The sunlight shone through the massive parasol trees in the inner courtyard of the palace, spots of light fell onto Ling Miaomiao’s head.
A line of people were walking down the palace’s center path and through the winding corridor bridges. Sometimes, they were in the shade of the trees, sometimes they were subject to the brilliance of the sunlight.
For reasons unknown, Mu Sheng was walking painstakingly slow. He unhurriedly enjoyed the scenery within the palace halls as Ling Miaomiao stood next to him, trying her best to avoid the fervent gazes of the palace maid and Xu Gonggong1 Gonggong: A senior level of eunuch… I thought that senior eunuch didn’t quite fit and most chinese dramas I’ve read used Gonggong as well… so I thought why not 🙂 as they repeatedly turned around.
A group of small green clothed servants greeted them, they were wearing brightly colored clothes and at their head was a 15ish year old young eunuch. This eunuch himself was only half grown and had no capability in pressuring others. The young maids were boldly chattering and gossipping about, causing Xu Gonggong in their front to frown deeply and become infuriated.
Suddenly, there was a disturbance within the group of children, and a black shadow flew out from the group. It came directly to their side and Mu Sheng extended a hand as quick as lightning to catch it head on.
The young eunuch saw that Xu Gonggong’s face looked like he was about to rip someone in two and cried out in fear within his heart. He immediately brought the group over to them with a lot of flapping of robes, “All of you shut up! Who was it that threw that out?”
Mu Sheng lowered his lashes to look at the little thing in his hand.
It was a bamboo butterfly, small and crudely made.
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Dw Qsdttsdt pnawvkdkgle Yw Fbldt’p lmralppksd yde wrsd pllkdt vbyv bl eked’v clnsxl kdqwakyvle sa ekprzlyple, zlv swv y pktb: “Mblu’al yzz okze nbkzeald vbyv byhl nsxl qasx nsxxsdlap, vblu esd’v wdelapvyde vbl awzlp…”
Yw Fbldt’p lulzypblp pzktbvzu xshle yde bl lmvldele bkp byde vs alvwad vbl osseld cwvvlaqzu: “Ls byax esdl.”
Dw Qsdttsdt bwdt y pxkzl wrsd bkp qynl cwv wrsd vwadkdt yaswde, kv vwadle kdvs y takx yde eyaj lmralppksd. Tl qynle vbl valxczkdt taswr sq uswdt zkvvzl talld nzsvble nbkzeald yde yexsdkpble: “Xdnl usw’hl yzz pvlrrle kdvs vbl kxrlakyz ryzynl, usw nyd ds zsdtla ynv yp usw byhl kd vbl rypv. Rq ydu sq usw ynv okvbswv qszzsokdt vbl awzlp ytykd, R okzz nyvnb usw yde cakdt usw vs vbl Vwdkpbxldv Tyzz vs tlv clyvld vs elyvb, es u’yzz blya xl?!”
Mbl uswdt lwdwnb oyp ps vlaakqkle bl dseele bkp blye zkjl bl oyp clyvkdt tyazkn: “Zlp, ulp. Qsdttsdt ulp.”
Dw Qsdttsdt nszezu bwxrble yde casjl vbl osseld cwvvlaqzu kd vos, nypwyzzu vsppkdt vbl vos ryavp kdvs vbl taypp. Tl vwadle yaswde yde pxkzle yxkyczu yv Yw Fbldt: “Zswdt Lsczl Yw, vbkp oyu rzlypl. Vzlypl cl xkdeqwz sq vbl vkxl.”
Yw Fbldt zssjle yv bkx cwv eked’v xyjl ydu pswde.
Wllzkdt bkp tygl qyzz wrsd bkx, Dw Qsdttsdt valxczle. Rd vbyv xsxldv, bl bye qlzv vbyv bkp uswdtpvla’p tygl oyp pkxkzya vs bkp asuyz xyflpvu’p tygl. Usze, yryvblvkn yde pbyar. Rv nywple sdl vs clnsxl xsxldvyakzu ycpldvxkdele, vs qllz sdl’p blyae vbwxr yde ds zsdtla eyal bwaau vblx yzsdt.
Ykysxkys yde Yw Fbldt olal pvkzz vstlvbla yv vbl cynj, oyzjkdt yv y rynl vbyv oypd’v pzso cwv oypd’v qypv lkvbla. Ykysxkys vwadle yaswde vs zssj yde pyo vbl taswr sq uswdt plahydvp jdllzkdt sd vblka saktkdyz prsvp. Ekde pnayrle rypv vbl vallp yzsdt vbl pkel sq vbl ryvb, oyhlp sq talld wdewzyvkdt yzsdt okvb vbl okde, zlvvkdt swv y zswe awpvzkdt dskpl.
