“If you pass through the arch gate in front, you will reach the entertaining lounge. All the guests today are women, it is not right for me to be there.” Hua Man Xi points at an arch gate.
“It is up to shizi.”
“Little girl, we have known each other for two months, will you stop calling me ‘shizi’? Didn’t you call that smiling fox by his name? Why don’t you call me by my name?” Hua Man Xi put away that solemn look, his exceptionally handsome face looking clear and bright.
A trace of helplessness flashes in Yun Qian Yu’s star-like eyes, “Then Man Xi can stay here. I will to the entertaining lounge first.”
Yun Qian Yu turns around and walks away with Chen Xiang and the rest, disappearing into the other side of the arch gate.
The corner of Hua Man Xi’s lips curls up as he stands there for a long time, not moving.
“Father.” When he faces his father, his face is already filled with his customary roguish smile.
Duke Rong looks at the direction of the arch gate, “You like Princess Hu Guo?”
“Who doesn’t like a peerless beauty like her?” Hua Man Xi speaks like a true playboy.
“She does not suit you!” retorts Duke Rong.
“Who suits me, then? Jiang Yun Yi?” Hua Man Xi’s face sinks.
“She is the no.1 beauty in the capital and is also the primary granddaughter of Grand Tutor Jiang. She couldn’t possibly be any more suitable,” Duke Rong’s voice seems to carry anger.
“It is I who is not suitable for her, alright?” Hua Man Xi flings his sleeves and walks away.
“Xi Er, Father is only thinking for your own good!” Duke Rong calls after him, but by then, Hua Man Xi has already disappeared from view.
Duke Rong sighs.
“Wangye, shizi is still young, so it is easy for him to be swayed when he sees a beautiful girl. Give him a couple more years, he will know better, then.” Li shi’s gentle voice can be heard from behind.
“Why are you here?” Duke Rong looks around uneasily.
“Don’t worry, wangye. No one else is here,” says Li shi.
“Is there something you want to say?” Duke Rong asks her.
“Wangye, wangfei clearly made things hard for me today,” Li shi complains in grievance.
Duke Rong’s eyes flash, “You must have done something to warrant that. How can a widow dressed so colourfully?”
“But wangye, you clearly know that I am not a widow,” Li shi continues complaining.
“Shut up.” Duke Rong looks around again. “Go first. I will visit you tonight,” Duke Rong says with a low voice.
Li shi looks at him pitifully, “Wangye must really come!”
“I will. Go back!”
Li shi turns around and walks away.
“Do not vent on Yun Xi,” Duke Rong says after thinking for a moment.
Li shi stops in her track, a ruthless light flashing in her eyes before she gently replies Duke Rong.
The moment Li shi is out of sight, Duke Rong turns around and walks towards his study.
Yun Qian Yu’s silhouette suddenly appears underneath the arch gate. Her heart is in a great furore as she looks at the now empty courtyard. So this is a duke’s household; messy as hell. No wonder Princess Ming Zhu dislikes Li shi. He cannot openly take a concubine after marrying a princess, so Duke Rong takes a go at his own brother’s widow. What a man! Don’t tell her all men are like that? Yun Qian Yu suddenly thinks of Gong Sang Mo. Imagining him surrounded by women makes her heart uncomfortable. She suddenly has the urge to kill Gong Sang Mo.
Inside Qian Yu Pavilion, Gong Sang Mo gives a great sneeze. He rubs his nose; the weather has been really cold lately.
When Yun Qian Yu arrives in front of the entertaining lounge, Chen Xiang and her other attendants who have been keeping themselves hidden immediately appears before her. The originally lively atmosphere inside the lounge immediately quietens down when Yun Qian Yu arrives.
Princess Ming Zhu beckons her over, “Qian Yu, come to auntie.”
Yun Qian Yu obliges and sits in front with Princess Ming Zhu. The people below pay their respect to her. She waves them off. From the corner of her eyes, she can see Jiang Yun Yi sitting poisely on her right. She is the future wife chosen by Duke Rong’s manor for Hua Man Xi. She wonders if she has let go of Situ Han Yi.
When Jiang Yun Yi sees Yun Qian Yu looking her way, she gives her a light smile.
Yun Qian Yu, too, nods to acknowledge her.
From the look of it, all the esteemed young ladies who live in the capital have been invited. Seems like she has only been used as an excuse; the real purpose for this banquet is to serve as a date for Hua Man Xi.
