Is the Rouge Bad? (First Kiss)

Ming Qin scoured the entire Shadow Guard camp before finally locating the item Murong Yan desired from a senior brother who excelled at disguise.

Eager to assist, the senior brother sifted through an array of peculiar bottles and jars before examining Ming Qin’s hair, “Your hair is so lustrous, do you require black bean paste? Are you assisting an elder with hair dyeing?”

Ming Qin shook her head, “No, it’s for a friend of mine who’s not yet thirty.”

“Really?!” the senior brother exclaimed.
Concerned, he advised her in a grave tone, “Your friend is likely suffering from excessive worry and strain.
Little sister, you should urge her to let go of her troubles.
Such contemplation is detrimental to one’s health.
If it’s only a minor setback, it’s better to move on.
Brooding can be harmful to longevity.”

Murong Yan’s experience was probably not something that could be summed up by a simple phrase like “minor setback,” and it was not a topic outsiders should discuss.

Uncertain of how to reply, Ming Qin could only scratch her nose silently.
After thanking the senior brother, she placed the item he gave her in her cloth bag and hurried to the Hidden Moon Tower.

To her surprise, Murong Yan was not lying on the usual couch by the window when she reached the top floor.
Instead, she found her sitting in front of a dressing table veiled by a screen.

“Ah Qin, hand me the item,” a fair hand reached out from behind the screen.
Ming Qin turned to face Murong Yan, handing her the cloth bundle.
“Wait outside for a while,” Murong Yan said in a gentle tone.

Ming Qin sat obediently on the stool, her eyes scanning the table filled with tea snacks that she adored.
Unable to resist her temptation, she licked her lips and reached out to devour them one by one.

After emptying the table, she felt full and a little drowsy.
However, Murong Yan had not yet emerged from behind the screen.

On the ninth yawn from Ming Qin, the sound of fabric rubbing came from behind the screen.

“Ah Qin.” Murong Yan emerged from behind the screen with a helpless smile.
“Eating too many sweets can give you toothache.”

Ming Qin opened her mouth to reply but froze in a state of petrification.

Murong Yan had always been beautiful, and Ming Qin knew it.
Whether she was sitting gracefully on a horse, lazily playing with tea sets on a couch, or even when she was breathing lightly and calling her own name while sick, she exuded beauty.

But none of those moments had been as stunning as this one, to the point where Ming Qin almost forgot to breathe.

Ming Qin only saw “them” as the remnant of the Murong Yan who had caused a sensation at the Spring Festival Poetry Gathering, hailed as a literary genius, and stunned the entire capital city.

Her complexion was as flawless as white jade, without any makeup except for a touch of light rouge on her cheeks to add a healthy glow to her otherwise wan face.

Her peach-colored eyelids were adorned with a delicate upward flick at the outer corners, exuding an irresistible allure.
Unlike her usual deep red lipstick, she opted for a fine brush to carefully paint her lips in a bold red hue, coated with a layer of crack-resistant oil.

But it was much more than that.

Her beauty was akin to that of a blooming peony in spring, outshining all other flowers and leaving them in the shade.

Her previously sunken cheeks had been nourished over the past half year, and now radiated vitality and vigor.
Every expression was a work of art.

When she spoke, her lips were dripping with a tantalizing shade of red that set hearts racing.

Her once silver strands of hair were now a deep black, coiled into a simple bun held in place by a pure gold hairpin, adorned with two large red peonies spun from palace silk.
Their petals were embroidered with hidden golden threads, as if they were bursting to life among her green tresses.

The white robe was embroidered with lush vine branches in deep green silk thread that cascaded from the wide sleeves, climbing up her slender shoulders and winding around her like a creeping vine.

As she turned, a bold red peony embroidered on her back came into view, its intricate lines so vividly drawn that it appeared as if the flower could burst forth with her every movement, ready to cut through her slender spine.

The dress’s swaying hem dropped a few red petals, inspiring a desire to protect the blossoms before her.

The inner skirt was a subdued shade of red, not as lavish as the ornate outer robe, but simply draped in white silk embroidered with red flowers.
A section hung down in front, billowing with each graceful step she took.

The air was free of cloying powder; instead, a delicate scent of peonies trailed silently in her wake, prompting others to yield to her radiant beauty.

She was a breathtaking sight, nothing less.

Ming Qin gazed upon her, awestruck and bereaved.

Did you see it?

Her beauty.

Open your eyes wide and look upon it.

Isn’t it magnificent? A beauty that can enchant all beings, as if a celestial being had descended to earth.

She deserved to be revered by all and held dear by those around her.

Behold the unparalleled beauty Murong Yan, the esteemed County Princess Chongwen and the most renowned in all the land!

She should have lived her life with carefree abandon, in the bloom of her youth, shining with a radiance that outshone all others.

Instead, she was treated like a mere twig, imprisoned in a towering edifice like a captive slave, cruelly denied the pleasures of fresh air and sunlight, and slowly suffocated as she wilted away.

This was an unforgivable injustice.

Whether it was the mad prince, the inept emperor, or even her own fate that could not be changed, she could not forgive the harsh and unfair world that had treated her so.

“Ah Qin, come here,” she called out gently.

Although Murong Yan had always been aware of her own beauty, she couldn’t help but feel a bit of happiness when she saw the look of surprise on Ming Qin’s face.
“Help me up, my legs are hurting,” she said with a soft voice.

