In the blink of an eye, it was already autumn. After several rounds of repeated hot spells of autumn, the weather turned completely cool.
Afraid that King Guang’an would catch a cold, Zhou Dawu ordered the servants to disassemble the water wheel in front of the study early in the morning. A group of servants were busy quietly when a young boy with a tender face accidentally dropped the water wheel on the ground, and with a bang, a crisp sound echoed. Everyone was alarmed at once. The old man who was the leader stared at him fiercely, with his finger pressed on his lips, and with a hiss, he quietly stretched his neck and looked into the study.
Behind the faintly discernible curtain, the nobleman covered with thin fabric did not move in the slightest, seemingly deep in sleep.
Only then did the old man settle down, and secretly curse the boy a few words. The boy on the other side stuck out his tongue before quietly lifting the things on the ground at once. The group quietly retreated outside.
When the voices faded, Li Yuanmin moved his eyelashes, slowly opened his eyes, took a deep breath, threw the thin fabric on the armrest beside him, and sat up.
In fact, he had already woken up from that movement, but if he let the leading manager know, it was inevitable that he would go back and punish the child, therefore he simply continued to pretend to sleep.
He didn’t sleep very well these days. There was no official business today, so he hid in the study and lazily read some books, then unexpectedly fell asleep like this. He looked up at the water clock in the hall, it looked like he slept soundly for a full one hour. His heart was comfortable. He stretched out his body lazily at that moment, a trace of black hair swept over his snow-colored face, seemingly the same as a begonia in first bloom.
Today he wore plain silk attire because he did not have to go out, He didn’t even tie his hair, and only let the old woman servant use a ribbon to simply tie it behind his back.
He sat still, his neck heavy, and a piece of jade pendant slipped out of his chest. He held it, swirled it in his palm for a moment before letting out a sigh, remembering that it had been two months since Ni Lie had left the city. He did not know whether he could get used to the harshness of the frontier.
His heart was slightly sour. He couldn’t help but pull out the red sandalwood box in the hidden contraption under the bookcase, and with a gentle look in his eyes, he gently stroked it before opening it.
Inside were several letters, neatly folded and placed. Each of its contents was extremely simple. It either was a simple checkin or saying that everything was fine. However, since it was complained about by Li Yuanmin last time, the word “missing you” will always be added at the end of the letter.
Li Yuanmin imagined him writing these two words with his cold and solemn face and his heart turned both happy and melancholy.
He folded the letter carefully, placed it into the red sandalwood box before sighing again for no reason.
It had been five to six days already. Originally a letter should have come by now, but there has been no news. Although he knew that it will be just a few simple words, every time before removing the sealing mud, he still couldn’t help but look forward to it with excitement.
Just as he was swirling the glittering box, a burst of noise rose outside. It seemed like someone was coming this way. Li Yuanmin quickly closed the dark buckle of the box and hid it under the hidden contraption.
Ni Ying walked in, her head hanging down, her originally heroic eyebrows crumpled into a mess by the impact of frustration.
Li Yuanmin silently pulled his hand out from under the table before making fun of her, “What’s wrong? Why is our female king so sullen today?”
Ni Ying angrily handed him the embroidered bandages in her hand.
Li Yuanmin took a look at it, and was suddenly dumbfounded. The two flowers embroidered on it look like flower petals, but the stitches on the silk surface were messy, and there were even broken threads on it.
——But this was still the result of half a year’s study.
Li Yuanmin swallowed his saliva, reluctantly smiled: “A Ying is really hardworking, you can already embroidered two flower petals in half a year’s time.”
“This is a mandarin duck!”
Li Yuanmin’s complexion tightened. Looking at the two lumps that were pasted together, he really couldn’t help but praise her good embroidery with his conscience covered.
He secretly sighed, put the embroidery frame on the table, and gently comforted her: “Everything is difficult at the beginning, our Ah Ying is exceptionally intelligent, how can she be stumped by this insignificant needlework. This is a piece of cake.”
“Your Highness gege don’t just flatter me.”
Ni Ying extended her finger, with a little complaint on her face, “I was born with the lack of ability to do this needlework. I really can’t study this needlework. Even the embroidery lady has already said it, haven’t you seen how stupid I am!?”
Considering Ni Ying’s temperament, the embroidery lady invited by Li Yuanmin to teach was well-known, had a good temperament and was patient. If even she couldn’t help but say such angry words, it may be assumed that she already reached her limit.
