Chapter 6: Imperial Banquet Pt. 2
Everybody assumed that Zi Yinye’s marriage to Ren Fengyao was emperor Dongfang Chao’s doing, but they failed to understand why. The emperor had already regarded Ren Fengyao very highly, but why would he confer an ugly woman to Ren Fengyao to marry? Had the tides changed and Ren Fengyao had lost favor? But it didn’t seem so. Nobody understood what was going on.
Very people knew the inside story. Who would think that Zi Yinye was married to Ren Fengyao because he had simply drawn her name through luck! Perhaps it was the so-called preordained fate, but the two involved persons were unaware!
“What are you all discussing! Such a loud clamor!”
The women were shocked seeing the man in the dragon robe* and hastily got up to kneel in greeting. Zi Yinye let out a breath. She could see from the corner of her eye the scholarly man who was wearing minister clothing standing next to the emperor’s side. He was here to help her out?!
*Only the emperor wears the “dragon robe”
Dongfang Chao waved offhandedly, saying very casually, “Stand up!” then strode towards the smiling empress’s direction.
Ren Fengyao followed Dongfang Chao in. Although men were not allowed to enter the harem chambers, Ren Fengyao was an exception. Zi Yinye got up as everybody else did and took a few steps back very naturally. A colorful figure quickly dashed over, flitting towards the refined man like a cute little bird and grabbed his arm, using a tender voice to say, “Big brother Ren!”
This was still the arrogant princess? Zi Yinye watched Dongfang Rongfei who had changed completely with amusement. That brat sure changed quickly. Zi Yinye secretly scanned the surroundings. Sure enough, the gazes of the two who had been staring at her were now on Dongfang Rongfei, full of envy and unwillingness.
This Ren Fengyao sure had demonic charm. But they were the emperor and his brother’s women, not very wise choices!
Zi Yinye tilted her head and unwittingly met a sympathizing gaze. Zi Yinye did not know whose wife she was, but she was pitying her? She didn’t need it though. Zi Yinye was amused. Tonight sure was lively. Everything she had not experienced for the last seventeen years had occurred tonight. Marriage truly was unfortunate, having to put on an act, how tiring!
Zi Yinye observed each person’s expression with amusement. They all looked like they were cautiously facing a dangerous enemy, their previously arrogant gazes all gone. Every person has another person who is their weakness, as they say. The saying “accompanying one’s sovereign can be like accompanying a tiger”* sure was true!
*The emperor seems to be their ‘weakness’ so to speak and it’s dangerous to accompany the emperor just like it’s dangerous to accompany a tiger
Zi Yinye was still deep in thought, so she didn’t hear the few words Dongfang Chao had said, but she only suddenly sensed that strangely, everybody’s gazes were on her, thus raised her head hurriedly only to unexpectedly hear Ren Fengyao. “Madam, it’s time to return!”
Madam? Was Ren Fengyao referring to her? Ren Fengyao had already freed his arm that had been grabbed by Dongfang Rongfei, one hand outstretched towards her, indicating for her to grab his hand. Did he think she had been shocked silly?
Zi Yinye set her slender, fine small hand in Ren Fengyao’s hand, acting somewhat timid as she left with Ren Fengyao and the emperor. Dongfang Rongfei humphed coldly, then stamped her foot and dashed out.
As everybody glanced each other in dismay, Dongfang Chao was oddly smiling, watching Zi Yinye with a profound gaze. Zi Yinye flusteredly looked down to avoid the emperor’s gaze. She had to act to the bitter end. Currently, she was a pitiful creature, timidly drooping her head without a word was the most fitting action. The scholarly man’s hand was very warm and steady. She had faith he would safely bring her out of the palace so she did not have to worry and make any unnecessary actions.
She just had to continue acting pitiful!
Inside the carriage, Ren Fengyao who had been silent suddenly spoke. “I apologize. Did she make trouble for you?”
“Who? Who is Husband* talking about? The princess?”
“That many people tried to make trouble for you?” Ren Fengyao was a bit shocked. Were there other people besides Rongfei?
Zi Yinye’s eyes flickered with interest. She raise her head but with her eyes still looking down as she said timidly, “Yinye does not understand why princess Xie and concubine Rou seem so hostile toward Yinye. Has Yinye offended them previously? But Yinye has never met them before.”
She did this on purpose! She purposefully wanted to see his reaction.
Sure enough, there was a sense of awkwardness in his eyes. He said faintly, “Don’t mind them. I will try as much as possible to prevent you from going to such occasions in the future.”
There were problems just as expected. Ren Fengyao, I had originally thought you were a very virtuous man! Zi Yinye drooped her head to hide the faint derision in her eyes.
Zi Yinye did not see Ren Fengyao after the imperial banquet. Near the end of the year, the official minister residence started to get busy, exceptionally lively, but it seemed completely unrelated to her because she did not have to participate at all. If it weren’t for those two mistresses who came to bother her occasionally, her life was leisure enough to be almost perfect.
Ren Fengyao might as well had given the power of hostess directly to those women who were growing more and more insufferable. What was the point of her suffering as the middleman! Although dealing with the two women was an easy task, after awhile, it became tiresome.
Softly sighing, she set down the book in her head. Zi Yinye rubbed her temples, then lazily lied down on the brocaded couch. It’s said that spring is the season of laziness, but she was tired in winter too. Was she being too idle?
