“Xiaozhou’s in my room fast asleep. Your Highness might not be aware, but the courtyard of this manor is amazingly spacious! There aren’t as many folks here in the prince’s manor. Each of us servants has our own room.”
The Qin residence in the capital was small in comparison, and the maids were accustomed to sharing a room in pairs.
Therefore, they found themselves a tad flustered by the sudden improvement in their living conditions in the prince’s manor.
Qin Yining sipped her soup at leisure, smiling at the maids. “All of you have gone through fire and water with me, and I consider you sisters and friends. It’s naturally wonderful that there’s been an upgrade in your living conditions. If there’s anything off anywhere at all, don’t focus solely on saving me trouble. Keep me in the loop of every happening, you hear?”
“Of course. Your Highness is now in a completely different position. The prince adores you so—your wish will be his command as soon as you ask. Us servants benefit by association.” Jiyun smiled and joked. Qin Yining didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Oh, look at you all! Life really must be easier for you to forget your manners!”
The maids giggled in unison, and the new princess consort washed up after her meal.
Qiulu carried a cerise, chiffon nightgown to the washroom. “Your Highness, the senior madame specifically asked this servant to have you wear this for this evening.”
Qin Yining flushed at the sight of the chiffon gown. “What kind of garment is this! I might as well wear nothing at all.”
Qiulu’s face pinkened. “Your Highness, the senior madame gave her orders, so please put it on. Perhaps, perhaps this is the way things should be.”
Qin Yining took the nightgown from her maid, wishing for the ground to open up so it could swallow her whole. But well, all of the maids who were part of her dowry had yet to marry, so they were still fuzzy about the ways of the world. She and Pang Xiao had tied the knot, so although her poor maids would inevitably bump into some mortifying happenings, all this was just the beginning.
Qin Yining covered her face with her hands in embarrassment and reluctantly changed into the gown. The two-piece nightgown wasn’t as see-through as she initially thought. The top had a cerise crossing collar and was paired with silk pants of the same color. Her shoulders would only be vaguely visible, and the rest of the garment seemed normal. This put the new bride felt more at ease.
Bingtang and the rest of the maids made their retreat. Qiulu smiled as she curtsied to take her leave.
Qin Yining picked a seat on the heated platform by the window opposite the formal bed. She selected a book at random to read.
It was travel notes that explored the folk customs of the northwestern frontiers, a place Qin Yining had never been to. Engrossed, she completely immersed herself in the book within.
What greeted Pang Xiao upon his return was a beauty leaning against a body cushion, reading under the lamp.
Her lustrous long hair cascaded down back and shoulders; the light chiffon looked weightless. Her slender, long neck, exquisite collar bones and round, feminine shoulders looked even softer in the glossy light. Her red bodice could hardly conceal her curves. 
The wine he’d just consumed transmuted into flows of lava that roared through his limbs and veins.
Pang Xiao’s footsteps brought Qin Yining’s wandering senses back to reality. Eyeing the slightly flushing groom before her, Qin Yining smiled. “You’re back! Should I tell them to draw water and help you wash up?”
Pang Xiao remained wordless and stared fixedly at her.
Qin Yining put her book down, concerned. She knelt on the heated platform and raised a hand to feel Pang Xiao’s faintly burning face, the skin of her hand soft and white.
“Are you alright? Did you have too much to drink?”
Pang Xiao swept his bride up at one fell swoop and strode toward the formal bed, laying her gently down the scarlet, brocade blankets.
Inky locks fanned out on a pillow embroidered with a pair of mandarin ducks frolicking in the water. The cerise nightgown and scarlet blankets highlighted smooth skin to be as fair and clean as first snow. The nightgown’s collars had already slid open from their exertions.
However, Qin Yining had no idea of her natural allure in just lying on her back.
Pang Xiao could no longer tamp down his desire. He dared not cross the line before, worried that he’d hurt her. But now he could claim her right and proper. His masculinity would suffer if he held back any longer!
He rained passionate kisses down on his woman’s forehead, the tip of her nose, and red lips.
