AN: 《Lovable Beauty》 has hit the market, and is for sale at DangDang and JJWXC. Those ladies who like it, get your hands on a copy now and receive a special extra!
It was the beginning of February and the chill of winter still lingered in the air. Ge Jin accompanied the princes whom had come to give their congratulations. He spoke a few words before bowing and taking his leave.
After leaving the reception hall, Ge Jin tidied up his eunuch gown. The corners of his lips puckered as he looked towards the setting sun to the west. His heart burned with impatience.
Today was an important day for his master, yet he was still asleep. Ge Jin was waiting for his master to wake up, and find out that the emperor had bestowed the Shen family’s ugly daughter to him to become his wife. Just how mad would he be?
That ugly woman was Empress Shen’s niece. Her eyes were crooked, her mouth was slanted, and her head had a few screws loose. Last year, she had entered the palace, and met his master. At that time, it was as if she’d seen an angel. She wanted to marry him right away. One would assume that however much the Emperor hated him, he would still have to consider the royal family’s reputation. It would be an embarrassment to have the majestic first prince marry an ugly woman. Ge Jin never would have thought that the Emperor would go ahead with the marriage1 while his master was poisoned and unconscious.
One was like orchids and jade trees2, while the other was a black raven locked in a pig’s pen. Just what could the Emperor be thinking?
Ge Jin couldn’t bear the thought of his master, who was as perfect as an angel, being violated. Desperate to do something, he had brought his master’s favorite black-naped oriole to him. He had dismissed the other servants, then kneeled by the bedside and let the bird sing its morning song while he stared at his master who was asleep in bed due to the poison.
The poison was extremely rare. Many doctors had examined it and could only conclude that his master had contracted a strange illness. But no poison could escape Ge Jin’s eyes.
“Your highness, if you don’t wake soon, I’ll have no way to stop that woman.” Ge Jin said sounding miserable.
The first prince, Xiao Yuan, continued to lie there, unmoving; completely oblivious to the situation.
Ge Jin held the birdcage, in front of his master’s face, and implored: “Your highness, open your eyes, you’ve been asleep so long. Look, without your company, this bird is so lonely that it’s losing its feathers. You…”
“What rubbish are you spouting!” A low voice voice suddenly reprimanded him from behind. Ge Jin knew who it was without looking. He didn’t even turn around as he explained: “His highness treasures this bird the most. He would scowl every time it lost a feather. I wanted to try scaring him, perhaps he would be so worried that he’d wake up.”
Lu Jun, Xiao Yuan’s personal guard, was a man of few words. He couldn’t stand Ge Jin’s constant blathering. This time, his highness was threatened by both internal and external dangers. Internally, he was sick and couldn’t wake up. Externally, he had an ugly woman planning to take advantage of him. Yet even with all this, Ge Jin was still in the mood to speak this nonsense. Lu Jun was at the end of his patience. He snatched the birdcage away, and said hatefully: “Didn’t you claim to be the disciple of a godly doctor? Why haven’t you cured him after so long?”
Ge Jin had been urged by him every day and had already become accustomed to it. He looked at his master’s thinning face and sighed. “I’ve already removed the poison. As for why his highness doesn’t regain consciousness, I really don’t know. I can guarantee that nothing will happen to him, so you can be completely at ease. The only thing to be afraid of is if he wakes up and discovers that he’s married to that ugly woman. He’ll have recovered just to be angered into another coma.”
His master had high standards. Up till now, he’d never had a woman. Usually, he’d just surround himself with birds. If he woke up and discovered he’d been exploited by that ugly woman, how could he not be angry?
Lu Jun remained silent.
His master’s family on his mother’s side, the Yan Family, was famous for their military exploits. They had performed brilliantly as protectors of the country. The current emperor had borrowed the power of the Yan Family to seize his current position. However, after crossed the river, he burned down the bridge. He schemed with the Shen Family to frame the Yan Family, saying that they planned to betray him. Using this excuse, he banished them to Liaodong. In the following years, Empress Yan died a suspicious death, leaving behind their two year old master. The Emperor then got married to a woman from the Shen family. It was at that time that the 2nd prince was born and conferred the title of crown prince. Compared to the crown prince, his master’s treatment was completely different. It was like he was locked in a palace of ice.
Perhaps his master’s poison had something to do with the emperor? Or was it someone else?
Lu Jun carefully recalled all the people his master had met that day…
He could only recall a few before, the birdcage in his hand was snatched by Ge Jin. Lu Jun couldn’t stand watching anymore of his tomfoolery, and reached out to snatch it back. The two of them began quarrelling again. The black-naped oriole in the cage flutter its wings in panic and made a racket. Its bird call was clear and sweet, yet clearly conveyed its anxiety.
As a result, before Xiao Yuan could even open his eyes, he heard his beloved bird’s cry of fear.
Xiao Yuan creased his brows and tried to open his eyes. The piercing light stung, causing him to promptly close them. Hearing what his trusted aides were doing, he opened his mouth and said in a quiet voice: “Put down the cage.”
