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On the daily, Jing Qi would take a trip to morning Court at dawn as usual. If he had nothing to do after, he would frequently go out for another trip, only willing to come back once he was infected by the scent of alcohol and rouge, and take a nap at noon. Sometimes, Wu Xi would come over in the afternoon. Sometimes, no one would come, and he would just sleep through.
No one knew how many things could pass by in his mind, as he instead appeared to be always somewhat lazy, like he hadn’t yet woken up.
When evening came, he was slightly more energetic. Sometimes, he would go to Zhou Zishu’s place, and sometimes, he would sit by himself in the study to read some things, typically not calling for anyone to come in and attend to him. Outside of Ping An occasionally coming in to grind new tea, others wouldn’t approach.
The subordinates of the Prince Estate were very relaxed, goofing off and avoiding work on normal days; even if Jing Qi or Steward Ping An caught sight of that, they would most likely turn a blind eye. These years, apart from that one time Jing Qi went out, met with an assassination attempt, then came back to rectify things, and apart from him getting annoyed by Ping An’s nagging, no one else had the fortune of hearing even an unpleasant phrase coming from the Prince’s mouth.
Ji Xiang had been following Jing Qi for these years, and was confident that his everyday actions were mastered to the point that they weren’t lacking in the slightest. Despite the fact that every time he went out to rendezvous with Hua Yue, he acted very carefully, didn’t dare to stay there for too long, and only chatted and pined, it still made him exceptionally uneasy.
He knew that Hua Yue was waiting for him at the rear entrance. According to the norm, at this time every day, the Prince ought to be napping; however, for some reason, Jing Qi appeared to have decided to hang in the study today. He was reclining against the soft couch as he held a book, reading it idly, and had even drunk through two pots of tea.
Ji Xiang was slightly anxious, but he didn’t dare to show signs of that. After enduring it for a long while, he cautiously probed, “Master, isn’t it time for you to rest? Are you not sleeping today?”
Jing Qi lazily mn’ed, but his gaze didn’t leave the book.
Ji Xiang pursed his lips. Once a short moment passed and he saw that he wasn’t answering, he thus boldly asked, “Master, you’re used to sleeping normally, so you should take a nap for a minute, right? Be careful to not get a headache in the afternoon.”
Then, Jing Qi raised his head to look at him. It wasn’t clear whether it was intentional or not, but those peach blossom eyes had a bit of an overtone of wanting to laugh, yet weren’t, though his gaze was not soft at all. When it floated over, it was like a small knife lightly stabbed Ji Xiang, producing a current of restrained chilliness.
Ji Xiang’s heart abruptly went cold, getting the overall feeling that the Prince seemed to know something. However, the next instant, he calmed once more. He was confident in his utter familiarity with both this Estate and his Master, and that he absolutely hadn’t given the jig up. This moment was nothing more than him being used to witnessing his Master’s typical sly tricks, which then gave rise to a slight misperception stemming from reverence.
Besides… he was just a grown boy liking a lady. If the other genuinely knew of it, what major problem would there even be?
For that, he nervously settled his heart.
“The tea is strong today,” he heard Jing Qi say. “I’ve gotten tired, but I can’t sleep. In any case, tomorrow I’ll rest and bathe; there’ll be no rush to get up early, so I’ll make up for it then.”
Ji Xiang thought to himself that he was apparently going to have to wait for the Shamanet to arrive for the other’s attention to be diverted, and she would have to wait for a little bit longer. With an affirmation, he obediently stood beside him.
Jing Qi’s attention returned to the page of the book again. Ji Xiang steadied somewhat, stooping to replenish Jing Qi’s tea once more. All of a sudden, he witnessed Jing Qi turn a page, then speak to him with unknown intentions without looking at him. “Don’t let that young lady wait for too long. Go, get someone to invite her in. Let me take a look.”
The pot Ji Xiang held fell to the floor with a crash. He lifted his head in alarm, took a half-step back, and knelt on the ground with soft knees. “M… Master…”
Jing Qi ignored him. Someone promptly and silently came in to clean up the floor.
A short moment later, the apprehensive little Hua Yue was accepted into Jing Qi’s study. She had been following Su Qingluan from the start, so she had met Prince Nan’ning before. Previously, she had only felt that he was an elegant and cute young man that was quite generous in his actions, and he did foppish things without a foppish air, having always treated them with extreme courtesy.
Yet, right now, a trembling panic senselessly arose from the bottom of her heart.
She knew that this man was the Crown Prince party’s most deeply-hidden strategist, but that was ultimately a matter between men, having no relevance to them at all as well as being something of a faux-pas. Now, it appeared that she had only come to know of a drop of the true colors of this somewhat excessively beautiful Prince.
