Chapter Twelve: Breathtaking
“Junzhu, be careful of your step.” Min Huai stepped off the carriage with the help of a servant girl. Hearing the reminder from the servant girl, she stopped and looked at the outside of the palace.
“Junzhu, Princess Rui He’s carriage is up front,” the servant holding her hand reminded in a light voice.
Pressing her lips together as she took her gaze away, Min Huai Junzhu forced a smile. She picked up her skirts and walked in the direction of Princess Rui He. When she was three paces away from the princess, she curtsied. “Greetings to Princess.”
“We are sisters, why be so courteous?” After Min Hua finished bowing, Princess Rui He came forward and clasped Min Huai Junzhu’s hand. She swept a gaze around and her brow furrowed slightly. “Where is Aunt?”
Min Huai Junzhu’s smile faded slightly. “Mother’s body has not been well these days. To avoid offending the noble ones, she has let this subject come to the Emperor to give birthday greetings.” Her mother was siblings with the Emperor, but they were not of the same mother. Additionally, her father was average and not in the Emperor’s favor, so even though Min Huai Junzhu was the daughter of a princess, she wasn’t one of the top personages in this Jing that was filled with many people of high status. In front of Princess Rui He, the Emperor’s only daughter, she was even more careful and attentive, in fear that she would offend the princess and create a calamity for her Yuan Family.
Hearing this, Princess Rui He showed some concern. After comforting Min Huai Junzhu with a few words, they headed towards Zhao Yang Hall, with the two of them walking at staggered positions.
Min Huai Junzhu said seemingly unintentionally after walking a while, “Your Highness Princess, have you heard the recent rumors of Xian Junwang Fei?”
“What about her?” Princess Rui He looked dryly as her steps slowed. “Did you hear some chatter?”
“It is not anything major. Some people are saying that Xian Junwang and Junwang Fei are deeply in love. Junwang Fei is different than the rumors say and is a rare beauty.” When Min Huai Junzhu said this, she lowered her voice and looked around. Seeing that Princess Rui He was still looking neutrally at her, she continued. “Some are even saying that Xian Junwang fell in love with Junwang Fei at first sight. He takes the utmost care of her, and they are a match made in heaven.”
“A new marriage, it is fresh.” Princess Rui He smiled as she touched her earring. “As to whether Junwang Fei is the most beautiful in the world, we’ll know after seeing her tonight.” The smile at her lips was slightly cold. She turned to look at the palace doors and coincidentally saw a carriage stop at the gates. The servants beside it seemed to be from Sheng Junwang Fu.
Min Huai Junzhu’s expression changed slightly. “The most beautiful in the world” appeared to be a compliment, but for noble females, this was not a good phrase and was more suited for those females in the slums. Even though she knew that these words were inappropriate, she felt a certain pleasure deep inside. If there weren’t so many people in the surroundings, maybe she would not control her expression and would show a smile.
Princess Rui He didn’t have any good feelings about the people of Xian Junwang Fu and had even more dislike for the people of Sheng Junwang Fu. The former had a great reputation in Jing, but that was because of his appearance and talents. The latter was someone she was wary of because of his abilities in the court.
Sheng Junwang was not as outstanding in appearance as Xian Junwang, but his literary and martial abilities were outstanding. This contrast caused the already average Crown Prince to look even worse. Sometimes, it would cause people to only remember the abilities of Sheng Junwang and to forget that the Crown Prince was the next emperor.
“Greetings to Imperial Sister Rui He, Cousin Min Huai.” Sheng Junwang and his junwang fei walked in front of the two and gave a bow of equals towards the two. Even though his conduct was appropriate, anyone could see that there wasn’t any intimacy between them.
“Good day to Sheng Junwang.” Princess Rui He responded with half a bow, and her words were even more distant. As for the junwang fei beside Sheng Junwang, she didn’t even give the other female a glance.
Min Huai Junzhu, on the other hand, bowed sincerely to husband and wife and then retreated half a step to stay away from the conflict between the three. She had heard previously that before Hou shi married, Princess Rui He hadn’t liked her. After Hou shi married into Sheng Junwang Fu, Princess Rui He disliked her even more. Due to Princess Rui He, many of the women in Jing didn’t dare to walk closely to Sheng Junwang Fei.
Sheng Junwang saw Princess Rui He’s attitude and nodded neutrally. “Imperial Sister and Cousin have been conversing. Bo Yi is unskilled verbally and does not want to disturb you. Bo Yi is going ahead.” Finished speaking, he raised his folded hands and then left with Hou shi.
Princess Rui He watched with a slightly heavy expression as Sheng Junwang’s procession left, but her steps were paced and her actions were full of the dignity of an Imperial House’s princess.
Xian Junwang Fu’s carriage stopped at the palace gates, and eunuchs immediately came up to hold the horse and put down the stool. Those that didn’t manage to get there first respectfully bowed and stood at the side to wait for Junwang Ye and Junwang Fei to come off the carriage.
Mu Tong saw everything was prepared before he came forward and said, “Junwang Ye, Junwang Fei, we have arrived at the palace gates.”
After hearing the sound of acknowledgement from Junwang Ye, Mu Tong climbed onto the carriage and lifted the curtain as he bowed. Two other eunuchs carefully held the stools to wait for Junwang Ye to get off the carriage.
