The lantern festival in the capital really deserved it’s fame. Flying dragons, pouncing tigers, dancing phoenixes and Guan Yin sitting in the middle of lotus….. There were a lot of kinds of ice sculptures.
The streets were packed, as though the entire country was here. The women of the Great Qi were bold and unrestrained; quite a number of them stopped the Crown Prince before saying, “Is this brother’s heart taken yet?”
Tian Bing Qing and I exchanged secret smile, whispering to each other, “This is the fifteenth girl.”
It had only been two hours and the Crown Prince already made 14 girls cried from heartbreak. Was his heart made of stone?
He was so coldhearted, it made people depressed.
Tian Bing Qing suddenly gave me a look of pity; I couldn’t fathom why. I was just about to ask him why, when my neck was suddenly pulled from behind. My body turned for a moment before falling into a warm chest. I looked up and my eyes fell on the Crown Prince’s chin.
He lowered his head, his phoenix eyes twinkling as he leaned down and gave my lips a peck. While I was busy being taken aback, he spoke with an unchanging expression, “Miss, I already have someone in my household. I don’t dare to mislead Miss.”
I stupidly looked up from his embrace and saw the girl’s eyes reddening. She forced herself to laugh and said, “I was too presumptuous.” After that, she looked at me who was wrapped in Feng Zhao Wen’s embrace. She appeared to be weirded out. After that, she covered her teary face with her hands and ran off
I touched my own face; secretly remembering how I had been eating sumptuously lately. I must have overate, why else was my face scary enough to scare a young girl to tears?
The corner of Feng Zhao Wen’s lips was raised as he patted my head, “Are you satisfied now? Do you still want to see the celebration?”
I was in a daze, “Your Highness, am I that ugly?” I scared that beautiful girl to tears like that.
The Crown Prince looked at my with a difficult expression, as though he wanted to tell the truth but was afraid it would ruin my self-esteem. Under my earnestly questioning gaze, he simply sighed before he relented, “Actually, one will get used to you after looking at you for a while.”
Thinking about it made my heart turned cold. I struggled out of his embrace and rubbed my belly, “Let’s go back to eat.” Being ugly was not my fault, but going out to scare others was.
Feng Zhao Wen held my hand as he gave a low chuckle, “Actually, it is better to eat warm things when your mood is bad.”
Was that considered him comforting me?
En, the Crown Prince’s comfort was not something of low value, might as well accept it.
Whenever one faced spiritual collapse, one must make up to it with worldly material; only then could one find the strength to go on.
The citizens of the Great Qi had both spiritual strength and wealth, Feng Zhao Wen dragged me through the rows and rows of restaurants serving roasted ducks and aromatic dishes only to stop in front of a noodle stall in a little alley.
I secretly said to myself: The Crown Prince must have forgotten to bring his money pouch…. He was originally rich enough to give us a feast!
Just as I was about to persuade him, Feng Zhao Wen raised his sleeves before sitting down. The way he sat was truly noble and upright. It was unfortunate the alley was dark. No one could see him.
Had we been sitting in one of those restaurants, he would have stolen everyone’s attention for sure.
What was even more unfortunate was this noodle stall was operated by a pair of old couple. They did not even know he was this kingdom’s Crown Prince and greeted him with a familiar warm smile, “You are here? Same order?”
Feng Zhao Wen nodded before he pulled my sleeves and dragged me to sit.
Even Tian Bing Qing sat on a table near the wall. He laughed, “Auntie Cai, please give me extra coriander.”
I stared at the two of them, dumbfounded. Had the war caused the Crown Prince to be broke?
That Auntie Cai laughed and soon brought three large bowl of noodles into our tables.
I yearningly gazed at the direction of those aromatic restaurants; I could smell the scent of spicy and savory dishes. I could feel my saliva flowing.
Feng Zhao Wen chewed slowly, as though he was appreciating some sort of a delicacy. He swallowed after chewing it for a long time, his phoenix eyes flashing, “What’s wrong? Not hungry?”
I stirred my own noodles, suddenly feeling my appetite diminishing. I felt at lost, but I didn’t dare to complain and could only carefully try to pry, “Your Highness, is the kingdom’s treasury empty?”
The pair of phoenix eyes opposite me carried traces of laughter, nodding to affirm my suspicion, “How did Xiao Yi knows?”
I motioned towards the restaurant in front of Feng Zhao Wen and tried my best to muster a touched expression, “Your Highness spent all your time contributing to the kingdom and yet you are still so frugal; our hearts ache for you. How can you not cherish your own body?”
His eyebrows were slightly raised, “Then, according to you, how should we fill up the treasury?”
At that moment, a very fat man came out of the restaurant. I glanced at the entrance, secretly excited inside, “How to fill it up?” I pointed at the man, “Rob the rich and feed the poor….. After you robbed them, the first person you help is yourself.” The best possible way to help oneself was to eat a feast at the restaurant first.
