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The Crown Consort had a pregnancy prior, but it was lost in a month. She had wept within an inch of her life, but Helian Yi didn’t have deep feelings about it, just some pity. Su Qingluan had always been squeaky clean, a bowl of medicine saving a lot of inconvenience… for that reason, he had never had his own offspring. Seeing such a chubby little girl reaching out to him and watching him impatiently, he first stood in place expressionlessly for a minute, following which he slowly stooped over, put his hands under the little lady’s armpits, then picked her up off the ground.
Only when he lifted her did he realize something was off. The girl was plump, not a single space on her that wasn’t soft, and carried the scent of milk, like she had no bones; he thus became slightly unsure of where to puts his limbs and what he ought to do next. Jiang Xue wasn’t shy with strangers, though, and giggled happily as she threw herself into his arms, all her spit wiping off onto his shoulder.
He side-eyed the small patch of dampness on his clothes, and the corner of his mouth immediately drew back.
“Li’l Liang said you’re the Crown Prince. Are you the Crown Prince?” she asked.
“Do you even know what a Crown Prince is?” he went along, finding this amusing.
She nodded, gripping his clothes like an octopus monster and wanting to climb onto his shoulders to sit on them. However, they weren’t wide enough — she messed around for a long time but still couldn’t find a good spot for herself, so she gave up, obediently shrinking into his arms. “Li’l Liang said that the Crown Prince is a big official, bigger than my papa,” she said in a childish voice.
Helian Yi couldn’t resist laughing.
After thinking for a bit, she said, “Does my papa listen to you?”
Getting a bit of a handle on how to hold a child, he crossed his arms and had her sit on them, one hand placed on her back. “He probably does,” he answered with a nod.
Jiang Xue got spirited, her pair of big, black-and-white, contrasting eyes blinking as she looked at him, then pulled out a small bag of candy from her lapels, putting it up to his mouth. “Eat one.”
Her hand was moistened with her own saliva, and when she grasped a piece of candy like that, she made it sticky. “I’m an adult, I don’t eat these,” he was forced to say.
Jiang Xue was happy, and, out of fear that he’d go back on his word, very nimbly flung the candy into her own mouth. “I told you to eat candy, you didn’t eat it. But I still offered it to you, right?” she spoke vaguely.
Helian Yi restrained his laughter and nodded, so she continued on, “Since I offered it, can you tell my dad, and not let him scold me?”
This time, he couldn’t hold back, laughing out loudly.
This girl was making such petty calculations; would she not be a little thing that caused worry when she actually grew up? For some reason, when he looked at her, he suddenly brought the young Jing Qi to mind, and his heart went unspeakably soft.
Seeing that he was solely regarding her with a grin and not answering, she got anxious, and used those flabby little paws to pat him on the face. “You haven’t said it yet.”
This was the first time the His Highness’s face got beaten. He looked at her happily now, however, not getting mad. “Okay, I’ll tell your dad, and he won’t scold you… Li’l Liang took you out today. What did he say he would bring you to see?”
Jiang Xue reached out a hand and counted on her fingers. “Big horses, buying sweets, his sect-brother, the Prince.”
Helian Yi gave an order for horses to be prepared. “Let’s go,” he said happily to her, “I’ll take you to see the Prince.”
They traveled to the Prince Estate, but someone was strolling out of it, too; right at the time Helian Yi brought young Jiang Xue through its front gates, Ji Xiang was leaving it through a side gate. He knew that right now, their Prince was in the middle of lecturing the Shamanet, so all he needed was a book and a pot of tea with a maid or two dozing off at the side. There was no use for him.
He went out the entrance, down a small road, and turned down a couple of alleys. Beneath a giant willow, a run-down carriage awaited, the driver watching him distantly from its side. Ji Xiang gulped and squeezed somewhat restlessly into the cabin. The driver waved his whip, and then the carriage started to roll forward, only going to areas with few people.
Inside it sat a woman — or, from looking at her age, she was maybe still a girl. She had apple-like cheeks, a pair of apricot-pit eyes that watched him limpidly, and a flowery, dimpled smile. When he caught sight of her, he felt his heart go entirely weak. Reluctant to blink, even his breathing automatically came out lightly, lest it frightened her.
“Hua Yue…” he carefully leaned against her side. “Yue’r, I m-missed you.”
The typically clever and attentive youth actually stuttered a bit, his heart pounding, and he seemed to be unable to talk.
The girl he called Hua Yue lowered her head, reed-like fingers wringing a handkerchief. Face turned to the side, she softly said, “What do you miss about me?”
