386 – Visit the plum garden!
Chapter 386: Visit the plum garden!
West mountain. Plum garden.
The carriage halted at the entrance to the plum garden and Ning Xinhai called out, “Miss, we’ve arrived at West mountain.”
The curtain was lifted up, and Taohong and Liulu quickly got off.
Liulu lowered the stepping footstool, while Taohong supported Cui Xiaoxin down the carriage and reminded, “Miss, the ground is slippery, tread carefully.”
“Don’t worry.” Cui Xiaoxin replied in a gentle voice.
Li Muyang was standing on one side, still holding onto the ‘Winter plum blossoms blood proudly in snow’ painting that he was going to give to Cui Xiaoxin.
Cui Xiaoxin had only brought one carriage with her to enjoy the snow and plum blossoms on the West Mountain. Taohong and Liulu had to serve her in the carriage, presenting to her cakes, fruits and hand warmers and were awfully busy. Ning Xinhai was in charge of driving the carriage. Li Muyang, who did not need to ride the horse nor had the chance to sit in the carriage, could only keep pace beside it.
Fortunately, it was cold and the road was slippery, the carriage did not travel too fast so Li Muyang did not fall behind.
Cui Xiaoxin was sat inside dressed in an ordinary white outfit and draped in a black cloak. The sharp contrast between the black and white colours added a more delicate charm and elegance to her.
Because she had been sitting in the carriage for a long time, her legs felt slightly stiff when she set her feet on the ground. She walked slowly, dragging her feet along and her boots crunching through the flawless white snow. She looked up, gazing into the boundless world and smiled, “it is beautiful. The beauty of West Mountain is in the snowy season.”
Ning Xinhai swept a glance over Li Muyang, then urged, “Miss, it is freezing cold outside, the chill in the mountain is colder than the city. How about just looking from a distance, remember the plum garden scene in mind and go back to carefully draw it back out in front of the fire place?”
Cui Xiaoxin rejected Ning Xinhai’s kind suggestion. “Uncle Ning, the brain can only remember the scenery, but the body is able to truly appreciate the beauty of the wild plum blossoms blooming in snow. It is only at this West Mountain that is surrounded by countless wild plum trees that one can really draw out the spirit of the snow and the fragrance of plum. Otherwise, the work created will lack spirit.”
Cui Xiaoxin looked sidelong at Li Muyang. “Senior Li Mu, isn’t that right?”
Li Muyang bowed his head, “Miss Xiaoxin should call me Li Mu. I am not good enough to be Miss Xiaoxin’s Senior. However, Miss Xiaoxin is right. With painting, the most important thing is emotions. If one does not shed tears over the changes of seasons, how can one draw the beauty of spring and the solitude of autumn?”
“One can be a master even at a young age because they have learned the things earlier than others. And one can be a master in their special field if they persist. You are my saviour, and your painting skills are superior to those of mine. It is only right that I call you Senior. You don’t have to be polite.” Cui Xiaoxin chuckled. “Uncle Ning, park the carriage here. I will take Taohong and Liulu to the plum garden to paint. You come find us in a while.”
“Miss, you must not. You were attacked at Thousand Buddha Temple, what if Miss runs into danger again?” Ning Xinhai refused. “I will park the carriage in a sheltered position, and then follow Miss into the mountains to search for plum trees. Otherwise, if anything happens to Miss, I won’t be able to forgive myself.”
Cui Xiaoxin knew well that Ning Xinhai’s worry was reasonable. If she did not have Ning Xinhai to protect her, her parents and family most likely would not have agreed to her going out.
So, Cui Xiaoxin nodded, saying, “that good. Let’s go together.”
Ning Xinhai steered the carriage to the sheltered position at the foot of the mountain and tied the reins to a thick branch. Then, the group of people together headed through the mountain valleys of West Mountain, where wild plum trees were growing everywhere with breathtaking flowers in striking colours.
Liulu carried Cui Xiaoxin’s painting tools while Ning Xinhai held her easel.
Taohong wanted to assist Cui Xiaoxin but she declined. “I am not a weak woman, a little snow and wind are nothing. I can take care of myself. No need to support me.”
She speeded up, like a bird escaped from her cage, flying into the plum tree forest in front and cried out in a surprised voice. “The plum trees on West Mountain really have bloomed.”
Taohong and Liulu tried to keep up, while Ning Xinhai was quietly and calmly following behind Cui Xiaoxin.
Li Muyang, looking at Cui Xiaoxin’s cheerful figure, and had a joyous smile spreading across his face.
As she had said, the years living in Jiangnan city were the happiest time in her life.
After coming to Tiandu, because of the constraints due to her identity and status, she had to retrain her emotions and be a careful and cautious little girl.
It was only in wilderness, with only her most trusted people accompanying her, that she reverted to her true nature, becoming a happy and carefree little girl.
Cui Xiaoxin shuttled through the plum forest, seemingly very familiar with the wild plum trees in this area.
It wasn’t until when she was panting for breaths that she stopped under a huge plum tree.
Cui Xiaoxin pointed to the large plum tree blossoming with red plum flowers and with waist-thick branches, and smiled: “when I was small, it was already very big. It is the biggest plum tree in this plum forest. I had always called it ‘The King of Trees’. Later I went to Tiandu and haven’t visited it in several years. I did not expect it to have grown this big, I was able to spot it from the other plum trees at a glance——”
Li Muyang also began to appreciate the plum tree, like he was understanding a part of Cui Xiaoxin’s life, and entering into a little world that no other people knew of.
Cui Xiaoxin turned to Li Muyang. “Senior Li Mu, let’s draw this Tree king, what do you think?”
“Yes.” Li Muyang bowed.
Hearing the Young Miss’s order, Ning Xinhai immediately set down the easel, while Taohong and Liulu were busying setting up the painting tools.
Taohong was about to help grind the ink when Cui Xiaoxin refused.
Cui Xiaoxin looked over at Li Muyang, saying: “can I bother Senior Li Mu to help me grind the ink? The teacher said that the depth of the ink is extremely important in the way of painting. It helps create a foundation for the painting. If the ink is too heavy or an uneven color, it will affect the result.”
“Happy to help.” Li Muyang said aloud, pulled up his sleeves, took the ink stone from Liulu’s hand and set it on the little desk and gently began to grind the inkstone.
Taohong and Liulu stood to one side, while Ning Xinhai was studying Li Muyang with his brows knitted in a frown.
“Why would Miss be so close to a driver?”
Cui Xiaoxin cast a glance over to Taohong and Liulu. “You two go play, don’t stand there watching like two tree stumps, it will affect my mood to paint.”
Taohong and Liulu exchanged a look with each other, and then with a strange smile on their face walked away.
Cui Xiaoxin then turned around to look at Ning Xinhai, who then helplessly turned towards a boulder not far away. He brushed away the snow on the boulder and sat down, nodding off to sleep.
When the people around had all scattered, Cui Xiaoxin finally let out a gentle sigh, and looked at Li Muyang to say, “We finally can speak.”
Li Muyang’s heart ‘thudded’. Did Cui Xiaoxin deliberately bring him to this Plum garden of West Mountain and sent away all the servants and bodyguard to expose him?
How should he respond if she asks him if he is Li Muyang?
Tell the truth, or continue to hide his identity?