Chapter Eight,

Qing Xing

He Xuan walked in big steps to the sedan chair the entire way, while Li Fu Hai long already waited at the entrance to the crown prince residence.
He was already old, and hunched his waist, holding a lantern.
The frosty winds blew the candle into a flicker, making his shadow also sometimes long and short.

He Xuan faintly sighed, “You’re already old, yet you do not know to cherish your body.
Didn’t [I] tell you not to wait by the doors anymore?”

“Your Highness, this old servant knows his own body.
It will not hinder things, your Highness said not to have this old servant wait, but this old servant was worried.”

He Xuan knitted his eyebrows and had the servants get a thick piece of clothing for Li Fu Hai to drape on, and borrowed this to find fault, scolding, “Do you bunch of people all eat for free? Don’t know to get some thick clothes [for him]?”

The servants did not know what kind of grievances He Xuan suffered from the Nan Hun Duke, and did not dare to breathe and knelt down in a row in front of him, continuously kowtowing.

“Beat it.”

He Xuan scolded lowly in annoyance, and the bunch of servants hurriedly sighed a breath of relief, then anxiously ran towards the door, afraid that if they ran slow, they would provoke this god of plague.

Once he entered the study and was cooked by the warm charcoal, it melted the cold and stiff air on his entire body just now and softened it.
He Xuan rubbed his hands, and took a sip of tea that was just steeped, and was considered to have calmed down, then started taking care of the tasks from the courts.

“Your Highness, the matter of you taking that Zi Wan lady today has spread throughout the courts.” Li Fu Hai saw he was finished, and interjected in the free time.

He Xuan picked up a cake and ate a bit, then said absentmindedly, “Hm, those subjects are the most loose lipped.”

“Your Highness seems to be very considerate for that person from Nan Liang.”

He Xuan was spreading out a notebook from an emperor from the previous dynasty.
He paused, lifted up his eyelids, and glanced at Li Fu Hai.
His eyes flashed by with the bright red colour emitting from the corner of Xiao Zuo’s eyes when he lifted them up, and said absentmindedly, “What of it? That little fellow looks fair and pretty, isn’t he right up my alley?”

When He Xuan was together with his own people and was in a good mood, he would occasionally not use Ig to call himself, and felt much more intimate and free.

“This old servant isn’t muddleheaded, your Highness, don’t scare this old servant.”

He Xuan took back his smile, and spoke with a serious expression, “Mm, at that time, General Bai’s army fought from the north area, and pretty much breached Nan Liang’s capital like breaking through bamboo, so Nan Liang’s south region has not yet been taken in.
Now that the south region has rebellions coming up all over, that little emperor might still have some uses.
Right now, I am considered to be closest to the waters’ building, the first to get the moon[1]……”

As he said this, he mischievously blinked, and leaned on the back of the chair, joking lazily, “Besides, in the days of old, Zhou You Wang tricked all the dukes with fire[2].
That little emperor’s looks are certainly of mygu taste, and to obtain the smile of a beauty, this deal is certainly profitable.”

Qing Xing held up some cakes, and knocked on the door saying, “Duke.”

“Come in.”

Zi Wan changed out of her clothes, and was by the side grinding ink for Xiao Zuo.
Xiao Zuo was looking at a book, and from time to time, held a brush to write a few words, and had a bit of a refined air of a lady accompanying one reading[3].
Qing Xing froze a bit when pushing the door, and slightly awkwardly stepped inside, saying, “This servant has prepared some cakes for the duke, would you like some, Duke?”

“Put it down, I will have it in a while.” Xiao Zuo lifted his head up and glanced at it, then continued reading his book.
Qing Xing pursed her lips, placed the box on the table to the side, then took small steps to go out.

“That lady’s tone is quite familiar to the ears.” Once Qing Xing went out the door, Zi Wan could not help but speak up.
Xiao Zuo’s hand writing words paused, and dipped in a bit of ink, “She said her family was in Nan Liang in the past, but later on, migrated over to Jin.
This is also destiny.”

“Yes, she looks to be quite clean and clever.”

When Xiao Zuo heard Zi Wan add a few words, he suddenly thought to something, then placed the brush down, “Before when the crown prince came, she knelt down on porcelain fragments, and her clothes even stained with some blood, I forgot to ask just now.
A few days ago when I wasn’t able to come to my senses, she always thought of ways to make some new food.
Now that she has been injured for me, I should go see her.”

