Within the light jade colored curtains embroidered with birds and vines, things had quietened down at some point.
The silence made Ding Xiang’s heart tighten.
After an unknown amount of time had passed, some rustling suddenly rang out. Soon after, the curtains were parted and Xiao Hua’s little face appeared. Her eyes were red and swollen but her expression appeared normal.
“Ding Xiang, I want to take a bath. Also I need to reduce the swelling around my eyes.”
Ding Xiang subconsciously let out an “oh” and left before realizing she had forgotten her etiquette.
After bathing, Xiao Hua sat in front of the makeup counter leaning against Ding Xiang, allowing her to roll a peeled boiled egg over her eyes.
After a few rounds, Xiao Hua opened her eyes and looked in the mirror. She realized that the swelling had indeed faded.
She grabbed a damp towel and pressed it against her eyes a couple of times before applying some foundation on her face.
Xiao Hua applied a layer of makeup on her face, changed into a rose red jacket embroidered with fine silver clouds and a pleated skirt with scattered flowers amongst green threaded vines. She tied her hair up in a slanted butterfly bun, and left that strand of hair hanging out once more. She put in that butterfly hairpin behind her head. Feeling the slightly fluttering butterfly wings, her mood suddenly became exceptionally good.
After eating breakfast, Xiao Hua took advantage of the nice weather to take a walk around the courtyard. She then returned to the residence and continued working on the innerwear. She worked until noon. After lunch, she saw that the sun wasn’t too harsh and took another walk before continuing to work on the clothes.
The Jing Prince came before dinnertime.
When the Jing Prince left earlier, he spent the entire morning feeling that Xiao Hua’er’s expression was off. But he wasn’t able to say what exactly was wrong with it.
After finishing up his work more or less, he came to the western pavilion.
As he entered, he saw her sitting on the kiln by the window, doing needlework with her head lowered. The afternoon’s setting sun shone through the window upon her face, turning it a dazzling golden color. She had those fine hairs on her face, and the Jing Prince suddenly had the misperception that Xiao Hua’er was very young.
After thinking about it, she truly was very young.
She was fifteen, and he was twenty-six. She was younger by a whole eleven years.
Seeing the Jing Prince come in, Xiao Hua flashed him a smile from the kiln.
He nodded his head and sat on the side of the kiln. He tilted his head and looked at her hand movements.
The two of them were silent.
Ding Xiang served tea and placed it on the kiln’s table.
Xiao Hua gave him a glance and stroked the strand of hair by her temples, saying: “This servant concubine is slow. It won’t be finished for several more days.”
The Jing Prince reached out his hand and stroked her finger, “No hurry.”
He called Eunuch Fu inside and had him help change into inside clothing.
Xiao Hua carefully observed the Jing Prince for a while before noticing that he seemed to have gotten skinnier. His already thin physique seemed to have gotten even thinner. His brows showed a faint hint of exhaustion. She put down the needlework in her hands and helped him sit down on the kiln.
She offered him some tea and said: “Highness, are you tired? Should this servant concubine help you loosen up a little?”
She stretched her hands out and felt his shoulders. They were stiff and tight. “But your shoulders are definitely uncomfortable.”
The Jing Prince thought about it and stroked her hair, “Let someone else do it.”
Such a movement was actually accompanied by words that stabbed at her heart.
Xiao Hua’s expression froze and she raised her eyes towards him. He didn’t look at her and instead gave Eunuch Fu a glance.
Eunuch Fu immediately bowed before walking out.
Thump thump thump…..
Her heart was beating very fast but Xiao Hua could only force herself to remain calm.
“Who’s this someone else? Highness.”
The Jing Prince muttered for a bit before saying: “Don’t know.”
His words were a little incomprehensible to Xiao Hua. Her thoughts were a mess but she could only force a smile and resume her sewing.
After a while, Eunuch Fu came in followed by a young girl.
Even though Xiao Hua didn’t see her appearance, she seemed to have understood who she was.
“It’s this one.”
The Jing Prince suddenly said.
Xiao Hua’s muddled brain could still figure out that the Jing Prince was answering her previous question.
