Jiang Liang had grown a lot taller. Perhaps he had inherited his mother’s beauty. He looked stunning even when he was merely standing still.
He had a feminine makeup on his face, with delicate eyebrows and red lips. Dressed in a white robe, he looked androgynous.
He got out of the carriage and stood together with the others. The person at the lead was an older woman. As soon as her feet landed on the ground, her shrill voice rang out. “Where did this beast come from?! Look at it running loose all over the street. Catch it quickly!”
The woman was furious. Her pudgy face was flushed from holding her anger in as she pointed at the black dog and hopped around, threatening to set up a cauldron to cook the dog right on the streets.
Her lackeys began to scramble about trying to catch the dog. The dog was big and sturdy, and its barks were loud. It looked ferocious. Even a fierce person would be afraid to approach it. The commoners on the streets kept a wide berth all around to avoid the commotion.
“Stop!” A shout rang out. “Who allowed you to touch my dog?!”
Song Ci and the crowd looked towards the sound and saw several youths hurrying towards them from the connecting alleyway. All of them were dressed in fine clothes, looking as if they were of wealthy or noble status.
The youth leading the pack glared at them and fumed. “I’ll not spare you if you reckless creatures dare to lay your hands on my dog!”
The other youths knew their place and followed behind the youth with colorful expressions on their faces, as if they would charge and swing their fists the next moment. Only one of them stood calmly aside with the attitude of someone watching the show.
Song Ci could not help but cast a few glances at that particular youth, thinking that he resembled Feng Changyue. Although his facial features had yet to develop fully and he still looked a little immature, it was still easy to tell that he was that distinguished young master many ladies in Qinchuan had the hots for.
With a faint smile on his face, Feng Zhuojun swept his eyes across the people in front of him before his eyes met Jiang Liang’s eyes. He paused, surprise in his eyes.
Jiang Liang was sizing him up, making no effort to hide his gaze.
Feng Zhuojun’s smile deepened, and his eyes curved into arches, turning the refined youth into someone dazzling.
However, Jiang Liang did not reveal his emotions and merely shifted his gaze back to the woman who was confronting the other youth.
But Feng Zhuojun was still looking fixedly at him.
The older woman was cursing in a mixed accent. There were many words that Song Ci did not understand. The youth was so infuriated that his eyes were red and his hand that was pointing at her shook. “You, you…”
The woman was overbearing. “Why have you gone mute now? Weren’t you sharp-tongued earlier?”
“Oh geez, maybe you should hold your tongue. You non-locals are so arrogant.” At last, someone at the side could not bear to watch any longer and said to the woman, “This is the young master of the prefectural magistrate’s clan. Can you afford to offend him?”
Feng Zhuojun laughed out loud. “She already scolded him. What’s the point of saying this now?”
The woman’s expression changed. She looked over the youths before her in a fluster, then took several steps back at her wits’ ends. She cut a somewhat sorry figure.
The magistrate’s young master, who had been doused in a torrent of abuse, gave a cold laugh and put on an expression that suggested he would never forgive her regardless of what she said. “Just you wait.”
“This… this…” This time, it was the woman trembled. Of course, it was not out of anger, but fear. It was clear that she did not expect to have cussed the local tyrant in her thoughtless tirade. She hurriedly said, “I’m just here to send them. This has nothing to do with me…”
The woman who had been all high and mighty earlier was now so frightened that both her legs were trembling. Everyone around them mocked her.
“Don’t be afraid.” Feng Zhuojun piped up. “Just do me a favor, and I’ll help you persuade my younger cousin brother.”
“Cousin!” The magistrate’s young master was obviously dissatisfied with he had made the decision without consulting him. He pouted and looked at him. “Why are you siding with this shrew?”
“What are you worrying about? I only said I’ll persuade you. Whether you agree or not is none of my business.”
“You know I won’t refute you.” The young master swept an unhappy glance through the crowd behind the woman. “Have you taken a fancy to a maiden?”
Feng Zhuojun smiled, revealing his teeth. “My cousin knows me well.”
The woman saw a way out of her predicament and said, “May I ask which maiden this young master has taken a shine to? I’ll immediately send her to your residence.”
“That’s not necessary.” Feng Zhuojun’s flirtatious appearance had taken shape. With a frivolous smile, he pointed to Jiang Liang with his chin. “Just tell me her name and where you are sending her to.”
Jiang Liang was stunned. He had never expected himself to catch Feng Zhuojun’s eyes.
The woman got the hint and was about to speak when Jiang Liang beat her to it.
“Jiang Liang is my name.” His voice was the clear, melodious voice of a youth when he opened his mouth. The gender distinction was clear. “Also, I’m not a maiden.”
Feng Zhuojun’s expression froze when he heard that unmistakable voice. He furrowed his eyebrows but said nothing. Then he quickly averted his gaze away from Jiang Liang as if he was looking at something disgusting.
Jiang Liang’s initial composed expression remained unchanged, but his eyes indistinctly dimmed as he lowered them. He pursed his lips, as if he had no intention to open his mouth again.
