Interesting, you’re lecturing me now. All those other people barely dare breathe in my presence. How come you’re not afraid of me?
Yes, why wasn’t she afraid? She only knew that she wasn’t.
The new king was handsome, upright, possessed a formidable air that made one reluctant to impose upon him-- much as she had imagined. She’d longed to see him in life since much earlier. None could defeat him, and his name resounded across the land. How could anyone not admire him! Why should she fear him?
Her heart warm and her face still smiling, she slowly closed her eyes.
Luo! Luo! Luo!
Strange, there’d never been pheasants in the royal palace. What was going on? She wanted to get up and investigate, but sleep had already snuck up on her, leaving her unwilling to move. Never mind, who cares! she thought. Many people had left the palace earlier, during the battles. Maybe a few pheasants took the opportunity to creep in.
Sleep! she told herself. She needed to get up early tomorrow to fix his hair.
Ji Jiang started each day by brushing the King of Qi’s hair-- he still insisted that he wasn’t king yet, but she insisted right back on using the title.
Like he’d told her, this King of Qi had no real schedule to his days. He read reports till deep into the night; often, a messenger would interrupt him in the middle of the night with some urgent military matter, and he’d get up and take care of it before returning to sleep. Ji Jiang found it strange that he still had energy left during the day to drill his troops.
In the end, Ji Jiang didn’t have the heart to stand by and watch him work himself to an early death; she took the initiative and organized his newly-arrived reports for him. When the King of Qi came in afterwards and flipped through them, he said, surprised: “Huh, I’ve never said anything about these to you before. How did you know which ones are urgent and which ones aren’t?”
Ji Jiang said: “I noticed that you always look through these ones first! Besides, you haven’t held Qi for long, so of course you’re going to read the military reports first and the civil reports second.”
The King of Qi nodded, impressed. “I didn’t realize that you know this sort of thing too, little girl!”
Ji Jiang proudly tilted up her chin. “You only realized now? I know how to do plenty of things, but you aren’t giving me any chances to show you. What else do you want me to do? Your wish is my command, Your Highness.”
The King of Qi said: “There’s not much else. I make all the final decisions, and it’s not something that others can help with... oh, right, I’m particularly busy these few days. How about you read reports to me while I’m eating, so I’ll have the time elsewhere to take care of a few more things?”
One day, at lunch, Ji Jiang was reading a report for the King of Qi as usual.
“Wait a second,” the King of Qi interrupted. He carefully blew at his spoonful of turnip stew. “I think you skipped a few sections. I recall that this person sends much longer reports than just that.”
Ji Jiang said: “There was more, but these were the points he was trying to get across.”
The King of Qi’s face darkened. “Don’t make that judgment for me! What if you left out something important? Read the original report for me right now.”
“This person rambled on and on!” Ji Jiang snapped. “There was so much useless rubbish, it took me a lot of work to get out the important bits. If you want to look at his natter, you can read it yourself! I’m not reading it!” She threw the bamboo scroll at his dining desk; it narrowly missed the King of Qi’s bowl of hot stew.
The King of Qi startled. Glaring at Ji Jiang, he picked up the scroll.
By the time he finished the introduction, the King of Qi’s brow was furrowing.
Ji Jiang watched him with smug schadenfreude.
The King of Qi, with supreme effort, finished the lengthy report. He raised his head to look at Ji Jiang, his expression puzzled.
Ji Jiang grinned. “What do you think? Was it worth the read?”
“Ji Jiang.” The King of Qin hesitated, then said. “When... when did you read this report?”
Ji Jiang said: “Just then. Why?”
“Just then? As in, when you read it to me?”
“Is there another ‘just then?’”
The King of Qi said: “You picked out his main points as you read along?”
Ji Jiang said: “Of course. It would take forever if I pondered everything over first. Aren’t you having me read these aloud to save time?”
The King of Qi looked at the report, then at Ji Jiang. After a while, he said: “Continue, then. Read them the same way as you did earlier.”
Even on his few idle days, the King of Qi didn’t go to cockfights and horseraces. He only practiced with his sword or played chess by himself. His chessboard wasn’t like other people’s, but overran with intersecting lines that made one’s head spin.
After watching him for a few days out of curiosity, Ji Jiang said: “Your Highness, what’s the fun in playing yourself! Can I join you?”
