The Little Beauty
Tian Qi thinks that her bad luck has not come to an end. So what if she is promoted to the front line? So what if she is serving the emperor? She does not get to reap any benefit and only ends up angering the emperor. She does not know how the emperor will deal with her later.
She feels a little discouraged. She walks further from the bathing chamber and starts walking around the palace to recollects herself.
The resting palace is too big. After making a few turns, she realizes that she has gotten lost.
When Ji Heng finished bathing, he realizes that the rain has stopped. The thick clouds are retreating away though the sun has yet to appear.
The air feels fresh and clean; the entire world feels refreshing after being showered by spring rain.
The desire to stroll appears in Ji Heng’s heart. He is in no rush to return to the official palace.
There is a slope in the yard, planted with apricot trees. Du Mu from the Tang Dynasty once said, ‘I asked where the nearest liquor store is, the child points at a far village laden with apricot trees.’ After that, many apricot trees are planted all over the place. In this resting palace alone, there is a designated place called, ‘Apricot Village’. Nobody lives there; only a forest of apricot trees that blooms and falls every year.
(TN: This is a poem about the Qing Ming Festival/Tomb-Sweeping Day.)
The apricot trees bloom at the right timing, it collides with the season of light drizzles. Those two factors added together creates a very suitable atmosphere to appreciate flowers. Ji Heng brings only Sheng An Huai with him as he casually strolls along the slope that seems to be shrouded in pink mist.
Apricot blossoms are white with hints of pink, unlike the luxurious color of plum blossom or the unassuming color of pear blossom. It is appealing in it’s own right. The rows and rows of apricot trees blossoms beautifully in the lonely and empty slope.
The ground is layered with fallen flowers. When looked at from afar, they resembles thousands of pointy little stars. They have been pelted by rain and assaulted by winds, the fragrance diminished and the jade has perished.
During such a beautiful moment, there should be a little beauty who accidentally stumbles upon the emperor. One is admiring flowers while the other is lamenting over them. The two of them will flirt and that will be the beginning of a story.
………. Ji Heng thinks so too.
At that very moment, a song can be heard from amidst the apricot trees. The song is gentle and pure, and at the same time, sorrowful. The tone is low, as though the singer is lamenting over her pain. When Ji Heng hears it, his heart is filled with inexplicable sorrow.
I am a maiden of apricot,
Dancing for the gentleman in sunset,
How many things I have seen,
Only you and I knows,
I am a maiden of apricot,
Composing poems with the gentlemen in my dream,
Hoping the lovers out there,
Will be families one day.
This should a song of the common-folk. It is not particularly outstanding literary-wise, but the feeling is very deep. Ji Heng is stunned for a moment as he listens to the song, his feet unwittingly steps towards the direction of the voice.
Sheng An Huai thinks that the number of mistress in the palace will increase by one, at the end of this day. The voice sounds very nice, so her face ought to be good-looking. This kind of situation is very rare; things are going good.
As the master and servant walks towards that particular direction, the song gradually sounds closer and closer. As they round over an apricot tree, they spot a beauty not far away.
At that moment, even the sun cooperates and starts to appear from between the clouds. The gentle ray of the sun passes through the crack of the trees, creating a surreal atmosphere.
Ji Heng’s footsteps unknowingly become brisk as he heads towards that figure in anticipation.
And then, he sees a eunuch.
That eunuch is wearing a dark green uniform. He is toying with a branch of apricot blossom with one hand while lowering his head to sing. The branch of apricot blossom in his hand is swayed around, causing petals and petals of flowers to fall.
Ji Heng: ……………
The difference between the appearance and the singing voice is too big. For one second, Ji Heng actually feels torned.
That eunuch is immersed in his own world and does not notice their presence. The eunuch obliviously walks forward, almost falling into Ji Heng’s arms. Sheng An Huai immediately speaks up, “Tian Qi!”
Tian Qi stops in her steps and looks at them, finally realizing their presence.
The emperor’s face is in close proximity. Tian Qi is very surprised, she cannot find it in her to even speak.
Ji Heng does not say anything and simply looks back at Tian Qi.
This eunuch is too smug and likes to show off his good looks. He even puts on a couple of flowers on his headgear. The worse thing is he looks very good, and looks even better with the flowers on his head.
But still, no matter how good-looking he is, he is still a eunuch.
Sheng An Huai breaks the silence between them, “What are you waiting for? Kneel!”
Tian Qi’s two legs turn soft. She bends her knees to kneel but Ji Heng pulls her up by the collar, mid-way. She has a petite built, very thin and light. Ji Heng didn’t even put that much effort yet already manage to lift her two feet off of the ground.
“You again!” Ji Heng helplessly grits his teeth. “It is always you!”
