Part of a Memories of a Graceful Reflection translation project at fruitydeer.com.
Do not download, copy, or redistribute without permission.
Source: 猶記驚鴻照影 by Feng Ning Xue Wu // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
Given that it’s my last post before the Mid-Autumn Festival, I want to wish everyone a lovely week! Do go out to enjoy the full moon if you can. Even better if you can spend it with your families drinking tea and eating mooncakes. See you all next week.
Chapter 024: The Twenty-Fourth Time
Despite hearing the sounds of footsteps gradual getting further and further, I dared not make a move. Though I had already loosened my grip, I continued to maintain the motion of hugging Nan Cheng Yao’s waist.
He, too, did not move. He did not speak either. With the room filled with silence and the moonlight spilling through ever so slightly, there came an unexpected a sense of peace and serenity.
Not a moment later, Xun Yun’s voice range afresh from outside the doors: “Your Highness, the Crown Prince and his men have left.”
The string that pulled taught at the bottom of my heart finally relaxed.
And the embarrassment that had been temporarily tossed away due to my nervousness and the tense confrontation followed in kind.
Unwilling to let him detect as such and not wanting my behavior to appear deliberate and unnatural, I gently released the arms wrapped around his waist and stealthily shifted towards the edge of the bed as nonchalantly as possible.
Suddenly, I became cognizant that the reason why Xun Yun did not come into the hall, instead speaking from beyond the doors, may be because she feared that I would feel awkward. After all, during the little show that went on just now, they were all standing outside the hall and were keenly aware of what had happened.
My cheeks instantly began burning and I couldn’t help but be grateful that there were no lit candles inside the room. My embarrassment was well-hidden within this sea of darkness.
And Nan Cheng Yao did not tease me. There was only a hint of a smile in his voice as he instructed Xun Yun: “Go to Gui Mo Pavillion and fetch a clean set of clothing for Wang fei.”
Only then did I remember that my clothes had been splattered with wine and could no longer be worn. Hearing Xun Yun’s reply of acknowledgement and intention of taking her leave, I hurriedly called out to her: “I’ve to burden the maiden helping me placate Shu Ying. I haven’t returned all night so she must be worried.”
Xun Yun replied deferentially from beyond the doors: “Wang fei, do not worry. Xun Yun knows what to do.”
The sounds of her footsteps slowly faded. Once again, all that remained in the hall was myself and Nan Cheng Yao. I told myself not to overthink things, but there was no way for me to maintain composure and ease whilst sharing a pillow with him, wearing only an under layer beneath.
He relaxed and leaned against the headboard. Though he said nothing, I knew he was not asleep. I could even sense his gaze repeatedly falling on me in this darkness.
The scent of wine and a faintly discernible sense of ambiguity hovered in the air. I took a deep breath, then said a little unnaturally: “Is Your Highness’ injury alright?”
He started grinning: “During that tense confrontation just now, Wang fei was still calm and composed. How come you’ve just now become nervous? Could it be that you’re afraid of me?”
I forced myself to reply calmly: “Your Highness is joking. The crown prince has already left, what do I have to be nervous about?”
Just as my words fell, I felt a tightness against my arms, and I was suddenly seized and brought into his embrace. Carrying with it a slight smile, his laughter blew against my ear: “How about now?”
My cheeks were already flushed beyond recognition. With just cloth separating our skin, I could feel the warmth and yang energy1 transmitting from his body. I could even hear the sound of my own heartbeat.
Following the initial shock, I pushed him away frantically, but he refused to let go. A lazy smile hung from his lips as he wrapped his arms around me.
I spoke up helplessly: “Your Highness, your injury.”
He laughed aloud: “It’s indeed very painful, so Wang fei, don’t move anymore and let me conserve some energy.”
I could feel that his movements were bereft of any implication of love. Instead, it carried an intent to tease, a desire to strip away the calmness and flawlessness I presented in front of others.
By thinking in such a way, I was actually able to slowly regain composure. I smiled softly: “Why won’t Your Highness first let go of me, is it this amusing to make fun of Qing’er?”
I waited for his retort, but even once some time passed, no response had come. I was a little doubtful. He was not the type to go so far as getting angry. So, I lifted my eyes and instead saw eyes that were as deep and dark as the night. I could not understand, nor could I discern what this was, but my heart inexplicably began to tremble.
Seeing his silence, I followed the direction of his gaze and could not help but turn mortified.
Because, at some point during our moment of struggle, the brocade quilt had quietly fallen, revealing snow-like skin spanning between my shoulders, neck, and even arms under the faintness of the moonlight.
And what he saw just happened to be my left arm and the phoenix that had been painted with refined cinnabar.
Horrified, I reached out in haste to pull the brocade quilt over myself, but I was instead held down by him. Cool fingertips lightly drew across the phoenix’s silhouette.
I couldn’t stop shaking. Unable to utter any words in that moment in time, all I could feel was that it had become difficult to even breathe.
He remained silent as those slender fingers continued to wander the expanse of my arm.
I forced myself to speak, breaking this overly ambiguous mood. Though I was smiling, my tone of voice more or less brought along with it some stiffness: “Qing’er met with calamity in youth. After falling from the precipice of a cliff, I was fortunate enough to have been saved by a noble man. However, the scar on my left arm wouldn’t fade, so a phoenix drawn of refined cinnabar was used to mask it instead.”
My words finally pulled him back to his thoughts. He slowly withdrew his hand, and within the darkness of his eyes was inkling of something that had gone out of control, having just barely been subdued by him through sheer willpower.
He shifted his gaze away from the phoenix on my arms, whose wings were beating and yearning to take flight, instead looking into my eyes. In the end, all he did was smile and say: “It’s very beautiful.”