Hence, the palace banquet commenced. Yan Dan raised his wine glass and proposed a toast to the Heaven, then to the Earth. After that, all the important ministers and noblemen broke out in a joyful laughter. The musicians behind Wu Qi started to play a melodious tune while fragrant scent diffused from all corners of the grand hall, and a parade of dancers came into the hall like a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Everybody was proposing a toast to each other, enjoying the moment in a harmonious atmosphere.
After receiving a toast from a few oldest and most experienced ministers and noblemen, such as Jing Ke and few others, Yan Dan rose and left the grand hall. Followed right after him was the departure of few veteran ministers, including Jing Ke. When all these people had left, the position of host of the palace banquet had passed over to the crown prince, Yan Qijun, and the atmosphere within the grand hall had also become relaxed. All ministers and noblemen were now conversing and interacting with a much more leisurely manner.
When Yan Dan, Jing Ke, and a few other men were in the grand hall, as their status was too high compared to others, none of these ministers dared to enjoy to their heart's content. But when they were gone and Yan Qijun took over as the host of the banquet, the atmosphere within the grand hall had become much fiery. After all, his bearing was not as serious and heavy like Yan Dan, and he was friendlier to people as well.
Music was rising and falling throughout the entire grand hall while maids of honor were dancing gracefully. One after another, ministers rose and came before Princess Zhang Le and proposed a toast to her. At the age of fifteen, she had formed her Gold Core, and a bright and limitless future was awaiting her. With the rate of spoiled love she received currently, her power in Great Yan Dynasty would only grow stronger. Thus, all the ministers were coming out with the most splendid words of praise in honoring her achievement, hoping to leave a good impression on her mind. They all feared to show any disrespectful behavior which would cause Princess Zhang Le to give them troubles later.
But Wu Qi noticed that Princess Zhang Le's attention was totally not on these people. Her pair of beautiful eyes were resting on the Grandmaster of Zither, Yue Tan, who was now sitting quietly and motionlessly on her seat. It was like a beautiful, proud peacock suddenly discovered another rare bird with gorgeous feathers intruding her territory, and her hostility was aroused instinctively. Wu Qi was laughing inwardly, 'All women are the same.' He thought in his mind.
Right when Wu Qi was pondering what kind of methods would Princess Zhang Le come up with to make things difficult for Yue Tan, he saw Princess Zhang Le rise to her feet. She was carrying a large bowl in her hand and filled it fully with fine wine. Then, she raised her hand and waved at Yue Tan while saying, "Grandmaster of Zither, Yue Tan? Your good name has been sung under the heavens for the past three years? What a remarkable achievement! Zi Xuan wants to have a toast with Grandmaster Yue Tan. Someone, fill Grandmaster Yue Tan's glass full with wine!"
Since Yue Tan was brought to her seat, she had been seen touching her zither string with fingers, and didn't do anything else. When numerous ministers were proposing a toast to Princess Zhang Le, she just sat where she was like an ice statue, giving no response to what happened in her surroundings. The feeling she sent forth was like an orchid flower formed from the essence of ice and snow that lived all by herself, blooming quietly in the depth of a valley, unstained with any mortal aura.
Yet, this extremely cold orchid was emanating a deadly charm at all times, attracting the eyeballs of many young noblemen in the grand hall, as they kept glancing at her from time to time. Her aura as clean as ice and as pure as jade, well blended with her unique air of enchantment and seduction, giving a mixed feeling of contradiction yet harmony at the same time.
She had been sitting there quietly all by herself, yet Princess Zhang Le had suddenly turned her spearhead towards her. As expected, Yue Tan was startled by it. She was struck dumb, staying blank for nearly two breaths of time. Only then did she gracefully rise to her feet and answered with a soft voice, "Your highness, thank you for the hospitality, Yue Tan really appreciates that. However, Yue Tan doesn't know how to drink wine. Can I substitute with tea instead?"
