Some of you commented just how much He Heng didn’t care about his concubines. We get some slight into him this chapter. I like Qu Qing Ju’s philosophy of dealing with men. It’s humorous regardless of if it’s true or not.
Chapter 21 A Coquettish Smile
When Qu Qing Ju walked out of the study, it was more than an hour later. She adjusted the slightly askew hairpins and narrowed her eyes to smile at the western sunset at the doorway. When she turned back, she saw the shadow of He Heng standing straight by the desk.
A person in the dark, a person in the light. They always will find the other exceptionally dazzling. When He Heng raised his head, it just happened that he saw the smile and his eyes were blinded. Unexpectedly, feelings of amazement rose. He seemed to understand “a beauty melt’s one’s heart with her coquettish smile.”
“Wang fei,” Yu Zan came forward and wrapped a thin cloak around Qu Qing Ju. She bent to tighten the cloak. “It’s cold outside, wang fei has to take care of her body.”
Slightly raising her chin to let Yu Zan finish adjusting, Qu Qing Ju laughed: “You yahuan, are you all really thinking of me as a porcelain doll?”
“Wang fei has been ill recently. Nubi and the others were very worried. Even though all is well, there’s still a need to be careful.” Yu Zan tied off the cloak and smiled as she bent in a bow. She moved to Qu Qing Ju’s side and supported her hand.
Qu Qing Ju shook her head in amusement and stepped onto the stone stairs, “I remember I have an unfinished pouch to embroider, let’s return.”
Ming He watched as wang fei left with a herd of yahuan. He bowed along with the other servants, calling: “Wang fei take care.”
Qu Qing Ju stopped in her steps to turn and nod at him before continuing forward.
Just this little action, it suddenly decreased the distance between Ming He and wang fei. The status embodied by wang fei. For her to nod at him, that was a great honor. He turned to look inside the study, walking to the door way and inquired: “Wang ye, The Department of Household Affairs delivered some lamb from the Northern borders. Master can have a bit of a taste.”
“Get somebody to prepare meats and vegetables and deliver it to zhengyuan. Ben wang and wang fei will eat hotpot together,” He Heng walked to the door. He looked at Ming He before adding, “A while earlier, didn’t one of the Eastern Commandery official present some roe deer and other game meat, get them to prepare it carefully. Wang fei mentioned a few days ago she wanted to eat hotpot. With the weather now, it’s a good time to do so.”
“Nucai will go order it immediately,” Ming He bowed and retreated. He sped up as he left the yard. On his way, he had to tell this to zhengyuan so wang fei wouldn’t be surprised.
To eat hotpot inside in the winter was a very satisfying experience. Even more so when the food were very fresh and there was no need to worry about pesticides or loss of texture from freezing it.
Picking up an authentic wild mushroom and putting it in the bowl, she dipped it into the prepared top-notch seasoning. One bite, rich and spicy, it was unspeakably enjoyable.
Qu Qing Ju didn’t like lamb, but the preparation of the lamb meat this time was very good. She could only taste the smooth and fine texture of the lamb and there was no rank odor. The mountain chicken was tender, the shrimp succulent, and the deer and game meat that was rarely eaten in her previous life, Qu Qing Ju couldn’t resist but eating those too.
He Heng stared with shock at the disappearance of dish after dish of food. This was the first time he saw a woman who had this hearty of an appetite. He thought he had seen many different kinds of women, but seeing Qu Qing Ju’s chopsticks wielded with such precision, speed and strength. This kind of woman, he had never encountered before.
At the end, Qu Qing Ju swiped the mushroom on her chopsticks before swallowing and setting them down. She rinsed her hands and mouth before exclaiming: “It’s been so long since I’ve eaten so freely, has qie scared wang ye?”
He Heng had been wiping his hands. Upon hearing this, he said: “Seeing wang fei’s appetite is this good, ben wang has nothing to worry about. Since you like hotpot, in the future, the kitchen should make it frequently.”
