Concealed by Brocaded Clouds, Frost on the Roads: Volume 02 Chapter 03

6:49 PM Oyen 0 Comments

Sorry for a very late post, I've been busy irl these days and barely manage to translate this one T_T
But still, Happy New Year although it's late~!
Chapter 3: One Inch Yearning, One Inch Dust
translator: Oyen

Fengyi Hall was located in the deep layers of the palace, formerly known as Yanqing Hall. Before concubine Ning entered the palace, the Emperor specially decreed that the name be changed to Fengyi Hall.

Fengyi, Fengyi, there was a phoenix ceremony. Since times, the only person who could match the phoenix in the harem was the Empress. Therefore, these seemingly simple two words shocked the whole harem.

Shi Quanyi’s subordinate, Xiao Li-zi held a small iron cage in his hands and walked swiftly along, feeling sweaty and unbearable. However, as soon as he entered Fengyi Hall, he only felt that his clothes were fresh and cool. The more he walked, the cooler he felt.

It was only a few steps away that the Crown Prince’s clear voice could be heard from deep in the shade. Walking along the sound, a delicate pond suddenly appeared in front of him, with lotus blossoms, the fields of green leaves, and the moss on the rocks. It was really quiet. Conbunine Ning was reciting poems with the Crown Prince in a pavilion by the pond.

It was well known that Concubine Ning and the late Empress Ruan were cousins. So their appearance was very similar. Because of her family, she naturally treated the Crown Prince differently from other concubines after entering the palace. In addition to accompanying him day in and day out, she would even ask about his daily life as well as food.

The Crown Prince, who had been living in Changxin Hall ever since the death of Empress Ruan, wasn’t close to several concubines in the harem. Even though the concubines tried to win over him, he was always cold and polite. It was strange to say that after seeing Concubine Ning, she was treated differently from the others. She had only been unusually friendly for a few days. He couldn’t help but admire the wonder that ‘blood is thicker than water’.

One day, Xiao Li-zi was waiting for the Emperor for a walk. He saw Concubine Ning taking the Crown Prince along with her to Taiye Lake in the imperial garden. The Crown Prince was lying on the white marble railing of the Nine Zigzag bridge, smiling from time to time and turning back and forth to act cute. Concubine Ning, holding a silk scarf in her hand, smiled and wiped away the slight sweat from running for the Crown Prince from time to time… Looking from a distance by the lake, the two looked as if they were mother and son.

The Crown Prince sometimes stayed overnight after bedtime at the Fengyi Hall. The other day, when he was on duty, he heard the Crown Prince’s eunuch report the matter to the Emperor, saying that Concubine ning had broken the rules and asking the Emperor to decide how to deal with it. After hearing this, the Emperor was not at all surprised, but smiled slightly and said in a warm voice, “Let Concubine Ning and the Crown Prince be.”

Although Xiao Li-zi wasn’t old enough, he could only follow Shi Quanyi, he still could read the expression. However, he just didn’t understand what medicine the Emperor drank in his gourd.

Take Concubine Ning for example. On that day, the Emperor only met at the Prime Minister’s residence. After returning to the palace, he immediately decreed her as a first-rank concubine. In this way, her rank was higher than the rest of the four concubines in the harem.
For a moment, both the inner palace, imperial court and ordinary people were shocked. It should be known that the Emperor wasn’t always good at women’s charm. Since Empress Ruan’s death, the court ministers had come up from time to time and asked the Emperor to set up the Empress early for the sake of the country. Or even asked the Emperor to select imperial concubines once every three years according to the previous system. But the Emperor refuted the memorial again and again.

At that time, many people thought that from then on Concubine Ning would be favoured. But, the people had been disappointed since she entered the palace, the Emperor had never visited Fengyi Hall.

Although it was heard that Concubine Ning was too ill to serve the Emperor, it was an indisputable fact that the Emperor had never visited and had never personally visited Concubine Ning.

It could be said that the Emperor didn’t favour Concubine Ning, but neither. In the past few months, the Emperor always ordered people to give the tribute to Fengyi Hall first.

