Part of a Memories of a Graceful Reflection translation project at fruitydeer.com.
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Source: 猶記驚鴻照影 by Feng Ning Xue Wu // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
I had my second COVID vaccination earlier this week and ended up with a bit of a fever, but luckily, I started feeling better just in time to get this posted. Unfortunately, for those also following Peony’s Tavern, the next update will have to wait until Tuesday.
Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy 🙂
Chapter 013: The Thirteenth Time
The days after returning to the wang fu were uneventful. I have always enjoyed quietude, and now that Shu Ying needed to be taken care of, I hardly ever took a step out of Gui Mo Pavilion.
Nan Cheng Yao no longer stayed in Zi Jing Palace, but he didn’t have much time to bother with me, merely ordering Xun Yun to assign two new junior servant girls to serve my everyday needs. The delivery of medication and supplements never stopped.
Day by day, Shu Ying’s body slowly healed. Though the injury Nan Cheng Yao inflicted on her seemed lethal, in reality, it did not harm the vital points. Three months later, she was basically recovered and there wasn’t much of an emotional scar left on her either.
After all, she and I had gone through so much together. Her disposition was optimistic and open-minded. She was not one insist on holding on to matters of the past.
However, on the rare occasions that Nan Cheng Yao did come over, she still, more or less, shrank away. What once happened does not simply blow over without a trace.
Nan Cheng Yao does not come to Gui Mo Pavilion often. Even when he does come, he just plays some qi1 and exchanges some trivial words, providing a suggestion of closeness to bystanders.
I remembered that the first time he came, it was already late. As the hour grew later, my heart grew more panicked, continually wondering whether or not he was going to spend the night.
Though I made an effort to remain calm, an unintentional fluster and unnatural expression would trace my face. Though he saw it, he didn’t point it out, only becoming increasingly deliberate in his actions, shamelessly lazing on the bed, refusing to leave. And though he didn’t make any motions, the facetious curve of his lips became deeper and deeper.
Even when the moon was high, he still hadn’t shown any indications of leaving. Xun Yun sent over the servant girl who served me, Hua Yi, to knock on the doors, enter, and ask: “The time is rather late, will Your Highness be resting here this evening?”
Looking at me with a smile that was neither here nor there, Nan Cheng Yao said: “Don’t ask me, ask your wang fei.”
My heart was already in a panic and I did not expect that he would say that. In that moment of awkward embarrassment, I was at a bit of a loss.
Seeing me like this, he let out a laugh: “Isn’t Wang fei‘s quick wit usually comparable to that of men? Why don’t you have a single word to say? Is it that you’re too head over heels in your fondness for me or that you’re scared of being too head over heels?”
I became more and more embarrassed, even becoming a little vexed. Just as I was about to fire back, he already stood up elegantly and stepped outside with nothing more than a smile on his face.
Watching as his figure disappeared into the darkness of night, I breathed a sigh of relief and, at the same time, felt an inexplicable surge of emotion in my heart.
Hua Yi was somewhat confused: “His Highness’ mood was really good, ya. How come didn’t he stay?”
She was still young. She’d seen the smile on his lips, but did not notice the detachment concealed deep in those dark eyes of his.
As this dynasty’s third prince, someone who received the Sacred One’s extra attention, there should be nothing that he lacked. Yet, he just seemed to have a pair of eyes that become colder the more he smiled.
I didn’t know if it was because I was aware of the history between him and the former dynasty’s princess, but every time I met his eyes, my heart could not help but sting with pain.
Women are always so sentimental and fond being self-righteously compassionate. Lian’s words were indeed correct.
However, I once stumbled across an evening banquet he hosted for a herd of ministers. The affair was a lavish show of song and dance.
He sat high on the principle seat, holding many a beautiful woman by the waist, smiling lazily.
It seemed like he was pleased with his lot, but all that was there was wine in a jade cup and jade-like beauties in his embrace. Other than this, there was nothing else.
I quietly stood behind a pillar on the veranda outside the hall. He did not notice me, but I clearly saw that, even in the midst of his content laughter, his eyes remained cold.
At the time, for whatever reason, I felt a sudden, inexplicable sense of conviction that perhaps he had long since become tired of such decadent music. Though there were there was soft jade and warm fragrance2 in his arms, maybe none had ever entered his heart.
Perhaps what he cared about was no longer in this world. Then again, why was he able to so ruthlessly force her to her death?
For power? Or was it the everything else under the skies?
I did not understand. Was the jiang shan really this important? Enough to trade your own heart in exchange for it?3
But even if he could seize everything under the skies, if there was no one by his side that he wished to share it with, what could be so worthwhile about it?
As I mulled over this, I heard a rush of footsteps approaching. A moment later, Shu Ying’s ran inside with a flushed face.
I quickly stood and called out to her: “Goodness, what’s made you run in such a hurry? You’ll start coughing if you can’t catch your breath.”
She beamed blithely, unable to hide the excitement in her tone: “Young Miss, Madam has come to the wang fu, and she’s even brought An Xiang along.”
Shu Ying and her younger twin sister, An Xiang, entered the xiang fu together when they were young. Mother chose Shu Ying to accompany me while An Xiang had always been with Yan’er.
After Yan’er fled her betrothal, An Xiang followed along and also left the cheng xiang fu.4 There had been no news at all, so I knew that Shu Ying had been worried this whole time.
Now that they’ve finally met again, it was no wonder that she was so ecstatic.
Since Mother brought An Xiang today, did it mean that my runaway mei-mei was finally willing to come home?
Translator’s Note: So here’s my two cents. The problem between Nan Cheng Yao and Murong Qing is that they don’t trust each other, plain and simple.
First of all, her heart is clearly with Su Xiu Mian (first mentioned in Chapter 002). And just as she avoids sharing her inner thoughts with Nan Cheng Yao, he himself does the same in putting up a facade with her. There’s simply no incentive to for either of them behave any other way.
So yeah, Nan Cheng Yao pretty much sucks right now, but he doesn’t yet have a justifiable reason to suddenly derail his lifestyle and ambitions for the sake of an arranged marriage. And unless the status quo changes or someone acquiesces, they’re going to keep playing this perverse game of one-sided brinksmanship where the one party is an unwilling participant.
- 棋 // Qi: Short for 圍棋 (wei qi), a board game where the goal is to surround the opponent with no way out. One of the four fundamental arts of ancient Chinese aristocracy, along with qin (zither), shu (calligraphy), and hua (painting). Qi is called “Go” in English.
- Euphemism for the suppleness and alluring fragrance of female bodies.
- 江山 // Jiang Shan: Means rivers and mountains, but metaphorically refers to the country or state power. I kept it as is because I just happen to like the poeticism of the term.
- 丞相 // Cheng Xiang: Means minister. Cheng xiang fu means Prime Minister’s fu while xiang fu is a shortened version.