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郡王 junwang: second-rank prince; also referred to as junwang ye, i.e. "His [Your] Royal Highness" 府 fu: compound or estate; (jun)wang fu: prince's estate/compound [1]妹夫 meifu: younger sister's husband 郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang [2]本王 ben wang: literally "this wang/prince"; illeism for princes

Chapter Twenty-Five: Closeness

When Hua He Sheng came with his sons to the guest hall, Xian Junwang was already sitting in the guest seat and savoring a hot cup of tea. Seeing them come in, he politely put down the teacup and even stood up.

"Xian Junwang." Hua He Sheng smiled and raised his folded hands in greeting. "Please take the top seat."

"Mount Tai is too polite." Yan Jin Qiu gave the bow of a junior to Hua He Sheng and then one of equals to Hua He Sheng's two sons. "Today, I have come for no other matter—I just heard that Second Brother-In-Law is preparing to attend the Fall Examination, so I had someone find the past exams of the Fall Examination. Even though there is no great use, it can let Second Brother practice and familiarize himself with the question type of the Fall Examination."

When he finished saying this, the two attendants standing silently behind him came forward and presented a wooden box each. After the servants of the marquis fu took them, they silently retreated to the side.

"Virtuous Son-in-law, thanks." Hua He Sheng had a smile on his face as he ushered for Yan Jin Qiu to sit down again on the guest seat. He had the servant switch another cup of tea for Yan Jin Qiu. "This untalented son of mine is just going to see his luck at the Fall Examination this year. Whether or not he will rank depends on the heavens, but it has troubled Virtuous Son-in-Law for your efforts."

妹夫 meifu: younger sister's husband

Hua Ding Chen did not show any dissatisfaction at being disdained so by Hua He Sheng and had a humble expression. He chuckled and raised his hands at Yan Jin Qiu. "Many thanks, Meifu,[1] for planning so well for me. I had been thinking a few days ago how wonderful it would be to have past questions to solve. Who knew that I would encounter Meifu sending coal in the snow. I really am grateful." Finishing, he was going to bow to Yan Jin Qiu, but Yan Jin Qiu held him up.

"Second Brother-in-Law does not have to be so polite. You and I are brothers—we do not need to speak of gratefulness." Yan Jin Qiu patted Hua Ding Chen's shoulder and said to Hua He Sheng, "I have come this time primarily for Xi Wan. Tomorrow is Daughter's Day, the sixth day of the sixth month. Xi Wan is having a hard time in the summer; Mount Tai, please prepare more ice."

Hua He Sheng was a smart person and instantly heard that Yan Jin Qiu was implying that they could have Hua Xi Wan back to the marquis fu tomorrow to pass Daughter's Day. The other would also respect the marquis fu's course of action.

"My daughter is not good in personality. If she is not sufficient in some area, Virtuous Son-in-Law, please have tolerance." Hua He Sheng's voice instantly became closer. "It is our fault for spoiling her these years."

"Xi Wan is very good. After she took over Junwang Fu, she has organized the fu well," Yan Jin Qiu said in a sincere tone. "It is my good fortune to have married her."

After he said this, even Hua Chang Bao and Hua Ding Chen looked at him with more warmth in their eyes.

When Yan Jin Qiu came out of the gates of the marquis fu, it was Hua Chang Bao and Hua Ding Chen who sent him out the door. They were much closer in their conversation and actions.

After the two brothers sent off Xian Junwang and returned to the guest hall, Hua He Sheng was looking at the examination questions that Xian Junwang had delivered. He asked with a deep expression, "What do you two feel about Xian Junwang as a person?"

Hua Chang Bao lowered his eyes and did not speak. Hua Ding Chen said after some thought, "Xian Junwang is just as the rumors say, a clean and handsome person."

"Other than this?" Hua He Sheng looked at the exam questions in his hand. These questions had been carefully sorted into types, and there were even notes on the patterns of recent questions.

He had been fortunate to see Xian Junwang's writing before. It was the exact same as the writing on these papers.

"He is humble in action and can be called a gentleman." Hua Ding Chen thought carefully and added, "He is also a very smart person."

"He really is a smart person." Hua He Sheng closed the wooden box in his hand and pushed the box in Hua Ding Chen's direction. "This is very useful. You can spend some more time on this and study them."

Hua Ding Chen looked at his father and elder brother before taking the two heavy boxes and leaving the yard with a smile.

"It is good that Ding Chen has this kind of personality." Hua He Sheng stood next to the window and watched as his youngest son left the yard. "His heart and mind are clear—this is good for scholarly pursuits."

Hearing this, Hua Chang Bao said, "Father, Xian Junwang has a very deep mind. I am worried that in the wang fu, Xi Wan will in the future…"

"What is there to be worried about?" Hua He Sheng smiled faintly as he held a teacup. "Your sister's mind and scheming are above both of you brothers. If she was a male, the heir to the marquis fu would not be you."

Hua Chang Bao said with a stiff face, "Father, you should add a condition. Like if Xi Wan was not so lazy."

Hua He Sheng was silent for a long while before he asked in response, "Why can you not learn from your brother and be more innocent at this time?"

"The next time when it is like this, I will remember to learn from my younger brother," Hua Chang Bao answered without any sincerity.

Hua He Sheng took a tasteless sip of tea. Why did he have three children but all of them were so different in personality? As the father, he was under great pressure.

"Junwang Fei, Junwang Ye has come back." Lu Zhu hurried into the main room. Seeing Hua Xi Wan on the chaise listening to the female teacher speak, she stopped her steps. "Junwang Fei?"

"En?" Hua Xi Wan lazily raised her head to look at her. "If Junwang Ye wants to see me upon his return, he will naturally come. Why are you in such a hurry?"

