New Year’s Eve
A few days passed quickly and in a blink of an eye, it was New Year’s Eve of the 25th year of the Tianwu era.
Because Imperial Concubine Yun was living at Chun Palace, Xuan Tianming’s side took his whole family to Chun Palace to celebrate the New Year. In reality, ‘whole family’ referred to just him and Feng Yuheng. At most, they would be bringing their own attendant Baize and maids Wang Chuan and Huang Quan. Originally, Feng Yuheng would bring Xiangrong along, but since Xiangrong was already living at Chun Palace, there was no one else she could bring. And during the last morning court session of the old year, Xuan Tianming suggested having Zirui leave the palace to spend the New Year, but the Emperor rejected it. Using the reason of “We really like that child”, he forcefully kept Feng Zirui in the Imperial Palace.
Feng Yuheng did not say much about this, after all she was unable to control many things. At least right now in Da Shun’s court, the Emperor’s words were still final. If the Emperor wanted to keep one person in the Imperial Palace, other than stealing, how else could she bring a person out? The good thing was that Xuan Tianming and Xuan Tianhua had arranged people in the Imperial Palace to watch him, so she did not need to be overly worried.
The group sat in the imperial carriage, driving through the snow which accumulated last night to head to Chun Palace. At this moment, at the gates of the Chun Palace, the Fourth Prince Xuan Tianyi left the palace personally, rushing over there to bring Xiangrong to his palace to celebrate the New Year.
Xiangrong stood in front of the gates of Chun Palace. A maid was holding an umbrella over her head. She was wearing a pure white cape with a fluffy collar and hood, making her small face look even more clean and fresh, with a vague resemblance to Xuan Tianhua when he was wearing white.
Xuan Tianyi did not like seeing this and said while frowning: “This colour does not suit you, why is a young girl like you wearing white for? Are you showing filial piety?”
Xiangrong ignored his words and only said flatly: “Go back, I will not spend my New Year at Ping Palace. The relationship between us is just master and student, I have never heard of a master going to the student’s place to celebrate the New Year. In addition, you are a prince, this is against the rules.”
“Old Seventh is still a prince!” Xuan Tianyi angrily pointed towards this Chun Palace and shouted: “Old Seventh is also a prince, how about that? You celebrating New Year at his house would be following the rules?”
Xiangrong explained as well: “That is because the relationship between the Seventh Prince and the Ninth Prince is closer. And I am the sister of the Ninth Princess. I am staying here to wait for my older sister to come over and celebrate New Year together. If you do not believe me, then wait for a while more at this palace gate. I believe that the Ninth Prince and my Second Sister are almost here.”
“You said that the both of them are also coming here for New Year?” Xuan Tianyi did not really understand, “It’s their first year as newlyweds, why are they coming here to join the festivities instead of properly enjoying their time with each other at home?”
Of course, Xiangrong could not tell him that it was because Imperial Concubine Yun was also here. After all, Imperial Concubine Yun leaving the Imperial Palace was a secret, other than Chun Palace and the two at Yu Palace, no one else knew, and no one was allowed to reveal it to outsiders. She only told Xuan Tianyi: “They are children brought up by Her Highness Imperial Concubine Yun, it’s natural for them to celebrate New Year together.”
“Hmph!” Xuan Tianyi scoffed, “You’re just saying that they are brothers, right? Yes, I do not have any blood related brothers, so I deserve to celebrate New Year alone in the manor. I spent those days with you in Ji An Prefecture, yet you would not celebrate New Year with me, how heartless.”
Xiangrong said: “I wanted to celebrate New Year with Second Sister, even if I did not stay at Chun Palace, I will definitely not go to Ping Palace. Fourth Prince, I told you in Ji An Prefecture very early on, master and disciple is master and disciple, I understand my own feelings. You are very good, but since I have already have such feelings stored, I should not give you any more hope, this is not something my conscience can bear.”
“You want to be together with him that much?” This was the first time Xuan Tianyi pointed out Xiangrong’s inner feelings so clearly, he asked Xiangrong: “Do you know how many people like him in secret? But who does he like? Does he look like he would ever look for a woman in his lifetime?”
Xiangrong’s smile was a little sad, she said: “I have never hidden anything from you. I have someone in my heart, and I cannot remove it no matter how hard I tried. This is my fate, I can only submit to it.”
“But he does not like you at all!”
“That is his issue.” Xiangrong looked up at Xian Tianyi, and said very determinedly, “Whether he likes me or not, that is his issue, I can only manage myself. Fourth Prince, go back!”
After saying this, she did not stay, and left together with the maid. Xuan Tianyi did not stop her, and only touched his face subconsciously, mumbling to himself: “Does she feel that I’m too old? Compared to a young girl, I really am old!”
Xuan Tianyi was left outside just like that, as he watched Xiangrong walk around the front yard to enter the back yard and no longer saw her, he suddenly thought of an idea and quickly spoke to the pageboy next to him: “We should stay at Chun Palace and celebrate the New Year! I am also Old Seventh’s brother, why can’t I spend New Year with him? It’s decided!” He wanted to enter the palace as he said this, but even if one of his feet had already crossed the gate, he was stopped by the housekeeper of the Chun Palace.
The housekeeper told him: “Your Highness the Fourth Prince, my apologies, other than Prince Yu and Princess Yu, the Chun Palace is not accepting other visitors! We hope that Your Highness understands.”
“Huh?” Xuan Tianyi did not expect to be given the cold shoulder so quickly and was filled with anger. He could not help but point at the direction which Xiangrong just left in: “How about that girl? She is not someone from the Chun Palace, why did you accept her?”