After looking around, Yun Qian Yu’s eyes fall on Jiang Yun Yi again; she is indeed the most eye-catching girl amongst this lot.
Her eyes then fall on Li shi; she has now changed into a deep green dress. In the blink of an eye, she seems to have aged by a couple of years.
Remembering her affair with Duke Rong, Yun Qian Yu cannot help but look at Princess Ming Zhu. She must have known. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have made things hard for Li shi. Even princesses from the imperial family have times where they are completely helpless.
Yun Qian Yu is not interested in this banquet, but this is the best way for her to get to know people. Moreover, this banquet is attended by various young nobles in the capital; she must take this chance to carefully observe them.
The banquet comes to an end after two hours.
The crowd gradually bid each other goodbye. Princess Ming Zhu leaves Jiang Yun Yi and her mother for last to have a private chat with them; Yun Qian Yu naturally bids them goodbye.
Princess Ming Zhu holds her hand and sends her to the door, smiling before furtively whispering to her ears, “I only care about Xi Er.”
After that, she waves at Yun Qian Yu, “Qian Yu, you must come and frequently visit auntie.”
“I will, imperial aunt.” Yun Qian Yu then boards her carriage with a natural face.
Princess Ming Zhu then enters the lounge again, chatting happily with Jiang Yun Yi and her mother.
Inside the carriage, Yun Qian Yu closes her eyes thoughtfully. Her heart feels stifled, as though there is not enough air inside the carriage for her to breathe in. She suddenly has an overpowering urge to see Gong Sang Mo.
She opens her eyes before instructing Feng Ran to take care of Yu Jian. As the carriage moves, she disappears from it.
Less than half an incense stick time later, Yun Qian Yu appears in front of Qian Yu Pavilion.
Without even waiting for Yun Qian Yu to open her mouth, San Qiu pushes open the door for her to enter.
As she walks into the pavilion, she notices the light on the third floor. She makes her way to the study. Although the lanterns are lit, Gong Sang Mo is nowhere to be seen, so she goes down to the second floor and knocks on his bedroom’s door.
“Wait a minute,” Gong Sang Mo’s voice can be heard.
Yun Qian Yu frowns. It is still early, has he gone to bed?
She turns around and pushes open the door on the opposite side of his bedroom before stepping inside it. She opens a box on top of a table and sees a Ye Ming Pearl nestling inside it. It is a lot smaller than the ones Gong Sang Mo had previously gifted her. The entire room is suddenly filled with a gentle light.
The room is exactly like it was when she lived here; even the books she picked are still where she left them at. The room is clean and free of dust, it is clear that it is cleaned every day. She pushes open the window and takes a deep breath. She leans against the window, her eyes falling on the nan bamboos that are swaying in the dark night. She can hear the sound of their leaves rustling.
The two braids adoring her temples float when the wind blows while her blue dress dances it’s own dance.
When Gong Sang Mo opens his door, he discovers the opened door of the room opposite his. He walks over and sees the very person he has been yearning for. She is leaning against the window while the wind is blowing her hair gently, showcasing her beautiful face. Her long, fan-like lashes, her straight nose and her suddenly curling lips; every single feature of hers attracts him.
He swallows heavily, calming himself down before he walks over to where she stands.
“There is a large forest of mo bamboos in Duke Rong’s manor, it has been there for a hundred of years.” Yun Qian Yu speaks without turning to him.
“You like mo bamboos?” Gong Sang Mo looks at the nan bamboos outside; they have existed long before he did. If Yun Qian Yu wants him to, he will not hesitate to replace them with mo bamboos.
“I like nan bamboos better. They grow faster and have better adaptability,” Yun Qian Yu’s voice is very light yet distant, as though her mind is elsewhere.
“Bad mood?” Gong Sang Mo can sense that.
“I just discovered something; something I have always overlooked. It is so sudden so I finds it hard to accept ,” Yun Qian Yu finally turns towards him. Only then does she realize that he has just finished bathing. His soft dark hair are let loose as droplets of water falls from it’s ends. It is clear that he did not have enough time to dry them.
Yun Qian Yu frowns; they are about to enter winter soon. Even though Nan Lou Kingdom is in the north, their nights have gotten really cold. Why is he so dismissive when it comes to his health?
Yun Qian Yu turns around and walks into the bathroom. She takes a brocade cloth and says, “Sit down. It is easy to catch a cold if you don’t dry your hair properly.”
Gong Sang Mo seems shocked and overwhelmed by the grace he is getting. He brushes his robe gently before sitting down.