As he had just recovered from his illness, his voice was almost inaudible. However, both Ge Jin and Lu Jun had heard him. They simultaneously looked towards the bed. Even the black-naped oriole became tranquil and looked over because it hadn’t heard its owner’s voice in so long.
“Your highness, you’re awake?” Ge Jin was the first to snap out of his daze. He rushed to the bedside, his face full of excitement.
Xiao Yuan ignored him and covered his eyes, getting used to the room’s brightness. Then he slowly sat up.
Ge Jin supported him and helped him lean onto a pillow. He was so concerned that he didn’t even ask before pulling his master’s arm and earnestly began taking his pulse. Lu Jun also calmed down. He nodded to his master before leaving to guard outside the room.
Xiao Yuan saw him off with his eyes, then his sight turned to the black-naped oriole inside the cage. His expression was calm, as if he had merely dreamed for a night.
“Congratulations your highness. As long as your highness recuperates properly, after 5 days, you should recover to about 70-80%” Ge Jin rejoiced after taking his pulse.
“Who poisoned me?” Xiao Yuan was still exhausted so he closed his eyes and asked. He already knew he was poisoned before he lost consciousness.
Ge Jin had a lot to say, but he was considerate and first poured his master a cup of water. He helped his master drink it, then apologized in a quiet voice. “Lu Jun and I suspect that someone had pulled a trick at the feast. We sent two agents to investigate… but couldn’t find a single clue.” In the imperial palace, the master was the Emperor and the mistress was Empress Shen. The couple was guarded against his master, so they were unable to openly investigate. They didn’t even dare send too many people. Since there was a lack of personnel, the speed of the investigation dropped, giving the culprit ample time to burn the evidence and erase the trail.
Xiao Yuan’s expression remained unchanged as he looked out the window and asked: “What’s that racket outside?”
There were altogether 3 princes that lived in the eastern palace, and it had been many years since there was so much noise.
Ge Jin evaded his eyes and mumbled the Emperor’s words about the marriage.
Xiao Yuan’s thick eyelashes trembled. Just as Ge Jin thought that his master would open his eye’s in rage, Xiao Yuan merely smiled. “Cure me through marriage?”
The final syllable rose, giving his words a hint of sarcasm.
Ge Jin knew to remain silent.
“You can go, I’m going to sleep a bit longer. When it turns dark, carry me over.” Xiao Yuan lied back down and put the birdcage by his bedside.
His master seemed to not care about the marriage. Ge Jin heart was perturbed. He asked the young man who had already turned away: “Your highness, do you really plan to go through with the marriage?” The Shen family had two branches. The ugly woman was born from one of the various concubines of the 2nd branch. Even if she looked like a goddess, she wouldn’t be a match for his master, let alone with such a face.
“I have a plan.” Xiao Yuan said lazily.
Realizing that his master didn’t want to speak anymore, Ge Jin could only close the muslin canopy and walk to the door. He began thinking over his master’s words. Since he said to carry him over, then he must plan to hide the fact he has awakened. After pondering over it, he turned back. He could vaguely see the young man’s silhouette through the muslin. He didn’t know what his master had done, but the black-naped oriole was now lively and singing cheerfully.
His master didn’t seem too worried. Ge Jin shook his head and began making plans with Lu Jun.
Twilight passed, and everything was covered in darkness. Night had finally come.
The few guests had already scattered. Ge Jin arranged the servants to carry the ‘unconscious’ Xiao Yuan to the bridal chamber.
The bride was there, wearing crimson red clothes and was covered in a thick layer of makeup that was so gaudy that one would question if she knew the meaning of the word ‘ugly’. Ge Jin felt nauseated just looking at it. He secretly cursed Empress Shen. If this ugly woman wasn’t like this, Empress Shen most probably would never let her niece marry his master. Fortunately, his master had woken up. Ge Jin led the other servants away, believing that his master wouldn’t let that ugly woman have her way.
Young Lady Shen was bursting with joy. She sat on the bedside, and happily stared at her new husband. The others had all joked that her liking Xiao Yuan was a disgrace for her family, but she had achieved it. She had really managed to get married to him. Such a beautiful man, even if he died tomorrow, she would be satisfied sharing a bed and pillow with him for a night as husband and wife.
Even with his eyes closed, Xiao Yuan could feel her fervent gaze. Not wishing to act anymore, he sat up.
“Ah, your highness has awoken?” Young Lady Shen asked, pleasantly surprised. She didn’t know what to do with her nervous hands, and her heart raced.
Xiao Yuan didn’t even look at her. He directly got up and said: “Help me bathe.”
There was already water prepared in the adjacent room. Young Lady Shen thought of the situation, and looked down shyly. She obediently followed him in.
Ge Jin was guarding outside the room. He had his ear up against the door, listening carefully. He heard a splash of water, then a quarter of an hour later, his master called him in.
Ge Jin knew that his master definitely didn’t touch the ugly woman, but he was curious about the splashing sounds. Hearing the summon, he immediately hurried to the side room and parted the curtains. What greeted him was the sorry figure of the ugly woman lying on the floor beside the bath. Her hair as well as her upper body were wet. She lay there motionless, her lungs filled with water. It seemed the earlier splashing was because his master had drowned her.