As he said this, he had Zi Wan put on an outer robe for him, and held a hand-warming stove, and hurriedly went out the door towards Qing Xing’s small room for night watch.

“Duke?” Qing Xing suddenly saw Xiao Zuo stand by the door, and surprisingly and happily gave way for him, and turned a bit incoherent, “Why has the duke come? The place here is small, it will be inconvenient for the duke……”

“It’s alright.” Xiao Zuo placed down the small stove, “I saw that your leg was injured before, have you treated it yet?”

Qing Xing paused, and her eyes then reddened.
She bit down the lower lip, hummed in the throat for a while, and then said, “I…… I have, thank you Duke for your concern.”

Xiao Zuo nodded his head, then took out a small porcelain bottle from his arms and placed it on the table, “This ointment is very effective in stopping blood and healing the skin.
Rub a bit of this on it each day and night.
You’re a lady, if you get scars, it would be bad.”

“Duke……” Qing Xing held in her fingers, and hurriedly nodded her head, “Do not worry, Duke.”

Xiao Zuo still wanted to say something, but once he saw Qing Xing’s face all red, bashfully lowering her eyes and occasionally quickly taking a glance at him, and once she saw he was looking at her, then quickly move away, he then became a bit awkward inside.

Though they were master and servant, but the rule of men and women needing to keep a distance needed to be kept.
He swallowed the few words of concern in his mouth back, stood up, then said, “I will be going now, take care of yourself.”

“Thank you for the concern, Duke.” Qing Xing lowered her head, At this time, her fingers curled around the hems of the clothes, and her face still had some red to it.
Xiao Zuo coughed.
In the past, Mother was afraid those palace maids wanted to take advantage of him and fly up to the branches and be a phoenix, so the ones serving by his side were all dutiful servant girls or eunuchs chosen out of many.
Mother paid close attention to it to the point that even though Xiao Zuo was at the age he could marry, regarding the matters between men and women, he was still a fledgling.

Once he ascended, he met with a large [enemy] force bearing on the borders, and the heavy burdens of the country pressed on him so hard he couldn’t hold even a sliver of selfishness, and thus, he was not accustomed to taking care of these things, and could only ambiguously take care of it, and go out the room like he was running away.

“Your Highness, Lord Xu is already upstairs waiting.” Fu Man Ying’s[4] owner was a thin and tall one.
Their physique was slightly shrivelled, and a cotton gown of deep blue loosely covered over the body, while the two cheeks were caved in, and their features were sharp, making them particularly thin, unlike the look of a businessman, but seemed much more like a dejected scholar.

He Xuan nodded his head at him, and without consulting anyone, went up to the second floor’s private room.
Once he lifted up the thick curtains, he saw Xu Yu Hang[5] was steeping tea.
Seeing him come in, he nodded his head at him as a signal, and did not go through a big bow.
He Xuan let the waiter waiting by the door start bringing the dishes, and also got seated.

“This is old ginger pu’er that the owner has especially prepared for your Highness.
Your Highness, hurry and try it.” Once winter came, He Xuan’s leg’s cold pain would also turn more severe as the days came.
He poured out a cup in slight astonishment, then put it to the nose to smell.
Certainly, it was a dense scent of ginger, spreading around in a scorching manner.

“He is quite thoughtful.” He Xuan took one sip, and smiled.

Xu Yu Hang picked up a chopstick full of tofu strings, then said, “In a few days, a garrison envoy will need to be sent to the few strategically important cities in Nan Liang’s north, has that person given it thought yet?”

“Mm.” He Xuan ate a sauced gourd, it was a bit salty, and he then drank a few gulps of tea, then said with knitted eyebrows, “I’m afraid it’s a bit bad.
It’s likely it will be given to old Fourth.”

“That person has gotten more partial these years.” Xu Yu Hang paused, then sighed “Ever since Aunt has passed away, Née Liu has bee like a fish in water.”

He Xuan pursed his lips, and did not speak up.

