“Father?” Seeing that Ming JingZhou did not speak, JiuZhu blinked and glanced at him doubtfully.

 

Ming JingZhou came back to his senses.
He nodded with a smile: “Don’t worry.
As an official, Father will conscientiously fulfill his duties and not disappoint His Majesty.”

 

And it had nothing to do with him if Chen Wang disappointed His Majesty.

 

“It’s getting late, you should go back now.” Ming JingZhou smiled: “Father will lead His Highness inside first.”

 

“Okay, daughter will not bother Father and Your Highness.” JiuZhu took a few steps back and waved her hand: “You go in quickly.”

 

Hearing Ming JingZhou’s perfunctory tone, Chen Wang raised his eyebrows and smiled at JiuZhu.
Then, he followed the latter and entered the Ministry of Rites.

 

The officials they met near the entrance all seemed to have seen a great scourge after they noticed him.
They greeted him in a rush and scampered away.
In comparison to these people, Ming JingZhou, who was guiding him, seemed normal.

 

“Your Highness, this is where weichen1 and his coworkers eat our meals.
Why don’t Your Highness have some rest first? After weichen has finished eating, he will give you an account of the matters regarding the Ministry of Rites.” Ming JingZhou put the food container on the ground and bowed respectfully to Chen Wang.

 

“Lord Ming need not be so polite.” Chen Wang bent down.
He lifted the food container, took out a handkerchief, and wiped its bottom: “It just so happens that Ben Wang hadn’t eaten lunch either so Ben Wang will shamelessly sit with you to eat.
Hope Lord Ming will not dislike it.”

 

Ming JingZhou: “……”

 

I dislike it but I don’t dare to say it!

 

“Please do so, Your Highness.” Pushing open the door to the public meal area, Ming JingZhou watched his coworkers stop talking, hurriedly put down their chopsticks, and stand up to greet Chen Wang.
An indescribable feeling of satisfaction rose in his heart.

 

That’s right, only when they were facing a disaster together could they be considered coworkers.

 

“The lords need not be so courteous.
After all, Ben Wang has come here to seek your guidance.” Chen Wang chose an empty table and put the food container on it: “We will work together in the future, so the lords should treat Ben Wang as an ordinary coworker.”

 

Everyone knew that Chen Wang was speaking out of politeness, but for them, his mere willingness to speak politely had already given them enough face.

 

Before this moment, they had all assumed that Chen Wang would probably come and leave at once or he would order them around, point fingers at them, and be fussy.

 

The Minister of Rites let out a long sigh of relief, His Highness Chen Wang… wasn’t so hard to please ah.

 

Human nature was like this.
If people expected too much from someone, they couldn’t help nitpicking everything about that person.
But if this person, who had always been arrogant, despotic, and completely unreasonable, suddenly said a few polite words, it would make everyone feel gratified.
So much so that they would even feel that the said person treated them specially because they were different from others.

 

Chen Wang put out all the dishes in the food container on the table and asked a young minor official to fetch the rice.
Seeing Ming JingZhou still standing beside him, he uttered with a smile: “Lord Ming, come and sit.
Let’s eat together ah.”

 

Looking at the colorful and flavorful dishes arranged on the table, Ming JingZhou’s hands, hidden under his sleeves, trembled.

 

All of these dishes were prepared for him! They were all kept warm by filling the bottom of the container with hot water.
But now, they had all cooled off!

 

Ming JingZhou lifted his robe and sat down.
However, as soon as he grabbed the bamboo chopsticks from the table, it snapped into two.

 

Chen Wang, who was about to pick some food, halted in his action and stared blankly at the broken half of the chopstick that had fallen on the table.

 

“Weichen made Your Highness laugh.” Ming JingZhou smiled awkwardly and switched to a pair of new chopsticks: “Because the Ministry of Rites has limited funds, all of the tableware is used repeatedly, making it rather fragile.
Even weak scholars like myself frequently break them if we are not careful.”

 

“So that’s how it is.” Chen Wang picked up the broken chopstick and threw it into the wastebasket by the side: “The lords have had a rough time.
Once Ben Wang gets familiar with the matters regarding the Ministry of Rites, Ben Wang will present a memorial to Father Emperor to allocate money for renovating the Ministry of Rites.”

 

“Many thanks, Your Highness.” Li En, the Minister of Rites, came over with the bowl and chopsticks held in both hands and smiled cheekily: “Later, xiaguan2 will take you along and show you the places that are wrecked so that Your Highness will be careful while passing by them and will not accidentally get hit by the tiles or the wall.”

 

Chen Wang: “……”

 

“If Your Highness feels it is tiring to be alone with xiaguan, Lord Ming can also come along.” Li En, the Minister of Rites, smiled flatteringly at Chen Wang: “Your Highness, what do you think?”

 

Chen Wang silently tried to recall which wrong step he took that made him embark on the road of begging for funds for the Ministry of Rites.

 

At first, he just wanted to make a quick visit to the Ministry of Rites and then make an excuse to his Father Emperor to tell him that the Ministry of Rites was not suitable for him.