“For qie, hotpot isn’t delicious if often eaten, but if it had been a long time, the desire will rise. The past few days, my body hadn’t fully recovered so I didn’t dare eat this type of food. But now, my desire has been fulfilled.” Taken a handkerchief from Yu Zan to wipe her hands, Qu Qing Ju stood and asked He Heng, “Is wang ye willing to accompany qiei for a walk?”
“After each this much, it necessitates a walk,” He Heng stood and extended a hand to Qu Qing Ju, “Qing Ju, come with me.”
Qu Qing Ju smiled as she gave her hand to the other. The other’s warm palm fit perfectly around her hand. She moved slightly to let their fingers intertwine. She smiled at He Heng and remarked, “Some say, ten fingers intertwined, will live together until the hairs turn white.”
He Heng smiled warmly and his hand tightened around hers. The two held hands as they walked out of zhen yuan, a long procession loudly following behind and lit up the road in the night.
Qu Qing Ju looked regretfully at the dark sky: “Summer nights are much better to look at. Even if there is no moon, there are still stars.” He assumed she was a naïve young girl, then let’s have some literature, discuss some moon and stars, chat about some poems and songs.
“Today is the second of the month, naturally there would be no moon. But a winter moon is also very beautiful,” He Heng imitated Qu Qing Ju’s motion and lifted his head. He then turned to Qu QingJu and stated, “But it is cold on winter nights so many have overlooked it.”
Qu Qing Ju’s eyebrows moved slightly but she was full of smiles when she looked at He Heng: “Many people like bright and colourful things, like the summer’s moon and stars, the spring’s flowers, and the winter’s plum blossoms. Qie isn’t different from them and prefers the things that everybody admires.”
He Heng saw the smile on Qu Qing Ju’s lips, his heart jerking slightly and he immediately moved his gaze aside. He found that his throat was a bit itchy. He tugged the person with him to walk forwards. On the stone path, light steps sounded.
“The world is full of common people, I also cannot be excused from being one of them.” He tilted his head to smile at Qu Qing Ju. The smile was gentle and skilled. It was unspeakably good-looking.
Someone once said that when a man and a woman held hands and walked together; if the man always walked quickly in front, that meant that this man didn’t know what was love. Qu Qing Ju looked at the man who had been walking alongside her and thought inside, but even when a man was forever watching the steps of a woman, it didn’t mean he loved this woman. It could also mean this man was a womanizer and understood how a woman thought.
The two walked for almost an hour and when they were preparing to return, they encountered in their way Feng Zi Jin wearing a pale cloak.
Feng Zi Jin looked at the clasped hands and pursed her lips. She bowed and greeted: “Nu greets wang ye, wang fei.”
“It’s this late, why aren’t you resting inside?” After He Heng finished speaking, he turned and took a cloak from Mu Jin’s hands to wrap around Qu Qing Ju for her.
Qu Qing Ju took the change to scan Feng Zi Jin. The other held a palace lamp imprinted with the Lady in the Moon. Behind her, there were two little yahuan, each carrying two little baskets.
“Wang ye, the winter nights are long and nu retires late so an idea came to walk in the garden,” Feng Zi Jin lowered her face, “I didn’t think to encounter wang ye and wang fei.”
Fingers carefully manicured to a clean and round edge quickly tied the cloak. He Heng looked at the two little yahuan behind Feng Zi Jin. He saw the paper boats and candles in the basket and faintly opened: “Since the winter nights are cold, then stay in the rooms. It’s almost the year end, getting sick would be unfortunate.”
“Nu thanks wang ye for his concern,” Feng Zi Jin smiled widely, “But thinking back to when with wang ye, we floated paper boats, since it is a sleepless night, I thought to float some in the lotus pond. Nu is wearing sturdy clothing and it will only take a short while.”
This was having managed to find out that she and He Heng was strolling in the garden and specially coming with tools to reminiscence about the past with He Heng? Qu Qing Ju curled her lips in a smile, “This boats are very well crafted. But after a night in the water, they wouldn’t look pretty tomorrow morning. My suggestion, wang ye, you might as well get somebody to make Feng ce fei a gold boat. No matter what happens, that wouldn’t be damaged.”