The housekeeper looked back, smiled and said: “Is Your Highness the Fourth Prince talking about Feng Third Miss? You misunderstand, Feng Third Miss is not considered a guest, she has been staying in the palace the whole time.” With one sentence, they categorised Xiangrong as someone who was already part of Chun Palace, causing waves of anger in Xuan Tianyi when he heard it.
But even if he was unhappy, what could he do? Just like what Xiangrong said, this was her own choice. This choice did not even care about the attitude of the other party; it was fine whether he liked her or not, she was willing. Money really could not buy one’s willingness!
He retracted his foot, stared deeply into Chun Palace, then turned around and left, and did not stay any longer. It was just that his footsteps when he left were a little heavy, harboring a lot of frustration. But no matter how frustrated he was, he could not beat Xiangrong’s courage accumulated over a few years after having a silent crush, as well as that stubborn spirit which would not back down.
That night of New Year’s Eve, the Chun Palace was very lively. Because Imperial Concubine Yun was around, home felt more like home, and the brothers felt more like brothers. In addition, there was the new daughter-in-law Feng Yuheng, and also Feng Xiangrong, the future daughter-in-law which Imperial Concubine Yun prepared in her heart, the reunion dinner was eaten happily and harmoniously. Not only did they wrap dumplings, they also lit firecrackers. Xuan Tianhua even played the zither for everyone, it was just that after the zither music ended, Imperial Concubine Yun, holding a dumpling in one hand and holding the red wine Feng Yuheng took out in the other hand, suddenly asked loudly, “Hua-er, tell your mother, do you like the Third young girl?”
This question caused everyone to feel awkward, the red wine might be delicious and had even been diluted, but the aftereffect was still rather strong. Not to mention Feng Yuheng also took out an aged Lafite from her space. Imperial Concubine drank from afternoon until night without stopping. At this moment, she was already slightly drunk. Feng Yuheng was worried that Xuan Tianhua’s answer would hurt Xiangrong’s heart, so she quickly added on: “Xiangrong is so obedient and sensible, we all like her.” The meaning in her words was, like was like, moving on to the next level was another issue, hinting to Xuan Tianhua not to be too hurtful during the New Year.
Xuan Tianhua did not let everyone feel too awkward, he only glanced at Xiangrong for a while and suddenly showed a smile, saying: “Sister-in-law is correct.”
Xiangrong only wrung the hem of her skirt with both hands, hearing this kind of answer, her heart breathed a sigh of relief, but she also felt a little disappointed at the same time. She was afraid of Xuan Tianhua’s direct rejection, yet she treasured Imperial Concubine Yun’s sudden question, because other than Imperial Concubine Yun, there should be no one else who would be willing to ask the same question, right? She was likely to silently keep the matters of her heart within her for the rest of her life, never daring to say it to him directly, and never getting an answer from him. She might slowly go through this life in this kind of hesitation. Luckily there was no Feng family now, so she no longer had the pressure or coercion to get married.
Xuan Tianhua’s answer was considered very vague, but he managed to gloss over it. Xuan Tianming also advised Imperial Concubine Yun to drink, and this episode was considered to have passed. It was just that Imperial Concubine Yun looked at Xiangrong with emotion and said: “I really helped you, but you have to take the initiative too! Look at your Second Sister and Ming-er sitting so closely, why are you so far from Hua-er? You’re afraid that he’ll eat you?”
Xiangrong blushed and quickly replied: “His Highness the Seventh Prince is playing the zither.”
And at this moment, the sound of Xuan Tianhua’s zither stopped, he also returned to the seats and sat down, and there was empty space at the side. He took the initiative to call for Xiangrong: “Come over and sit!”
Xiangrong’s heart felt a wave of excitement, and she walked over with a blush. With the help of the courage brought on by the wine, she sat without reservation, and even shifted her chair a little towards Xuan Tianhua’s side, acting like she had the right to be there, causing Imperial Concubine Yun to giggle.
The night of New Year’s Eve, everyone tacitly chose not to mention the Emperor to avoid triggering Imperial Concubine Yun’s sadness during this New Year. But after drinking, Imperial Concubine Yun brought up the topic herself, she said: “Take a guess, what is that old man doing right now?”
Within the Imperial Palace, a table of New Year’s Eve feast was also set up at the outer hall of Zhao He Hall. There were only three masters at the seats, the Emperor, Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu and the Eighth Prince Xuan Tianmo respectively. These thee people sat around the table and toasted regularly. Once the Emperor emptied his cup, Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu would choose the right moment to take out her handkerchief to wipe off the remaining wine drops at the corner of his lips. In the eyes of the people who did not know anything, they would only comment with emotion that this was such a beautiful and harmonious family of three! But for those who knew, including the palace servants inside and outside Zhao He Hall, they did not say it out loud, but most of them felt emotional. They only knew that for this year’s New Year Eve, the Emperor was spending it very differently compared to the past.
It was not just the palace servants who felt it was very different, even the Emperor himself felt it was a little strange. As he drank the alcohol, he suddenly said: “This is the happiest New Year We have celebrated, with my wife and child keeping me company, it’s like the long-cherished wish We had held for many years has finally been fulfilled.” He held Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu lightly as he said this and signs of him remembering the past appeared in his face. He stopped talking, as if he was pondering something on his own. After half a beat, he suddenly asked: “How did We spend the New Year in the past? Why is it that no matter how much We think about it, We can’t remember it?”
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