This day, Ding Xiang came to pick up the nourishing soup.
When the small kitchen was notified, Nana He personally placed a small black jar into a small basket and handed it over to Auntie Meng.
Although Auntie Meng and Nana He weren’t master and disciple in name, Auntie Meng’s culinary skills were all taught by Nana He. Therefore, the two of them had always been close, and Auntie Meng could be counted as one of Nana He’s trusted people. Handing over the soup to the western pavilion’s people could clearly be done by low-ranked eunuchs, but Nana He never let anyone else handle it. Auntie Meng would always go personally.
Those who came from the palace were always careful.
Auntie Meng went to the Hall of Splendor’s gates and gave the basket in her hands to Ding Xiang. She also took yesterday’s basket from Ding Xiang’s hands.
“We’ve troubled Auntie Meng again.”
“No trouble at all. Hurry and head on back.”
After Ding Xiang left, Auntie Meng turned around and went back inside.
She had just taken a couple of steps when she saw a low-ranked palace maid coming towards her.
This low-ranked palace maid was young, around fourteen years old. She wore a pink little jacket with a pale bluish white skirt. Her face was oval shaped with a pair of large and glittering peach blossom eyes. She had a pair of pouted little cherry lips and a slender, willow-like narrow waist.
Seeing that pair of eyes, Auntie Meng thought of Xiao Dou Zi’s words from yesterday and put the two together in her heart.
It wasn’t as though Auntie Meng hadn’t seen these few people before, but she had never had such a close encounter. Therefore she was only seen their general appearance. Now that they were face to face, she could naturally see things more clearly.
The thought “really alike after all” flashed through her mind.
But it was just the eyes. The appearance and mannerisms were different.
Auntie Meng brushed past without batting an eyelid. That low-ranked palace maid gave her a glance, her eyes full of curiosity.
Seeing this elderly palace maid walk past, Qian Xi walked to the gate area and upon seeing the low-ranked eunuch guarding the doors she put on a sweet smile.
“Eunuch Xiao Li Zi, who was that auntie just now? Why does this servant see her come and send something outside every day?”
“That is the small kitchen’s Auntie Meng delivering nourishing soup to Madam Hua.”
Qian Xi was puzzled, and said with a smile: “Who is Madam Hua, and why does Auntie Meng have to send her nourishing soup?”
Xiao Li Zi gave her a side glance, his expression neither cold nor warm: “Don’t ask questions you shouldn’t be asking. Who Madam Hua is naturally isn’t something you can inquire about at your level. We’ve also mentioned several times that Eunuch Fu has ordered none of you may leave the Hall of splendor without express permission. Don’t keep coming over here during your free time.”
“Oh, thanks for Eunuch Li’s advice.”
Qian Xi smiled timidly, and only after turning her head did she reveal a hint of indignation.
Ding Xiang brought back the food.
Ding Lan and Chun Cao finished setting up the table before leaving to eat their own lunch. Ding Xiang was left behind to serve.
“Madam, drink some soup first before eating.”
Ding Xiang took out the small jar and opened the lid, taking out a small porcelain bowl as she spoke and pouring over half a bowl of soup.
Xiao Hua received it and used a small soup spoon to drink.
“Mm…Nana’s skills are becoming better and better. This soup is really fragrant.” She squinted her eyes in enjoyment, her slightly tilted eyes half shut.
Ding Xiang made a small sound of puzzlement and Xiao Hua lifted her gaze over.
On the back of the jar’s lid was a piece of wax paper the size of a thumb. Ding Xiang picked at it with her fingers and the slip of wax paper fell off. It was stuck on the lid with a small piece of dough.
The wax paper was folded. Ding Xiang opened it up and saw that it contained a very thin strip of paper.
Xiao Hua put down the bowl in her hands and received it.
The piece of paper actually had some small words written on it: make a trip to the small kitchen.
The nourishing soup was sent by Nana He and the jar came from the small kitchen. That meant this slip of paper was sent from the small kitchen.
Xiao Hua thought of Nana He right away.
Ding Xiang turned the wax paper over and said: “Madam, there isn’t anything else.”
“It’s fine. These should be Nana He’s words to me.”
But why couldn’t she say it directly and needed to use such a method? Xiao Hua and Ding Xiang both had similar thoughts and they looked at each other with doubts in their eyes.
“Go burn it. Pretend nothing unusual happened.”
Xiao Hua said as she lifted the bowl of soup with her hands again.