No one understood why. Xiao Li-zi had secretly asked Chief Shi, but he just waved to him and said he couldn’t say no more.

Consider the object in the cage he was holding now. It was said that general Lu in the western regions sent a swift horse to the Emperor.

It was said that after the Emperor lifted the brocade cover and smiled. He ordered Chief Shi and said, “Send it to Concubine Ning!”

In the distance, the Crown Prince was sitting upright on a stone bench reciting poems. Meanwhile, Concubine Ning sat on the edge of her seat, holding the iced plum and lotus seed soup in her hand. The silver spoon stirring, the ice tinkling and the Crown Prince instantly reciting the next line. Concubine Ning smiled lightly, reaching out and feeding him a spoonful of the plum soup.

Concubine Ning wore very pale sky blue-colored clothes. Because she held the spoon, she slightly showed a section of frost white wrist. It wasn’t like other concubines that wore several gold and jade bracelets, but her skin colour was as fair as jade. Reflected by the pale sky blue colour, she looked paler than ever, which dazzled people.

Xiao Li-zi took two steps closer, hurriedly knelt down respectfully and saluted. “Greetings to the Concubine Ning and the Crown Prince.”

Mu Ningyan slowly turned her head, the beaded hairpin tassel in her hair bun swayed with it, the dangling undulated and rippled, creating fine ripples. “You may rise,” Xiao Li-zi bowed and thanked her before getting up, respectfully reporting, “Concubine Ning, this slave was instructed by the Emperor to bring this over to Concubine Ning.”

The maid beside Mu Ningyan stepped forward and took over the golden cage held by Xiao Li-zi and held it in front of Mu Ningyan with both hands. Mu Ningyan smiled faintly, and didn’t open it in a hurry. But, Crown Prince Chengxuan asked, “Auntie, what’s in the cage?”

Mu Ningyang then ordered, “Uncover the cloth and take a look.” Hearing the words, another maid came out and took a few steps to lift the brocade cloth covered on the cage.

The Crown Prince let out a ‘wow’. “It’s beautiful.” It turned out that there was a small animal that looked both like a cat and a squirrel. The whole body fur was snow-white, without a trace of miscellaneous colour, exquisite ice and snow. It was extremely cute.

Xiao Li-zi bowed his head and reported, “The Emperor also asked this slave to convey to Concubine Ning that this little civet cat is tame and will never hurt anyone.”

Mu Ningyan put down the white jade bowl. Seeing this, the maid quickly took out the animal with both hands and sent it to her. She saw the little civet cat close to her wrist, sniffing low and making a lovely ‘ji ji’ sound. She touched it with her hands. It was smooth, pleasant to the touch.

The Crown Prince couldn’t stop looking at it and was very envious. “Auntie, can this son hold it?” Mu Ningyan’s smile was warm. With a pampered gaze, she softly said, “Of course you can ah!” While saying that, she handed the little civet cat in her hand to him.

But the little civet cat made another ‘ji ji ji ji’ sound, curling its head, and kept moving in the direction of Mu Ningyan, as if unwilling to go to the Crown Prince’s hand.

Mu Ningyan put the little civet cat on the stone table and whispered softly, “Take some dried fruit and feed it to see if it wants to eat?” Hearing the words, the Crown Prince reached for the almonds in the eight treasure brocade box. He carefully and gently handed them to the little civet cat. The civet cat moved slightly, opened its mouth and licked it, as if it was a very delicious food, and began to nibble it.

Everyone was amused by the cute appearance of the little civet cat. Even after eating, the little civet cat still didn’t want to go to the Crown Prince. Concubine Ning gently comforted the Crown Prince, “Let’s do this, let the little Crown Prince’s tutor raise it, you can feed it everyday when you go to study. Wait for a day or two, it will surely not be afraid…”

There was an exquisite jade pond behind the side hall of Fengyi Hall. The maids had already prepared the orchid bath when they held the lantern. Petals of various colours were sprinkled on the water surface, and a special hundred flower fragrance dew was sprinkled. At this time, with the steaming, the fragrance in the whole side hall fluttered to the nose, which made people want to be drunk.

