August 15th1 marked the arrival of the mid-Autumn festival, but the Jing Prince Estate didn’t seem to be making preparations for festivities.
Of course, this was merely based on Xiao Hua’s observations. She never left the Hall of Splendor and naturally wasn’t aware that the palace maids in other areas were rather busy. The Jing Prince had to host a banquet in the Hall of Ascension for the various officials in his vassal state.
Apart from a few factors, being a vassal prince in the Grand Xi Dynasty was actually quite nice.
The imperial court gave vassal princes a lot of freedom. Apart from a few necessary defensive measures, the vassal state was basically the prince’s own little country.
Since the Jing Prince ruled over them, the officials under his jurisdiction definitely took the chance to curry some favor during the various annual holidays and festivals. After all, everyone had some ambition in their hearts. No matter how much the prince was averse to such festivities, he still had to host them occasionally. It was necessary to tell those under him “Right, you guys are excellent. This humble prince is very satisfied with you all. This banquet is held in your honor as a reward for everyone”.
Therefore, such occasions had become occasions for the Jing Prince to interact with his subordinates.
All of the officials within the Jing Provinces borders were well aware of their lord’s personality.
He had no habits and never spoke. Of course he also wasn’t mute. When the Jing Prince first arrived, many had heard the rumors from the capital that the fifth prince was mute. But after serving under him for a while they realized he wasn’t actually mute, he just didn’t enjoy speaking.
Just like now, where the Jing Prince sat on the main seat in the Hall of Ascension, drinking by himself as though the celebrations below had nothing to do with him. The Jing Prince wore a traditional prince’s crown and outfit today, looking very regal and striking. Unfortunately his apathetic aura was too strong, making others notice his indifference instead of his handsome appearance.
Even though everyone noticed this inharmonious contrast, they pretended not to see it and even dialed up their celebrations.
This was a benefit hosted by their lord. Even if they weren’t interested, the subordinates had an obligation to create a festive atmosphere to avoid provoking their lord’s anger. What? This humble prince hosted a feast for you all. What is the meaning of your sorrowful faces and unhappiness?
Therefore, the lively feast proceeded under this type of strange atmosphere. If one didn’t look at the prince’s apathetic face and ignored the fact that he hadn’t spoken a word since the start, it was actually a pretty good time.
Halfway through the feast, an official around forty years old paid respects.
“Your highness Jing Prince, this lower official Zhu Da Jian, Governor of the Lucheng District has specially prepared an offering for your highness during this mid-Autumn Festival.”
After speaking, a fifteen or sixteen year old girl in the prime of her life walked through the doors of the hall. She wore an emerald green sleeveless blouse and a pale bluish white skirt embroidered with branches and grass patterns. A jade hazy satin veil was draped over her, her shoulders sharp, her waist narrow, her muscles toned, and her eyes contained promises of flowing spring waters. She was a beauty!
The others at the feast were extremely dumbfounded. Offering a beauty!?
Everyone looked at the district governor Zhu Da Jian with weird expressions, as though they were getting ready to watch a good show.
“I present my humble daughter Bi Yan to his highness the Jing Prince. She can sing and dance, play instruments and is fifteen years old this year.”
It had to be said that this Zhu Da Jian was a wily old fox. Not only did he offer up his own daughter, it was also in front of so many people yet there was no awkwardness or embarrassment in his expression. In fact, his face even held a smile as he kept a casual expression.
The girl called Bi Yan knelt beside her father. Although her face was not visible, her lithe figure left little to the imagination as she supplicated herself on the floor. Especially when the lights in the palace hall shone upon her body, the skin on her neck looked even more pure and lustrous, as though it were almost translucent.
Unfortunately these charms were shown to a blind man. The Jing Prince’s gaze was faint, yet seemed as if it never focused on this girl’s figure.
If it were someone normal, they would accept by saying “Hahaha, this humble prince shall accept governor Zhu’s kind intentions”. If they wanted to refuse, well, normally when a subordinate offered up a beauty, most of them would be accepted. After all, offering beauties at feasts was quite common, and rejections in this situation were rare.
Unfortunately they had encountered a weirdo this time. There were no words, no gestures, and even barely a glance spared towards those kneeling.
The hall was extremely silent. The kneeling father and daughter pair couldn’t help but start feeling nervous. The instruments within the hall had stopped playing at some point in time. The nervous Zhu Da Jian seemed to hear the sounds of suppressed laughter from the side.
In theory there should have been someone stepping forward at this time to smooth things over. This job was most appropriate for the Adjutant’s Office’s Left Adjutant Guan Zheng.
Unfortunately Guan Zheng hadn’t been in the Jing Province for long, and wasn’t familiar with the subordinate officials. The Jing Prince also didn’t really respond to him, and since he had his own pride as a scholar, he didn’t want to get snubbed.