 

“Your Highness?” Li En gazed at him earnestly.

 

Chen Wang put down his chopsticks: “Thank you, lord. Ben Wang will take note of it in the future.”

 

Li En gently bumped Ming JingZhou with his elbow, hoping that he would speak up and let His Highness realize that his intention was not to warn him of the collapsing objects, but that their Ministry of Rites was worn out, the kind that needed a lot of money to be renovated.

 

Ming JingZhou bowed his head and acted gracefully…… to eat.

 

He was merely a weak and hungry little assistant minister who was starving and wanted to fill his belly, nothing more.

 

After having delivered her father’s meal, JiuZhu got on the carriage in a good mood.

 

But halfway through, they had to stop.

 

“Young Miss, a carriage from Marquis PingYuan’s residence is ahead.” ChunFen lifted the curtain to lean over and asked JiuZhu, “Should we move aside for it?”

 

“Marquis PingYuan’s residence?” JiuZhu stuck out her head and glanced at the carriage surrounded by a large number of servants.
Many commoners were moving aside to let it pass through.

 

“Let’s do that.” JiuZhu retracted her gaze and lowered the curtains, not looking any longer.

 

ChunFen nodded.
She turned to the coachman and said, “Young Miss has instructed to let the carriage of Marquis PingYuan’s residence pass first.”

 

Feeling the carriage halt for a short while, the Old Madam of Marquis PingYuan’s residence asked the maid by her side: “What’s going on ahead?”

 

“A carriage came by and obstructed the way ahead.
But after the other party knew our identity, they gave way to us.” The maid bent forward and softly hammered the Old Madam’s shoulders.

 

“Notify the juniors to refrain from proclaiming this when they descend.
Or else, niangniang and His Highness Qi Wang’s reputation will be tarnished.” The Old Madam closed her eyes to rest, concealing the weariness inside them: “Do you know which family’s carriage is it? Let WangNan go and express our gratitude in person.”

 

Her son was seriously ill.
So, if he goes to thank the other person as the eldest legitimate grandson and shizi of the Marquis family, it would convey their humility.

 

“I, Zheng WangNan, the shizi of Marquis PingYuan’s family, thanks this noble person for making way for us.” Zheng WangNan looked at the carriage without a family crest and greeted with clasped hands without even getting off the horse.

 

“Zheng shizi is too polite.
As a junior, our Young Miss should undoubtedly let the Old Madam go first.” ChunFen hopped down the carriage and bowed deeply.

 

Zheng WangNan had a faint impression of seeing this maid somewhere before.

 

“Shizi, please go ahead.” ChunFen flicked her sleeve and gestured.

 

“Thank you very much, young lady.” Due to his vague sense of familiarity, Zheng WangNan clasped his hands in the direction of the carriage again.

 

He struck his horse, preparing to turn around and leave when someone else appeared before him riding a horse.

 

“Your Highness Qi Wang!” Seeing the person on horseback, Zheng WangNan quickly got off the horse and pulled it aside to get out of the way.

 

“Cousin.” Qi Wang noticed the carriage of the Marquis PingYuan and stopped the horse.

 

Everyone from the Marquis family, who were still sitting inside the carriage till now, walked outside.

 

“Grandmother, please don’t be too polite.” Qi Wang dismounted from the horse and supported the aged Old Madam of the Marquis family: “Where is Grandmother going with so many people?”

 

“Your Highness’ wedding day is near at hand.
This old woman has become aged and powerless to do anything else, so I can only take the juniors to the temple to pray to the Heavens to bestow good fortune upon Your Highness and bless you so that everything goes smoothly.” The Old Madam looked at Qi Wang with eyes full of affection: “How has Your Highness been doing recently?”

 

“No need to be concerned, Grandmother.
Everything is fine.
But if something happened to you from worrying too much about this grandson, how can he forgive himself?” At this time, Qi Wang noticed the carriage stationed in the corner.
Although there was no family crest in this carriage, it was clearly yielding to the carriage of Marquis PingYuan’s family: “Which family does this carriage belong to?”

 

The curtain moved, and a girl in a light lake-colored dress stepped on the footstool and descended from the carriage with the maid’s help.

 

“Chennu greets Your Highness Qi Wang.”

 

Zheng WangNan’s eyes lit up.
It was the young lady who put on that tacky hair clip shine and made it shine like a star!

 

On the other hand, the faces of the female members of the Zheng family changed.
Chen Wang’s fiancée was sitting in this apparently ordinary-looking carriage?!

 

Recalling how Su Guifei stood by her on the day of the birthday banquet, they felt somewhat terrified.

 

When the two carriages came across each other just now, they didn’t even think about making way for the other side.
They just waited for the road to be cleared.
If Su Guifei learned that they had forced her future daughter-in-law on the street to move aside for them……

 

Qi Wang glanced at their expressions, and greeted JiuZhu with a half-bow: “Miss Ming.”