Mu Ningyan dismissed all the maids, then slowly came to the side of the pond and took off her clothes. Because of the strict rules in the palace, she didn’t want Liu Li to enter the palace with her. Liu Li had lost her golden years in vain. So, right now she doesn't have any of her own confidants in such a big palace…

Before entering the palace, she specifically asked her aunt to send Liu Li back to Xinzhou. If Liu Li had already arrived in Xinzhou, perhaps she would soon marry her brother Hu(tiger)… It was a kind of perfection to have a few little tigers and Liu Li would live happily ever after.

She stepped down the shallow jade steps and slowly sank her body into the pond. The water was warm enough to wash away the day’s fatigue. She tilted her head back comfortably and closed her eyes lightly…

The ancient people often said that accompanying a ruler was like accompanying a tiger. She recalled the time when imperial physician Chang gave her a diagnosis today, he looked sad and said, “Concubine Ning, it’s not that this slave doesn’t try his best, but… It’s just that head chief Shi who was around the Emperor has asked this slave about concubine Ning’s condition many times… This slave, this slave really afraid of revealing flaws and won’t cover up for long…”

It seemed that if this ordinary imperial physician had not been indebted to her uncle in those days, he would have refused to cover it up any longer.

Well, let’s not think about it for a moment. She could count on each day. She would better think about what pastry to prepare for the little Crown Prince tomorrow.

When she thought of the little Crown Prince, she couldn’t help recalling the scene when she first set foot in the Changxin Hall that day.

At that time, the Crown Prince had just left the study, and was being served some snacks by two maids. As soon as she entered, she made face-to-face contact with the two maids. As if they had seen a ghost, they were surprised and took a few steps back. The things in their hands fell to the ground one another.

Then, they rushed to kowtow. When they looked up, they were already in tears. “Young Miss…”

Naturally, she knew who they were: Mu Ran and Mo Zhu who grew up serving cousin Wushuang. Since Empress Ruan left, the two had been sent by the Emperor to serve the young Crown Prince.

She reached out to help them get up. She said with a slight apology in a soft voice. “Mo Ran and Mo Zhu, before entering the Palace, my aunt once told me that you two are loyal to cousin Wushuang. If Ningyan doesn’t understand anything in this palace, Ningyan can ask for advice from both of you. But… but I’m sorry, I’m really not cousin Wushuang!”

Mo Ran and Mo Zhu were shocked by the words, but they still couldn’t believe it, and stood in place. After a long time, they wiped away their tears and knelt down again to salute, “These slaves pay respect to concubine Ning. Please forgive our sins!”

The little Crown Prince was staring at her dumbly. After a long time he ran towards her, “Mother— Mother—” and threw his arms around her legs, calling her softly and crying, “Mother— Mother—”

At that moment, her heart seemed to be pricked by a needle. It was so painful that she couldn’t speak. The Crown Prince was still so young when her cousin Wushuang left. Although he was considered the Crown Prince, how many people truly care for this child in this deep palace? Not to mention the fact that he had been poisoned not long ago… It still scared her to think about it. Although she had been raised in her boudoir, and was ignorant of the dangers of the world. But the secrets of the inner court of the palace could still be imagined.

She crouched down slowly and took the Crown Prince within her arms, explaining in a soft voice, “Crown Prince, I am not your mother. I am your mother’s cousin, you can call me auntie.”

The Crown Prince cried and refused to obey. “No, no, you are my mother, you are my mother…” Tears filled his picturesque face. Mu Ningyan’s heart was as painful as a knife. She took out a silk scarf to wipe the Crown Prince’s tears continuously. She sighed for a long time and also shed tears.

The Crown Prince cried for a moment and turned his head to Mo Ran and Mo Zhu for confirmation, “She is my mother, isn’t she? It’s exactly the same as the mother in father’s painting. So, how can she not be my mother?”