The King of Qi raised his head, smiling. “It’s a very complicated game. You wouldn’t understand it.”
Ji Jiang said: “Hmph! What’s so complicated about it? Isn’t it just based off the Eight Trigrams?”
The King of Qi seemed taken aback. “Very well, then. You can give it a try.”
Ji Jiang sat across from the King of Qi. Indignant at his condescension, she put all her effort into the game, determined to deflate him some.
Twenty-six turns later, she lost.
Ji Jiang glared at the hopeless chessboard, both angry and embarrassed. She couldn’t figure out how she’d lost so quickly. She reached out and stirred the pieces aside. “Forget this, I want a rematch. I was too careless then-- I should have played my seventeenth move at the Yu position.”
The King of Qi grabbed her hand. “Ji Jiang!”
Ji Jiang raised her head. “Fine, I admit I lost! Give me another chance and let me play again.”
The King of Qi said: “It has nothing to do with that, Ji Jiang. Tell me, did anyone teach you how to play ‘the game of eight palaces?’”
“What eight palaces? I’ve never heard of it! And would I have lost so horribly to you if I’d been taught?”
The King of Qi silently examined Ji Jiang. Then he sighed.
Ji Jiang said: “Hey, Your Highness, you won. What’s there to sigh about?”
The King of Qi looked at her cherishingly. “I sigh that you were born a girl. Ai... little girl, do you have any idea how smart you are?”
Kuai Che, Li Zuoju, and the other advisers found that the King of Qi more and more frequently brought along the little hairdresser girl. She even listened in on their discussions of important military affairs, and the King of Qi at times sent her to fetch top secret documents as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They teased the King of Qi: “After all our persuasion earlier, you picked this one? We really can’t comprehend your taste, Your Highness.”
The King of Qi said: “Hey, get your mind out of the gutter! Didn’t you notice how young she is?“
Kuai Che said: “It’s not that, Your Highness. No matter what you’re using her for, you could have at least found someone more pleasing to the eye. There are more beautiful women in the Qi royal palace than clouds in the sky, but out of all of them, you only chose this ugly little servant girl.. Aren’t you afraid people will laugh at you?”
The King of Qi said: “Oh, you’re complaining that she’s ugly? Then it seems that I see differently from you. Like Jiufanggao, I ‘found the soul but forgot the substance, observed the inside but forgot the outside.’”
Kuai Che watched Ji Jiang, busy with work in the distance. After a long time, he shook his head. “I looked every which way, inside and outside, but I still don’t see how she’s supposed to grow into any sort of beauty.”
The King of Qi laughed. “Like I said, I see differently from you! Didn’t you notice her eyes? Ever heard the saying ‘intelligence is revealed in the eyes and brows?’ This is it! I’m telling you, if this girl were a boy, you’d all--”
As he spoke, an attendant reported: “The messenger from the King of Han has arrived!” The King of Qi hurriedly called for him to enter.
The messenger entered. He was no other than Zhang Liang. The King of Qi greeted him with surprise and joy, mirrored by Zhang Liang himself.
The two sat and talked of past events. The topic then shifted to the King of Han’s edict, which officially bestowed the title of King of Qi upon Han Xin, and requested fifty thousand veteran troops to relieve the frontline at Guangwu.
The King of Qi readily agreed. He wrote out an order, asked Ji Jiang to bring him a troop transfer tally, and handed the two to Zhang Liang.
Li Zuoju’s displeasure showed on his face. He strode away without a word.
Kuai Tong didn’t move, but listened silently by their side, showing no visible signs of his thoughts or feelings.
The King of Qi and Zhang Liang discussed the situation at the frontline for a while longer. Then Zhang Liang stood and said: “The King of Han awaits my return message. I’ll need to hurry back. Forgive me for not staying longer.” Farewells concluded, he prepared to leave.
The King of Qi stood and sent him off. When he returned, Kuai Tong had left too.
Ji Jiang said: “Your Highness, are you close to this Zhang Liang?”
The King of Qi nodded. “Kindred souls are rare in this world, and Zhang Liang counts as one. It’s a pity we’ve had to part in such a hurry every time. We’ve never had the opportunity for a conversation side by side, rather than across from each other.”
Ji Jiang said: “From what I see, the only person he truly cares about is the King of Han. What’s the point of befriending him?”
