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76 Another Side of Him



YiYuan was truly breath taking, and Li Lian discovered this the next day when she wandered around the place for some fresh air.

Beautiful gardens of herbs ran for miles, fed by the river that flowed from the Capital Bridge. Thatched colorful bamboo buildings also dotted the grounds, complemented by the apricot trees that were in full bloom with shades of orange. She wondered why apricot trees were the only trees grown, though she much appreciated the beautiful scenery.

She received food and ginseng tea from the physician assistants, who let her know that she was discharged and fit to start serving as soon as possible. After sleeping for days she felt better and sought relief by doing anything else other than sleep.

It was on that afternoon that a palace maid shook her awake to follow her to the servants quarters. The ladies of art were sent away from YiYuan therefore Li Lian, who was left behind, was to temporarily serve among the Grand General retinue until they returned to the palace.
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The palace maid was asked by the leading court lady to oversee Li Lian as they carried out their duties. Li Lian was firstly changed to the palace maid uniform which was sheer pastel blue of layered garment. It was quite extravagant compared to one that was worn by Grand Consort Shu's entourage.

Calling in for duty, they prepared warm bathing water for the Grand General, straightened his robes and cleaned up here and there around his chambers.

And during this time, the palace maid didn't introduce herself or share conversation with Li Lian. She just quietly did her work and corrected or helped her where required. When they were done with their duties, they went to get food from the servants kitchen, where the palace maid abandoned Li Lian to sit by her friend.

Li Lian was not surprised to hear them gossip about her behind her back. It was something in the lines of that she was good for nothing, beauty without brains who had it easy because of the Grand General. They even mentioned that she was not that pretty enough to start with.

Afterwards, the palace maid took her to the servants chambers so that they could retire for the night. The palace maid told her that they were to sleep early because the following day they were on duty in serving the Grand General on the walk-on retinue. As a person who was used to sleeping on comfortable beds, the mattress was uncomfortable that it took Li Lian time to catch sleep.

Li Lian assumed that when it came to the Grand General, now 'Yuwen Hong', what you saw is what you were bound to get. There was no other way. But oh was she wrong. Yuwen Hong was more than just that. And she realised it the hard way.

It was during the hour of the tiger(between 3am and 6am) that they awoke, hurriedly washed and gathered together with the morning entourage at the required place, which was an idle vacant room. The roof had a majestic decoration of a forest painting roof staring down at them while the floor was elegantly carpeted with green.

Leading the morning briefing was the Eunuch who had a mole by his nose, the same eunuch who pushed Dao at the Imperial Grounds Camp. He was still unbearable as Li Lian remembered. Then representing the maids was a court lady Li Lian was not familiar with.

Grand Consort's entourage never woke up in the morning for morning briefings. They planned for the following day before retiring for the night. How could it be that serving a mere noble was ridiculously difficult than serving a royal member?

It was difficult to work with the Grand General's entourage. They were serious, non-social and just plain cold. Li Lian could also smell the fear from far away, it was as if someone was holding a stick behind their back.

"I don't have to remind you that we address him as the Grand General when outside the palace, do I? Address him by his title and you will have your tongue chopped off." Mole eunuch assessed the group holding close the bamboo scroll like his child.

Li Lian thought he was being metaphorical but later she discovered that it was literal speech. They were well able to cut your tongue if they wanted to.

Title? Li Lian wondered what other title the Grand General had. Was he more well established than she already knew?

But he had to be, considering his close relationship with the Grand Consort. Thinking back to the dungeon he defended the emperor as someone close to his heart.

After a few more formalities discussed, they were dismissed.

Like the palace maid mentioned the previous night, Li Lian was allocated to the walk-on retinue and since she was new they threw her right at the back of the entourage. Quietly, they switched with the set that served the Grand General all night, lined up by the exit of the Grand General's chambers.

When Li Lian sought the toilet the other night the hallway had been vacant without any entourage. Could it be that they were dismissed that night or told to station far away from him?

The whole entourage in estimation was twenty-five eunuchs and twenty-five palace maids. A whole lot than Grand Consort Shu's.

What was going on? Who was this man? Li Lian's gut was tinging and she didn't like the idea at the back of her mind.

That was no horror though, because the horror began when the Grand General woke up. He tripped on a pedestal and like expected, he was furious. He commanded that whoever placed the pedestal where it was, should be hung to death using it.

This gripped Li Lian in shock as the previous day it was her overseer palace maid who used it. And she was going to die just because someone tripped on it.

That was unjustified!

As they dragged her away, Li Lian attempted to stop her, only to be blocked by Mole Eunuch.

"Mind your own business Wei. I let you disrespect me last time, and this time it won't easily slide by me." He clicked his tongue as he reminded her about the time she tried to save Dao when he pushed her.

Grand General was a double minded man. How could someone who always treated her like the most prized jewel be so ugly in the inside at the same time?

When the Grand General bathed, after getting out he complained that the water was too hot so the people who prepared his bathing water were to be punished by drinking ALL of his bathing water.

According to him, the floor was not clean enough. The people who mopped the floor were to redo it 'using their hair'.

The food was too oily, therefore he kicked the table over, wasting all the food.

Not immature enough?

"Who sneezed in my presence? Needle her mouth closed!"

"Did I just hear you breathe? Follow that palace maid and get your nose sewn too!"

Li Lian could not believe it and more than ever she was grateful to be right at the back of the line. There, she could be tucked away safely and fume her anger as much as she wanted to. Her hands were fisted and teeth gritting. More than she hated being helpless, she hated those who oppressed the weak, moreover those who served them.

Sadly, behind the unacceptable tantrums was a man who deserved his position, because the Grand General was quite skilled on the training grounds.

They watched him battle with other generals, while waiting on him and without a doubt he was the best. He knew his angles, when to attack, defend and back away. He was plain exceptional and it would have been thrilling to see him as the last man standing on the field, if Li Lian wasn't angry.

The Grand General used the dragon animal as his reliant attack technique. In the back of her mind Li Lian remembered somewhere in the many books she read at the Borderlands being stated that in Nevoria, it was only the emperor who had the knowledge to use this skill. Or was it?

She did not quite remember because so much information she had consumed was scattered in her mind  that she could not coherently put it all together.

After throwing away his huge heavy sword, the Grand General charged straight for the exit but abruptly stopped right in front of her.

His body was directed towards the exit, still. As if he could sense her than being aware of her by sight.

"What is she doing here?" he demanded, looking directly at Mole eunuch.