There’s A Beauty
Chapter 45 — Painted Skin
Youshu walked slowly to the carriage, and saw Zhao Yusong looking at him with a weird expression. His eyes were shining, but his brows were frowning, and the corners of his mouth seemed to rise.
Youshu had studied before the micro changes of expressions and knew that Yusong was trying to control the contempt and ridicule in his heart. Was it because of his appearance? He suddenly understood that Wang had just arrived to the Capital, so where could she find out the preferences of the Ninth Highness? Naturally, the only way she could do was ask the favour of the wives in the house or send a servant. The messages received by the servants were all passed on was all mere talk, which was far from the facts. Nonetheless, those wives did not favour the wife from the first big room, so how could they help sincerely? Furthermore, they would even release fake news and wait to see the wife of the first room get in trouble.
It was the Ninth Highness who was unpredictable. As his companion, Zhao Yusong, would more or less know the prince’s likes and dislikes. Without further hesitation, the servants sent by the Wang would definitely go to his yard to eavesdrop. The Zhao family’s house rules were extremely strict, and the second room of the Zhao family was even more rigorous. Since others had come to eavesdrop on them at their yard, it was impossible for Zhao Yusong to be ignorant about it.
Now, his expression containing his accumulative excitement as if looking forward to something while smirking must have originated from Youshu’s outfit, right? He probably contributed a little to Youshu’s outfit. Thinking of that, Youshu wanted to remove the forehead accessory and the camellia from his head. However, he saw Wang rushing over, carefully pinning an exquisitely crafted pouch to his waist, and exhorted, “Mother come to warn you, don’t dirty or mess up your outfit, and you are not allowed to change them at will! Your mother pulled an all-nighter designing and creating this. I’ve seen every stitch and thread in person. You can wear it another day if you are crowned!”
Youshu never ignored or left out others’ goodness to him. Such a precious sincerity was hard to achieve even in his past life, or past-past life, even if he wanted it. Therefore, he very much cherished it in this life. It did not matter whether it was deliberate evil or to make him be seen as a joke, he wanted to let all slide, as long as his mother was happy. His mother would not know about those things spreading outside anyway, so he did not give a damn about others’ strange opinions.
Thinking about that, Youshu put down his hand, and obediently promised his mother, as if he had not noticed Zhao Yusong’s malice.
The two came to the Flower Bird Square by carriage. It was bustling with people, and they had to get out of the carriage and walk. Zhao Yusong kept preventing himself from smiling along the way. Fearing for being noticed by his younger cousin, he used a fragrant bone fan with jades to block his mouth. No matter how people looked at him, he looked like a wealthy young master.
Regardless of how weird the crowd thought he was, Youshu found that Wang really understood him well. Instead of putting spices in his pouch, she put a lot of pine nuts in it, so he held the pouch in his hand and munched pleasingly, looking extra leisurely. The two wandered to the edge of a teahouse and saw someone beckoning to them and shouting, “Here!”
“Coming!” Zhao Yusong smiled and waved his fan, and crossed the entry gates.
Youshu also planned to follow him, but he saw an old man across the street carrying bundles of candied hawthorn for sale. The bright red sugar looked very attractive, and the smell of maltose was denser. In his previous life, when he was with Mother Song, he never had any good food to eat. Only when visiting the temple fair, Bai Shao (meant: white peony) would secretly buy him a stick of candied hawthorn. It was the only sweetness in his bitter years, and it would never be unforgettable with his taste of it.
When he followed his master, he started living a life without worries about food, clothing and had great outfits to wear. He would also buy him candied hawthorn from time to time, licking it slowly, reminiscing about the sweets and bitters of the past. All kinds of tastes were also lingering in his heart. It was very peculiar.
He carefully put the pine nuts back into his pouch, and ran to the old man without bothering his cousin, who had been calling him for numerous times.
Zhao Yusong gave up calling him, shook his head and went upstairs. He let his butler watch the young man, and waited for him take him to the private room after buying his stuff.
“What is your little cousin’s outfit today? Is it really gorgeous and full of makeup?”
As soon as he opened the door, someone was already laughing and teasing. Zhao Yusong looked up to see it was Xue Wangjing, the son of an official in the country, who was also a companion of the Ninth Highness. He was joking about it, but he casually looked at the Ninth Highness sitting on the top, as if he was deliberately offending the other party.
