First Arc ー Decorative Mirror
Madam Jiang grabbed hold of her and walked to the front of the window. “Silly child, what are you scared of? A girl invariably has to marry. Moreover, that kind of wonderful fiancé’s family, that kind of wonderful husband, it’s a wonderful marriage affinity that doesn’t even come when you pray for it. What are you scared of?”
“I’m scared……” Maybe because her Mother’s voice was too gentle or maybe because the scenery outside the window of the buds just beginning to bloom was too beautiful, Jiang Chenyu allowed herself to be immersed in those countless wisps of complicated delicate feelings and said her most sincere words, “I’m scared that Gentleman marrying me is a calamity and not a fortune.”
Madam Jiang was stunned. “What?”
“Because I’m the Jiang Family’s daughter.” When Jiang Chenyu was saying this sentence, there was a sorrowful expression on her face. That kind of sorrow was very faint, but lingered on tenaciously and could not be wiped away. “If this marriage alliance can really enable both the Jiang and Ji families to thrive together, then that’s fine. Otherwise, once a conflict arises between the two families, I’m scared that I’ll sacrifice Gentleman and choose my maiden family.” Just like how she purposely preserved Xue Cai to restrain him this time and used his future prospects to help fulfil the Jiang Family’s future prospects. For this kind of thing, when there was a first time, then there would be a second time, third time as well as countless times.
She was very scared that she would stand on the side of her family over and over again, choosing to abandon him and abandon the love which she was proud of.
“How can that be?” Madam Jiang consoled her, “A marriage alliance is a matter that is beneficial for both parties. After you become his wife, he and your father will only unite even more to work as one to assist His Majesty. Why would a conflict arise? Don’t think too much. You should set your mind at ease. If you have time to think of these nonsense and trivial matters, you should rather think of how to be the most beautiful bride.”
‘Mother doesn’t know anything at all……’ Jiang Chenyu thought dolefully. ‘Mother, she doesn’t know anything at all. Therefore, even if we are very close as mother and daughter, we also can’t become truly of one mind.’ Her mother could not comprehend the load on her mind and her mother’s comfort was no use at all to her.
Everyone said that Jiang Chenyu had a good temperament, but why did she not even have a close friend who could understand her? Was it because……her heart was hidden too deeply and she did not dare to and was unwilling to reveal it to others? In that case, was Gentleman also like this? Gentleman had three thousand hanger-ons, countless attendants, but he also had no friends……
Suddenly, it started to drizzle with the continuous patter of raindrops from outside the window. Jiang Chenyu gazed fixedly at those fine raindrops and said softly, “It’s raining……Is this considered a winter rain or a spring rain?”
Madam Jiang smiled as she said, “It’s already the third month now. Of course it has to be considered a spring rain. The spring this year arrived much earlier than past years.”
“In that case……” Jiang Chenyu muttered, “After this rain, the apricot flowers and pear blossoms are going to bloom right……”
“Hm? They should bloom I think……Why did you suddenly ask this?”
The corner of Jiang Chenyu’s lips curved upwards. This time, she was truly smiling. “I made a date with Gentleman to go admire the flowers together.”
Madam Jiang first stared blankly, then continued to also smile along and said, “Oh? Is that so? Heh heh, that’s not bad……”
Wo Yu who was at the side widened her eyes as she said, “Miss and Lord Marquis is going to get married. People say that the fiancé and fiancée can’t meet before the marriage. Otherwise, it won’t be auspicious……ouch!” Before she finished speaking, she was smacked by Huai Jin fiercely.
Madam Jiang looked at her daughter genially and said in a gentle voice, “Just go. As long as you feel happy. Furthermore, it’s only once a year, so it’s also a rare opportunity.”
“Mhm.” Jiang Chenyu smiled sweetly again. The guilt and uneasiness transformed into full of expectation in this instant. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ she thought. Even if there was no one in her world who was her kindred spirit, that also doesn’t matter. That was because she had Gentleman. Even if she and Gentlemen were similarly lonely people who had no friends. However, since they had each other, then they would no longer feel lonely.
Therefore, it was fated that the two of them were going to be together.
She must firmly believe in this point.
Jiang Chenyu inhaled deeply before she slowly exhaled, her pair of eyes completely limpid.
On the other hand, outside the window, the pear tree with a delicate and beautiful appearance was bathing in Nation Bi’s first spring rain. Flower buds silently busrt out of the numerous branches, making it look as spotless as the white snow and radiant and enchanting as a sweet smile.
Just as what Madam Jiang said, they bloomed not long after.
Furthermore, while the pear blossoms were the most splendid, the Son of Heaven’s main army returned victorious and withdrew the troops from the front back to the court in triumphーー
On this day, Jiang Chenyu was staying in Jia Ning Palace to eat with her Elder Sister. A palace maid came to report that Marquis Qi Ao had sent Xue Cai over, saying that he was acting under His Majesty’s orders to let him meet Xue Cai.
After obtaining Jiang Huayue’s permission, two palace servants led Xue Cai in. When she saw that small figure standing below the hall, Jiang Chenyu’s heart involuntarily ached. She recalled the scene when she first saw Xue Cai. Back then, he was young, wealthy and influential and had the proudness of his success which other children in the world could not match up to. He rode the Son of Heaven’s carriage, wore the golden feather*, wore the rare jade annulus, dared to reprimand an imperial consort in front of the horse and dared to splatter blood in front of the palace hall. He carried a subtle expression and was full of an extremely proud look. Whereas right now, he was instead so skinny that he was left with only skin and bones, wore vulgar clothes and straw sandals. His small face was dismal and without light.
*T/n: If I’m not wrong, it is supposed to be a feather from a mythical bird
He drooped his head and stood over there. His head was hung low, his eyes shut and was completely devoid of vitality.