Just as Zi Yinye was on the verge of falling asleep, her eyes half closed, she suddenly heard footsteps. Was it Chun Ri?
Seeing her lady was asleep, Chun Ri quietly covered Zi Yinye with a quilt. Unexpectedly, their gazes crossed. Her lustrous, gem like eyes were currently glazed over with an almost intoxicated expression. Seeing this, Chun Ri’s heart rippled. What a pity no other men had see her lady like this before, otherwise… Quietly sighing, Chun Ri thought, my lady’s eyes are the most enchanting, seductive eyes in the world. How had the young master not notice yet?
Zi Yinye slowly got up and Chun Ri speedily set a cushion behind her. Zi Yinye leaned onto the cushion and said lazily, “Has everything been prepared?”
“Yes, my lady. Xia Yue and Dong Chen have already contacted young master Hua.
“Good!” She wrapped the quilt more snugly, then opened the window with one hand. Snowflakes were falling outside and cold wind blew in. Zi Yinye snuggled deeper into the covers and her eyes gradually turned clear, but all of her emotions were deeply hidden from her eyes.
“My lady, what is the next step? How are you planning on escaping?”
Eyes focused on the dancing snowflakes whirling about outside, Zi Yinye said, “It cannot be rushed. There are many ways to escape, but they are all not what I want. I need a method that will finish everything with no loose ends, so… Chun Ri, I must wait for an opportunity, an opportunity that will allow me to be gone forever.”
“My lady, what are you going to do? Have you already thought of a method?’
One finger before her lips, Zi Yinye quietly shushed her, a faint smiling expression in her eyes. “Secret!”
Seeing Chun Ri pout, dissatisfied, Zi Yinye raised a gold stamped invitation card. “Compared to that, resolving the situation is the most important matter at hand.”
“Invitation card? My lady, who sent it?”
“The housekeeper just sent it this morning, saying that tomorrow was princess Xie’s birthday and that I* was invited to her birthday banquet.” Zi Yinye played around with the invitation card in her hand, her veil concealing her disdainful smile. Banquets should be avoided, as the proverb said, but she had to go!
“Princess Xie? But my lady, you aren’t acquainted with her. Why would she invite you?” Chun Ri frowned, befuddled.
“I may not know her, but people may know me. Don’t forget, I currently hold the status of the prime minister’s wife,” Zi Yinye said faintly.
Chun Ri frowned once more. She had been at her lady’s side ever since they were young and understood her personality very well, so although her lady didn’t say anything, she kept on feeling that whenever her lady mentioned princess Xie, her tone would be a little disdainful and amused. Was she looking too much into it?
“My lady, what present are you going to send for princess Xie’s birthday? I** will go prepare it.”
“No need, I will leave such a small thing to the housekeeper. With such a large residence, the stately, talented favored minister shouldn’t be too poor to make the family of the wife pay for the present!” Zi Yinye said indifferently. “You just need to accompany to the banquet tomorrow.”
She did not want to go, but she had to. The prince*’s residence was someone else’s territory. It seemed she wouldn’t have an easy time. Alas! Because she unfortunately gained the status of that man’s wife, she was resented out of jealousy and her life was made purposefully troublesome. Just thinking of it made her angry!
*When describing princess Xie and her husband, the author uses the word 平 which means equal. Literally, they are equal princess and equal king, but I think what it means is that Xie Chuqiu has the same standing as a princess but isn’t one and since the “equal king” is the brother of the current king/emperor, that is how his status is. So I’m going to refer to the “equal princess” as princess Xie and the “equal king” as prince
The next day in the early morning, a carriage traveled to the prince’s residence, tottering as it went. Because snow have fallen during the night, it traveled very slowly, creaking as the wheels turned on the snow. Zi Yinye sat peacefully inside, pulling her cloak tight with unreadable thoughts. Chun Ri was filled with questions, but at the same time, she didn’t dare to ask and could only sit boredly in a daze.
“Chun Ri, once we arrive at the prince’s residence, no matter what happens, you must remember one thing: without my orders, you cannot make a sound or any other action.”
“My lady, why do you say that?” Zi Yinye’s indifferent orders made Chun Ri unable to hold back. “My lady, you’re acting very strangely!”
“My lady, you didn’t dress up even for the banquet, wearing such simple clothes. Fortunately, you still have the status of the minister’s wife…”
Glancing at her faint blue attire, Zi Yinye laughed. “Chun Ri, don’t forget my status is only temporary. Also, today’s main star is princess Xie. Do you want me to dress gorgeously and try to steal away attention?”
“No, I** did not mean that, I only feel… Whatever, you won’t listen to anything I** say. But, my lady, what did you do that to your face?”
“Because someone will definitely try to make a fuss about my face.” Zi Yinye touched her cheek that she handled specially, smiling mockingly as she said, “Chun Ri, there are many people who are interested in my face. Don’t you think I should satisfy their curiosity?”
“My lady!” Chun Ri called out worriedly.
“Chun Ri, the banquet will not be as simple as you think. If you don’t want to ruin my future plans, just remember that without my permission, you cannot speak, nor interfere.”
“My lady, perhaps…”
“Don’t ask so many questions, you just need to remember my words.”