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When Lan You Nian and Lan Mo Xian exited Lan Manor, they discovered two sets of horse-drawn carriages in front of the gates of Lan manor.  One belonged to Ming wang manor, the other belonged to fourth wangye.

    Just as Lan Mo Xian was about to go forward to perform salutations, he was stopped by Lan You Nian.  Lan You Nian dragged her brother into Lan manor's carriage.  Under Lan You Nian's cue, the guard drove the carriage and set out.  Meanwhile, Ming wangfu's carriage and fourth wangfu's carriage followed in suit.

    "Nian'er, that was fourth wangye and Ming wang.  How can such neglect be appropriate?" Lan Mo Xian asked bewildered.

    "This is the gates of Lan Manor.  If brother is so friendly with the two princes in plain sight, then does brother think Lan Manor won't become an eyesore in some people's eyes?" Lan You Nian's tone was indifferent as she clarified.

    "Nian'er meimei is right.  Mo Xian you aren't as smart as Nian'er meimei!" Feng Xia Qi and Feng Yi Xuan used qinggong to dart into the carriage.  Fortunately, the carriage Lan Manor sent out was big enough, so seating four people in one carriage didn't feel crowded.

    "Fourth wangye, Ming wang!" Lan Mo Xian saluted, "I was thoughtless!" Although now he already officially joined fourth wangye's camp, outsiders weren't aware of this, only believed him to be Ming wang's subordinate.  If others knew that Lan manor sided with fourth wangye, then there will be much for Lan manor to bear in the future.

    "Nian'er meimei is really smart, much smarter than your brother!" Feng Xia Qi seemingly boneless reclined in the carriage as he praised Lan You Nian.

    "You take up too much of the space!" Before Lan You Nian could speak, Feng Yi Xuan snapped frigidly to his own royal brother.

    Feng Xia Qi eyed the area he occupied.  Indeed, he occupied half of the space in the carriage.  Under his brother's sharp eyes, he obediently sat up straight, recovering his original, elegant façade.

    "With you entering the palace today, the empress will probably find trouble with you.  If you aren't happy, just kill.  Don't let yourself be wronged" The tone of Feng Yi Xuan's voice was cool like the feeling of spring, trickling over Lan You Nian's heart.  Her heart was touched by the faint concern in his voice.

    "Uh, A'Xuan, you will lead Nian'er meimei astray!" Feng Xia Qi helplessly looked at his younger brother.  After all, the other was a girl, was it really good for you to be so cruel and blunt?  But Lan You Nian's following words revealed to Feng Xia Qi, it's perfect!

    "I know, I will do it cleanly!" Lan You Nian replied gravely.  Although in this world, the power of royalty was supreme, it was alright for her to be slightly mistreated, but if you crossed her bottom line, then if she wants to kill, why not?

    "Pu——" Feng Xia Qi and Lan Mo Xian spluttered.  This one cruel tyrant was already difficult to deal with, but now came another?  They always felt Lan You Nian was weak and pitiful; how can they expect that her heart was so ferocious!

    "A'Xuan, you see you've led Nian'er meimei astray!" Feng Yi Xuan hastened to remedy the situation, for fear that the little sister he liked so much will become like his younger brother, cold-blooded and murderous.  He turned around and allowed a very refined smile to bloom on his face, "Nian'er meimei, you can't believe A'Xuan's words, girls should be gentle!"

    Feng Yi Xuan sneered but didn't say anything.  His own royal brother did not see with his own eyes Nian Nian's abilities and decisiveness.  In Feng Yi Xuan's eyes, regardless of whether Nian Nian was a weak female of the boudoir or an apathetic woman with decisive killer instincts, he Feng Yi Xuan will like all the same.

    "Ming wang is right.  I don't want to accept any mistreatment!" Lan You Nian corrected Feng Xia Qi's remark.  In fact, after being in contact with Feng Xia Qi more and more, Lan You Nian noticed that although this person was cunning like a fox, if he considered you a real friend, then his high morality reaches the clouds (idiom: one's value on friendship reaches great heights; values friendship), indeed a man worth befriending.

    "~cough~cough~Of course I'm not saying to let Nian'er meimei be wronged.  My meaning is if Nian'er meimei is wronged, then you can tell me.  I, A'Xuan, Mo Xian and the others will definitely demand retribution for Nian'er meimei!" Feng Xia Qi said sincerely.  Since he recognized this little sister, then he was serious.  Of course, he won't let his friend's little sister be wronged, but he was worried that Lan You Nian, a yet unmarried young girl, how can she adequately cope with everything in the royal palace?

    "Nian'er, no matter what, you must be careful.  If it's not necessary, don't eat anything," Lan Mo Xian started to babble again.  In the royal palace, the most common method used was to mess around with the wine and pastries.  Maybe Nian'er wasn't aware of these dirty methods, so he needed to remind in advance.

