Published at 7th of November 2020 06:38:47 PM
After one glance at Hua Liuli, Consort Xian felt dissatisfied . However, once she had called into mind that the other party would not become her daughter-in-law, the waves in her heart grew calm again .
Smiling amicably, she greeted Hua Liuli and asked her to take a seat . There were few womenfolk present . Other than a few princesses of the first and third ranks, some females of her paternal clan were in attendance .
Within the plum blossom forest, there were also a few young nobles dressed to the nines as they recited poetry and painted . Hua Liuli gazed at the snowflakes drifting through the air . Hugged the handheld brazier closer to her body . In such cold weather, they still wanted to take up their brushes to write and paint . The young noblemen of the capital truly had it difficult .
“Your Highness, His Highness Eldest Prince has gone to the barracks in the suburbs . Although he cannot make it to this event, he has sent people with gifts for your honored self,” whispered Consort Xian’s personal attendant to her ears, head bent low . “Prince Ning and Fifth Highness have sent word that they would arrive soon . ”
Consort Xian nodded faintly, signifying her acknowledgement . Then she shifted her gaze to the delicate and powerless-looking Hua Liuli not too far away, the former furrowing her brows a hint . It’s good that Hao’er didn’t come . This daughter of the Hua Clan is beautiful . If Hao’er wants her as his princess consort after seeing her, it would make things inconvenient .
Spread before Hua Liuli were fruits, tea, and light refreshments . She picked up her teacup and took a small sip . She did not touch the fruits and light refreshments .
“County Princess, are the light refreshments not to your taste?” said Second Princess after taking note of this . She sat next to Hua Liuli and looked at her in concern . “If you don’t like them, then we can have the cooks make something else for you . ”
Her birth mother had died long ago, and she did not have any full blooded brothers . Because Consort Xian had fostered her since young for a few years, she intentionally showed her intimacy with Consort Xian and Prince Ying, so as to avoid others finding her weak .
For her to treat Hua Liuli well also represented Consort Xian’s attitude .
“The tea and light refreshments are good . However, this official’s daughter has a weak body and cannot drink tea . And I must be very careful about what I eat . ” A smile blossomed on Hua Liuli’s lips . “Many thanks to Princess for the good intention . ”
Never had Second Princess imagined Hua Liuli’s condition to be this poor . With regret, Second Princess thought that although Hua Liuli’s parents and brothers were strong and great at martial arts, and she was extremely beautiful, Hua Liuli was this sickly . She truly was unsuitable as a princess consort .
“I heard that the entire Hua clan is brave and great at war . One person is enough to defeat a hundred . Why is County Princess this frail?” asked a young lady in a loud voice . She was dressed in the attire of someone who lived in the palace, the color of a rose-tinted sky . It seemed she did not find anything wrong with her words .
“This is Princess Shunan’s young daughter, Commandery Princess Jiamin . She has a straightforward personality and doesn’t mean any malice with her words . May County Princess not take it to heart,” said Second Princess, fearful that Hua Liuli would be oversensitive . Her Imperial Aunt pampered Jiamin immensely, and raised her to this simple-minded personality . Sometimes, she would not even know when her words offended others .
But in the end, Jiamin was still a member of the imperial clan and her words held no malicious intent . Normally, when people heard such unpleasant things, they would feign ignorance .
“Many thanks to Commandery Princess for praising my family . ” Hua Liuli pretended to be strong as she smiled . “The year this official’s daughter was born, enemy troops sneaked into the capital by dressing up as traders . After Mother realized this, she worried that these enemy troops would harm the civilians in the capital, and so exposed their plot . ”
At this point, Hua Liuli’s eyes had grown red . Close to tears, she said, “Fortunately, Mother discovered their plot early, and the civilians were able to avoid danger . However, Mother had been pregnant at that time . After she had captured those enemy troops, pain flared in her womb . She went through much pain and suffering as she gave birth to me, almost losing her life .
“I burdened Mother while still in the womb and was truly unfilial . If the common folk ran into misfortune because of me, then I would have been a criminal before I was born,” said Hua Liuli . Because of her heavy sorrow, she pressed a hand to her chest, nearly unable to breathe .
