“What’s wrong… are you very disappointed to see me? Who are you here to look for if not me?”
Upon hearing the alluring male voice, An Xiaoning turned around to see a figure in red standing up. His features were perfectly chiseled, and he was dashingly handsome.
“Of course I’m here to look for you. I’ve missed you, Brother.”
“Save it, Feng is not around. You’re going to be disappointed,” said Tuoba Gucheng, clearly unconvinced.
“He’s not around? Where did he go?” Tuoba Danxue asked eagerly.
“He took leave and went home.”
“When did he apply for leave? When did he go home? Why did he do that?”
Tuoba Gucheng snorted with laughter and said, “Look how concerned you are. I wonder if I’ll drive you nuts if I don’t tell you.”
“Brother, tell me quick.”
“He said that his parents called him home for an urgent matter which he did not mention explicitly. I didn’t ask him in detail either.”
“Why didn’t you ask him?” Tuoba Danxue asked, pulling a long face. A sudden thought crossed her mind and she quickly blurted, “Could he have gone home for a matchmaking session?”
“Maybe he did,” Tuoba Gucheng said with a sheepish grin.
“Brother, I want to go out of the palace.”
“Go ahead, I’m not stopping you anyway. Just don’t let Father and Mother find out.”
Tuoba Danxue sat down and said, “You know that’s impossible… Brother, give Feng a call and ask him what he went home for.”
“No,” he refused, not wishing to meddle with her matters. However, he knew that a romance between his sister and his bodyguard would be impossible.
“Brother, I’m begging you.”
“Danxue, I’m begging you too. Don’t put me in a spot.”
Tuoba Danxue remained in her seat sulkily without uttering another word.
An Xiaoning looked down and avoided eye contact with anyone while standing there quietly.
Little did she expect to be sized up by someone.
“Is this country bumpkin the new bodyguard Xiao Chi hired for you?”
“Just like what I expected. You really only ever hire ugly bodyguards. The pretty ones are never to your liking,” he remarked with a faint smile.
I know the features of this mask may be average, but it’s not to the extent of being ugly, is it…? An Xiaoning thought to herself.
She looked up at Tuoba Gucheng and subconsciously rolled her eyes at him, causing him to be momentarily stunned.
He stared at her again, only to find that she was looking down at the ground, as if he had just hallucinated.
He could not help but take a few more glances at An Xiaoning. “Hey, country bumpkin, what’s your name?”
As much as An Xiaoning did not wish to answer him, she knew she ought to do so in order not to land herself in trouble.
She looked up at him and said while smiling, “Your Highness, my name is Mu Ning.”
“You’re so ugly yet you have such an unfitting name. Your parents must really be oblivious.”
An Xiaoning did not have a good impression of him at all. How could he be so rude and callous?
“Your Highness, looks are only superficial. Personality and character are what matter most.”
“But who would be so retarded as to approach and discover the personality of an ugly person?”
“If people only judged others based on appearance, how are you going to be so sure that someone loves you for who you are and not for your looks?” An Xiaoning retorted.
Startled by her bold response, Tuoba Gucheng walked toward her slowly and stared at her with fierce eyes, after which he scoffed, “Tell me then, how are you supposed to find out if someone loves you for who you are and not for your appearance?”
An Xiaoning held his gaze fearlessly, with no signs of attraction towards him at all.
Tuoba Gucheng was taken aback, for he could make most women in the Autumn Palace blush and make their hearts race with just one look. Yet, An Xiaoning managed to make eye contact with him while maintaining her composure.
“When you fall in love with someone for who they are, you would be willing to do anything for them, even if being together with them would bring about a great deal of suffering and pain. You won’t let any tough ordeals or obstacles hinder you from loving them unconditionally. Meanwhile, if you only love someone for their looks, you definitely wouldn’t be able to do so much for them. Superficial love can never stand strong in the face of life’s challenges and difficulties,” An Xiaoning said, voicing her opinion.
Tuoba Danxue stared at An Xiaoning in astonishment and said, “Brother, I think Mu Ning makes a lot of sense.”
“You sound as if you’ve experienced a lot in love. You must’ve had tons of chicken soup, eh?” Tuoba Gucheng remarked.
An Xiaoning did not answer and remained quiet.
She cocked her head sideways to find that Zhi Yin was staring at her with a look of disgruntlement. An Xiaoning immediately understood the reason for her reaction upon recalling what Tuoba Danxue told her while on their way to the palace.
Having made a wasted trip since she did not get to see the person she wanted, Tuoba Danxue decided to leave after sitting around for a short while. Zhi Yin could no longer suppress her dissatisfaction and lashed out at An Xiaoning.
“Did you do that on purpose?”
“Did what on purpose?”
“You purposely tried to grasp the attention of His Highness by bringing up the topic about love to him, didn’t you?” Zhi Yin questioned with a straight face and widened eyes.
“You call that attention-seeking? Aren’t you reading too much into things, Sister Zhi Yin? The royals will never be attracted to people like us.”
Tuoba Danxue agreed with An Xiaoning, “Zhi Yin, you are thinking too far…”
“Your Highness, I think she’s outright doing it on purpose,” Zhi Yin groused.
Tuoba Danxue chuckled and said, “Even if she’s really doing it on purpose, do you seriously think my brother would fall for her? He’s not even attracted to a ravishing beauty like you, let alone Mu Ning, whom he calls a country bumpkin.”
Zhi Yin instantly felt more relieved and comforted as she found that Tuoba Danxue did make sense.
Lin Mingxi began spreading the word about her plans to open a large-scale fitness center. She happened to bump into Xu Youran while on her way out in the morning.
“Sister-in-law, where are you going?”
“Thank you for the concern, Sister-in-law. I’m going out for a walk.”
Lin Mingxi greeted her exceptionally politely.
“Oh, I see. Go ahead then,” Xu Youran chirped merrily with a wide grin.
Lin Mingxi left right away, not sure why Xu Youran was in such a good mood.
Xu Youran entered the living room to see that Mrs. Gu was sipping on some tea. Xu Youran skipped forward gleefully and exclaimed, “Mother, I have good news for you. I’m pregnant!”
“You’re pregnant?” Mrs. Gu asked in astonishment.
“Yes, I’m expecting. Dongcheng and I were just planning to try for a baby recently. Turns out I’m already pregnant for more than a month,” Xu Youran said delightfully.
Mrs. Gu smiled courteously and said, “That’s indeed worth celebrating. Have you told your parents yet?”
“Yes, my mother’s over the moon.”
“So am I. Youran, women ought to become more kind-hearted and benevolent once they’re pregnant. You have to accumulate good karma for your child, lest you end up in a sorry plight like Chi Rui’er. Do you know how Chi Rui’er’s son died?”
“What you know is only the partial truth. I heard from Xiaoning that her son was the reincarnation of the fetus she aborted previously and he was here to seek revenge from her. That child suffered chronic health issues just months after he was born. In the end, he still couldn’t pull through and passed on way too early.”
“Really?” Xu Youran asked in shock.
“Of course it’s real. Dongcheng probably only knows a little about it too.”
“There’s seriously such a logic?” Xu Youran thought that Mrs. Gu was exaggerating and being far too superstitious.