Chapter 7: Invitation
The carriage stopped at the entrance of the prince’s residence and the servants guided them in. Zi Yinye entered the large courtyard with her head low and her gaze withdrawn.
It was already deep in the heart of winter, but all the flowers in the prince’s residence were in full bloom. Although some were winter blossoms that flourished in winter, there were flowers in the veranda that were blooming inconsistent with the current season. They must have been brought out of a greenhouse, but facing the onslaught of the bitter cold, the would probably die before half the day passed. For his beloved wife’s birthday, the prince had spent quite a bit of effort. Did he know his beloved wife had another man in her heart?
Zi Yinye arrived at a spacious courtyard under the servants’ guidance. A stage had been built and there was currently someone onstage singing, quite a few chairs and tables arranged before it with many high class women watching and chatting, but watching outside in the cold winter day was…
Inviting theatrical troupes to perform was a common hobby of the wealthy. She was not unfamiliar with theater as her father and his two mistresses often invited them to their home to perform. Although she had not ever been physically witnessed them, she often heard the awful sounds of opera from her four servant girls imitating them, so she could be considered familiar and could even sing a piece herself! So without even looking onstage, Zi Yinye could tell what piece they were performing just from listening. Weren’t these people supposed to be “high class”? How boring!
When princess Xie saw Zi Yinye arrive, she did not get up and only smiled at Zi Yinye, then motioned for the servants to seat Zi Yinye. Finally, she switched her attention back to the performance, engrossed. She looked as if even if the heavens collapsed, watching the performance was more important. Zi Yinye was unconcerned with the princess’s fake smile. She had known long beforehand that the princess was going to make trouble for her and this was just the beginning!
Zi Yinye had been seated farthest away. With a quick scan, she saw that there was a brazier in front of all other seats and each woman had a hand warmer. Only she seemed to have been “forgotten” without any source of heat. Or was this princess Xie’s “special treatment”?
She smirked faintly. What a lackluster way of doing things. Was there such a need to do this before so many people? Did she not fear of gossip! But it seemed nobody noticed nor pitied her. Zi Yinye gave a meaningful look to Chun Ri, who was having difficulty hiding her anger, then sat up straight. It would not be easy to freeze her! Princess Xie did not understand her at all. How could she be so naive as to think that such a cheap trick could hurt her?
One hour, two hours, the time passed slowly. The performers switched to different plays one by one, but nobody called for her. Not only did she have no brazier, not even a cup of warm tea was sent. Really, banquets were to be avoided.
“Miss, your entire body is frozen!” Finally, Chun Ri could not hold back any more, her heart full of discontent. Her voice was not loud nor soft, but all of the people in the courtyard could hear it.
“Aiya, what’s wrong with those wretched servants, why hasn’t anyone lit Madam Ren’s brazier or given her warm tea yet!” Princess Xie berated the servants and got up, walking to Zi Yinye.
She was secretly grumbling how meddlesome Chun Ri was, but seeing princess Xie walk over, Zi Yinye got up timidly. Although princess Xie had an apologetic smile, the fake smile made Zi Yinye want to puke.
“Madam Ren, you haven’t been frozen badly, right? Just look at me, I completely forgot to take care of my guests since I was so absorbed in the theatrical performance. These wretched servants, they’ve been too pampered by the prince, completely improper.”
She raised her head swiftly, secretly gave a calculated glance at princess Xie, then immediately lowered her head. “Yinye is unimportant. Thank you, your highness, for your care.”
The closer to people of power, the more artificial one would be. This princess Xie appeared gentle and gracious, but because she had already known princess Xie’s animosity, she had noticed the flash of disdain and arrogance in her eyes. Otherwise, she too would have been completely tricked by princess Xie’s near perfect acting!
“What do you mean unimportant, you’ve already been freezing for so long, you must have been frozen badly!” Princess Xie’s tone carried a strong feeling of self-responsibility. She reached out and grabbed Zi Yinye’s hand.
Zi Yinye was extremely shocked. She wanted to pull away immediately, but that wouldn’t be appropriate. Thus, she helplessly allowed princess Xie to hold her hand. Fortunately, her hand was usually cold, otherwise princess Xie would have definitely been suspicious!
“Just look at yourself, your hand has already been frozen ice cold.” The sound of self-blame in her tone grew stronger. But when her gaze landed on Zi Yinye’s pair of jade like hands, her tone switched. She said faintly, “What a pity it would be if such beautiful hands were frozen badly.”
Such lies! She would have been looking forward to that instead! Gently withdrawing her hand, Zi Yinye lowered her head, quietly saying, “Your highness does not need to be concerned. Yinye is unimportant.”
Zi Yinye’s deferential, respectful attitude seemed to have pleased princess Xie. “What do you mean your highness, I’m merely a few years older. Just call me elder sister, alright? Little sister!”