“It’s just a plaything, you take it so seriously,” He Heng looked at the servants carrying palace lamps. This many people with lanterns, this Feng shi was still able to encounter them, that wasn’t easy. When he teased a woman, it was his hobby. But he didn’t want to see a woman take something from the past to try to curry favor. This Feng shi was starting to act out of her bounds.
“I think I’ve digested most of it. Let’s return, the mists will be coming soon,” He Heng held Qu Qing Ju’s hand again, and looked at Feng Zi Jin who at retreated to one side before he left without a hint of hesitation.
Feng Zi Jin stared in disbelief at the back of He Heng and Qu Qing Ju. She didn’t believe that wang ye would just leave. Was it that what she had done wasn’t enough to stir up his memories of the past?
At that moment, she saw Qu Qing Ju turn her head, a faint smile appearing on her face. She suddenly started, a strange cold creeping up her back.
The biggest difference between men and women was that men were always best at forgetting the good of women and women was best at remembering the good of men. So when a woman interacted with a man, it couldn’t always be good. If she was too good to him, he would take it for granted and forget the effort that the woman put in. To let a man remember you all the time, the first thing to do is to put yourself first all the time. If you forgot yourself, how could somebody else remember you?
A few days later, Qu Qing Ju received a gift. It was an Ashtamangala glass lamp. When this lamp was lit at night, it was possible to see light similar to the moon and stars fall into the corners of the room. It was breathtaking.
Hearing the exclamations of the servants around her, Qu Qing Ju smiled faintly at that Ashtamangala glass lamp hanging on its pearl-encrusted gold stand. The joy revealed through her brows was perfectly measured.
Blinking her eyes, Qu Qing Ju pointed in a direction: “Place the lamp there.”
The servants carefully set the lamp in its place but the amazement in their eyes hadn’t faded.
“Wang fei, that place is good, but there’s always people walking by all the time. It wouldn’t end well if there was an accident,” Mu Jin interjected hesitantly, “How about our storage. When wang fei wants to see it, nubi will take it out.”
“Isn’t the purpose of a lamp to be used?” Qu Qing Ju smiled as she watched the floating dots of light, “I very much like this lamp. It would be a pity for it not to be here to gaze at.”
“Nubi understands,” Mu Jin didn’t continue and docilely stood being Qu Qing Ju. Her attitude was respectful yet didn’t emanate flattery.
The story of how wang ye gave wang fei a valuable Ashmangala glass lamp quickly spread through the entire wang fu. The servants who had saw the lamp, when they spoke of it, it was as though it was their own. Their eyes danced and they rehashed with great pleasure.
Feng Zi Jin smashed many things in her own rooms. She wanted to burst into the zhengyuan and smash that lamp. Qu Qing Ju that whore. It was just a lamp. Did she have to let the servants spread it to the entire fu, as though it was that marvellous.
After smashing another piece of porcelain, Feng Zi Jin panted as she looked at the yahuan by the door and snarled: “What is it?!”
The little yahuan shrunk into herself before carefully announcing: “Mistress, wang fei has invited you to zhenyuan.”
Feng Zi Jin’s face darkened. She then wiped at the loose strands of hair by the face, “Send someone in to serve me.”
She just wanted to go see what ploy that whore had cooked up again!
 美人一笑百媚生: the phrase is actually a variation on 回眸一笑百媚生 which is part of the lyrics of the Song of Everlasting Regret (or Sorrow). The particular lyrics are at the beginning of the song describing the beauty of the Imperial Noble Consort Yang Yu Huan of the Tang Dynasty who met a tragic end as the Emperor was forced to kill her. The entire line is 回眸一笑百媚生,六宫粉黛无颜色 which, loosely translated, meant “when she gave a coquettish smile, the six palaces paled in comparison”. The six palaces referred to the Emperor’s group of concubines.