‘Haitang Yuan’(Begonia Courtyard) was the current living quarters of the xiu nu1 within the Qingjiang summer palace . Today, Huangfu Wu Shuang brought Hua Zhu Yu and Jixiang along to Haitang Yuan to meet the beauties. Before when Wen Wan was still residing within the Imperial Tutor’s residence and Huangfu Wu Shuang wanted to meet her, it wasn’t easy. But now all was good, though the Qingjiang summer palace was considerably large and the pathways were quite extensive, he no longer had to secretly sneak out of the palace just to see her.
In the past, Hua Zhu Yu never took much notice to Huangfu Wu Shuang meeting Wen Wan but now she was looking forward to it since she’ll have the opportunity to see Dan Hong as well.
Haitang Yuan was definitely worthy of its name, similar to Zhu Yuan(Bamboo Courtyard), the current living quarters of the ministers that were enveloped in bamboos, this place was flourishing with begonias. After passing through the door, the sight of countless blooming flowers came into view. Those white and pink flourishing begonias were intermingled within the lush green leaves, seeming delicate and charming. With the slight stroke of cool breeze, those flowers gently swayed and shimmered, a lovely sight to behold.
When the crown prince arrived, the xiu nu appeared in a flurry of steps to welcome him, kneeling in procession in the middle of the corridor. Looking down from above, one could see that though they each had their heads lowered, their figures were yan shou huan fei2, each beautiful and enchanting.
“You may rise!” Huangfu Wu Shuang lifted up his beautiful eyes and swung his sleeves as he sat down in the chair a maidservant had just brought. Facing the group of maidens at this time, he also exuded the majestic air of a crown prince.
Standing behind Huangfu Wu Shuang, Hua Zhu Yu’s gaze swept around the room and saw Dan Hong. She stood at the back end of the procession, at the most concealed corner, attired in a light pink dress, blending in with the nearby pillar. That satin dress was embroidered with silver flower motifs and on her waist was a silk band tassel. Her hair was fastened into a fei xian bun without any dangling hairpin but merely a single begonia. Dan Hong may not be considered stunningly beautiful but she was exceptionally bright and lovely. Though the clothes she had on were plain and she stood at the far end, she was nevertheless still eye-catching.
As soon as Huangfu Wu Shuang sat down a woman quickly rushed over. Her hair was fixed in a palace styled bun very meticulously, without a single strand out of place. At first glance one could tell this person was particularly tenacious.
Seeing this woman, Hua Zhu Yu realized that she had met this person in the palace before when she was about to marry off to the Northern Kingdom. This person was Qing Luo gu gu3. At that time Hua Zhu Yu had drawn a huge birthmark on her face which concealed her true appearance. In retrospect, she felt she was quite lucky, without that birthmark she feared she would have soon been recognized. She just didn’t expect Qing Luo to be the gu gu in charge of educating the xiu nu and have even came to the summer palace along with them.
“Rise!” Huangfu Wu Shuang waved his hands at Qing Luo and said, “Today this prince came by to take Miss Wen out for a stroll!”
“Your Highness, this servant is bold to ask Your Highness to listen to this servant’s few words. Presently, Miss Wen is still a xiu nu and His Majesty has yet to betroth Miss Wen to Your Highness. For Your Highness to bring Miss Wen out like this, it may not be appropriate,” Qing Luo calmly advised.
Since the moment she first laid eyes on this Qing Luo gu gu, Hua Zhu Yu knew she wasn’t a simple person. The gu gu in charge of educating the xiu nu was not a position any normal person would dare to accept. If one didn’t have the courage or determination, they would have soon been schemed against by others.
Her words were very rational. In any case, Wen Wan was still a xiu nu and shouldn’t get too close to any particular imperial prince. In the future, it’s still uncertain who she will be betrothed to. Who knows, perhaps she’ll be married to Kang Wang. But Huangfu Wu Shuang has always been certain Wen Wan would be his so how could he care about what’s proper or not.
“Qing Luo gu gu, how about you turn a blind eye and let this prince bring Miss Wen out, how does that sound!” Unexpectedly, Huangfu Wu Shuang did not explode in anger which was a rare sight. It seems whenever he was around Wen Wan he would exercise restraint.
