The lantern market was truly lively. It was filled with people and bustling with activity.
Shen Qi only brought Third Yuan and Fourth Xi with him this time and Luo Huai Yuan brought Xiao An Zi. Instead, it was Yan Yan who brought along several guards and Lady Hui for Yan Mo’s sake.
These guards were dressed as commoners and walked loosely around the group, subtly diverting the crowd. However, there were too many people so the effects weren’t too obvious. Yan Yan could only order the guards to split up. Two were assigned to follow Shen Qi, two for Luo Huai Yuan, and two for her and Yan Mo. They just needed to keep an eye on their own targets. They then planned on meeting at the Liu Xiang Restaurant before midnight in case they were separated.
Shen Qi had a lively nature. At first he would turn back to check up on Yan Yan and Luo Huai Yuan, but soon he vanished from sight.
Luo Huai Yuan didn’t go anywhere and tightly followed by Yan Yan’s side.
There were many lanterns at the festival. The rows and rows of lanterns were a feast for the eyes. Yan Yan was also unable to take her eyes off them. Luo Huai Yuan still knew to stop by a small stand and buy a few things to eat with Yan Yan and Yan Mo. But who could think about food at this time? They were too busy looking around.
There was a crowd gathered around a dragon lantern performance. This dragon lantern was also known as “dragon lantern dance”, and was a sort of dance involving colored lanterns.
Have you seen lion dancing before?
It was a similar sort of concept. However, performing with dragon lanterns was much higher level compared to a lion dance. This was because they were dancing with lanterns.
At the front was a dragon’s head, and the body was made up different segments. The number wasn’t fixed but it was usually an odd number. Every segment was propped up by a pole, and contained a lit candle. This was known as a “dragon lantern”. If the candles weren’t lit, it was known as a “cloth dragon”. During the dance, a person holding a rainbow bead would be teasing the dragon and its head would move along with the bead. The rest of the people moved the segments up and down, left and right in dance along with the instruments. It was a spectacular sight.
A group of children surrounded the performance, and every now and then someone would clap and cheer.
“Little sis Ah Yan, let’s go watch as well.”
Luo Huai Yuan grabbed Yan Yan’s free hand and pulled her forward.
He finally got to touch the little consort’s little hand. How soft! How smooth! How tender!
Luo Huai Yuan felt his heart pounding, and snuck a glance to the side. He saw her jade-like glossy and delicate little face, her long and curly eyelashes and high nose-bridge. Her little mouth opened and closed occasionally as she admired the surroundings. The market’s brightly colored lanterns made her face appear as though covered in a layer of pink silk. She looked like a fairy from the highest heavens….
Fine, he had run out of words to describe her.
He felt his own hand was clammy and wondered if little sis Ah Yan would mind.
The surroundings were noisy and restless but Luo Huai Yuan felt he could die happy at this moment!
Halfway through the performance, a middle-aged man wearing a short coarse hemp robe circled around holding a copper container. He beat a gong while calling loudly for those with money to offer money and those without to offer applause.
Every now and then, someone in the crowd would stretch out their hands and the sound of coins falling into the container never stopped.
Feeling her little brother pulling at her, Yan Yan lowered her head and saw him looking at her silently. She smiled and fished out a few silver ingots from her coin pouch. When that person reached Yan Mo’s side, he lifted his hand and threw a few inside the container.
The sound of copper coins hitting the copper container was different from silver. Silver was clearly a little heavier. That person saw a flash of silver and looked into the container. He noticed a few unique looking silver ingots.
Having travelled extensively while making a living, he was naturally quite experienced. Seeing the appearance of those silver ingots, he knew those were used by masters of major households to reward others. He hurriedly bowed in thanks.
Yan Mo secretly pinched his sister’s hand and revealed a happy smile.
After they were done watching the dragon lantern performance, Luo Huai Yuan saw a small food stand selling sticky rice dumplings and pulled Yan Yan over.
The three of them along with Lady Hui, Xiao An Zi and the couple of guards sat down to eat at two tables.
One bowl had three sticky rice dumplings. The skin was soft and the filling was made of sesame, sugar and peanuts. The fragrance remained after eating and it wasn’t cloying at all.
After finishing the dumplings, they continued strolling around the market. The amount of people seemed to have increased.
