Actually, Yun Ruoyan wasn’t unfamiliar with the crown prince.
Perhaps because he wanted to get in the good graces of all the court officials, among all the princes, the crown prince Li Qianxiao was the one who paid the most visits to the noble families scattered throughout the capital.
Yun Ruoyan had seen him before her rebirth as well as in her past life, but her disfigured appearance made it difficult for her to appear in public. During such occasions, she tended to hide behind a crowd or simply feign sickness to avoid having to attend such gatherings.
This was why, with regards to Li Qianxiao, Yun Ruoyan would certainly be a stranger.
Lin Zainan couldn’t help hmphing with dissatisfaction after hearing what Lin Bo had said. “Has Yun Lan finally realized that you should be present when the Yun family is welcoming guests, as befits your status?”
In the past, whenever such situations had occurred, the Yun family would no doubt neglect Yun Ruoyan’s existence. That they were specially sending servants to fetch her indicated Yun Ruoyan’s large advancement in status.
However, Yun Ruoyan didn’t feel particularly emotional about any of this. In her heart, it was clear that the Yuns would value her if she had value, and discard her if she had none. Rather than a matter of kinship, it was simply a matter of benefits.
“Grandfather,” Yun Ruoyan obediently called out. “In that case, I’ll be returning home now. I’ll come visit again once I’m free!”
“Don’t strain yourself from cultivating too hard. Your body’s the most important, got it?” Lin Zainan instructed her again.
As soon as they left Lin Zainan’s study, Yun Ruoyan pulled Lin Qingchen aside. “Qingchen, do you have more of that gauze?”
Actually, Lin Qingchen had been wondering why she hadn’t applied the gauze before coming to visit. Was it uncomfortable? She was about to ask about it, but Yun Ruoyan had done so first.
“Yes, of course.” Lin Qingchen took out a roll of gauze from one pocket and handed it to Yun Ruoyan.
There were seven pieces of gauze in that roll in the seven colors of the rainbow. Some were shaped like lotus leaves, and others like bamboo leaves, sakura blossoms, and phoenix orchids.
“My goodness, they’re so pretty!” Lin Qingxue ran over upon seeing the gauze before quickly clicking her tongue. “Sister Qingchen, you’re biased! You only share the pretty things with Sister Ruoyan, not me!”
Lin Qingchen gave her a supercilious look while Yun Ruoyan laughed. “Your face is rosy and radiant, so why would you want to cover it up?”
Lin Qingxue stuck her tongue out. She took a piece of gauze shaped like a sakura blossom from Yun Ruoyan’s hands before applying it on her face.
Incredibly, Lin Qingxue’s round, pancake-like face immediately seemed to morph into an oval shape once she’d applied the gauze. Her facial features were fine and delicate, and the gauze really did seem to accentuate them.
Yun Ruoyan couldn’t help but praise her, and she showed off her appearance shamelessly. “Don’t you two know that this is a popular trend among young ladies in the capital nowadays?”
“A popular trend? What do you mean?” This was clearly the first time that Lin Qingchen and Yun Ruoyan had heard about any of this.
“Aiii…” Lin Qingxue sighed, looking at her two sisters in exasperation. “One of you reads books the entire day, and the other cultivates. I guess I’ll have to be the one who teaches both of you about popular fashion trends!”
It turned out that a clothes merchant had been enjoying the phoenix orchids blooming on the Minghuang mountain when he suddenly saw a young miss walking by with a patch of gauze on her face.
Her beauty inspired him to create many such patches of gauze for sale, and they were so popular that people even began lining up to order them in advance.
Yun Ruoyan and Lin Qingchen exchanged glances: clearly, that “inspiration” was none other than Yun Ruoyan.
Long after Yun Ruoyan had departed from the Lin household, Lin Qingxue finally realized that something was amiss. “If they didn’t know that this was the trend, where did Qingchen come by so many gauze patches?”
Yun Ruoyan went straight to the guest hall as soon as she returned to the Yun household. All the women had already dressed up in formal attire—all excepting Yun Ruoyan, who had just entered.
The Li kingdom placed a strong emphasis on formality and attire, especially with regards to the nobility.
There were two usual classes of attire: casualwear, like the muslin dress that Yun Ruoyan was currently wearing, and formalwear, to be donned during festivals or when meeting particularly high-ranking guests. Formalwear was restrictive, heavy, and incredibly gaudy.
As Yun Ruoyan glanced around the room, she was dazzled by the vibrant colors on display. She didn’t have to comment on Yun Ruoyao and Yi Qianying, but even the Yun matriarch was dressed in a sapphire-blue pleated gown. An ostentatious phoenix hairpin, its tails flaring, completed her outfit. She seemed unusually vibrant and lively, a far cry from her usual appearance that made her look as if she would doze off at any moment.
“Ruoyan, why aren’t you dressed up?” Madam An was dressed in a flamboyant red dress with gold embroidery, looking every bit the wealthy matron. She sized up Yun Ruoyan before commenting, “As a wife-born daughter, don’t you know anything about formality?”
Naturally, Yun Ruoyan had had formality drilled into her head ever since she was a child. Despite her status, however, her wardrobe remained relatively barren.
