Chapter 8: The Prince
The cold voice broke Zi Yinye’s train of thought. Because she did not know the man’s identity, she did not say a word. She only kneeled in greeting.
After the man entered, he closed the door, a sneer appearing on his face. The sneer was also extremely hostile. He said slowly, “The princess made you cover your face and come to the Spring Pavilion.* It seems she’s thought of something new. Speak, how are you going to entertain me today?”
*literal: warm spring pavilion. Spring has explicit meanings in Chinese.
She did not understand what he meant fully, but from his gaze and tone, Zi Yinye could discern that he was the master of the residence, prince Dongfang Xi. But why was he here? And what was he closing the door for? A sense of unease arose.
“Why aren’t you speaking? Are you using this to arouse me*?”
*The me he uses here is third person “equal king” and is like “me, the prince”
It was the prince! Although she did not fully understand the situation, after making a few connections, Zi Yinye understood that she did indeed fall in a trap and the prince had a crucial role to play.
Zi Yinye’s silence made the prince to displeased. He sneered coldly, then pointed at the bed in the room, cold as he said, “Climb on and strip!”
She had become a substitute! It seems the prince and princess had some kind of agreement between them in which the princess would send a woman to “warm his bed” and she had become a substitute for that woman! Did she want to manipulate her husband into ruining her? Humph! There were few people in the world who could violate her purity!
The princess’s malevolent plan made Zi Yinye’s heart surge with anger. When she raised her face again, her eyes were ice cold.
“Your highness is wrong. Yinye is the princess’s invited guest!”
The prince stopped for a moment, but then his clear, cold eyes slitted. Zi Yinye understood that she had revealed her emotions too much and took a deep intake of breath, stifling her anger. “Yinye’s clothes were accidentally spilled on, so Yinye was brought here to wait for a change of clothes.”
Dongfang Xi’s gaze swept across Zi Yinye. With this glance, he discovered that there was indeed a patch of tea on her clothes. His eyes flickered and he said coldly, “Raise you head and look at me*.”
Turning back to her timid state, Zi Yinye raised her head to give a quick glance, then immediately looked back down.
“You say you’re the princess’s guest?”
“Yes, Yinye came to attend the princess’s banquet.”
“Oh? Then why are you at the Spring Pavilion? You should understand what I use the Spring Pavilion for, unless you wanted…”
Dongfang Xi’s disdainful tone and hidden implications made Zi Yinye pale and immediately raise her head. “No! Yinye truly did not know what the Spring Pavilion was for, Yinye was brought here by someone else.”
“Humph! Are you saying that one of my* servants wants to harm you!”
Closing her eyes, Zi Yinye hid all of her displeasure and anger deeply away from her eyes. When she opened them again, her eyes were tranquil, without any emotions as her eyes locked with Dongfang Xi’s clear, cold eyes. Slowly, she said “Yinye does not know. To her knowledge, Yinye has to not offended anyone. Yinye has faith your highness will see the light.”
“See the light?” Dongfang Xi sneered. “Are you really so sure I* will believe you? Understand that all women who have appeared in the Spring Pavilion have been used by me. Even if by force, they can only be resigned to their fate!”
“Yinye knows that your highness is a sensible person. Yinye also understands that your highness will not force Yinye, or at the very least, your highness cannot currently create a rift with my husband.
“Your husband? Your husband has more power than I, the brother of the emperor?”
“Of course my husband cannot surpass your highness, my husband is merely the head of court.”
“So you are Ren Fengyao’s wife, the rumored Seventh Lady Zi?” Dongfang Xi seemed taken aback. His gaze instantly sharpened as he said slowly, “It seems the rumors were unfounded.”
Knowing that her actions had aroused interest and doubt, Zi Yinye could only continue on while trying to appear as ordinary as possible. “Your highness, may I take my leave?”
“Haha!” Dongfang Xi laughed for some unknown reason. “What you said was right, I* cannot create a rift between me and the prime minister. You are also the princess’s guest, so naturally, you can do as you please.”
“Thank you, your highness!” After giving a slight bow, Zi Yinye passed by Dongfang Xi. Having opened the door, she was about to leave.
“Rumors say Madam Ren is not favored by minister Ren. If I* forced myself onto you today, would there really be a rift between minister Ren and I*?” The ridiculing words made Zi Yinye stop in her tracks. Resisting the urge curse loudly, Zi Yinye said slowly without looking back, “No man would want his woman to be touched by another man, no matter how unflavored she is. Fortunately, your highness is a gentleman and would not do what only beasts could do.”
Dongfang Xi paused for a moment then said very offhandedly, “They all say you’re too cowardly and weak to be favored by Ren Fengyao, but now I see it isn’t the case. Is it that the way you act usually has caused minister Ren to have a misunderstanding or… For you, should I*, in front of the minister…
“No need, your highness. That is Yinye’s personal matter. Moreover, your highness has not mentioned Yinye’s unsightly appearance,” Yinye said coldly, breaking off Dongfang Xi’s attempt to probe her out.