Ming Qin, who had been lost in her own thoughts, quickly approached and lifted her up by the hips with great care.
“Don’t strain yourself,” she advised.

Murong Yan looked down, touched the earrings that were once hers, and happily pointed to the corner where the guqin was.
“Take me there,” she requested.

Ming Qin carried her and supported her as she sat in front of the guqin.
She wiped off the dust with one hand while holding her waist with the other to keep her steady.

“Although I can no longer dance to Ah Qin’s music, I can still play the guqin,” Murong Yan said.
With one hand, she played a few notes before placing both hands on the strings.
“However, it has been a while since I last played, so I may be a bit rusty.”

She plucked the strings, creating a melody.

Ming Qin didn’t appreciate music.

To her, all music sounded tedious, with just a few strings bouncing back and forth.

Now, she realized how mistaken she had been.

In that moment, she still couldn’t grasp the intricacies of music.

Yet, she seemed to sense the sorrow that emanated from Murong Yan’s guqin.

At first, it was a lonesome note, and then it gradually deepened.

As the notes stacked, she seemed to feel the her fingers’ strength, while anger and grief amassed.

It seemed like she wanted to release her frustration and confide her grievances.
A surge of sadness and anger pressed against her chest, as if it would burst out in the next moment.


A piercing and sharp sound cut through the air, as if to halt everything.

A string broke.

Murong Yan’s previously passionate melody suddenly came to a halt, and her hands hung in mid-air.

The broken string hit her arm like a whip, leaving a long red mark, while only a few strings of the guqin were trembling softly.

As if on the verge of tears.

“Does even my guqin refuse to follow my heart?” Murong Yan sighed softly, her expression somewhat desolate.

Suddenly, she felt a chill around her neck.
She turned her head and saw Ming Qin with tears running down her cheeks for the first time.

“Ah Qin?”

Murong Yan’s face betrayed a rare hint of panic as she rolled up her sleeves with the intention of wiping away Ming Qin’s tears.
But Ming Qin had other plans, as she tightly embraced Murong Yan.
“Ah Qin, what’s wrong?” she asked, concerned.

Ming Qin shook her head, remaining silent as she gently touched the red mark on Murong Yan’s hand and tied a handkerchief around it.

“Why are you crying, Ah Qin? It’s just a small injury,” Murong Yan said, looking at her with an amused expression and reaching out to touch her face.

“It hurts so much,” Ming Qin replied, her voice barely above a whisper.

Murong Yan sympathized with her.
“Don’t cry, Ah Qin.
The string didn’t hurt as much as it appeared when it hit you,” she said, comforting her.
Then she tried to distract Ming Qin by asking, “Do you understand the allure of women now?”

Ming Qin nodded her head in agreement.
“I now understand why so many people are willing to spend a fortune just to make a woman smile.”

If it meant making Murong Yan happy, Ming Qin would do anything, even if it meant sacrificing herself.

Murong Yan’s face lit up with happiness at Ming Qin’s response.

She was aware of her own extreme beauty, and in the past, she could have used her looks to make any man do her bidding.
However, she had also harbored intense resentment towards her appearance, wishing she could rip her face apart with a hairpin in front of the mirror.

Yet, just for Ming Qin’s remark on not understanding the beauty of a woman, she was willing to temporarily re-embrace her former glory.
As she saw Ming Qin’s stunned expression, she couldn’t help feeling a sense of pride.

It was all too childish, really.

Murong Yan found herself feeling somewhat helpless and amused at the same time.

Looking at Ming Qin’s still slightly reddened eyes, Murong Yan let out a sigh.
“Ah Qin, my makeup isn’t finished yet.”

Ming Qin looked at the flawless face in front of her in confusion.
“Not finished?”

“Not finished,” Murong Yan stated firmly, as she covered Ming Qin’s cheek with her hand.
“I need your help, Ah Qin.”

“Sure,” Ming Qin readily agreed.
“How can I help?”

“Close your eyes and don’t open them,” the woman breathed out softly, her voice slightly husky.

Ming Qin obediently shut her eyes, and the rich fragrance of peonies reached her nostrils.
She never doubted her words.

After a moment, Ming Qin felt a faint sensation on her lips that was wet and cold.

Unsure of what it was, she held back her curiosity and refrained from opening her eyes.
It felt like silk, and she couldn’t resist the urge to lick it lightly.

The person in her arms trembled at first, but soon relaxed and allowed Ming Qin’s tongue to enter, as if they were in a world of their own.

The scent of flowers filled her mouth and nose, and she could feel the hardness and softness of another wetness.

Ming Qin knew what she was doing; she had seen it before in the brothel.

Suddenly, her face burned uncontrollably and she quickly opened her eyes and pulled back.
She saw the person in front of her breathing lightly, with water marks left by her on the corner of her mouth.

Ming Qin felt like she had insulted the princess, like a dirty lowlife.
She was flustered as she tried to speak.
“I, I, I…”

“Did I ruin my rouge?” Murong Yan calmly asked as she licked her lips, but her blush betrayed her thoughts.

Ming Qin quickly glanced at the princess’s vermilion lips and then looked out the window, stuttering, “N…no…”

“Then that’s how it should be.”

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