Chapter 432: A tender heart1 severs itself from the gentleman Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
In only a month, Baili Mingxiang had transformed into a beauty reborn. Han Yunxi had the faint impression that it wasn’t just her looks that had changed, but something in her heart as well. As soon as Han Yunxi walked out of the house, Baili Mingxiang bowed and said, “This servant greets esteemed wangfei.”
Although she had agreed to take on Baili Mingxiang as a servant here after the latter recovered, the reality of the situation still took Han Yunxi by surprise. Even Zhao mama and Su Xiaoyu, standing by on the side, were unused to the change in Baili Mingxiang. Han Yunxi approached Baili Mingxiang and walked around her in a circle, her heart filled with emotion as she examined the girl. Finally she pulled the woman up with her own hands and murmured, “I won’t say anything else, just the same old words. If you want to leave one day, just go. I won’t force you to stay.”
“This servant will remember,” Baili Mingxiang murmured back.
Since this was the situation now, Han Yunxi simply accepted it. As luck would have it, she needed an assistant anyways and had told Baili Mingxiang as much before. After coming in contact with poisons for so many years, the woman was sure to catch onto their qualities. She would be easier to teach than either of my other servants.
“Zhao mama, clear out one of the rooms downstairs for Mingxiang, then take her around to familiarize herself with the environment here,” Han Yunxi instructed.
Zhao mama liked Baili Mingxiang very much, so she had Su Xiaoyu do the cleaning while she took Baili Mingxiang for a personal tour. When Grand Concubine Yi was in charge, the Duke of Qin’s estate was full of strict and complicated regulations. Not only the estate as a whole, but each separate courtyard had its own system of rules and customs. Even the laundry rooms had their own laws. However, everything became much simpler once esteemed wangfei took the helm. To quote their mistress, “Anything’s fine as long as your words and actions don’t lose face for the Duke of Qin’s estate.”
Zhao mama took Baili Mingxiang all around the ground until finally returning to the Hibiscus Courtyard. “Miss Mingxiang, you’ll be walking around this courtyard in the future, but we won’t disturb it today.”
Zhao mama then pointed toward His Highness Duke of Qin’s quarters. “That’s His Highness’s living quarters. Without His Highness’s or esteemed wangfei’s permission, nobody is allowed to enter.”
“Mingxiang will remember. Zhao mama, you can just call me Mingxiang in the future,” Baili Mingxiang replied.
Zhao mama could only nod helplessly and added, “Aside from that rule, there aren’t any others in this courtyard. Leisurely Cloud Pavilion is the laxest of them all, so all you need to do is finish your work well. It’s getting late now, so let’s go back.”
Baili Mingxiang nodded again. She took a few steps before she paused to look back at the solemn and dignified building rising behind them. It seemed like she came to a decision, because her expression turned solemn and resolute.
“Miss Mingxiang, what are you looking at?” Zhao mama asked doubtfully.
“Nothing, let’s go,” Baili Mingxiang firmly turned her head away.
A hundred thoughts, a thousand feelings, but today the tender heart severs itself from the gentleman. Your Highness Duke of Qin, from this day on, Mingxiang shall be honored to be an attendant. From this day forward, Mingxiang must never hold you in my heart again…
Su Xiaoyu hadn’t finished cleaning the room for Baili Mingxiang yet by the time Baili Mingxiang and Zhao mama returned to Leisurely Cloud Pavilion. Immediately, Zhao mama fetched some water to help her.
“Miss Mingxiang, please wait for a bit.” In Zhao mama’s heart, Baili Mingxiang would always be ranked above mere servants like herself. If she was here to serve, then it was only to wait upon esteemed wangfei.
Su Xiaoyu muttered, “Zhao mama, it’ll go faster if she helps with the cleaning.” It wasn’t clear whether she meant it intentionally, but her words were still loud enough for Baili Mingxiang to catch them. Baili Mingxiang examined Su Xiaoyu carefully before rolling up her sleeves and entering the room to work.
