In the blink of an eye, New Year had come again.
The Jing Prince was still the same as last year, entertaining the various officials on the 29th and spending New Year’s Eve in the rear court.
According to convention, the Jing Prince would spend the New Year’s Eve banquet with the “entire family”. Unfortunately the Jing Consort had been confined and the other three didn’t show any movements, so he left it at that.
Of course this was all noticed by Xiao Hua. As the date approached, she had started feeling anxious. Without considering anything else, when the Jing Consort saw her appearance it would only be a matter of time before she was swallowed up.
Regarding the matter of her pregnancy, Xiao Hua had also discussed with Ding Xiang whether she should keep it hidden. Ding Xiang smiled and told her to focus on her health. Everything else can be left to Eunuch Fu and Auntie Qi.
Since Eunuch Fu and Auntie Qi had interfered already, Xiao Hua didn’t say anything else. Regardless, it was fine as long as she didn’t go out. Her thoughts happened to coincide with the Jing Prince’s, so there weren’t any issues.
Snow was falling heavily outside. The western pavilion’s lamps were all lit.
Within the main reception, a square table full of food was placed in the center. Only Xiao Hua and the Jing Prince were seated there. Eunuch Fu, Ding Xiang, Xiao Xia Zi and the rest were serving on the side.
The two of them ate a little before clearing away the table.
They then went to the eastern side room, leaving a single person with them for service. The others went to the auxiliary residence, which also had two tables filled with New Year’s Eve dishes. This was suggested by Xiao Hua. They couldn’t prevent the servants from eating at the end of every year, right?
This year, Eunuch Fu’s gang also ended up eating in a different location. They were gathered within the main residence’s side room where Eunuch Fu often stayed.
Eunuch Su was here today as well. The people sitting there were all full of joy.
“Big bro Fu is finally satisfied!” Eunuch Su had a cheerful personality to begin with, and also spent most of his time running about outside. His words were naturally extremely unrestrained.
Eunuch Fu’s face was full of smiles. He didn’t look different from before, but everyone seated here knew that his smile was genuine this time.
The people chatted idly for a bit before Eunuch Su asked: “That side is still being confined?” He pouted his lips as he spoke, and they all knew whom he was referring to.
Eunuch Fu smiled, “His highness has been busy recently. Since the master didn’t bring it up, how can us servants speak out of turn.”
Eunuch Su chuckled in understanding.
Eunuch Fu spoke again: “Especially since this side has her hands full recently. Her stomach is huge, she’s carrying two and is also being forced about every day. Why would I seek problems for myself and make her unhappy.”
Everyone laughed at these words, their smiles were rather meaningful.
Eunuch Fu was a little angry from shame as he said, “This is for the sake of the young master in her stomach, not for her sake.”
Eunuch Su patted his shoulders, “Aiya, big bro Fu, no need to explain. We all understand.”
In the eastern side room.
Xiao Hua sat on the kiln with two pillows propped behind her back. A light blanket covered her body.
Her stomach was already very big at six months, like a wash basin strapped to her body. At this time it was hard to stand yet also hard to sit. The only slightly comfortable position was to half recline.
The most comfortable spot on the kiln had long since been yielded to her. The Jing Prince sat on the side.
“Ate too little.” The Jing Prince even remembered how many bites she had eaten just then.
Xiao Hua pulled his hand over and smiled as she explained: “I’m not hungry, and Nana He also said I can’t eat too much in one sitting. Instead, I have to eat more frequently.”
“So complicated?” Wasn’t it enough to eat well for a pregnant woman to be healthier?
Xiao Hua nodded her head, “If one doesn’t pay attention to this when having twins, they would grow too big and the birth would be harder.”
The Jing Prince frowned and decided to ask Eunuch Fu about it the next day.
“If you’re sleepy, you should go turn in.” The Jing Prince saw that Xiao Hua started yawning after sitting for a short while.
“No, no. Isn’t it tradition on New Year’s Eve to stay awake until after midnight?”
They actually weren’t that picky about tradition. No one had stayed up for it last year either. However, Xiao Hua said it because she had seen less of the Jing Prince during this period of time. She wanted him to stay a little longer, and chat with her or something.
Although she said this, Xiao Hua fell asleep soon after.
Her small face seemed as if covered in a layer of gold muslin under the lamplight. That palm-sized little face was fuller than before, but she still seemed as slender. This sort of slenderness contrasted with her large stomach made one feel worried she wouldn’t be able to endure the weight.
The Jing Prince looked at her silently. He stretched his hand out and stroked her hair, and then touched her face. Finally, he placed his hand on her stomach, his heart filled with limitless warmth.
He had been very tired recently. Not just physically, but mentally as well. There were things he had been unwilling to do in the past, and things he ignored or couldn’t be bothered about. Now he had to start changing his attitude.
But this sort of tiredness mysteriously vanished after seeing her. The Jing Prince temporarily didn’t understand what this meant, but he didn’t reject this sort of feeling.
Only after waiting another while did he carry the fast asleep person to the bedroom.
The next day when Xiao Hua naturally awoke, she realized the Jing Prince was still there.
She was a little surprised. These days it was rare for him to still be there when she woke up.
Every day she would sleep until late in the morning before waking up. According to Ding Xiang, he would wake very early these days, and sometimes would even leave before dawn.
The Jing Prince had woken very early, but had lay there without getting up. He had silently enjoyed this rare moment of idleness.
“Today is the first day of the year. No official business.”