The King of Qi said: “Of course he only truly cares about the King of Han when he owes him the debt of discovery. Besides, talents naturally appreciate one another. Our friendship has nothing to do with profit or gain.”
“‘Nothing to do with profit or gain?’” Ji Jiang scoffed. “Hah! Such a thing exists in this world? Isn’t the King of Han using your feelings to extort soldiers from you?”
The King of Qi smiled. “It’s only fifty thousand troops. Our relationship is worth more than that.”
Ji Jiang said: “Your Highness, being friendly with Zhang Liang is one thing, but the King of Han is a whole different deal. Don’t mix them up! The King of Han is petty and greedy and shameless-- you know that perfectly well. Why should you have to endure him? With your strength, you could have broken off from his faction long ago. Why do you still bow to him?”
The King of Qi said quietly: “There are some things you don’t understand.”
Ji Jiang stomped her foot. “Fine! I don’t understand! I don’t understand! You understand best! If I knew you’d be like this, I wouldn’t have bothered to give a speech! I reach out to help and the dog bites me!” She spun away and ran off.
“Hey, who are you calling a dog?” the King of Qi called after her. But Ji Jiang had already ran far away.
The King of Qi smiled and shook his head.
Even if Ji Jiang found some of the King of Qi’s actions incomprehensible, she still cared about his well-being, just as before. When that blasted pheasant started crowing in the middle of the night again, she was determined to catch it and save the overworked King of Qi from any more disturbances in his sleep.
She searched the palace for an entire night.
The next day, she couldn’t stop yawning as she combed the King of Qi’s hair. Smiling, the King of Qi said: “See? It’s too much for you, isn’t it? I told you long ago that I’m hard to take care of, but you didn’t believe me!”
Ji Jiang yawned again. “It’s not you who’s hard to take care of, but that pheasant.”
The King of Qi’s gaze shifted. “What did you say? What pheasant?”
Ji Jiang said: “The one that’s been calling all night lately. I didn’t want it to disturb your sleep, so I went looking for it last night...”
The King of Qi said: “But you couldn’t find it, correct?”
Ji Jiang said: ‘How did you know, Your Highness?”
The King of Qi turned and patted Ji Jiang’s hand. “You’ve worked too hard,” he said, gently smiling. “Go catch up on your sleep now. I won’t ask you to serve me today. In the future, don’t worry about that pheasant. You won’t be able to catch it.”
Ji Jiang happily returned to her own room and lay down on the bed.
The chance to catch up on lost sleep was nice, but her happiness came from the King of Qi’s consideration for her. Only, when she’d mentioned the pheasant, his expression had seemed strange. Why?
Xiang Yu was truly feeling the might of the Halberd-Bearer whom he’d so dismissed before.
His favored commander Long Ju had led an army two hundred thousand strong to retake Qi, and it had been wiped out in a day, its commander cut down in the field. Two hundred thousand! With Han Xin’s paltry army, if the two hundred thousand men had stuck out their necks and let them chop away, it should still have taken days! How had it happened?
But this wasn’t the time to investigate. He had to face reality and take other measures to salvage the situation.
Xiang Yu sent a diplomat named Wu She to the King of Qi, hoping to persuade him to defect, or at least remove himself from the conflict and establish himself as a third faction.
Wu She was no mean debater. He pulled out ample evidence to argue that, while the King of Han could share suffering, he would not share prosperity. And King Xiang and the King of Qi had a common past, one that could be renewed here and now, for the betterment of both parties. He gestured up and down, spoke until his throat was raw, convinced that his speech could move the heart of stone statues.
But the King of Qi simply replied: “When I served King Xiang, my highest office was Attendant, and my highest rank was Halberd-Bearer. He listened to none of my advice, used none of my strategies. That was why I deserted Chu for Han. The King of Han granted me the Commander-in-Chief’s seal and armies of tens of thousands. He gave me his own clothes, his own food, his full attention to all of my ideas. I wouldn’t be here today without him. Betraying someone who so trusts and relies on me invites the punishment of heaven. I can’t take your advice. Please convey my apologies to King Xiang."
After Wu She left, Kuai Che came.
Kuai Che was unusually dressed-- dark robes and a high cap, shoes of woven grass, a bamboo staff-- as if he were a wandering occultist. He spoke even more strangely: “Your Highness, do you want your fortune read?”
