When everyone talked about Nangong Ye, most would mention how he was indeed the biological brother of the Crown Prince and how similar their appearances were. But disregarding the resemblance, Nangong Ye was undeniably a handsome young man, albeit he still had a slightly youthful and innocent image.
The moment he spotted Yan Yi Ming, his deep and profound eyes that bore similarity to Nangong Xuan’s, lit up as if he finally saw a ray of light and they shone brightly like the stars.
“I was late because Mother Empress kept me for an additional half an hour. Does Ah Ming blame me?”
His tone was like a spoiled child, clearly knowing that Yan Yi Ming would not hold this matter against him. In fact, this display allowed them to feel closer to each other.
Yan Yi Ming suppressed her smile as she raised her head, “Of course I blame you.”
The smile at the corners of Nangong Ye’s lips stiffened momentarily. Even Little Apple whined for Yan Yi Ming to be more human and cut Nangong Ye some slack. However, Yan Yi Ming deliberately ignored Little Apple’s complaints and blinked her eyes. Then she grinned brightly, “As punishment, you’ll have to treat me to tea tomorrow. I like Biluochun tea1Biluochun literally means ‘green snail spring’. The name came from it being a type of green tea which appearance is coiled up in a tight spiral, resembling snail meat, and harvested in early spring. Renowned for its delicate appearance, fruity taste, floral aroma, showy white hairs, and early cropping in spring..”
Upon hearing the second half of the sentence, Nangong Ye caught on that Yan Yi Ming was not actually angry at him but was playfully teasing him. Nangong Ye found himself to be unable to become angry at Yan Yi Ming’s antics. In fact, he breathed a sigh of relief and found Yan Yi Ming’s mischievous girlish demeanor even more endearing. Moreover, the meaning behind Yan Yi Ming’s words was clearly an invitation to meet up with him again.
Nangong Ye was delighted. His lively nature could not help but shine through as he laughed, “If I’m late again tomorrow, can I still treat Young Lady Yan to some tea the day after tomorrow?”
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He forced out a somewhat strained smile and pretended to casually ask, “How so?”
“Your eyes are different, and so are the lips.” Yan Yi Ming reached out and traced the outline of Nangong Ye’s lips in the air. “The Crown Prince doesn’t like to smile. Both the vibrancy of his gaze and the curvature of his lips make people respect him but maintain their distance. Whereas Fifth Highness always carries a smile, making people inevitably want to get closer.”
Through Yan Yi Ming’s words, Nangong Ye sensed that the direction of her thoughts was not what he had originally imagined. “Then, which does Ah Ming prefer?”
“Those who love to smile are known to have good luck,” Yan Yi Ming gazed at Nangong Ye and continued, “I like a person who knows how to smile, and I also like someone who can smile at me.”
Nangong Ye’s gaze suddenly lit up as his eyes fell on Yan Yi Ming’s face. Today, Yan Yi Ming was wearing an ivory-colored dress that had delicate silver thread embellishments sewn around the collar and sleeves. It accentuated her already beautiful appearance, making her look more captivating. She wore dangling jade earrings that shook gently with her every move, lightly brushing her fair shoulders and neck. It tempted others to want to replace the earrings and caress her tender skin in its stead.
Despite his young age, he never lacked amorous thoughts. If it was not for the fact that they were currently in the teahouse, Nangong Ye would have already drawn her into his embrace.
Nangong Ye felt that certain matters were long overdue. Yan Yi Ming had already had her hair-pinning ceremony three years ago, and it was also about time to consider his marriage…
Most of those who frequented the teahouse were either extremely wealthy or were nobles. So the young servant who served patrons on the second floor had seen countless distinguished guests. But when he entered the room and spotted Nangong Ye, he was so shocked that he dared not raise his head again. After pouring their tea, he quickly left the room.
Little Apple watched as the exiting servant was pulled into the adjacent room by the maidservants who had been anxiously waiting by the door. The several young ladies, who had been enthusiastically discussing who Yan Yi Ming was meeting, eagerly asked the young servant about it. The servant cast a cautionary glance in the direction of the room before uttering a few words.
The young ladies at the table were fully prepared to ridicule Yan Yi Ming after learning the other party’s identity. But when they heard that the person was the Fifth Prince, jealousy caused the words to get stuck at the back of their throats.
After a while, someone forcibly suppressed her jealousy and skeptically asked, “Are you very sure that you didn’t mistaken…? You’re not lying to us, right?!”
The young servant raised his hand and swore to the heavens that he had indeed seen the Crown Prince and the Fifth Prince before, and he would never dare tell such lies.
The young ladies exchanged glances while secretly clenching their teeth and wishing that they could bite Yan Yi Ming to death. Yet, the only thing they did was speak softly and one criticized Yan Yi Ming for having no sense of propriety.
Yan Yi Ming speculated that this young lady probably wanted to scold her for seducing both the younger brother and older brother. However, she could not bring herself to verbalize such words since she was, after all, a refined lady with decorum. Otherwise, she would not have nearly torn her handkerchief in anger.