    "I know.  Thank you everyone for your concern!" Lan You Nian nodded.  The carriage was quickly approaching the royal palace, Feng Yi Xuan and Feng Xia Qi swiftly departed from Lan manor's carriage and returned to their own transport.  Both of them entered Lan manor's carriage for their personal reasons: Feng Xia Qi was because he was worried for Lan You Nian while Feng Yi Xuan, on the one hand, was worried for Lan You Nian, and on the other hand he simply missed Lan You Nian.  Obviously, he would be able to see her when he entered the palace, but Feng Yi Xuan couldn't hold himself back.

    The carriage stopped in front of the Meridian Gate at the outermost periphery of the palace.  All family members and other people must get off their carriage and follow a eunuch to walk into the palace.  Only one carriage can enter the palace directly without stopping, and that was Ming wangfu carriage.  Ming wangfu, Feng Yi Xuan, having campaigned for many years, has toiled and accumulated a lot of merits, as well as having the Emperor's favor, so it was not only decreed Feng Yi Xuan can forgo the etiquette of kneeling, Ming wangfu's carriage can directly enter the palace.  Ming wang is even allowed to carry a blade and ride on a horse to travel in the palace.  This was a privilege that no other wangye ever had.

    Feng Xia Qi was too lazy to walk, so he stepped down from his own carriage then ran into Feng Yi Xuan's carriage.  All the young miss of officials' families waiting at the Meridian Gate all shyly looked down when they saw Feng Xia Qi as they giggled behind their handkerchief.  Only Lan You Nian when seeing that sinful face remained unmoved.

    Feng Yi Xuan, from the gap in the curtain of the carriage, saw Nian Nian standing there waiting.  His heart felt unwell.  He very much wanted to accompany her, or let Nian Nian sit on his own carriage and publicly enter the palace.  But thinking of the fact that Nian Nian currently did not have any feelings for him, he felt depressed.  Feng Yi Xuan started to doubt his own attractiveness.

    Lan Mo Xian and Lan You Nian stood at the Meridian Gate with the children of the other officials' families in waiting.  After a while, several eunuchs came out to lead the way to the Empress's Kunning Palace (Palace of Earthly Tranquility) which is today's location for the chrysanthemum banquet.

    Kunning Palace was located in the center of the royal palace, the one nearest to the Emperor’s palace of rest (otherwise known as the Hall of Heavenly Purity), but it still took some time to walk the distance.  The cornice of Kunning Palace was carved with dragons and phoenixes, golden-scaled, golden armor, lively and vivid like they want to fly away.  Golden glazed tiles shone in the sun with blinding brilliance.  Under the clear blue skies, that golden glazed tiles with multiple-level eaves were extraordinarily magnificent. 

    Following everyone into Kunning Palace, under the eunuch's guidance, everyone walked into Kunning Palace's garden.  Sure enough, the garden was full of blooming chrysanthemums, each one was unique, of such an assorted variety that it was dizzying.  There were some that had petals that were short at the top and long at the ends like the many, small outstretched hands of the "Thousand-Hand Guanyin".  Some were like crabs displaying its claws of the "Crab chrysanthemum," and others were like mini balls of "Purple Silk Balls"…. Each flower had its own characteristics.  Some were beautiful and elegant; others were bright and eye-catching.  Some pranced and stood proudly displayed… The chrysanthemums were in full bloom, blazing with colors of all different kinds…  Flowers red as fire, white like snow, pink like the dawn, big ones were like round silk balls, the small ones were like delicate flower lanterns.  A whole cluster of chrysanthemums was currently in full bloom.  Who can imagine that in this summer season chrysanthemums were actually in bloom?  After all, chrysanthemums only bloomed in the autumn.  This showed how rare these varieties were.

Thousand-Hand GuanyinCrab Claw Chryanthemum

    Although Lan Yu Nian wasn't fond of how binding the palace was, like a cage, but seeing the full garden of chrysanthemums, she was amazed and delighted.  Who didn't like beautiful things?  Lan You Nian gently lowed her head, delicately scented the seductive fragrance that the chrysanthemums exuded, instantly feeling refreshed and invigorated!

    Following the eunuchs into the courtyard built in the middle of the garden, where inside was already arranged several tables, chairs, and drinks.  Many young masters and young have already taken their seats by the arrangement of the eunuchs.  Lan You Nian followed the eunuch into the courtyard.  In this courtyard, one can better appreciate the garden full of chrysanthemums.  Indeed, a perfect place to admire the scenery.

    "General Che Qi, your seat is over there," Lan You Nian sat in the arranged seat.  Lan Mo Xian was ready to sit next to his little sister so that he can better protect her but didn't expect the eunuch who led the way to make a sound.