As she ate, Xiao Hua continued to ponder over this question, but couldn’t come to any conclusions after thinking for a long time.
Nana He would definitely not send her these words for no reason. The Hall of Splendor was extremely hard for outsiders to enter. Everyone was aware of this. That’s why there had to be a reason.
But what was this reason?
The Jing Prince returned from the front court, and as he reached the alleyway towards the Hall of Splendor his foot turned towards the western pavilion’s direction instead.
“Highness, not going back to the Hall of Splendor?” Eunuch Fu asked quietly on the side.
The Jing Prince hadn’t gone back for several days. No wonder Eunuch Fu was so impatient.
The Jing Prince didn’t say anything and continued walking. When they reached the western pavilion, Chun Mei was about to announce his arrival when she was halted by the Jing Prince’s slight hand motion.
Xiao Hua was holed up on the kiln reading. Hearing movement outside, she was about to get up to greet the visitor when the Jing Prince already walked in. He raised his hand to prevent her from getting off the kiln and sat himself down on the kiln’s edge.
“Highness.” Xiao Hua’s eyes contained some happiness. The Jing Prince’s recent considerate actions had especially made her heart feel suffused with sweetness.
The Jing Prince stroked Xiao Hua’s hair. His expression didn’t change but his gaze softened.
“Highness just returned from the front court? Will you leave later? If not, this servant concubine will have them bring over some indoor clothing. Wearing outdoor clothing inside just feels uncomfortable.”
Hearing this, Xiao Hua’s smile grew wider.
Ding Xiang brought over the casualwear left behind by the Jing Prince at the western pavilion, as well as a pair of extremely soft silk shoes.
Xiao Hua got off the kiln and sincerely helped the Jing Prince change his clothing. As she prepared to crouch down to help him change his shoes, she was held fast by the Jing Prince.
Ding Xiang’s eyes were sharp, and seeing this she hurried over and knelt, changing his shoes for him.
Afterwards, Ding Lan served tea and the palace maids filed out one by one.
The Jing Prince didn’t like having a lot of personal servants around, and Xiao Hua also felt more reserved if others were around while she interacted with him. As time passed, the two of them wouldn’t leave anyone behind when they were together. Even Eunuch Fu could do his own thing when he came to the western pavilion.
Xiao Hua gave her previous spot to the Jing Prince, and once she helped him settle down against the kiln, she sat down next to him.
The Jing Prince stroked her hair a little and she rubbed his finger a little in return. The gestures were quite vague but the atmosphere was extremely good. Although Xiao Hua saw the same apathy in the Jing Prince’s eyes, she was able to grasp some things within that made her feel happy.
The books he liked to read were all by his side, and he casually picked one up and started flipping through it. Xiao Hua sat on the side sewing a piece of clothing in her hands. The Jing Prince’s gaze would occasionally lift up and take a glance at her. Seeing that piece of pale bluish white clothing, his mood was extremely good.
“Is it really ok to not embroider anything on this innerwear?”
Especially since his highness’s innerwear were all extremely exquisite. Although they looked plain, the faint patterns on the cuffs made it clear that they were made by extremely skilled seamstresses. When she looked at the clothing in her own hands, Xiao Hua would feel a sort of shame.
The Jing Prince didn’t speak, but stroked her hands a little.
“Alright, this servant concubine won’t ask you anymore. As long as you think it’s fine.” After falling silent for a bit, Xiao Hua spoke again: “Forget it, this servant concubine will still embroider some patterns. If it’s not good, highness definitely can’t dislike it.” Thinking it over, she felt that it could only be this way.
The Jing Prince seemed to have heard the worry in her tone and stroked her hair again.
The sense of shame and apprehension vanished, and Xiao Hua’s half lowered face revealed a wider smile. She buried her head and continued to sew.
After working for a while, Xiao Hua glanced at the hourglass on the cabinet nearby. Over half an hour had already passed in the blink of an eye. She put down the needlework in her hands.
Seeing that person still engrossed in reading, she said: “Highness, let’s go take a rest.”
The Jing Prince raised his eyes and gave her a glance, putting down the book in his hands.
Both of them were extremely monotonous people. Xiao Hua would usually do some needlework, read or play some backgammon with the palace maids in her free time. The Jing Prince was even simpler. At least Xiao Hua had never seen him do anything apart from read or sit staring into space.
Seeing that person glancing at her, Xiao Hua shuffled over to cuddle. She felt him use his arms to wrap around her, and she sighed in contentment.