When the curtain was lifted, Hua Xi Wan saw the outside. Other than the palace attendants in the surroundings, the feeling the Imperial Palace gave her was the same as last time.
The two young eunuchs that were holding the stools naturally didn’t dare to raise their heads to stare directly at their superiors, but when an embroidered and fragrant slipper stepped past, and Hua Xi Wan’s beautiful dress flowed across the backs of their hands, they couldn’t help but still. It might have been because the dress was too beautiful or because of the faint floral fragrance.
“Which direction is Zhao Yang Hall?” Hua Xi Wan looked at the vast Imperial Palace and asked the question that concerned her the most.
“It is not very far from here,” Yan Jin Qiu replied with a smile as he seemed to guess what the person beside him was worried about. “It is only one to two quarters by walking to Zhao Yang Hall. We will get there soon.”
Fifteen minutes to half an hour’s worth of distance… this was close?
Hua Xi Wan touched the slightly shaking buyao in her hair and gave a warm smile. “It is pretty close.” Actually, she didn’t want to walk one step, honestly.
The Emperor was having his birthday. Even if it was a family banquet, there were considerations. There couldn’t be any palace attendants whose birth times were in conflict with the Emperor’s, no one who was ill among the people attending, or those whose families were in morning. Anything that could conflict was not allowed to appear in Zhao Yang Hall.
When Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu appeared in Zhao Yang Hall, many members of the Imperial House were already present. Mu Tong handed the medallion that represented the identity of Xian Junwang to the guard at the hall doors, and then an eunuch called out, “Announcing Xian Junwang and Junwang Fei.”
Zhao Yang Hall that had been slightly busy instantly quieted. Some people who were not as composed looked directly at the doors and wanted to look at the true appearance of Hua shi who was rumored to be of ugly looks.
From far, they saw a male and female walk in holding hands—one water-blue, the other bright red. They could not see the features, but from away, they did look like a perfect pair.
Min Huai Junzhu couldn’t resist raising her head to look at the pair that was walking in. When they entered the main hall, the sound around her became silence, and she could not take away her gaze.
She had never believed that a woman could possess the attributes of snowy skin, picturesque facial features, and an elegant figure all at once. For her, these kinds of beauties only appeared in those love stories that poor scholars wrote and only existed to satisfy the fantasies of men.
But when Xian Junwang Fei appeared in her vision, the jealousy hidden deep in her heart instantly erupted. She didn’t even see Princess Rui He looking a few times at her.
There were those envious and jealous among the women present, but compared to them, the males of the Imperial House were more numerous. Their breath was stolen away and they were full of regret. Who had said that the di daughter of Yi’an Marquis Fu was one without beauty? If they knew that Yi’an Marquis Fu was hiding such a beauty, they would have gone long ago to ask for marriage. Who would drag it until now to let Xian Junwang, this constant winner in life, to have the beauty?
Before this, they had felt that while Xian Junwang had both appearance and talent, and the hearts of the girls in Jing, in the end he had married a woman of appropriate nobility but who could not be seen in public. In private, they had even mocked him. But reality was completely different than the rumors. Xian Junwang Fei was not a female without beauty but one who had a wondrous face. This caused the men to be filled with envy and jealousy towards Xian Junwang, and to feel that the Heavens were unfair.
“Xian Junwang Fei has a good appearance.” Hou shi picked up the teapot to pour a cup of tea for Yan Bo Yi. Seeing that he didn’t even turn his head, her smile grew. “Even as a female, I can’t resist but look more.”
Yan Bo Yi raised the teacup and took a sip before he glanced at the door. He quickly turned away his gaze and said indifferently, “Xian Junwang is fortunate.”
Hou shi put down the teapot and closely examined the Xian husband and wife who were walking towards them. “Light and fine steps, exquisite and peerless.”
This phrase was one that was used to describe beautiful women, but it originated from a tragic story. In the story, the female that married ended up killing herself.
When Yan Bo Yi heard this, he put down the teacup.
After saying this, Hou shi detected that it was inappropriate. Seeing that Junwang Ye had not realized it, she smiled and said, “Junwang Ye is right. Xian Junwang is fortunate.”
She was Sheng Junwang Fei and had never been in love with Xian Junwang. Most of what she felt was admiration about Hua Xi Wan’s appearance but not much jealousy.
Yan Bo Yi and Yan Jin Qiu had similar status. However, the person who had arranged the seats might have done it on accident or intentionally that Yan Jin Qiu’s position was coincidentally above Yan Bo Yi.
When they passed Yan Bo Yi’s table, Yan Jin Qiu smiled and raised his hands in a greeting. Yan Bo Yi also stood up to return the greeting. “Brother-cousin, Brother-cousin’s wife.”
Hua Xi Wan turned her body slightly to avoid half of the other’s bow and then bent her knees to give a full bow. Then she walked two paces, close to where Hou shi was standing.
Hou shi noticed Hua Xi Wan’s movements, and her smile became even more sincere. While the other’s appearance was too outstanding, her conduct was proper.
After making sure that Yan Jin Qiu’s body was helping her dodge the majority of examining gazes, Hua Xi Wan used her handkerchief to cover her mouth and suppressed the urge to yawn.
As expected, she had no energy after getting up too early.