The bridal chambers!
Ning Jing recovered her wits at those words. Every wedding had the custom of the nuptial chambers, so she was long prepared for that. It was true that she’d drugged Tang Li in the past, but that didn’t mean she was a wanton woman. After taking advantage of Tang Li before, she couldn’t let him seize the advantage this time.
Abruptly, Tang Li took her by the hand. His hand was soft and warm, his palm firm and coarse. Ning Jing felt a strange sensation just linking hands with him. They’d already tumbled together once, but this was still their first time holding hands. She was about to break free when he tightened his grip. It was impossible for her to see his expression from behind the veil, but she guessed that he must be staring at her right now.
“Aiya, look at how anxious young clan head Tang is! You can’t hold her hand yet!” The wedding nanny suddenly slapped Tang Li’s hand away, giving Ning Jing the chance to withdraw her own. She pointedly ignored the sudden emptiness in her heart.
“You should call him ‘clan head’ from now on!” Lady Tang reminded the wedding nanny cheerfully. She was very happy. With her son married off, she and her husband could now be the old madam and ex-clan head.
“Yes, yes! This servant was too quick with her tongue. Your Excellency Clan Head, don’t be so impatient. You can hold her however you’d like once you’ve entered the bridal chambers. Until then, you can only carry her in your arms or on your back. No hand-holding allowed!”
As the wedding nanny chuckled, she stuffed a large swath of red silk into Tang Li’s arms. “Hold onto this.” The other end of the silk was given to Ning Jing. “Keep a firm grip and follow your husband.”
Ning Jing did as she was told. She felt the other end of the silk pulling her along tightly. It seemed that Tang Li had a very taut grip. Thanks to the wedding nanny’s comments, the crowd had already started to jeer. Ning Jing waited for Tang Li to speak, but he didn’t say a word. That didn’t seem like his personality. What is he doing? What kind of game is he playing now? Curious, Ning Jing nevertheless maintained her silence.
“Come, come, come, the groom’s bringing the bride into the nuptial chambers!” With the wedding nanny’s guidance, Tang Li led Ning Jing out of the marriage hall and towards Tang Li’s Reflecting Snow Hall. Lady Tang and Tang Zijin presided over the wedding feast while Long Feiye kept Han Yunxi company in the lively crowd. According to custom, Tang Li was supposed to join in the banquet after leading the bride into the nuptial chambers, but he never showed up. The crowd was curious, but none of them dared to inquire after the matter. At this rate, they’d probably forgo the traditional “disturb the newlyweds at night” game, too.
The cold and chilly Tang Clan grew boisterous with the start of the feast, though they were too far up the mountain for anyone below them to hear. Instead, it was Aunt Ru who heard the festivities from far away on . She sat alone on the edge of a cliff, trying her best to see into the distance. Unfortunately, she couldn’t spot a thing. She had already prepared her own clothes for Tang Li’s wedding day, but in the end, she never got to wear them. Hearing the sounds of celebration made Aunt Ru unhappy, but she didn’t even have anyone to talk to about her feelings as a trace of regret crept into her heart.
Meanwhile, the nuptial chambers were silent despite the noise outside. By custom, the groom was supposed to lift the bride’s veil before they exchanged cups of wine, but Ning Jing had hardly sat down before Tang Li told the wedding nanny, “You can leave now.”
“Your Excellency Clan Head…” the wedding nanny was about to explain, but Tang Li just stuffed a big red packet of money into her hands. She smiled and said, “Alright, alright, then this old body won’t disturb you two.”
She got as far as the door before adding, “Your Excellency Clan Head, the bride’s had a hard journey. You shouldn’t…” she trailed off into an ambiguous smile. “You should take it easy. The days ahead are long, so don’t tire her out.”
Ning Jing clenched her fists. It was a good thing the veil was hiding her face, or else she would have glared the wedding nanny to death. Despite this, the woman didn’t mean any harm by her comments. She was oblivious to the couple’s past and was sincerely worried for Ning Jing’s sake! Typically, a new groom would go out and drink with the wedding party after delivering the bride to the nuptial chamber. It wasn’t until late night that he returned. Right now, it was still . If Tang Li stayed here now, when was he ever going to get out?
But if they do it all afternoon and all night, he’ll exhaust his new bride! She’s yet but a tender, unripe flower while he’s a steel-blooded youth who practices martial arts. How could she take it?
Tang Li only waved for the wedding nanny to leave. Without a choice, she tossed back her final words. “Remember to drink the sweet date and lotus seed soup. Only then will husband and wife join their hearts in sweetness and give birth to a son early on.”
Ning Jing clenched her fists even harder, while Tang Li simply waved the nanny off. At this, the woman left for good and shut the door behind them. Not convinced that she was gone, Tang Li even went to bolt the door after her. Hearing this, Ning Jing’s heart tensed.
Damn it, I’ve done all my preparations, so why am I still feeling so nervous? Soon enough, she heard Tang Li’s footsteps approaching her.
This bastard, why’s he here instead of out there in broad daylight? What kind of tricks is he playing now?
