Chapter 151: The Lotus Waltz

Gu Qingyu followed the sound and looked behind, a guard was yelling at them.

"Ceremony? What kind of ceremony?" She asked.

"You've already asked me twice, newbie!" The guard huffed. "Listen and remember this time, I won't repeat it anymore. The ceremony that's going to happen soon is to welcome Emperor Ye, and also for him to pick his bride!" Something crumbled into dust inside Gu Qingyu when she heard that.

"Got it, we'll be there right away." Qi Wan pulled her away with a hand on her shoulder.

"Sheesh..." The guard frowned and walked away shaking his head.

 

They found a quiet courtyard. Qi Wan watched Gu Qingyu as she remained almost catatonic, her eyes were glassy and hollow. 

"Boss? Boss. Wake up, we don't have time to zone out like this." He grabbed her shoulders and shook her slightly. "Pull yourself together."

"I can't. It's not going to matter anyway, he's Emperor Ye now and he's about to get married to someone else." 

"He's not getting married. He's just picking a bride. And even then, it's hardly his choice. Xiqian is forcing him to choose a bride from one of their princesses to try to save their own skin." He scoffed, the disdain directed at Xiqian's monarch, before he returned to comforting her. "Hey, maybe Ye Jin didn't get a good look at you, that's why he didn't recognise you. We could go inside, and walk right up to his face. That could work, right?" 

"Yeah..." After a pause, she nodded and squared her shoulders. "We can't just give up like this. Thanks for the pep talk, Qi Wan."

He wrapped her into a warm hug. "Don't worry, I'm still here. If that dumbass really forgot about you, then we'll just leave all of this and never come back." 

"...Okay." She laughed.

 

Suddenly, the sound of hurried footsteps approached them. Qi Wan pulled Gu Qingyu along and they ducked behind a tree.

"Wait, let's practice one more time. I want to run through the steps again." The sound of footsteps grew closer as a lady in a white and turquoise dress stopped her maid and walked into the quiet courtyard. That lady was an elegant beauty, her hair was tied up with a single ribbon. Gu Qingyu almost mistook her for a fairy. 

"Very well, Your Highness." The musician that followed her nodded, she was carrying a stringed instrument on her back. She sat down and began to play as the lady danced beside her, twirling and skipping along to the melody. The lady stopped as the song came to a close. She turned to her musician, "Alright, we should go. The Lotus Waltz is the final item for the ceremony, and it would be the end of Xiqian if Emperor Ye doesn't pick me."

"Don't worry, by how captivating your dance was, I won't be surprised if Your Highness ends up as Empress Ye!" She gushed.

"You're so sweet." The princess glanced at her maid with a shy smile. 

A fit of unnamed anger suddenly burst to life in Gu Qingyu's chest. Just as she was about to jump out from behind the tree, a loud "boom" rang out. In that moment, both the princess and the lady-in-waiting collapsed to the ground. She whipped around in astonishment and watched Qi Wan dusting off his hands as his ribbons retracted into his sleeves. "Jesus, who does she think she is? It took all of my self-control to not knock her out and make her shut up."

Gu Qingyu rolled her eyes. "Hey, we may not know them, but the princess is actually quite beautiful, and she's a great dancer."

Qi Wan snorted disdainfully. "Beautiful? She's nowhere near you. Your performance of that routine would be better than hers anyway." 

"Wait, you mean..."

"Yes, yeah," Qi Wan dragged the two women behind the bushes. "They took forever to finish that dance, and, well, my hand slipped. I hope you've already remembered the steps."

 

"I did, but..."

"Just as I thought. Alright, change and we can attend the ceremony." Qi Wan picked up the instrument and turned away. 

"You've memorised the song?" 

"Yeah, otherwise how could I match up against you-your dance?" Qi Wan said with his back facing her. "Hurry up and get changed. If anyone shows up, I'll have to knock them out too. Or...do you need an extra hand?"

"Get lost." Gu Qingyu rolled her eyes unceremoniously. The weather was still fairly cold, so she just put on the princess' dress as an added layer, pragmatism over beauty after all. She was already quite thin, so it did not make much of a visual difference. She also found a turquoise chiffon veil in one of the sleeves, it was probably used to cover the face so she wore it to prevent anyone from recognising her. After slipping into that dress, she glanced sympathetically at the princess, who was reduced to just her red belly band, and stifled a snigger. She nudged Qi Wan once she was ready. "Let's go."

 

Qi Wan turned around and in an instant, his face turned beet-red. Gu Qingyu stole a glance at the princess lying on the ground and laughed, "Sheesh, you didn't have any qualms with knocking her out. And now you're embarrassed when faced with the consequences?"

"No, Boss, it's not that." Qi Wan rubbed his nose sheepishly. "You're. How could you be so gorgeous?"

"Huh? Gorgeous?"

"Yeah." 

"Come on." Gu Qingyu untied her hair and used the wooden hairpin Ye Jin gave her to pin her hair up instead, but she can't seem to get her hair to wind around the hairpin.

