TTBE 34

Chapter 34

Edited and Proofread by KitKat

When women gather, there is bound to be bickering, especially when it involves ladies from the Imperial harem. 

Although he did not want to partake in this charade, he couldn’t let himself be trampled over. He trod carefully with each word and pretended not to understand whenever it became unwise to argue. With the Grand Princess guarding by his side, he had managed to get by safely.

The Empress Dowager was getting too old to deal with these petty scuffles. After giving out the New Year gifts, she retreated back to her palace. The people in the hall continued to chatter while waiting for the Emperor’s party to return.

An Chang Qing stepped out of the hall and exhaled a mouthful of heavy air. He was really not fond of having to deal with the snakes in the grass.

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From afar, he saw that Taizi-fei was approaching with her entourage and his goosebumps began to form. Pretending not to see her, he turned and walked in the opposite direction. Unexpectedly, he successfully avoided Taizi-fei but crossed paths with the Grand Princess.

Having met up with her, An Chang Qing had no choice but to greet her politely, “Aunty.”

The Grand Princess looked at him and smiled, “Why are you hiding from me just like Zhige? Did he teach you that?”

An Chang Qing immediately refuted, “That’s not true. Wangye is very respectful of you, and he told me to do the same.”

“You have a nimble mind and are a lot more eloquent than Zhige.” The Grand Princess looked at him but did not reprove him for his fabricated words.

An Chang Qing smiled and accompanied her by her side.

The two walked to a small pavilion and the Grand Princess beckoned for her maid to leave. She looked at the silent An Chang Qing and contemplated her words. Finally, she sighed and said, “I… I feel bad for Zhige, having lost his mother at such a young age, that’s why I’ve been good to him. You don’t have to be cautious with me. I’ve asked you here only to tell you that if you’re ever in trouble, you can come to me.”

She smiled bitterly, “Zhige would never come to me for help but you’re more tactful than him. What I said to you today, keep it in mind.”

“Aunty…” An Chang Qing failed to comprehend as he looked at her. He could tell that her words were sincere but her reason was untenable. The Imperial bloodline had always been ruthless but as the Emperor’s sister, she did not need to take sides. No matter which prince ascended the throne, she would not be harmed. 

Even if she wanted to curry favor in advance, her choice shouldn’t be Xiao Zhige who currently had zero chance of winning.

An Chang Qing pondered thoroughly but he still couldn’t figure out her reason.

“When the time comes, you will know.” The Grand Princess overcame her moment of weakness and said, “But I do not wish for that day to come.”

She turned and looked into the distance to find that the Emperor’s carriage was heading back. 

“They have returned. You should go.”

An Chang Qing bowed and bid her goodbye. Before leaving, he looked at her but only found that he could no longer read her expression.

Praying and offering tribute to the heavens and ancestors were complicated rituals. By the time it was over and the group could leave the Palace, it was already way past noon.

An Chang Qing spotted Xiao Zhige from a distance and smiled at him. As he came closer, he saw that his forehead was sweating and asked, “Are you tired?”

Xiao Zhige responded with an ‘en’. He had a sturdy body but the lack of sleep last night and this morning’s rituals had drained his energy considerably. 

“I’m a little hungry as well,” An Chang Qing whispered in his ears, “The women in the Palace are so hard to deal with that I don’t even dare to eat.”

Xiao Zhige lips tilted slightly. He caught sight of the Crown Prince looking over and turned to block An Chang Qing’s view, whispering back to him, “We’ll eat when we get back.”

An Chang Qing did not notice the abnormality. He smiled and nodded while Xiao Zhige led him out of the Palace.

Only after they left did the Crown Prince retract his gaze. He saw Taizi-fei striding over and asked, “Did you give him the wine as I ordered?”

Taizi-fei lowered her head and said, “Yes. But he threw it away after.”

“Oh?” The Crown Prince raised his brows, “He seems to have a backbone.”

“That’s fine. In the future…” He paused and hid his words, “What is there that I can’t have?”

Taizi-fei bowed her head, “Your Highness is absolutely right.”

…..

Back at the Wang Manor, An Chang Qing had ordered for lunch to be made. There were too many rules to follow in the Palace that he hadn’t had the heart to eat. Now, he had to fill his stomach first.

After lunch, An Chang Qing began to hand out New Year money to the servants in the manor before finally going to Qingwu Court to visit Lady Yu and An Xian Yu. When he arrived, he saw Zhou He Lan sitting on a stool in the yard, reading.

An Chang Qing looked at him and questioned, “What are you doing outside?”

Zhou He Lan replied, “Mother is talking with Madame and the young miss. To avoid misunderstandings, I stayed outside to read.”

An Chang Qing chuckled. Thinking that he was about the same age as An Xian Yu, he rejected the thought of asking him to come in and said, “Then you can continue to stay here. I’m going in.”

Zhou He Lan watched as An Chang Qing entered the door before closing his book. He touched his chin and murmured to himself, “I can’t believe he did not ask me to come with him. It seems I’ve miscalculated…”

An Chang Qing went in and found that Mother Zhou was inside, speaking with Lady Yu while An Xian Yu quietly sat and listened. He passed out the presents he had prepared for them and stayed for a while. When he left, Zhou He Lan was no longer in the yard.

…..

After leaving Qingwu Court, An Chang Qing went to the front courtyard. 

He wanted to discuss the gifts they had to send out to Xiao Zhige’s associates with Steward Wang but Xiao Zhige came to look for him at the same time. Steward Wang knowingly excused himself and said he would come back later.

An Chang Qing put aside his work and asked, “Does Wangye need something?”

“Today is the first day of the New Year, the elders would give out lucky money to the juniors.” 

An Chang Qing was clueless as to why he would talk about this.

Xiao Zhige then took out a piece of pixiu1 jade from his sleeve. The jade was attached to a golden woven sash whose color had faded with time. 

“When I was a month old, my mother had personally weaved this for me. She said it could ward off evil and bad luck. After she died, my father said that her death was inauspicious and everything in her palace was burned. Only this piece of jade that had been with me all the time remained. I’ll give it to you on her behalf.”

On a rare occasion, Xiao Zhige spoke a little more, “If mother could see you, she would surely like you.”

An Chang Qing accepted the memento. The jade was warm and smooth, clearly it had been frequently fondled with. An Chang Qing said with some embarrassment, “Wangye gave me a gift but I did not prepare anything for you.”

“Does Wangye have something that you want?” An Chang Qing looked at him with large, serious eyes.

A glint appeared in Xiao Zhige’s eyes. He pondered briefly and pointed to the twin-fish jade pendant hanging on his waist and said, “I see that you always carry that pendant with you. Why don’t you give it to me?”

An Chang Qing held up the piece of jade and rubbed it. This had been a gift from his mother on his tenth birthday. The grade of the jade was nothing outstanding but she had saved for a long time before she could afford to buy it for him. Since then, it had never left his side.

Xiao Zhige looked at his downcasted eyes and thought that he was unwilling to part with it, or rather, unwilling to let go of the person who had given him the pendant.

Xiao Zhige’s mood sank. He said, “If you’re unwilling, that’s fine.”

An Chang Qing was only lost in thought. Seeing that he had misunderstood, he immediately took the jade piece and placed it in his palm, “I wasn’t unwilling. It’s just that my jade piece cannot be compared with Wangye’s. Wangye, won’t you feel that you’ve been ripped off?”

Xiao Zhige looked down at the piece of jade and his mood lifted. There was even a smile in his voice, “No such thing.”

“So can this be considered exchanging keepsakes?” An Chang Qing thought that since Xiao Zhige’s pendant was from his mother and his was also given to him by his mother, giving the item to each other seemed almost like …

Exchanging love tokens…right?

Unexpectedly, Xiao Zhige rejected the idea instantly, “… no.”

An Chang Qing: “???”

An Chang Qing gave him a puzzled look and Xiao Zhige turned away and said, “That’s for next time.”

The twin-fish pendant was given to his Wangfei by another man. Although it had been passed on to him, he was reluctant to use it as a lover’s token.

The Northern Warlord then secretly planned to have Wangfei give him another piece of personal item in the future. But before that, fearing that An Chang Qing would regret and take back the pendant, he said, “I have something to attend to. I’m going to the study,” and hurriedly walked away.

He went to the study holding the pendant. After closing the door, he carefully examined the piece of jade. The quality of the jade was not good and the tassels were delicately made. Xiao Zhige quietly mocked in his heart: That young master was not short of wealth but he gave this piece of inferior jade to An Chang Qing, clearly he did not have An Chang Qing in his heart.

Xiao Zhige paced back and forth holding the pendant. He wanted to throw it away but fearing that An Chang Qing would ask him about it, he placed it in a small box and shoved it into the bottom of the bookshelf. 

Out of sight, out of mind. 

…..

An Chang Qing was at a loss as he stared at the pixiu pendant. He thought for a long time but couldn’t understand what Xiao Zhige was thinking.

Could it be that he really felt that his gift was inferior?

An Chang Qing knew that that was quite unlikely but it still hung over him. He finally decided to find Xiao Zhige a more valuable gift next time. After all, Xiao Zhige’s sullen mindset had always been hard to comprehend.

An Chang Qing put the matter aside and called for Steward Wang in order to resume his previous work.

According to Da Ye’s traditions, on the second day of the New Year, families would visit relatives and friends. However, if there were too many to visit, each house would hang a gift bag on their gate. Just indicate the sender and recipient and the servants would deliver the gifts in the bag in their master’s stead.

Hence, every year, unless it was obligatory to visit or it was an intimate associate, the rest would receive the New Year greetings and gifts this way.

This was the first time An Chang Qing had presided over this practice and asked Steward Wang to assist.

Who knew that after hesitating for a long time, he said, “All these years, Wangye had never sent out gifts.”

“…” An Chang Qing was speechless for a long time and finally understood why the Wang Manor had such a bad reputation.

“Fine. What about those that had sent gifts over?” As the Northern Warlord, it’s impossible that no one would send him gifts, right?

Steward Wang was relieved, “There were quite a few. This is a list from the previous years, please have a look.”

An Chang Qing looked through and it was indeed a long list. But compared to the officials he saw at the banquet, this number was sparse. For many reasons, most officials preferred to not associate with the Wang Manor.

This gift-sending custom should not be taken lightly. An Chang Qing studied the names for a while but still could not decide. He got up and said, “Prepare the items and greetings first. I’ll discuss with Wangye who the recipients should be.”

Steward Wang bowed and retreated while An Chang Qing went to the study to find Xiao Zhige.


1 貔貅(píxiū)-  a mythical creature resembling something between a dragon and a lion, with wings.

8 thoughts on “TTBE 34

  1. Can’t wait to find out how Zhige will try rectifying how he disdained his mother-in-law’s present! Or when Chang Qing finds out how he lookd down on it. 😈

    Thanks for the chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. aiya, this jade misunderstanding is too long overdued
    it needs to be solved like two years ago hahaha
    hopefully soon, though i adore vinegar drinking man
    i adore honey-ly sweet adorable man more
    hahaha

    thanks for the update and all the work
    and the double release ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Whew, thank goodness the next chapters will hopefully clear up the misunderstandings. It’s killing me to see how much they care about each other, but are so bad at expressing themselves clearly

    Like

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