“Isn’t that Young Lady Jian from the Prime Minister’s residence and Minister Jiang?” Nangong Ye suddenly spoke, drawing Yan Yi Ming’s attention back from the adjacent room.
Lowering her eyes to the bustling street below, Yan Yi Ming spotted Jian Yu’er who had a veil covering her face and was currently talking to a handsome young man.
“Minister Jiang?” Was this the same Minister Jiang she thought he was?
“He’s the very Jiang Yi who is the only person in the past hundred years to achieve consecutive top scores in the previous three imperial examinations. He has just recently come of age too.” Nangong Ye’s gaze subtly lingered on Jiang Yi and Jian Yu’er before he continued saying, “However, Jiang Yi is known for being aloof and indifferent to others. Even I have never seen him smile at anyone before. I wonder what talents Young Lady Jian possesses to make this aloof gentleman smile so candidly.”
Yan Yi Ming could clearly hear the sarcasm in Nangong Ye’s words. She found it both amusing and touching at his obvious acts of defending her. She found him cute and dashing at the same time. However, she could not reveal that she had long known about them, so she pretended not to have understood the meaning behind his words, “Perhaps the two of them have known each other from a while back.”
Nangong Ye neither confirmed nor denied her words. There were some things he chose not to mention to Yan Yi Ming.
Having witnessed Jiang Yi’s cold and distant demeanor towards others, the difference in his treatment of Jian Yu’er now clearly indicated that there must be something fishy going on between them, it might even contain some romantic ambiguity.
However, Nangong Ye did not want to concern himself with this matter. He just hoped that his elder brother would marry Jian Yu’er as soon as possible so that he could finally be at ease.
As they were leaving, the two happened to run into the group of young ladies. Chen Xia Dynasty was fairly open-minded, and there was no prohibition on females from leaving their boudoirs and meeting others. Seeing Nangong Ye, the young ladies acted pleasantly surprised to see him there and greeted him warmly. Then when they spotted Yan Yi Ming, they acted shocked and asked if the two met by coincidence or if they came together to drink tea.
These young ladies were probably extremely unwilling to believe that there was anything going on between Yan Yi Ming and Nangong Ye.
Yet, to their surprise, Nangong Ye did not even consider hiding anything from them. As he was in a very good mood today, he smiled at them and flaunted, “Ah Ming and I came here together for tea.”
The faces of the young ladies turned a bit sour. The one leading the group, Young Lady Li, forced a smile and pretended to be pleasantly surprised as she extended an invitation to Yan Yi Ming, “What a coincidence! We’re planning to go to Lihe Garden to admire the flowers. Yan Mei-Mei, why don’t you join us?”
Yan Yi Ming looked at the group of pretentious girls with a smile that did not reach her eyes. Coincidentally, Lu Mei returned from outside and gleefully handed a small paper bag to her mistress.
Nangong Ye’s gaze was immediately drawn to the small paper bag. He curiously glanced at it while asking, “What’s that?”
“Candied chestnut,” Yan Yi Ming did not miss the sudden brightness that lit in Nangong Ye’s eyes. She turned apologetically and declined Young Lady Li’s invitation. Under the murderous glares of the other young ladies, she and Nangong Ye left together.
The group could still catch faint snippets of the conversation taking place between the two departing figures.
The Fifth Prince’s voice could not conceal his excitement as he asked Yan Yi Ming, “So Ah Ming also likes candied chestnut?”
“You like them,” Yan Yi Ming picked up a piece and teasingly looked at Nangong Ye. “Qi’er said that Your Highness likes this sweet the most. It looks like you still have the palate of a child.”
Then, they watched as the Fifth Prince leaned closer and bit into the candied chestnut directly from Yan Yi Ming’s fingers. Still leaning close to her, he had a smile on his face as he glanced at Yan Yi Ming and said in a low voice, “Don’t treat me like a child.”
Afterwards, their conversation was no longer audible, but judging by their familiar actions, it was clear that their relationship was not as simple as it seemed. The Fifth Prince even addressed Yan Yi Ming as ‘Ah Ming’. Furthermore, Yan Yi Ming even fed the Fifth Prince a piece of candied chestnut with her own hand.
Wasn’t Yan Yi Ming always chasing behind the Crown Prince?
Why was the Fifth Prince so intimate with this woman with a ruined reputation?
Trailing after them, Little Apple whispered to Yan Yi Ming, “Host, they all say that you are a shameless vixen for seducing the Fifth Prince.”
Yan Yi Ming picked up a candied chestnut and placed it in her mouth, “Thanks for the compliment.”
“Come tomorrow, everyone will learn that you cheated on the Crown Prince.”
“What’s wrong with people knowing about it? And what do you mean by cheating? Have I ever been together with Nangong Xuan?” Yan Yi Ming chewed the candy in her mouth and thought of Nangong Ye’s smile which was only for her to see. She murmured, “Our Little Fifth Prince actually has such a sweet tooth. But sugar in ancient times doesn’t taste that delicious. It’s such a pity. If there’s a chance, I’ll let him try what a truly mouth-watering candy tastes like.”