In these last few months, Yun Ruoyan had grown half a head and could barely fit into her usual dresses. Most of what she’d been wearing were instead gowns and dresses that her mother, Lin Yuemei, had owned.
Initially, Xi Lan had prepared two additional sets of clothes for Yun Ruoyan, but Yun Ruoyan had stopped her from making more in order to avoid attention.
“Mother, I’ve grown quite a bit taller in the last few months, and I can’t fit into my old clothes at the moment. Shall I feign sickness to avoid the reception?” Yun Ruoyan asked directly.
It was rare that Yun Ruoyan said something so pleasing to Madam An’s ears. She was just about to agree with Yun Ruoyan’s suggestion when the Yun matriarch spoke up. “Of course not! As a wife-born daughter, you certainly have to be present on an occasion as important as this.”
“Xiao Lan,” The Yun matriarch waved at her maid and instructed her, “Help Ruoyan change into the formalwear I’ve prepared for her.”
Yun Ruoyan hadn’t expected that her grandmother would have prepared something. Although she didn’t want to meet the crown prince at all, she didn’t seem to have any other choice.
Despite her unwillingness, she beamed outwardly. “Thank you for your grace, grandmother.”
“Alright, go, go.”
Putting on the attire was an extremely time-consuming process, but with Xiao Lan’s help, Yun Ruoyan made a reappearance in the great hall in only half an hour. When she appeared, everyone was shocked, especially her father Yun Lan.
At that moment, he almost thought that his beautiful wife had come back to life once more.
Yun Ruoyan wore a rose-colored shawl embroidered with golden phoenix orchids, along with a pleated skirt in the same style as her grandmother’s.
Her hair was loosely coiled and adorned with a ruby brooch. Her face was unblemished and unadorned, save for a pink, phoenix-orchid gauze on her right cheek hiding her birthmark.
Her clothing was well-made, her appearance elegant, her posture and mannerism impeccable.
The Yun matriarch was extremely pleased with the dress that she’d picked out for Yun Ruoyan, and she threw her a tender glance.
Yun Lan’s gaze flashed, and Yun Ruoyu, Yun Ruoyao, and Yi Qianying all looked toward Yun Ruoyan with glances filled with jealousy, envy, and hate!
Madam An was a little frightened. She looks just like her, that horrible, hateful woman!
At this time, a servant ran into the hall and bowed toward Yun Lan. “Master, the crown prince is almost here.”
Only then did everyone stop looking at Yun Ruoyan. With Yun Lan in the lead, the grand procession headed to the front door and waited for the crown prince’s arrival.
Not long afterwards, a ten-man party approached the Yun household, with the crown prince Li Qianxiao riding on horseback in the center.
Yun Lan immediately greeted him, bowing down, and the women of the household followed suit.
“Official Yun, there’s no need to be so formal! I simply planned on having a small visit,” Li Qianxiao immediately got down from his horse and said politely.
Yun Lan laughed. “Crown Prince, it’s been half a year since you last visited. As a lowly official, how could I not bring out the formalities? Please enter!”
Li Qianxiao walked toward the front doors of the household.
Yun Ruoyan lifted her head slightly, seeing him dressed in an official robe of amethyst and gold. His jade headband lent him a somewhat distinguished appearance, and both his bearing and manner distinguished him.
The indolent, lecherous youth she’d seen resting on a palanquin at the hunting grounds seemed to be a different person entirely.
She couldn’t help but sigh at how duplicitous the nobility all seemed to be.
“Have you been well lately, Old Madam Yun?” Li Qianxiao asked as he walked by the Yun matriarch.
As a titled madam, the Yun matriarch didn’t need to kneel in front of the prince. She bowed as she replied, “I’m doing well, Crown Prince, thank you.”
Li Qianxiao nodded and was just about to head inside when his gaze swept over Yun Ruoyan, kneeling by the Yun matriarch’s side, and his body froze. “Who’s this young miss? Why haven’t I seen her before?”
Yun Ruoyan didn’t expect his sudden scrutiny. For a moment, she was at a loss for words.
The Yun matriarch hurriedly replied, “This is the second daughter of the Yun family, Yun Ruoyan.” She then reached out and grabbed Yun Ruoyan by the arm. “Ruoyan, quickly greet the crown prince!”
Yun Ruoyan frowned. Only when she replayed the scene in the imperial hunting grounds in her mind and confirmed that no one had seen her appearance did she calm down and bow. “Ruoyan greets the Crown Prince; may he be blessed.”
“Yun Ruoyan…” Li Qianxiao repeated this name over and over, and then, as if he suddenly recalled something, he exclaimed, “You’re that—”
One of the servants in Li Qianxiao’s employ suddenly coughed, interrupting the “—famed ugly girl of the Yun household?!” that the prince would undoubtedly have said.
Li Qianxiao glanced behind him surreptitiously before turning back and continuing, “So you’re the second daughter of the Yun household! I’ve been to this place so many times, but it’s the first time I’m seeing you in person. Show me your face.”
Yun Ruoyan pursed her lips as she lifted her head.
Li Qianxiao felt his eyes gleam as he saw a picturesque beauty right in front of him.
After a moment’s hesitation, however, he suddenly pointed at the phoenix-orchid gauze patch on Yun Ruoyan’s right cheek. “You! You must be the masked girl who dashed into the imperial hunting grounds that day!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter