Chapter 1228: [TangNing] Don’t move

Steam rose from the hot springs as the scent of tea pervaded every corner of the room. Ning Jing had no idea what Tang Li was doing.

“You can’t soak in the springs, so I got you a tub of spring water to soak your feet,” Tang Li explained.

“How do you know I can’t soak in the springs?” Ning Jing asked.

“I calculated. Over these past two days, it’s not convenient for you, isn’t that right?” Tang Li grinned.

“Wrong,” Ning Jing rolled her eyes at him. “You’re over 10 days off. How did you calculate things?”

“Impossible! Before, yours always come around the first of each month, there’s no mistake! Unless the dates changed after your pregnancy!” Tang Li was convinced.

Ning Jing narrowed her eyes. “Before? Heheh, you certainly took pains with the details!”

Tang Li realized that he’d fallen into Ning Jing’s paces. In the past, he was proactive enough to avoid bullying Ning Jing around the first of the month. Truthfully speaking, his motives for calculating her period dates weren’t pure at all. 

“Heheh, I’m taking pains with the details even more. Jing Jing, come, husband will serve you by soaking your feet.” Tang Li took Ning Jing’s foot and slipped off her shoe while the latter laid back and rested her other foot on his shoulder, allowing him to serve her freely.

Afraid that the cold air would be too much, Tang Li tried to cradle her bare foot, but Ning Jing refused by sticking her toes against his face to tease him. Tang Li let her do as she wished, neither angry or repulsed. Yet soon enough, he took hold of Ning Jing’s toes and bit down on her big toe. Although it looked like he used a lot of strength, it didn’t hurt at all.

Ning Jing immediately kicked him aside and complained, “Aren’t you worried that it’s filthy?!”

“I don’t mind,” Tang Li chuckled.

“Well, I do!” Ning Jing huffed.

Tang Li feigned a sigh. “Alright, I’ll help you wash it clean.” Then he really did take her foot and soak it in the water. If this was any other day, Ning Jing would be content to be waited on, but today was different.

She quickly withdrew her foot and declared, “On inconvenient days, I should avoid soaking my feet even more!”

“Why?” Tang Li didn’t understand.

Ning Jing only shot back, “If I say I can’t, then I can’t. You’re a man, why ask so many questions?”

Tang Li finally gave up and went to sit next to Ning Jing. But before he could lie down, she shoved him aside and said, “I’m going to sleep, you go soak yourself and don’t make a racket!”

“Tang Tang will be coming back soon. Let me lie with you a bit.” Tang Li scooted next to Ning Jing, but she kept pushing him away. 

“Don’t be so noisy! Can’t you just let me rest a while?”

Seeing her so unhappy, Tang Li could only obediently rise to his feet. 

“Get out!” Ning Jing urged.

With a helpless smile, Tang Li docily left the room. Two hours later, Ning Jing helped Tang Li grab some towels and a change of clothes before leaving the rooms herself. It would be days before she could enter the water again, but she was certain Tang Li would do the same unless she urged him. It was rare for Tang Tang to be away so Tang Li could relax as a father. 

As soon as Ning Jing opened the door to the springs, she saw that it was empty.

Where is he?

While feeling puzzled, she spotted Tang Li coming in head bowed with a small pot in one hand. He was very careful with his item and didn’t even notice her presence. Ning Jing’s heart gave a lurch as her eyes grew moist at the sight. What a familiar, long-lost scene. She didn’t need to check to know that the little pot contained her favorite red bean soup. She couldn’t even remember how many nights of red bean soup Tang Li had cooked her in the past. Every time he delivered it to her personally, careful yet urgent--both because the pot was hot and because he wanted her to eat it before the soup cooled. She loved scalding hot food on cold winter nights.

As he drew close, he finally noticed Ning Jing by the door and chuckled at the things in her hands. “Jing Jing, did you want to steal a bath with me so bad?”

Ning Jing rolled her eyes before turning to close the door. Tang Li carried the red bean soup inside and personally ladled out a bowl before her. “Hungry, right?”

Ning Jing was truly ravenous, but the sight of Tang Li’s red bean soup would make her hungry even on nights she was full. Only he was capable of cooking such a fragrant brew. She carefully took in the scent while Tang Li watched from the sidelines as always. 

If you truly loved someone, just watching them eat was happiness enough.

If you truly loved someone, just having a bowl of their home-cooked soup was satisfaction enough.

“Jing Jing, do you have any news of your big brother?” Tang Li asked.

“No. But judging from his personality, no one will find him if he wants to leave,” Ning Jing knew Ning Cheng best of all.

Tang Li hesitated, then said, “Why did he hand over his military authority to Jin Zi? Based on all the merits he did in Northern Li, my big bro wouldn’t shortchange him. Public and private agendas are two different things.”

Ning Jing looked up seriously. “Tang Li, my big brother isn’t someone who aims for merits. He must have felt he was finished with his business, so he left! If you have a chance, tell Long Feiye to stop looking for him now.”

Tang Li gave a snort. “Hmph, my big bro wouldn’t look for him! Now eat your fill!”