Zhao Yusong did not feel disgusted, he smiled bitterly instead, expressing that he was also helpless. He hated the family of the first room more than anyone, especially Zhao Youshu, who almost put the Zhao family into a crisis of extermination. The Zhao family seemed like a family with great food and lifestyle, but in fact, it had already been able to make ends meet, especially the second room, which was responsible for the family, had reached the point of selling lands for a living. His mother’s dowry was scarce, so in order to help the first room deal with the aftermath, she had to pawn a lot, and now there was only an empty shell.
He usually did not dare to say anything when he met valuable objects, and the resentments and hatreds in his heart were not so strong. But on the day the family of the first room returned, he pulled more than a dozen carts of property back and forth, and Zhao Youshu was even more extravagantly dressed. No matter the expenses, he maintained his naive appearance as if he did not know the cruel outside world. It was a pain to Zhao Yusong.
Even at the age of sixteen, he could not pass the examinations. He could not believe such waste was also worthy of being on an equal position as himself, even fighting to be the top? Duet to the jealousy in the heart, and the additional nagging of his parents about how the first room dragged the Zhao family down and ignored the overall situation, Zhao Yusong’s hatred towards Zhao Youshu naturally increased.
Zhao Yusong could usually ignore him, but who knew Zhao Yushu would reach for the tip of the gun. He tried to get the Ninth Highness’s favour through himself, but have he seen the consequences of the people who deliberately get the Ninth Highness’s favour? After being entangled with that boy for a long time, he uttered a few words in front of the Ninth Highness, but was heard by Xue Wangjing, who had a dissolute and unruly temperament, which made them came up with today’s idea.
A group of people waited in the teahouse early in the morning to appreciate the ugliness of Zhao Yusong’s cousin. Xue Wangjing also brought many small lackeys and gathered in the private room to chat with tea. They laughed and played, but no one dared to provoke the one at the top.
Others would not know the temperament of the ninth prince, but they had an impression of it. It was said that the ninth prince was majestic and powerful, both civil and military, and he would definitely improve the country’s situation as well as conquering the nine states at once. However, they vaguely knew that the ninth prince was very strange in nature. The strange thing he had was not that he was harsh and mentally unstable, but due to the lack of interest he had in everything in the world.
That was right. He did not care about power, status, gold and silvery treasures, or even relatives and friends. His dark eyes were always dead and silent, making people afraid to look at him. If one stared at him for a long time, one would feel suffocated unknowingly, as if walking in the endless wilderness or falling into the abyss. At the previous moment, he was still talking and laughing, and he was in a good mood. The next moment, he would look gloomy, taking one’s life. No one could ever guess what he was thinking, let alone knowing his preferences.
Although it was hard to guess what he liked, what he hated was occasionally revealed, just like the present.
He held up the lid of the cup, sipped his tea with it, and said in a deep voice, “I heard that your fifth cousin is also called Youshu? How can there be so many Youshus in this world?”
That name was a legend long before the Ming Dynasty. He heard that the prestigious Emperor Zongsheng never married in his life because he was too obsessed with a young man named Youshu. He made countless great deeds in his life, and the various tribulations before he took the throne were also mysterious. People actually deified him at that time, and they only felt that whatever he did was of a good cause. For that reason, the mainland of the nine states, which was lacking the South wind, had been blown with great winds since Emperor Zongsheng ruled the mountains and rivers.
The ethos of men applying powder and wearing jade hairpins also began at that era, and it had not changed until now. Both the commoners and the wealthy nobles were greatly curious about the legendary “Youshu” who bewitched the generation’s king with beauty of prosperous age. However, whoever gave birth to an exceptionally outstanding child in the family would surely take that name.
It was a pity that the portrait of Youshu, which was originally treasured in the royal family, was divided among the princes during the struggle of the nine kingdoms for hegemony, and was burned in successive years of war. Although the Xia Dynasty kept a one-and-only copy, it was too old and was often touched by successive emperors, so the ink had faded away, and was no longer visible.
