My Little Girl (45)
Crimson cloak, a snow-white wool scarf. Face adorned with delicate Xiqu makeup, Shu Nuan looked fairer than ever and matchlessly stunning.
She sat on a clastic rock on the stage under a plum tree. Although the theater props were fake, they didn’t diminish her presence, as her beauty was true.
Her cloak was a red waterfall that led to the ground, and white petals embellished it. A brilliant red. A pearl white. The serenity was breathtaking.
And thus she sat, head bowed and hands on the guqin.
Her peacefulness transcended her normal air.
So different from her usual self.
She would always use a green silk ribbon to tie her hair in a simple manner. But now her hair bun was exquisite. She had on a delicate and magnificent opera crown interspersed with pearl threads and inlaid with jewels. Two long, dense tassels hung on both sides of the crown, curved behind her, and which shook as she played the piano.
The sides of her temple had a few loose rings of hair, hung with which were rubies. A thin lock of hair was combed down from the ear, half hooked like a crescent moon. Beautiful and light tassels hung in front of the ears, swaying a little with the wind.
Shu Nuan’s appearance was pure and deep. The Xiqu makeup was painted on: her brows were drawn slender; the eyes like peach blossoms were outlined, two clear lakes separated from the world; and, the cherry red lips against the fair face.
Sheng Qianmo could feel that that Shu Nuan looked disparate from her usual self, but he couldn’t define how. Just that she always seemed pure and glowing, untainted by even a speck of dust. But now this beauty was rendered a level higher.
Both pure and enchanting at the same time, it was an indescribable impression.
Sheng Qianmo’s eyes drifted from Shu Nuan’s delicate makeup, down to her fingers playing the guqin.
White fingers plucked against the backdrop of wood and string, delicate in their focus. Like a butterfly hovering over the strings, gracefully landing and taking off again.
He knew how soft those little hands were.
But he never knew they could play the guqin.
And very beautifully at that.
Sheng Qianmo stood at the bottom of the stage, his eyes never leaving the spectacle in front of him.
He looked at her and the actors of the play. He looked at every change in her face, every way she smiled. He listened to her charming voice sing the light bends of the opera song, soft and lingering, like a kitten tickling his heart.
Only one thought entered his mind: when she was back by his side, he wanted her to sing for an audience of one.
And the song would be like this one, soft and touching the heart.
Sheng Qianmo didn’t notice how long he stood there, until the song was over. Shu Nuan and the rest of the actors thanked as the curtain fell. The audience broke into warm applause. The prince didn’t return to his senses until she stepped down from the stage.
When he walked back, the emperor turned to glance at him, took a sip of his wine, and said with a soft tone, “Fourth Brother, you missed a good show.”
Sheng Zhiyu’s eyes flashed upon seeing the oppurtunity, and he laughed loudly. “Your Majesty jokes. I think Fourth Brother must have seen it in private!” Throwing an intentional teasing look at Sheng Qianmo in front of the emperor, he continued, “Fourth Brother, don’t you think the beautiful little woman on the guqin just now looks a little familiar?”
The emperor raised his eyebrows and looked at Sheng Qianmo. “You know someone in this academy?”
Sheng Qianmo sat down with a faint expression and took a sip of wine. He said, “She is from my manor.”
Sheng Lingyun grunted. “Brother, let me tell you. The last time when I went to Fourth Brother’s manor, I saw that little girl in his own courtyard. Fourth Brother was so protective and stingy he wouldn’t even let me talk to her.”
Emperor Sheng smiled with deep meaning but an empty visage. “I see.”
 – Chinese Opera