Ning Jing sat with her eyes lowered. Soon enough, she saw Tang Li stop by the edge of the bed. He was wearing a pair of black boots with gold edging, a subtly luxurious choice. She wanted to take off her veil and phoenix coronet because it’d been a pain wearing those heavy things for the past few days and her neck felt like it was about to snap. However, she was afraid to move in case Tang Li seized the chance to make things difficult. As she sat waiting in silence, Tang Li didn’t speak either. He simply moved to sit by her side to tug on the other end of the red silk in their hands.
The two of them sat without a word. After a while, Ning Jing’s lips curved into a cold smirk at the silence. If he wants me to speak first, he can dream on! Since he wants to drag things out, I can just play along.
Abruptly, Tang Li tugged on the red silk. Since Ning Jing was holding its other end, she felt it immediately. Her scornful smile deepened, but she didn’t react. However, Tang Li tugged harder as if preparing to pull her to his side. Ning Jing disdained the action and held tight until the silk turned taut. Then she abruptly let go and the silk smacked into Tang Li. She laughed secretly up her sleeve and feigned ignorance as she sat there quietly. But Tang Li didn’t mind and kept to himself as well.
What’s wrong with him? Ning Jing was beginning to feel upset. After all, this was his territory--the Tang Clan. She could only cope with changing circumstances by sticking to her principles, but they ended up sitting there for two entire hours. Her behind was getting numb by the end of it all. She began to imagine Tang Li’s expression. Is that bastard still staring at me?
Then she began to consider a question. Why is it just the bride that wears a veil? Why not the groom too?
Actually, Tang Li wasn’t even looking her way. He was leaning against a high pillow while reclining lazily on the bed. One hand propped up his head while he shut his eyes for a brief nap. He was sure that Ning Jing wouldn’t do anything as long as he kept quiet. He’d been nothing but exhausted during their entire trip. The afternoon was a perfect chance for him to take a break before dealing with this woman tonight.
One sat while the other reclined, one felt perturbed while the other was just sleeping. Just like that, a beautiful afternoon passed by. By the time night fell, Tang Li opened his eyes and gave a lazy stretch. Ning Jing sensed the movement beside her and grew on guard again. Tang Li stood up and rubbed his stomach before heading for the table. He was hungry! In a flash, he downed both bowls of sweet date and lotus root soup.
“Bastard!” Ning Jing cursed under her breath. She was hungry too!
So this is how Tang Li’s going to waste my time. I can’t just sit by and wait. A cold gleam flashed past her eyes before she suddenly cried out, “Aiya, it hurts! My stomach hurts!”
If she fell ill on their wedding night, what could he do to her? She clutched her stomach and curled up as she yelled. “My stomach hurts so much, help...help me!”
Tang Li looked over at her doubtfully before a cold smile crept onto his face. But he quickly fell into his role and strode to her side. At the same time, Ning Jing pulled the veil off her head.
“My stomach hurts a lot, I--” she suddenly fell silent. Heavens, what’s this?
The room around them was filled with red roses like an ocean of flowers. The floor in front of the bed was decorated with candles in the shape of a heart, while her favorite daisy flowers were scattered in the center to make a Jing character for her name.
This… Ning Jing was so surprised by the decor she forgot to keep up her act. Her entire trip from Ten Thousand Commerce Hall had been too chilly to be called a wedding, but why...why had so much thought and care been put into the surprise in this room?
Tang Li, don’t you know I’ve long given up on my feelings? I thought that was it for the wedding! She cast a disbelieving glance towards Tang Li, whose eyes reflected the room full of flowers beneath the candlelight as well as her own face. His gaze was both loving and warm. Seeing her touched and surprised, Tang Li was very satisfied, but he pretended not to notice and asked urgently, “What’s wrong with your stomach? How does it hurt?”
Ning Jing recovered her wits and quickly continued to act. “It hurts a lot. I can’t stand it. Help me lie down, will you?”
Tang Li quickly helped her take off the phoenix coronet and laid her down on the bed before tucking her in. “Did you catch a chill? Or did you eat something bad?” As he spoke, he hastened to pour her some hot water. “Drink something first, I’ll go find a doctor.”
Ning Jing hadn’t touched a drop of water all day. Now she drank as she spoke, “No need, it’s probably...because it’s almost time for my period. That’s why it hurts more than usual. I’ll be fine after a night’s rest.”
Her acting was simply humiliating him! A sly gleam shone in Tang Li’s eyes as he feigned ignorance. “What kind of illness is a period? Is it urgent? I better go find a doctor, you’re making me worry like this.”
Ning Jing would still find this awkward no matter how open-minded she could be. How could a dissolute loafer like Tang Li not understand what I’m talking about? He’s got to be faking it. She was also certain that his decorations for the room had their own purpose too. Don’t even think of tricking my affections!
“It’s not an illness, it’s…” Ning Jing beckoned Tang Li to come closer so she could explain, but an actual sharp pain suddenly stabbed at her stomach and she instantly broke out into cold sweat!
What had happened?