Just how beautiful Youshu was, had now became a mystery. And since the Zhao family’s fifth child was named “Youshu”, it could be seen that his appearance when he was a child was certainly not bad. Someone leaned to the window and teased, “Which is your fifth cousin? Show us. That’s the well-known legendary beauty, you know!”
“Which spoiled fruit dare to take up Youshu’s great name?” Only at that time, the Ninth Highness would show his true disgust, as if he could not stand anyone named Youshu in that world. That was why Zhao Yusong brought Youshu along with him.
Since the first room wanted to cling to the Ninth Highness, they would still have to see if the prince agreed! However, no matter how bad his heart was, he would never let others notice it. He had to look humble though, so he immediately replied, “My fifth cousin’s looks is not that beautiful, but he looked fine, very cute and as pale as snow.”
“Very cute? Are you describing a six or seven year old child?” Xue Wangjing banged the table and laughed.
The Ninth Highness frowned in disgust, and then asked, “I heard that he has eyes of the Yin and Yang. He can see ghosts, right? How can there be ghosts in this world. They are just the nastiness hidden in the people’s hearts.”
That was a blatant accusation that Youshu was sensationalizing with ghosts. His motive was impure, and the disdain in his words could not be hidden. Xue Wangjing and all his attendants laughed sarcastically. Zhao Yusong had to stand up and try his best to defend his fifth cousin. He looked sad on his face, but was very satisfied in his heart.
Presumably, if Youshu could meet the ninth prince that day, he would never have the chance to see him again. If he was unlucky, he might be greatly ridiculed and degraded by everyone else.
Youshu bought the candied hawthorns, and under the guidance of the young man, he found the tearoom. Before he opened the door to enter, he heard a very familiar voice. He was ecstatic and rushed into the room. However, just when he heard the last sentence, he was like showering with a basin of cold water, causing his heart and blood to freeze. Even after more than six hundred years, his master’s hatred towards the ghosts remained the same.
No, after all, something had changed. He was a few years younger. His elegant and handsome face was stained with wickedness and violence. And the originally warm and clear eyes were like a cold pool with no bottom. There was no trace of warmth. He looked at that man as if he was looking at a stranger who had been living a plain life. It was the same face, but their souls were different. He was his master, but not.
The Ninth Highness was indeed the reincarnation of his king. Youshu was already convinced of that. Opening his mouth, he called foolishly, “Master,” and then the late-coming sadness came surging at once. The grievance of being abandoned and exiled, rushed to his heart, but he desperately held back his tears that was waiting to fall. Even after six hundred years, his promise to the master remained unchanged. He would carefully maintain a distance from him and never let his special ability became a hidden danger and trouble for him.
Since they did not know each other, what was the point of greeting? Youshu felt that being strangers was good enough, so he just look at the prince from afar.
When Youshu was still in a daze, everyone in the room was attracted to the sound of the door getting banged open. Turning their heads and looking back, they were stunned. They never expected that the infamous person of Lin’An Mansion, who learned no skills, would look like that! His pinkish cheeks, slightly chubby figure, round face, round eyes, round little mouth, and even his earlobes on both sides were round. He really did look cute and was as pale as snow! With that look, it made him look obedient, which made people’s hearts nearly melted. No matter how tacky he was dressed, everyone could not speak a word of harshness.
Among them, the ninth prince was the one who lost most of his control. The teacup in his hand had been overturned. Hot tea poured along the edge of the table and flowed onto his thighs and legs, yet he was not back to his senses.
As soon as the young man entered, he drew all his attention away and focused on him. To be honest, his looks were not peerless, but his temperament was exceptionally unique, even the exaggeratedly elegant clothes could not suppress the ethereal feeling. He was like a cloud an ice crystal, or a drop of nectar, quietly digging into one’s heart, and if someone wanted to explore and feel the sweetness, it would disappear.
The ninth prince was both flustered and joyful, yet he was unsure where that flustered joy came from. He could not think at all, and subconsciously replied, “Master? Who’s your master?” If the young man really intended to please himself like Zhao Yusong said, then he would play the act till the end. If Youshu called him master, he would immediately respond. From then on, he even planned to let him accompany him every day. Very good, very good!