The King of Qi laughed. “What are you playing at, Sir Kuai? When did you learn this sort of thing, and how did I not know about it?”
Kuai Che said seriously: “A wise man taught his methods to me in my youth. If you don’t believe me, Your Highness, I can demonstrate.”
The King of Qi hid another laugh. “Very well. Then tell me, how do you read a fortune?”
Kuai Che said: “Worth lies in one’s bones, emotion lies in one’s countenance, success lies in one’s decisions. When all three are used in the examination of a person, there are no mistakes.”
The King of Qi nodded. “I suppose there’s some reason to what you say. In that case, can you tell me my fortune?”
Kuai Che looked around. “I want to speak to Your Highness alone.”
The King of Qi waved the others away. Ji Jiang left last, carefully closing the door behind her.
She felt that Kuai Che didn’t really intend to read the king’s fortunes, but only wanted to tell him something important.
A long while later, Kuai Che finally exited, brows furrowed, as if bearing a heavy heart. Silent, he passed by Ji Jiang on his way into the palace hall. The King of Qi, too, stood and headed in the same direction. When he saw her, he said: “Ji Jiang, you’re just in time. Follow me to the study.”
Ji Jiang obeyed. “Your Highness, what did Sir Kuai say to you?” she asked, curious.
“Oh, nothing much. He only read my fortune.”
Ji Jiang said: “Liar! Does reading a fortune take that long?”
The King of Qi said: “You can choose to believe it or not, but either way, all he did was read my fortune.”
Inwardly suspicious, Ji Jiang pouted and said nothing.
The King of Qi looked at her, smiling, as he stepped into the study. Ji Jiang followed, and the King of Qi told her to sit at the side. He took out his ink and brush and began to draw an illustration. He often paused to think as he drew, and even used a ruler and compass at points. Ji Jiang, curious, walked behind the King of Qi to look, but couldn’t tell what he was drawing. She could only sit back down and wait.
When he finished, the King of Qi handed the picture to Ji Jiang. “Find the best metalsmith in Linzi and tell him to make me a gold headdress based on this illustration. I don’t care how much it costs as long as the measurements are accurate. Can you remember that?”
Ji Jiang took the illustration and looked at it. The exterior shape was indeed that of a royal headdress, albeit quite intricate in detail. She rolled it up, her unhappiness showing on her face.
The King of Qi said: “Hey, it’s not hard work. Why do you look so upset?”
Ji Jiang said: “Your cryptic mysterious drawing was for this? I thought you were working on some important military matter! Your Highness, you’ve never cared about fancy clothes before!”
The King of Qi said: “I’ve started caring now. What, can’t I change my mind?”
Ji Jiang said: “Of course you can, you’re the king! But that doesn’t stop me from feeling disappointed in you.”
“Disappointed in me?” The King of Qi laughed. “Insubordination!”
Ji Jiang said: “Subordinate people don’t dare tell you the truth. I truly want the best for you. This is called ‘the words of the loyal are hard to hear.’”
The King of Qi again laughed. “Oh no, you’re bringing out the quotes! Enough, now. Hurry and take care of it for me!”
Ji Jiang unhappily walked toward the door, picture in hand. At the door, she suddenly turned. “Your Highness, was Kuai Che really reading your fortune?”
The King of Qi put away his brush and ink. “Yes, of course.”
Ji Jiang said: “Then what did he say about you?”
“He said: ‘When I read your face, I saw that you would hold no title higher than marquis, surrounded by perils,’” the King of Qi said. “‘When I read your back, I saw matchless greatness.’”
Ji Jiang was taken aback. “A face that indicates no more than marquis, but a back that indicates matchless greatness? What does that even mean--Ah! I get it!” She looked around, then said quietly, “Your Highness, he wasn’t trying to read your fortune. He was trying to tell you to turn your back on Han and declare your independence!”
The King of Qi said: ‘I know.”
Ji Jiang said: “You realized? Then what did you tell him?”
The King of Qi said: “I said that I’d consider it.”
“You can’t waste your time considering something like this back and forth!” Ji Jiang said frantically. “You have to decide, fast! In my opinion, you shouldn’t have given those fifty thousand veteran troops to Zhang Liang last time--”
The King of Qi said: “Oh, that’s a different matter. It was only right that I gave them to him.”