On seeing this, Song Ci could not help but feel sorry for Jiang Liang. He was a pitiful child to begin with, and he still had to put up with such treatment. Song Ci felt like rushing up to teach that little scoundrel Feng Zhuojun a good lesson.
The young master grinned. He pointed at the woman and said. “Oh, goody. My cousin doesn’t want to help you now. Watch how I’ll settle things with you!”
The woman looked at Feng Zhuojun, flustered. “This noble young master, you can’t go back on your words!”
“All right, stop it.” Feng Zhuojun said to the young master with a displeased expression, “Hold your dog well. Let’s go somewhere else. There are too many people here. Your father will punish you again if he hears of this.”
“But this shrew just scolded me!” The young master was unwilling to let the matter drop.
“Isn’t this all because you lost your hold on the dog? It’s a blessing that no one was hurt. You should say your thanks to Heaven.” Feng Zhuojun said a word in fairness and turned to leave. Before he left, he involuntarily looked towards Jiang Liang, but just before his gaze fell on him, he averted his eyes away.
The young master gnashed his teeth in anger, but there was nothing he could do. He instructed the attendants behind him to leash the dog again and left with Feng Zhuojun in a pique of anger.
The streets returned to normal. Although the people coming and going pointed fingers at Jiang Liang and his party, none of them lingered. The woman found it too embarrassing and hurriedly pulled the group of youth away.
This was Feng Zhuojun and Jiang Liang’s first encounter.
The scene ended here, and Song Ci looked down to see his clothes gradually turning white. The ground he was on started shaking. He subconsciously reached out to support himself, but he touched something soft instead. There was a shrill scream, followed by a slap to his face.
Song Ci was dazed from the slap. The instant he inclined his head, the surrounding scene changed. He saw a maiden beside him covering her chest and glaring at him.
Song Ci suddenly understood what he had just touched. Flustered, his face flushed bright red. He was about to explain when a violent shaking cut him off. The people sitting in the carriage screamed out in alarm.
He reached out again, wanting to hold on to something. Just then, the carriage lost a wheel and bounced into the air, throwing the people inside from their seats. Song Ci was afraid that he would touch the wrong spot again, thus he did not manage to grab onto something in time and was successfully thrown out of the carriage.
Stunned by the knock to his head, he rolled several times before he came to a stop. His entire body was hurting. He moaned and scrambled up from the ground, only to see his pretty white outfit all dirty from rolling on the ground.
Then, the others stepped down from the carriage, and the woman began to cuss and ordered them to grab the dog. Naturally, the magistrate’s young master stopped them.
Song Ci swept a glance towards them. The first person he saw was Rong Bai standing among the group. He was dressed in black brocade clothes with golden flying birds embroidered on the hems, and his black hair was tied up with a ribbon. There was a look of ridicule on his exquisite face. He was merely standing there, and he had caught all of Song Ci’s attention.
The spot Rong Bai was standing on was Feng Zhuojun’s position.
In other words, Rong Bai was playing Feng Zhuojun’s role in the Chessboard Array.
Song Ci was delighted and blurted out, “Master Rong!”
In an instant, everyone looked at him, including Rong Bai. His eyes were slightly narrowed, and his frivolous smile felt distant. The moment he heard Song Ci’s voice, he furrowed his pretty eyebrows.
Song Ci’s heart thumped. It dawned on him that Rong Bai had immersed himself in the chessboard and saw himself as Feng Zhuojun.
But why? He had indeed seen Rong Bai earlier and heard him say he was waiting for Song Ci ahead…
Song Ci’s utterance disrupted everyone’s original intended path yet again. The young master pointed at Jiang Liang and asked with animosity, “Who are you calling? Who allowed you to call my cousin?”
Song Ci was not Jiang Liang, so he was not as sensitive. He thickened his skin and smiled like a flower to make amends. “My eyesight is bad. I mistook him for someone else earlier. Please don’t hold it against me, young master.”
The demon blood had changed both Song Ci’s body and appearance, carving delicate facial features out of his original common looks that had a gentle smile. He was especially beautiful in his youth.
When he grinned, his eyes sparkled. This would subconsciously put one at ease. Furthermore, he was a sweet talker. “The magistrate’s young master is a refined man. One look and anyone can tell he’s not a petty person. He wouldn’t hold such a trivial matter against me, would he?”
As expected, the young master took the stage Song Ci had handed him. “Of course not. I’m not that unreasonable.”
Song Ci smiled, although his eyes kept drifting towards Rong Bai. He could not help but worry. When he met Rong Bai’s apathetic gaze, his heart thumped again.
The young master voiced his doubts. “How did you know my father is the magistrate?”
Song Ci was still unwilling to look away. So he lied blatantly and sang his praises without skipping a beat. “On the way here earlier, I heard people talking about how the young master of the magistrate’s household is handsome and dignified. I felt that you must be him the instant I saw you, so I made a blind guess.”
“Your blind guess is pretty accurate…” The young master completely forgot to pursue the matter of his dog almost being cooked and muttered, “It’s true that I’m handsome, but to say that I’m dignified… boy, they even found this out about me.”
Rong Bai inclined his head to glance at the young master, then turned his eyes to Song Ci. His voice was cold and clear. “Why do you keep looking at me?”