The prince was excited, but he did not know why as he just followed his heart. He needed to be Youshu. Indeed,in the whole world, he was the only one who deserved to be named “Youshu”. The rest are fakes! All damn fakes!
However, when he was nervous, he forgot to ease the tone of his voice, so the question he asked had slight disgust. Not only did Zhao Yusong and others misunderstand him, even Youshu’s face turned pale, and his eyes were almost in tears. That scene was like a replay from Youshu’s previous life. If the master urged him to leave in person, it was probably in that tone. He did not want to be his master anymore, whether it was in his previous life or in this life.
Youshu restrained his aching heart and said unequivocally, “Sorry, commoner has overstepped the rules. I beg for the royal Ninth Highness’s forgiveness, and will kowtow for your greatness.” The words fell in a satisfactory manner and gave a kowtow.
The Ninth Highness felt a clump of depress stuck in his throat, and almost suffocated to death. His face turned red for a moment till he finally waved his hand and spoke, “Please get up. Sit.” He actually referred to the empty seat beside him.
Because of his strong aura, even the two companions dared not get too close to him. As time passed, his left and right positions were empty, and no one was allowed to occupy the seats beside him. However, he took the initiative to invite Youshu that day, so such an unusual behaviour immediately attracted everyone’s attention. However, Youshu did not want actually to dangle under his eyelids. If it had not been for his parents to entrust him the task, he would have wish to go home, so he struggled and hesitated, and had not seated himself for a long time.
The Ninth Highness’s fingers could not seat still and he wanted to pull the young man to his side, but the attendant standing at his behind at his right suddenly urged, “Oh no, my lord, you are scalded by the tea!” The man behind him personally served that cup of tea. He naturally knew how hot it was, and immediately panicked.
If the Ninth Highness lost a strand of hair, Emperor Zhongkang would be furious and would hold all crimes accountable, not to mention burning his skin. A group of people hurriedly gathered around to check, but Youshu backed away instead. He was neither unconcerned, nor unbothered, because if he did, so what? He clearly heard the conversation between the master and the others before he entered. His current self was just a villain who clung to the wealthy people, which was more unbearable than in his previous life.
Therefore, he just kept the good memories in his heart and not making troubles in vain. Moreover, he was the only one who remembered that beauty. If he said it, it would be his one-sided wishful thinking, which seemed contemptuous to others instead. Youshu silently walked out of the room, and licked the candied hawthorns occasionally, looking far away.
When the young man walked out of his sight, the Ninth Highness felt an unprecedented anxiety. If he had a sword at his waist, he would have slashed all those who stood in his way.
“Out of the way!” He kicked the attendant who wanted to roll up his trousers, pushed Zhao Yusong and others out of his sight, and hurriedly followed out of the room. He happened to meet the young man, who was licking his candied hawthorn, staring with big and round eyes. The prince saw his flustered self from those eyes. In a panic, he quickly adjusted his state and he returned to of he was— handsome, unruly, and a flawless royal, in the blink of an eye
“You haven’t left yet?” He stopped abruptly and asked in a slightly-muted voice, his heartbeat slowly returning to normal.
Youshu nodded and looked down to see his clothes drenched in tea. He tried to conceal I, but he could not help but showed traces of concern.
The anxious Ninth Highness suddenly felt as if he drank a *slurry made of beautiful jade (*T/N: Drank by ancient legends for immortality). He grasped a mouth-full of sweet and greasy taste, could not help but lick his lips, and slowly laughed. That smile was extremely short, and when his attendant came, he became unpredictable and gloomy again.
“Royal Highness, we must go back to the palace and show your bruises to the imperial medic immediately. If the heat causes blisters, it will be troublesome!” The attendant was already crying anxiously as he knelt down for his master while speaking.
“No big deal.” The Ninth Highness patted his clothes indifferently.
“Then, please roll up your trousers and let your attendants take a look.” Zhao Yusong spoke very cautiously, and Xue Wangjing also followed suit.
Youshu was squeezed away by the crowd and had to retreat to the top of the stairs. He thought for a while, and felt that he could not complete the task assigned by his parents. The master’s life was very fruitful in the current era. There was no lack of servants around him, and there were no lack of flattering people. The fact that he had Yin and Yang eyes, had spread around the Capital from Lin’ An Mansion, so it would inevitably become his taboo.