Lu Zhu stood awkwardly. Seeing Bai Xia and Zi Shan look at her, she said, "This servant is just worried that when Junwang Ye comes back, he will become displeased when he sees your attire is not neat."

Hua Xi Wan waved her hand and indicated for her to retreat. "All right, I know."

Lu Zhu saw Junwang Fei lean against the chaise barefoot, completely unaffected by what she had said, and retreated to the side resentfully.

Bai Xia's brow creased slightly, and she couldn't help but glance at Lu Zhu. Because Miss was present, she did not open up and scold.

"In this instant, a large great hound shot out of the forest and frightened Miss Liu and her servant girl…" The female storyteller had reached the climax when she suddenly heard footsteps outside the yard. She guessed that it was Xian Junwang arriving and stopped to retreat to the side.

Just as she stood in the corner, she saw a man in brocade walk in. His hair was in a jade coronet, a lucky cloud jade pendant hung at his waist, his feet were in palace boots, and he seemed extremely outstanding and elegant. She sighed inside. No wonder so many of the personages sighed and praised Xian Junwang. Not saying anything of his talents and status, just this face was enough to enchant many females.

"Just now, I went to Mount Tai's fu. Tomorrow, Elder Brother-in-Law will come and take you to the marquis fu to stay for the day. If you have something you need to take, remember to have the servants pack it." Yan Jin Qiu spoke as he went to clasp Hua Xi Wan's hand. He felt that the center of her hand was sweaty and asked with a creased brow, "Is there not enough ice out—why are you sweating so much?"

Hua Xi Wan purposefully wiped the sweat on her hand at his chest and said, "The majority of ice in the fu is in my room. I just had a bowl of cooling soup, so I have sweated a bit. I had Lu Zhu keep a bowl for you. Do you want a taste?"

Nodding, Yan Jin Qiu did not object to Hua Xi Wan wiping her sweat on him. He took the round fan on the chaise to fan her. He looked around the room and found the female storyteller in the corner. "What story are you listening to?"

"A hero rescuing a beauty." Hua Xi Wan blinked her eyes. "The beauty was being chased by an evil hound, and at the end, she was rescued by a poor student. The beauty was grateful to the student and married him."

Yan Jin Qiu paused in his fanning and then said in a calm tone, "How many noble ladies and poor scholars have good endings when they get together? This is just a story."

Hua Xi Wan smiled faintly and said, "You are right. Next time, I will have the storyteller tell the story of a beauty rescuing a hero."

Yan Jin Qiu smiled and reached out to pinch her ear when he was interrupted by Lu Zhu who came in with the cooling soup.

"Junwang Ye, please use the cooling soup." A section of pale skin was exposed when Lu Zhu held the bowl up. The wire silver bangle on her wrist was especially good-looking.

本王 ben wang: literally "this wang/prince"; illeism for princes

Yan Jin Qiu silently moved his gaze aside. He raised his head and saw a brightly smiling Hua Xi Wan. He said coolly, "Ben wang[2] is not thirsty. Put it down."

Hearing this, Lu Zhu curtsied, put the bowl down on the table, and retreated to one side.

Hua Xi Wan swept the corner of Lu Zhu's embroidered dress and stood to pick up the bowl of soup on the table. She stirred the soup with a spoon and then said coolly, "This soup has probably been sitting for too long. The flavor is most likely not as good as when it is fresh." Her gaze swept across her other three personal servant girls. "Hong Ying, I remember that the mung bean soup you make is good. Go to the kitchen and make a new bowl." Finishing, she put the bowl lightly back on the table and went back to lying on the chaise. She said, half in complaint and half joking, "My waist hurts from lying down for so long."

Hearing this, Yan Jin Qiu smiled helplessly. He had the female storyteller leave before he reached out and lightly massaged her waist. "On the morning of the day after tomorrow, I will go to the marquis fu to bring you back."

The pressure at her waist was just perfect. Hua Xi Wan closed her eyes in comfort and made a sound of acknowledgment.

Yan Jin Qiu smiled. But when his gaze swept across the cooling soup on the table where the ice had already melted, there was no mirth in his eyes.

On the morning of the sixth day of the sixth month, Hua Chang Bao came early to Xian Junwang Fu. However, only Yan Jin Qiu received him. After the two exchanged courtesies, he hesitatingly asked, "Junwang Ye, my sister…" He had a guess, but he didn't dare to believe that after she had married into the junwang fu, her resting times were the same as when she had not married.

"Xi Wan has not gotten up yet. Please, Brother-in-Law, wait for a few minutes." Yan Jin Qiu smiled apologetically and said, "Has Brother-in-Law eaten yet? If you have not, please use the morning meal before taking Hua Xi Wan back to the marquis fu."

Hua Chang Bao sighed inwardly. He felt that he should be the one apologizing now, and not Yan Jin Qiu. Thinking about this, his expression warmed up. "Many thanks, Junwang Ye. I have already used it."

Hearing this, Yan Jin Qiu nodded. He could only have the servant continue to pour tea for Hua Chang Bao. Inside, he thought, how did Yi'an Marquis Fu raise a cautious son but a lazy daughter?

The difference was too drastic.

After the two sat for about an hour, they finally heard the servant report that Junwang Fei had gotten up.

"It has been hot recently. Xi Wan cannot sleep well during the night, so she is late in getting up in the morning. Please, Brother-in-Law, have tolerance." Yan Jin Qiu sighed inside. Today, Xi Wan had gotten up an hour earlier than usual. As expected, Xi Wan and Yi'an Marquis Fu had deep love.

Hua Chang Bao wanted to say to Yan Jin Qiu, do not explain, I understand it all. But looking at Xian Junwang explaining in all seriousness as though this really was the case, he was unable to speak.

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