Occasionally they would see children weaving between the people followed by an adult. If they were caught, they would be spanked a couple of times while the adult scolded “careful not to get kidnapped by traffickers”. There was a child holding hands with his parents while carrying a simple little lantern. The lantern wasn’t nice looking, and was merely coarse paper dyed in the shape of lotus flowers. There was a little candle inside. The child carried it very carefully, looking at it after every few steps. The entire family was dressed in rough clothing, and was visibly poor. However, they were all filled with smiles.
“Come, little Ah Mo. Big Bro will take you to buy a lantern to play with.”
Luo Huai Yuan pulled Yan Mo’s little hand as he walked forward. Yan Yan could only follow along, as though her momentary distress never happened.
Walking out once again, the three of them each held a lantern in their hands. These were all merely around ten copper coins, and the patterns were chosen by Yan Mo. One was a lotus flower and the other a small rabbit. Luo Huai Yuan also held a small rabbit lantern in his hand, the exact same one as Yan Yan’s.
The three of them looked at each other and smiled.
Bang, bang, bang…..
There seemed to be fireworks in the distance. There was a sudden clamor and the crowd suddenly grew frenzied.
Yan Yan was squeezed a few times and lost her grip on Yan Mo’s hand.
She frowned, and was about to pull her brother and call Luo Huai Yuan to back away from the crowd. Suddenly, she felt a pain on her wrist. She looked at the cord that was tied there and saw that Yan Mo was no longer by her side. Raising her head, she saw a large man wearing indigo clothing carrying Yan Mo away while covering his mouth.
Everything happened in an instant, but it was enough for Yan Yan to react.
Because the other end of the cord was still tied on Ah Mo’s wrist, she didn’t dare pull on it. She called out “Lady Hui”, pushed the people around her away and grabbed onto that person’s clothes.
Luo Huai Yuan’s reactions weren’t slower than hers. Seeing this, he immediately shouted “trafficker, freeze!”
Hearing this, the crowd immediately stopped moving. Only now did they see that an evildoer had seized a child who appeared to be from a wealthy household, and was seized by that person’s sister.
The crowd was in uproar.
This was a trafficker?
There were too many people earlier. Lady Hui and the guards had been crowded away, but they weren’t that far. Lady Hui swiftly arrived at Yan Yan’s side.
“Put my brother down!”
The two guards dressed as commoners also squeezed over, glaring at the frozen evildoer like tigers.
“Put the young master down!”
The people around all took a few steps back.
That person hadn’t expected the children to be tied together at the wrist. Due to him freezing momentarily, he was surrounded.
This person was also a ruthless character. Seeing that he couldn’t get away and that the other side had two strong people, he understood he was in danger. He pulled out a dagger and pointed it at Yan Mo.
“I’ll can put him down, but first let me leave!”
There were officials patrolling the markets during this period. Unfortunately, things happened too fast and the crowd was too dense. There were only commoners around, and seeing the person pull out a blade they were all frightened. The more timid women even screamed, and everyone retreated a few more steps.
Yan Yan’s hand remained on the person’s clothes. That person didn’t seem to take this little girl seriously, and remained focused on the two strong men.
No one listened to her because she was short?
“Didn’t you hear me? Put my brother down!”
Someone cried out from the side, “Little girl, hurry over here in case he hurts you.”
Before the voice fell, that evildoer’s hand suddenly loosened for some reason. Yan Yan pulled Yan Mo behind her and spun around with a kick.
A girl who wasn’t quite four feet tall against a six foot tall sturdy man. No matter how one looked at it, that kick seemed like a mosquito’s bite. But that same kick actually knocked the man flying for several meters.
A swish sounded followed by a tragic howl. A whip had appeared at some point in this delicate young girl’s hand, and that man was rolling on the floor clutching his face.
The crowd shivered. Only now did they realize this wasn’t a frail little girl. She was clearly a little heroine.
Those with children all hated these traffickers. A moment of carelessness would lead to their children being kidnapped. They would be desolate and wished they could cry their eyes out, but it wouldn’t be of any use. Seeing this trafficker first being caught and then being taught a lesson, everyone clapped and cheered.
Yan Mo who was behind Yan Yan held onto Luo Huai Yuan’s chubby hand tightly. His little heart was pounding and his eyes were glowing. Luo Huai Yuan had the same expression.
Yan Mo: Big sis is so mighty!
Little fatty Luo: My queen, please accept my worship!
Only now did Yan Yan turn around and pat her brother: “Ah Mo, are you ok?”