 

JiuZhu turned sideways to evade this greeting, bowed her head, and regulated her expression: “Chennu dare not accept Your Highness’s bow.”

 

“I didn’t know it was Miss Ming who was passing by.
The driver was not sensible and delayed Miss Ming.” The Marquis family’s Old Madam took a step back: “Miss Ming, please forgive me.”

 

JiuZhu smiled: “The Old Madam is an elder.
How can this junior disrespect an elder? But now that the Old Madam is talking with His Highness Qi Wang, this junior doesn’t wish to bother you.
Please forgive this junior for departing first.”

 

The carriage of the Marquis PingYuan residence retreated to the side and gave up a wide enough to let them pass.

 

JiuZhu curtsied to the Old Madam and Qi Wang: “Many thanks, Your Highness.
Many thanks, Old Madam.”

 

Although he was popular all over the capital and countless women admired him greatly, JiuZhu didn’t even look at Qi Wang from beginning to end. 

 

“Sh-she is the Ming family’s Young Miss?” Zheng WangNan stared blankly at the receding back of the carriage, “How can she be the Ming family’s Young Miss?”

 

Wasn’t the Ming family’s Young Miss Chen Wang’s fiancée?

 

Qi Wang heard Zheng WangNan’s murmur and turned his head towards him.

 

“WangNan.” The Old Madam spoke up, “Go to the carriage and fetch the amulet that I obtained for His Highness.”

 

“Yes.” Zheng WangNan returned to his senses.
He didn’t even have time to offer tribute to the little deer in his heart that died without even having the chance to be born.

 

“Young Miss.” ChunFen carefully observed JiuZhu’s expression: “You don’t seem to like Qi Wang and the people from Marquis PingYuan’s family very much.
I always thought even if you don’t like a graceful, tender, and handsome man like His Highness Qi Wang, you won’t dislike him too much.”

 

Her family’s Young Miss was so lovely and considerate ah; she won’t target anyone without any cause or reason.
There must be something wrong with Qi Wang and the people from Marquis PingYuan’s family.

 

“He’s very good-looking?” JiuZhu did not agree: “It’s obvious that His Highness Chen Wang is more good-looking.
When he smiles, his eyes shine like the early morning sun.” 

 

ChunFen didn’t think that there was any difference between the two when they smiled.
In any case, both of them were noble princes.

 

“Sister ChunFen, is it obvious that I dislike them?”

 

“It’s not too obvious.
Others can’t perceive it but I, as one of the people familiar with Young Miss, can infer a little.” ChunFen lifted the curtain and looked back at Qi Wang, who was assisting the Old Madam.
There were many women on the road who were stealing glances at him.

 

JiuZhu recalled her struggle and the despair she felt when the river water poured into her nose eight years ago, “Maybe some people are born with a bazi3 that doesn’t conform to someone else’s.
Even if you try hard not to dislike them, it’s useless.” 

 

No matter how good-looking Qi Wang’s smile was, she still couldn’t control herself from recalling the taste of the river water mixed with the earthy odor of mud.

 

Dark, damp, carrying the smell of death.

 

TaiYang Palace.

 

Emperor LongFeng personally drafted two decrees, neither of which were stamped with the Imperial seal yet.

 

One decree promoted Ming JingZhou to a Count and bestowed upon him the title of NingKang.

 

While the other decree promoted Ming JingZhou’s daughter to be a Xianzhu4.

 

“Your Majesty, the Imperial Astronomer is here.”

 

“Beloved Official, the calculation took so much time.
Has it been figured out?”

 

“Your Majesty, Ming guniang and His Highness Chen Wang’s bazi signify the clouds parting and mist dispersing to reveal the bright moonlight and the rising sun over the horizon.
In unity, trees will bloom and branches will be green but estrangement will bring damnation.”

 

“Beloved Official, explain it bluntly.”

 

“The fate of these two people is interweaved closely with cause and effect.
If they are together, they will prosper but if they are separated, calamity will ensue over and over again.”

 

Emperor LongFeng chuckled, not expressing his opinion on their entwined fate.
“Did you calculate their wedding date?”

 

“The second day of the second month of next year is an auspicious day.”

 

“The second day of the second month is also the day of the Spring Dragon Festival.
It is auspicious indeed.” Emperor LongFeng muttered as he picked up the Imperial seal and heavily etched it on the Imperial edict bestowing Ming JingZhou the rank of Count NingKang.

 

The Imperial Astronomer buried his head even lower.
Most of the emperors were quite sensitive to the word ‘dragon’, so he didn’t dare to answer.

 

“This day is worthy of my son’s great wedding.”

T/N: Both the terror of the capital and his future father-in-law are having a hard time dealing with each other xD

1

Weichen [微臣] – A form of self-address which translated to ‘this humble official’.

2

Xiaguan [下官] – Another form of self-address used by higher-ranking officials.

3

Bazi [八字] – It is the birthdate characters that are used for fortune-telling purposes.

4

Xianzhu [县主] – Sometimes also translated literally as ‘County Master’, this title refers to the ‘Princess of Fourth Rank’.

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