Tian Qi does not know what she did to anger the emperor this time; whatever it is, he is very angry now. As for her getting lifted up by him, she tries her best to turn her body into a piece of cloth. She lowers her head and stutters as she speaks, “Greeting Your Majesty.”
“Why are you here?” Ji Heng asks.
Tian Qi got lost just now and happens to stumble upon this place. She thinks it will be fun to play here so she decides to play for a little while. She naturally does not dare to tell the truth. She puts on a flattering expression instead, “Answering Your Majesty, this servant thought these flowers are beautiful and wants to take a few branches back for you. This servant didn’t think you will personally come here. This servant was surprised just now and forgot to greet you, please forgive me.”
Sheng An Huai secretly calls her bullshit. The art of flattery requires natural talent. Seems like this kid is gifted and can go very far is nurtured properly.
Ji Heng looks away, his eyes falling on the branch on Tian Qi’s hand. There are very few flowers left on the branch after she pulled most of them out. Ji Heng is angry again. “You want to give this to zhen in this condition? You must have planned to play with this on your own!”
Tian Qi naturally does not dare to admit that. She cooks up some other excuse, “Your Majesty, actually this servant purposely pulls out all the flower to leave only the stamen. The stamen is a flower’s heart. The petals are beautiful, but the fragrance comes from the stamen! It is easy for the petals to steal one’s heart, but the fragrance cannot lie! In order to see whether or not the flower is good, it is better to look at the stamen rather than the petals. To admire flower, it is better to admire it’s heart.”
Sheng An Huai flips Tian Qi two middle fingers in his heart.
Ji Heng lets go of Tian Qi. Even though her explanation is simple, it is also interesting. Getting to know a flower is the same as getting to know a person, one must not judge them from the outside. Is the eunuch using the flower as an analogy for people?
Ji Heng suddenly finds this little eunuch interesting. There are a lot of skillful eunuchs out there, but very few of them can see through a person. This eunuch is not particularly smart, in fact, he can be pretty stupid at times. Even so, he possesses something very few does. This sense of perception is a hundred times better than those idiots out there.
Ji Heng gives Tian Qi a deep look, causing her to get a little antsy. Her tense hand presents that branch to Ji Heng, “Your Majesty, please kindly accept this.”
Sheng An Huai: Shameless! That brat is too shameless!
Ji Heng agreeably accepts that sorry excuse of a flower and use it to knock Tian Qi’s head, “You like wearing flowers on your head?”
Tian Qi has forgotten that she has put on a few flowers on her headgear, “Ah???”
“Then wear them for a little longer.” Ji Heng says before taking away her headgear.
That day, Tian Qi returns to the palace with her head full of apricot blossoms. There are 25 of them. The emperor says that she is not allowed to lose even one flower once they get back to the palace. Losing one flower means getting 10 strikes.
“Drop off a couple of these and you are no longer zhen’s servant.” Ji Heng gives her a faint smile.
“Your Majesty, this servant wish to be your servant not only in this lifetime, but also in the next lifetime,” Tian Qi’s eyes tears up, not forgetting to butter him up. She resembles a moving flower basket. If she puts on rouge on her face, she can already plays the role of a clown in a stage play.
Because she is afraid the wind will blow the flowers away, she is skittish on the entire journey. Later on, Ji Heng gives her special permission to ride on his carriage.
Tian Qi shrinks herself in the corner of the carriage, not even moving. Her face is heavy from the pressure.
Looking at her distorted expression, Ji Heng’s mood turns a lot better.
After they returned to the palace, Ji Heng purposely takes her to stroll for a while. A lot of people ends up witnessing Tian Qi’s magical styling.
Though Tian Qi isn’t very well-involved with the inner officials, but her connection with them isn’t too bad as well. She is in a such embarrassing situation, she feels like her cheeks has turned a couple of inches thicker. She keeps her head low most of the time, simply wanting to find a hole to drill herself into.
At this point, almost all of Ji Heng’s dissatisfaction is gone.
After returning to Gan Qing Palace, Ji Heng tells Tian Qi to put down all the flowers and starts to count them one by one. Tian Qi is so anxious her eyes almost turn white. She didn’t think the emperor will really do this.
After finishing counting, there are 3 flowers less. Tian Qi does not wait for Ji Heng to speak. She steps forward and hugs his leg while crying, “Your Majesty, this servant is alright with dying, but this servant does not bear to part from you! Please let this servant serve you for a couple more years…..”
Seeing her kneeling on the floor while pleading, Ji Heng feels really satisfied.
As for the punishment, Ji Heng says that, “Each flower lost is equal to two punishments.”
Tian Qi complains endlessly.
After a while, Tian Qi manages to change the agreement. She does not change the number, but she suggests changing the ‘hitting by planks’ part to ‘kneeling on the washboard.’
Then, it is Ji Heng’s turn to complain endlessly.
Serene: Chapter 8 is sponsored by Rebekah Rose!