It was the first year of the Shengli1 era, the day after New Year’s Eve, and it was snowing heavily.
Buddhist pagodas of different sizes stood unevenly amidst the snow and mist. 

Luoyang appeared like a land for immortals overnight. 

As soon as Ming Huashang raised her head, she could see the golden phoenix entering the clouds from the top of the Vientiane Shrine.
Even while shrouded by the thick mist, and heavy snow, none of this could hide the phoenix’s spirit and its fluttering wings which desired to fly.

Ming Huashang withdrew her gaze and sneezed due to the cold.

Zhaocai was the same as usual, prattling endlessly to her, “Miss, it’s fine that you like to sleep in, but today is the day to greet the Old Madam.
How could you dare to sleep in like usual today as well?”

A bright red cloak covered Ming Huashang from head to toe, and the cloak was trimmed with rabbit fur.
The fine and soft fur collar covered most of her face making her voice indistinct. 

Zhaocai thought she heard the girl say something, but when she looked back, that face, which was more delicate and beautiful than new year’s paintings, was buried in the white fur.
It didn’t look like she was talking. 

She thought, perhaps it was because the wind outside was too strong, so she misheard.
She continued to talk to Ming Huashang like normal, “Miss, you can’t be so undisciplined anymore.
You are the eldest di2 daughter of our duke manor’s main branch3, the legitimate daughter of the Imperial Duke4 Zhen.
I know you never cared before and no one dares to chide you, but after the New Year, you will be sixteen.
It’ll be time to arrange your marriage.
Madam left early, so your marriage will have to be arranged by the Old Madam.
If you don’t try to warm up to her, how can the Old Madam think of you?”

From greetings to the topic of marriage, it was like Zhaocai opened a chatterbox, filled with never-ending long-winded prattle.
First, she weighed some prospective young masters of Luoyang who have yet to begin marriage talks then especially emphasized Ming Huashang’s superior family background, and finally concluded, “Miss, although you never tried to be the best in anything and have always been too lazy to compete for recognition in the four arts5, but with the Duke manor and second young master by your side, you’re guaranteed to have a good marriage.”

Zhaocai really deserved to be her maid.
She could embellish both the good and the bad in such a nice way.
There were herds of aristocratic families in Shendu6, dukes and marquises all around, and there was especially no shortage of well-bred noble family daughters.
Ming Huashang never competed for a reputation in the four arts; was it really because she didn’t want to?

After weighing the odds, even her most biased maid knew that Ming Huashang’s only advantage was her family background, which proved just how authentic a salted fish7 Ming Huashang was.

Ming Huashang sighed again.
Even Zhaocai had more initiative than herself, which made Ming Huashang feel a tiny bit ashamed.
Of course, she wasn’t ashamed about not working hard, but from the guilt that she was probably going to let Zhaocai down.

Because she didn’t even have the family background advantage anymore.

Ming Huashang woke up late today, not entirely because she wanted to snooze, but because of a nightmare, she had last night.
In that dream, a slender and beautiful woman with a temperament like an orchid came to the Ming family claiming that she was the real daughter of the Ming family.
Along with her claim, she presented physical evidence.

After a period of turmoil, her father, Duke Zhen came over from the back courtyard.
It looked like he had found the answer after an investigation, and emotionlessly described a series of events from the past.


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