Jing Qi lightly smiled and nodded. “Miss Hua Yue, sit.”
She hadn’t expected that he would still remember her name, and didn’t know how deep that went. Giving a blessing-bow, she sat down in a chair in accordance with his words and braced herself to bear with Jing Qi’s measurement.
“This boy Ji Xiang is very insensible, to have a young lady dryly wait outside the back entrance for such a long time,” Jing Qi said leisurely. “This Prince has already punished him just now.”
Hua Yue looked askance at Ji Xiang’s deathly pale face as he knelt on the floor. Suddenly, with a confidence that came out of nowhere, she stood up, then came in close to him and knelt as well. “Prince, this maid has something to request that you fulfill.”
The Prince, who had always widely been known for being kind to women, currently seemed to have transformed into a different person. Watching this young lady and Ji Xiang kneel together on the icy ground like it was no big deal, he unhurriedly lifted the lid of his tea cup, took a sip, and smiled. “What are you doing, Miss?”
“Prince, Brother Ji Xiang and I have had feelings for each other for a long time. I… know that my own status is lowly, and unworthy of him. In the future, I will act even as a concubine or a slave to be able to wait upon him for a lifetime, and will also be willing to know both heat and cold on his behalf.”
Jing Qi thought that the girl was pretty courageous and a truly talented person, but no change in weather could be gleaned from his surface. “Is that right? I had no idea,” he replied indifferently.
All of a sudden, Ji Xiang wordlessly used force to knock his head onto the ground. His forehead quickly bruised, and faint wisps of blood oozed downwards, giving quite a sense of having a broken head with blood pouring out. Hua Yue, who was watching from beside him, couldn’t help but feel terror in her heart. “Prince…” she implored in a whisper.
Jing Qi chuckled, then spoke to Ping An, who had come to silently stand behind him at some unknown point in time. “Take a look. This Prince has become a vile man that beats mandarin ducks with a club.”
Ping An regarded Ji Xiang’s incessant kowtowing with a poor expression.
“You came to look for him,” Jing Qi continued. “What for?”
“I had…” She felt her own voice shake a bit, so she cleared her throat to speak clearly and completely. “I had thought myself to be lowly, with words that carry little weight, so I planned to bring Brother Ji Xiang back to find my Lady and seek her grace, then ask her to come forward to seek the Prince. I didn’t expect that you would find out…”
“Mn.” Jing Qi nodded, speaking calmly. “If I knew nothing about everyone that found my Estate’s doorway, I would be quite dead.”
Hua Yue jumped in fright. “I didn’t have the intent to offend you, Prince…” she said quickly.
He waved her off, then shot a glance at Ji Xiang. “Alright. Stop kowtowing.”
Ji Xiang prostrated himself. “Master, I…”
Jing Qi lowered his eyes. “Since another household’s maiden has come to the door wanting to bring you to see her Lady, you may as well go — given that Lady Su nods her head, this Prince will naturally be happy to fulfill this for you.”
Saying this, he stopped and smiled. Seeing Ji Xiang stare at him with a stupid, disbelieving look on his face, he then said pointedly, “It’s merely that you, Ji Xiang, are going to Lady Su’s place, so you’ll need to pay attention to propriety. Don’t lose my Estate’s face.”
Ji Xiang was nearly about to cry. “Master, thank you for your grace, thank you!”
Jing Qi hooked up the corner of his mouth, but ultimately didn’t reveal a complete smile, waving him off. “Both of you can go.”
Once Ji Xiang and Hua Yue fled together, Ping An let out a long sigh, and knelt down without a word.
Jing Qi looked at him, then sighed with some exhaustion, extending a hand to pull him up. “Get up.”
Ping An knelt there stubbornly. “Master, this steward Ping An holds a cozy position, yet allowed something like this to happen under my control. Please enact punishment.”
Jing Qi sneered. “Punishment for what? Wouldn’t it be better to use that effort for some proper business? Go to the front hall and let Miss Su know that I’ve already released those two, and ask her…”
His words stopped here, the rest of them swallowed back down, after which he merely patted the back of Ping An’s head lightly. “Go on.”
Ping An looked at him, unable to speak despite wanting to, and ended up also swallowing his words back down, standing up to quietly withdraw.
Having missed today’s afternoon nap, it was truly as Ji Xiang had said; Jing Qi was a bit drowsy in the head after sitting for a while, and he sighed at himself for seriously being spoiled. Then, he heard someone outside the door report that the Shamanet had come.
He still didn’t get up, continuing to recline on the couch. With his eyes half-closed, he saw Wu Xi enter, nodded lethargically, and told him to sit. “I’ll lean here for a minute. Go find books to read first and call for me when the minute’s done.”