Even more frantically, Ji Jiang said: “How is that a different matter? If you’re going to compete with the King of Han for hegemony at some point, you should start weakening him and strengthening yourself early on. You can’t do it the other way around. Aren’t you making your future harder for yourself?”
The King of Qi said: “I have my reasons for acting as I have.”
Ji Jiang said: “What reasons?”
The King of Qi looked at Ji Jiang for a long while, then said: “Little girl, I call you little, but you seem you understand a lot of things. Very well, I’ll tell you. Maybe you’ll be able to understand. Have you heard of my past?”
Ji Jiang said: “Yes, I heard. They say you were born in poverty and walked a hard road to power. Your Highness, the heroes of history have always faced many obstacles. Now that you’ve succeeded, none of it was in vain.”
The King of Qi nodded. “Because of this, as you can imagine, I’m very grateful to the person who put his trust in me and gave me power. You’ve heard the story of ‘retreating three days’ march,’ right?”
Ji Jiang said: ‘Yes, I know that one. When Duke Wen of Jin was wandering in exile, King Cheng of Chu treated him well. Duke Wen later returned to his state and assumed power. When Jin and Chu met at the Battle of Chengpu, the Jin army retreated three days’ march, a total of ninety li, to repay the debt of gratitude to King Cheng.”
The King of Qi said: “I’m acting similarly. When I was named commander, I vowed in my heart that I wouldn’t wrong Han as long as Han doesn’t wrong me. I knew, too, that the King of Han is greedy and suspicious by nature, and playing minister to his king may end badly. But nonetheless, he gave me my first army. So I’d decided from the start: I would allow him to take from me three times without retaliation.”
Ji Jiang said: “Two times? Three... Ah! It’s been three times! Look, Your Highness. The first time was when he took your best troops after your conquered Wei and Dai. The second time was when he took your army at Xiuwu after you captured Zhao. The third time was when he sent Zhang Liang to take your veteran troops after you pacified Qi. Your Highness, you’ve let him go enough times! You can teach him a lesson now!”
The King of Qi smiled. “Enough, hurry and do your work!” he said with a wave of his hand.
The doubts in Ji Jiang’s heart melted away. She cheerfully left with the illustration.
At night, that blasted pheasant began again: Luo! Luo! Luo!
Ji Jiang charged outside.
She found nothing. Moonlight scattered on the cobbles, cool and insubstantial.
A meteor glided overhead.
Ji Jiang raised her head, watching it. The meteor dragged a thin band of light behind it, into the distance, where it gradually disappeared.
There’d been many similar meteors this year. She’d seen them flying above the royal palace on more than one night. For some reason, she felt uneasy.
As if to justify her premonition, strange events began to occur in the palace.
Things kept on disappearing, then gradually reappeared later in strange places: in corners, underneath the stove, in the garden. At times, they even returned to the same place where they’d begun. Other objects never reappeared.
Ji Jiang at first suspected a thief among the servants, but the missing objects were too random, and often relatively worthless: an incense burner, a mirror, a clay pot, a lamp. Why wouldn’t a thief target the most valuable items?
When the objects began to reappear, Ji Jiang thought it even odder. What kind of thief put back the things he stole?
She originally didn’t want to bother the King of Qi with such minor matters, but they were now too strange to ignore. Unexpectedly, when she told the king, he only said absentmindedly: “Ah, very well.”
Ji Jiang could tolerate the disappearance of a few knickknacks, but the appearance of a much larger object in the palace pushed her beyond her limits.
Early that morning, she’d drowsily approached the stables to check on Windchaser, the horse that the King of Qi planned to ride that day to the army’s drilling field.
At first glance, she’d thought she’d seen wrong.
She rubbed her eyes, looked again, and screamed, waking the nearby stablehands.
An astonished crowd gathered in front of the stall.
Two identical Windchasers stood in the stall, side by side! Their coats were equally white, their legs equally long and slim. Even their brand marks and bridles were the same.
This strange occurrence was soon reported to the King of Qi, who said: “Oh, ignore it, let the horses stay there.”
Ji Jiang couldn’t endure any longer. “Your Highness, I think there’s something wrong here.”
The King of Qi said: “What do you mean?”
Ji Jiang said: “I think there’s a spy in the palace!”
The King of Qi laughed. “Don’t be silly, would a spy send me a free horse?”