Yun Qian Yu gently dries his hair using the cloth, looking especially earnest. She does it really gently as though she is afraid of hurting him. As she reaches his scalp, she leans down and her hair ends up brushing against his. As she arranges her hair to sit properly on her back, Gong Sang Mo’s eyes catches the red-bean bracelet around her wrist. A joyful smile emerges on his face.
“I need to make sure something with you,” Yun Qian Yu says as she dries his hair.
“What is it?” Gong Sang Mo closes his eyes, enjoying this moment to the fullest.
“Will you be taking concubines after you get married?”
“Why are you suddenly asking that?” Gong Sang Mo immediately opens his eyes in alert. The little girl’s mood is not good ah!
“I want to know.”
“Did you encounter something that makes you unhappy today?” Gong Sang Mo asks after pondering.
“Answer me first.” Yun Qian Yu continues pursuing the question. The longer Gong Sang Mo drags this, the more uncomfortable she becomes. Gong Sang Mo’s hair is now dry. Yun Qian Yu puts down the cloth and sits in front of him. She stares at him with her large eyes.
Gong Sang Mo stares back at her with his bright eyes, his handsome face looking pretty helpless. This girl has no idea how much he loves her. He knows he needs to give her a definite answer now, to put a stop to her wild imagination.
“I will not.”
“Will you be having a mistress?”
The corner of Gong Sang Mo’s lips twitches. Hasn’t she just returned from Duke Rong’s manor? Don’t tell him a trip to that old manor makes her this jittery?
“I will not.”
“Then, will you be liking someone else’s wife?” Gong Sang Mo feels like he is going to collapse. What is wrong with her? What someone else’s wife? It takes him three years to woo this one and he still hasn’t succeeded.
“I dislike physical contact.”
Yun Qian Yu finally heaves a sigh of relief. Right; Gong Sang Mo is a neat freak, he will not like anyone’s wife. He doesn’t even like the beautiful and seductive Long Xiang Luo, much less other people’s wives. The hole in her heart finally closes and in the blink of an eye, breathing no longer seem laborious.
Gong Sang Mo has been observing Yun Qian Yu’s expression. Seeing her calming down, his heart gradually calms down too.
“Can you tell me what it is that made you suspect my loyalty?” Gong Sang Mo’s god-like face is carrying a teasing smile.
Yun Qian Yu finally regains her composure enough to realize that she has been barraging him with questions that a wife would usually blasts her husband with. Her face turns red, resembling a peach blossom in the 3rd month. It is an enticing sight.
Something swirl in Gong Sang Mo’s eyes; he wants to keep Yun Qian Yu here and never let her out.
He outstretches his long, slender hand and caresses her soft cheek. Gentleness is overflowing from his eyes and his handsome face is unparalleled underneath the faint glow of the Ye Ming pearl.
Yun Qian Yu’s heart trembles. She originally wanted to move away from his touch, but her body refuses to move. Gong Sang Mo’s hand is a little warm and it is enough to warm her entire heart.
Gong Sang Mo’s heart is filled with great joy when Yun Qian Yu does not push his hand away. He finally managed to enter her heart!
“Qian Yu,” Gong Sang Mo whispers her name with a voice full of love. His calling her name this time, contains 3 years worth of worry and emotion.
A ripple can be seen in Yun Qian Yu’s eyes; she gives him a smile, one that even a garden of blooming flowers pale in comparison to. That smile fills Gong Sang Mo’s desolate heart with warmth.
“Qian Yu, what do you want me to do? I have given you everything you wanted for the past three years, but somehow, it wasn’t enough for me. I helplessly love you from the sideline. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want to lose you. A little response from you makes me happy, more than anything ever will. Just like now. Just a smile from you is enough to brighten everything.”
Every single word that Gong Sang Mo says hammers Yun Qian Yu’s heart. This is the first time she is seeing a cautious and unconfident Gong Sang Mo. One will only be afraid if they care too much.
Gong Sang Mo traces her lashes with his long fingers. She blinks and as her lashes brushes against his fingers, he trembles. He puts his hand away from her face and picks up her hand, the one with the bracelet. He unravels her fingers and buries his eyes against her fair palm.
She can feel his lashes shivering against her hand.
“Qian Yu, I have waited for three years. How much longer do you want me to wait?”