Ignoring Dongfang Xi, Zi Yinye left Dongfang Xi’s probing gaze behind. She quickly passed through an archway hurriedly, already unable to keep up with her facade. She feared if she stayed any longer, she would reveal another secret and accidentally beat his highness up.
Only after hurrying away mindlessly for a while did she calm down. Glancing around, she realized she was now completely lost!
With a small, sharp intake of breath, she slowly made her way to a stone underneath green rattan vines and sat down. She faced the sky gloomily. It was already dusk yet she hadn’t even had lunch yet. Chun Ri was definitely worried, but it was no use; they were in someone else’s territory. Hopefully, Chun Ri would not do anything out of line. She had already exposed a part of her emotions today. Hopefully, it would not affect her plan to escape.
“Sitting on a cold stone is not good for your health.”
Zi Yinye tensed up at the sudden voice. Did she accidentally trespass onto someone else’s territory? The prince’s residence was heavily guarded and it was possible she would be killed.
Zi Yinye shifted back silently, ducking under the rattan vines, then looked up towards the owner of the voice. It was the another man and did not seem like a servant. He was younger than the prince and had an extremely attractive face, his skin supple and glowing pink. Although he was a man, he seemed effeminate. If she did not notice his adam’s apple, Zi Yinye would have thought it was a woman in men’s clothes. His face also seemed a bit familiar.
“I seemed to have disturb you. I apologize, that was not my intent. I just couldn’t help but warn seeing you sit on the stone.”
Zi Yinye shook her head slowly, gradually making her way out from under the vines. “Thank you, young master, for your concern. Yinye had lost her way, so…”
“You’re lost? You are?…”
Zi Yinye returned to her timid state, slowly accounting what had happened, although skipping the part where she met the prince. When she finished, the man’s pretty brow raised, his gaze towards Zi Yinye complex as he said softly, “I apologize!”
She paused for a moment, not understanding. The man said apologetically, “My second sister has crossed the line!”
Zi Yinye was still looking on blankly. She muttered after him, “Your second sister?”
The man smiled. “I forgot to introduce myself. I** am Xie Zhiqiu. The princess is my elder sister.”
No wonder he looked familiar; it turns out he resembled the princess. Zi Yinye smiled wordlessly. That princess Xie was a bit lacking, but her younger brother was gentle and courteous.
“Please don’t blame my elder sister, she’s just jealous of you.”
“Why?” Although she knew it was because of Ren Fengyao, Zi Yinye pretended she did not know.
“Because you’ve become brother Ren’s wife.” He looked as if he was reflecting on the past, a gentle smile on his face. He said slowly, “My family and brother Ren’s family were neighbors before. During our childhood, I and my sister would play with brother Ren. During that time, brother Ren took care of us. Elder sister and brother Ren were childhood sweethearts and she liked him ever since she was little. I had expected her to marry brother Ren, but brother Ren’s family was transformed greatly. Later, brother Ren was brought away by his master. Years later, while waiting for brother Ren’s return, elder sister had already married the prince.”
“Is the princess, your sister, still…” Zi Yinye did not know how to respond.
Understanding what Zi Yinye wanted to ask, Xie Zhiqiu said helplessly, “Yes! Sister has liked brother Ren ever since she was little and her feelings have never changed.”
“Then, the prince…”
“The prince? My brother in law knew that my sister had another person in her heart, but he seems to not care. Every year during my sister’s birthday celebration, she sends a beautiful woman to the Spring Pavilion and brother in law ‘accepts’ them each time. They… I am also unclear on their relationship. Perhaps they already have divisiveness under their guise of harmony.”
“Apologies, I should not have asked. It is your sister’s personal business,” Zi Yinye said embarrassedly, but Xie Zhiqiu shook his head. “It’s nothing. I have seen my sister and her husband act this way for a while now and am accustomed to it. I have never told any outsiders, but today… perhaps I felt we had an affinity!”
Not knowing what to say in particular, Zi Yinye said, “Young master Xie is truly a gentle person.”
“Truthfully, I have always strived to be like brother Ren.” Xie Zhiqiu smiled bashfully. “May I call you Lady Qi*?”
*Because she is the seventh in her family and qi = 7 in chinese
Nodding slightly, Zi Yinye felt a strange feeling arise. Call her Lady Qi? According to social norms, he was supposed to call her Madam Ren or Mistress, but whatever! Xie Zhiqiu was the third person after Hua Jianli and Du Luo who she felt comfortable with, different in that he was gentle and courteous.
“Oh my, I forgot all about the time. Elder sister’s dinner party is about to start, but you haven’t changed your clothes yet! I’ll first help you change your clothes, then send you to the front courtyard. Hopefully there is enough time.”