Before he could answer that, Wu Xi had put a hand on his forehead to test, after which he grasped his wrist to carefully examine him. He felt at ease afterwards, knowing that Jing Qi was only having another flare-up of his laziness disease. Viewing his complexion, however, he furrowed his brows again. “Why are you unhappy?”
Jing Qi was startled, opening his eyes. “When did I ever say I was unhappy?”
“I knew it with one look. Get up, don’t lean. You’re not ill, but your laziness will make you ill. I will bring you out.”
Jing Qi sneered and didn’t budge one cun. “You’ll bring me out? Are you ready to spread your wings, boy? You’ve only walked the streets of the capital a couple rounds before, yet you still dare to say that you’ll bring me out?”
Wu Xi decided that directly getting into action would be faster, so he leaned over to pick the other’s entire body up off the couch. Jing Qi thus used his elbow to not-softly jab him, forcing him to let go, and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “What are you doing, kidnapping me? There’s no use in that. Our resident cheapskate Ping An definitely won’t fork up the cash.”
“I want you to go out and distract yourself,” Wu Xi replied. Jing Qi faced off with him for a long time, but ultimately lost against his determination. Thinking to himself that everything really did have a weakness, and that he had no way to deal with this little toxin, he stood up with swaying limbs. “You’re fearsome. Let’s go, where to?”
Wu Xi beamed.
The two of them rode right out the city. Soon, the ten-year period would be satisfied, and Wu Xi’s days in the capital were numbered. Normally, he didn’t show his face and spoke little, making people think him all the more mysterious, imposing, and isolated, where no one dared to rashly provoke him. With his present ability, he would likely be able to act freely in the imperial forbidden city, to say nothing of a trip outside the capital. In this manner, the rule that the hostage couldn’t exit the city was an empty shell.
It was right in the season of spring flowers decaying. Hoofbeats startled the flowers into falling, the flowing wind revolving around; upon arrival at that abandoned, unmanned spot, he let loose and dashed forwards, giving one a sense of high aspirations. All of a sudden, Wu Xi hauled in the reins, turned over, and jumped off, smiling at Jing Qi. “Come down, follow me.”
Jing Qi dismounted, and followed him for a spell in a walk of both steep and light steps; the ground was bumpy and full of stones, and still had traces of rain left behind from the night before. Soon following, they abruptly turned to a tiny valley, and the field of view quickly opened up wide. Passing through its middle was a narrow, limpid stream, the sound of a mountain spring still able to be faintly heard. There were broad fields neighboring the capital that had no tall mountains, only small hills like this — but it had a special sort of uniqueness.
Walking along the flow of the water, it got wider and wider the further they went. Grass grew and orioles cried on both shores, and flowers fell into the running water, as if it was a Peach Blossom Spring.
“This flows to the inside of the city, but is it Fullmoon?” Jing Qi asked.
Wu Xi nodded.
The other sighed. “I didn’t expect that a strip of water so heavy with makeup could actually be this clear.”
Wu Xi took his hand. “Come over here.”
Jing Qi went with him on another journey through an area of some twists and turns, then caught sight of the mountain spring that he had heard prior, yet hadn’t seen the image of. It came out of nowhere, suspended upon a cliff; at the area where the current was rapid, white droplets sprayed out, and they made a tiny cascade, painting a rainbow in the sky.
The plants on the ground were velvety. Jing Qi straight-up sat down, generally sensing that there seemed to be an abnormal freshness in the air, like the scent had been washed clean by the water. The gloomy feeling within him really did vanish a little.
Wu Xi sat down beside him. “You all don’t have tall mountains here, yet a place like this could still be found. If it was our Nanjiang…” He paused, because Jing Qi had turned to look at him with a grin. He wasn’t sure when it had started, but the latter felt that this kid couldn’t go three sentences without talking about Nanjiang’s goodness, as if he was eager to sell it to him.
Realizing this himself, Wu Xi reddened, smiled, and said nothing. When he smiled, the glum, detached aura he had was shed entirely, and he resembled big, bashful, unusually adorable kid. “If you’re unhappy in the future, I’ll bring you here to distract yourself. Is that okay?”
Jing Qi didn’t nod, nor did he shake his head, only sighing. “This is a good spot.” He then stretched out his back and laid down on it.
Wu Xi hesitated, then tentatively came in close, leaning over to kiss him on the face at flying speed.
“Don’t mess around,” Jing Qi said with a smile.
Seeing that he wasn’t angry, Wu Xi reached out and hugged him in full content, then turned onto his side. Burying his face into his shoulder, he took in the faint scent coming off of his clothes, and closed his eyes.
The mountain stream flowed, the clean breeze blew past, and that man was in his arms.
The translator says: Congrats on not getting punched for that! Anyways, *cries happy tears*