretly.”
Seeing that Ming Qin was still confused, He Jingshou said with a sidelong glance, “Don’t worry, it’s only half a day each day, so it won’t affect your meeting with County Princess Chongwen.”
The Emperor had no intention of taking away County Princess Chongwen’s favorite, and he didn’t want to receive another letter from her that seemed gentle but was full of threats between the lines.
He Jingshou exclaimed, looking at the Go table with regret as he tried to move his piece.
Looking at the old man’s defeated expression across from her, Song Shu Qing said with a smile, “Master, still distracted? A true man should have no regrets in the opening move.” She placed a piece on the board.
Watching the inevitable defeat, He Jing Shou looked helpless.
“I shouldn’t have taught you how to play Go, nor should I have acted like such a man.”
“Don’t say that, Master.
Who else can I play Go with besides you? Right, Qin Qin?” Song Shu Qing turned to Ming Qin standing nearby.
Ming Qin nodded honestly and straightforwardly, “After all, everyone says that Master is a lousy Go player.
Only sister is willing to play with him.”
“You… you all…!” He Jing Shou blew his mustache and glared back and forth at the playful Song Shu Qing and the straightforward Ming Qin, not knowing who to get angry at.
Song Shu Qing smiled and extended her hand, “Master, this is your 114th loss to me in a go game.
You have to accept your defeat.”
Looking around, He Jingshou reluctantly took out a bag of copper coins and handed it to Song Shu Qing with a frustrated expression, “Please don’t tell your master about this.”
“Of course not.” Song Shu Qing weighed the bag and looked satisfied.
Then she turned to Ming Qin and said, “How about a game with me, Qin Qin? We haven’t played together for a long time.”
Ming Qin quickly shook her head, “No, thank you.”
Although she had some skills in the game, most of her moves were based on intuition and she rarely calculated variations.
In the game of Go, Song Shu Qing excels at calculating multiple possibilities and using unorthodox moves to create complex situations.
She aggressively capitalizes on any mistakes her opponents make, much like a hunting dog relentlessly attacking its prey.
Playing Go with Song Shu Qing always leaves Ming Qin with a headache and a sense of frustration, as she cannot seem to win any games against her.
Ming Qin does not want to lose her money on New Year’s Day by playing against her.
According to her senior’s advice, winning against Song Shu Qing in a game of Go is as easy as “a piece of cake.” Although Ming Qin does not quite understand her senior’s words, she guesses that it means it is easy to make a mistake and lose the game quickly.
“Sigh, how boring.”
While idly playing with the black stones in her hand, Song Shu Qing’s attention was suddenly drawn to the garnet earring adorning Ming Qin’s right ear.
“Hey! Qin Qin, when did you start wearing earrings? And this color and craftsmanship…it must be quite expensive,” she remarked with a glint in her eye.
Ming Qin, feeling self-conscious, instinctively touched her earlobe.
“Is it really that expensive? Maybe I should return it to the princess.”
Song Shu Qing couldn’t help but chuckle inwardly at Ming Qin’s naivety, and glanced at He Jingshou, giving a knowing smile.
Ming Qin seemed oblivious to the situation.
Noticing her master’s confusion, Song Shu Qing let out a sigh and placed a comforting hand on Ming Qin’s shoulder.
“Since it was a gift from the princess, there’s no need to return it.
Just keep it safe.”
Ming Qin still seemed hesitant, however.
“Princesses are accustomed to gold, silver, and jewelry.
Instead of expensive gifts, I think there must be something else the princess values more,” said Song Shu Qing slowly, observing Ming Qin’s expression and trying to guide her.
“After hearing what you said, Sister, I should give the princess some rare and interesting trinkets,” Ming Qin suddenly exclaimed, as if struck by inspiration.
“Sister, what do you think about crickets?”
He Jingshou choked on his tea and sprayed a few drops, coughing awkwardly as he listened to Ming Qin’s words.
Song Shu Qing shook her head in disbelief and sighed, “If you bring crickets to me, I will crush you against the wall, let alone the princess.”
“The princess is not as bad-hearted, sister,” Ming Qin retorted, then held her head in frustration.
“Then what should I give the princess?”
He Jingshou was afraid that his naive disciple would really give the princess a cricket, but before he could speak, Ming Qin was called to help in the kitchen by his wife.
Watching Ming Qin’s back, He Jingshou dryly said to Song Shu Qing, “I think I understand what you mean now.
The princess is indeed quite burdened.”
“Right.” Song Shu Qing looked sympathetic.
“Although Qin Qin is our little treasure, she can be quite clueless about some things.