Mo Ran and Mo Zhu’s eyes were red. They looked at each other before they spoke in a trembling voice. “Crown Prince…” If they could choose, they would also rather choose to believe that the plain and elegant woman in front of them was Young Miss Wushuang that they had grown up serving.

However… However that year the two of them witnessed the Zhaoyang Hall burned in the flames. How many attendants and guards in the palace poured water to save people, but Young Miss Wushuang still failed to be saved… Over the years, what they regret most was that they didn’t accompany their Young Miss that night.

The little Crown Prince just didn’t want to believe it. He kept hugging her and refused to let go until he fell asleep… This pure lovely child, whose identity was so noble, but he made people feel sad and compassionate.

Stuned, she pulled back her thoughts. She put on her snow-white silk clothes and got up. She was covered with wet clothes and hung down from her shoulders like black silk satin. Then she slowly came to the bed chamber.

Suddenly, she stopped. She was surprised in front of the soft smoke gauze curtain.

Because it was night, the red candle on the gold beast candlestick had already flickered in the bed chamber hall. The glowing fire shrouded the room in a light halo. But at this time, a slender figure in the inner bedchamber dragged on the silk embroidery screen and overlapped on the exquisite peony embroidered  by the hundred colour threads.

The man turned slowly, his eyes gazed at her without blinking.

After a long time, he suddenly came towards her step by step. Her heart ‘beating’ suddenly, and she didn’t even know where to put her eyes…

He stopped a step away from here, and then, still looking at her for a moment. As if she was a bubble that would disappear in the blink of an eye.

They were so close that his dark and deep eyes seemed to look into her heart. As if with magic, an inexplicable fear and trepidation welled up in her suddenly, and her body began to tremble lightly.

Since entering the palace, she had only seen him several times. Each time she was separated by a lot of people. Today, she knew what it was about—— Something she had avoided since she entered the palace!

His gaze was very soft, looking at her in a gaze. He slowly stretched out his hand…

She humbly knelt down and respectfully said with a soft tone with a faint of refusal, “Apologized to the Emperor, this concubine is still sick and inconvenience to serve the Emperor!” From the angle of kneeling, she could see the hem of his vermilion civilian clothes. The layers of rivers and mountains, auspicious clouds and dense needles, dancing and circling in front of her.

Indeed, in the past six months, the imperial physician had been reporting her condition.

Baili Haozhe stretched out his hand to help her get up. “There’s no need to worry, the imperial physician has already reported back, saying that concubine Ning has recovered from the illness.” Mu Ningyang quivered slightly and said softly, “This is a big matter, please think twice…”

Baili Haozhe stared at her and suddenly smiled. “You look like this, as if I would eat you?” For a moment said extremely softly, “How can I be willing?”

Such a low and soft tone was like a whisper between lovers. Mu Ningyan lowered her eyes and couldn’t see what he looked like.

Baili Haozhe approached little by little. “Concubine Ning, you understand, don’t you?” Mu Ningyang slowly raised her head, her eyes were black and white, as if the sky was dotted with stars falling into them. Her tone was extremely slow, light to quiet. “Emperor forgive me, this concubine is foolish.”

Baili Haozhe idly held a handful of her wet hair, rubbing it in every way, and sighed for a long time. “This hundred flowers dew, three steams and three brews, is rare indeed. But the taste is too strong. Today, a batch of jasmine dew was tributed from the land of Jiangnan, the taste is light. I ordered someone to send it here, why not use it?”

Mu Ningyan replied, “This concubine hasn’t liked the smell of jasmine since young. But, if the Emperor likes it, this concubine will change it later.” His breath flickered on her neck, hot and strange. She shivered slightly, trying to dodge. His voice was extremely low. “You will love it when you use it…”

Everything about her was that familiar, so familiar it could cause throbbing in the hidden recesses of his heart. Only this time, he wouldn’t let her go again.

He reached out and wrapped his arms around her waist. His lips finally fell, as if he had been compelled to gently toss in her ear… That carefully, occasionally interspersed with a seemingly contented sigh, ,as if she was his lost treasure, now finally been found!
 
She just quivered, her hands tugging at her silk dress and shaking constantly…

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