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)
Following the events of the banquet, the wheels in Murong Qing’s brain have begun steadily turning. Unfortunately, she isn’t given much time to dwell on those thoughts.
I didn’t realize until I was editing this chapter today that we’ll be ending this weekend’s double update on a cliffhanger, but we’ll just have to make do until next week!
Chapter 020: The Twentieth Time
Despite my repeated declining, the emperor’s single line of “a monarch does not go back on his words” thwarted all my words. At once, he ordered for that priceless “jin-tao” gu qin to be bestowed me. Helpless, I could only kneel and offer my gratitude for this grace.
Lifting my eyes, what I saw was that within Qing fei niang-niang‘s charming, soft smile, all was perfectly concealed. Only those who were cognizant could detect resentment.
After the banquet, all the princes took their leave outside the gates of Zi Jing Palace. By convention, the crown prince was the first to be sent off.
When the carriage that the crown prince and Yan’er rode in passed by Nan Cheng Yao and I, Nan Cheng Mian courteously lifted the side curtain and said genially: “Third Brother, would you like to come over to my fu for a sit?”
Nan Cheng Yao laughed with indolence: “At such a fine hour, with such beautiful scenery, returning to the fu to embrace soft jade and warm fragrance is naturally the most enrapturing delight. Your Highness the Crown Prince is simply too unromantic.”
Nan Cheng Mian began to laugh: “Since Third Brother says as such, I will not beseech and impede on Third Brother’s good times.”
As he spoke, he smiled towards me and ordered the carriage driver to leave.
Back at the wang fu, Shu Ying’s excitement was still palpable: “Young Miss, you don’t know, but news about the song you played at Qing He Hall being akin to immortal music on Earth has spread throughout all of Zi Jing Palace. Such a shame that I am not qualified to go inside and thus, did not get to see it with my own eyes. But even just thinking about it is enough to see that, with how beautiful you are when you play qin, everyone in the great hall must’ve fallen into a stupor from watching…”
I laughed and quickly cut her off: “Enough, Shu Ying, hurry and help me remove my makeup. After squandering about for an entire day, I’m tired as well.”
I sighed inwardly. At the outset, I had hoped to peacefully pass this night by, but the Heavens just refuses to accept one’s bidding.1 If even Shu Ying, who was outside the main hall, could say such vivid and colorful words, then presumably, in a few days, all sorts of added oil and vinegar2 will likely have spread widely across the capital.
I thought about how Mother’s complicated expression upon our departure. It was clear she had things things she wanted to say to me, but in the end, there was no opportune moment.
As Shu Ying helped me remove a bamboo jade hairpin, she could not suppress her enthusiasm and continued to ask: “Young Miss, the Third Highness must have seen you play. What did he say about it?”
I smiled faintly: “His Highness was drunk, you know that. What could he have said?”
She began muttering: “Then what about before he got drunk, he had to have expressed surprise.”
I chuckled slightly: “If you want to know that badly, then why don’t you go ask him tomorrow in person?”
She shrank back adorably, tactfully holding her tongue. I knew that though she didn’t hold a grudge towards Nan Cheng Yao, she more or less held some fear towards hm.
After washing up, I changed into the plain white silk that I normally loved wearing the most when alone in the boudoir. As I sat before the window, Shu Ying stood from behind and gently combed my long, wet hair.
In my state of mind, I could not help but continue thinking back to Nan Cheng Yao’s wholly unusual behavior at the moon viewing banquet just now.
His deliberate intimacy at the beginning of the banquet was, by no means, as simple as a wanting to tease me in the spur of the moment.
Then, after I played the song, the look in his black, bottomless eyes had become deep and heavy. It seemed as if there was a flash of both light and dark, but it only lasted a mere moment. By the time I took a closer look, the corners of his had lips curled anew, turning back into a brisk curve under a bright, cloudless sky. As exquisite as jade, just like the aristocratic prince he always was.
By the banquet’s end, he was already drunk, at least in the eyes of outsiders.
However, only I saw that thread of lucidity and the coldness in depths of his eyes.
On the carriage, his eyes were closed from beginning to end, not revealing any traces of his emotions.
When we returned to the wang fu, he smiled at me: “Rest early, Wang fei must be tired today.”
He did not have any intentions of descending from the carriage, his voice held not even a single inkling of inebriation. Thus, without questioning further, I smiled and curtsied to him, then descended from the carriage with the help of Qin An.
The screen curtain closed, creating a partition against his faint stare.
“Young Miss, your hair is mostly dry now, you’d best rest a bit earlier.” As she spoke, Shu Ying put down the jade comb and sprinkled a handful of agarwood shavings into the incense burner, interrupting my thoughts.
I nodded and replied: “Alright.”
I wanted to remove my outer covering, but an urgent knock suddenly came from outside the doors. Puzzled, Shu Ying said: “Who could it be, ya, I let those little servant girls head off to sleep long ago ya. No lights and no advance notice. Let me go take a look.”
As she said this, she walked towards the outer room and asked: “Who’s outside?”
“Nu-bi Xun Yun begs for an audience with Wang fei.”
Xun Yun’s clear voice rang in the darkness of the night, giving both Shu Ying and I a slight start.