The waiter knocked on the door- the main dishes had come.
Most of it were dishes that He Xuan loved to eat, a whole table was filled entirely with steam, sweet and sour chicken, mushroom soup, steamed hui fish, all sorts of fragrant smells billowed around.

“The Fourth….
Sir typically has typically been arrogant and domineering, if he were to control Nan Liang this time, I’m afraid it would make the people deprived of their livelihood.”

“That one is only making efforts for Nan Liang on the surface, how would they really love the citizens like their own son.” He Xuan picked off the bone in a fish, and sneered, “Even if old Fourth were to burn down Nan Liang with fire, at most, he would put him on house arrest for a few days and be done with.”

Xu Yu Hang knew of this already, but having read that many classic literature, he couldn’t avoid thinking of the innocent commoners a bit further down the line.
At this time, he shook his head, “Aye, is there really no way anymore? How about we help you say a few words up in court?”

“We’ll see for now.” He Xuan did not give any definite answer, “The hopes are not big.”

Just as He Xuan returned to the residence, he took off the outer robe and sat in the study, rubbing his temples, when Li Fu Hai pushed the door in.

“Your Highness.”

“Mm.” He Xuan lifted his head up and took a glance, then closed his eyes again to rest, leaning on the back of the chair while lifting his head, and asked, “How has it been at the ducal residence these days?”

“For these few days, there hasn’t been much movement.” Li Fu Hai paused, then spoke again, “The fourth prince went there two days ago.”

He Xuan knitted his eyebrows, “Old Fourth certainly can’t suppress his nature, huh.”

“Tomorrow is a big court meeting, you must wake up early.” Li Fu Hai sighed, “Get some rest early.”

“Mm.” He Xuan recalled that old ginger pu’er taste, then lifted his chin, “Have Song Ying prepare some ginger tea.”

Today, Song Ying was wearing a plain and neat silk robe, making his features like a distant mountain, and the ripples in the eyes were like black pigment.
He saw He Xuan come in, then handed the ginger tea he steeped over to him, “This servant has also added some goji berries in the tea.
I know that your Highness dislikes sweet tastes, and especially put in some bitter leaves.”

He Xuan nodded his head, “You’ve been considerate.” He reached out to take it, then sipped on it.
A sweet aftertaste within the bitterness, as well as a bit of the cool sweetness of goji and the spiciness of raw ginger, truly, complete with the five flavours.

He lifted his head up wanting to say something.
Song Ying was lowering his eyes playing with the teacup, and from He Xuan’s perspective, within the flicker of the candlelight, Song Ying’s profile made him recall that look of Xiao Zuo on the ground holding up the porcelain bottle that day, and he went into a daze, unable to move his eyes for the time being.

“Your Highness?”

He Xuan trembled.
He only saw that little emperor for a few times, has he really pined for him already?

He Xuan pulled the corners of his mouth in self ridicule, and then acted like there was nothing and finished drinking the tea, and undid his clothes, saying, “Sleep.”

Song Ying went over to blow out the candles, then tucked the blanket tight for He Xuan, laid down, and not long after, his breathing turned uniform.
He Xuan instead was at the side turning from one side to the next.
When he closed his eyes, all that he saw were those reddened eyes of Xiao Zuo’s that day.
He knitted his eyebrows while getting down from the bed, and draped on an outer robe, then went out the door.

The moon was round today, and through the slivers of clouds, it revealed a hazy and murky glow.
The northern lands’ autumn winds seeped with frost, He Xuan stood for a while in the winds, and started thinking to random things again.

What is that little emperor doing right now? Would he be like himself, getting up in the middle of the night blowing with these cold winds on the head?

That little emperor was spoiled very much, they probably couldn’t take this northern land’s frosty winds.

He Xuan sneered, and turned back to the room.

[1] 近水楼台先得月- the one closest will be the first to get it, being in a favourable position.

[2] 烽火戏诸侯- in order to get a woman/beauty to smile, Zhou You Wang set a beacon tower on fire just to play with the dukes.
A story recorded down in history.

[3] The expression reads, having red sleeves to add to the fragrance (红袖添香).

[4] 福满盈- translated as, fortunes fill to the brim.

[5] 许昱行- yu, for bright lights.
Hang, for bold.
Also can be read as xing or hang(second tone), for either movement (journey, travelling), being okay, competent, or lines, or business.

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