”Your Highness Dowager Consort, it’s quite the coincidence: when this lowly official was returning from Taicang, I met with a boat accident and it was these few who acted fast and saved this lowly official’s life…” Guo Xiu’s large frame stood upright in the palace hall. He was half bowing with a fawning smile on his rather scary looking mien. It was awkwardly funny in some ways.
Dowager Consort Zhao didn’t make a sound. Her sharp nail guard lifted up, and she was somewhat annoyed as she scraped the cover of the teapot over the mouth.
Liu Fuyi was focused on the old Imperial Physician with a head full of sweat and a silk-wearing young incense master. He scrunched up his brows without any clear indication as to why, seemingly pondering something.
Mu Yao quietly stared at her own hands. The white steam wafting off the cup of tea on the table condensed on her eyelashes.
“It was all this lowly official’s fault for being slow in informing. You all received the summons of the Empress Dowager and traveled here from afar. You’re also the saviors who saved this lowly official’s life, I should have long prepared everything…” Guo Xiu was staring at the floor as he spoke endlessly without need.
“Enough!” Dowager Consort Zhao slammed the teacup onto the table. Her tone was annoyed: “Why I called you here, you know it yourself do you not?”
Guo Xiu paused for a moment before awkwardly speaking up: “Your Highness, I… this lowly servant was falsely accused.”
“Hmph, falsely accused? You?” Dowager Consort Zhao shot him a fierce look before retrieving her raised voice: “Imperial Physician Chen, Mister Lu. Speak, tell me if this dowager consort has falsely accused him?”
The young incense master was Lu Jiu. He was here as a result of Mu Sheng intentionally inviting a commoner here. He was wearing a specially prepared, completely new silk robe but still seemed rather unpresentable and poor within this beautiful palace.
He was very nervous and his original pale and thin face seemed to be splashed with a dash of red: “Replying to your highness… this incense, this incense… is, is top-notch sandalwood.”
Upon hearing this, Guo Xiu’s back became very straight: “Since this lowly servant has become an official of the Ministry of Rites, I’ve been working diligently and fastidiously; I’m only afraid of not having the chance of giving up my life in sacrifice for your highness… This servant knows that Your Highness is sincere in worshipping Buddha so now could this servant possibly create such shoddy work?”
His face was the definition of ‘being wronged’, it was to the point that he even exaggeratedly wiped the corner of his eye like he was crying.
Dowager Consort Zhao endured and closed her eyes: “Imperial Physician Chen?”
”Replying to your highness Dowager Consort…” The old Imperial Physician, whose hair and beard were all thoroughly white, trembled as he wiped off the sheen of sweat on his forehead. He strenuously spoke up: “There truly is a soothing and hallucinatory herb added into this…”
“Guo Xiu!” Before he finished speaking, Dowager Consort Zhao’s face turned fierce and her towering rage burst out. She suddenly slapped the table, “What do you have to say for yourself? I let you reach your current status so smoothly and this is how you repay me?”
Guo Xiu started to shiver uncontrollably after being shouted at. His mind was a complete scene of whiteness and a thin layer of sweat covered his head. His face turned white: “Impossible, that is impossible…”
”Mister Lu.” Mu Yao appeared behind the young incense master at some unknown time. She had a faint fragrance of cold plum blossoms lingering about her, scaring him into taking a few steps back.
Her petite finger was pinching a small piece of the incense. She twirled it open between her fingertips and took a sniff. After falling silent for a moment, she asked: “If you’re the most famous incense master of Chang An, how can you not smell the superfluous addition to the mix?”
Lu Jiu swallowed a mouthful of saliva and his lower lip started to tremble: “This commoner…this commoner…” He suddenly regained his bearings and replied, “There actually is something superfluous in there… but with this commoner’s skill… it’s hard… it’s hard to distinguish.”
“Lu Jiu, are you unwilling to speak?” Dowager Consort Zhao’s voice was a little piercing to the ears, “Do you want this Dowager Consort to beg you?”
“Your highness, please don’t get angry.” Mu Yao calmly interrupted them as she naturally stood in front of the shaking incense master. “Mister Lu has been diligently playing the role he ought to play. It’s perfectly understandable that he doesn’t recognize it. Because he’s never created or taken part in murder or other shady subterfuge.”
She deliberately chewed on the word ‘murder’ as her gaze sharply ran over Guo Xiu’s face.
A creek flowed down from the rock, letting out a clear and crisp noise. The water split into countless rivulets as they separated and then recombined together in a rush into the distance.
“Sigh, everything has been destroyed.” Ling Miaomiao was crouching atop the big rock and flipped the clothes in her hand around. The wooden bucket that contained the clothes was slightly pushed away by the charging water but she alertly shot out her hand to hold it in place and pull it to the side.
Many droplets of water in the form of mist hit her face and brought about a cool and refreshing feeling in the midst of this hot day. She paused her actions and pulled her red face close to the stream, causing her face to be covered with droplets of water. She then pulled up her sleeves in high spirits and also stuck her arms into the water.
”Whoosh—” When she suddenly pulled out her arms from the water, she could feel water travelling up her straight arms into her clothes, giving her an itchy feeling. It amused herself and made her feel joyous.
Her satin-like long hair was glimmering in a deep red color. Her hair was too luscious and a single hairpin was unable to hold it in place. More than half of her hair had escaped already so she simply just took off the hairpin entirely, allowing her hair to fall freely onto her back. She used her wet hands to run through them a few times and let it all fall at an angle onto her shoulder. She started to stare at the bucket in a daze: “I Ling Miaomiao was born pampered and never even had to wash my mother or father’s clothes before. But now I have to wash the black lotus’s clothes?”
She let out a very long sigh towards her reflection in the water: “After I complete the mission, I have to properly reward myself with good food. Then, I will definitely go and lodge a complaint against this terrible trash piece of a system.”
Reaching out, she once again soaked the soaked robe into the stream and started another round of amusing herself.
It wasn’t until the wind blew a corner of black clothes into her line of sight that she suddenly paused her movements. She raised her head and saw Mu Sheng’s face above her. Who knows how long he had been standing there and listening to her.
Mu Sheng slowly crouched down and the look he gave her was full of ridicule: “Miss Ling is quite unwilling eh?”
As water flowed everywhere around them, he watched in satisfaction as her expression went from shock to fear.
Miaomiao held it in for a long time, until her face turned red: “What did you say? I can’t hear?”
“…” He grabbed the back of her collar and pulled her in front of him. Their faces were extremely close to one another, their noses were basically touching at this point. Miaomiao anxiously stared at his lips. Those two thin lips were a light pink as they touched and lightly spat out a string of venomous words: “I said… Since you’re quite unwilling, why don’t you stop being pretentious.”
“Hah?” She coldly smiled and moved her face backwards in an attempt to dodge: “You’re speaking like I don’t have to wash them if I’m unwilling!”
She grabbed ahold of the outer clothes that had nearly been taken away by the current and put it into the bucket. She looked somewhat terrible as she wiped off the water on her face: “We currently stay in the Imperial Palace and there’s lines of palace servants waiting to service you. Yet, you don’t let them wash and only want to mess around with me, do I have any ability to resist?”
Compared to when he last threw her into a group of people and let her find her way out, washing clothes was considerably more mellow. After all, the summers in this world were rather difficult to bear, it was difficult to bear even if she sat next to a block of ice.
Mu Sheng’s lashes shook for a moment: “I dislike their rough skin and hands and remembered that Miss Ling was born a pampered little lady…” His gaze fell onto her fair hands that were wet and dripping as they grasped hard against his black clothes. The difference was overly obvious. He paused for a moment before saying: “I just like pampered hands to help me wash clothes.”
”…” Ling Miaomiao was left speechless. After a pregnant pause, she accepted her bitter fate and started rubbing the clothes once more, “Fine, I’ll wash them. Scram, you’re blocking the light.”
Mu Sheng was still squatting on the big rock lazily watching her. Miaomiao’s hair was soft and smooth, obediently falling to her stomach. It would only slightly shake as it followed her actions.
He felt a wave of dizziness, and in his absent-minded state a colorless scene of snowflakes entered his brain. The beautiful flower-like woman had taken off her rings and looked just like a normal wife one could find anywhere in the world. There was a peaceful warmness in her appearance.
The courtyard was full of snowflakes and they appeared like stars of white atop her hair. Many of them landed in the basin before her and they didn’t melt even after a long time had passed.
“Mother, are your hands cold?”
She raised her head, her smile was such that all other living organisms lost their luster: “How could I be cold washing my little Sheng’er’s clothes?”
That face… he felt the scene spinning before his eyes and his body started to wobble, but a hand shot out and stabilized his body.