Since when did they have such a close relationship? Sisters? Unless… Zi Yinye sneered secretly. They had never been close, was there a need to call her “little sister” so affectionately?”
Timidly drooping her head, Zi Yinye spoke. “Yinye does not dare!”
“What do you mean you don’t dare? Just call me elder sister.”
“No, Yinye does not dare!”
Zi Yinye’s cowardly appearance made princess Xie a little displeased. The smile on her face stiffened. “If little sister does not see me as worthy enough to be called elder sister, then forget about it!”
Zi Yinye hurriedly shook her head. “It’s not that, Yinye only…”
Princess Xie did not give her an opportunity to explain. She turned away, starting to walk back to her seat, when her sleeve caught on to the teacup that had just been served to Zi Yinye. The full cup of tea spilled onto Zi Yinye, every drop.
What cold tea! Seeing the large patch of tea on her clothes, Zi Yinye felt a surge of anger, but she forcibly repressed it. She had to hold back currently.
A smirk appearing on her lips again, her lowered gaze ice cold. Would tea that had just been delivered turn cold so quickly? Although it was chilly today, it was not cold to the point that water could freeze. Clearly, the water had been ice cold when it had been delivered. Princess Xie, oh princess Xie, you sure tried to be clever.
When she raised her head again, Zi Yinye already had a helpless look in her eyes replacing her coldness, staring blankly at the many women who had their mouths covered from shock, each with different expressions. Only with princess Xie’s apologetic voice did she seem to get back to her senses. Nodding her head repeatedly, she stuttered “I-I’m fine.”
She looked like a pitiful, docile little lamb. With such a meek appearance, would princess Xie stop with her antics? She hadn’t done anything to warrant such jealously either, why was she being so troublesome? Women who were too malicious would not be loved.
“Aiya, would you look at that, how am I so clumsy? Little sister, have you been burned?”
Burned?! This ice cold tea could burn someone? Zi Yinye couldn’t help but admire princess Xie’s deliberate actions. If she did not order them, then how could the servants send a cold cup of tea? With this weather, even a hot cup of tea would not remain hot, so she might as well have ordered for an ice cold tea to be brought out to be more damaging instead. This woman’s cunning thoughts sure were malicious.
“Someone, quickly bring Madam Ren away for a change of clothes.”
Following princess Xie’s order, a broad shouldered maid of high stature came over and bowed. “Mada Ren, please follow me** to the back courtyard.”
Stopping Chun Ri from following her with a look, Zi Yinye followed the maid obediently. The woman’s antics weren’t finished. Instead of passively waiting to be beaten, she might as well as take the initiative to flush out the rest of her tricks. Once she lost interest, she would stop. Oh, Chun Ri, I know you are worried for me, your master, but I don’t want you to expose me while not being able to hold back your anger.
Following the maid through many twists and turns, Zi Yinye finally arrived at an elegantly arranged outer wing. While Zi Yinye was in the middle of inspecting the arrangements of the room, the maid spoke. “Madam, please wait here for a short moment. I** will go to get Madam some clothes.
Zi Yinye nodded. Her eyes followed the maid as she left, and then she started to wait. But after waiting for almost an hour, the maid still hadn’t returned. Zi Yinye understood this was another cheap trick, but what was it this time? She was unfamiliar with the prince’s residence and there were many possible traps set. If she wasn’t careful, she would be ensnared. She didn’t want to do anything extra that could cause trouble, so it was better to simply wait. She would remember her at one point. Fortunately, she was the stately prime minister’s wife; it was unlikely she would be left overnight. She would simply treat it as time to relax peacefully. In any case, she didn’t like noisy events like watching theater. Only, perhaps she was going to be hungry.
From the sky’s current shade of color, it was almost noon. Zi Yinye let out a sigh. She really was going to go hungry. Fortunately, she had eaten this morning. Otherwise, she would have been very uncomfortable. Gently patting her stomach, Zi Yinye sighed again. What luck she had!
Fiddling with the flowers in a vase in the room with boredom, Zi Yinye suddenly heard footsteps slowly approaching. Did someone finally remember her? The footsteps were steady and powerful and didn’t seem like the maid from before. It seemed like a man’s footsteps. Surprised, Zi Yinye looked towards the door.
A black pair of boots first entered her line of sight, then a black robe with golden embroidery. As expected, it was a man. Zi Yinye slowly raised her head and her eyes locked with a pair of clear, cold eyes.
It was a handsome man, but his expression was as cold as his eyes. His eyes were slightly surprised and he was silent. From his clothes and his disposition, if he was not a guest, then he was someone who was at least with about the same status as the prince. In all likelihood, he was not the prince because the prince was supposed to be at court like the prime minister. Even if he had returned, he would probably be at his beloved wife’s side first.
“What, did the princess switch to other cheap tricks now?”