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It has some time since I have been able to write. But now I am in Fanrong, as settled as one can be in the Empress's court (which Ziying says is about as settled as balancing on one slipper on the edge of a knife) and I have found some time to myself again. I suppose I should be with Ziying, making sure he stays out of the beds of all the beauties who trail after the Empress and paint and write poetry for her pleasure. Chin made me promise to keep him from bedding anyone we could offend. But he assures me he will be spending the day in war games with his friends from army service and since none of them can get pregnant and cast doubt on a family line I think Chin will not be upset with me if he has an affair there.
I do not like it here nearly so much as at home. There is a great deal to see, and I have been to the textile district and chosen fine threads and dyes with my own hands twice, which I enjoyed. I have seen beautiful dancing and heard the most wonderful music and met many new people, some of whom I even like. But my presence is required (on pain of offense, which seems to be the worst of crimes) to many seemingly indolent things like a stroll in the garden, or taking tea and watching the night flowers open, or hearing the first recital of someone-or-another's new poem, simply because of who has chosen to take part. None of these things are so offensive on their own and can be very pleasant with the right company but when you must, no matter your mood or if you are tired of socializing and were working on something very complicated, it becomes a punishment. I do not know how these ladies think I am going to make the dancing-ribbons they have all been angling for from me if they keep insisting I leave them half-woven and come drink tea.
Is it so where you live? I know that you have many royal half-siblings and many factions among them- do you have to make nice to all of them, and go to all their parties when you would rather be doing something else? I think you should not have the time in the day to do it. Or does you being a prince as well mean you can keep your own court and tell them to go hang when you are busy?
The city is beautiful- when I have had the chance to leave the palace walls and venture out into it I have enjoyed myself immensely. Though Shanlu is an old city all the oldest buildings are dull and military, but in Fanrong you can see half a dozen eras of the finest architecture all building up together. The whole city is like a painting, and the people are colorful and full of life and the markets are full of treasures. I have enclosed a little sketch of the southeast markets- it doesn't capture all the motion and color and the way the shadows shift in the branches of that tree to the left there, or all the fluttering of cloth at the windows and stalls, but I think it shows the buildings well enough.
Tell me about your studies. What is it like, scribing? What assignments do they give a prince? I am curious about your language, will you show me a few characters in your next letter and make sure the translator sends them on? What is going on in your homeland? Has anyone tried to marry you yet?
All the court ladies I have spoken to on the matter are shocked and dismayed that Ju has not so much as found me a suitor: they do not say it, but I know they think it is because I am plain. To the north, like the Bai Xue we wear minimal cosmetics but in Fanrong these ladies will paint themselves for hours for a party. Ziying is teaching me to apply them, and I am enjoying myself, but my skin is not used to these oily paints and I worry I will come out in a rash. Though if I did perhaps Ziying would pronounce me not fit to look at and I would have some time to myself for once. Maybe I could fake one.
I look forward to your reply, and I will get it so much faster now that the messenger does not need to carry it beyond Fanrong.