Ning Jing set down her soup and gave him a threat. “Try snorting again!”

Tang Li shut up and shook his head. Only then did Ning Jing resume drinking her soup. Actually, she was already full, but it had been too long since she tasted this flavor so she couldn’t help downing a few extra mouthfuls. Soon enough, the court lady arrived with little Tang Tang in tow. She was actually fast asleep--but it was no wonder since it was the middle of the night. Even the happiest child couldn’t hold out long. Ning Jing wanted to take her, but Tang Li ran over first to carefully pick up his daughter.

Amused, he said, “Haha, it’s good that she’s asleep so we don’t have to coax her for half the night.”

--

While Tang Tang had returned to her father’s arms, little Rui’er was still having fun with Gu Qishao. Gu Qishao was an extraordinary man and Rui’er an unusual child, so it wasn’t strange for the pair to still be setting off fireworks in the early hours of the morning. 

At this moment, Zhao mama had just arrived in the Narcissus Courtyard where Long Feiye and Han Yunxi were staying. It was located in the heart of the No. 7 Teahouse and its largest courtyard. Its namesake came from all of the narcissus flowers planted within, though it was more like a tea pavilion than a living residence. Within its broad courtyard was a teahouse nearly secluded from view but had a quite spacious interior. The rooms bordering its front and back expanded outwards left and right with three or so interconnected rooms. In the center of them all was a tea hot springs. 

Within the tea pavilion was a clean and simple straw mat floor with incense that sent tendrils of fragrant green smoke into the air. Outside was piles of white snow and steam from the hot springs mixed with the fragrance of tea. It was an air that cleared one’s spirits even as one grew intoxicated from the smells. 

For a tea lover, this was an unparalleled environment.

Zhao mama’s steps halted outside the tearoom, only to see no one but the empress within. She was sitting by a low table and lazily flipping through a book. Her long black hair was only held in place by a single jade hairpin and she had changed to nightclothes of a crescent-moon white. One hand propped up her head, exposing her bare wrist as white as snow, while the other turned the pages of her book, and her body sprawled against the tea table. 

Such a scene made Zhao mama happy and satisfied the longer she looked. She was purely glad for His Majesty’s luck. 

Han Yunxi had long noticed her arrival. Despite her own entourage of court ladies, Long Feiye was still unused to being waited on by women. Besides the shadow guards, there were no other servants within Narcissus Courtyard. None of the guards would dare approach at this house, so it could only be Zhao mama who had arrived. 

Han Yunxi and Long Feiye had taken a long walk in the gardens, so she only just finished washing up and changing. She was too tired to move and would have fallen asleep already if Rui’er had returned. She was waiting for Zhao mama to announce herself, but the old woman didn’t make a peep. Without a choice, Han Yunxi could only turn to look at her instead.

In a hurry, Zhao mama said, “Esteemed Empress, this old servant urged multiple times, but the little master refuses to come back. He wants to play with Sir Qi. Sir Qi said he’ll have the little master sleep over at his place tonight, so you can sleep without worries.”

“He won’t be able to handle him,” Han Yunxi said helplessly.

“This old servant told Sir Qi that the little master isn’t easy to take care of at night, but Sir Qi said he’ll be fine,” Zhao mama felt helpless as well.

“He’s courting death again!” But Han Yunxi was too lazy to persuade him, so she waved Zhao mama away. “Then let him spend a night with him.”

Although Han Yunxi cherished her precious son, her doting was completely different from Tang Li’s style. She wasn’t so careful and prudent with Rui’er and could even be quite merciless at times. After all, Rui’er was a boy and needed to be strong enough to stand alone in the future.

“Esteemed Empress needn’t worry. If Sir Qi can’t manage it, he still has this old servant,” Zhao mama chuckled.

Han Yunxi nodded languidly, on the verge of sleep. But Zhao mama still didn’t leave. She looked back and forth before asked, “Esteemed Empress, has His Majesty...gone to bed?”

Long Feiye was currently handling some urgent missives from Northern Li in the next room, so Han Yunxi was waiting for him to finish his business. 

“Is there something else?” she asked.

Zhao mama only laughed. “Esteemed Empress, if His Majesty is asleep, you should join him soon.”

Sensing something amiss, Han Yunxi looked back at her again, unblinkingly.

But instead of feeling cowed, Zhao mama only smiled warmer. “Esteemed Empress, it’s good if you understand!” Before Han Yunxi could pick up the first thing on the table and chuck it at her face, she added, “This old servant shall withdraw, shall withdraw!”

It was this moment that Long Feiye entered the room and had a great fright, because Han Yunxi was holding onto none other than his own tea cup! Ever since Rui’er was born, he had lost at least 30 some tea things to his son, all unique pieces made by consummate masters. This time he’d brought along his most favorite set!

“Han Yunxi, don’t move!” he cried desperately.

Han Yunxi was already half-asleep, but Zhao mama’s ambiguous smile had alerted her to her senses. She now turned to Long Feiye with a sly smile.

“Who shouldn't move, me or the teacup?” she asked.

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