He merely opened his mouth with no words coming out, thinking that the lady before him didn’t have one spot on her from head to toe that wasn’t beautiful. From one of her glances, it was like his three immortal souls left his seven mortal ones behind, and he thus gazed at her in infatuation.
She cast a look at him. Noticing his exceedingly foolish look, she laughed quietly, and leaned against him without batting an eye. There was a boom in his head, and he had nowhere to put his hands or feet — he felt that a sweet fragrance was spreading everywhere, his mind muddling into a wad of paste.
When first catching sight of Xiao Ping, two layers of words of love were woven upon her gauzy clothes… youthful feelings were always this way.
Ji Xiang lifted his hand, placed it on her soft waist, then thought to himself that if he died for her right now, it’d be worth it. Yet, he heard Hua Yue sigh — sorrowful, mellow, and rather delicate — so he raised her face and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Hua Yue shook her head. With her cheek plastered to his chest, her apricot-pit eyes staring at the handkerchief with some absent-mindedness, and her little mouth pouting slightly, she made one feel pity looking at her. Worried, he questioned her repeatedly for a long time, and only then did she gently push him away, sit upright, and whisper to him. “The Crown Prince has been coming increasingly less to our courtyard recently. Though My Lady says nothing, she cries every night, and the morning after, her eyes will be swollen…”
With how he viewed her, he smiled and consoled her once he heard this. “What’s wrong with that? The Emperor is ill, so the Crown Prince is busy with Court management. How could he still have the mood to listen to songs and visit beauties? It’ll be fine once this burst of busyness passes. Besides, you say your Lady is your Lady; why so anxious? I treat you well, too. When I save up enough money, I’ll redeem you, and then we’ll be… be…”
She blinked as she watched him. “Be what?”
Ji Xiang smiled stupidly. “Be husband and wife. What do you say?”
She lowered her head and laughed, the laughter almost making him throw himself into her arms. The next instant, however, she became sad again, tears falling down. Confused, he scrambled to coax her. “Why are you doing that? What’s wrong now?”
“Idiot. You don’t understand,” she cried. “My Lady is nothing more than an outside concubine kept by the Crown Prince. People like us aren’t allowed to be someone’s second wife, nor a bedservant. In the future, the Lady will grow old and her looks will fade, so he won’t like her. How could we settle down and establish ourselves?”
He was dazed, but listened to her go on, “Besides that, him keeping an outside concubine is not a popular matter. The feelings are here, but no matter what, they won’t be here later on, and then… then, she won’t…”
When feelings weren’t there, he would naturally want to erase this disgraceful history. As one employed in a Prince Estate, how could he not understand a little something about this situation? Ji Xiang’s face promptly went white. “Th-then what can be done?” he said, somewhat at a loss. “I… I might be able to beg the Prince?”
Hua Yue grabbed his sleeve and looked at him with tears in her eyes. “Who is the Prince? Who are we? How could he care about the trivial matters of such lowly people as us? Furthermore, he has a relationship with the Crown Prince. If it wasn’t the latter speaking, how would he answer?”
His entire body jolted, and he then remembered that on the day the Crown Prince was angry, Jing Qi had him hang the rabbits in the study doorway, and even told him an excuse to give him. Now that Hua Yue mentioned it, he could faintly sense that the two’s relationship seemed to be a bit too abnormal — the Crown Prince’s ire was inexplicable, and the Prince’s words he told him to say were even more inexplicable, so the combined inexplicableness of the two sides gave a profound implication…
Seeing that he had heard her, she stuck to him even more bonelessly. “Brother Ji Xiang,” she said, velvet-like, “I only have you left, you… you have to save me no matter what.”
His mind was in a tangle. “What way do you think would work?”
She pressed in close to his ear, saying such and such.
Ji Xiang clenched his fists and forcefully shoved her away, scowling down at her. But, upon seeing her eyes that were whirling with tears and the threats of wailing, his face softened again. Heart in a mess, he only shook his head. “That’s impossible!”
She let out a winsome sob, turning her face to the side as giant teardrops fell down it for free. Ji Xiang was endlessly distressed, and he leaned in to hug her cautiously. “This… can’t be done. I can’t do something that goes against the one I work for. We’ll think of a way, we will.”
Hua Yue curled up in his arms like a kitten, only repeating herself. “I only have you, only you…”
Jing Qi, at this moment, had no idea that his wall was being dug under. The little girl Helian Yi brought back was currently in a flurry; he had originally been making Wu Xi copy a book, writing one sentence for every one he lectured, only for the Crown Prince to arrive.
