Within Jin Ling Capital, inside Qin Xue Pear Blossom Garden, the pear blossoms flowered a few days after the peach blossoms. Currently, they were in full bloom.
A plum garden in winter and a pear blossom garden in spring. This pear blossom garden was located in a private teahouse theatre in Jin Ling Capital.
This was not another ordinary private teahouse theatre where just anyone could enter. This was a place only those of noble status could patronize. It was found in a secluded area, cut away from the bustling Jin Ling Capital. With winding paths leading to isolated pavilions, one could admire the white petals that covered the sky while listening to the subtle sounds of water trickling from the stream nearby.
One’s ears would be filled with the mellow songs of opera tunes, while their nose would occasionally catch the whiff of the faint fragrance of the maidservants serving tea, as the black and white chess pieces were laid out in front of them.
Fifth Prince, Nangong Ye, invited Yan Yi Ming to join him in appreciating the tunes of zither while they engaged in a game of chess. He had also brought along a small light bulb, Young Master Yan. Yan Yi Ming easily deduced that Nangong Ye and Yan Yi Qi were regular customers based on their familiarity with the establishment. Her younger brother’s awareness of requesting a particular tune, to picking the attendant to serve them was like moving clouds and flowing water.
Ever since Nangong Ye knew that Yan Yi Ming was going to give up his elder brother, his originally restless heart that had been suppressed was once again revived bit by bit under Yan Yi Ming’s deliberate manipulation.
As he grew up with Young Master Yan, they had always been close and he would often visit Duke Ding’s residence. Since the last conversation he had with Yan Yi Ming, he had practically gone to Yan’s residence every day since. He noted that Yan Yi Ming no longer avoided him like before, and nowadays, she would even greet him with a smile and chat idly with him.
He originally knew that he really liked Yan Yi Ming. But ever since they started to interact more with each other and she no longer treated him as a child, Nangong Ye started to realize that his affection towards her was greater than he had expected.
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The servers brought over a plate of lychee. In the first place, lychees were a rare commodity, let alone San Yue Hong, that was only ripe in March. The worth of a single lychee was able to feed a commoner’s family for half a year.
At this moment, the hands that captivated Nangong Ye’s attention were slowly de-shelling the bright red lychees. After peeling back the skin to reveal the juicy flesh, she would bring the fruit to her mouth as she slowly chewed and savored the taste, before finally spitting out the hard pit.
In this round of chess, Nangong Ye was somewhat absent-minded, bewitched by Yan Yi Ming. Although she was doing an ordinary thing like eating lychees, it felt like a silent seduction to him. He wanted to reach out and hold her hands to see if they were as soft and boneless as he imagined. He wanted to taste those lips and see if they were as soft and sweet as he thought they would be.
On the other hand, Young Master Yan was fully concentrated on the game. Even Yan Yi Ming noticed that the previously quick-witted Nangong Ye was distracted. Yan Yi Qi made use of this to his advantage and ruthlessly removed many of Nangong Ye’s black tiles.
In a place that no one could hear, Little Apple shook its head wryly, “Sure enough, he’s still young. His willpower is too weak.”
“If his willpower is strong, then how will I be able to complete this story plot?” Yan Yi Ming chuckled as she picked up another lychee and started peeling back the skin.
Young Master Yan was extremely smug, having gotten the upper hand in the game. On the other hand, Nangong Ye could not help feeling annoyed and he forced himself not to look at Yan Yi Ming anymore. His handsome face was full of concentration as he reached into the box for another chess piece. Just as he was about to place his chess piece down, a cold sensation grazed his lips, making him freeze on the spot. When he looked down, he spotted Yan Yi Ming’s pale fingertips holding a translucent and juicy lychee flesh to his lips.
“Ah-, open your mouth,” Yan Yi Ming fed the peeled lychee to his mouth with a smile on her delicate face.
The grip Nangong Ye had on the chess piece tightened. His thoughts were in disarray as he stared at Yan Yi Ming in a daze. He gradually opened his mouth and took a bite of the lychee.
He might have been nervous causing his lips to accidentally touch Yan Yi Ming’s finger before she had the time to retract them.
His whole mouth was filled with the sweetness of the lychee. But his thoughts were filled with the touch of Yan Yi Ming’s cool finger on his lips. He felt that he was instantly burnt by her touch.
Nangong Ye immediately looked up at Yan Yi Ming only to see her moving back to her original seat, peeling another lychee with the fingers that just touch his lips when she placed the lychee to his mouth. Sensing his gaze, she looked over and gave him a smile, “Is it sweet?”
Nangong Ye stared at Yan Yi Ming’s fingers which were wet with the juice of the fruit. His ears immediately turned red.
Little Apple could not bear to witness such a scene and decided to cover its eyes. His host was too much of a ruffian. If this context was placed in the 21st century, the fifth prince was still considered a minor…
At that very moment, after leaving Kunning Palace, the Crown Prince went straight to the Fifth Prince’s residence. Nangong Ye was still young, and since his biological brother had yet to marry, his residence also did not have an official wife or any concubines.
The Crown Prince’s sudden arrival at the manor and the master not being home caused everyone in the manor to knelt on the ground in apprehension. Nangong Xuan waved his hand to gesture for everyone to get up. Then he asked the servants for Nangong Ye’s whereabouts since he have not seen his brother for a few days, “Where is Ye’er?”
“Replying to Your Highness, Fifth Prince left the manor early in the morning and has yet to return.”
Nangong Xuan was not surprised. With long strides, he familiarly made his way towards Nangong Ye’s study, “Do you know where he went?”