Forget it. Youshu figured that he should explain clearly to his parents, and they might be considerate about it. If he could not go to Yangzhou, he could also go to Suzhou, as well as Shuzhou or Guizhou. It was a little far and risky, but the food was also delicious.
Thinking of that, Youshu went downstairs while holding the candied hawthorns. As soon as he walked halfway, he heard someone crying out of the back, “Zhao Youshu, did I, a royal prince, allow you to leave? What kind of courtesy does your family have, leaving without goodbyes?”
The Ninth Highness did not want to be so harsh on the young man, but if he did not do that, how could he keep him? If he was really as flattering as Zhao Yusong described him to be, he could not wait for him to climb up onto his head, wishing him to bring himself back to the palace, then that would be great! But he was not. His eyes were clear and translucent, and he was not arrogant or ignorant. On the contrary, he was very timid. He almost shed tears when he asked a word. His appearance was extremely pitiful, which made the prince more distressed.
He was like a ceramic doll. He was taught to hold it with both hands, but the “grease” of the doll made it slipped off and fell to the ground, broken. The Ninth Highness saw him for the first time that day, but he felt like he had known him for hundreds of years. He was so familiar with his smiles and every move, so familiar that he could paint every strand of his hair with his eyes closed.
The ninth prince was born with everything he demanded. For the first time, he realized what it meant to be unable to hold, ask for, and not get tired of. Yet, he dared not touch.
He wanted Youshu, but he did not know how to get him. Noticing that he wanted to leave, only a strict, low voice could call him back. Youshu was shy, and might be frightened easily, but he could not care more. When the two gradually get acquainted, and slowly knew each other, he would treat him well and let him understand that he was also a very affectionate person. If he wanted, he could give him without hesitation.
That feeling came with great strength when he was unprepared. However, it miraculously did not make the Ninth Highness felt tangled pain or any need for further hesitation. He knew from an early age that he had to fight for what he wanted. Otherwise, he could only dream.
If he hesitated too much and let Youshu be his empty dream, he would not even dare to think about the terrible consequences.
Youshu stood really still, frowned and looked back, “Then I will bid goodbye to your highness now, can I?”
“No.” The Ninth Highness tried to calm down the anxiety in his heart, and beckoned, “Come here, help me to a clinic to check my injuries.”
“Isn’t royal highness going back to the palace to see an imperial medic?” Youshu asked in a low voice. How could a clinic on the street be compared to the imperial hospital? Furthermore, his master had a prominent position in this life, and no one dared to offend him, so it was natural that no one would secretly act against him.
The two kept asking and answering questions, as if they were familiar with each other. Although the ninth prince seemed overbearing, but in fact there was a faint intimacy and gentleness by the look of his eyebrows. That was extremely rare to be seen in his life. The few people who are not very familiar with him have not yet noticed, but the attendants, Zhao Yusong, and Xue Wangjing had photographed stormy waves coming, one after another.
Was this right? Xia Qichao must be the first to gain the prince’s favour! Xue Wangjing was full of emotion, but Zhao Yusong was mad with hatred. No one knew better than him the benefits of clinging to the Ninth Highness. He could lift one up to the sky by raising his hand at will, but he could knock one down into the abyss with his fingers alone.
It was the relationship between Zhao Yusong and the ninth prince that made Zhao’s second room gradually gained a foothold in the Capital and flourished. No, I cannot let this happen!
When Zhao Yusong was in his thought, Youshu had no choice but to support the ninth prince and walk downstairs step by step. The ninth prince, who was still walking fast, now looked like a handicapped with a broken leg, relying on the boy’s shoulder, making a painful expression. Youshu was shorter than the prince by a head, so he got all sweaty by the time he carried the prince to the hospital. However, he still held the bunch of candied hawthorns in his left hand, reluctant to let them go.
The ninth prince secretly found that funny, but kept that in his mind. He planned to let the imperial chef research the candied hawthorns after returning home, and ask them to try remaking the snack with all kinds of fruit and various syrups, so as to bring them out and tease the greedy boy.
Youshu hastily licked off the melting maltose, not knowing that someone was staring at the tip of his pinkish tongue, with fire in his eyess.