“County Princess, the doctor has said since long ago that your honored self must not become too emotional . Mistress does not blame you . Please take care of your body . ” Yuanwei fished out a small medicine bottle . She took out two pills and fed them to Hua Liuli, before softly patting her chest .
“You, you…” Commandery Princess Jiamin was frightened by Hua Liuli’s illness . A good while later, she complained, “I didn’t really say anything . Who are you putting this kind of appearance on for?”
“Commandery Princess is right . It’s all my fault,” said Hua Liuli as she leaned against Yuanwei, voice frail .
For the first time, the straightforward Commandery Princess Jiamin experienced being wronged and unable to express it . After she had heard the other party say “Commandery Princess is right . It’s all my fault,” she grew furious to the point that she couldn’t utter a word .
“Jiamin, the lady general compares favorably with men in terms of ability and bravery . In order to protect the civilians of Great Jin, she has achieved many heroic contributions . Your words earlier were lacking in manners,” said Consort Xian with a dark expression . “You are the daughter of Princess Shunan . As an imperial concubine, this palace should not be lecturing you . However, since you are a Commandery Princess of the Great State of Jin, even if you commit a gaffe, you should understand what must not be said . ”
Whether or not it was Commandery Princess Jianmin’s fault today, Consort Xian must stand by the side of the Hua clan’s daughter . Otherwise, there would be rumors tomorrow about how she had invited the Hua clan’s daughter into the palace to bully her to death .
“May Your Highness not blame Commandery Princess Jiamin . What she said is correct . This official’s daughter is the most useless out of the younger generation of the Hua clan . ” Hua Liuli raised her head, showing a sickly yet strong smile . “Thankfully, my parents and brothers treat me very well . Furthermore, they do not ignore me because of my debility . That they can defend Great Jin is something this official’s daughter is proud of . ”
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That’s right . The whole family defended the country, so much so that the mother gave birth prematurely . Yet in the present, someone had actually asked the child who was born prematurely this: despite her family being so capable, why was she holding them back?
How lacking in common sense, basic respect for others, and intelligence did one have to be to say such things?
Those present looked at Commandery Princess Jiamin with a peculiar gaze . Once the young nobles in the plum blossom forest had heard such words, they all could not help but feel sorry for the delicate and kindhearted County Princess Hua .
Commandery Princess Jiamin felt so wronged that she almost spat out blood . In the past she had been frank and outspoken . If someone argued with her, onlookers would think the other party petty . But today, every word of this County Princess Hua did not place blame on her . So why did she feel like she had suffered a loss?
The more she thought of it, the angrier she grew, and she shoved the tea and refreshments off the table . Following that, Commandery Princess Jiamin made for the plum blossom forest .
This move undoubtedly disrespected Consort Xian . However, she did not show her discontent on her face . Rather, she said in a light manner, “Jiamin has gotten older, yet her temperament is even more unyielding than it was in the past . ”
Hua Liuli smiled . Not a word escaped her lips . What she loved the most was arguing with an outspoken and frank girl who held no malicious intentions .
“Your Highness, Prince Ning and Fifth Highness have arrived . ”
The appearance of Prince Ning and Fifth Prince during this awkward period was akin to timely rain .
Prince Ning was a bit chubby . When he smiled, he seemed simple and honest . Compared to him, the prince standing next to him resembled a bright moon . The precious jade within the rocks . Just with him standing there casually made one feel as if one were looking at a painting .
Hua Liuli felt that the gazes of many of the womenfolk present had brightened . And this included those of the married women .
Yet, Fifth Prince did not appear to have noticed this . He made his way in front of Hua Liuli . Gracefully cupped his hands in greeting toward her . “Are you General Hua’s beloved daughter?”
Using Yuanwei’s hand for support, Hua Liuli rose to her feet . She returned the salute as she said, “Official’s daughter greets His Highness Prince Ying and His Highness Fifth Prince . ”
“No need to be so ceremonious,” said Prince Ning as he approached her . Then he said to Consort Xian, “Your Highness Consort Xian, there are many gifted scholars and beautiful ladies present today . You ought to have the banquet more sumptuous . ”
“I know that you love gourmet food, so had people prepare in advance . ” After that, Consort Xian had the servants start the banquet .
The banquet was held in the warm room on the upper floor, since people could admire the scenery there without experiencing a chill . Because Consort Xian feared Hua Liuli would grow ill after being blown by the wind once, she arranged a seat for her shielded from the wind .