“…What’s wrong with you?” Ling Miaomiao lightly touched Mu Sheng’s arm.
”Don’t speak.” Mu Sheng was still calmly surveying the surroundings, his tone exceptionally cool.
“Young Noble Mu…” They had only walked for another minute or so along the short path when Xu Gonggong could no longer endure it. With his head covered with warm sweat, he turned around and took quick, small steps towards Mu Sheng, just as he was about to open his mouth with a squinty eyed smile upon his face, he heard a ‘ah yah’ and saw Mu Sheng suddenly bent over from his waist. Immediately, he was scared into a bewildered state: “Ah! Young Noble Mu, you…”
Ling Miaomiao was also shocked and shot out a hand to support him. He slowly stood back up straight, his face as pale as paper. His moist black pupils looked like the surface of a misty lake, with flashes of light flickering across it. His lips were completely bloodless and he forced out a bitter smile: “I’m truly sorry, I suddenly don’t feel very well. In all likelihood, I’ll be unable to help her highness with her medicine…”
Xu Gonggong was shocked into having a layer of cold sweat ooze out of his pores.
With this appearance of his, how did it look anything like ‘not feeling well’? He looked like he was about to kick the bucket at any moment…
If the exorcist Dowager Consort Zhao invited from outside were to suddenly have something dubious happen to him under his watch….
He felt like his tongue had gone awry: “Young Noble Mu, hurry… hurry and go back to rest! I will return and report to her highness.”
He turned around and waved his sleeves, chiding the two dumbstruck palace maids behind him, “Why haven’t you gone to call the imperial physicians yet!?”
He pulled near them and saw Mu Sheng’s glass baby-like appearance, for a period of time he was completely at a blank as to how to start helping him move: “Young Noble Mu, just bear with it, let me help carry you back to rest.”
”There’s no need.” The youth slightly smiled, his look of bearing untold difficulties was exceptionally pitiful looking, “It’s just an old ailment, Miaomiao knows what to do. I only need to return and lay down for a while.” After his words, his gaze lightly brushed over Ling Miaomiao’s face.
Miaomiao, who had been in a blank daze, felt this meaning gaze upon her face and immediately supported Mu Sheng in a mother hen-like manner. She dodged Xu Gonggong’s hand and staunchly said: “I can send him back myself, Gonggong, you should hurry and go report to her highness!”
The old eunuch was at a loss as to what to do for a moment. ‘Ai!’ He said before pinching the hems of his new official’s robes and hastily running away.
Mu Sheng was still weakly leaning into Miaomiao’s arms.
Upon seeing them disappear, she lowered her voice to ask: “What kind of rotten idea did you come out with this time?”
“Hmph.” Mu Sheng coldly laughed, and loosened the Demon Restraining Circlet around his wrist. There was a band of dark purple carved into his fair white wrists and blood started to return to his face.
Ling Miaomiao felt her heart leap up in alarm upon seeing this: “Your method of acting sick is…. Truly too unique.”
”Help me back to rest.” Mu Sheng shut his eyes and covered up the careless, harum scarum expression in his eyes, “There’ll be people here soon.”
Peiyun was outside drawing water and wiped off the sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. The strands of hair around her temples had already become drenched in sweat. Outside of the Fengyang Palace was a small inner courtyard. There was a well in the courtyard just for the palace maids to draw, clean and water with. Tall, towering bamboo trees tightly loomed over the palace paths from outside.
In the inner courtyard, there was only Peiyun. She had her sleeves pulled up to her arms as she clenched her teeth to draw water. The water within the bucket continuously spilled onto her trousers.
A hem of blue clothes flashed past the outer palace paths and immediately after, the thicket of bamboo trees made bamboo-y sounds. An amazed face appeared from outside the bamboo thicket: “Peiyun, how come it’s you here? Where’s everyone else?”
”They all went to take afternoon naps.” Her weak and delicate figure turned around, forehead covered with beads of sweat, and lowered her head slightly. Her voice was very soft: “I messed up serving the princess this morning, causing her to become angry. I’ve been punished to come to the outer courtyard.”
The old eunuch was increasingly astonished: “You’ve been at the princess’s side for five years, why would the princess suddenly…”
Peiyun shook her head at him. Beads of sweat dripped down her chin into her collar: “Peiyu, who’s rather new, is lively and full of vivacious activity. She fits the princess’s wants more.” She suddenly seemed to have thought of something and earnestly spoke: “After something happened to the princess, his royal majesty never even came to take a look. She definitely must feel cold within. You all are all oft in front of his royal majesty, what if…”
“We haven’t discussed.” The old eunuch hadn’t even finished listening when he started to shake his head, “If the reason for something unfortunate happening to the princess was something else, his royal majesty would’ve long come and visited her. However… supernatural things are the decade old psychological illness of his royal majesty. There’s no one who could possibly persuade him.”
