This person – Yuwen Xiu, using the most suitable words to describe him, is ‘a boss of the century’.
In terms of appearance, if he claims second place, then no one would dare to claim first place, in terms of playing, if he claims the second-in-command title, then no one would dare to claim the first-in-command title, when it comes to being talented in letters and unconventional in lifestyle, not one person throughout the entire Capital would dare to be compared to him.
See, this is my Seventh Cousin, Yuwen Xiu.
The moment Imperial Sister sees Seventh Brother walk in, she falls into a daze, the hand holding mine tightens, then she lowers her eyes as she carefully inspects my blankets. Yuwen Xiu has naturally seen Imperial Sister, but only faintly casts a glance before saying to me: “Haven’t seen you in so long and you’re still looking so silly and foolish, en, seems like you’ve gained a little weight too, looks like the days you spent out there wasn’t so bad ah.”
I smile ever so gently on the inside, are you not just calling me fat now? This is nothing to get angry over, really is nothing.
“Why are you not speaking? Could it be, you don’t recognise me now, tut tut, Ah-Lan, your double chin is coming out.” Yuwen Xiu’s long peach blossom eyes are clearly reflecting ridicule, as he leisurely says this.
Double chin……I continue to smile, is it not just a double chin? Who doesn’t have one? This is nothing to get angry over, indeed nothing.
Yuwen Xiu extends his well-maintained fair and slender finger, touching his own chin as he adds another sentence, “Little fool, why does your face……look a little like a bun now?”
Bun? Very good, I love eating buns the most. Saying I look like a bun? Let me wave my hand, it does not matter, it really does not matter.
Yuwen Xiu walks up to the bedside, suddenly hooking up his thin lips wickedly, saying: “Ah-Lan, so I’m really not seeing things, you’re eyes……have gotten so much smaller.”
I ##@, Yuwen Xiu, so you’re going to deliberately pick on me now, huh? I blankly look at him and speak up, “Seventh Brother, did you come back by yourself that day?”
Yuwen Xiu’s originally leisurely expression freezes, a flash of awkwardness passing by. His eyes are slightly lit with a dry laugh, “En, the weather isn’t bad today, it’s a good day to go out and play ah.”
“Then,” I happily smile at him, “Does Seventh Brother still want to take Ah-Lan out to play?”
Yuwen Xiu’s laughter comes to a sudden stop, looking at me with a serious face as he says: “What I mean is, with such a nice weather, it indeed a great day to play in the imperial palace, come, you quickly get ready, I’ll take you around, lest you don’t know where you’re going.”
……Seventh Brother, if I have not remembered incorrectly, the direction idiot, is you and not me, right?
“Ah-Lan,” Imperial Sister who had stayed silent all along suddenly raises her head to speak to me: “Since you’re back, I can rest assured now, you have a very good rest, I shall head back first.” Having said that, she turns to Yuwen Xiu in slight dejection, saying: “Seventh Brother, I shall head back first.”
Yuwen Xiu’s response is very indifferent, “En, let us all go out together another day.”
Imperial Sister sounds “en”, then walks out in small and hurried steps, that slim back figure appearing a little lonely.
I sigh, why is this necessary, love and feelings, how torturing.
After Imperial Sister leaves, Yuwen Xiu’s expression relaxes a little, he nuzzles up next to me, patting my face, squinting his eyes into smiles, saying: “Finally, you’re back, I missed you to death.”
I push away his big hands, “Seventh Brother really is……”
Yuwen Xiu lays down on my bed with great familiarity, looking at me questioningly, saying: “What, what about me?”
I glance at him saying: “Imperial Sister, you pretended to not see Imperial Sister.”
Yuwen Xiu’s eyes darkens upon hearing this, yet the smile at his lips does not falter, “Little fool, how could you possibly understand these matters? Since I am incapable of giving, then I shouldn’t give her hope.”
I fiercely pounce in front of him, staring at him with soulless eyes, asking: “Seventh Brother, you have someone you like?”
