The battle of the mother-in-laws! Qu Qing Ju and Jing guifei make a pretty good team.
Chapter Thirty Two At the Banquet
The Imperial banquets of Da Long Dynasty were always set in Zhao Yang  Great Hall. Therefore, the entire hall was very large. Even the decorations were full of grandeur, carrying the intimidation and prestige of the Imperial Family.
In the very front of the hall there was a gold-inlayed dragon and phoenix sandalwood table. Underneath that on the right and left was a row of eight-person square tables. When Qu Qing Ju walked into the Great Hall, she found that everyone sitting on the left side was male and the right side was filled with women. On the first table on the right, there were already people seated. Qu Qing Ju examined them. Both Wei Qing E and Qin Bai Lu were each accompanying a beautiful woman. These two must be Shu guifei and Wen guipin. The pretty woman sitting beside them in plainer attire must be Cheng Wang's birth mother An guipin.
Jing guifei carried a smile as she walked forward and allowed Qu Qing Ju to hold her to sit down on the seat beside Shu guifei. She pointed to the spot next to her, "Erxifu, sit down too."
Qu Qing Ju smiled and bowed to the others. She addressed the others present: "Greetings to Shu guifei, An guipin, Wen guipin." An guipin was Cheng Wang's birth mother and looked like a very gentle woman. She looked similar to her neighbour, Wen guipin but Qu Qing Ju found that An guipin had a very warm visage overall, unlike the warm exterior of Wen guipin.
"Lao er's wife doesn't have to be so courteous, sit down," Shu guifei smiled, "you became sick not long after you married so ben gong hadn't seen you close up before. Now that I've seen you, I understand. Such a good erxifu. No wonder jiejie has hidden you all this time and not let you out."
When Jing guifei hear this, her eyebrow twitch and she gave a thin smile. She divulged sarcastically: "Ben gong's erxifu doesn't like going out all the time. Ben gong can't do anything about it. She's just dull, not like your lao san's. Meimei, don't tease her." She had an erxifu that like fluttering about and joins in everything. She dared to criticize her erxifu, she should look at herself first.
Wanting to pick at the relationship between her and erxifu wasn't that easy!
The smile on Shu guifei's face became uglier by a few fractions. She glanced at Qin Bai Lu who was sitting beside her and, with a mirthless smile, she replied: "Jiejie is too funny. They all come from noble families, they are all virtuous and intelligent."
"That's true," Jing guifei allowed a palace maid to top up her tea. She turned and continued, "Lao san's wife comes from a well-educated family, she must be one of those rare talented girls.
"I don't dare lay claim to talented," Qing Bai Lu stood and bowed, "Jing guifei niangniang is overestimating erxi."
Jing guifei looked at the pale white dress she was wearing and looked at the complicated red tight girdled wide-sleeved dress embroidered with a luan. Even if it was a bit wasteful, for the end of the year, the red did look more celebratory.
An guipin silently watched and occasionally sipped tea. Her own erxifu hadn't married in yet, she wasn't as high in status as these two so she didn't have any desire to compete. But lao er's wife, she was truly good looking, too good looking. Before this girl had married, she had seen her in the palace but she hadn't been this attractive.
"The Emperor has arrived, the Empress has arrived!"
The two guifei niangniang that had been throwing verbal darts simultaneously stopped talking and respectfully stood, then slowly knelt down. Qu Qing Ju, who was watching on the side, sighed in amazement. Look at how familiar they were with their duties, they could change at the blink of an eye.
As Jing guifei knelt, and hearing the taijian call for a kowtow, Qu Qing Ju then helped Jing guifei stand. Taking advantage of this movement, she found that Jing guifei's eyes as she looked at the emperor were expressionless.
She couldn't help but look at the man standing at the highest place. The old man was wearing a bright yellow dragon robe, his swollen physique had turned a once handsome man to an average man. But just this kind of a man, he was the aim of all the thousands of machinations of the women in the hougong, he was the one that wasted all of their youth and beauty.
"Today is the end of the year, you all don't have to be so courteous. Sit." Qing De Emperor waved his hand and sat down. He saw as the people kneeling at his feet shout "Ten Thousand Years" three times before they dare sit down and the smile on his face became even more visible. A couple of claps, and women dressed in multi-colored costumes streamed in and gave festive dances.
The drinks and dishes came out like a stream of water. Qu Qing Ju looked at the plates of food and her mouth twitch. But seeing Jing guifei sitting like a mountain, in the end she didn't speak.
No wonder Jing guifei told them to use refreshments before coming here. These dishes appeared beautiful but from the looks of it, they didn't have much warmth. In the winter, who liked eating this?
Slighting turning her head, she looked at the young women dancing in the middle of the hall, each bend of the waist and each wave of the arm full of flirtation. But all the people in the audience had a slight smile on their faces, the mirth at the corner of their lips was as though it was stamped on, not too much but not too little.
After a dance, there came some boys and girls in costumes, singing about luck and good fortune. Qu Qing Ju wasn't interested and allowed Mu Jin to pick a piece of refreshment to waste time.
"'sLao da , why isn't your Zhong'er here today?" Shu guifei looked at Wei Qing E, her voice full of regret, "there are not many children in the palace, it's much too quiet."
"Guifei niangniang, Zhong'er got a cold a few days ago. Erxi was worried that he would transfer the sickness to the valued persons if he came to the palace so he was left in the fu." He Zhong was Wei Qing E's child. Usually, he was carefully protected so when she heard Shu guifei mention her child, her heart tightened. On her face, she only allowed a warm smile to appear, her voice full of respect as she promised: "When he get better, erxi will bring him in to greet niangniang."