A dead silence reigned the grand hall, even quieter than when Yan Dan became furious and scolded Qin Qingshui just now. The clamor of toasting and conversing was heard coming from palaces located far away, where all the middle and lower tier members of prestige were feasting, a clear contrast to the quietness of this place. Those young noblemen, who were secretly glancing at Yue Tan moments ago, were now bowing their head like good boys. None of them dared to look towards her direction again.
Who in Ji City didn't ever hear of Princess Zhang Le's fierce fame? Compared to the deterrent force given forth by her, the enchantment of Yue Tan was nothing worth mentioning. With just the cultivation of Xiantian realm, Princess Zhang Le had already acted like a tyrant in Ji City. And now, as she had formed her Gold Core and become a Human Immortal, she had simply transformed into a female Tyrannosaurus. It was better for them to keep away from her as much as possible and never try to provoke her in any sense.
Even Yan Qijun, who was now sitting aloof on the dais, had his face turned expressionless and shrunk his neck, turning his head towards a black curtain hanging down behind his back. He was running his eyes up and down smilingly on a few swallows soaring through the wind, stitched on the curtain, as if he was admiring the marvelous artwork.
A charming smile emerged on Princess Zhang Le's face. While holding the large bowl enough to hold 1.5 liters of wine, she walked gracefully beside Yue Tan. She then stretched out the bowl towards Yue Tan's face, smiled and said, "If that is the case, Grandmaster Yue is not showing respect to Zi Xuan. It is merely a bowl of fine wine, it doesn't make any sense by substituting it with tea. As a token of respect, Zi Xuan will drink up the toast first. Grandmaster Yue, your turn is next!"
She let out a naughty laugh, then brought the large bowl to her lips and finished all 1.5 liters of fine wine in one draught. For a Human Immortal of Gold Core realm, no matter it was her aura or corporeal body, they were at least one hundred times stronger than a Daoist of Xiantian realm. For her, drinking a mere 1.5 liters of fine wine was like how a nine feet tall burly man drank up a tiny drop of wine. It couldn't be considered that she was drinking wine at all.
Princess Zhang Le turned the large bowl upside down, tilted her chin upwards proudly and gazed at Yue Tan from the corner of her eyes. Then, she sneered and said, "The purpose of today's banquet is to celebrate the forming of Zi Xuan's Gold Core. If Grandmaster Yue cannot drink wine, why are you joining us here at the Towering Palace?" Then the look in her eyes changed, as she continued sneering, "Could it be Grandmaster Yue is trying to borrow the fame of Zi Xuan and make a name for yourself in front of all the important ministers and prestigious noblemen of Great Yan Dynasty? This is simply outrageous, as I really hate when someone is using me."
Her words were like sharp blades, penetrating and piercing into one's heart. Among so many scholars, warriors, and noblemen in this grand hall, none dared to say a word.
Yue Tan's body trembled slightly. She sighed briefly and said, "Your highness's words are too heavy for Yue Tan to bear. Bring me the wine. Here, Yue Tan congratulates your highness for forming Gold Core, stepping into the realm of Human Immortal and casting off the shell of an ordinary mortal. I wish your highness an Immortal life of leisure." An imperial servant had brought a large bowl over to her, and had it fully filled with fine wine. Yue Tan took over the bowl, lifted her white veil up slightly, exposing her tiny and delicate chin and half of her cherry red lips. She then opened her enchanting lips and touched them on the edge of the bowl, finishing the whole bowl of fine wine soundlessly.
When the last drop of wine slipped into her mouth, Yue Tan showed the emptied bowl towards the crowd with graceful movements.
Not knowing who, but a bold prestigious guest in the grand hall suddenly clapped and cheered, "Grandmaster Yue is such a good drinker!"
Yue Tan's body suddenly trembled while Princess Zhang Le's expression turned cold like the coldest iceberg found in the northernmost lands. Her stern eyes were gazing through the few thousand prestige guests in the hall. The nobleman who cheered loudly just now had long shrunk his body back to his seat. How could he dare to show himself at this moment? As Princess Zhang Le failed to find the culprit, she had no choice but to vent all her pumped up air of depression onto Yue Tan. She sneered, then suddenly stretched her arm out and grabbed towards Yue Tan's veil. "Since you've come to Towering Palace, why are you still concealing your face? Remove your veil, let me see how beautiful a face you have!"
