The next three days passed by uneventfully, until the archer sent by Commander Moyao finally arrived at Leijing. Despite the twenty year age gap, the two were great friends.
"Sir, we've arrived." The carriage man said, just as the cart came to a halt.
Stepping out of the carriage was a man in his early forties. He had a dark and menacing appearance which belied his soft heart. The servants bowed at the sight of the honorable guest.
"Honorable guest, this way please." One of the servants stepped forward in hopes of properly guiding the man through the Chen Manor.
The archer's cold and cunning eyes scanned the servant before him. The servants shivered at the glance of the archer whose eyes were as keen as a hawk.
"There's no need for the tour. I can find Commander Moyao myself." Ning Shan Dong, the archer, bristly told the servants.
A few of the servants recognized his face from a few years back, when Weihao struggled to grasp the idea of archery. Upon his familiarity and the rumors that surrounded him, the servants allowed Shan Dong to roam the hallways by himself.
Ning Shan Dong was very curious on who his new pupil would be. He personally knew all of the Commander's acknowledged grandsons, and had personally taught all of them. He knew there had been no birth or claim of any other grandsons.
Just who exactly could be his new pupil?
Pondering the question in mind, he strolled down the expansive and polished hallways of the Chen Manor.
- - - -
Nonchalantly walking through the gardens, Yuxi was grumbling to herself.
"This is a bit too heavy for archery." She said to no one in particular.
She walked closer to the pond in the manor's largest garden. Staring down at her reflection, Yuxi released a soft sigh.
Her hairpins were too large and heavy for practice. They were made of silk clothes and gems with hopes of resembling the big shapes of hydrangea flowers. The hairpins looked adorable with Yuxi's matching buns, but the girl knew it would get in the way of practice.
They were simply too heavy and distracting.
Yuxi took the hairpins out of her hair and securely tucked it into her silk belt.
Bored of strolling the extensive garden, Yuxi began to walk on the stone path that lead back to the hallways. Suddenly, someone caught her attention.
A man was strolling through the halls with his hands tucked behind his back in a leisure walk.
[That's strange, I've never seen him before.] Yuxi internally said to herself. She had memorized the faces of all of the servants and none of them had his facial features.
[If he's a guest, then he should've at least been accompanied by one or two servants.] Yuxi quietly observed. She didn't voice her thoughts and instead, stepped closer to the man.
Slipping off her outside shoes for inside shoes, she walked to Shan Dong.
Shan Dong was so lost in thought, he didn't realize where he was going until a small child stopped him in his tracks. He thought she was a servant's daughter, but one glance at the expensive hairpins and spring colored hanfu, he knew she was a lady of high importance.
[But who could she be?] He silently wondered. He was slightly confused and intrigued at her presence.
Last he checked, the Commander never favored any of his granddaughters.
His eyes narrowed on the girl in suspicion. He felt his fingers reach the tiny blade that was always hidden in his belt.
"Hello, are you grandfather's guest?" Yuxi asked, tilting her small head.
Shan Dong was immediately caught off guard by her words. Grandfather? Was he referring to Commander Moyao? Or was it one of the elderly male servants?
His sharp and analytical eyes observed Yuxi's features. He saw the innocence tucked into her doe-like eyes, her slightly blushed cheeks, and cute button nose.
He felt his throat run dry. She greatly resembled someone, but he couldn't place an exact finger on who it was.
"Yes, and you are?" Shan Dong didn't mean to use a doubtful and offensive tone, but it just came out that way. If Yuxi felt any anger or displeasure towards his behavior, she didn't show it.
"I apologize for the late introduction. My name is Chen Yuxi." Tucking her right hand over her left, Yuxi did a tiny bow.
At the familiarity of his name, a knot formed in his throat. Her name sounded like the combination of two people he greatly despised.
"Hm, Chen Yuxi is it?" He repeated, his eyes narrowing on her.
Yuxi softly nodded, unsure of his skeptical behavior.
She wondered if she did anything wrong. 'Did I offend him?' Yuxi thought to herself. Her eyes scanned the scowl on his face.
He was quite a handsome man, if it wasn't for his glaring eyes and sneering lips. The years had taken a toll on him, but it was evident he was a very handsome man in his youth. His features weren't extremely impressive, but it was enough to woo a village woman.
"Can I assume your father is Zhao Yulong?" At the way Shan Dong spat out the name, Yuxi could feel her lips dip downwards.
"Yes, is something wrong with that?" Yuxi's tone sounded slightly offended.
If she was a grown woman and not a child, Shan Dong would've taken her words as a challenge.
He was surprised to see her eyes throwing daggers at him. He didn't expect the sudden ferociousness of her eyes. She had the facial features of a cute kitten, but the eyes of a tiger.
"There's nothing wrong with it, Yuxi." The duo turned at the sound of Commander Moyao's voice. With a cane in hand and his eyes sharp, he had been watching the two speak for a long time.
Commander Moyao knew the sticky history between Ning Shan Dong and Chen Xiyue. This was exactly why he didn't inform Shan Dong who his new pupil was. Had he found out, he would've never came.
"Shan Dong, Yuxi will be your new student. I hope you can teach her as you would teach any of my grandchildren." It wasn't a suggestion, it was a warning.
Shan Dong's eyes darkened at the Commander's words. Yuxi watched the scene with helpless eyes.
"She is there offspring!" Shan Dong hissed. He felt his blood boil with anger. First, his long-time friend had tricked him. Second, he had threatened him. Lastly, he had the audacity to expect Shan Dong would teach the only child of his worse enemies!
"She is a child, not an animal. Don't insult her." The Commander's chilling words were as sharp as a knife.
Shan Dong glared at the Commander. Deep down, he was scared of challenging the man. he wasn't kind when he was angry. But then again, when was the Commander ever kind?
Yuxi bit her bottom lips. She didn't do anything wrong, yet, Shan Dong had already hated her.
Shan Dong stared at Yuxi like she was the dirt underneath his shoes. The more he looked at her, the more he saw the hateful similarities.
Yuxi swallowed at the tension in the air. It felt so thick and suffocating, the poor girl didn't know what to do.
When neither of them backed down from the glaring contest, Yuxi finally spoke up.
"Please don't judge a child by the sins of her parents." She softly uttered the words, her voice as sweet as honey.
Commander Moyao and Shan Dong turned towards the child. They were thoroughly surprised at Yuxi's words. It was powerful and moving.
Commander Moyao felt pride settle into his heart, whereas Shan Dong could feel his heart drop. Commander Moyao's gaze were filled with the pride of a grandfather, whereas Shan Dong's gaze held the pain he didn't want to remember.
When Yuxi smiled, revealing the deep dimples of her cheeks, Shan Dong cursed the Heavens. She was the splitting image of her mother, Chen Xiyue, but her eyes had the stubbornness of her father.