His groove covered face wrinkled into a ball and brushed his gaze over Peiyun’s face full of complicated thoughts. He let out a long sigh: “The young princess doesn’t understand who truly treats her well. She’s even chasing after an exorcist now….”
He scrutinized Peiyun’s sweat covered face before regretfully saying: “Unfortunately, you don’t have the destiny to become an imperial concubine. Now you can only endure like this.”
Peiyun was terrified and looked in all directions. She was anxious to interrupt him but after hearing half of his words, the look in her eyes slowly turned listless.
She only regained her spirit after a very long time. She nodded and smiled: “This is my life, there’s nothing bad about it.”
Ling Miaomiao helped settle Mu Sheng onto the bed and pull down the canopy net. She then turned around and lightly closed the door. She walked to the side of the bed and prodded the side of the bed with her knees twice, causing the bed to shake a little each time: “When the imperial physicians come later on, how are you going to deal with them?”
Mu Sheng flipped around, “I won’t see them, just tell them I’m deep asleep.”
Miaomiao didn’t react for a while. She pointed at her own nose and asked: “You’re making me block them for you?”
Under the net, Mu Sheng didn’t make a sound, as if he was tacitly agreeing.
“Knock knock knock—” The sound of the door being knocked resounded through the room.
Ling Miaomiao could only helplessly stow away her bared teeth and threatening expression and change it into an honest face to deal with the imperial physicians.
Miaomiao had no other skill. She just had a thick face and could speak people into circles. She found every reason possible to shoo the imperial physicians away. When she turned back around, she felt as if there was an exceedingly familiar fishy scent floating through the air.
She walked to the window and frowned, full of doubt: “How did the windows get opened?”
Under the canopy net, Mu Sheng faced his back towards her. He seemed to be in a deep sleep, as his vague silhouette was visible to her.
Miaomiao picked through the food tray on the table for a long time before finding a fresh red apple. She used a small knife to peel it and sat on the side of the bed, beside Mu Sheng to ask: “I really don’t understand. It was merely meeting Dowager Consort Zhao once, it’s not like you would lose a piece of flesh.”
Under the canopy net, Mu Sheng’s face was pale white. He paused continuously before turning over and speaking. His tone was unable to hold in his loathing: “I don’t wish to see her.”
”The first time I saw her, I had a very uncomfortable feeling.”
Miaomiao recalled the day they saw the Xingshan Temple for the first time. When Mu Sheng walked out of the shadow of the image of Buddha and into the light. The instant he walked out and Dowager Consort Zhao saw him, her face turned extremely strange all of a sudden.
She had already turned ash pale through all that had happened that day already, but the moment Mu Sheng appeared, she seemed as if she saw something both amazing and terrifying.
Ling Miaomiao hesitated: “Do you recognize her?”
”I don’t recognize her.”
The original plot had only focused on Mu Yao and Liu Fuyi’s love-hate relationship, or them working together to kill demons. As for Mu Sheng, this background character, there was simply too little. The black lotus had suddenly leveled up into becoming the main lead for this plotline. Yet, his background and story was completely hidden by a dense fog, causing her to have no idea where to start.
The juice from the apple in Ling Miaomiao’s hand spilled and she couldn’t help but move a bit further away from Mu Sheng, “Your feeling is completely baseless. Wasn’t the hallucinatory herbs a guess by you as well?”
Mu Sheng casually lifted up the canopy net and popped out his face. His ink black pupils looked out, as if they were coming out to explore: “Straightforward and forthright acts I may not necessarily notice. But when it comes to evil and the crooked path, how could I not be very familiar with it?”
Ling Miaomiao looked at him blankly for a moment. She lifted an eyebrow and then continued to calmly chomp into her apple: “That’s also an ability I guess.”
She took a bite and suddenly noticed a dark red stain on his sleeves, “Eh? What happened to your wrist?”
Mu Sheng suddenly withdrew his hand back in.
“Bang bang bang—-” Someone was knocking on the door again.
Ling Miaomiao let out a sigh and hung a smile on her face to open the door: “Didn’t I say it just now, Young Noble Mu has already fallen asleep. Honorable Imperial Physicians, please return for now.”
”Miss Ling.” Outside the door stood the beaming smile of Xu Gonggong. He was somewhat comical to look at as he held a round bundle of yellowish white fur in his arms, “This slave has come.”
”Aiya! Where did this kitten come from…” Ling Miaomiao reached out and picked up the veritably fluff ball. She felt her heart fill with joy as she moved it into her embrace. It was rather heavy in her arms. However, by the time she saw its amber eyes and three quite hard to see stripes across its forehead, her voice suddenly seemed to fly away, “Cute….”
This was… this was a tiger!