“You mustn’t, you mustn’t!” Zhao mama hastened to stop her, “Miss Mingxiang, esteemed wangfei already said not to leave you any hard tasks beyond serving tea and helping her with poisons.”
“Zhao mama, I’m going to be living in this room, so I’d like to arrange it myself. And also, if you call me Miss Mingxiang again, I won’t answer you anymore.” Despite looking delicate and tender, Baili Mingxiang was quite strict when she wanted to be.
“Miss Mingxiang…” As soon as Zhao mama spoke, Baili Mingxiang creased her brows. Her serious expression was a little frightening, causing Zhao mama to docilely withdraw. She inwardly sighed with emotion. Those used to being mistresses certainly are different. She may be young, but she’s got quite the aura about her.
“Dratted girl, have you grown into your wings already? Bullying the new help, are you?” Zhao mama poked Su Xiaoyu on the nose.
Su Xiaoyu was feeling aggrieved. “Zhao mama, you know that esteemed wangfei doesn’t want to keep her here.”
“What does that have to do with you?!” Zhao mama exclaimed unhappily.
“Let’s make her suffer a bit so she’ll retreat!” Su Xiaoyu murmured in a low voice. Recently, she’d been stuck on working out what to do. Han Yunxi had cooped herself in the study for days to organize her jewelry, so she hadn’t drank her usual morning tea in the courtyard. The plot she’d schemed out didn’t even have a chance to bare its fangs. She was already planning to change gears and find a chance in the study, only for Baili Mingxiang to arrive and get in her way!
“That idea of yours does make sense. Then how do you propose we make things difficult for her?” Zhao mama said with interest. Su Xiaoyu was thrilled, but suddenly saw Zhao mama’s expression turn unpleasant. She quickly shut her mouth and hung her head.
“You’re already thinking of such things even though you’re still young. Goodness knows what you’ll do when you’re older!” Zhao mama said severely.
Su Xiaoyu’s heart clenched as cold sweat broke out all over her body. She had been too hasty back then. “Yu’er was wrong. Yu’er shouldn’t have meddled. Yu’er really didn’t have any other intentions beyond trying to help esteemed wangfei. Yu’er will go find big sister Mingxiang and apologize right away!”
Su Xiaoyu was about to knock on the door when Zhao mama pulled her back. “Do you think you can interfere in matters between Mingxiang and esteemed wangfei? Don’t overestimate your strength! Go back and stand in the corner!”
Looking greatly wronged, Su Xiaoyu nevertheless exhaled mentally. From Zhao mama’s words, she could gauge that the woman so far remained ignorant to her true intentions. She left, leaving Zhao mama to wait in front of Baili Mingxiang’s door. Zhao mama had been planning to go in and help out, but held herself in check when she recalled Baili Mingxiang’s expression.
However, she ended up waiting for two hours. If not for the constant hustle and bustle noises issuing from within the room, Zhao mama would’ve assumed that Baili Mingxiang fainted away long ago. Around dinnertime, Han Yunxi emerged from her study as well and asked, “What are you doing, Zhao mama?”
Zhao mama replied honestly, “Esteemed wangfei, this servant estimates that she won’t be able to finish.”
“If she can’t even manage to clean her own room, then there’s no need to leave her here,” Han Yunxi raised her voice before setting off to eat.
Inside the room, Baili Mingxiang heard it all clearly and chuckled to herself before fighting on bravely. It wasn’t until late night that she finally finished organizing. Her fair and delicate fingers were red and swollen from the unfamiliar work, and she felt both sore and hungry. Both her waist and back ached. Still, what was this compared to the agony of her poisons flaring up in the past?
Baili Mingxiang straightened up her appearance before leaving the room, only to see Han Yunxi leaning against the wall with her arms crossed, standing next to Zhao mama who held a piping hot tray of food in her arms. It was clear that mistress and servant were both awaiting her arrival. She had assumed they’d gone to bed already.