Guan Zheng had worked in the Adjutant’s Office of the Jing Prince Estate for some time, and faintly felt that his colleagues seemed to shun him a little. However, he intended to muddle along until his time was up anyway, so he didn’t take things too seriously. Seeing the awkward silence at this moment, he had some hidden grievances in his heart and naturally wouldn’t step up as a mediator.
“Governor Zhu is being too polite. Our highness isn’t such a strict person, hurry and take your seat at the banquet.” Eunuch Fu walked out at a fast pace with a face full of smiles. He politely lifted him up.
He then called a low-ranked eunuch over, “Why don’t you quickly take Miss Zhu to get some rest.”
Right as he finished speaking, the instruments in the all started playing again. The others at the feast all started toasting and drinking again, as though the awkward episode had never happened.
Zhu Da Jian sat there still quite alarmed when an official next to him said: “This is probably your first time in the Jing Prince Estate, right? This lord of ours isn’t interested in such things. Also he’s naturally taciturn. Today Eunuch Fu helped you smooth things over. Normally there isn’t someone there to do so, and you aren’t the first one to get embarrassed to death.”
“But my daughter, isn’t my daughter being sent to get some rest?” Zhu Da Jian was still concerned about this matter.
The officials gaze turned strange, “Just wait and you’ll see.” After speaking, he went off to drink with others.
After the feast ended, Zhu Da Jian walked back to his carriage still thinking of the words “just wait and you’ll see”. Only when he reached his carriage did one of the servants who followed him over tell him that the young miss had indeed been resting. She had been resting in the carriage for a very long time.
Within the estate, the palace maids and eunuchs also had extra dishes with their dinner that evening. They even handed out two mooncakes to each servant.
The Grand Xi Dynasty celebrated the mid-Autumn Festival, and although they couldn’t have a family reunion, the atmosphere was still filled with a festive mood.
The Hall of Splendor was even more so. His highness had gone to the front to host the banquet so the small kitchen specially made a few tables’ worth of festive dishes. The eunuchs and palace maids all gathered together in a lively manner to celebrate.
Xiao Hua and Chun Cao helped the older palace maids and nanas in the small kitchen. The people working there all had unique personalities, but were still rather fond of the two little lasses.
Once they were full, Nana He saw that Xiao Hua liked to eat mooncakes and stuffed her another two.
Xiao Hua had eaten mooncakes before in the Jinyang Marquis Estate, but those in the Jing Prince Estate clearly tasted better by far. The mooncakes were filled with either red or green bean paste. They were sweet but you wouldn’t get sick of it. Xiao Hua liked eating them, but unfortunately Nana He said these kinds of things shouldn’t be eaten excessively to avoid indigestion.
Xiao Hua took the two cakes given to her by Nana He back to the room, and gave one to Chun Cao. Although she didn’t get sick of them while eating, there was unavoidably some cloying sensation afterwards.
Xiao Hua ran over and felt her pot of water, but realized it had gotten cold. She didn’t feel like drinking cold water. After eating something too cloyingly sweet, it was more comfortable to drink warm water. Realizing that the small kitchen wouldn’t have any heated water at this moment, she thought about the tea room inside the hall.
There was a small stove in the tea room which would always have heated water in case his highness needed tea.
After staying in the Hall of Splendor for a period of time, Xiao Hua had gotten quite a bit more daring. Thinking that his highness wouldn’t return tonight since he was hosting the banquet, Xiao Hua grabbed her small teapot and went to the hall.
After entering the tea room, she saw that the low-ranked eunuch responsible for the room wasn’t present, most likely out celebrating. As expected, there was a copper kettle filled with water. Xiao Hua had boiled water on this stove before, and knew what to do.
After a moment, the water started boiling. Xiao Hua poured the water into her teapot, and refilled the copper kettle. After reducing the fire on the stove, she grabbed her small teapot and headed out.
As she reached the doors of the hall, she saw the prince return followed by Eunuch Fu.
At this moment there wasn’t anywhere to hide her teapot. Xiao Hua forced a smile and knelt down to pay respects.
As expected, the two didn’t say anything about it. After the Jing Prince entered the hall, Eunuch Fu turned towards her and said, “Go steep some tea for his highness.”
Xiao Hua stuffed her own teapot away randomly and went back to the tea room to steep tea.
After serving the tea, no one spoke and she didn’t dare leave, standing to the side as a pillar.
The room was very silent. The Jing Prince had seemingly drunk a little too much alcohol and lay there rubbing his head. The Jing Prince’s outfit was quite different from his usual, his set of royal prince’s garb was very imposing. Also since he was drunk, his eyes were not as indifferent as normal, looking rather hazy instead. His normally dull lips seemed extremely vivid and filled with an alluring color.
