Chapter 20: Her Calligraphy Needs More Practice
No wonder the supporting male had crushed her gift into scraps of cloth. The personally embroidered pair of mandarin ducks must have been such an eyesore to him. To think that he saw a two-faced woman delivering a spice bag embroidered with a pair mandarin to him! It was already quite magnanimous of him to not speak out about it.
Bai Xiangxiu wanted to cry. She really want to cry. How could she be this stupid? What should she do now? She began to draw the cloth bag back into her hands. However the person sitting behind the desk wasn’t about to let her do so. He put down his book and said, “What’s that?”
She was halfway back to hiding it in her pocket when the male lead discovered it. At this point, she had no other option but to it put back on the desk. However, her mood was extremely complicated and she didn’t how she should react. In addition to losing all semblance of thought when the male lead stared at her with his peach blossom eyes, she spoke in a trembling voice, “A-a gi-gift for you. I’m leaving…” Due to her worry, she forgot her identity as a concubine, and bolted from the room as soon as she was in the clear.
Xiao Shi followed right behind her. She had absolutely no idea what’s going with her mistress. All she knew was that her mistress had rushed out of the mansion at a dead run. She ran after her mistress while exclaiming, “Mistress, slow down a bit! Be careful not to fall!”
“Such flightiness, what a lack of etiquette!” He was absolutely baffled when looking at the small, grey pouch on the desk. Exactly what had she given him? At first, he felt she lacked etiquette, but he somehow couldn’t blame her for coming when he looked at the thing on his desk. Meanwhile, the pageboy found it strange. Why is she running away like the hounds are after her? However, when he saw his master stare at the grey wrapping, he couldn’t help but ask, “Your Highness, this should be Mistress Xiu’s present for you. I wonder what could be inside?”
Who would give anyone a grey, pointy pouch as a gift? Didn’t people usually gift others a fragrance satchel? “Present?” So, the reason she’d come here was to give him a present before being overcome by her bashfulness? Long Heng’s brain automatically filled in the holes in her behavior. He then slowly opened the grey bag.
Unexpectedly, the grey bag contained a handmade bookmark. With an elegant wood base color, it was decorated with several petals and green leaves that made an exquisite picture. A few words were written as a poem in red ink below. The writing was mediocre, but the poem was superb.
“A good tale is none the worse for being twice told, deep contemplation and perusal will bring about familiarity.”
He was caught off guard. Ever since he returned, his other three concubines had truly irritated him to no end. All day long, if it wasn’t handmade soup, it was whatever handmade fragrant satchel. He basically just threw everything away right after receiving them. What irritated him most were those fragrance satchels all clashing with each other as he marched with his army. As for those soups and broth, if it wasn’t ginseng broth it was something else tremendously nutritious. He was healthy, but even a healthy body wouldn’t be able to take all this over-nutrition! Therefore, none of those things caught his heart. As for this refined looking bookmark, it could be used when he read. The most important point was that good, short poem which was very meaningful.
The more he looked at it, the more he liked it. He hadn’t expected that even her gift would be more clever than those of the other three women. He then remembered that people usually waited after they delivered a gift for him to pamper and show them his tender affection. Why had she run away?
“Mistress Xiu seems really quite thin-skinned…” How would the pageboy not see that his master liked what he saw? As such, he spoke out on behalf of Mistress Xiu. Recalling how bold she’d been earlier, in what way was she thin-skinned?! Could she be acting? Still, he knew some of the matters between men and women within the courtyard, so he adapted his words and spoke to his master’s heart. In the end, it would benefit him regardless.
As expected, Long Heng immediately cheered up at his words. Although his lady was thin-skinned, she’d still given him a present. This was clearly in order to curry favor with him! One corner of his mouth flicked upwards in an unfamiliar way. It’d been quite a while since he’d had a good impression of someone currying favor with him, but he immediately resumed his poker face. He quickly changed tacks, “This short poem is good, but the calligraphy needs much practice. Send the old granny servant outside to tell her that her calligraphy need more practice.”
Eh? Who reacts like this? Someone sends you a gift and you make them practice calligraphy? The pageboy responded with a smile, “Your Highness, it’s rare for Mistress Xiu to have this kind of intention, don’t you want to reciprocate?”
“Reciprocate?” Long Heng glared. The pageboy immediately chuckled mischievously and lowered his head.