"So that's why," Shu guifei nodded and after she ordered somebody to take some medicine to Wei Qing E, she smiled and commented, "We should always be careful with children. It's been cold these past days. As a mother, you have to put more effort in." This attitude, it was as though she was the mistress.
Sitting beside Wei Qing E, Wei guipin didn't even say a word, a gentle smile hanging on her face.
Wei Qing E concurred. She turned her head to personally pick serve Wen guipin a thousand-layer cake, "Mufei, taste this."
"Sweet yet not too sweet, it's good," The smile on Wen guipin's face became warmer. After two bits of the thousand-layer cake, "You don't have to be attending me constantly. Eat something yourself."
"If mufei has eaten well, it is the good fortune of erxifu," Wei Qing E put down her chopsticks and smiled as she poured Wen guipin a cup of plum flower wine. "This wine doesn't go to the head, it's perfect to accompany the thousand-layer cake."
"Lao da's is very virtuous," The smile on Shu guifei's face became a few fractions fainter. She looked at Qin Bai Lu who was sitting with a glass of wine and felt her heart beat unevenly. She turned to look at Jing guifei and ask: "Jiejie, don't you think?"
Jing guifei glanced at Shu guifei. She smiled and praised: "These erxifu, they are all full of filial love. Meimei doesn't have to admire Wen guipin and forget your own good erxi." She didn't feel good herself and wanted to drag her down as well, did she think she had no brains?
Qin Bai Lu knew that her popo wasn't happy and set down the wine cup. She turned to personally place Shu guifei a piece of crab meat into her bowl.
Shu guifei made a slight bite before commenting: "This winter crab isn't as tender as autumns. Such a big grab, it only looks good."
Qin Bai Lu's hand tightened around the chopsticks. In the end she could only smile and suggest: "Mufei speaks the truth. Why don't we try this picked duck tongue, erxi thinks it is acceptable."
"No need," Shu guifei smiled, "You have a good time, ben gong doesn't have an appetite."
"Ben gong sees that it seems pretty good," Jing guifei looked at Qu Qing Ju, "erxifu, get some for ben gong to taste."
Qu Qing Ju saw the other wanted to display her so she could only smile and push back her sleeve to pick two for Jing guifei. She also considerately broke the soft bone at the end of the tongue.
"Such a honest child, don't just pay attention to me," Jing guifei finished the duck's tongue and smiled to let the palace maid behind her serve Qu Qing Ju a bowl of soup, "Us women should drink more soup, there's many benefits."
Qu Qing Ju gave a happy smile as she raised the bowl. She said in an intimate tone: "Thanks, mufei." Then she buried her head to focus on obediently consuming the soup.
Shu guifei looked at this scene of motherly and filial love and threw her eyes away with a snort. But her heart started to beat even less smoothly.
Jing guifei used a handkerchief to wipe her lips in a very good mood. Only a stupid woman would make it difficult for her own erxifu in front of others.
Whatever matter, go back to your own rooms to fight it out. Your erxifu is a titled wang fei. This entire place was filled with noble matrons and titled ladies. If your erxifu was shamed, as her popo, would you benefit? It was shaming your own son, and letting others laugh at you.
At the men's side, the top right table was the four He brothers and a few old wang ye from the Imperial Family. But these old wang ye were very perceptive and courteous to the four.
He Heng sat between He Yuan and He Qi, and conversed with everyone present with a smile on his face. He held himself with elegance and a majestic bearing.
"Si di's good matter is coming up. You should drink a few more cups with your brothers today," He Qi raised the wine cup and called He Heng, "Come!"
Drunkenness had already started to make its way across He Ming's face but he couldn't refuse his da ge's request. He could only raise his wine cup with a painful expression: "Thanks da ge. Didi will finish first."
He Yuan's pale finger rubbed the rim of the cup. He looked at lao da's forthright manner as he finished toasting everyone at the table. He raised an eyebrow as he tapped the wine cup, "Da ge has a good capacity."
"Haha, da ge can't do anything else, but this capacity, I have," He Qi raised his hand to pat He Yuan's shoulder, the blow causing the wine in He Yuan's hand to splash out, "I can't drink delicately like you."
Looking at his hand that had been splashed with wine, He Yuan disdainfully put done the wine cup. He took out a handkerchief to clean his hand before he retorted coldly: "Didi doesn't go to the restaurants and tea shops as often as da ge, so my capacity for drinking naturally isn't as great as da ge."
As though he hadn't heard the underlying thrust in the words, He Qi chuckled: "Men cannot be unable to drink wine, don't you think so, er di?"
"It's not just men that can drink wine, and not all men would like drinking wine," He Heng smiled as he raised his cup to He Qi, "Occasionally drinking a few cups along is a relaxing thing, but it's better to avoid to drink like your life depended on it. Didi doesn't have the capacity that da ge has. This cup is to salute da ge." Finishing, he didn't care to see He Qi respond and threw back his head to drink to the bottom.
He Yuan watched with cold eyes and sneered with disdain. He took the new cup that the taijian served.
"Er di's words are rational," He Qi keep on smiling in a forthright manner but didn't keep toasting others. He quietly sat on his spot and started to eat.
He Heng lowered his head and smiled as he swung the empty cup in his hand.
 昭阳: 昭 is clear, bright 阳 is the sun, the masculine side
 This is an abbreviation of —-"s wife. In Chinese, the wife is referred to as "of ___'s home" or "——'s" as though they were a possession of the man (which they pretty much were)