The dishes cooked by the imperial chefs appeared exquisite . Furthermore, the names of said dishes were tastefully chosen, brimming with poetic grace .
“This pitcher of plum blossom wine is called Zhanluxiang . It’s made with the snow accumulated on the stamens of plum blossoms . The wine carries the fragrance of plum blossoms, yet would not intoxicate people,” said Consort Xian . Then she turned to a palace maid . “County Princess Hua should not drink much . Bring this palace’s linglong luminous cup here .
“This linglong cup was a tribute from a small country . Not only is its craftsmanship fine, it can also dissipate the effect of alcohol,” said Consort Xian to Hua Liuli with a smile . “Your body is frail, so just have a little taste . ”
“Many thanks, Your Highness . ” Hua Liuli watched as a palace maid exchanged her old wine cup for a new one . Following that, she filled the cup less than halfway . Hua Liuli picked it up . Smelled a light fragrance of plum blossoms .
“Have a taste . ” Consort Xian was very confident in the plum blossom wine she had made herself . Even the emperor praised it to high heaven after drinking it .
The moment Hua Liuli had raised the wine cup, a few court eunuchs lifting cases came toward her way . She did not know the identities of those eunuchs, merely noticing Consort Xian’s smile dim once those eunuchs had appeared .
“Paying respects to Your Highness Consort Xian . Greetings to the noble personages . ” The eunuch leading the others performed a full salute to Consort Xian . “We slaves have come under His Highness, Crown Prince’s command to deliver gifts to County Princess Hua . ”
Hua Liuli cocked a brow . For me?
She set aside the wine cup . Looked at the few eunuchs who had saluted her . “These gongongs are…?”
“County Princess, we slaves serve in the Eastern Palace . His Highness has always held the exemplary-in-martial-arts Defender General to high esteem . After learning that County Princess will be in the palace admiring the plum blossoms today, he specially had us slaves send first-meeting gifts . ” The court eunuchs of the Eastern Palace seemed to have forgotten that this was Consort Xian’s residence, presenting the gift list and cases of gifts in a confident manner to Yuanwei . “His Highness the crown prince has also said that if someone purposefully makes things difficult for you, do not hesitate to send someone to look for him . He will help your honored self vent your anger . ” The eunuch leading the group bowed with his hands held in front of him . “We dare not disturb the noble personages’ mood for dining . We slaves will take our leave . ”
If another man had given a gift to an unwed young lady, others would definitely think he was interested in her . However, if the crown prince was the one doing this, those present definitely would not come to this conclusion .
For the crown prince wasn’t a normal man .
Even if they suspected something, it was this: the crown prince had deliberately chosen that moment to send County Princess Hua gifts, and said he would help her vent her anger, in order to embarrass Consort Xian .
“May gongong pass on my thanks to His Highness the crown prince,” said Hua Liuli earnestly, pretending not to know this prince’s bad habits .
If the imperial concubine who gave birth to the eldest prince wasn’t the birth mother of the crown prince, both parties would never get along since the birth of dynasties .
A cold breeze blew through the window . A few plum blossom petals drifted into the warm room, spiraling through the air . And they fell into Hua Liuli’s luminous cup .
Following that, the white petals grew an unsightly dark green .
Oh my! The wine is poisonous!
princesses of the first and third ranks: 公主郡主 . Gongzhu (Princess of the First Rank) were the daughters of the emperor . Junzhu (Princess of the Third Rank) were the daughters of the imperial princes (First Ranked Princes) . A junzhu can also be called a Princess of a Commandery, or Commandery Princess . this palace: 本宫 . Běn gōng, an illeism for imperial concubines typically with a rank of Consort and above . warm room: 暖阁 . A room (typically smaller than other rooms) in the courtyard that would be kept warm with a stove/furnace . linglong luminous cup: 玲珑夜光杯 . The “linglong” could mean “exquisite,” but I left it in pinyin in case it’s a specific name of a type of cup . Couldn’t really find much about it . I did find something about the “luminous cup” though . They typically look like the picture in the chapter supplement . gongong: 公公 . A term of address for court eunuchs . first-meeting gifts: Kind of self-explanatory, but these are the gifts one sends to another on the first meeting,