Published at 10th of November 2020 01:11:58 PM
As for the pastries and fruits, that went without saying . The fruits were naturally meticulously hand-picked from the back hill of the Imperial Plantation: pears, apples, grapes, mulberries, raspberries… Although it was already late fall, many fruits from the previous seasons like peaches, watermelon, cantaloupes, strawberries had been preserved fresh, as though they had only just been harvested from the orchard .
The pastries were all sent from The Yu’s main pastry shop . Other than the exquisite little pastries on each table, the one thing that became the focus of everyone was still the giant cake that was being made on the spot in the main hall on the ground floor of Zhenxiu Restaurant . The cake at the bottom was brought in from the pastry shop after it was baked, and formed a large rectangular structure of about 10 meters long and 3 meters wide . As for the whipped cream, fruit jam and fruit compote that were spread on top, they were made then and there with the cooperation of six pretty little misses .
Those little misses and young masters that arrived earlier surrounded the area where the giant cake was taking shape and peered at it curiously . Gasps sprouted from their lips as they saw beautiful, life-like whipped cream flowers and multicolored decorations taking form under the skilled hands of these young patissieres .
The giant cake was covered with pink and purple roses, with lush leaves that made the colors pop, as though they had only just been picked from the bushes . The cake was decorated with a lining of whipped cream, while jams and fruit compotes of different colors decorated the center of the cake .
The last touch was a little girl at the center of cake with a slender figure, big eyes, and a sharp chin wearing a red Qi-style attire—vaguely recognizable as Xiaocao through her facial features . This humanoid decoration was the masterpiece of the head manager of The Yu’s pastry shop and top patissiere, Yang Liu .
Those who had arrived slightly later were unable to witness the creation of this giant cake and deeply regretted missing out on it when they heard about it from those who did . However, they all discreetly asked the few cake makers who were standing next to the cake if such a superstar's birthday cake like this could be custom ordered . Even when they were told that it had to be booked a month in advance and that it cost a lot, no one hesitated, because most of the people who came to Xiaocao's Hairpin Banquet were either rich or of a high status, and no one was short of money for a cake . Some people even wrote down their birth date on the spot on the reservation book in the cake maker's hands . Yang Liu, who had wanted to make her mistress proud at her banquet, had inadvertently ushered in a new high of reservations for her pastry shop again .
Originally, Yu Xiaocao had planned to keep a low profile, only inviting some friends and family over, and have a meal together to celebrate her birthday just like how she did in her previous life . However, even without mentioning Lady Fang’s reluctance, the imperial palace had already sent out a decree along with the palace maidservant, Chunhong, to help Lady Fang with the preparations of the hairpin ceremony . Such imperial favor caused certain people in court to start making plans in their hearts .
Naturally, the Yu Family's relatives could not be missing from the list of banquet guests: her eldest granduncle's family, maternal grandparents, eldest uncle, second uncle, youngest uncle along with her three aunts, and her cousins and their spouses . Zhu Junyang had sent his own convoy to transport all of them over .
Then, there were the relatives of the Fang Family . Fang Zizhen was an orphan, and had no other relatives except for his master’s wife, Madame Zhao . However, there were quite a few relatives from Lady Fang’s maternal family . Although only the families of the eldest and younger legitimate uncles were invited, the party that arrived was still quite big .
In the past, Lady Fang's maternal family didn't understand her when she took a peasant girl as her adopted daughter, saying that instead of choosing her niece from her maternal family, she took a low-born, vulgar country girl to be her adopted daughter . Her sister-in-law even came to argue with her about Xia Furong, threatening to cut off all contact with her .
But in the past two years, Yu Xiaocao, with her own abilities, had not only managed to reach new heights in her career and made her businesses prosper, but she was also in great favor with the emperor, and had been given the honorary title of a royal princess . Now, in terms of wealth and the favor of the emperor, even Fang Zizhen, Count Zhongqin, found it hard to compete with, let alone the Xia Family, which had already been in a gradual decline .
The Xia Family, which had always sucked-up to the influential and looked down on people who had lower status, would never miss this opportunity to get closer to the Yu Family—or to be exact, Yu Xiaocao—even without Lady Fang's invitation . As such, everyone who was part of the legitimate bloodline, regardless of whether they were on the invitation list or not, came to get acquainted .
The sister-in-law who had threatened to sever ties with Lady Fang was actually shameless enough to come up and suggest that Xia Furong be the master of ceremonies of Xiaocao's hairpin ceremony . Disregarding the fact that Xia Furong and Xiaocao had an unpleasant encounter in the past, the master of ceremonies was always either the best friend or sister—who did she think she was?
Apart from the relatives were the families that they were closer with . There was the Grand Princess Royal, Marquis and Marchioness Anning, Heir Anning and his wife, who also brought along their one-year-old baby, and last but not least, He Wanning . She had already reserved the role of the master of ceremonies a long time ago, and even asked Yuan Xueyan and Royal Princess Minglan to not fight with her .
Quite a few members of the Yuan Family also came, starting with Great Scholar Yuan, then the prime minister and his wife, Yuan Xueyan's brothers and sisters-in-law, plus Yuan Xueyan and her youngest brother Yuan Yunxi . Other than that, there was Royal Princess Minglan and her mother and sister-in-law . Not to mention, Left Assistant Minister Yu and his wife, along with Yu Wanqing and her brother and sister-in-law were also there .
As her business partner, naturally, Li Mengru wouldn’t be absent . Madam Li came along with her eldest legitimate daughter, Li Mengqi, and her two young sons who came to join in on the fun . . . .