“Tidy it up. Once you’re done, personally report to my father, the Emperor. Just tell him that I was so touched by the princess consort’s infatuation that I was dragged back to earth from the heavens. Curing using marriage was successful. However, for some reason, when I woke up, she had passed away.” Xiao Yuan had also gotten wet. He expressionlessly removed his robe and dropped it to the ground while sternly instructing Ge Jin.
He wanted to pick his own wife. That woman wanted to take advantage of him, so she could only blame herself for her death.
The young man continued to act free and leisurely. He had killed someone as if he was just stepping on an ant. His viciousness and ruthlessness didn’t fit with his angel like appearance, but this was what Ge Jin admired most about him. Ge Jin pushed down the feelings welling up in his heart. The corners of his mouth raised as he began to work. He wiped the ugly woman’s face clean, and even carefully reapplied her makeup.
After half a day, Emperor Xuande was awakened from his sleep. He received the good news that his eldest son had regained consciousness, and the bad news that his 2nd daughter-in-law had suddenly died.
Empress Shen, who monopolized the emperor’s attention, slept with him almost every night. She was also beside him at this time. Receiving the news, her face, that hadn’t put on any makeup yet was still very charming, turned glum. She gave her husband a pleading look. How had a perfectly healthy person suddenly died? It must be that when Xiao Yuan woke up, he was dissatisfied with their arrangement, and had heartlessly killed her niece.
If she could guess it, then naturally Emperor Xuande also could. His chest rose and fell as he took angry breathes. He scolded in a quiet voice. “That unfilial son!”
After dismissing the palace workers, he held his wife in his arms and said in a cold voice: “Don’t worry, we won’t let a member of the Shen family die for nothing.” Whether the ugly girl died or not, he didn’t care, however, his unfilial son’s action had indirectly damaged his honor. How could he let that pass? Since they were related by blood, he would at least spare his life. But it would be difficult to escape punishment for such an offence.
Empress Shen looked up at him. “What does your majesty plan to do? Since he dared to kill someone, he probably didn’t leave any clues. Moreover, he can use that strange illness as an alibi to avoid being judged for killing his wife. Some might think that it was an exchange of lives, which complies with our original intentions when we bestowed her to him. If we forcefully investigate it, I’m afraid the common people will criticize us.”
What she said made sense. Emperor Xuande became silent.
“I have an idea.” Empress Sheng suddenly smiled. She wrapped her arms around her man’s neck and softly whispered into his ear.
Emperor Xuande listened earnestly. The more he heard, the more he liked it. He exerted some strength and pinched her. “Oh you, how do you keep coming up with all these wicked ideas? “
Empress Sheng made a craft smile and stared into her man’s eyes. “Being near wicked people makes you wicked. It was all learned from your majesty.”
The man favored her so much, yet even with that, her two sons always had lower statuses than Xiao Yuan. Although her eldest son had become the crown prince, Xiao Yuan was still a thorn in her side. As she couldn’t directly kill him and provoke the Emperor’s suspicion, she would instead make it so he couldn’t take another wife to make use of another family’s influence. Then, she would banish him to the furthest corner of the country. As the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind.
As she thought these wicked thoughts, her appearance became more charming and alluring. Emperor Xuande was moved and lied back down to cuddle her.
In the morning three days later, Emperor Xuande released an imperial edict. The edict declared that the first prince Xiao Yuan, in order to remember his wife who saved his life and their deep love, he wouldn’t be allowed to remarry for the rest of his life. There would be a memorial held for her. The emperor was so moved that he conferred the title King Qin to the first prince. In the next few days, under the Emperor’s order, King Qin would leave for his new fief, Shanxi.
Both the civil and military officials were in an uproar.
As for Xiao Yuan, he was in his courtyard leisurely recuperating. He didn’t find out about the news until the imperial messenger arrived.
“I presume the prince has received the imperial decree?” The imperial messenger urged. He looked at the first prince kneeling before him, who he should now be calling his highness King Qin, his eyes full of disdain. That was the domain of Guo Jiuye. Even a prince would not be able to avoid being oppressed by that local tyrant. He already had no more hope in this lifetime.
Xiao Yuan didn’t show any expression as he received the edict. In his mind, he was analyzing a map of Shanxi.
He turned his head, hinting Ge Jin to give the imperial messenger a reward.
The imperial messenger was dumbfounded. Was this guy really oblivious to his situation or was he just acting? He actually still had the mood to give tips.
Ge Jin could see right through his thoughts. When his master left, he searched in his sleeve, took out a silver ingot, and threw it at the messengers feet. “Here, take it and get lost!”
Since they were leaving anyways, why be polite?
Ge Jin snorted and enjoyed the view of the messengers face fluctuating between red and white. He then turned and chased after his master.
TN: Just a teaser unless I get enough time to add another project full time.
1: The emperor is using the word ChongXi instead of marry.
冲喜 (ChongXi): To save a patient by using the luck/happiness of a wedding to counteract the illness.
2: Orchids and Jade Trees: The first half meaning he is noble. The second meaning he is outstanding and talented.