Nangong Xu chuckled at Zhou He’s answer, “Looks like Mr. Yan takes life too seriously. Either that or you love hunting too much. Come now, don’t you do anything other than hunting?”
Zhou He smiled and shrugged his shoulders, “I need to hunt in order to provide for the family, so there just isn’t much time to do other things. Master Ruan is still young. I assume you have not yet been married and started your own family? You’ll soon realize that the more people you are responsible for, the heavier the weight on your shoulders, and you’ll spend less time and make fewer decisions for yourself.”
Nangong Xu smiled awkwardly. If he wanted to be lectured, he would have gone to his uncle instead. “Er, well if Mr. Yan enjoys hunting, then I will make sure you join us the next time we go for a hunt. It's getting late. I suppose I should be heading off, too. Perhaps tommorrow, if Mr. Yan feels better, we can wheel you out to the garden for some fresh air. I've grown some pretty rare breeds of flowers here. Perhaps you'll enjoy them."
Over the next few days, Zhou He’s health gradually returned to him. He began to feel more energetic and the pain and aches in his body slowly disappeared. However, due to the fact that he had to lie in bed for such an extended period of time to recuperate his injuries, his body became severely deconditioned and he required to more and exercises to regain his strength. When he was first able to leave the bed, he could barely move between the bed and the chair, even with assistance from the maids. During the first few days, he had to be pushed around in a wheelchair, but eventually, he was able to walk in short distances with assistance.
Nangong Xu was not joking when he claimed to have a beautiful garden with rare breeds of flowers. Indeed there were plants of shapes and sizes that Zhou He would never have even imagined. He came by everyday to show Zhou He around the garden, giving a detailed explanation for each plant: its history, its ideal environment for growth, its various shapes and sizes, its references in literature, its medicinal uses, etc. In fact, he took so long to describe each plant that it took a week for him to go through the entire garden with Zhou He. Ruan Qianyu also joined them often, though she was noticeably cold towards Nangong Xu during the first few days that Zhou He wondered if the two had gotten into a fight. Though, the fight must have melted away quickly because by the end of the week, they appeared to be back in their usual moods, bickering and joking along.
Despite Nangong Xu’s seemingly vast botanical knowledge, Zhou He was sure that he was no gardener by trade. He had never seen Nangong Xu actually taking care of the plants. It was the maids who spent time distributing fertilizers and watering the plants. In fact, he had never seen Nangong Xu in the garden outside of the visits to him.
Zhou He also took notice to his surroundings: large buildings with wide courtyards, along with a vast garden, and surrounded by high walls on all four sides. The architecture was intricately designed and decorated. Surely, this would be a fine manor for even the wealthiest men. Strangely, it appears that no one else lived here besides him and perhaps a few maids. Neither Nangong Xu nor Ruan Qianyu lived here, and only came by to visit for a few hours a day. If this place was designated only for guests, then their family must be extremely wealthy. However, if they were indeed that wealthy, then surely their family would have more guests. However, the only people Zhou He came into contact with were Nangong Xu, Ruan Qianyu, and the maids who took care of them or worked on the garden. Never before had Zhou He felt so isolated from the world. He could only think of one type of place that could boast such wealth, yet also retain such seclusion...