Visitor at the Lakeside
The palace banquet to celebrate the new year would always have quite a few fresh things to see. Aside from dancing and music, there was also a magic performance. After the performances in Fei Cui Hall came to an end, the Empress said that a theatre troupe had been prepared and arranged for everyone to head over to Ming Zhi Palace to watch a play.
Speaking of, Feng Yu Heng really had not watched a play in the palace. Or it could be said that after she came to Da Shun, she had not really watched a play. If it was an impression, that would be from when Feng Jin Yuan was still the left prime minister, and Han shi was acting bossy in the Feng manor and had invited a theatre troupe into the manor. But how could that level of troupe be compared to the one used by the imperial family?
Xuan Tian Ge told Feng Yu Heng: “Ming Zhi Palace is the place to watch plays in the palace. Normally speaking, if the play is acted out during the Summer, a temporary stage would be built in the garden, but it’s currently the first month, so having it be acted out in Ming Zhi Palace is perfect. Ming Zhi Palace is a place with a large stage built indoors. Below, there are enough seats for everyone to be seated. Imperial Uncle liked watching plays when he was younger. Back then, he specially found artisans to begin this special construction. Apparently, some special work was done with the walls, such that the sound travels really well. Even if all of the seats are filled, the people furthest back are still able to hear what’s being sung on stage.”
Feng Yu Heng nodded. The ancient era did not have the tools to amplify sound. In order to allow so many people to watch a play, it was a test of the actors’ abilities, and the setting for the play was also very important. Xuan Tian Ge was probably speaking about how it was built like a modern theatre. This sort of setting was naturally something that could occur from the work done with the walls. It was not complicated. In truth, Feng Yu Heng did not enjoy watching plays. After all, having experienced the movies of 21st century, she did not think that these ancient plays were particularly good. But this was arranged by the imperial family, so going to sit for a while was necessary.
The Emperor and the Empress moved first and were followed by the imperial concubines. After that, there was no specified order. The people had drank quite a bit of wine, and this was a happy day. The eldest prince even went to walk with the officials that he was familiar with. People basically just walked with whomever they got along with rather well. As for the madams and young misses, they used this opportunity to take a look at the noble young men and young misses of the palace. From time to time, they would gather together and be critical of certain little things. There were also some that had secretly come up with their own ideas.
Ren Xi Feng and Fung Tian Yu were not in very high spirits. The two were both quite dejected, and Xuan Tian Ge said: “I know why you two can’t get in good spirits. Another year has passed, and the marriage cannot be delayed any further, right? I heard that the door sills for the right prime minister’s manor and General Ping Nan’s manor have been worn down by the matchmakers.”
No matter how noble one’s status, when dealing with the matter of marriage, the rules had to be followed. The profession of matchmaker does not sound too glamorous; however, it was quite a prosperous job. Especially in a place like the capital, providing their services to the noble families, they were very clear on the situations in each large family. Regardless of whether they were male or female, as long as they were not engaged, once they became of age, none could escape their eyes.
Ren Xi Feng and Fung Tian Yu were both of age, and they were from families that were famous in the capital. The business that the matchmakers would receive from them was quite eye-opening. They would practically need to make multiple visits each day, making trips with marriage requests from many different men. In the beginning, the masters and madams of the two manors wanted to keep their daughters around for a bit longer, but after another year passed, General Ping Nan’s madam said that keeping her around like this would eventually cause enmity or something to that effect. Although Ren Xi Feng did not want to get married early, she was helpless against her mother taking the initiative to look around.
Feng Yu Heng was a bit puzzled, “Normally speaking, based on your statuses, wouldn’t His Majesty sanction a marriage eventually?”
Xuan Tian Ge said: “It should have been like that originally, but General Ping Nan and right prime minister are both people that have made contributions to Da Shun and have made requests for their daughters long ago. They will not marry princes and will not enter the palace. Also, they would take care of the marriages themselves, not accepting any sanctioned marriages. Imperial Uncle also agreed to it. That’s why,” She hugged Feng Yu Heng’s arm, “The one that should worry the most is not those two. Either way, their manors will make decisions for themselves and choose someone that they can get accustomed to. As for me, Heng, you need to make some careful considerations for me. I am Da Shun’s palace princess, and the imperial family only has one palace princess in the family. There’s no need for me to even think about choosing my own partner. That’s why the only path before me is one of a political marriage. Say, shouldn’t the one that has the most worries be me?”
With her saying this, Ren Xi Feng and Fung Tian Yu did not continue to worry about their own situation. Instead, they all began to worry about Xuan Tian Ge. What she had said was correct. As the only palace princess of Da Shun, she would eventually be part of a political marriage, but it was still unknown where she would go.
“Speaking of, Heng, I need to thank you and ninth brother.” Xuan Tian Ge continued: “It’s fortunate that you two eliminated Qian Zhou early on; otherwise, if I was sent over there, do you think I will be able to live? I heard that there are people that freeze to death over there. If I went, would I not have passed away after just a few days?”
“Damn, damn, damn!” Ren Xi Feng smacked her, “It’s the new year. Of all the things you could talk about, you chose these things. So unfortunate.”
Xuan Tian Ge also knew that she had misspoken and happily did not bring it back up. Instead, she muttered to herself: “I heard that it’s inevitable that there will be a battle after the new year celebrations have ended. My current hope is that this battle will be a bit smoother, conquering the South in a single swoop. Like with Qian Zhou, I won’t need to go there for a political marriage.” Xuan Tian Ge spoke with a bit of a lonely tone, as she no longer had that cheeky smile from earlier. After all, she was getting older with each passing year, and her marriage was imminent. She also knew that Da Shun could not keep her for much longer.