I could hear a splutter from Tian Bing Qing, who then picked up his bowl and continued eating greedily after sitting at the back of the stall.
Feng Zhao Wen who initially appeared worried, laughed before knocking my head with his hand, “You little rogue.” After that, he continued eating.
I rubbed my head in grievance…. Honestly, that was me being extremely compassionate. At least I said rob the rich, not rob and kill!
Upon returning to the palace, Feng Zhao Wen first went to his study to look at documents.
I overheard the servants talking about how today was Princess Min An’s birthday. The empress threw a banquet for her beloved daughter and sent the invitation to the Eastern Palace early in the morning. None of them dared to hand the invitation to the Crown Prince.
I secretly asked Tian Bing Qing only to be stared at by him. “General An, your head is made of wooden block.”
I touched my own head. He was too impartial and unjust so I waved my fist in front of him, “I will beat you up if you don’t clearly tell me which part of me is made of woods, today!
I refused to believe he would not back down in front of brute force.
We had been pretty chummy, the past half a year. We got used to fighting whenever Feng Zhao Wen was not around so he had always been blunt and frank to me, “His Highness is not happy today, can’t you feel it?”
He was unhappy?
He had a straight face when he was happy and would also had a straight face when unhappy. He would occasionally laugh at me, but that was rare. I still could not differentiate his happy face from his unhappy face.
Honestly, I don’t think I had ever seen any kind of joy or delight on his face.
“It is his sister’s birthday yet he did not go to the palace to express his well-wishes, is it because the empress is biased?” I really could not believe that Feng Zhao Wen would be that narrow-minded.
Tian Bing Qing sighed, “His Highness is the son of the previous empress….”
Oh, so the current empress was Feng Zhao Wen’s stepmother. I finally understood.
Stepmothers had always disliked promising and capable sons of the previous wives.
“Then, has the current empress gave birth to a son?” Perhaps it was because I used to have a silly infatuation for the Crown Prince, I was actually worried for him. I heard the empress was the most favored one in the harem, he was in an alarming spot.
“The current empress still has not given birth to a prince, only a princess.”
I patted my chest in relief, “Lucky! Lucky!”
Tian Bing Qing gave me a look that said I know nothing, “The day Princess Min An was born, the previous empress died.”
I could feel my heart softening. A strange kind of feeling towards the Crown Prince crept up inside of me: sympathy.
Even though he was born with a noble identity, he had to grow up in such a distorted environment. Even though he was a bit quiet and a bit gloomy, his personality was not crooked and he excelled in both literature and martial arts; that was actually a hard feat.
Tian Bing Qing seemed to admire the late empress a lot, “The late empress would personally make the Crown Prince a bowl of noodles on his birthday… That old woman you saw tonight was the late empress’ former maid. The noodle she made has a similar taste to the ones the late empress made.”
Hearing that, I suddenly found it hard to control my emotion.
Remembering the Crown Prince who sat on the stall when there were restaurants all around made my heart sour…. From now on, I will not go to Zhi Wei Nong anymore.
(TN: The name of a restaurant.)
Perhaps it was due to what Tian Bing Qing said; when the Crown Prince returned later that day, I waited after him obediently. I even helped him change his clothes and shoes.
He picked up the tea I poured him while looking at me curiously.
I…. really was not good with dealing with sympathy. I might even end up provoking the other party’s hatred.
But I simply could not force down that bitter feeling inside of me. I could only stare at the bright yellow curtain inside the chamber as I stuttered, “The noodle….. the noodle was a little salty, please drink some water.”
——— Actually, the noodles made by that Auntie Cai tasted really good, it wasn’t salty at all.
After saying that, I quickly looked over to him, only to found his frozen and inquiring eyes glued on myself. He gave me a glance before understanding everything, “That big-mouthed Tian Bing Qing.” He drank it in a big gulp, unlike the small sips he used to take in the past.
He then handed the cup to me. I placed it on top of a table before I felt a hand pulling me into a chest.
I had gotten used to his chest. I would be awoken against it every time I had nightmares. Though I could not remember my dreams, I could remember the warm feeling of being pressed against this warm chest.
He rested his chin on top of my head as he laughed lightly, “So this little rogue actually have feelings. I always thought you were a heartless brat.”
I issued a muffled reply, “I am naturally aware of Your Highness’ kindness towards me.”
He laughed again, his usually cold voice carrying traces of warmth, “Everything has long passed. Xiao Yi must remember, there is no obstacle in this world that one could not pass.”
I struggled out of his embrace and raised my head to look at him, only to be met with a pair of shining phoenix eyes and an approaching pair of lips.
His eyes contained thousands of waves that firmly locked me in. A feeling of panic suddenly surfaced in my heart, making me felt the urge to flee.
After he gave me a heavy kiss and before my head turned blurry, this particular thought reverberated in my brain: Sympathy was truly dangerous ah.
In order to sympathize a lion, you must be prepared to be eaten by it.