“Lord Minister, the Imperial carriage has arrived.”
Sheng Miaolan called from the entrance of the study room, her countenance slightly warped in anxiousness.
The woman hoisted a leather bag around her right shoulder, her hands holding a set of rings and a jade necklace.
“Alright, I’ll be out in just one moment.”
Wei Xuan’s muffled voice rang from within the depths of the study, muted by the dense layers of furniture and cloth.
A few minutes of rustling cloth and staggered steps, the minister finally emerged to wave towards the First Madam, pushing a young girl before him with hands on her shoulders.
“Fei’er, when you’re outside, you must not let anyone near you make contact,” Wei Xuan cautioned in an unusually stern voice.
“Speak little to your peers, no more than necessary. If anyone makes a request from you, try to avoid it as much as possible.”
Taken aback, An Fei stared at Wei Xuan’s worried countenance for a solid moment, the pair of scarlet irises blinking from behind the veil.
Observing the young girl before him nod obediently without any demur, the minister revealed a warm smile. Taking the First Madam’s hand, Wei Xuan and Sheng Miaolan carefully escorted the young girl out of the Flowing Wind Residence, and towards the entrance of the Wei manor.
There, through the wooden doors that usually barred the streets of Jiang’an from encroaching into a peaceful territory unlike other official’s residence, stood a magnificent carriage.
Large, elegant, and constructed of the highest quality blackwood obtained from Great Yan’s most prestigious woodcraft pavilion, was the empress’ personal carriage.
The rectangular structure spanned a length of eight meters, a height of two meters, and a width of five meters. Even as she stood from afar, An Fei could easily spot the numerous engravings and sculptures of phoenixes and swallows of gold span around the entire carriage.
It was… indeed rather domineering and extravagant.
Standing around it forced the young girl to nervously swallow, her eyes narrowing in trepidation.
“…this is the last we can accompany you, ah,” Sheng Miaolan sighed, spinning An Fei’s body to face the woman.
Removing the leather bag from her shoulder and slinging it around the young girl’s neck, the First Madam patted An Fei’s cheeks, a doting smile transfixed on her beautiful countenance.
“Since Fei’er can’t take too much, your Father and I could only pack little compared to what we had originally planned before. Inside are a several medicines and ointments with their descriptions and a few changes of clothes, but you would definitely need far more than that…”
“Minister Wei, have you finished preparing?”
An elegant and distinguished voice rang from besides the carriage, quickly cutting across the First Madam’s trailing voice.
Turning around, An Fei spotted a woman dressed in a scarlet robe embroidered with golden phoenixes and mulberry leaves striding towards them, the long sleeves extending below her waist as if wings expanded from her back.
“Your Imperial Highness,” Wei Xuan forced a smile onto his countenance.
“This minister has indeed finished preparing. My daughter can depart immediately.”
“Then that’s good,” Feng Yu Xin nodded in response, her gaze sweeping over the young girl. Without sparing another glance, the woman fluttered her eyelashes once, before returning towards the imperial carriage with a sweep of her arm.
“The little girl here, follow bengong. You shall be under bengong’s care until we arrive at the Taiyi Sect.”
Looking towards Wei Xuan and Sheng Miaolan for their opinion, An Fei eventually began walking towards the blackwood carriage with faltering steps.
Before she passed through the double doors guarding the Wei manor, the minister grasped her hand, causing the young girl to halt.
“Your Imperial Highness, please do remember your promise.”
“Minister Wei need not worry,” Feng Yu Xin flashed half of a silver medallion towards the minister.
“Bengong does not forget her promises.”
The minister grit his teeth, before reaching deep into his chest pocket. Ushering An Fei to step closer, Wei Xuan brusquely stuffed a silk pouch into her hands, before whispering into her ear.
“This is just a little trivial gift for now; when you return, Father will have numerous trinkets and jewelry for you to play with,” the minister hurried, his eyes flickering from An Fei’s countenance to the figure of the empress.
“The empress will protect you until you reach the Taiyi Sect. If you don’t want to partake in the opportunity, just come back at once.”
“En,” An Fei nodded gravely, her eyes wide with caution.
Seeing that the young girl had finally raised her vigilance, Wei Xuan clapped her shoulder, escorting her until her feet finally stepped into the carriage.
