In a flash, Xiao Yuan had solved the big marriage problem so she was in a very good mood. She hummed a tune, just positively merry and carefree.
The old madam felt bad for her. This time she was truly wronged. Because of this, she gave her three sets of head ornaments to help her get over her shock. When the young ladies of the manor saw, they were filled with envy. If the old madam hadn’t ordered everyone to not bring up the matter of Xiao Yuan getting lost or else risk being punished under family law, the ladies who had early on forgotten how to be tactful would’ve already started mocking Xiao Yuan. No way they would’ve just sulked to themselves!
“Miss, Princess Qing Le and Lady Qin invite you to get together with them in Hua Fang tomorrow morning.”
Hong Luan walked in holding the invitation. Xiao Yuan gave Hong Luan a sideways glance. These two people were her good friends. One was the daughter of Princess Royal Jin Shu, the other was Nanyang Bo Di’s eldest daughter. They have been on good terms with Xiao Yuan ever since they were little. In her past life, when she dug herself into an insolvable problem, the two of them tried to advise her. Unfortunately, at that time, she did not recognize good from bad and let down their friendship.
As a matter of fact, it had been awhile since they had met. No wonder Xiao Yuan missed them.
The three of them would often get together and drink wine and make merry, appreciate poetry and make paintings. Their time together was always very leisurely. She thought about it and nodded her head in agreement.
“Let’s reply. I’ll meet them tomorrow.” Xiao Yuan looked at Hong Xiu and Qing Dai. “Hong Xiu, Qing Dai, tomorrow you two will come with me.”
Just as Hong Luan was about to leave, her step wavered for a moment. Qing Dai was only a second-class maidservant. Whenever Xiao Yuan went out, she would always bring Hong Luan. How come this time she wasn’t going to?
Xiao Yuan faintly smiled and looked right into Hong Luan’s confused gaze. Hong Luan was caught off guard by Xiao Yuan’s cold look and her back suddenly turned cold.
“What are you wasting time for?” Hong Xiu displeased, muttered a phrase. Hong Luan collected her wits and immediately ran out.
Humph! It’d be better if she died from her anger, that helping-others-secretly person!
The Hua Fang’s wine table was filled with innumerable fine liquors and delicious food. There was lively singing and dancing. From time to time, there were even a few especially provocative or innocent-looking women that would strum a lute, paint and perform their various talents.
The most eye catching one was the one in the middle, dressed in red. Her body was alluring and lovely. Her delicate face was even more so elegant and refined. A dot of cinnabar* on the corner of her eye added yet another hint of charm. Her eyes alone were enough to seduce people.
(TN: Just a reminder, a dot of cinnabar not coming off means the woman is a virgin.)
Lian Jiming raised his cup for a toast, “Lord Zhao. It is your first time coming to the capital. I am sure when this prince was entertaining you, there were many shortcomings. I hope that Lord Zhao can forgive me.”
The man across from him gently laughed, languidly lifted his eyes. His gaze was shining bright like stars. His every movement was graceful and aristocratic. He raised his empty cup and his thin lips slightly raised.
“His highness is being polite. The capital is obviously a good place. It makes a person enjoy himself so much that he forgets to go home. I wish to become intoxicated in this gentle town.”
“Haha! If Lord Zhao is satisfied, then I have succeeded. The capital is at the feet of the emperor so there is extraordinary natural beauty. However, in comparison to the places that Lord Zhao has visited, this place is not even worth mentioning. Lord Zhao is being too humble.”
The great prince lifted his hand and finished the remaining alcohol in his cup. His smile was warm and friendly.
Zhao Zun slightly lifted his hand and downed the contents of his cup in one go. The great prince looked at the young lady in red. The lady in red stood on her tiptoes and step-by-step walked over to Zhao Zun.
She had a faint lovely smile. She bent by the waist to refill his cup with wine. Under the red muslin, the valley between her legs flashed in and out of sight. Her skin was fair. While smiling, she lost her footing and fell into Zhao Zun’s lap. She frowned.
“Lord Zhao, Mu Dan did not mean to. I wasn’t paying attention to how strong the alcohol was.”
Mu Dan rubbed her forehead. Her red lips slightly parted, which was especially alluring. She was exceptionally beautiful.
A rich scent of rouge wafted into Zhao Zun’s nose and he frowned almost imperceptibly. It seemed like something wasn’t quite right.
Mu Dan was Fragrant Pavilion’s leading entertainer. Her body was seductive. She was a national beauty and had a sweet fragrance. There were very few people that weren’t tempted by her. Her every facial expression and fawning manner bewitched people’s’ hearts.
