Lu Ji frowned; Ji’s cousin Lu Xun - who was only 4 years older than Ji -
approached the two and said, “It’s not often that I see Cousin Gongji looking
so perplexed! Did you ask him a particularly profound question, Mister Zhuge…?”
“No,” Zhuge Jin replied. “I-”
“People can be very cruel, Mister Zhuge,” Lu Ji said. “Your appearance is entirely irrelevant: Pang Tong, some say, is ‘hideous’, but he has a mind that defines intellectual beauty.”
Zhuge Jin sighed and replied, “You sound like Liang. He always had a million more things going on in his head than the sum of all of the men he was surrounded by.”
“Your brother is nicknamed ‘Crouching Dragon’,” Lu Ji noted. “And Pang Tong is known as ‘Young Phoenix’. I look forward to meeting them both and spending hours discussing the world.”
“If I can ever convince my brother to come to Jiangdong, I will introduce you to him, young sir,” Zhuge Jin promised. “As for Pang Tong… well, I hear that he is considering travelling to Jiangdong or may already be here.”
“If Lord Sun Ce had Pang Tong and Zhuge Liang, he’d be the lord of the entire world if that was Heaven’s will,” Lu Xun said.
“You’re both very gracious,” Zhuge Jin said pointedly.
“How so…? …Because Lord Sun ‘indirectly killed my father’…?” Lu Ji chuckled. “Father regretted having to view the Suns as an enemy; I am not burdened by that.”
“Perhaps I should have one of you write to my brother,” Zhuge Jin said. “He’s obsessed with serving Liu Bei.”
“That’s unfortunate,” Lu Xun replied. “Liu Bei is at best a well-meaning mediocrity with poor judgement, at worst an incompetent hankerer that undoes his own schemes.”
“…I’ll refrain from passing that on,” Zhuge Jin sighed. “Good day to you both.”
The three officials exchanged bows, and Zhuge Jin retreated.
“He is a very miserable man,” Lu Ji noted.
“He fears that he will never be trusted,” Lu Xun said. “He is obviously loyal and sincere, so that’s a pity.”
Qin Song and Jiang Qin were walking along the path that led to the outer
gates of Bofu’s mansion when they met upon Xu Sheng, who bowed and said, “Hello
again, Mister Qin; oh, and my sincere condolences, Mister Jiang.”
“…For what?” Jiang Qin asked.
“For the financial misfortune that you obviously suffer,” Xu Sheng replied. “Why else would you be dressed like a pauper…?”
Qin Song covered his face with his sleeve; Jiang Qin frowned and said, “I just don’t like to waste money on fancy robes when plain ones’ll do: s’pose it comes from living day to day as a lad.”
“Ah, I see,” Xu Sheng sighed condescendingly.
“Your defence of Chaisang was a brilliant effort, Mister Xu,” Jiang Qin continued. “P’raps we can sit and enjoy a dish of tea one day, and you can tell me a bit about your fighting style and your training methods.”
“Maybe,” Xu Sheng replied indifferently. “Good day, gentlemen.”
“Same to you,” Jiang Qin said, and Xu Sheng walked away with a sneer on his face.
“Aiee…! On the battlefield he’s a hero, but otherwise, he’s a pompous buffoon!” Qin Song said.
“…Such a shame,” Jiang Qin sighed.