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I hid my face.
A light laugh drifted over, and a hand appeared before me as a shadow fell across my form. I jerked and wanted to run, but there was no way out.
“What are you hiding for…?” Nongyu’s elbow was propped up against the door behind me, dashingly posing as he spoke softly. “Carry over the pills to me.”
…who does he think he’s ordering around?
My eyes darted around the room.
“What are you goggling at? There’s just the two of us here, and this medicine has to be secretly delivered to the noble consort. Don’t tell me you expect me to do it personally?”
I thought he’d seen through me.
So it looked like he just wanted me to deliver some pills.
Say it earlier so I won’t get nervous for nothing!
I turned sideways, bending down to duck beneath his arms and respectfully pour the pills into a bowl. It was easier to work while kneeling on the ground, and I held the medicine with both hands as I walked towards him. He didn’t say a word, but opened the doors to lead the way.
Sunlight splashed against him, illuminating the tall and graceful form. He half-turned his head to look at me out of the corner of his eye, and it looked as if he was smiling.
Maybe I’m overthinking, but he kept reminding me of a no-good weasel.
He selected a different covered corridor with exquisite, complicated turns. Water lapped at us from both sides, and lotuses grew in their depths.
No wonder this was the imperial palace…everywhere looked like something out of a beautiful painting. And no wonder Fang Hua would agree to come, when the flowers here outnumbered the ones outside by multiples. Even if he ate as much as he wanted, he’d still have enough meals to last him seven lifetimes.
“Why haven’t I seen you before? Are you new?” he turned his body towards me with a slow grin.
The imperial physician Nongyu took liberties with ladies of respectable families in the outside world…would he really pay attention to every single servant girl?
But my hands were figuratively tied, so I bowed.
“Yes, sire. This one was brought in a few days ago. Gong gong said that the imperial physicians needed more hands.”
He nodded, casually shaking out his robes as he casually asked, “How many people are in your family?”
“My mother, my younger brother, and an elder over 80 years old,” I recited back.
In any case…in any case, it was all true.
He raised his eyebrows with a veiled smile, intently focused on me as if he was considering something. It made a person…apprehensive.
A patrol group passed by us, and he took a deep breath. After the armed guards were out of sight, he grabbed my hand. My eyes widened, and I caught a glance of his own smiling ones as he led me around a corner. Immediately afterwards, my body was pressed against a cool stone wall.
“You still like to tell such blatant lies…” his body pressed forwards, and he muttered in a low tone. “Younger Sister Shào…”
You stupid pill-purchasing physician, you knewwho I was but pretended not to! I was forced to be the idiot who played along…nnngh…
With an earnest look, he covered my mouth with his hand and murmured, “Don’t make sudden noises and I’ll let you go. Otherwise, if you attract the attention of the guards, I won’t protect you.”
I narrowed my eyes, nodding repeatedly. He smiled but didn’t release me.
In fact, he got even closer, fully giving me the force of his tender gaze, eyelashes quivering as his breaths tickled my face. While it itched, the feeling also made me sweat a little nervously. He slowly lowered his head and stroked my cheek with one finger.
“So obedient…” the rest of his oily words dissolved with a sigh into the air.
My eyes grew wider than ever, and it felt like I was suffocating. All I could see was his handsome-looking face and those eyes curving into a smile. My heartbeats pounded like a drum, as if it was trying to jump out of my throat.
His face drew closer to mine before he pressed his lips against his hand there, leaving a mark. My body stiffened, and I flushed, at a loss for what to do.
This was an alcove along the corridor, and there was no place for me to hide. Thick walls encircled me on both sides with the pond just beyond. The budding lotuses floated on the water, right by our forms…
Their delicate fragrance assailed the nose and hovered in the air about us. It was a very romantic scene.
Only I didn’t feel this way at all. Not to mention, the other person was the wrong guy.
My teeth flashed.
“Alas…you actually bit me.” he hastily withdrew his hand to examine it carefully. Still, he had a smile when he looked at me again. “You should know there’s a lot of women in the world who adore me–Nongyu.”
I held back, my face very red, and took a deep breath.
“Like I care about that! If you get fresh with me again…” I fumbled about before pulling out a packet of powder. “Be careful my poison doesn’t leave you an eternal bachelor!”
He completely ignored the powder to focus on my chest instead, amused. “You hid so much stuff in there, but you’re still kind of flat…that’s rather worrying.”