“It’s only a useless thing. Forget it. Send the mama with my words. I have an appointment with people outside today. As for tomorrow night… I’ll go to her place.” He lightly coughed as he said the last words before continuing with a stern voice, “What are you standing here for? Are you waiting for me to repeat it a second time?”
The pageboy’s whole body trembled. He then immediately ran out to follow the orders, secretly laughing inside. No wonder his master didn’t want to send a return gift. He wanted to give himself to Mistress Xiu as a return gift! This present was truly much better than anything else.
Long Heng hadn’t said anything, but Bai Xiangxiu was too depressed by the message she’d received. Hadn’t she only given him a present? Why was he coming over tomorrow night?? What else would he come over for? I guess rolling around in the sheets is unavoidable! Stupid return gifts! Couldn’t he just give her money? She loved money the most! In the case she failed to seduce the male lead and was sent out, wouldn’t her life be better off with money?
As for that dreadful existence who was the male lead, she tried to hide as far away from him as possible. Why was he still approaching her? She didn’t understand, completely didn’t understand at all. She held her head as she started to feel desperate.
Xiao Shi helped her mistress up while being utterly baffled. She asked, “Mistress Xiu, do you have a headache?”
“Hum! My head hurts a lot!” Hurts like death!
Xiao Shi supported her mistress to the bed. She asked with a strange tone afterwards, “Did His Highness forget that he has to accompany the Old Madame to Long Hua Temple tomorrow to pray?”
“Pray? Are you certain it’s tomorrow?” Tomorrow was Long Hua Temple’s Buddha Day. A big Buddha statue that many of the nobility had donated money to had been recently completed, and all those of high rank had been invited to the unveiling ceremony.
If it wasn’t because of Long Heng planning to visit her, she would have completely forgotten about this. But it looked like the real plotline was finally going to start. The female lead had taken advantage of the event to escape, throwing the unveiling ceremony into chaos. Meanwhile, Long Heng’s concubines hadn’t gone as they hadn’t received invitations. Therefore, Bai Xiangxiu wasn’t worried about tomorrow. She planned to stay home and watched the show as it unfolded in front of her. She hadn’t thought that the event would also command the attentions of the male lead. She felt that she was extremely lucky. She would be able to escape from the hands of the indiscriminate hormone-releasing male lead.
The only thing she didn’t understand was, why has such a small gift wrenched his female-lead-only-heart towards her? Now that had been a little too easy…
However, she didn’t need to worry because starting tomorrow, the female lead running away would challenge his strong ego. Henceforth, his mind would be constantly preoccupied by the female lead and filled with thoughts on how to catch her. This fox and hare game will slowly transform their grievances into lovers with strong ties of affection. As long as something along those lines happens, she’d be fine. If they fell that deeply in love with each other, she may not even have to run away. Long Heng wouldn’t have to waste time going through all these motions.
Since there was no need to welcome the Prince tomorrow night and think of a way to prevent losing her chastity, Bai Xiangxiu had a solid night of sleep. However, there was someone else who spent the evening drinking before returning in the middle of the night.
Men rarely only drank a little when they gathered together. Therefore, Long Heng had to be carried back to his room. He rubbed his head and asked, “Did anything happen at home?”
“Nothing. There was only Old Madame asking when we leave tomorrow?” The eldest maid beside him handed him the hangover soup.
“Tomorrow?” He seemed to have forgotten about something.
“Tomorrow is Long Hua Temple’s Great Buddha Worship day. Your Highness, didn’t you agree to accompany Old Madame to the temple?” She smiled in response to Long Heng.
Ah. He’d actually completely forgotten about that outing to Long Hua temple. But, he seemed to recall that tomorrow he had another appointment. That’s right! He’d promised that woman he would go to her room.
However, the way to Long Hua temple was quite far, so he would likely have to rest there for the night tomorrow. Then, didn’t that mean what he’d promised before was just empty talk? It was an extreme loss of face for a man to make an empty promise to a woman. He couldn’t help but frown as he spoke, “Go to Winter Garden and tell Mistress Xiu to prepare her baggage. We leave together tomorrow.” Since he couldn’t go, bringing her along with him would be his way of comforting her. After all, for a rear court woman like her, they only had a few opportunities each year to leave the residence.