Li Yuanmin looked at Ni Ying, who was shaking her fingertips. He sighed, and knew that he had made things difficult for her.
Although A Ying’s temperament was carefree, as long as he commands it, even if she was reluctant, she still tries her best to do it. It’s the same for studying needlework. She was very unwilling, but through his own painstaking instructions, she seriously studied for half a year.
Perhaps, she really has no talent in this area. Li Yuanmei sighed, pulled her hand over, and looked closely. The slender fingers with thin calluses were covered with old and new wounds. The tip of her right index finger also had a bright red needle tip, which was obviously caused by the embroidery of this “Duck”. He was somewhat remoised.
“Forget it, you don’t need to learn it now.”
Ni Ying’s miserable and cloudy eyebrows instantly lit up like a clear sky after the rain. She happily asked: “Really?”
“Yes.” Li Yuanmin said helplessly, “Even if you give it a few more years, it is estimated that you still will not be able to learn this needlework.”
“That’s right!” Ni Ying’s temperament was strong, but at this moment she quickly admitted that she was not capable, “I was born with an enmity against needlework and thread!”
” Looking at the elated girl, Li Yuanmin couldn’t help but worry. She was almost fourteen years old and will soon reach the age of marriage.
He had already screened the unmarried high-ranking officials’ younger generation in Lingnan. There were a few good and suitable men for her. Although Ni Ying was the pearl in the palm of the Guang’an mansion, all in all, her father was still a criminal general of the imperial court. Her birth was not even comparable to that of a commoner, if a noble family married her as a proper wife, then their official career could be said to be ruined for this lifetime. Therefore, nowadays, even though Guang’an mansion’s power and influence was getting more powerful day by day, no younger generation of any official family came forward to ask for her hand in marriage.
After all, everyone was willing to curry favor with Guang’an mansion, but to have a great future, it is something that needs to be considered carefully.
He naturally can use his power to force someone to marry A Ying, but such a big thing as marriage naturally needed to pay full attention to mutual consent. He wasn’t willing to let A Ying suffer even a bit of grievance.
But if he lowered the conditions a little, and considered the Lingnan region merchant families, even if they are willing, Lingnan’s common practice on taking concubines was too serious. It was just like a competition for financial resources. Having a lot of women in the backyard, with A Ying’s temper, a great commotion will inevitably arise all day long.
One moment, thousands of thoughts, he could only look at the energetic girl, worried sick to his heart.
While rubbing his temple, someone outside announced, “Your Highness, Governor Xue Daren has come to visit.”
Li Yuanmin frowned, and before he could say anything, Ni Ying already had a look of dissatisfaction on her face and muttered, “Does this Xue person have nothing to do all day? Running vigorously to our mansion like this, this is already the third time he came this month, right?”
Li Yuanmin softly scolded her, “Don’t be rude.”
He stood up and walked out of the study with Ni Ying. He was about to bypass the meeting hall to his bedroom to change clothes, but Xue Zaixing had already walked out of the hall in his casual clothes.
“ Your Highness! ”
Li Yuanmin’s footsteps stagnated, he lowered his head, instructed Ni Ying a few words to have her go on her own first, before walking toward Xue Zaixing himself. With a smile on his face, he asked: “Why didn’t Governor Daren inform me in advance before coming? With this kind of messy hair and dirty face, I have made Daren laugh at me now.”
Xue Zaixing smiled and said, “It’s not official business. I was idle without work and just happened to bypass here so I conveniently came to visit. Thus, Your Highness, no need to be courteous.”
He was speaking on one hand while also quietly observing the person in front of him with the corner of his eyes. He had never seen Li Yuanmin in private with this casual appearance before. He could see the loose plain attire stuck closely to his body and with the wind, it revealed a slender figure. He did not tie a crown and his black hair was scattered on his shoulders with the ends loosely tied by a cloth ribbon. That extraordinary beautiful face looked gentler and more honest compared to a normal day, making him much more beautiful.
His eyes moved, as if to make a complaint that wasn’t a complaint and said: “Is it possible that besides official business, Your Highness won’t allow this subordinate to come visit at your mansion?”
These words suited a complaining woman more than him. Li Yuanmin acted as if he did not understand and the corners of his mouth were slightly pulled: “What does Daren mean by that? As long as Daren has a refined attitude, Ben Wang’s mansion will look forward to seeing you at any time. It would be impossible to chase the guest away.”