He reaches out to rub my hair, furrowing his thick brows as he ponders and speaks: “En, let me think, Bai Hua House’s He Xiang, Yu Yan Court’s Zi Qiao, also that Ruo Shui Lane’s-“
A sound of “pa”, and my hand has firmly printed onto his stunning peach blossom face. He half narrows his long eyes and looks dead at me, whilst I slowly spread my hand, looking at the little black print in my palm, I shyly say: “Seventh Brother, look, a fly.”
Yuwen Xiu closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, “I say, little fool.”
“Ah?” I bat my eyes, very seriously looking at him.
“Next time you……”
“Hit a fly……”
“Can you not……”
“Use so much strength!” He finally finishes piecing his words together.
I look at his slightly blackening, slightly reddening face, and obediently nod, “Alright.”
Yuwen Xiu crazily grabs my shoulders and shakes me, “Alright alright alright, did you not say alright last time, how many years have you being hitting them already, are you not able to use your memory, memory!”
My calmness is very obvious in comparison to his craziness, I pat his shoulder, “Seventh Brother, I really know now.”
Upon hearing these words, Yuwen Xiu does not become pleased, but instead grow increasingly frustrated and……hopeless? The very next moment, he recovers his usual wickedly charming face, just that he speaks with incomparable sadness, “An Ke Lan, if I have not remembered incorrectly, these words, you have also said for many years……”
I very seriously ponder, en, is that true? Alright then, you already call me a fool anyway, how could you hope for me to have good memory?
Plant a melon and you get a melon, plant a bean and get a bean, these words refers to you – Yuwen Xiu.
“Ah-Lan.” Yuwen Xiu’s voice suddenly sinks, not sounding as carefree as usual, but is instead, vaguely laced with exhaustion, “Say, why do people have so many choices?”
I quietly look at him, eh, what’s this, Yuwen Xiu is wanting to talk about life with me, speaking sentiments?
Yuwen Xiu’s smile carries a touch of satire, “I thought I could take control of my own life, choosing the path I want to take, even if not everything goes smoothly, I can at least protect what I wish to protect. But only now do I realise, when facing all of this, what I’m considering is not at all ‘what I want’, but is what they want.”
He closes his eyes and takes a deep, deep breath, the thick and dense eyelashes casting a faint shadow on his fair skin, “Ah-Lan, I’m so tired.”
I have known him for so many years, but this is the very first time I have seen such a negative side to him. I reach out and gently pat his cheek, blankly asking: “Seventh Brother, what’s wrong?”
Yuwen Xiu slowly opens his eyes, faintly smiling as he says: “What, have you learnt how to show other’s concern too? Sure have learnt quite a bit after going out for a while.”
Only from looking at him this close up, did I find that his eyes are actually that type of very cold grey colour, faint, and incomparably deep. I think for a bit, finally using my index finger to push up the corners of his lips into a big big curve, I say: “As expected, Seventh Brother looks best when smiling.”
Yuwen Xiu’s expression instantly blanks out, then warmth fills his grey eyes, he reaches out and places his hand on top of mine, sighing as he says: “Ah-Lan, perhaps, you are the happiest one.”
I flash a smile, in this complicated and confusing place, concealing your awareness to act confused, is the trick to my happiness.
When Xi Xi returns, Yuwen Xiu gets up and leaves, I eat and clean after myself under Xi Xi’s nonstop talking, yet my mind has not stopped thinking about Yuwen Xiu’s silent and exhausted face, to tell the truth, I am suspecting he has encountered some sort of situation. My suspicions were not left unsolved for long, that next day I got up preparing to get some fresh air under the sun, I hear two palace maids in the outer hall discuss something without any principles, I naturally stop in my steps, quietly listening in.
“Did you hear, that Consort Mo in the western palace died last night!” The tall and skinny palace maid speaks first, her tone filled with suppressed excitement and enthusiasm.