Zhao Zun was distracted; his mind appeared to change into another kind of face. He was not charmed. His appearance was permeated by a young and inexperienced aura.
The great prince noticed Zhao Zun’s expression and smirked.
The sound of Xiao Yuan’s laughter like silver bells ringing floated into the room, and managed to transfer through the sound of the zither playing before suddenly entering Zhao Zun’s ear. Zhao Zun was shocked for a moment and hurriedly regained his composure. With a stoic expression, he pushed aside Mu Dan.
It really was hard to believe. Wherever he went he would always think of her. Zhao Zun poured himself a consecutive three cups of wine and drank them all in one go. He listened carefully again and the sound of her laughter had vanished.
Zhao Zun could finally relax.
In the hold of the Hua Fang ship, which was floating on top of the lake. The artistry of the boat was especially beautiful. The boat allowed the occupants to appreciate the flowers and water, with no need to worry if there would be anyone disturbing them.
When Xiao Yuan entered, the two people were already in the hold of the ship waiting for her. At the sight of Xiao Yuan, they rushed to stand up. “We’ve finally managed to get you to come. You’re late though. Come. Come. First, your punishment is to drink three cups!”
The one who spoke was Princess Qing Le who was always valiant. Qin Yi was still sweet-tempered and easy mannered. Yet, her brows did not lose their heroic bearing.
When Xiao Yuan heard this, she put both her hands on her hips and pretended to be upset, “Oh, okay. I come here and you don’t even ask how I’ve been? You just want to get me drunk! You guys have such bad intentions. I’ll be teaching you a lesson!”
Princess Qing Le’s eyebrow raised and she rolled her eyes, “Aren’t you standing there just fine? It’s not like I’m blind. Sister Qin, save me!”
Xiao Yuan extended her hand to tickle Princess Qing Le, which was Princess Qing Le’s Achilles heel. Very shortly after, the three of them were laughing over and over and were a noisy bunch. It wasn’t until Princess Qing Le opened her mouth to ask for forgiveness did the tickling finally stop.
“Okay, okay. I admit I was wrong, isn’t that good enough?”
The three of them stopped. Princess Qing Le couldn’t hold back her concern, “Hey, you really cancelled the marriage?”
Qin Yi was also looking at Xiao Yuan as she couldn’t believe it. Before Xiao Yuan would always be talking about Lian Jiye. How could she forget him in just a few short days?
Xiao Yuan nodded. “Yep. What’s strange about that? I knew perfectly well that he didn’t like me so why should I force him?”
Zhao Zun went outside to get some fresh air and had coincidentally heard this sentence. He was still far away and could only see that Xiao Yuan was leaning next to a window. Her red lips were languidly raised and she was holding a cup of alcohol in her hand, with her fingers raised in an orchid gesture*. Zhao Zun frowned slightly. She had actually learned how to drink wine now?
(TN: The orchid gesture is seen in traditional dances, where the thumb and middle finger are joined and the other fingers are extended.)
“Then, your family’s Fifth Miss is really going to marry the third prince? I heard that yesterday the Pure Consort was furious and was refusing to see anyone. To think that it was because of unrequited love. Ha-ha. That makes me laugh. I reckon that tomorrow, the third prince will have to go to your home and beg for your hand. Are you sure you really won’t regret it?”
Princess Qing Le had always been the type to say whatever she wanted. She detested those born to concubines and abhorred injustice.
Xiao Yuan propped her head up on her hand, revealing a purple bruise that had yet to fade from her snow white arm. Only a small part was visible, but it was enough to make many thoughts come to a person’s mind.
“Who cares what she does? She can marry whomever she likes. It’ll be useless if he comes and begs for me. You don’t know it, but I’m disgusted whenever I see him. He’s not even better than Little White.”
Little White was Xiao Wan’s dog. His fur was pitch black, but Xiao Yuan insisted on giving the dog an entirely contrary name.
“If he dares to come, I’ll get Little White to go bite him! Ha-ha. That’ll scare him so much, he’ll piss his pants in terror.”
When Xiao Yuan thought of this scene, she couldn’t hold back her laughter, thinking it’d be best if he could be bitten to death.
When Zhao Zun heard this, his lips couldn’t help but curl upwards. It looked like she really had grown up.
Not bad, there’s been improvement!
“Lord Zhao, the great prince is inviting you to come inside.”
Zhao Zun turned to look back at the person and headed back into the hold of the ship. His mood had peculiarly gotten better.