“Little lass, don’t forget to come back, ah!”
“Father…” the young girl murmured from the steps. “I’ll miss you…”
Under the persuasion of the driver, An Fei climbed the remaining steps and entered the cabin of the carriage, the smiling figures of Sheng Miaolan and Wei Xuan imprinted in her mind.
As she quickly found a seat in the corner of the carriage, the young girl couldn’t help but purse her lips, a rather unsettling premonition tugging at her heart.
The carriage driver flicked his whip, and eight horses pulled as one, sending the carriage into motion.
Watching the exquisite carriage constructed of boxwood quickly fade away into the distance, the First Madam turned to gaze at the solemn minister, an unsettled expression displayed on her countenance.
“Lord Minister, are you alright?” Sheng Miaolan anxiously rubbed at Wei Xuan’s creased forehead.
“I’m perfectly fine, Miaolan does not need to worry.”
The minister revealed a fleeting smile, playfully catching the First Madam’s arms and holding them behind her head. Wrapping a hand around her waist, Wei Xuan slowly steered the unwilling woman into the Slumbering Dawn Residence with a wolfish gaze.
“Lord Minister, Miaolan still feels that Fei’er may come into- “
“Enough,” Wei Xuan chided, silencing the woman with a finger on her hips.
“Don’t jinx my precious daughter, ah!”
“This… but I – “
“Enough rambling, alright? Unless you want this minister to pull out the ribbons again…”
In the carriage, the empress couldn’t help but massage her temples for the third time in an hour. Her eyes flickered throughout the carriage, roaming around the luxurious setting before finally settling onto the figure of a young girl.
This young girl, ah!
The inner workings of the carriage was lined with comfortable couches of exquisite fabric on all sides of the walls, and a fur rug covering the entirety of the floor.
A large table at the center of the carriage was covered with vast assortments of snacks and candied fruits and nuts, a small incense burner merrily cheering away as it staved the chilly air of early spring.
Unfortunately for the articles of furniture that weighed in at an eye-dazzling price of several hundred gold taels each, the young girl had only drawn a perfunctory gaze, before sitting at the corner of the closest couch. She didn’t greet the empress or become dumbfounded at the array of wealth before her eyes.
And to top it off, she didn’t even say a single word before immediately falling asleep!?
“I really should have pulled my weight as empress of Great Yong and have brought a few maidservants,” Feng Yu Xin rolled her eyes, glancing wistfully at the rows of snacks and candied assortments.
“…and to think that I prepared all of these for the young girl to eat… oh well, perhaps Zhang’s child or Luo’s child would be more talkative and active than this Wei’s fourth little daughter…”
Numbly chewing on a piece of candied hawthorn and having been unable to obtain a conversation partner, the empress instead devoted her time to studying the brazen young girl who dared to sleep in the empress’ presence.
Other than the tips of her fingers, she really… couldn’t see a single inch of skin.
The girl was carefully dressed in a long pair of leather pants that even extended beyond her feet instead of a spring dress, with a rather thick linen coat covering the rest of her body from the knees and beyond.
A single glance towards the girl’s veil and the soles of her feet confirmed to Feng Yu Xin that An Fei had dedicated herself to concealing her appearance, to the extent of only displaying her silky and glamorous hair, withdrawing everything else from sight.
Truly an odd… Young Miss from an official’s family.
“Driver,” the empress airily called towards the outside of the carriage. Crossing her legs, the woman released a bored sigh of air, giving the sleeping young girl an eyebrow raised with bemusement.
“What is the next destination?”
“Answering to Your Imperial Highness,” the carriage driver respectfully responded.
“Your Imperial Highness will arrive at the Right Imperial Censor Luo’s manor in half of a cup of tea’s time.”
“So be it, then.”
Feng Yu Xin sighed, leaning into the silky fabric of the couch, closing her eyes to take a brief nap.
If the young women of the Right Imperial Censor Luo and Left Imperial Censor Zhang’s young girls were more talkative than this Wei Xuan’s fourth daughter, then she, Feng Yu Xin, can finally obtain some relaxation and fun on this otherwise menial and boring task.
How dare he, that Wei Xuan, for forcing her onto this meaningless trip via a Faceless Token!?
If only the empress had known that instead of sleeping, the young girl right besides her was fully awake and running around, then her expression…