It’s amazing that she has gained the favor of the princess.
Is this the power of a young person’s direct approach?”
Although He Jingshou didn’t quite understand the last sentence, he simply remained silent to show his agreement.
It wasn’t until the fifth day of the lunar new year that Ming Qin saw Murong Yan again.
In her hands was a box full of various foods, which she took out one by one and laid on the table.
“This is Li Dang Niang’s peanut brittle.
She secretly gave it to me when we went to the market today.”
Ming Qin introduced the treasures to Murong Yan, then opened a cloth bag embroidered with orchids.
“This is the rice candy given to me by Miss Jiang.
Wow! Miss Jiang’s embroidery is really beautiful.”
Ming Qin didn’t notice the tight corners of Murong Yan’s mouth as she spoke to herself, “This is Brother Fang’s scallion pancake.
The sesame seeds on top are so fragrant! Hurry up and eat while it’s still hot.”
She handed her a piece of scallion pancake wrapped in oil paper, which emitted a delicious aroma, but Murong Yan did not take it, only looking at Ming Qin expressionlessly.
“What’s wrong?” Ming Qin was a little worried about the woman’s unusual behavior.
Murong Yan suddenly smiled and said, “Ah Qin is so pleasing to people, otherwise why would so many people give you snacks?”
“Yeah! They are all very kind to me,” Ming Qin said straightforwardly.
“Ah Qin eats well everywhere!” Murong Yan heard this and her smile became even brighter.
“Could it be that whoever meets Ah Qin becomes her friend?”
Although Murong Yan was smiling, her tone was icy.
Oblivious to this, Ming Qin explained confidently, “Not everyone is my friend, like those stinky ruffians at the market.
They’re definitely not my friends.”
Thinking of this, Ming Qin became a little angry and continued, “There’s a group of them who always go to the market and threaten Auntie Li to give them money because she’s a wealthy widow.
They also harass Miss Jiang because she’s pretty.
I had to teach them a lesson!”
Murong Yan’s expression remained neutral, and she asked casually, “Is this Jiang Miss very beautiful?”
Ming Qin, who was still angry, found this question a bit strange, so she thought for a moment and replied, “Miss Jiang is pretty, but not as pretty as my master’s wife or you.”
Murong Yan’s face finally softened a bit, and she straightened her sleeve.
How did you meet Brother Fang?” she asked.
“Previously, during the market commotion caused by the startled horse, I happened to pass by and saved Brother Fang’s son while soothing the horse.”
At this point, Ming Qin became angry again and exclaimed, “Are the officials in charge of justice in Chang’an just eating for free? They only care about aligning themselves with the crown prince and don’t bother to ensure the safety and well-being of the people.
It’s absurd! Next time I see them, I’ll cut them down!”
Watching Ming Qin’s angry face, Murong Yan relaxed her tightly pursed lips and comforted her in a soft voice, “Don’t get angry at them, it’s bad for your liver.” She then picked up a piece of peanut pastry and slowly ate it.
“Oh, by the way! I have to go to Guozi Jian with the eleventh prince from tomorrow on, so I can only come to find you in the afternoon.” Ming Qin munched on her scallion pancake and suddenly said to Mu Rong Han.
“The eleventh prince?” Murong Yan repeated, her expression seeming to be recalling something.
She had caught a glimpse of him as a baby.
“I heard that the mother of the Eleventh Prince passed away three years after giving birth to him, and because she had no maternal clan to take care of him, he had to grow up alone in the palace,” Ming Qin shared, swallowing her food.
“Good fortune and ill fate are intertwined.”
Murong Yan spoke with a tinge of bitterness, “If his mother had not come from a humble background and posed no threat, he wouldn’t have been left to fend for himself.” She spoke softly, with a hint of emotion, “Yet, he has now safely reached the age to attend Guozi Jian.”
“I will fulfill my duty to protect him.” Seeing Murong Yan lost in thought, Ming Qin thought she was concerned about the safety of the Eleventh Prince and reassured her with these words.
Observing the earnest expression on Ming Qin’s face, Murong Yan regained her composure and smiled lightly, “I understand.” Then, she stretched out her arms and said, “Ah Qin, can I have a hug?”
Ming Qin reached out to hold Murong Yan in her embrace, softly caressing her fragile back.
“Feeling tired? Do you want to go to bed?”
The woman shook her head, leaning her head against Ming Qin’s neck.
Ming Qin could see a black knot tied onto the hairpin, dangling amidst the silver-streaked long hair.
“I’ll be fine in a moment.
Let me rest for a while.”
Ming Qin remained silent and continued to gently pat her.
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