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“Are you dizzy? Shall I take you back to the palace?” Seeing Yun Qianmeng sighing with her head lowered, Xiahou Aner paid her a look of concern.
“I’m fine, coming out has helped! Let’s walk together out here and go back if it looks like the party is going to end!” Yun Qianmeng led Xiahou Aner along the stone road.
The first snow was beginning to melt, and the low temperature caused the melted snow to freeze over the stones. Each step the two took was quite careful: if they fell, they wouldn’t only be injured, but might also be mocked by the others in the court.
“Do you smell that scent?” Leaving the court where incense was burning, the natural scent made Xiahou Aner pipe up.
“That’s the scent of the wintersweet, blooming this time of the year. They’re fresh and natural, quite enchanting. If you place a blossom in your room, the scent is far more relaxing than incense.” Internally scanning where she was standing right now, Yun Qianmeng tried to imagine which of the palaces would plant wintersweets.
“Well then, let’s pick some! I haven’t seen flowers like that in Luoyang.” Xiahou Aner’s curiosity was enticed by Yun Qianmeng’s description. Grabbing Yun Qianmeng’s sleeve, she pulled on it pleadingly, making her roll her eyes internally. Raising her hand, she tapped her on the forehead and reminded her, “Plucking the flowers in the palace isn’t allowed. But if we put the wintersweet blossoms in your pouch I don’t think the guard will be able to find them.”
Xiahou Aner smiled, nodding enthusiastically. She removed the delicate pouch she wore on her waist, following Yun Qianmeng as she walked forward along the wall.
Yun Qianmeng was following the scent of the wintersweets. In the yard behind the court they found a few wintersweet trees. Smiling at each other, the two advanced to the trees, plucking the blossoms.
“I didn’t expect Lady Chu to have such quaint interests in plucking wintersweets!” A cool, mocking voice rang out.
Xiahou Aner’s hand trembled, falling to her side.
Yun Qianmeng frowned slightly. A moment of surprise streaked through her eye before she turned around. Hai Chenxi was standing behind them. Although he seemed relaxed, the sharp look in his eye was unmistakable.
She hadn’t heard him approach at all, proving that he must be physically skilled as well. It was more than enough warning for her to be cautious.
If Hai Chenxi hoped to see therm panic and cry out, he was counting on nothing. Yuan Qianmeng smiled elegantly. “Quite the joke! I didn’t expect a duke to have such interests to admire the flowers either.”
“Not as enthusiastic as you perhaps, madame. Not only admiring them, but picking them too! The matter of succession must have excited you.” Approaching slowly, there was a casual smile on Hai Chenxi’s face. The sound of snow crunching below his feet was just as threatening as his words.
Yun Qianmeng reached for Xiahou Aner’s hands, moving out of the way to let him have the spot to admire the flowers. The two of them backed away carefully, maintaining twenty feet with Hai Chenxi.
“Although the matter of succession is the Chu family’s, it’s not for women to participate in. I would never express my views so carelessly. Everything is up to Grandfather and the emperor to decide, and no one else.” Yun Qianmeng dodged the questions cleverly, all while mocking him for probing where he shouldn’t. When had it been the responsibility of the Hai family to comment on Chu affairs? If this were the case, Hai Chenxi might be able to maintain the position of duke!
Realizing the barbs hidden beneath her words, a light flashed through Hai Chenxi’s eyes. She was just as clever as he had remembered. He couldn’t help but recall the scene that night on the boat, her protectiveness over her cousin. Even knowing that she was at a disadvantage, she tried her best to protect the people around her!
Unfortunately, Hai Tian had interrupted them before they could finish their conversation that night. And tonight she was accompanied by an insolent little girl.
Although he was still smiling, the gaze he threw at Xiahou Aner was quite intense, enough for her to feel a chill run through her body. Those eyes were filled with ice, but also coated over with the softness of the sea. Her heart trembled, not understanding what kind of man this was. How could he wear such different faces?
“Aner, you haven’t saluted the duke yet! His sister Princess Heshun is the one engaged with Prince Beiqi!” Seeing how he looked at Xiahou Aner, Yun Qianmeng spoke up.
Xiahou Aner tucked away her pouch, bowing slightly. “Salutations to Duke Hai!”
Hai Chenxi didn’t waste any time on Xiahou Aner, his half-smiling gaze turning to Yun Qianmeng while he puzzled over the words she chose to introduce him.
Just because she didn’t like the way he looked at Chu Feiyang’s cousin, Yun Qianmeng took the chance to introduce them, even adding a line about Hai Tian to distract him purposefully.
No wonder Chu Feiyang admired her. Such a clever, elegant woman. And no wonder Jiang Muchen wanted to destroy the whole Chu family!
“Lady Chu, don’t forget that Major Chu and I were the ones who delivered my sister to North Qi together. Along the way, he shared my concern for her.” Seeing the invincible smile and confident gaze of Yun Qianmeng, Hai Chenxi suddenly wanted to break through the glow on her face. He wanted to see what kind of beauty resided behind such a mask!
“Of course my husband would fulfill his duties when it came to the Princess. He wouldn’t deserve his monthly pay if he didn’t do so. How could that compare to the depth of emotions of a brother sending his sister away? Duke Hai, you must have been unable to say goodbye to your sister along the way.” Yun Qianmeng had heard more than enough attempts at provocation. Hai Chenxi wanted to see her jealousy? Nothing more than a dream! If Chen Feiyang were interested in Hai Tian, she’d never have qualified to become his wife in the first place.
Hai Chenxi didn’t quite mind her takedown and response. Shrugging, he leaned against the wintersweet tree. Fragrance surrounding him, with a pretty, confident face before him, he was in a good mood, good enough that he wanted to keep bantering with her.
“I’m tired, we should go back!” Xiahou Aner suddenly spoke up.
Although she wasn’t married, she saw the admiration in Hai Chenxi’s eyes toward Yun Qianmeng, and spoke up to remind them.
“We’re about done admiring the flowers, so it’s about time for us to go back. Since Duke Hai seems to enjoy them so much, hopefully you’ll take your time!” Yun Qianmeng nodded lightly. The two of them bowed lightly before turning away.