”What’s with you? Your crouching stance is so unstable.” Ling Miaomiao’s hand was wet as they wrapped around his waist. They were cold and she also handily swiped her hands on his clothes a few times before quietly retrieving them. Her apricot eyes sparkled with a hint of teasing: “The basin wants to run away, the clothes want to float away and you want to fall over… I’m a living octopus, can I even accomplish all this? 1  This was supposed to rhyme but… I can’t get it to rhyme in english >.>
His gaze flashed and avoided the piece of snow white flesh beneath her collar.
Miaomiao was already used to the black lotus’s abrupt changes in mood. She continued to wash the clothes with her lashes pointed down. Her lips were lifted as she completely didn’t bother with him at all.
Mu Sheng suddenly spoke: “… are your hands cold?”
Miaomiao wrinkled up her brows, feeling strange: “…not cold.”
”It’s summer. Playing in the water is wonderful.” She pursed her lips into a smile as she coldly threatened in her heart: “If you dare make me wash your clothes in the winter.. This lady will bash your head with the basin.”
Mu Sheng didn’t utter a sound for quite a while. He changed his position and simply sat cross-legged atop the rock.
“Oh right, Mu Sheng.” Ling Miaomiao started to converse with him out of boredom, “Actually, your clothes are very easy to wash.”
This flashy guy changed clothes everyday, so they were practically completely clean. There was even a slight fragrance of plum blossoms. It was his body odor, the black lotus even wanted to maintain the same scent as his sister.
“Is that so?”
“Yep, only…” Miaomiao pulled up one to give him a look, “There’s no dirt, it’s all blood…” She smiled at him in jest, “Can you bleed less in the future? Blood is much harder to wash out compared to dust and dirt.”
He paused and for a while, was at a complete loss as to how to reply.
The current Ling Miaomiao was especially charming. He didn’t know if it was because she was holding onto his clothes, thoroughly stained by his own scent, or because the mist from the stream softened her countenance just that much.
Lowering his eyelashes, he coincidentally saw a bead of sparkling water roll down her hair. He saw that it was soon about to fall onto her clothes.
He didn’t know why he did so, but he reached out and caught the droplet. The instant he caught it in his palm, it split into 8 petals as it followed the lines of his palm and spread out, like a most warm kiss.
He seemed to suddenly wake up as he abruptly clenched his fist.
”Mission 2 Remind: Congratulations host, you have reached 30% intimacy with the target character [Mu Sheng].”
That’s right, ever since the main plotline at the Taicang County, Miaomiao had her wish fulfilled and received notifications every time her intimacy with a character increased. Every increase of 5% would result in a notification for her.
She had already reached approximately a third of the intimacy required in just a fourth of the journey. However, as a completely newbie to completing missions, she was like a blind person walking down a road: She could only blindly fumble about on this completely unfamiliar path…
Mu Sheng slowly stood up. The drop of water had long since become a point of moisture on his palm. The youth’s graceful side profile seemed to be plated in a layer of gold by the sunlight. A dazzling globe of light gathered on his brush-like lashes: “You clearly know that I will purposely make things difficult for you on this path so why do you still listen and take my word?”
As soon as Ling Miaomiao heard this question, she went into shock for a long time before suddenly bursting out in laughter: “I said it already, I want to stick with you guys. If I shrink away after getting messed with a few times, wouldn’t that be too undetermined?”
Mu Sheng kept silent as he watched her face lit up by the sunlight. His thin white headband was blown about by the wind just like a butterfly stretching out its wings.
Their sleeves drifted about and in this silent, wordless moment, they were like normal teenagers simply writing some story of innocent playmates turning into lovers.
Miaomiao smiled at him, her voice both sweet and crisp: “Let me ask you as well. Messing around with me like this, does it make you very happy?”
Miaomiao bent over and put the cleaned clothes into the bucket. She rubbed her numb legs a few times before quickly leaping up without caring too much: “So far, I’ve seen you playing quite joyously on the journey. I also don’t feel unhappy.”
Ling Miaomiao harrumphed and started to head back.
She was magnanimous but her family and the teacher in school simply signed her off. Even the most nonchalant of brave male students had to tip their hats off to the width of her heart.
Real people weren’t afraid of failure, let alone completing a mission.
She wasn’t going to lower herself to the level of narrow-minded people. The most important thing was the process and the experience gained.
Mu Sheng’s face immediately turned as dark as night. He turned around and started walking away: “Nonsense.”
Miaomiao’s footsteps paused. Oh no, did I say the wrong thing again?
Suddenly a ding sounded in her head: “”Mission 2 Remind: Congratulations host, you have reached 35% intimacy with the target character [Mu Sheng].”
 This was supposed to rhyme but… I can’t get it to rhyme in english >.>