Warmth flooded her heart. Baili Mingxiang was about to speak when Han Yunxi lazily straightened up and drawled, “Perfect, let’s have a midnight snack together.”
Baili Mingxiang gradually laughed before bowing. “Yes. Many thanks to esteemed wangfei.”
The first thing next morning saw Baili Mingxiang at attendance in the study.
Han Yunxi grinned. “You get up even earlier than little Yu’er.” In this house, Su Xiaoyu used to wake up the earliest, even beating Zhao mama to the role.
“Good morning, esteemed wangfei,” Baili Mingxiang bowed. She had been maintaining her courtesy and etiquette ever since yesterday.
Han Yunxi was planning to go to her study, but changed her mind and said, “Let’s have tea in the courtyard. It’s been awhile since I’ve drank one of your personal brews.”
Baili Mingxiang’s tea ceremony rites were first rate. From using the tools, to choosing the water, setting the fire, boiling and adding the tea, her movements were as smooth as floating clouds and flowing water, elegant yet sedate. While drinking her tea, Han Yunxi began to explain her plans for her jewelry to Baili Mingxiang. Although Baili Mingxiang was no good at cleaning, she was quite strong in other subjects.
She took care of the tea as she listened to Han Yunxi speak. Despite splitting her attention between two different things, the tea still came out perfectly without a single drop on the table. Han Yunxi’s explanation was completely understandable to her as well, saving the former any need to elaborate.
When Su Xiaoyu woke up and saw them in the courtyard, she immediately stopped walking. Well, well, esteemed wangfei’s finally enjoying her tea after so long? Her gaze lingered on the little stove before they flashed with smug delight. Looks like I’ll have to get up even earlier tomorrow.
After sitting there for a little over an hour, Han Yunxi had finished explaining all the details. She next took Baili Mingxiang with her to the study. A few days ago, she’d already divided up the jewelry into different categories and placed them in separate drawers. Now was the time to apply poisons to each type. She boldly left Baili Mingxiang in charge of some simple steps in the process, which the woman picked up after some practice. Soon enough, she was adept enough to do all the steps without a bit of error.
Lil Thing sprawled on the ceiling rafters as it stared at Baili Mingxiang’s every move and action. After watching for a while, it came to a conclusion: this woman was really smart! A good assistant like that should save Mama Yunxi lots of work.
Compared to Su Xiaoyu and Zhao mama, Baili Mingxiang was much more quiet. Aside from answering Han Yunxi’s questions, she wouldn’t talk much. Instead, she preferred to finish her work in silence. Still, curiosity got the best of her by the afternoon.
“Esteemed wangfei,” Baili Mingxiang couldn’t resist asking, “Although using expensive jewelry like this is an effective way to disguise the poisons, it still seems like a waste.”
“They’re all gifts from His Highness. I don’t have the money to spare for such extravagance,” Han Yunxi had to admit.
Baili Mingxiang’s heart quivered slightly as she found out the truth. In a voice of disbelief, she murmured, “His Highness, he…”
“He’s lazy. Too lazy to help me pick something out, so he gave me an entire box so I could choose the ones I like,” Han Yunxi joked.
“Then esteemed wangfei, why didn’t you return the rest?” Baili Mingxiang asked with interest.
Han Yunxi gave a start before she realized Baili Mingxiang was joking as well. She laughed as said, “Unfortunately, I like them all!”
Baili Mingxiang smiled as well. “Esteemed wangfei, if His Highness really was lazy, he’d be too lazy to get you anything in the first place. His Highness is doting on you.”
Han Yunxi knew that well enough, but after some thought replied, “Say, what do you think I should give him back?”
After getting so many things from Long Feiye, she felt like gifting him in return. But aside from tea, she had no idea what he liked.
- tender heart (茗心) – mingxin, another play on words. The ming (茗) in “tender heart” is the same character found in Baili Mingxiang (百里茗香), so “mingxin” can both mean “tender heart” or “Mingxiang’s heart.” ↩