The two laughed in unison. Li Yuanmin gestured to invite him to go inside the hall and the two sat in the main seat in the hall. After a while, a young servant came in with a set of tea.
Xue Zaixing took a sip of tea, and a pair of sharp eyes stared at Li Yuanmin: “Was the young lady just now Leader Ni’s younger sister?”
Xue Zaixing nodded thoughtfully and put down the tea cup: “Can I be bold to ask this, but is the young lady permitted to be married out now?”
Li Yuanmin was vigilant in his heart, but his face was relaxed: “She’s still small, this matter is not urgent.”
“This, I can say that Your Highness is wrong.” Xue Zaixing half-truth and half falsely criticized: “Looking at young lady Ni’s height, it looks like she’s about to be fourteen soon. Not mentioning Lingnan region’s popularity in arranging betrothal of minors, if this was in the capital, many people would have set up their children for marriage by the age of eight.”
“This matter, it’s better to decide sooner than later.” He intensified his voice and emphasized, meaningfully: “It is also strange that there is no female master in your mansion. Your Highness has a great number of tasks everyday, for Your Highness to neglect this kind of marriage matter, it indeed is inevitable.”
Li Yuanmin only smiled, but did not speak.
Xue Zaixing’s eyes turned sharp, he moved closer: “This subordinate has some extreme comments that perhaps may overstep my authority but Your Highness is kindhearted and it is likely that you won’t blame me for saying this.”
“Naturally.” Li Yuanmin smiled slightly, looked down and blew a hot stream in the tea cup, took a sip, and looked at him: “Daren, there is no harm in saying what one thinks.”
“I wonder what Your Highness thinks of this subordinate?”
Li Yuanmin’s fingers stiffened slightly. He quickly put down the tea cup, “Governor Daren took charge of the post of governor of these two rivers and three provinces at a young age. You are truly a giant among men.”
Xue Zaixing’s lips pulled slightly, “Then in Your Highness’s eyes, can this subordinate enter young lady Ni’s eyes?”
The corners of Li Yuanmin’s mouth still maintained a smiling expression. After a long while, he said: “Daren really knows how to joke around.”
But, Xue Zaixing continued to recommend himself: “My mother has passed away for several years, and there is no one else in the backyard except for the two concubine rooms. Not to mention, my military leader’s official residence does not have the rules of binding hands and feet in the high-gate courtyard… Could it be that Your Highness dislikes that I’m old? ”
Xue Zaixing had just passed 30. Based on his original fate, he would have died four years ago and Li Yuanmin had heard that he had left behind a ten-year-old son, but so what? He was the Jie Yuan (first-placed candidate in the provincial imperial examinations), had been in the military for 5 years, and he also had a set of skills in leading soldiers. He had both manners and martial arts, and even won the favor of Emperor Mingde. In just a short ten years, he was promoted from a scholar of the Imperial Hanlin Academy to the current prestigious and powerful governor of two rivers and three provinces. Relying on his identity and appearance, he was also fought over by young noble ladies in the capital as the target of marriage.
What’s more, Li Shangshu, who was over 70 years old in the capital, had just remarried a beautiful woman of nineteen years old from a noble birth. Moreover, Xue Zaixing’s age is the period when men were full of spirits.
But how could Li Yuanmin believe that he really just wanted to marry Ni Ying.
He gently tugged at the corners of his mouth: “It’s not because of anything else, it’s just that this lady in the mansion has always had no rules. So how can she bear the responsibility of taking care of the Governor’s backyard? This child, I plan to have her find someone to her liking before sending her out to get married.”
“Oh, so it’s like this. This subordinate had thought maybe Your Highness was prepared to personally marry her.” (confuse noise wtf)
He smiled, then relaxed himself a bit.
“Ben Wang treats her like a sister, how could I have male and female affection for her, Daren really knows how to crack jokes.”
The issue of Ni Ying’s marriage and matching ended here. Xue Zaixing did not mention this matter again, but only talked with him about some insignificant matters such as Lingnan customs and so forth.
Li Yuanmin had a strange feeling in his heart. Xue Zaixing seemed to be paraphrasing his words, his purpose was naturally not to marry A Ying. He was afraid that him, as a high ranking official of the imperial court, would not be able to really remarry a criminal officer’s daughter and he himself would not be willing to let A Ying marry Xue Zaixing.