Ling Miaomiao stiffly hugged the tiger, morbidly shuddering without a sound.
The little tiger had only been born into the world not too long ago. It was very warm and tender. The stripes across its body were still unclear and its fur soft and velvety. Not only didn’t it completely not guard against Miaomiao, it even reached out with its coarse tongue and licked her arm, then opened its jaws to yawn, revealing two small sharp tiger teeth.
The eunuch’s smile turned his eyes into slits as he paid constant attention to the figure of Mu Sheng, who had pulled down the canopy net again: “Young Noble Mu, do you feel better now?”
”Much better… He’ll be fine after some sleep.” Miaomiao’s stiff expression was barely holding on and she reached out to return the tiger to the eunuch. However, the Gonggong didn’t have any intention of reaching out to receive it at all.
She could only hold onto the tiger with shaky arms while forcing a smile onto her face: “Gonggong, where did this big cat come from?”
“In today’s hunt, they killed a fierce mother tiger in the forest. There was still a cub in the cave and the Imperial Concubine that went along thought the little tiger to be very cute and wasn’t willing to see it hurt. Thus, it was brought back to the palace to be raised. Her highness, the Dowager Consort, said that Young Noble Mu is young hero material. That he would definitely like it, so she sent it over for him to raise and play around with.”
Ling Miaomiao listened as she sneered inside: Dowager Consort Zhao had only seen a glimpse of Mu Sheng, did she already recognize the snake and scorpion like nature of his?
Tch tch, such great perception.
“Please thank her highness the Dowager Consort for her well intentions.” Behind her, Mu Sheng’s voice suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Miaomiao turned around to see that Mu Sheng had already gotten out of bed and walked over. His face was white like he was barely in the first stages of recovering from a heavy ailment. However, his face also seemed to be completely filled to the brim with a layer of dark clouds.
He lowered his head to look at the little tiger cub sweetly sleeping in Ling Miaomiao’s arms. He watched it for a very long time before calmly asking her: “Miaomiao, do you like it? If you like it, we’ll keep it.”
Keep… keep it?
Wait, the main point is: Why is he asking her???
The awkwardness filling Ling Miaomiao became increasingly out of control. Seeing that Mu Sheng also seemed to be suppressing his emotions, she simply put the little cub onto the table as lightly as a feather. She took back her hands and then said: “Forget it… I don’t like it.”
”Miss Ling, it’s still small. It won’t hurt people.” The eunuch was scared for her as he hastily explained: “Its nails were cut off by the palace’s people already, it won’t scratch or claw at your clothes.”
“I’m not afraid of it hurting people.” Miaomiao hesitated, “Gonggong, tigers are wild creatures of the forest. If we bring it out to raise it like a house pet from a young age, will it become a cat?”
”This… mountains and rivers can easily change but one’s innate nature is difficult to erase. A tiger is a tiger after all.”
Mu Sheng carefully observed Ling Miaomiao. A hint of pity flashed through her pupils, “Clearly, no matter how warmly a tiger cub is raised, it’s still a wild animal. The day its sharp fangs and teeth pop out, how would one deal with it? Kill it?”
“This…” The eunuch was at a loss for words.
”Since there’s no way to avoid skepticism and becoming on guard against it, the conclusion will always be the same: death. Why is there any need to show it some false affection and favor? In its eyes, this kind of life is not much better than just dying with its mother in the hunting grounds in the first place.”
She just finished speaking when both men’s gazes suddenly gathered on her face. Ling Miaomiao hastily poured herself a cup of tea, quickly wiped her lips, and smiled: “I’m sorry, I may have said a little too much.”
 Gonggong: A senior level of eunuch… I thought that senior eunuch didn’t quite fit and most chinese dramas I’ve read used Gonggong as well… so I thought why not 🙂
TLN: I know I abruptly disappeared again… sigh I’m so inconsistent. I apologize. I wanna act like I was too busy trying to get my teammates to do work but… I basically spent most of my time coding rather insignificant features for our finals project. To be honest, I don’t have much time at all between my other translation work (contracted) and school… but I still manage to find time to waste; How amazing huh?
It may have come to some of your notices that liltato (Overlord Potato has been looking for a co-tl for this same reason. At the same time, it’s been… many months since I last translated Black Lotus lol. All the chapters for the past couple of months have been from the stockpile phew. I don’t want to make another promise that I don’t know if I could carry out but basically the finals project deadline is mid-April… however, if my project, by some stroke of bad(?) luck, gets chosen to represent my school then I’ll have to go to expos and whatnot… which would last till June. But until then, I probably won’t be posting…
Anyways, I’ll being posting two chapters today and tomorrow. Once again, sorry for pulling the disappearing act again… sigh, I don’t feel like I even deserve to ask for forgiveness.