Yun Qian Yu’s hand freezes. A feeling of guilt suddenly surfaces in her heart; she never really thinks that far. When she found out he likes her, she simply comes to term with that and didn’t really think of anything else. From the beginning till the end, it is Gong Sang Mo who continuously tries to approach her. She simply stands in her spot, watching him making his way closer. She never takes a single step to get closer to him.
She moves her hand and Gong Sang Mo lets it go. She, then, gently traces over Gong Sang Mo’s eyebrow and earnestly brushes over his cheeks, his towering nose, his thin lips and his chin.
Gong Sang Mo’s eyes turn hazy as he trains his phoenix eyes on Yun Qian Yu.
Her finger stops on top of his lips, “All these while, I never believe in depending on another person. I always believed that people lives for themselves; even if no one is there to applaud me, I would still do my best to fly. So, my mindset is simple, go and obtain my version of happiness; go and protect the people I deemed worthy; and appreciate everything that I have. That’s why I didn’t hesitate to come to the capital for Yu Jian. But everything changed when I met you. I have no idea how it started; I trusts you as much as I trusts myself. Perhaps, it is because you saved me when we first met.”
As Yun Qian Yu pulls her hand away from his face, Gong Sang Mo catches her hand, refusing to let go.
“I did not have that many desires back then; I just wanted to go out and explore the world. If I gets tired, I can retire back to Yun Valley and enjoy a tranquil life there. But now, my heart is no longer as simple. I have more and more desires; I want to have a family, friends, love…. I want it all. That’s why I didn’t reject your gift when you sent me the red beans. I really want to have someone who can help me experience passion and love. I want to experience the kind of love my father harboured for my mother; the kind that makes one wants to follow the other to death.”
“I was willing to accompany Ling Shan to do childish things; to let her call my name over and over again. I answered her patiently each time, because I too, wanted to childishly calls her over and over again. Seeing her so happy over that makes me happy too. I envied Ling Shan for having two brothers who love her unconditionally. I wanted a brother too, and Yun Nian showed up at just the right time. I thought, the gods must have felt they wronged me so. That was why they fulfilled all of my wishes.”
This is the first time she has ever been so honest; Gong Sang Mo knows how precious this moment is. He has always known that she covets nothing, that was why he calculated everything to the very last details to get her to come to the capital.
“However, I discovered something that I have overlooked when I was in Duke Rong’s manor earlier on. Duke Rong’s relationship with Princess Ming Zhu is something that is well-known in the capital. They are the so-called model couple. He only has her for a wife and didn’t even have a little tongfang or concubine. But today, I saw him with his little brother’s widow.”
(TN: Tongfangs are maids that serve men in bed.)
Gong Sang Mo fists his hand; he finally understands why she has been so upset.
“That’s why you got doubtful of me?”
Yun Qian Yu purses her lips and nods.
Gong Sang Mo sighs, “Am I that untrustworthy in your heart?”
Yun Qian Yu blinks, not really saying anything. She was indeed suspicious of him, there is nothing she can say to deny that.
“There will be no other woman than you!” Gong Sang Mo grasps Yun Qian Yu’s hand, his eyes more earnest that they have always been.
Yun Qian Yu smiles, her eyes bright, “I know.”
Gong Sang Mo is taken aback for a moment.
She points at the room, “I can see it very well.”
Gong Sang Mo stares at her face that is beautiful enough to topple over the world. His voice is exceptionally gentle when he speaks, “Qian Yu did that on purpose?”
“It was just to make me happy!” Yun Qian Yu happily smiles.
“Then, can I do things to make me happy?” A charming, demonic smile appears on Gong Sang Mo’s face as he trains his tempting eyes on her.
Yun Qian Yu freezes as she looks at Gong Sang Mo who has abruptly changed. Her heart panics and before she even gets to do anything, Gong Sang Mo pulls her hand and encased the unprepared her into his embrace. He uses force to keep her there.
He looks down at her, his hair falling down as he moves. His warm breaths falls on Yun Qian Yu’s face.
He holds her tight with one hand and uses his other, shaking hand to touch her lips. He brushes his fingertip against her lips, earnest and persistent.
The moment his finger comes into contact with her lips, Yun Qian Yu is snapped awake. She tries to struggle but Gong Sang Mo’s arm is firm like iron against her attempt.
Gong Sang Mo’s hand pauses when she struggles. He smirks enticingly at her as he gives her an ambiguous whisper, “Qian Yu, you messed with me first.”
Gong Sang Mo would never waste such a precious chance.
Yun Qian Yu seems to have realized something and immediately blushes.