When other visitors came, Wu Xi would normally be aware that him staying on-scene wasn’t too appropriate, and he’d leave of his own accord. Once he heard that the Crown Prince had come alone, however, he immediately felt upset, so he acted like he knew nothing and remained seated in wait.
Helian Yi carried Jiang Xue all the way in, then pointed at Jing Qi with a wide smile. “Do you see? That’s the Prince Li’l Liang was talking about.”
Before Jing Qi had time to give a bow, he saw a fat little girl biting her fingers and staring at him with wide-open eyes, looking exactly like she was viewing an uncommon animal, which made him not know how to react.
Helian Yi lifted his head, caught sight of Wu Xi, and couldn’t help but stare. He always felt that whenever the Shamanet looked at people — especially him — his eyes were black and murky, peering at them grotesquely. He had no idea why Jing Qi was willing to be friends with this beastly man.
Even so, he had to consider face, so he nodded to him. “You’re also here, Shamanet.”
Wu Xi bowed to him quietly, saying nothing.
Jiang Xue was more greatly interested in the living ‘Prince’ than anyone else, and she waved her fangs and claws to get out of Helian Yi’s hold. “Prince, hug!” she ordered.
Helian Yi had been carrying her the whole time and his arms had long gotten sore, so he quickly took the out and stuffed the girl into Jing Qi’s arms.
This was not good. Jing Qi had never held such a tiny child in his whole life. With a soft, warm lump wriggling into his arms like this, he could only feel utter trepidation; out of fear that he would choke her to death if he used too much strength, his entire body went stiff.
Helian Yi laughed.
All children liked good-looking people. As Jiang Xue looked, she discovered that there was no one here that looked better than the ‘real-life Prince’, and decided to cozy up to him. She didn’t know what a Prince was, having only heard Liang Jiuxiao say that it was a very big official, bigger than her own papa. For that reason, she got in close, smooched him noisily on the cheek (and smeared spit on his face), then took out her treasured candy again to offer it up.
As expected, this Prince and the Crown Prince had the same sort of tact — both expressed that they were adults and couldn’t eat children’s things — so she ate another piece in perfect satisfaction.
Jing Qi thoroughly liked the child and didn’t grow weary of carrying her, stopping to play with her as he roamed around the courtyard.
He ended up saying, intentionally or not, “Xiao Xue, you’ll come be my daughter, yes?”
The smile on Helian Yi’s face froze. He cast a glance at him, running right into Jing Qi’s own gaze coming over, then understood what he meant, thus shaking his head and laughing like it had been a joke. “Are you even old enough to act as a godfather? Wouldn’t that put Young Master Jiang a generation behind for no reason? Don’t talk drivel.”
Jing Qi lowered his eyes, pausing between laughter and non-laughter. Without saying anything, he sat down, put Jiang Xue down on the floor, then told her to find herself some snacks.
Jiang Xue persisted in standing before him, though. “I won’t be your daughter,” she said, completely serious.
Everyone was taken aback, simply listening to her continue on, “When I grow up, I want to take you as a wife!”
She had been born to Sir Jiang late. Her family spoiled her terribly and sheltered her too much, so no one had taught her about these things before, to the extent that she still couldn’t distinguish between men and women. Helian Yi laughed so much that his stomach hurt, while Jing Qi was depressed for a long time. He bent over to blow on her nose. “What nonsense are you saying, little girl? It would be more like you’d be my wife.”
Jiang Xue thought it over earnestly, then shook her head. “That won’t do. My big brother said that good-looking people are wives. My sister-in-law looks better than him, so if she’s his wife, and you look better than me…” She rather gloomily pinched the meat on her tiny arm, unhappy. “He also said that I’m a fat little pig!”
Jing Qi laughed heartily.
Unexpectedly, Wu Xi had come to stand behind him at some unknown point in time, and now he placed his hand on Jing Qi’s shoulder all of a sudden. “He can’t be your wife,” he said to her.
Jing Qi turned to look at him, wondering to himself when this brat had ever joined in the fun of teasing a kid, but he was caught off guard by Wu Xi hugging him by the neck, listening to him use the same completely serious tone as Jiang Xue.
“He’ll be my wife in the future.”
The translator says: I smell a manipulator, and she stinks. (I’m not talking about the four-year-old, either.)
 From “After Dreams, a Balcony Locked Up High” by Yan Jidao. ‘Xiao Ping’ is the singer the poet it talking about. As for the second part (两重心字罗衣)… I guessed its meaning, because apparently, not even baidu was sure what the hell it means.