    Lan Mo Xian scanned his arranged seat.  It was just under the several wangye and together with Jing Wu An and others.  But looking at his little sister, Lan Mo Xian wasn't at ease.  Just as he was about to say something, Hua Mu Qing arrived, jogging over to Lan You Nian's side, "Nian'er meimei, you came too?"

    "En, Mu Qing jiejie!" Lan You Nian curtsied then said to Lan Mo Xian, "Brother go sit down.  Mu Qing jiejie is here too.  Brother shouldn't worry!"

    Lan Mo Xian seeing all the seats around his little sister were all taken by females, he knew if he really sat down it wouldn't be appropriate.  To Hua Mu Qing he said solemnly, "Requesting junzhu to take care of little sister."

    Usually when the two are together, when have they spoke so seriously?  It was all bickering without a stop.  Now that Lan Mo Xian was so serious Hua Mu Qing wasn't used to it.  But recalling today's banquet was being held by the Empress, then connecting it the things that happened a few days ago at prime minister's manor, Hua Mu Qing understood some of the intricacies, and nodded, "Nian'er meimei is not only your little sister, she is also I Hua Mu Qing's little sister.  There's no need for you to say more!"

    Lan Mo Xian knew Hua Mu Qing's personality was like this, so he was more assured and followed the eunuch to his own seat.

    Hua Mu Qing sat on the seat above Lan You Nian, but at this moment, the eunuch who led Hua Mu Qing interrupted, "Junzhu, junzhu's seat is in the front.  Please ask junzhu to move!"

    "Move?  When does this junzhu's seating need you, a eunuch, to concern yourself with?  Scram!" Hua Mu Qing's stony face was very much dignified.  This was the capital's junzhu.  Hua Mu Qing, at this moment, already put on her own mask to face the pretense of the royal court.

    The eunuch bowed his head and withdrew. After all, Hua Mu Qing, this junzhu, was known to be arrogant and domineering in the capital.  Even the emperor indulged her, so many people didn't dare oppose Hua Mu Qing.  Hua Mu Qing was different from the usual maidens, if she can't stand you, she will directly deal with you, who can stop her?  Because of this, many people avoid her.

    "It seems Mu Qing jiejie also has your dignified moments, Nian'er almost can't recognize!" Lan You Nian sat upright in her seat.  Of the other young maidens around her, she didn't know any of them, so she didn't bother with the awkwardness of a greeting.

    "Ai, in this palace if you want to live, you must have a little ability," Hua Mu Qing tugged on Lan You Nian's hand that she put on the table, " Nian'er meimei, today be careful.  This palace is full of countless dirty things.  I hope you won't see it!"

    "En!" Lan You Nian also tugged Hua Mu Qing’s hand but sneered in her heart.  I, Lan You Nian, has seen the dirtiest things in the world.  A fiancé's betrayal, her biological sister's betrayal, and her biological mother's betrayal.  What were dirtier than these?

    "The Empress has arrived!" the sharp voice of the eunuch rang out.

    Empress An Qian Mei gracefully walked into the flower garden.  Followed by an entourage of palace maids, she stepped onto the highest position seated above.  Today, the empress was dressed grandly like usual, decked out in a royal blue palace dress, with broad sleeve-cuffs embroidered with purple thread into a phoenix soaring into the heavens.  Her hair has been meticulously combed, perfectly representing her status with a Flying Phoenix hairstyle.   Glaring against her exquisite face, a pair of dark and deep eyes flooding with an aristocratic brilliance, gorgeous and dazzling.  It made people dare not directly look into them.

Pic borrowed by the chinese TV series Nirvana in Fire but this is what the action of clasping one’s hands in front of their chest looks like, honestly there’s no better word how to describe it in english

    "Greetings to the Empress!" The young masters and misses in the garden all got up and performed the required etiquette.  Amongst them, only Feng Yi Xuan remained seated, not moving an inch, while Feng Xia Qi only just superficially clasped his hands in front of his chest.  Looking at Empress's expression, although she was not satisfied but was obviously accustomed to it.  It seems like the Empress and fourth wangye's sides were indeed like fire and water!

    "Recently, bengong received some rare and beautiful chrysanthemums, so today specially invited everyone to come to admire it as to not letting these chrysanthemums bloom in vain!" the Empress's eyes swept over the people sitting in the garden.  When they landed on Lan You Nian, she obviously paused, then withdrew her gaze as if nothing happened.

"Many thanks to Empress!" the crowd echoed in unison.

wangye-first rank prince

wangfu-ranked prince manor

meimei-little sister

jiejie-older sister

junzhu-second-ranked princess

bengong-when a woman (usually consort or empress) refers to herself to those who are lesser status than her

T/N: Had some free time so did an extra chapter this week.  Semester’s coming to a close!  Can’t wait for the finals!

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