The sagely Nongyu I remembered first meeting, was this really the same person…?
The bantering tone hadn’t changed, but he seemed to have grown fonder of teasing others. I really wanted to shut him up, but…
Personal preferences aside, there was something important I didn’t understand.
“How did you guess it was me…did my disguise fail so hard?” I touched my face, uncertain. The layers of the mask were still there, so I shouldn’t have been easily exposed.
“Do you want to know? It’s actually very simple.” He smiled lightly, bending down. Those refined eyebrows were long and slender, giving him a relaxed and cheerful expression. “I’m a face-changing expert.”
A guy like him…
I was too late to hide the expression of ridicule on my face.
Nongyu took back his unrestrained, frivolous manners, and said seriously, “Come with me.” So saying, he grabbed my hand and pulled me along.
“But this medicine…” I pointed at the package on the ground.
“There’ll be someone to take it away, don’t bother.”
He actually rolled his eyes at me, t-t-this…I’m so mad! I could actually throw up.
I don’t know how many turns we made before we reached a house. Nongyu shut the door behind us as we entered.
“What’s the point of shutting the door up so tightly?”
“Of course…it’s so…” His leisurely voice followed the slow lift of his head, while I stood there in the breeze, puzzled. The corners of his eyes rose, and his face had the smug look of someone used to taking liberties. “We can work together to deceive everyone else.”
I gave him a blank look, completely ill at ease. Plopping onto a chair, I found a bronze mirror to examine my fake face.
There was nothing enticing about this face at all…
Looks like Nongyu was an exceptional case, not even letting a vile old skinbag like this go. Truthfully speaking, I felt sorry for the old emperor.
He was sick enough to be confined to bed, away from all the beautiful sights of the inner court. Meanwhile this imperial physician could wander about the place as he’d liked. Even if he stirred up a big fuss, he could abort the situation quite easily, leaving no one the wiser.
“What are you whispering about in the corner?” His hand rested against the table as he leaned down, index finger picking at my face. The neatly trimmed nail brushed past my skin as his mouth creased into a smile. “Younger Sister Shào…”
“What are you babbling about, trying to call back the dead?” I beat him off.
“Your poison skills are superior to mine, and your medical skills might reach my level before long but…it looks like your face-changing skills aren’t much after all.”
He was looking down on me.
My rebuttal faded as I saw my reflection in the mirror. I looked back and forth a few times, before falling into silence.
“Yifu never taught me how to change my appearance.”
He smiled, and dug off a piece of skin from my face to take an experimental sniff. “This is the first time I, Nongyu, have seen anyone use poisonous powders to change their looks…Younger Sister Shào, you have some guts.”
“I was raised by Fang Hua. Do you think I fear poisons?”
“That makes sense,” he turned and took out a light green bottle from a side drawer. Pulling out the stopper, he gave a sniff before pouring some of its contents into his palm, eyes laughing. “Come and tilt your face towards me, be good.”
“Haven’t I been facing you the entire time…hmph…”
A fragrant aroma drifted from his palm, and some sort of liquidy, oily plaster was applied to my face. It felt like he was smearing paint over a wall… The strong force he was using gradually lessened as he asked, “Hn? Comfortable?”
“It’s all right.”
He smiled again.
I caught the hand that wanted to drift down to my neck and collar, and spoke tightly, “You haven’t done the bottom half of my face yet.”
“Excuse my lack of manners,” he lightly searched my face, as if looking for something. Then he made a polite gesturing motion to the side. “There’s water over there to wash off your face. You’ll be recognized sooner or later by the crown prince and your yifu like this.”
“First I get smeared with weird stuff, then I have to wash my face. What exactly are you playing at?”
“It’s very simple,” He took up his sleeves and spoke in a leisurely tone. “I’m going to make you another face.”
 noble consort (??) ?guifei, depends on dynasty, but this is one of the highest (if not the highest) level of imperial concubines. Of course, the one on top is the empress.  romantic scene (????) ?feng hua xue yue, or “wind, flowers, snow, moon”, term originally used for certain types of works, and later referring to sentimental writings in general. Think along the lines of…cliché shoujo scenes or similar.  eternal bachelor (????) ?wuqi wuer, “without a wife, without a son,” I took a bit of creative liberties here, hehe.
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