The expression on Qing Luo’s face did not change one bit but she did not continue to refute. She turned back to glance at Wen Wan who was standing at the end of the corridor and asked, “Miss Wen, His Highness wants to bring you out, are you willing?”
Wen Wan slowly stepped forward, her pair of distinct eyes were calm as water as she bent down to pay her respects to Huangfu Wu Shuang. “Your Highness, Wan Er doesn’t dare to go against the palace regulations, please forgive me Your Highness!”
Huangfu Wu Shuang has once again been tactfully rejected. Speaking of which, he has been rejected by Wen Wan not just a few times. But the more Wen Wan continues to do so, the more Huangfu Wu Shuang treasures her.
Instead of getting angry, he just smiled and said, “If Wan Er doesn’t want to go out with this prince then this prince shall just sit here. It won’t be a problem then, you all can continue to do what you were doing.” His intention was to stay here and no longer leave.
But if he doesn’t go, Qing Luo doesn’t dare to move either, the group of maidens even more so doesn’t dare to make a move. Everyone continued to stand silently in the corridor. Dan Hong who had always been quietly standing behind the group, at this time, suddenly walked out. She slowly approached Huangfu Wu Shuang and paid her respects. “Your Highness, this is chen nu’s4 first time seeing Your Highness. Your Highness’s heavenly countenance astounds chen nu greatly. Chen nu wishes to play a qin piece for Your Highness.”
Hua Zhu Yu knitted her brows; she knew Dan Hong’s aim was to attract Huangfu Wu Shuang’s attention but Dan Hong acted too impatiently. Huangfu Wu Shuang always treated Wen Wan well but in regards to others, his conduct was dependent on his mood. He was just rejected by Wen Wan and now Dan Hong had stepped forward. She will undoubtedly suffer under Huangfu Wu Shuang’s angry wrath.
Sure enough, Huangfu Wu Shuang narrowed his eyes as he looked at Dan Hong and coldly asked, “And you are?”
Standing on the side, Qing Luo hastily responded, “Replying to Your Highness, this is the young miss of Qing Yuan’s Residence, the magistrate’s daughter, Qi Luo.”
“Alright, play a piece then, if you play well, this prince shall reward you. If otherwise, this prince won’t let you off!” Huangfu Wu Shuang coldly remarked as he leaned back in his chair.
Dan Hong’s qin skills were taught by Hua Zhu Yu herself so she was confident that Dan Hong would play well. It’s just that based on Huangfu Wu Shuang’s current mood, Hua Zhu Yu was afraid no matter what he heard it wouldn’t be pleasant to his ears so she began to worry for Dan Hong.
Dan Hong went back to the room and came out with a qin which she placed on a large stone outside the corridor. She then knelt on the ground and began to play. It was rare to see Dan Hong play the song ‘Sha Po Gen.’ The song carried a cold air, as well as tender sentiments and lingering sorrow.
The other xiu nu originally looked down on Dan Hong but upon hearing her play, surprise flashed across their faces, especially Wen Wan whose pair of brows knitted together. Though she did not utter a single word, Hua Zhu Yu could still recognize the trace of astonishment from within her eyes.
Reclining on the Eight Immortal chair, Huangfu Wu Shuang’s eyes were slightly closed as he appeared to be appraising the music. If not for the occasional fluttering of his lashes, Hua Zhu Yu would’ve thought he’d already fallen asleep. That beautiful face, once it had relaxed and withdrawn its arrogance and willfulness, it looked unbelievably pure. Only, no one could imagine, that pure face could instantly become overcast and domineering in the blink of an eye.
But Dan Hong played beautifully and even improved quite a bit compared to before. Even Hua Zhu Yu was immersed in the moving song.
In the end, the song came to a close.
Haitang Yuan was enveloped in complete silence. Only the begonias were swaying gently along with the wind, exuding a mild fragrance.
Fluttering his lashes, Huangfu Wu Shuang opened his beautiful eyes and lazily asked, “Already finished?”
This tone, that face, those pursed lips, and even his eyes exuded a chilly aura. Hua Zhu Yu was reminded of that night when he had heard her play at Zui Xian Square and came to harass her. It didn’t matter to him whether the other party played well or not. He only cared if he was provoked, or rather if Wen Wan was provoked. And Dan Hong’s qin skills could be considered to surpass those of Wen Wan’s.