Yue Tan moved her feet. Like a parting cloud, she suddenly glided back a few meters, barely escaping from Princess Zhang Le's grab.
A tight knot emerged between Princess Zhang Le's brows as she snapped with a stern voice, "Someone, remove her veil for me! We are having a grand feast today in celebrating my achievement. Yet, she is hiding her face behind a veil. Is she trying to act aloof and pure before me?" With this order, a dozen imperial servants and eunuchs immediately stormed out and dashed towards Yue Tan's direction in a great hurry and bustle, about to capture Yue Tan. A few young and aggressive noblemen, who saw the opportunity to flatter Princess Zhang Le, were rubbing their palms and getting ready to spring forward.
Yue Tan cried out aloud and turned to Yan Qijun, "Yue Tan came here on your invitation, and wearing a veil is under the order of my senior. I have no issue to remove my veil for the Princess, but I need Crown Prince to be my judge. It has to be done according to Yue Tan's rule, three questions from Yue Tan have to be answered. If the answers to the questions are deem fitted to the answers in Yue Tan's mind, Yue Tan will remove the veil with my own hand. If the questions are not well answered, I hope Crown Prince can forgive Yue Tan, as I am bound by the order of my senior, and can't fulfill Princess's order."
Yan Qijun let out a mild cough and asked all imperial servants and eunuchs to back off. Smilingly, he looked at Princess Zhang Le and said, "Zi Xuan, it is because of the order from her senior that Yue Tan has to wear a veil. For the past three years, the Grandmaster never revealed her face in front of the public, and she didn't do that on purpose in your celebration banquet. If you want to remove her veil, why not we follow her rules?"
He paused for a while, then laughed dryly and said, "It is me, your father, that invited Grandmaster Yue here to celebrate your achievement."
Princess Zhang Le cast a cold glance over at Yue Tan for some time, then she suddenly laughed, "Three questions? Fine, as we have a few thousand pillars of Great Yan Dynasty in this hall, I'm sure they will have the right answers to your questions. I'll listen to your three questions today. For those who can answer the questions and remove Grandmaster's veil, I'll have him handsomely rewarded!"
She then flung her dress proudly, spun and returned to her seat. Her eyes were still upon Yue Tan. All the ministers and noblemen in the hall were gazing at each other, and some of them shook their head at the same time. Wu Qi was surprised to see this. Could these people have heard the three questions of Yue Tan? Judging from the embarrassed expressions on these people’s faces, it seemed like none of them could provide answers that satisfied Yue Tan.
Wu Qi's curiosity was aroused as he focused his attention and looked towards Yue Tan, wondering himself what kind of questions could this lady come up with?
A faint sigh came by. Yue Tan gently stroked on the zither string and produced a few crystal clear notes. She took a few casual steps on the dais, then suddenly talked, "The first question: Between the state power and a beauty, which is more important?"
She sighed again, then continued asking her questions, "The second question: Between longevity and a beauty, which is more important?"
She paused, ran her eyes across the faces of numerous supreme noblemen of Great Yan Dynasty, then asked the last question with a soft voice, "And this is Yue Tan's last question: If there is a girl who knows you, understands you, believes in you, loves you, risking everything just for you, and has been accompanying you since youth, assisting you, protecting you, contributing everything she has just to aid you... A girl like this, how are you going to treat her?"
A dead silence reigned the grand hall upon the asking of the three questions, gloomy and grave like a real graveyard.
All the ministers, noblemen, mighty existence among people, were gazing at each other. No sound could be heard for a long time. Meanwhile, all of the few hundred female dancers and singers standing at the back of the hall seemed lost in their thought and kept repeating Yue Tan's questions under their breath. Each of them had a wan and sallow expression. Obviously, their minds were deeply distracted.
Princess Zhang Le was also sitting absentmindedly in her place. Unconsciously, her beautiful eyes wandered and drifted toward Wu Qi's direction, and just happened to greet Wu Qi's vision.