Actually there still was official business, and he had a lot to do. But it was the New Year. If he didn’t take a break, all his subordinates wouldn’t be able to either. After working for an entire year, they needed some time off.
Seeing that she was very happy, he spoke again: “No need for several days.”
It was as though spring had come and the flowers were blooming. Xiao Hua’s smile was extremely resplendent. All her happiness was distilled into a single phrase, “How wonderful.”
The two of them prepared to get up. Only after the Jing Prince got off the bed did he realize that she hadn’t sat up yet.
He had never seen such a situation before since he would always leave before she woke up. He didn’t realize that it was so hard for her to move.
The Jing Prince went over and picked her up, placing her on the side of the bed. Xiao Hua blushed, “Stomach’s too big, moving isn’t convenient.”
The Jing Prince stroked her hair and called for service.
After the two washed up and changed, breakfast had already been placed on the eastern side room’s table.
After the meal, Xiao Hua sat for a quarter of an hour before starting her daily walk with Ding Xiang accompanying her. The Jing Prince had planned on going to the study, but didn’t go after seeing this.
Xiao Hua couldn’t have anyone supporting her while she was walking. Ding Xiang could only follow along next to her. Xiao Hua’s steps were very heavy, taking one step at a time. She didn’t feel it at first since it hadn’t been that long, but after a quarter of an hour her face started getting red and her steps became unsteady. It seemed like she didn’t have the strength to drag her feet anymore.
Even so, she didn’t stop and continued walking. Ding Xiang kept glancing at the hourglass on the table.
The Jing Prince knew that being pregnant was hard work from her sitting and sleeping postures. However, he never expected this.
“Take a rest.” He said.
Xiao Hua turned her face and flashed him a smile, “The time’s not up yet.”
The Jing Prince’s brows involuntarily furrowed.
After walking another while, Xiao Hua started panting. The Jing Prince thought it was time to stop already, but then heard that palace maid on the side encouraging her, “Madam, keep it up. There’s only half the time to brew a cup of tea left1.”
Xiao Hua’s body was slender to begin with, and carrying that large stomach made one afraid she was about to fall over. The Jing Prince was constantly afraid of disaster occurring, and could no longer endure at this time. He didn’t say anything before going over, lifting her up and placing her onto the chair.
“What’s going on here?!”
This was the first time the Jing Prince’s tone was so strict.
Ding Xiang’s face instantly paled. She knelt to the ground with a thud, “Highness, madam is building up her stamina. It’s like this every day.”
The Jing Prince’s expression was a little frightening. Chun Cao explained with a trembling voice, “Nana He said this would help with the birth….”
Before she finished speaking, she heard the Jing Prince say: “Go invite Nana He over.”
Seeing this situation, Ding Lan, Xiao Xia Zi and the rest all shrunk their necks down out of fear. Chun Cao hurriedly went to invite Nana He over. Xiao Hua was a little stunned at the moment and didn’t know what to say either.
Nana He came very quickly. Seeing the Jing Prince’s expression, she felt a little fearful.
“Greetings to highness.”
“What’s going on here?”
Chun Cao had summarized everything to her on the way there. Nana He had some understanding as she logically spoke: “Highness, this is this servant’s idea. Madam is young and is pregnant with twins. Moving about more will help with the birth.”
“Including eating less with every meal?”
The Jing Prince still remembered what happened the day before. He had eaten with Xiao Hua in the past, and knew how much she normally ate. But he didn’t expect that after she got pregnant with twins, she would eat so little last night.
“Yes.” Nana He elaborated: “Although she eats less with every meal, she also eats more frequently so she gets enough nutrition. If the babies get too big, it would be much harder to give birth.”
After listening, the Jing Prince understood the point. He spaced out for a moment before his expression eased up. He waved his hand and let them take their leave.
“Highness, I’m really fine. Nana He set the perfect amount of time. It’s enough for me to train my body without being too exhausted.”
The Jing Prince gave her a glance and didn’t speak, merely stroking her hair.
When Xiao Hua took a nap in the afternoon, the Jing Prince went to the western room’s study and summoned Eunuch Fu, Nana He and Doctor Hu over.
“Tell me about the overall situation.”
When the Jing Prince had her leave without saying anything in the morning, Nana He predicted he would come find her again. As expected, he already came in the afternoon.
Eunuch Fu was actually here to listen to the situation, so Nana He and Doctor Hu summarized everything. As for Matron Xu, she didn’t have the qualifications to meet the Jing Prince.
The situation was like this: Madam Hua was currently in a good condition, and if things were maintained the birth shouldn’t be difficult.
But the Jing Prince caught the fact that “shouldn’t” implied some degree of danger.
The Jing Prince had never understood these things. All he knew of women giving birth was when Xiao-Shi screamed her head off both times while giving birth in her past life. He couldn’t remember how he felt at the time, and could only remember that her cries were very tragic. When he thought of Xiao Hua’er in that state, his heart shivered.
After spending over an hour to understand the situation, the Jing Prince sat at the desk. His expression was normal but the hands on his knees were gripped tightly into fists.
He had everyone take their leave and sat in the study for a long time.
After that time, the Jing Prince never said anything during Xiao Hua’s daily walks. He only sat and watched on the side. During meals, he also didn’t mention how she ate less, and instead in a rare display would put some of Nana He’s specialty dishes into her bowl with his chopsticks.
These idle days passed in the blink of an eye. The Jing Prince started leaving early and returning late once again, and Xiao Hua continued to maintain her health.
He was busy and she was also busy, both struggling towards their own goals.