The lady at the banquet was indeed lovably clever, if it weren't for the fact that Chen Zigong clearly remembered the encounter they had a few days ago. He couldn't believe that this girl, who conformed gracefully with the norms and rules, was that fake youngster that had used spit to stick her mustache on. That girl also didn't seem to have any intention of admitting it. From start to finish, she didn't lift her head to look at Chen Zigong once. The Empress smiled as she said, "Mo er is so shy, she doesn't even dare to glance at Chen Zigong."
Hurrumph! How is that being shy at all? She's probably just worried he'll expose her behavior.
Chen Zigong humphed in his heart but still followed Imperial Sister-in-Law's prompting to take her around the Imperial Garden. This tree fungus(Mu er木(wood/tree)耳(ear)) was rather quiet the entire way. She was determined not to say a single word as long as Chen Zigong didn't open his mouth.
As expected, the tree fungus was wooden enough! Chen Zigong silently decided on a wacky nickname for her and walked in front without paying attention to Zhao Mo who was rushing to catch up with him with little lotus steps. Not only did he not show consideration for her, he even wanted to see her embarra.s.s herself a little.
Sweatdrops started to appear on Zhao Mo's forehead. As she looked at Chen Zigong's back, she imagined peeling him with a knife, tearing him apart with her teeth and ripping him to pieces with her hands. If it weren't for him, she wouldn't have had to put on those crushing hair ornaments to come and attend some feast. Not only was she unable to eat and drink freely, her neck was crushed so much that it hurt.
Before Zhao Mo could retrieve her bared teeth, the person absorbed in walking abruptly turned around.
Zhao Mo had opened her mouth too wide and couldn't close it in time; her claws were also retrieved a step late. However, regardless of that, in a blink, she once again became that dignified and appropriately postured tree fungus.
"Mu Er(tree fungus)?" Chen Zigong lifted his brows.
"Ye, please go ahead." Zhao Mo lowered her head respectfully.
"Is Mu Er tired from walking?"
Hsss, what's with the way he's asking!? Tired from walking? Why doesn't he ask if she wants to rest for a moment!?
Zhao Mo mildly replied, "Replying ye's words, not tired."
"Alright, the scenery is graceful from here to the south gate so we might as well take a look." Chen Zigong started walking again right after he finished speaking.
Zhao Mo rolled her eyes in a large circle before lifting her dress and rushing up again. They walked all the way until the sun set down the west. Zhao Mo's entire face was heated completely red and even her collar was soaked with sweat, yet she didn't say anything superfluous.
Chen Zigong then said, "There's a tower at the east gate. The scenery from it…"
"What do you want!?" Zhao Mo forcefully swallowed the sticky saliva in her neglected mouth before speaking. She was seriously thirsty, to the point she wanted to jump into the lotus pond and gulp her fill.
"What does Mu Er think I want?" Chen Zigong lifted his brows.
Zhao Mo restrained the expression in her eyes and trembled as she curtsied. "I hope w.a.n.g ye will forgive Zhao Mo for the areas in which Zhao Mo has caused offense. The parents at home must have waited for a long time already so may Zhao Mo return first?"
Chen Zigong looked at her clearly sunburned cheeks and smoothed his lips into a smile as he asked, "Has Mu Er gone to watch shows before?"
"Reply ye's words, no."
"Mu Er likes to stick on a fake beard and stroll on the streets?"
"Reply ye's words, no."
"Mu Er is good at lying?"
Zhao Mo's face reddened some more as she gritted her teeth and said, "Reply ye's words, no."
Chen Zigong said 'oh', then rubbed his nose as he said, "Looks like I must have encountered a little thief that was pretending to be Prime Minister Zhao's daughter. Ben w.a.n.g will definitely order her arrest and have that little thief who is ruining Mu Er's reputation be put into jail. Is the Prime Minister's honored daughter someone anyone can pretend to be? That is a crime punishable by execution!"
Zhao Mo's heart went 'tha-thump' and she was silent for half the day before she suddenly said, "Zhao Mo has suddenly recalled that there was an outing a couple days ago. Perhaps it was then that Zhao Mo encountered w.a.n.g ye."
"Oh~~" Chen Zigong lifted his legs and walked forward. After walking forward a while, he saw that no one was following and turned back to look at the person who was biting her lips, about to explode. He smiled in a good mood as he said, "Let's go, I'll see you out of the palace."
Zhao Mo clenched her fist so tightly it was creaking. Her feet were already blistering, yet she still had to run from deep within this palace to the entrance? Isn't this demanding her life?
Even though she didn't have any good feelings towards this Hao w.a.n.g ye, she didn't antic.i.p.ate that he would be such a hoodlum. Now this was just great, her little tail got clutched by someone so she's being bullied like this, yet she still couldn't flare up. That dumb daddy of hers, how could he bear to let her come here to suffer?
Zhao Mo hobbled forward with her head lowered. When she pa.s.sed by Chen Zigong, she lifted her head and spoke mildly in a way neither servile nor overbearing. "My dad is a faithful official and bent to the task of serving this country without sparing effort. w.a.n.g ye shouldn't use the fact that I headed out to threaten me. Who has ever set the rule that the Prime Minster family's Miss can't head out? I did nothing but watch a play, it's not like I plotted a rebellion. I have no intentions of becoming w.a.n.g ye's main consort so there's also no need for w.a.n.g ye to invest so much effort in bullying me like I'm someone that plans to influence you. I'm leaving. If w.a.n.g ye tries to intimidate me again, then w.a.n.g ye would be harming your bearing."
When Zhao Mo got to the end, her voice was lacking in confidence. She summoned up her courage to walk forward a couple steps. However, when she turned back and saw that Chen Zigong was almost caught up to her, she broke into a run, completely forgetting about the blisters on her feet. Perhaps it was because she was seriously exhausted because immediately she got caught by Chen Zigong before she even ran anywhere.