As for the Zhou Family, the old master and old madam personally came over to watch the ceremony . The madam and children of the first branch, and of course, Madam Zhou, the mother of the third young master who had a good relationship with Xiaocao, also brought congratulatory gifts to celebrate the little girl’s birthday . Madam Zhou was not aware that Xiaocao was already promised to someone else, so she wondered if they could cement old ties through marriage? After all, her son and Xiaocao had known each other since they were small, and had always been on good terms .
Then, there was the master and mistress of Prince Sa’s Estate, as well as the heir and his wife, and Zhu Yan'er, who was quite close to Xiaocao . The moment she arrived, she started to argue that she wanted to be Xiaocao’s master of ceremonies, but He Wanning quickly rebuked her .
Naturally, as Xiaocao’s future in-laws, it was impossible for Prince Jing’s Household to not attend their future daughter-in-law’s coming-of-age ceremony . Princess Consort Jing had almost stolen Lady Fang’s seat and taken herself as the host to greet the guests . As Zhu Junyang and his lady mother made their way to the third floor, his two mothers-in-law approached and stopped him . Lady Fang looked at him with a half-smile and said, "The people watching the ceremony upstairs are all female guests, so it wouldn't be appropriate for Royal Prince Yang to go up there, would it?" Although Zhu Junyang did not want to miss his little fiancee’s hairpin ceremony, he was forced to stay downstairs to wait for her to come down after the ceremony due to etiquette .
The most unexpected thing was, Imperial Prince Duan, who had rarely left his residence, had actually brought Princess Consort Duan with him to observe the ceremony . Imperial Prince Duan looked a little thin, but his body was still quite strong—he didn’t look terminally ill as said in the rumors . Could it be that Miss Yu's medical skills were really better than the old physicians’ at the Imperial Hospital, and she had actually cured Imperial Prince Duan’s decades of chronic illness?
Humans were just mere mortals, so how could they not fall sick? Not everyone had a chance to befriend a skilled medical practitioner . As such, Imperial Prince Duan’s arrival had attracted quite a few uninvited guests to Xiaocao’s hairpin ceremony . It wouldn’t be right to chase this group of people who eagerly rushed up to present their gifts out, right? While Lady Fang enthusiastically greeted the guests, she sent a servant to ask Third Young Master Zhou to see if he had prepared sufficient dishes . Fortunately, Third Young Master Zhou was reliable and had prepared extra dishes, so they didn’t embarrass themselves by not having enough tables for their guests .
Of course, only the female guests were able to watch the ceremony unfold on the third floor while the rest of the guests were served refreshments downstairs . Originally, the hairpin ceremony was held in the ‘ancestral shrine’, so many secretly laughed at the Yu Family for not following customs when they saw that the invitation said that the hairpin ceremony was going to be held in Zhenxiu Restaurant . However, as soon as they entered the grand hall on the third floor, their hopes of witnessing a farce immediately dissipated .
The grand hall on the third floor was quiet and open, decorated lavishly yet with a scholarly elegance, revealing an air of solemnity everywhere . It was surprisingly better and more imposing than most ancestral shrines, and the decorations and all kinds of details in the hall especially received everyone’s praises .
When they climbed the steps, they were met with a calm, smiling Lady Fang, and Madam Liu, who was beautiful, fair-skinned and donned a gorgeous dress—not a single bit of her bearing told others that she was, in fact, only just the wife of a farmer . The both of them stood at the eastern side of the steps to welcome guests, while the woman who stood on the western side of the steps was actually the wife of Heir Anning .
As for the protagonists of the day, sisters Yu Xiaocao and Yu Xiaolian changed into their ceremonial clothes and shoes, and calmly waited in the dressing room at the east side of the hall after taking a fragrant flower petal bath . That's right, as Xiaocao and Xiaolian were twin sisters, their hairpin ceremonies would naturally be held together .
Xiaolian secretly peeked out from inside the dressing room, looked at the luxuriant and graceful guests outside, and stuck her tongue out and said mischievously, "Younger Sister, I’ve really ridden on your coattails today—there are so many wives and daughters of court officials that came to celebrate! I wouldn't have dared to dream of it before!"
"What's not to dream about? So what if they’re the wives of court officials? Don’t they also have two eyes and a mouth? Can they possibly have one more nostril than we do?" Yu Xiaocao's little head also appeared above hers, poking around and looking out .
Eldest Maternal Aunt Han saw them and hurriedly pushed the two similar-looking little heads back into the room, "Behave yourselves! Today is your big day, so don’t become a laughing stock in front of so many guests! You should still remember all the etiquette that the senior palace servant taught you the other day, right? Hurry up and recall them in your head before you make a mistake!"
Yu Xiaocao playfully hugged her eldest maternal aunt's arm and swung it, acting cute, "Eldest Maternal Aunt, I'm thirsty, can you bring me a piece of watermelon to quench my thirst?"
"No! What if you get nervous and want to pee? Bear with me, as soon as the ceremony is over, I'll bring you a glass of watermelon juice . Xiaolian, you too! Be good, alright?" Eldest Maternal Aunt pacified the two restless little girls, and hurriedly went out to serve the guests again . Although those noble guests did not need her to take care of them, there were still quite a few guests from their hometown, and her younger sister and sister-in-law might not be able to handle it all—she still had to go and keep an eye out .
As the classical musical instruments began to play, the arrival of the guest of honor caused an uproar . The Grand Princess Royal who had originally planned to fight for the seat of the guest of honor immediately gave way with a smile as soon as she saw the guest of honor . In her heart, she muttered, ‘This little girl of the Yu Family is so reputable—she actually managed to invite the empress as her guest of honor . Is there any other guest more honorable than her?’