Yan Mo pounced into his sister’s arms and tightly gripped her sleeves. Yan Yan thought her brother had gotten a fright, and grew even angrier. Without even looking over, her hand struck out with the whip once again.
This whip caused the flesh to split open and even the bone was faintly visible. That person didn’t even have time to howl tragically before he fainted. Yan Yan had struck out in rage and naturally didn’t show mercy.
The crowd drew in a breath.
Lady Hui revealed a faint smile. The large guards who never got to display their skills walked forward in embarrassment and tied the evildoer up.
Suddenly, a voice sounded out from the crowd.
“Ah Yan, are you ok——”
Along with the voice, the brat little second Shen charged over as though shot from a cannon. The crowd made way for him and he rushed to Yan Yan’s side.
“You came late!”
Little fatty Luo, who had been equally useless, revealed his teeth in a mocking smile. This seemed to make him feel satisfied in his heart.
Shen Qi leapt up as though his buttocks were burned and pointed at the evildoer in condemnation.
“Great, what guts you have. You actually dare provoke my Zhenguo Duke Estate’s people!? Tie him up and send him to the authorities for me! Whether this person has accomplices must be properly investigated!”
There wasn’t anyone who didn’t know the Zhenguo Duke in the capital. That year, the punitive expedition against the barbarians at Ping Nan was lead by the Zhenguo Duke.
Back then, the Grand Xi wasn’t as peaceful as it was now. The south was constantly harassed by the southern barbarians and the north suffered from invasions by the northern tribes. The Grand Xi was unable to deal with this pincer attack and suffered defeat after defeat. After the Zhenguo Duke Shen Mao Shan appeared and settled the southern barbarians in one go, he then utterly defeated the northern tribes.
The entire nation boiled over at the news of the victory.
Amongst the people, the Zhenguo Duke was known as the “god of war”.
None of the commoners wished for war. Everytime it happened, there would be refugees everywhere, the prices of good would continuously increase and the people lived in fear. Therefore, there would be very few people who didn’t know of these accomplished officials who could guard the nation’s peace. Most of the commoners knew that many of the soldiers who guarded the borders at the moment were also part of the Zhenguo Duke’s bloodline.
This was a sort of formless might, and it gave birth to reverence. It actually made the surroundings suddenly quiet down.
Only now did Shen Qi realized something was wrong. He looked around and laughed awkwardly, giving Yan Yan and Luo Huai Yuan a glance. Their group of people burrowed into the crowd and swiftly departed.
Only after walking a long way did they stop.
“Who told you to show off?!” Luo Huai Yuan started attacking mercilessly.
Shen Qi looked aggrievedly at Yan Yan. He wasn’t the one that had attracted everyone’s attention. He had merely spoken a few words.
He had been wandering around by himself and noticed fireworks were being set off. Since there were too many people, he couldn’t squeeze over. He thus secretly climbed up onto a stack of lanterns and planned on watching the fireworks from up high. Unexpectedly, he happened to witness the event that unfolded below and hurried over.
“What little sis Ah Yan did was awesome. What you did was suppressing people with your status as a useless young master after losing a fight.”
At that time, Luo Huai Yuan had also wanted to say “You dare touch someone being protected by me, the fourth prince? What guts!”
Unfortunately, he could only speak these words in his mind.
He also knew that his current words were naked slander, but it was fine as long as it felt good. Who told that brat little second Shen to show off so much?
Shen Qi scratched his head at Luo Huai Yuan’s words. Did he seem like a useless young master?
They had slipped away without saying much. Only Lady Hui and the two guards followed them over. Shen Qi’s two guards, as well as Third Yuan and Fourth Xi, were nowhere to be seen. The other two were probably taking that evildoer to the authorities.
What happened earlier also made Yan Yan no longer feel like strolling around. Although Yan Mo had shaken his head the few times she had asked if he had gotten a fright, she still felt that he definitely did.
After some discussion, they decided to head towards the Liu Xiang Restaurant. They planned to wait for the others there.
Right as they reached the doors, Yan Yan saw a familiar person.
It was actually Mei Xue. There was also a carriage waiting on the side.
Mei Xue leapt off the carriage and ran over. “Miss.”
“Why have you come?”
“Something’s happened at home. I’m here to call the miss back.”
Yan Yan’s eyes flashed and she nodded.
It seems this great opportunity she arranged wasn’t in vain. Finally couldn’t endure any longer?