“So what if you’re afraid or not? People will always have to eat and drink.” Ming Huashang waved her hand, beckoning Zhaocai to bring the tea set over, and then handled the utensils with familiarity, “The day passes the same regardless of whether you’re happy or sad, so why not choose to let ourselves relax a bit? Or is there something you can’t eat?”

Ren Yao was stunned when she heard this.
In her world, it was undoubtedly a sin to be idle.
Whether it was practicing martial arts or studying, doing anything was acceptable, except doing nothing.

But Ming Huashang was the opposite of her.
Even while staying in such a tense haunted mountain villa, she could still bring out a clay stove and go through the trouble just to boil some water for drinking.

It seemed remarkably easy for her to be happy.

Xie Jichuan supported his chin with one hand as he quietly observed Ming Huashang setting down the tea utensils.
He always maintained a partial smile, but at this moment he put away that smile, and said seriously, “‘The enemy is approaching, yet the fun and chatting will continue’1.
I think second younger sister embodies more of the Xie clan legacy than me.”

These words were too heavy, and Ming Huashang hurriedly declined, “Brother Xie is flattering me too much.
I am just an ordinary little girl and dare not insult the Xie clan’s distinguished and accomplished history.
Zhaocai, watch the fire, Ruyi, go fetch the snow.”

Ruyi accepted crisply.
When Xie Jichuan heard this, he looked back at Ruyi, and joked, “Her name is Zhaocai, so I thought your name was Jinbao.”

Ruyi replied seriously, “There is indeed a Jinbao, but she didn’t come this time.”

Xie Jichuan intended to joke, but he didn’t expect it to be true.
He covered his eyes, and laughed hard, “Second younger sister, you really are an incredible person.”

Ming Huazhang sighed slightly, and said to Ming Huashang, “You, if you put one-third of the attention you put towards eating and drinking to your studies, would Father still need to worry?”

Ming Huashang shook her head pitifully, and said, “That’s different.
I’m happy when I’m eating and drinking, but I’m not happy at all when I’m learning the four arts.
Besides, isn’t there second elder brother?”

Ming Huashang was well versed in this comeback, and Ming Huazhang was stunned when he met her gaze which he couldn’t tell was acting spoiled or complaining.

Xie Jichuan gave Ming Huazhang an interesting look, and then said with a smile, “Second younger sister, the water is boiling.”

Ming Huashang hurriedly looked down, and sure enough, the water was already boiling.
She skillfully ground the tea, poured over the boiling water, and added the flower dew.
It appeared that she has done this set of actions countless times.

Lily had a sweet and bitter taste that soothed and calmed the mind.
It was most suitable for today’s occasion.
She skimmed off the froth, poured out the first cup of tea, and offered it to Ming Huazhang first, “This first cup is a toast to my second elder brother.
I am ignorant and incompetent and haven’t achieved anything.
In the future, I ask my second elder brother to please take care of me more.”

Ren Yao had no siblings, so she couldn’t stand these corny scenes the most.
She hissed, feeling her teeth get sore, “When you brother and sister are at home, is this how you talk?”

Ming Huashang kept a smile on her face, looking at Ming Huazhang expectantly.
Ming Huazhang raised his hand slowly and took the teacup.
Ming Huashang filled another cup and handed it to Ren Yao, “Sister Ren has helped me a lot these past two days, I toast Sister Ren with this cup.”

Ming Huashang didn’t answer Ren Yao’s words.
If they were biological siblings, they wouldn’t need to be so polite, but they weren’t.
Now she only hoped to have a good relationship with Ming Huazhang, so that when the real daughter returns to the manor in the future, he will at least let her live.

Ren Yao had just made a sarcastic remark about them, but in a blink of an eye it was her turn, and she felt embarrassed instead.
She pulled back her fingers a bit, but in the end, she took the teacup nonchalantly, and said, “It’s no big deal, it didn’t take much effort, there’s no need to say such cringy words.”

Finally, Ming Huashang solemnly served a cup, and handed it to Xie Jichuan under his teasing gaze: “I toast you with this cup, Brother Xie.”

Xie Jichuan deliberately asked, “I am the last?”

“Good tea is not afraid of being late, it’s not the gift that counts, but the thought behind it.” Ming Huashang knew that Xie Jichuan was just teasing her, but she still said seriously, “I have heard about Brother Xie’s good name for a long time, and now I finally get to see him.
Your demeanor truly suits the description “orchids and jade trees”2.
It’s really my loss that I didn’t meet Brother Xie earlier.
I hope that after seeing that I have lost a lot, Brother Xie will not be upset with me.”

Hearing Ming Huashang say this much, Xie Jichuan would be unreasonable if he didn’t accept.
He sighed, took the tea from Ming Huashang with both hands and said, “Second your sister really knows how to talk.
I’m starting to get jealous of your future husband.”

Ming Huazhang was taking a light sip of tea, but when he heard these words, he immediately shot him a sharp look, and with the lingering mist from the tea hovering in front of his eyes and brows, he looked bitingly cold.

Xie Jichuan felt wronged by this glare, and shouted, “Second younger sister is going to get married eventually, so I’m just telling the truth; you don’t even like to hear that?”

Seeing that something was wrong, Ming Huashang hurriedly said, “It’s alright, I’m still young, and I’ve never thought about marriage.
Second elder brother, do you really think it was a serpentine ghost who killed the people?”


This is something Xie An (谢安) said during the Battle of Feishui (refer to the footnote in CH 5); he was Eastern Jin’s commander-in-chief during the Battle and defeated the former Qin army, which was known to have had one million troops, with 80,000 troops.
This victory cemented the Xie clan’s status through the subsequent centuries. 芝兰玉树 (zhī lán yù shù): literal translation is orchids and jade trees, but it means a child with a splendid future and prospects

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