Xiao Hua had never dared imagine such a situation. Although the Jing Prince didn’t like to speak, he honestly treated her extremely well. She always heard the servants say how “highness extremely favors madam”, and her heart gradually began to feel as such.
It’s just that he still had that taciturn personality.
Xiao Hua raised her eyes and looked at him, and saw the pupils that were looking at her. They were very black and very bright, limpid and translucent as though they were emotionless, yet they were focused.
It seemed that with this, she was able to accept his unwillingness to speak, right?
Everyone had their own personalities. The face that he could be this way was already extremely, extremely, extremely good. It was good to the extent that she would feel like suddenly crying sometimes when sitting by herself.
For example, at this moment Xiao Hua felt extremely moved. She felt this was inexplicable yet couldn’t help it. She buried her face into the Jing Prince’s chest, rubbed around a little and stopped moving.
The Jing Prince didn’t make a sound. By the time Xiao Hua snapped out of it, a long time had passed. The room’s lamps had already gone out.
She let out an exclamation and sat up, “Ding Xiang, lamps.”
Ding Xiang and Ding Lan walked in lightly and lit up the lamps in the room.
Xiao Hua wasn’t able to react in time to the sudden light. She squinted her eyes, and seeing the person next to her suddenly felt a little dizzy.
Xiao Hua smiled and rubbed her eyes, “Nothing much. The sudden light was a little dizzying.”
“Madam, would you like to eat?”
Xiao Hua glanced at the Jing Prince who nodded his head.
While they were eating lunch, Xiao Hua suddenly remembered Nana He’s little slip of paper. She started to say something but then hesitated.
The Jing Prince seemed to have sensed that she had something to say, “Speak.”
Xiao Hua hesitated for a moment before deciding to speak the truth, “When this servant concubine was in the Hall of Splendor initially, the small kitchen’s Nana He treated this servant concubine extremely well.” She looked into the Jing Prince’s eyes, paused, and said: “This servant concubine hasn’t seen Nana He in a long time.”
The Jing Prince thought of that light purple red piece of clothing, and then looked at Xiao Hua’er whose eyes contained expectation and nervousness.
Only after a long while did he open his mouth, “This humble prince will give the order.”
“Thank you highness.”
For some reason, whenever the Jing Prince saw this Xiao Hua’er’s smile, his mood would always become extremely, extremely good.
After eating, they had nothing to do again.
Xiao Hua gave a suggestion, “Highness, let this servant concubine loosen you up?”
The Jing Prince nodded and the two of them went to the bedroom.
There was more attention to detail now than in the past. Every time before massaging him, Xiao Hua would have him take a hot bath and soak until he was limbered up before starting. Of course there were also times when the Jing Prince felt uncomfortable in some area and suddenly asked Xiao Hua to knead for a bit, though that rarely happened.
The Jing Prince finished soaking and went to lie prone on the bed…
The hot water’s temperature was quite high, higher than what he was used to for bathing. After getting out, he felt all the pores on his body were opened up. The bedding was extremely soft, and also contained the faint hint of Xiao Hua’s fragrance, making the Jing Prince let out a soundless sigh…
The entire set of movements were extremely familiar. Xiao Hua spoke as she massaged: “Highness, you shouldn’t read for too long in one sitting. Maintaining the same position with your neck for too long, while also having the habit of lowering your head, would make this spot……” as she spoke to this point, Xiao Hua used her hands to knead the Jing Prince’s neck bones, “This spot sore. It doesn’t feel like much when young, but in the future you’ll start feeling it.”
These were all written within the prevention and correction sections of the handwritten notebook. Although Xiao Hua didn’t completely understand everything, she was able to apply things as she saw it. She also knew how to analyze things herself, and could tell the Jing Prince using her own words.
Furthermore, the Jing Prince was normally very busy with official business. Even if Xiao Hua had never seen the situation, she could imagine it. He was also a shut-in, and could sit in the same spot for a long time without moving.
Sometimes when encountering this situation at the western pavilion, Xiao Hua would always feel endless heartache, but would give her advice calmly and steadily while allowing him to sit somewhere comfortable. The spot on the western pavilion’s kiln where Xiao Hua often sat didn’t look to be much different from the past, but Xiao Hua had already made some careful adjustments. This was all for the sake of allowing the Jing Prince to sit more comfortably.
This concept flashed through her mind swiftly, and Xiao Hua didn’t realize it at the time. Only when she became conscious of it did she realize that she had actually used such a word to describe it……
Heartache, why would her heart be aching? Xiao Hua didn’t dare think about this question.