"I'll help." Qi Wan walked up behind her and held out his hand. She stopped trying and passed the hairpin to him as she sat down on a large stone near them. 

Qi Wan smiled as he turned over the hairpin in his hand, admiring the intricate carvings in the wood. "This is really intricately made. Where did you get this?" 

"Somewhere. It is really beautiful." She agreed, but her smile was tinged with slight sadness. 

Qi Wan took out a white ribbon from his sleeve, he tied her hair up first, then used the hairpin to pin it in place. 

"The white ribbon suits you. I made that myself by the way." He said as he tamed her flyaways.

"Thank you. I'll hold on to it." She stood up and smoothed out the wrinkles in her dress. 

Perhaps the princess's dress was really thin, or that her own dress was too rich in colour, the pink looked as though it seeped through the turquoise chiffon. 

"It looks good." Qi Wan said sincerely as he turned away, the tips of his ears were still red. "Let's go."

"Yeah!" Gu Qingyu followed Qi Wan and walked towards the main hall. 

It was already afternoon, and the sun was warm, but it was not enough to drive away the frosty chill of late winter. Gu Qingyu pulled down the sleeves of her double-layered outfit. Thank goodness she wore a second layer, how did the princess survive on such a thin dress? Before they stepped into the main hall, they could already hear the music. And as they stepped into the main hall, a slight chill greeted them, the main hall had been covered in a thin fog.  An old lady hurried them along with shuffled steps. "What took you so long, Your Highness! Your item is about to begin!" 

 

Gu Qingyu nodded and followed the old woman. 

"You are?" The old woman eyed Qi Wan suspiciously. 

"I'm just a musician." He smiled.

Although the old woman had doubts, she stopped asking questions and pointed towards the lotus platform in the center of the main hall. "And now, the Princess of Xiqian would present the Lotus Waltz." 

 

Gu Qingyu nodded again and walked up the steps leading to the platform. The music in the main hall slowly faded as the guests took their seats to enjoy the long-awaited performance, renowned Lotus Waltz. Maybe they were just attending the ceremony to watch Xiqian fail. After all, no one has seen Emperor Ye show any interest in women. And if Xiqian’s princess so much as made Emperor Ye to frown, she could be executed on the spot and no one would protest, not even her own father. 

Qi Wan snapped his fingers. "Great! My most beautiful princess, show off your most moving dance under the eyes of everyone today!"

He hid behind the steps, away from the audience's sight, placed the instrument on his lap and began to play. Silence loomed in the hall as everyone waited for the performance to begin. 

 

The sound of plucking strings echoed through the room as a lady in a turquoise dress walked up the steps along with the beat. Strange, the lotus platform was about 10 metres above ground, yet the stairs had stopped halfway. Gu Qingyu had noticed the short stairs in the beginning, and as she got closer, she realised that a giant water tank was placed just right at the end of the stairs. She would reach the end of the steps in the next 4 beats. She lifted her hand, her chiffon sleeves twirled once and she continued her ascent by stepping on the air itself. Everyone's eyes widened. As she stepped onto the invisible steps, a single lotus flower bloomed at the tip of her toes. 

How could this be?

The old woman opened and closed her mouth like a goldfish. Qi Wan watched all of this unfold. 

Oh, is that so? So the stairs were supposed to reach up to the platform. If his Boss did not notice or had she not replaced the actual princess, the Lotus Waltz would have flopped. 

That's okay, because this should be the real Lotus Waltz! Come, my most beautiful princess. Use the melody that I have prepared for you and bloom into your most glorious moment! This song has been made for you, for you are the true and only princess to me. I just want to hold you in the palm of my hands. I just want to make you the happiest person in the world. I just want you to do anything and everything that you dream of. 

Go, you can do it. I'll be right by your side. 

 

Gu Qingyu closed her eyes and twirled in the air, her sleeves spun around her as she skipped through the air with feather-light steps. Lotuses bloomed at her feet, forming a unique set of stairs. The Lotus Waltz has always been highly-regarded. In particular, the dance was described as the sight of dancing fairies across a lotus pond, as though the lotuses itself had come alive. 

One of the noble ladies in the audience was particularly shocked. "How can she...?"

Xie Li who was seated next to her smiled slightly. "Indeed, the lotuses have come alive. Is Miss An blown away by the performance?"

Miss An Linlin flinched before she returned to her impassive tone. "Yes, I have heard it for a long time. It is truly a sight to behold, and just as described, it is very lifelike."

Xie Li's smile remained on her face, but she did not continue the conversation. Instead, she turned to her brother next to her. "So, are you enjoying yourself?"

"It is a good performance." Xie Zang glanced at his sister strangely, she had never asked him about his enjoyment in such events, nor has she complimented anything so openly before. 

Xie Li kept smiling. "If there's a chance, do you mind if we let her join the Xie family?"

"Whatever you want, sister." Xie Zang smiled, his gaze remains firmly on the dancer. 

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