Eunuch Fu directed Ding Xiang whose expression was ugly to move the kiln table. That young girl kept her head lowered. Xiao Hua’s head was pounding, making her face a little pale.
Based on the situation, it seemed this wasn’t the first time.
“Oh.” Xiao Hua realized her voice was trembling a little, and adjusted herself a little before asking: “Who is she?” in a curious tone.
Only after hearing this did Xiao Hua feel a little more relieved.
She faked a jealous glance at him and said: “Now that highness has such a new beautiful low-ranked palace maid, this servant concubine is going to get forgotten in the future.”
“That’s not it.”
Her hand was grabbed.
She had thought her jealousy was faked, but unexpectedly as she spoke one phrase after another, she realized that there was no need to fake her voice that was filled with jealousy.
Looking at the face that was unperturbed as usual, she saw some helplessness in his eyes. Xiao Hua suddenly felt the warmth of spring and blooming flowers in her heart. The things that made her cry for so many days suddenly no longer seemed important. The impact that person brought had also completely vanished during this exchange of “will” and “won’t”.
Looking again at Eunuch Fu and that young girl who had her face lowered, Xiao Hua suddenly laughed.
“This servant concubine wants to see if she’s as beautiful as this servant concubine.”
The Jing Prince’s eyes contained a little confusion.
How could this person be compared to Xiao Hua’er?
Xiao Hua didn’t look at the Jing Prince’s expression. Her gaze landed below, “Raise your head. Let this madam take a look.”
The young girl’s body froze and she gave Eunuch Fu a panicked glance.
Eunuch Fu smiled and said: “How could we let such a coarse low-ranked palace maid dirty madam’s eyes?”
Xiao Hua glanced at the Jing Prince and half-puckered her lips.
“Raise your head.”
Since the Jing Prince had spoken, Eunuch Fu could only lower his head.
That young girl slowly raised her head and revealed her entire face. Her gaze remained lowered and didn’t dare look at the people above.
“Aiya, as expected! As lovely as a flower, such beautiful eyes…..”
The lovable female voice sounded from above. Qian Xi knew that this was the legendary Madam Hua.
The Madam Hua which made Eunuch Fu look at her in a different light, the Madam Hua who was said to be spoiled by his highness, the Madam Hua who caused Eunuch Fu to punish Qian Xi to stand in the corner for half the day because she had accidentally raised her head, the Madam Hua who looked a lot like her….
Oh, no, it was her who looked like Madam Hua.
Although the people in the Hall of Splendor were all tight-lipped, she could tell she looked like Madam Hua based on their weird looks.
There were only two people who didn’t have weird expressions. One was Eunuch Fu, but he was the one who had found her after all. Qian Xi had just about figured out his intentions over the past few days. The other one was his highness, but Qian Xi knew that he had never looked at her face from the start. It wasn’t that he couldn’t see it, but that he never bothered to look.
The Jing Prince’s eyes never moved below. His gaze remained glued on the lovable, charming little face that had a rare hint of naughtiness, as well as the constantly opening rose-colored lips and the slender white fingertip that rested upon them.
“……why does this servant concubine feel that she looks very familiar?”
These words made Eunuch Fu’s expression turn rigid, and also gave Ding Xiang a flash of understanding.
Madam, this was declaring war against Eunuch Fu!
“Ding Xiang, take a look. Don’t you feel like she reminds you of someone?”
Qian Xi’s gaze couldn’t help flit upwards when Xiao Hua opened her mouth to say her eyes were beautiful.
The outstandingly fresh face contained moving charm. The fair skin was almost translucent. The pair of limpid peach blossom eyes were extremely familiar. She herself also had a pair. But Qian Xi had to admit that those eyes truly embodied the saying “a backward glance and a smile would birth countless charms”……
“She does look a little familiar, who does she look like?”
No matter what, Ding Xiang could only accompany the madam in acting out this performance.
Luckily the madam didn’t force Ding Xiang to be the one to raise the topic as she muttered to herself: “…..why does it seem that she looks a little like me……”
The fleeting voice struck heavily at Eunuch Fu’s heart.
Only at this moment did Eunuch Fu realize that the docile and harmless Madam Hua had never been a pushover.1
Because of these words, the Jing Prince’s gaze finally moved over.