This person’s thoughts were unknown and devious. He regarded A Ying as his blood sister, so he hoped that his wings could protect her well for her whole lifetime. If she fell into Xue Zaixing’s hand, he wouldn’t be able to help protect her at all.
However, it seems that the other party’s mind was obviously not on Ni Ying, but rather to confirm his feelings for Ni Ying.
Li Yuanmin secretly clenched his fist.
Midday was approaching and someone from the dining room came to inquire. Li Yuanmin hesitated for a moment, then looked at Xue Zaixing, who still had no intention of leaving, and could only politely say:
“Dinner time came in a flash, I wonder if Governor Daren would like to stay behind for a meal?”
He asked casually, but Xue Zaixing showed a flattered expression: “If that’s so, I will have to trouble Your Highness.”
Li Yuanmin’s heart was stagnant, he could only stand up and order the servant to have the kitchen add a few more dishes.
The people from the dining room came one after another to set up the dishes. Because there was no outsider, they were all things they ate normally, all simple. Xue Zaixing naturally did not expect his diet to be so simple. There was only a plate of seasoned beef, a plate of vegetables, a plate of assorted chicken shreds, a bowl of stir-fried vegetables, and a bowl of black bone chicken soup, that’s it.
Xue Zaixing was an army man, so he didn’t pay much attention to the meal. However, there must be a set of five dishes everyday on his table, 3 vegetarian dishes and 2 cold meats dishes. If there were fresh things, he had to add a few more plates. There would be all kinds of things, it could even be a dozen or so.
He couldn’t help but sigh, “Your Highness is really frugal.”
Li Yuanmin smiled faintly, “It’s just that my appetite is not strong. I wonder if these dishes are in line with Daren’s appetite?”
“This subordinate is not someone who would wait for people to serve extravagant food or live his life like a prince. In any case, I’ve had my challenging experiences on the battlefield for several years, even coarse grains with chaff are also often eaten. So my stomach and intestines are quite good.”
Because there were few people, Li Yuanmin usually just ate at the small round table at the pear tree. He was about to sit down, but found that Xue Zaixing pulled away from the side seat and sat down next to him.
This was obviously a bit unruly, but Xue Zaixing was completely unaware. He held his chopsticks and ate, while praising the dishes from the mansion as seemingly simple but actually delicious.
Li Yuanmin’s mind was heavy, and his appetite was not good, but the person beside him seemed to have a big appetite. He had already added three bowls of rice in a row.
When he finally drank a bowl of chicken soup, he looked straight at him.
“I didn’t expect that the most pleasant meal I’ve ever eaten would be from Your Highness’s mansion.”
Li Yuanmin smiled and also put down his bowl and chopsticks: “It’s good that Daren likes it.”
The servants handed over the fragrant tea to gargle after the meal and Li Yuanmin spit into the spittoon. He was holding the towel handed over to wipe the corners of his mouth when he heard Xue Zaixing’s voice: “What incense does Your Highness use? It is very quiet and elegant. This subordinate has never smelled such fragrant incense before.”
He leaned slightly to Li Yuanmin’s side, keeping a distance that was not too vague but still able to smell him.
Li Yuanmin did not use incense, it was all from his mother’s womb.
He did not dodge, his complexion did not change, he only stared at Xue Zaixing’s eyes, and said lightly: “Ben Wang has no knowledge regarding incense, it was all arranged by the servants. If Daren likes it, Ben Wang can inquire about it for you and I will let the mansion’s servant deliver it to you some other day.”
Xue Zaixing smiled and stepped back a little.
At this time, there was a rush of footsteps outside, and a young servant came in.
“Your Highness, Leader Daren’s letter arrived.”
Li Yuanmin’s heart jumped heavily. He was eager to quickly go forward and seize the letter in his hand, but at the moment he resisted, only waving his hand.
“Just put it in the study. ”
Xue Zaixing, however, caught the violent mood swings of that moment.
Earlier, he was indifferent. Even when he intentionally probed, he still kept that consistent estranged look, yet this insignificant letter could disturb that tranquil lake-like expression into a ripple.
Is it because the matter is important…or is it the person?
Xue Zaixing’s eyes narrowed slightly.
Ciacia/N: You don’t know how many times my heart jumped in this chapter TT f this dude.