Marquis Qin wondered if the Crown Princess was trained in the art of making people wait—because the Crown Princess excelled at it. She sat there, unbothered and unfazed at the shiny gems presented to her. As a matter of fact, she even seemed bored with the items.
"How is the tea?" she mused.
Marquis Qin lowered his head and peered down. There was an aromatic drink presented to him in a blue teacup rimmed with pure gold.
What an expensive tea set this was… He wondered how she got her hands on it, or if it was just one of the Crown Prince's many possessions, much like she was.
"It smells…" he trailed off. He took a whiff and nearly winced. "Delightful," he lied.
Marquis Qin did not fancy sweet or floral teas unless they were bitter chamomile or earthy chrysanthemum. But the drink offered to him was everything he despised.
Nonetheless, he lifted the teacup to his mouth and took a sip. His taste buds protested when the overly sweet tea touched his tongue. It was rosehip with way too much sugar.
"Lovely, isn't it?" Li Xueyue repeated his words with a tight smile.
Marquis Qin's palms suddenly became sweaty. What was this feeling? Was he uncomfortable in her presence? It was a hilarious thought! Him? Uncomfortable? Because of her? She was just a woman! A teeny tiny one in comparison to his big frame.
Her bones looked as if they were made of twigs and ice, easily breakable under his fingertips. She looked fragile that a child could smack her, and her jaw would shatter.
But Marquis Qin knew better than to think that way. He was there when she pointed a sword at the Princess of Nanhui. He was there when she lifted her arrows and shot a bird dead in the eye. He was not a fool, but with age, his sharp mind was becoming dull.
"You expected to be served tea that would suit your taste," she muttered. "Instead, you get a disappointing and subpar drink."
Marquis Qin knew what she was implying. The beautiful Crown Princess, dazzling as she was, had the tongue of a snake. It was sharp and it stung him. He felt like a fool for forgetting the first rumor that floated about her: the candidate who talked her way out of Hanjian.
The Crown Princess was an intelligent and witty woman.
He sneered on the inside. He hated it when women learned to read and write. What was the point of it when they were bred to become wives? It would've been a lot better for them to learn how to please their husbands, and look pretty instead.
"It seems I've ruined your mood with this horrible tea," she said.
Li Xueyue placed her teacup down and flashed him with a disapproving frown that hinted she expected better from him. Letting out a wistful and disappointed sigh, she rose from her seat.
"Next time, I will keep in mind to bring you what you like to drink," Li Xueyue apologetically said. She turned on her heels, concealing an amused smile. She could feel Marquis Qin's glare burning a hole through her head. And he must be wishing she would drop dead right then and there.
"Such a shame, Princess," Xiao Hua softly sighed with a shake of her head. "It seems this merchant has grown too senile and unaware of the trends."
Li Xueyue's lips twitched. "Hush now, I am sure the Marquis has his reasons," she whispered, pretending to keep her opinions on the down-low.
"You're right, Princess! Since this encounter was an utter disappointment, I must remind you of the next appointment with the merchant who has been eager to meet with you?"
At the handmaiden's words, Marquis Qin's head snapped up. He didn't want to give up on the Crown Princess's request, but with the troubles he was forced to go through just to acquire a damn knife, he was beginning to have doubts about fulfilling her request.
Yet again, she had provoked him with words that did not come directly from her mouth. Marquis Qin ground his teeth. What made her so cunning and sly? How come a girl as young as her was this conniving? Who taught her to be this way?
Alas, Marquis Qin decided not to speak about it. She was just taunting him again. His morale was already low from experiencing great difficulties with this trade.
Truthfully, he was uncertain of whether or not the deal would actually go through.
The benefits were immense, but the costs? Was it truly worth his valuable resources?
"Ah yes, the other merchant who supplies the Emperor's medicine," the Crown Princess responded. "Please inform him that I wish to see no one until my body has fully recovered."
Marquis Qin jolted at her words. His head snapped up in surprise. Was he overthinking everything? He was surprised. For a split second there, Marquis Qin thought she would accept the offer in front of him—which would be a big slap in his face.
"Wait, Princess!" Marquis Qin suddenly blurted out. She couldn't leave empty-handed, could she? It was unlike him not to bring small gifts or trinkets for all of his customers. They were complementary, of course, for everyone loved free things, even the rich and wealthy.
"I was rambling so much, I almost forgot," he continued and cheerfully laughed, pleased that she was still on his side.
"Since your Imperial Physician is so stubborn, I must personally present this medicine to you. You do not need to consume it. All you need to do is just to rub it on your temples and it will relieve any aches and pain."
Marquis Qin dug into his pockets and presented a small, metal box to the Crown Princess. It was smaller than the size of her palms, but the design of the box was beautiful.
Li Xueyue eyed the item before her lips curled in a soft smile. "I've already troubled you with my request for a special dagger, I couldn't possibly accept this…"
Li Xueyue knew he must've been frustrated by her difficult request. Truthfully, she knew it was difficult to acquire the dagger since it was too rare for him to get his hands on it. Seeing him struggle and stress like this brought her great satisfaction.
But if he suffered too much, then he would become too aggravated and eventually give up on this request. She couldn't have him doing that. It would ruin her plans.
Thus, this tiny glimmer of hope should be enough for him. Li Xueyue had already pointed out the wrongdoings of his actions—replacing her dream dagger with other things.
"Oh no no, Princess, you must accept this, I insist!" Marquis Qin hurriedly stated. "You see, I give small gifts like this to thank my customers for their precious time."
Li Xueyue forced herself to look a bit glum. "I see…" she trailed off.
She combed back her stray hairs, her smile slipping a teeny tiny bit. "And here I was," she said and laughed, "believing it was just a gesture reserved only for me."
Marquis Qin resisted the urge to slap his mouth. He had been too talkative and eager to please her but it backfired on him. As a result, she was far from happy with his actions.
The Crown Princess began to turn on her heels again. She gave him a curt nod and bid him goodbye. For a split second there, her mask slipped, and she seemed a little upset.
Marquis Qin was worried. He couldn't have this new customer walk out on him so unhappy and have an unpleasant memory of their last encounter.
"W-wait, Crown Princess!" he called out whilst carefully looking around for something to make up for his second mistake.
"You are one of my priority customers, far more special than the majority of them," he explained.
Marquis Qin gulped when his eyes laid on nothing else to give her but the earrings. It was supposed to be his way of speaking between the lines… He was hoping for her to take the earrings and forget about the dagger. However, that hope was crushed by his next set of words.
"To show my sincerity towards you, how about you accept not only this medicine, but also the topaz earrings?"
Marquis Qin watched with keen eyes as her lips parted in shock. She was taken aback and glanced at him for a brief second before looking at the medicine in his hand.
"Well then," she lightly mused. "If you insist so earnestly, I'll have no choice but to accept both of your gifts."
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