Jiang Huayue said, “I still have some matters over here. Chenyu, why don’t you accompany him there first.”
Jiang Chenyu accepted the decree. She walked over and reached a hand out in front of Xue Cai. Xue Cai raised his head to glance at her. His jet-black eyes contained no emotions.
Jiang Chenyu flashed a faint smile at him with her eyes carrying encouragement. Xue Cai’s gaze flickered for a moment but took a step back and bowed as he said, “Xue Cai is a slave and doesn’t dare to hold Miss’ hand.”
Jiang Chenyu was dumbstruck and could no longer say anything out. That child who had dared to raise his whip in front of a favored imperial consort and say ‘a mere sparrow seat dares to defy the phoenix procession’, that child who had proudly said ‘I am the Bi(jade annulus) before people’, was instead saying that ‘Xue Cai is a slave’ in front of her at this very moment……
It was really like a living irony. Yet, how was all of this not thanks to her?
It was her who insisted on rescueing him, it was her who forcefully preserved him for her selfish intentions but in fact, to him, maybe he would rather die proudly and disdain to live in such a good-for-nothing with no purpose right?
Jiang Chenyu turned around and led the way quietly. All the way from Jia Ning Palace to Qian Xi Palace, as she heard the sound of light and hurried footsteps from the young child behind her, her heart became increasingly heavier.
Turning out from the arched door, ahead of them was the Dong Da Bridge and it was at this moment that they saw Xihe.
Xihe was leaning against the railing and feeding the fish beside the lake. For some reason, there were no palace servants following beside her. Ever since the incident of the poisoning, she had constantly been lying in bed and completely did not meet outsiders. Hence, although Jiang Chenyu had entered the palace multiple times, this was actually the first time seeing her after playing the zither for her previously.
The sunlight shone on her dimly. It was still the clothes whiter than snow, her beautiful eyes which were slightly raised and the faint languidness emanated from her every moment. It seemed as if no matter when she saw her, she always had this pessimistic and world-weary appearance but it just happened that it uniquely had an alluring flavor.
Xihe heard the sound and turned her head around. She first glanced at Jiang Chenyu and proceeded to shift her gaze to Xue Cai. A very complicated expression flashed across her face. Before Chenyu could make out what expression it exactly was, she had smiled instead.
She smiled very wickedly.
“Why are you not dead yet?” She said to Xue Cai.
Xue Cai’s expression instantly changed. Like a mask, a small crack was split at the forehead before it finally extended to everywhere and broke up into pieces with a crash.
Xihe walked one round around him and suddenly pulled down an object from his neck. Jiang Chenyu saw that it was precisely that piece of ancient thousand-year-old jade annulus bestowed by King Yan.
“This is the ice glass from the legend?” Xihe used the corner of her eye to glance at Xue Cai. The latter’s expression was immensely ghastly. His pair of lips were shut tightly while his eyes were opened extremely wide as if there was a blaze burning.
“I heard that you have already been demoted to be a slave. Since you’re a slave, then you no longer need to carry such a good thing.” As Xihe spoke, she hung that ancient jade annulus around her neck. “I have confiscated it.”
Xue Cai bit his lower lip firmly. His whole body was trembling due to ire. Jiang Chenyu saw all of this in her eyes and could not refrain herself from speaking up, “Consort, this ice glass was bestowed by King Yan. If you take it away forcefully and King Yan knows of it, I’m afraid that it will be inappropriate.”
“How is it inappropriate?” Xihe turned her head around. Within her clear and brilliant eyes, it was extremely gorgeous. “Could it be that I’m not worthy of this piece of ancient jade annulus?”
Jiang Chenyu was instantly at a loss for words.
Xihe smiled sweetly again. She bent over and moved to in front of Xue Cai and spoke extremely gently, “The wheel of fortune really reverses. Back then when you berated me and scared my horse and caused me to fall into the water, had you ever thought that such a day would come?”
In Xue Cai’s eyes, a layer of steam started to emerge.
“You’re not reconciled to it right? You bear resentment right? Ha! Hahahahaha……” Xihe laughed out loudly.
After Xihe finished laughing, she patted Xue Cai’s cheeks. “In that case, live on. Carry the hatred and indignance and do your utmost in living on in humiliation. Only when you live longer than me can you possibly take back the ice glass from me here. Of course, the premise is ー if there is really such a day.” After she finished speaking, she turned around and abruptly swaggered off.
That wanton laughter she displayed ostentatiously could even be heard all the way.
On the other hand, Xue Cai stood to his original spot and was motionless.
Jiang Chenyu walked over to grasp his hand. His small hand was icy cold and trembling. She lowered her voice to lament, “Don’t think too much already, let’s go. Your aunt is still waiting for you.”
Xue Cai raised his eyes. Inside the clear pupils which were about to weep but did not weep, what it contained was not hatred, but something even deeper than hatred. He slowly took his hand out from her hand and drooped his head as he said, “Yes.”
Jiang Chenyu knew that his family had met with great chances. Hence he had no longer trusted others. Once the knot in his heart became a dead knot, it would not be untied in a short while and could only be done slowly. She immediately did not speak superfluously and continued to lead the way.
After they reached Qian Xi Palace, just when they had walked to the entrance, they heard Xue Ming shouting inside the room, “Is it Xiao Cai* who has come?” Immediately after that, the room’s door opened with a ‘creak’ and Xue Ming who was fully dressed in plain clothes with no makeup rushed out. When she saw Xue Cai, her eyes reddened and she wept inconsolably. “Heaven pities and protects us, it really is Xiao Cai……Xiao Cai, my nephew wu**……”
*T/n: Referring to Xue Cai
**T/n: Sound of crying