“Replying to Your Highness, Fifth Prince said that he was going to Duke Ding’s Manor.”
Duke Ding’s Manor?
He must’ve gone to find that lad from Yan’s residence again.
Nangong Xuan smiled to himself. In the beginning, the child from Yan’s family was chosen to be Ye’er’s study companion. Who would have expected that after all these years, their bond would grow stronger and that he would constantly visit Duke Ding’s manor?
Since he was already planning to drop by and visit the ailing Yan Yi Ming, he might as well make his trip there later.
Picking up a piece of sumi paper on Nangong Ye’s desk, he found a picture of a beauty painted on it.
He considered this to be a picture of a ‘beauty’ because it was easy to note the slender figure of the woman painted. But if one was to be honest, this painting induced mixed feelings of laughter and tears. Jian Yu Yan, the number one gentleman of the capital, was well-known for his proficiency in painting. Unfortunately, his younger brother, Nangong Ye, did not have such talent and was unable to capture the essence of the beauty through his brush.
Although the beauty’s facial features were unrecognizable, something still caught his attention. It was a tiny cinnabar mole at the end of the lady’s right eye.
A cinnabar mole.
Yan Yi Ming’s exquisite and captivating face appeared in his mind. Her slightly raised eyes and the beautiful cinnabar mole at the corner of her eye.
Granted that the first person who came to mind was Yan Yi Ming, Nangong Xuan never thought that the beauty in Nangong Ye’s painting was her. Though, he did wonder if the cinnabar mole at the end of this beauty’s eye was as bewitching as the one on Yan Yi Ming.
Since Nangong Ye was not at his residence, Nangong Xuan did not see the point of staying, hence he made his way to Duke Ding’s manor.
When the Crown Prince decided to drop by for a visit, Yan’s residence was naturally notified before his arrival. Although everyone was shocked by the news, everyone, from the elderly Duke Ding to his two-year-old great-grandson, had to come out to welcome him.
Nangong Xuan personally helped Old Master Yan up after receiving their salutations and the group made their way to the main reception hall. It was only then that Nangong Xuan noticed that Yan Yi Ming was not around.
Old Madame Yan was astute to the Crown Prince’s thoughts based on his expression and she quickly explained, “Ming’er has been ill for the past few days and was finally feeling better today. Coincidentally, Fifth Prince invited Qi’er to join him at the private teahouse theatre, so Qi’er brought his sister along to help her lift her spirits. They should be home soon.”
She was truly under the weather?
Nangong Xuan was startled.
He had assumed that Yan Yi Ming was only trying to pretend to be sick. Only today, when he visited, he found out that she was really ill. When he recalled Yan Yi Ming’s pale visage that day, his heart suddenly felt a little stifled.
Old Madame Yan knew how much her granddaughter liked the Crown Prince. It was also rare for the Crown Prince to treat Ming’er amicably and even dropped by today to visit her. If he was allowed to leave now, who knows how disappointed Ming’er will be when she comes back? Old Madame Yan felt sorry for her granddaughter, so after a moment of contemplation she tentatively asked him, “It’s getting late. If Your Highness doesn’t mind, why not have a meal first before heading back? Our dishes are not as excellent as those prepared by the royal chefs in the palace, but Your Highness can treat it as trying some new dishes.”
Now that he knew about Yan Yi Ming being truly ill, Nangong Xuan could not bear to treat her as coldly as before. It seemed that in the few days in which he did not see her, he had come to miss her as well. Hence, when Old Mandam Yan invited him to stay, he did not refuse.
By the time Yan Yi Ming and Yan Yi Qi came back, the sky had already darkened. Just as they took a step into the manor, a young maidservant rushed over with a grin on her little face, “My Lady! You’re finally back! His Highness, the Crown Prince, has been waiting for you for a long while already.”
Young Master Yan’s face immediately changed color and he hurriedly turned to look at Yan Yi Ming. However, Yan Yi Ming had already left him behind as she walked straight to the main hall. In a position where no one could see, her lips had already curved upwards due to her anticipation.
The maidservant waiting at the door announced that the young master and young lady had returned and were on their way to the main hall. Nangong Xuan felt an indescribable sense of expectation as he looked towards the door.
Under the soft glow of the moonlight, a beautiful woman stepped into the main hall. Illuminated by the candle lights, that cinnabar mole added more life to her beautiful face.
She steadily stepped forward and curtsied, “Greetings to Your Highness.”
A very familiar appearance, but when she raised her head, Nangong Xuan noticed that she did not look as delighted as he had imagined.
Suddenly, Nangong Xuan felt that he did not like Yan Yi Ming’s current gaze.
The air seemed to freeze and even Old Madame Yan was a little confused by the situation. Madame Yan felt anxious as she swiftly urged Yan Yi Ming, “Quickly, serve some tea to His Highness.”
Yan Yi Ming nodded obediently. She went forward and naturally poured a cup of tea for Nangong Xuan before stretching out her hands to pass the cup to him. With her arms outstretched, her sleeve glided back, revealing her slender wrist wearing an exquisite jadeite bracelet.
Nangong Xuan’s gaze locked onto Yan Yi Ming’s wrist. He suddenly reached out and firmly gripped her wrist. The hot tea spilled from the tea cup and drenched the hem of her skirt but it did not make Nangong Xuan release his hold on her. Flying into a rage, he demanded, “Who gave you this bracelet?”
The author has something to say:
Yan Yi Ming: Look at my bracelet, doesn’t it look pretty?
Everyone: Wah, so green~