After half a moment of silence, his gaze moved to Eunuch Fu.
The room was scarily silent.
The Jing Prince’s voice rang out, and those in the room all left.
Xiao Hua was a little afraid to raise her head. It wasn’t like she hadn’t put on a performance in front of the Jing Prince before, but this was the first time she was around for the aftermath. Inexplicably, she actually felt her actions had been very wrong.
After a long while, the Jing Prince opened his mouth: “Accompany this humble prince to sleep for a while.”
Xiao Hua got up on her knees, went to fetch the thin blanket and undid her own hair. Luckily her hair was done quite simply today and wasn’t hard to undo. Finally she took off the butterfly hairpin and let her long hair scatter down. She carefully put the hairpin away in the cabinet next to the kiln.
The Jing Prince looked at her actions, and seeing her carefully put away the hairpin his heart softened and almost melted.
As she covered the two of them with the blanket and obediently lay by his side, he sighed in his heart and pulled her into his arms.
Xiao Hua’s face was buried in the Jing Prince’s chest. It was the same as before, but her heart was panicky, restless and apprehensive. It was filled with all sorts of emotions. During her performance, Xiao Hua hadn’t looked at the Jing Prince’s face the entire time. She was afraid to see something on it that she wouldn’t be able to bear.
Suddenly she felt a hand stroking her back lightly, over and over. Xiao Hua turned rigid for a moment before relaxing her body.
It was still the same!
She still remembered that last time he had comforted her the same way.
In an instant, her tears could no longer be stopped and flowed out in a stream.
Eunuch Fu, you might be high and lofty, your status might be exceptional, your position in his highness’s heart might be extraordinary, and you might be….
But, such a highness, such a good highness, how could I be willing and how could I be resigned to it! Therefore, I will not yield!
“……sorry, highness……I shouldn’t have…..but I was afraid…..”
She suddenly cried until she couldn’t catch her breath. Xiao Hua clearly knew she shouldn’t be like this, but she couldn’t suppress it. These weren’t tears of fear, but were things that had been suppressed inside and couldn’t be clearly defined.
She could pretend to be calm, could put on a play to test out the Jing Prince, but when that large palm was placed comfortingly on her back just like in the past when she was completely helpless, she was no longer able to act strong.
“This servant concubine won’t ever do it again…..” she cried heart wrenchingly and the things she had kept hidden inside flowed out along with her tears. “This servant concubine had actually known long ago that Eunuch Fu had brought in some low-ranked palace maids. This servant concubine had always been worried. Especially after knowing they were all better looking than me, younger and prettier than me, this servant concubine’s heart was deathly uncomfortable…..”
As she cried, she wiped a deluge of tears onto the Jing Prince’s collar and mumbled continuously with her mouth, “……highness hadn’t come for so many days, this servant concubine was sure you had someone else already……”
“……today Eunuch Fu brought her over, that time in the Hall of Splendor this servant concubine had already seen her appearance…..if highness needs loosening up, this servant concubine is enough, why find another person….this servant concubine doesn’t want to yield highness to anyone else, this servant concubine can’t bear it…..”
Xiao Hua spoke very disjointedly and obscurely, but the Jing Prince was right beside her and he understood her meaning. He didn’t know how to stop her from crying, and he didn’t know how to speak words of comfort. He could only continue stroking her back.
After another while, the movements in front of his chest finally stopped. She had also stopped crying and her body was extremely rigid, as though she had become conscious that acting this way was really bad. The Jing Prince continued comforting for a moment longer before saying hoarsely: “It wasn’t this humble prince’s idea.”
“This humble prince didn’t know what she looked like.”
“Afraid to tire you out.”
“Won’t do it anymore in the future.”
I’ve been releasing extra chapters all at once on the weekends, but an extremely generous donor has already filled up the ENTIRE sponsored chapters bar all by herself on Monday. Don’t want to make you wait almost a week, so I will release the extra chapters as I finish translating this time. Another chapter coming in a bit, and hopefully a third by the end of the day. Since the bar is filled, please hold off on donations until next week if you want it to count towards a chapter.