The slightly short and fat palace maid next to her immediately adds, “You mean the consort that’s gone mad? How did this suddenly happen?”
“Let me tell you, a few days ago, there were rumours that this Consort Mo had seen a ghost, crying and laughing through day and night, saying she saw the Consort Chen that took care of the Yun Ze prince with her that year, and then yesterday she died in bed, dressed in white clothes, I heard that face of hers was still smiling.” She shivers as she says this, “Even in broad daylight, I still feel chills from speaking about it.”
The short and fat palace maid is a little puzzled, “[Older] Sister Hong, I’m confused by this, what Consort Chen and Yun Ze prince, I only know of Consort Mo ah.”
The tall and skinny palace maid claps both hands together, “I’ve forgotten, you’ve only just arrived, and don’t know of this matter.”
The short and fat palace maid is immediately thirsty to expand her knowledge, “Sister Hong, can you tell me what this matter is about?”
The tall and skinny palace maid sweeps a glance around their surroundings, not seeing the me who is stood behind a pillar, she slightly lowers her voice, saying: “I too, have only been in this palace for three years, but have heard an older palace maid from the past say, this Consort Mo was not crazy at first, not only not crazy, but was also a consort extremely favoured by his majesty. Fourteen years ago, Yun Ze sent their third prince — only just four years old at the time — here as a hostage, and his majesty arranged for him to reside in the western palace. Not to mention, this Consort Mo was originally a fisher-woman in Yun Ze, due to catching the eyes of his majesty, she was brought into the palace. Everyone in the palace knows of this matter, but because his majesty specially favoured Consort Mo, no one dared to mention it.”
“The very moment Consort Mo saw this Yun Ze prince, she had taken an incredible liking to him, with the addition that she had just suffered a miscarriage at the time, she was even more fond of, and could not bear to part with the Yun Ze prince. His majesty saw that she doted on the Yun Ze prince so much, and hence made an exception to hand the Yun Ze prince over to her and Consort Chen to raise. Because Consort Mo is also from Yun Ze, this Yun Ze prince also felt less distant and more close to her, this harmonious scene was originally a rare intimate sight to behold, but one day, something huge happened.”
The short and fat palace maid gulps, “What, what happened?”
The tall and skinny palace maid immediately slows her words, “The western palace was set alit, other than Consort Mo who was away from the scene on the day, everyone inside burned to death, including the Yun Ze prince.”
The short and fat palace maid covers her chest, “No, no way, the Yun Ze prince died? Is that not huge trouble then?!”
The tall and skinny palace maid sighs, “If that isn’t right, how did you think the war against Yun Ze over ten years ago came about? Ever since then, Consort Mo had lost her sanity, speaking of the Yun Ze prince’s matters whenever she encounters people, saying he did not die. But can the corpse found by the imperial guards be fake? Tut tut, I heard that little body had been burned into a ball.”
“Consort Mo was fine just like that then?” The short and fat palace maid asks.
The tall and skinny palace maid burst out laughing, “Her life was not taken, but the most miserable thing for the consorts within the palace is not death, but is losing favour. Consort Mo has gone crazy for so many years, I’m afraid, his majesty has long forgotten this person. To have passed away now, is also considered a closure.”
The short and fat palace maid nods, “That’s true, better dead than be crazy like that.”
I take a step back in the shadows, turning to return to my room. Pouring myself a cup of hot tea, I watch the steam rise from the teacup, blurring my sight.
Yuwen Xiu, you saying you had no choice, could it be pointing to……Consort Mo’s death, is related to you?
Regarding their ages:
Ah-Lan and her imperial sister: 15 years old
Eldest Cousin: 19 years old
Seventh Cousin: 17 years old
Meng Shao Jue: 18 years old
Yuwen Rui and Yuwen Xiu are considered cousins, Ah-Lan has quite a few maternal uncles -_-|||
The author doesn’t say, but I’m assuming Ying Lu is also Ah-Lan’s age too. In chapter 2, Ah-Lan did state she looks about 14/15