“Your Highness, can’t you be serious?” Ji Jiang said frantically. “If someone can sneak something as big as a horse into the royal palace without anyone noticing, then he can sneak into your bedchamber without anyone noticing! The Hegemon-King of Chu has a bounty of a thousand pounds of gold and a ten thousand household marquisate on your head! There’s a long line of people who want to kill you!”
The King of Qi said: “A thousand pounds of gold and a ten thousand household marquisate? My head is worth only that? Hai! That Xiang Yu still doesn’t respect me at all. When the time comes, watch me put the same price on his head!”
Ji Jiang stomped her foot in frustration. “Your Highness, what’s with you? I’m being serious, but you--”
The King of Qi took out his new gold headdress, beautifully crafted as promised. He raised it to his head for comparison, then called to Ji Jiang: “Come, help me with my hair. I want to try out this new headdress.”
Ji Jiang came with her yellow poplar-wood comb, unfastened the King of Qi’s old headdress, and loosened his hair. As she combed, she said: “Your Highness, why are you so preoccupied lately?”
“Hmm?” The King of Qi fiddled with the gold headdress in his hands. “How did you know?”
Ji Jiang pulled out a hair. The King of Qi yelped and said: ‘What are you doing?”
Ji Jiang held the hair in front of the King of Qi’s face. “Look, Your Highness, your hair’s already turning white! I’ve never seen you so worn in spirit before. Your Highness, what’s wrong? Can I help?”
The King of Qi took the white hair and looked at it, before turning to shift his gaze towards Ji Jiang. His eyes held something complicated. “You have a good heart, little girl. But don’t worry for me. I won’t be preoccupied for much longer.”
Ji Jiang turned his head back into position and continued combing his hair. “Just what is this about? Can you tell me?”
The King of Qi resumed fiddling with the golden headdress. “I... maybe I’ll tell you in the future.”
A frantic chamberlain came in to report that, of the two horses in the stall, only one remained.
“Very well,” the King of Qi said without stilling his hands. “You can return to your post now!”
Ji Jiang froze.
The King of Qi said: “Hey, how come you’re not combing anymore? You aren’t done yet. Continue!”
“No, this is serious, Your Highness,” Ji Jiang said. “You need to change the palace guards. What has this place become? Someone’s able to get something as large as a horse in and out at will! How are you supposed to live here?”
The King of Qi said: “Ai, isn’t it just a horse? It’s nothing! Don’t worry. Keep combing, and fasten this headdress on there for me. I want to see how it looks.”
Deeply worried, Ji Jiang tied the King of Qi’s topknot. “Your Highness, what’s with you? This is huge. Why aren’t you remotely concerned?”
“Hai!” said the King of Qi. “You were worrying that we gained a horse, and now you’re worried that we lost a horse. What’s the point? We had exactly one Windchaser to begin with. Isn’t this normal?”
Ji Jiang fastened the gold headdress for the King of Qi. “Your Highness, I wasn’t talking about the horse. I was talking about you. You... you’ve changed, recently. Have you yourself realized?”
The King of Qi said: “Oh? I’ve changed? How? I don’t feel any different.”
“You don’t care about the things you should care about,” Ji Jiang said, “but you care about the things you shouldn’t carry about. Your Highness, you... what exactly have you concerned yourself with?”
“Hey, what should I care about? What shouldn’t I care about? These are your judgments, and you can’t force them on me. Here, move the mirror a little closer.”
Ji Jiang stood in front of the King of Qi with the mirror in her hands. “So many people change when they gain the authority of kings. Your Highness, I hope--”
“A little higher, yes.” The King of Qi faced the mirror, admiring his new headdress. “Do you think I’m that sort of person?”
I think one of the themes of this novel is that all kings are mentally unstable except possibly for the ones who die and/or get demoted quickly.
 Yu is one of the sixty-four hexagrams of the Book of Changes.
 Jiufanggao lived during the Spring and Autumn Period, and was famed for his knowledge of horses. Bo Yue recommended him to Duke Mu of Qin, who sought a "thousand-li horse." After three months of searching, Jiufanggao reported to Duke Mu that he'd found a yellow mare of that high quality. However, when Duke Mu sent men to pick it up, they found that the horse was a black stallion. Duke Mu was displeased and complained to Bo Yue, who answered that Jiufanggao was so skilled that he saw straight past to the horse's very nature without even noticing its appearance. When the horse was tested, it was indeed a peerless mount.