My Little Girl (26)
After class, in a large courtyard, Master Gao and several students were practicing the play, Du Shi Niang. 
Master Gao went over the intricacies of the play and made the students practice until it was almost dusk.
And afterwards, Master Gao pointed out each of the students’ strong and weak points they had displayed during the rehearsals, before deciding to go home.
Shu Nuan gathered her books to leave as well and while going outside, she met Jing Fei.
“Are you going back alone?” Jing Fei was originally quiet, but after the rehearsals his attitude was friendly. Upon seeing her come out alone as the sky was getting darker, he simply asked the question.
Shu Nuan nodded her head.
Jing Fei looked straight at her, and asked, “Do you want me to accompany you?
Shu Nuan gently shook her head. “No, thank you.”
As soon as she gave her firm response, Shu Nuan glanced at something from the corner of her eyes. She looked in that direction and recognized Sheng Qianmo walking on the stone steps towards her.
She was not aware that Sheng Qianmo would be coming. Seeing the prince still wearing his military uniform, she assumed that he came directly from the military camp.
The sun was setting behind Sheng Qianmo’s tall figure and broad back. It embellished his robe, and the hazy, golden light reflected off the contours of his cool and enchanting face, adding a manly allure to it.
“Is that your uncle?” Jing Fei looked at the man walking over and casually asked her. He had been present in the hall when Su Hai and the others had been fooling around, and he had overheard them saying that Shu Nuan had an uncle who was very handsome.
“Yes,” Shu Nuan replied and looked down.
In front of Jing Fei’s face, Shu Nuan had to call Sheng Qianmo, “Uncle”. Sheng Qianmo reached for the book she was holding in her arms and helped her with it. He glanced at the person beside her, and asked, “Your classmate?”
Shu Nuan nodded and said goodbye to Jing Fei. Sheng Qianmo took the initiative to hold her hand as he led her away.
Shu Nuan walked out of the Yulin Academy with her head bowed and did not speak on the way.
All of a sudden, Sheng Qianmo stopped. The little girl walked two steps before she reacted to her hand not being pulled.
As she returned to her senses, she turned her head and looked up at Sheng Qianmo, who was staring back at her. Shu Nuan bit her lips and asked in a muffled voice, “Why did the Prince come?”
Sheng Qianmo looked at her blankly. “Afraid to lose my little girl.”
Shu Nuan was stunned for a second and then began biting her lips again. But she could not help as the corners of her lips bent a little and the two pretty dimples were revealed.
Sheng Qianmo just reached out and brushed her nose. “Why are you angry with This Prince?
Shu Nuan looked down. “Your slave is not angry.”
Sheng Qianmo could tell at a glance that she was a little unhappy. But he didn’t tangle further with her on this issue. He held Shu Nuan’s hand to lead her again, and said in a light voice, “Don’t stay so late in the future.”
Shu Nuan couldn’t help but defend herself. “These days we need to practice.”
Sheng Qianmo gaze at her, and insisted, “But don’t practice until dusk.”
“Got it,” Shu Nuan said with a sigh.
Outside the Yulin Academy, Shu Nuan saw a crimson horse.
Shu Nuan eyes widened in surprise as she looked at the steed nervously, and asked with an odd tinge to her voice, “Did the Prince ride here on this horse?”
“This Prince had only just left the military camp when Li Yuan told me that you were still in school, and so This Prince came to pick you up.” Sheng Qianmo responded as he got on the horse.
Shu Nuan looking up at him. She didn’t know why but looking at Shen Qianmo riding on the horse, the words “handsome” and “charming” came to mind.
The prince held out his hand toward her. He cleared his throat and the voice that came out was deep and pleasant. “Come up.”
Shu Nuan gave up her small hand to him, and it was completely wrapped by his palm. And then, a powerful force picked her whole body up as she landed holding him, sitting atop his horse.
Her heart was beating faster.
And her embarrassment increased.
In front of her was Sheng Qianmo’s broad back, like a smooth iron that gave her warmth.
At such close proximity, Shu Nuan could feel his strong heartbeat, and even hear his breathing. Suddenly, Sheng Qianmo nudged his horse onwards without any warning. The horse accelerated to a gallop and Shu Nuan was so scared that she stretched out her arms and hugged his waist tightly.
Sheng Qianmo was looking down at the two small hands the little girl had placed on his waist, and they caused the corners of his mouth to gently hook upwards. He did not speak and let her hug him from behind. He could feel that Shu Nuan was silent against his back, and only her hands gripping his waist revealed her nervousness.
“Afraid of riding?”
“Mm.” Shu Nuan embraced him, and whispered, “Your slave has a little courage only.”
“I won’t let you ride a horse after this.”
Shu Nuan quickly raised her head, and said, “I-I would like for the Prince to take me riding again…”
Her words had just fell, when she heard the man give a low chuckle. She did not know what his mood was like, but she felt good.
The sun was setting. A horse and two lovers, against it were light and shadow.
The night slowly deepened at the Jade Courtyard.
Sheng Gu was sitting in a hall with her head bowed, drinking her medicine without a word.
It was unknown how long the scene lasted, before Ah’Bi came running from outside up to the princess. She was panting as she said, “Princess, your servant has something to report…”
Sheng Gu finally looked up at her. “She returned by herself?”
Ah’Bi shook her head and gnashed her teeth. “The Prince has gone to pick up the slave.”
Sheng Gu looked down and after a while she spoke up. “Don’t call her that in the future. Fourth Uncle is so fond of her now. Also, be careful and don’t get in trouble with her.”
Ah’Bi snorted. “Your servant is not afraid of her. She is only a slave from a vanquished kingdom, and branded as such! She can’t wipe it off for the rest of her life!”
Sheng Gu fell silent.
It would be a lie to say that she was not lonely, and so she had gone to the Yulin Academy. However, her Fourth Uncle’s attention was still focused on that Shu Nuan.
Ah’Bi obviously noticed Sheng Gu’s evident frustration, but for a while she didn’t know how to comfort her. Suddenly, she remembered something and spoke to Sheng Gu.
“Princess, when your servant went with you to the Yulin Academy today, did you not meet with the Seventh Prince? Seventh Prince seemed to know the slave and asked your servant about her. And later, didn’t the Seventh Prince come back to Shenghe Palace with you? He also didn’t beat around the bush when asking a few questions about that slave…”
Sheng Gu frowned and looked up. “What do you mean?”
Ah’Bi eyes glimmered and she whispered, “Your servant thinks that the Seventh Prince has some thoughts about the slave girl.”
Sheng Gu looked coldly, as she said, “You mean Seventh Uncle, he…”
“That slave has a coquettish heart. Hasn’t the Seventh Prince been attending classes in the Yulin Academy in recent days? Who knows how that slave seduced the Seventh Prince behind Prince Sheng’s back…” Ah’Bi said with a hint of malice in her eyes.
“Your servant feels that since she wants to lead around the Seventh Prince, we should let her. When the time comes, we will inform the Prince of this matter. It is certain that the Prince will not spare her!”
 Du Shiniang is a popular story and theatre plot in China. Its exists as a Yue opera, as a Sichuan opera, and also as a 2006 “hybrid” Chinese-language western-style opera in the repertoire of the China Central Opera.The plot concerns the courtisane Du Shiniang, Miss Tenth-Daughter Du, who falls in love with a literati, Li Jia.