Zhao Mo couldn't struggle free and was scared to the point her scalp was numb. She shouted towards the person nearby, "Eunuch, eunuch! Hurry and have my older brother come get me!"
Chen Zigong found it funny as he waved towards that stunned little eunuch. Once he got closer, Chen Zigong gave a cough and said, "Have a sedan chair be carried over and send Miss Zhao back to her home."
Zhao Mo tightly pursed her lips without speaking. The two stood together silently for another while. Zhao Mo felt that the hand grabbing onto her arm was strangely scorching, but she couldn't shake it off even after flinging her arm several times. In the end, she could only be angry helplessly. Once the sedan chair was carried over, Zhao Mo curtsied, then bent her head and entered the sedan chair.
Chen Zigong also didn't say anything else. He just waved and allowed the sedan chair to leave.
Generally speaking, it was easier for people that knew each other to b.u.mp into each other, just like the times when he encountered Xiaoqi in Tongxu. For the half year after that, for some strange reason, His Majesty didn't bring up the matter of having Chen Zigong take a consort again. The Prime Minister Residence also didn't bring up this matter, yet Chen Zigong often encountered Zhao Mo on the streets. As before, she was sometimes glowing with health and vigor, sometimes tranquil as water; sometimes she was with the Prime Minister family's eldest son, sometimes she was with that chubby and round servant girl.
If they didn't encounter each other directly, the two didn't greet each other, so much so that Zhao Mo even avoided him as she walked. Chen Zigong laughed as he thought: she's probably still holding grudges over that incident in the palace. He heard that her soles were rubbed raw and she couldn't get off the bed for several days.
After half a year, the two gradually could sit together to watch a show and would also go out to play together from time to time. However, the strange thing was, Chen Zigong didn't bring up the topic of marrying her and Zhao Mo didn't talk about it either. The two seemed just to be friends; when it occurred to them, they would call up the other to go walk around and when it didn't, they'd just do their own things.
Even though Zhao Mo never talked about marrying Chen Zigong, the entire Imperial Court still treated her like the Hao w.a.n.g fei. Zhao Mo had her own misgivings. What she wanted was a single-minded love, but if she really fell in love with that person, he would never be able to give her everything. Instead, she would have to forever yield.
It had been four years and she was twenty now. After she drank the celebratory birthday wine with Chen Zigong, Zhao Mo ran away the next day, straight towards Tongxu. Later, she saw a family that walked over while holding hands on the dam. She knew without asking that the woman smiling like a flower was the owner of the little red horse in Chen Zigong's hand.
The man said something and made that woman bury her head in his chest, stamp her foot, and rub her head against him. Of the two identical babies, one hugged the man's leg and loudly clamored while the other folded his hands behind his back to watch the lively show.
Zhao Mo was a bit relieved. No matter what, to Chen Zigong, this woman was the past. Just as Chen Zigong had said, having never had a start, how could you talk about an end?
When Zhao Mo returned to the capital, she played around in all the places Chen Zigong mentioned. In any case, no matter where she went, there would be people that arranged room and board for her in advance. Zhao Mo thought: it was about time to get married. Even if she kept waiting, he would be the same him that couldn't free himself from those two side consorts, but she would be old.
A year later, Hao w.a.n.g now owned an additional separated courtyard in the suburbs of Beijing. The maids and menservants busied themselves inside so it was very lively. However, there was only one master, which was the main consort that the Hao w.a.n.g had just taken as wife.
Some people said that the Hao w.a.n.g doted on this main consort and specially made a separate courtyard for her. During the spring season, it was possible to see w.a.n.g ye and w.a.n.g fei carrying a hoe to dig up springtime bamboo shoots in the bamboo forest not far away from the residence.
Some people said that this is the 'Cold Palace' that was outside of the Hao w.a.n.g fu, and that inside lived the unfavored daughter of the Prime Minister.
After many years, Chen Zigong carried one in his arms and led another by the hand. A family of four wearing light blue parent and child matching outfits went out to look at the colored lanterns and to guess the riddles written on the lanterns. This again aroused a bunch of pa.s.sionate discussions.
"Look, that's the common woman Hao w.a.n.g ye favored and took as a wife."
"Exactly! With this, all the big and small consorts in w.a.n.g fu and the other courtyard will be losing favor."
"They lost favor long ago. Those in that home don't have a single one. Just based on these two kids, it can be seen that this woman is favored more that Hao w.a.n.g fei."
"Can Prime Minister Zhao accept this? His family's daughter actually married over to guard an empty house."
"Haa, you don't get it. His Majesty bestowed a hundred acres of land and promoted Prime Minister Zhao to n.o.bility in order to pacify him!"
"I don't get it, seriously don't get it. Say, how come the Hao w.a.n.g ye didn't choose from the well-bred young ladies from those big families and insisted on marrying a village girl?"
Zhao Mo slanted a look towards Chen Zigong and took her daughter from his arms. Chen Zigong bent down and picked his son up.
"When was dad promoted to n.o.bility again?"
Chen Zigong laughed. "I also didn't hear about it."
Zhao Mo gave a light humph. "And, do I seem a lot like a village girl?"
The daughter in her arms, Hehe, said with a childish tone and voice, "Mom, what's a village girl?"
The son to the side didn't wait for someone to explain and rushed to speak first. "It's girls that wear floral cloth on their heads."
Hehe nodded and just happened to see a little girl that was about five with a blue floral cloth on her head run over. She hurriedly pointed at that little girl who was licking a tanghulu and cried in pleasant surprise, "Look, a village girl!"
Credits: Translated by Chiyomira, Proofread by Ocelot
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