But how could battle be something that would go smoothly just by asking for it? Feng Yu Heng understood this clearly. Qian Zhou was an exception. If it was not for the unexpected earthquake and avalanche, Qian Zhou would definitely not have been handled so easily. If they came to a deadlock, and Qian Zhou gave in, requesting a truce and brought up a marriage to bring the two countries closer, Xuan Tian Ge would be Da Shun’s only choice. Of course, it was also possible that one of Qian Zhou’s princesses could marry just as Kang Yi had back then; however, Da Shun did not have many people to receive them. How could an earthquake be so easy to come by? Moreover, that was an extreme disaster. It harmed the country and its citizens, and she did not hope to see that sort of outcome.
She did not tell Xuan Tian Ge about this; however, Fung Tian Yu asked: “You only mentioned the North and the South, so are you not afraid of the East and the West?”
Xuan Tian Ge thought about it very seriously for a while then shook her head, “I am, but not to the same extent as with the North and the South. After all, the climate to the East and West are not too different from what can be found in Da Shun. Thinking about it, if I really do get married over there, I would not suffer too much hardship.”
She waved her hand and did not want to talk about it. The group also understood. Whether or not she suffered was not too closely related to the climate. Most important was the type of person that she married. If the two were of the same mind, the harshness of the climate would not matter.
They very quickly reached Ming Zhi Palace, and palace servants had already begun leading people to get seated once more. Of course, they were seated toward the front behind the imperial concubines.
The play today was about a reunion between two childhood sweethearts. The girl spent all of her money to send the man into the capital for the imperial exam, but the man neglected the exam and spent all of the money. With nothing to eat and no place to stay, not even the letter he sent could have anyone help bring him back to the village. Just like that, his ties with the village were cut. It was only at the next imperial exam that he became the top-ranking scholar. He wanted neither gold and treasures nor a beautiful palace princess. He just took his belongings and returned to his village to look for the girl that had waited for him, and the two became husband and wife.
It was a very beautiful play, and Xuan Tian Ge could not help but sigh: “A palace princess marrying the top scholar is something that can only happen in a play! In reality, which palace princess could have such good fortune and marry a top scholar? With no need to leave the capital, she could peacefully stay in a familiar place. Unless the imperial family has many palace princesses to the point that there isn’t enough space in the palace for them.”
Feng Yu Heng was not too interested in this sort of play. It was as Xuan Tian Ge had said. It was too idyllic and unrealistic. It was especially different from Da Shun’s reality. Of course, if it was too similar to the condition of the country, the actors would not dare act it out in front of the Emperor, even if they were beaten to death.
She found an excuse to go out for some air and left the hall. Although it was a bit cold outside, the air was quite good. The ancient era did not have any heavy industry, and it did not have any tobacco. There was no pollution, and the moon was clear, and the stairs were bright. It was far more comfortable than in the 21st century.
She asked a palace maid and was told that there was a small lake not too far down a path to the left of Ming Zhi Palace. There were quite a few lanterns over there. Although there were not many people, with the lanterns supporting the atmosphere, it was not quiet. Feng Yu Heng nodded and brought Wang Chuan and Huang Quan over in that direction.
Huang Quan was quite interested in the earlier play. While walking, she thought back and would occasionally say a few words about it to Wang Chuan. Only when they reached the lake did Wang Chuan cut off Huang Quan’s excitement and ask Feng Yu Heng: “Does Young Miss not feel too well?”
She shook her head, “It’s nothing. I just felt a bit flustered from the commotion inside. The outside is more peaceful.”
At this time, Huang Quan did not continue to speak about the play. Instead, she said: “Today, one person from the left prime minister’s manor did not come. Will the eighth prince’s marriage be called off? Young Miss, speaking of, this marriage was something that we planned to push forward, and someone did something to it from behind the scenes. On such an important day and for such an important matter, how could the Lu family allow Lu Yan to fall ill at this sort of time? And fell ill to the point of not being able to get out of bed?”
Wang Chuan also said: “That’s right, Young Miss, this servant also feels that someone has done something from behind the scenes. Also, this person is someone with great influence. This servant keeps feeling that Noble Lady Yuan would be unable to do it unless she sent a hidden guard into the Lu manor to feed poison to Lu Yan.”
“That isn’t impossible.” Feng Yu Heng casually agreed with it. In truth, she did not think that way. When she was in Fei Cui Hall, Xuan Tian Ming had come over to toast her and used that time to tell her about something. On the day that they had sent the things from the South the Lu manor for Lu Yan, the Lu family received another group of people not long after they had left. They had come from the Empress’ side, and Fang Yi had personally taken care of the delivery. She originally thought that the Empress was going along with their intentions by sending these gifts, but after some thought, this did not appear to be the case. “Anything said is just speculation. Tomorrow, I will personally go to the Lu manor. We will know after visiting.” Ruining her plans, even if she was in no rush to get revenge for this, she needed to be certain of things. No matter who it was, she could not allow them to hide in the shadows.
As the three chatted near the lake, the three suddenly stopped speaking and fell silent. Wang Chuan had the sharpest hearing and gave Feng Yu Heng a look. Feng Yu Heng then raised her voice and said: “Who is it being sneaky back there?”