Qin Yining slowly relaxed into Pang Xiao’s warm, strong embrace. She kept in mind her mother’s instruction to “let him have his way”, and grit her teeth against the discomfort, letting her new husband do whatever he pleased. This carte blanche resulted in connubial activities deep into the night.
A man who kept coming back for more was no different than an insatiable beast. When Pang Xiao’s large hand came questing again for one more round, she finally grabbed a pillow and whacked him in the chest.
“We have the tea ceremony tomorrow to think of! You can go sleep on the floor if you misbehave again!”
“Alright, alright, I’ll be good and stay still.”
Pang Xiao folded his bride into his arms so she could nestle her head on his shoulder.
He felt her forehead. It glistened with sweat, the same state as the rest of her body. The prince kissed her forehead with fondness and contentment, and dried her body with a warm handkerchief. He put the maidenhood handkerchief away before worming back into the bed. The soft body and fragrance of his woman in his arms, he fell asleep with gratification.
Qin Yining felt as if she was embracing a large furnace in her slumber. Weather in the fifth month of the northern territories was chilly still, and she typically huddled herself to sleep in a heap. But today, her limbs were fully stretched out in relaxation, her feet indescribably warm.
When she next opened her eyes blearily, a red canopy embroidered with patterns for a large and prosperous family sharpened into view. Momentarily disoriented, it took several moments for her to recall that yesterday had been her wedding night.
“Good morning, my darling.” A hoarse man’s voice sounded in her ears.
Qin Yining turned her face to the source of the voice, only to be planted a kiss on the lips.
Pang Xiao laid on his side next to her, his head propped up by his hands. The scarlet brocade blankets covered the lower half of his torso and body. His bare shoulders and arms were corded with hard muscles. The edge of his shoulder still wore a scar from when he rescued her not too long ago.
Qin Yining’s face flushed beet-red. She buried her face in the blankets.
Tickled by her adorable reaction, Pang Xiao laughed and cradled her into his arms. He inquired with concern, “Are you in pain still? I have a very potent ointment, shall I apply it for you?”
She pounded his chest mercilessly with her fists. “Go away, you. I don’t want to talk to you.”
Pang Xiao laughed heartily again. He hadn’t planned on teasing her, but her reaction was just too delightful.
He stamped a few more kisses on his wife’s cheeks and forehead before getting up to put on his undergarments, then summoned the maids.
Bingtang, Qiulu, Jiyun and Xianyun entered the gate carrying hot water and silk handkerchiefs, every one of them red in the face. Some of them worked to cool the hot water, while the rest drew near to wait on Qin Yining.
Bingtang spotted the bruises on Qin Yining’s body and cursed in a low voice, “Did he think he was at a buffet or what?”She produced a box of ointment from her sleeve and stuffed it into Qin Yining’s hand, her voice even lower. “Your Highness, this will come in handy. Use this and I promise you that you’ll be good as new in a day.”
Qin Yining accepted the box, her cheeks flaming as she nodded. “Thank you.”
Bingtang dimpled back. “Then shall we rise and change for the day?”
Jiyun and Bingtang waited on their mistress to change and wash her face. Pang Xiao dismissed Qiulu and Xianyun with a wave. He washed up and got dressed without the help, then sat on the edge of the heated platform with his long hair hanging down his back so he could watch Qin Yining style her hair and put on makeup.
In the past, he considered watching a woman brush her hair an utter waste of time.
Yet now, as he watched his wife’s jet-black locks coiffed into a married woman’s bun by the dexterous hands of the maids, Pang Xiao felt more satisfied than a man who’d conquered the world.
“My dear, do my hair for me, will you?” He drew near with a grin, rubbing his face against Qin Yining’s cheek.
The maids retreated to the outer room, blushing furiously.
Qin Yining smiled in reply. “I’m not good with hairstyles.”
“No worries. I’ll draw your eyebrows and you’ll brush my hair. I’m clumsy as well, so that makes us even.”
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My apologies everyone. I've been dealing with travel to my grandparents', family birthdays, my own birthday, and more friends visiting. It looks like things will FINALLY calm down after the new year.