Xiao Hua had always known the prince to be good looking, but at this moment she turned a little sluggish from staring, hurriedly lowering her head.
Eunuch Fu served attentively on the side, “You highness, drink some tea to clear your mind. Is your head in a lot of pain?”
The Jing Prince didn’t have much tolerance for alcohol, and every time he hosted a banquet he would return drunk. However he held his alcohol well. When he was drunk he would only have a headache, and wouldn’t fly into a drunken rage.
“How about I help you to your bed?”
The Jing Prince drank his tea and sat for another while before standing up. From his stride and appearance he seemed completely sober.
Eunuch Fu lifted his foot to follow, and noticed Xiao Hua by the side.
“You follow along as well and help out.”
The low-ranked eunuchs in the hall had all gone off to who knows where, so Xiao Hua could only follow behind Eunuch Fu and enter the rear hall.
This was her first time in the rear hall of the Hall of Splendor. The decorations and layout of the hall were luxurious, yet still appeared low key and imposing. Having been swept along to the inner hall, she saw an extremely large bed surrounded by purple curtains embroidered with dragon motifs.
The Jing Prince stood in front of the bed and raised his arms. Eunuch Fu stood to the side and helped the prince remove his crown. During this time he signaled for Xiao Hua to help the prince take off his clothes.
This was Xiao Hua’s first time serving the prince so closely. As for helping a man take off his clothing, she was not unfamiliar with it. In her last life, she had helped the 4th young master do so many times. But for some reason, as she put her hand on the Jing Prince’s belt, she actually felt a hint of unease. Her nose was filled with the scent of alcohol and a faint masculine smell, making her nervous for no apparent reason.
Xiao Hua’s movements were extremely careful, and undressed him until he was in his undergarments. The Jing Prince then sat on the bed, waiting for someone to take off his shoes. Xiao Hua carefully knelt and removed them.
The moment she put the shoes down, An Chen appeared from somewhere and placed a copper basin of water next to the prince’s feet and immediately stood to the side.
What was the meaning of this?
Xiao Hua turned her head and looked back. Eunuch Fu stood smiling far away, and although An Chen stood close by, his attitude clearly showed he wasn’t going to get involved.
Xiao Hua’s eyes flashed, and she could only obediently remove the prince’s socks, place his feet in the basin and start washing them.
The Jing Prince’s feet were very large, and Xiao Hua’s hands seemed very small in comparison. At most they seemed to be half the size. The prince’s feet were also very white. Xiao Hua briefly compared and saw they were whiter than her hands by a shade.
How could a servant not have experience with feet washing? Xiao Hua placed her hands in the water and delicately rubbed the prince’s feet. In any case, the master’s feet would be better smelling than the servant’s hands, so there wasn’t any need for Xiao Hua to feel disgusted. Furthermore, the prince’s feet didn’t have any unpleasant odor, and was very clean.
After washing, the low ranked eunuch on the side brought over a towel. Xiao Hua grabbed it and dried the water off.
After everything was done, Xiao Hua was panting due not to tiredness but nervousness instead.
Initially she thought she was done and could return to her room to properly nurse her startled heart. Who would have expected the drunk person to suddenly speak?
A sudden clap of thunder struck Xiao Hua on her head, making her dumb as a wooden chicken.
The Jing Prince already lay prone on the bed, waiting for Xiao Hua to approach.
Eunuch Fu softly coughed a couple of times by the side, and Xiao Hua immediately walked over as though she received an electric shock.
She still wanted to struggle, and with a difficult expression said to Eunuch Fu: “Manager Fu, this servant still needs to clean her hands.”
She had touched the Jing Prince’s feet just now after all. Touching his back after touching his feet, even if the Jing Prince didn’t knock her to death Eunuch Fu would do so.
At Eunuch Fu’s hand gesture, two more low-ranked eunuchs appeared carrying another basin of water, with a hand towel on the side. They even prepared some lotion.
Xiao Hua could only smile bitterly to herself. She had the feeling of a duck being driven onto a perch2, washed her hands clean, applied some lotion, took a deep breath and approached the bed.
She didn’t dare look at the prince’s current appearance. She warmed her hands up, bent over beside the bed and started massaging.
Don’t be scared, don’t be scared, it wasn’t her first time doing this. She was just nervous because of the change in location. There wasn’t any need to be nervous.
Comforting herself like this, Xiao Hua was no longer nervous and started to massage the prince seriously.
When Xiao Hua was serious she would be extremely focused. After finishing a set of massage techniques on his back, she realized the surroundings had grown extremely quiet. She turned her head slightly and realized that Eunuch Fu and the rest of the eunuchs had actually disappeared at some point. The curtains surrounding the bed had also been lowered.