It seems this little devil intends to terrorize!
Before Huangfu Wu Shuang could continue speaking, Hua Zhu Yu applauded and said, “Your Highness, this piece Miss Song played is indeed pretty good ah, this servant still feels immersed in the song!”
Huangfu Wu Shuang turned around to glance at Hua Zhu Yu, his pupils shrank as he asked, “Yuan Bao finds it good? How is it good?”
“Your Highness must not know, this piece Miss Song just played is an ancient song which requires meticulous movements and is very hard to play. But, this song is not only pleasing to the ears, but also carries a soothing element, untainted by the mortal world, really great!”
Huangfu Wu Shuang’s brow loosened and he turned around to speak to Dan Hong, “You’re called Qi Luo right? If Bao gong gong said it’s good, then it’s good. You may stand, today this prince shall not punish you. You should quickly come thank Bao gong gong, if not for him you would’ve already been punished.”
Hua Zhu Yu did not expect her words to change Huangfu Wu Shuang’s mind.
Dan Hong rose from the ground and walked up to Huangfu Wu Shuang. She calmly smiled and said, “Qi Luo thanks Your Highness. “ After she was done talking her gaze then landed on Hua Zhu Yu. She paused momentarily before softly saying, “Thank you bao gong gong!”
Dan Hong then retreated to the side. Her face did not reveal the slightest disappointment nor panic and continued to carry a soft smile. Seeing Dan Hong smile, Hua Zhu Yu felt very sad at heart. If Dan Hong was really married off to Huangfu Wu Shuang then perhaps she could think of ways to prevent Dan Hong from losing her chastity, but if she were to be married off to Kang Wang, then there’s nothing Hua Zhu Yu could do.
“Alright, this prince is also tired, Yuan Bao, Jixiang, lets return to Qing Yuan!” Huangfu Wu Shuang lazily go up and left Haitang Yuan along with Yuan Bao and Jixiang.
The night submerged into darkness while the rising moon was faint, lonely and cold as it passed through the screen windows, casting a quiet night mist. Hua Zhu Yu was intending to rest in the outer room to keep vigil for Huangfu Wu Shuang but before she could go rest she saw him come out neatly dressed.
“Yuan Bao, you and Jixiang go change to a different outfit. We’re going out,” he said with a solemn face.
It was very rare for Hua Zhu Yu to see such a solemn expression on Huangfu Wu Shuang’s face like the one he currently had on. Looking at his clothes she saw that he was wearing a plain grey satin robe. He had already taken off the golden crown on his head and simply used a while silk band to tie his hair. His whole figure from top to bottom was attired very simply. Compared to his previous luxurious form, it was truly as different as day and night. From a glance, he looked like the son of ordinary wealthy family.
Only that beautiful face was still as dazzling as before even with a change in attire.
Hua Zhu Yu and Jixiang changed out of their eunuch attires and into ordinary robes, quickly following after Huangfu Wu Shuang as he left the Qingjiang summer palace. The Qingjiang summer palace was located half way up the mountain of Qing Shan and below the foot of Qing Shan was precisely Qing Cheng city.
Qing Cheng was originally just a small city, not at all bustling. But just a few years ago, at the height of summer when the emperor and imperial family came for a retreat, Qing Cheng gradually flourished, and after a few years of development, it has become quite the prosperous city.
Three figures sat in a horse carriage and in less than half an hour, they silently left behind the palace and entered Qing Cheng city.
Compared to the previous time when they left for the lake excursion, this trip out of the palace was completely different. The horse carriage they rode was very simple and modest; the horses pulling the carriage was naturally not magnificent either and they did not bring along a group of body guards. They appeared not the least bit ostentatious, silently setting out.
- xiu nu which is translated as elegant female and is referring to the group of girls that were selected through the consort selection but that sounded strange so I just left it in pin yin
- this is an idiom used to describe women’s various figures and that each have their own beauty. It is translated as Yan thin, Huan plump. Zhao Fei Yan and Yang Yu Huan are both beauties in history where Zhao Fei Yan of the Han Dynasty was thin while Yang Yu Huan of the Tang dynasty was considered plump.
- gu gu could be translated as aunty and it’s usually used to address an older female servant
- chen nu is translated as ‘this female subject’