Chapter 96 part 1: Lying Down but Still Got Hit by a Spear

    The furen and xiaojie were used to living in their own mansions in their unbridled and complacent way. But since this was an important place where the Emperor resided, they one by one lowered their heads as they closely followed behind the palace maid as she lead the way into the chambers of the Imperial Concubines.

    The chambers of the Imperial Concubines occupied an extremely large area. Today, the Palace would be conferring the title upon the eldest daughter of the Rong Family. Aside from Hai wangfei and Hai Tian who had recently received distinction a while ago, everybody else walked on foot.

    For these ladies and madams who had been pampered and spoiled since their childhood, this was a kind of torture for them. Still, they could see the palace maid walking in front, step by step, so they kept their paces were neat and tidy, the frequency and movement of their footsteps were almost unanimous.

    At first, they had been able to follow the palace maid's pace, but after half an incense stick of time, everyone started to find it intolerable.

    But today was the grand day of conferring the title of guifei. There would eventually be and end to it so they did not dare complain about their hardship. They could only suppress their unwilling thoughts with every step they followed behind the palace maid until the arrived at the Empress Dowager's Feng Xiang Palace to wait for the imperial decree.

    And during this time Yun Qian Meng was wrapped around a quilt. Her flawless face was deeply sunken inside the soft material as she was caught up in the fragrant and sweet slumberland.

    The entirety of Qi Luo Yuan was silent. Today, Yun Ruo Xue and Yun Yan had one out and brought a large group of bodyguards, servant girls and mama along with them. The xiangfu was quite auspicious and peaceful, and contrary to what one might expect, it created a comfortable environment which was quite a rare occurrence.

    Outside the Feng Xiang Palace, a lot of madams and young ladies from different families were already standing there waiting. Although everyone was tired, all of them tried hard to endure the hardship if only for their reputation. One after another, they stood in a graceful stance, waiting meekly for the right time to follow the Empress Dowager for the festive occasion.

    But the Empress Dowager was currently eating breakfast with Ji Shu Yu and Qu Fei Qing. They saw Lan gugu quickly enter the palace hall from a side door. She saluted upon seeing the three of them, then immediately approached the Empress Dowager's side. Bending at the waist, she said in a low voice, "Empress Dowager, just few moments ago Yuan de taifei invited Hai wangfei and Tian junzhu over to the Qing Xi Palace."

    The Empress Dowager's actions slowed and immediately a cold smile emerged in her eyes. Following which, she mumbled to herself, "I thought she had more patience, but as it turns out, she is already getting quite restless."

    "Empress Dowager, I'm afraid that today Yuan de taifei might..." Lan gugu stopped speaking in the middle of her sentence. Although she was worried, her expression remained calm.

    "How about those ladies and madams outside?" the Empress Dowager changed the subject. Taking a glimpse at Qu Fei Qing, who was eating her meal in silence, she asked Lan gugu about the situation outside.

    "All of them are now respectfully waiting outside the hall." Lan gugu softly replied as she helped the Empress Dowager to slice a piece of cake.

    After hearing Lan gugu's report, the Empress Dowager did not say anything further. She just consumed the small bowl of swallow's nest porridge, then let the servants take the food away.

    "Is mother helping Chen laotaijun comb Rong guifei's hair?" After gargling some clear water, wiped her hands clean and drank a mouthful of tea, the Empress Dowager asked Ji Shu Yu in a shallow voice.

    Ji Shu Yu indifferently laughed, then replied in a neutrally soft voice, "Yes, she is."

    Gu laotaijun became more intimate with Chen laotaijun after the birthday feast. Although the two of them did not get in touch during ordinary days, yet they frequently had a meeting of the minds.

    Regarding today's affair, Chen laotaijun had personally paid a visit to Gu laotaijun three days ago, and laotaijun was evidently happy to receive her.

    As a matter of fact, two hours had passed since both laotaijun had left their respective residences and rushed over to the Palace only to help the eldest daughter of Rong Family to comb her hair.

    "What about houye's injury? I heard Meng'er had helped, but where did she get the Hu Ge?" the Empress Dowager had put down her teacup and asked indifferently as if she were chatting about some domestic trivialities.

    Ji Shu Yu's heart was slightly shakened. The people of Fu Guo Gong Fu had yet to report anything to the Empress Dowager about Meng'er's discovery of the antidote, yet unexpectedly the Empress Dowager had already known the details of it.

    After a short moment of being deep in thought, Ji Shu Yu slowly replied, "Houye is now gradually recovering from his injury. It is a shame he will not be able to attend today's ceremony. With regards to the antidote, Meng'er had probably bought it with a huge amount of money. Why did you suddenly ask about this matter?"

    "It's really nothing, I only thought that this child has a really kind heart. Being so attentive to her uncle; our affection for her was not in vain." The Empress Dowager coldly replied, then she shifted her gaze towards Qu Fei Qing who was sipping tea in a corner. Her expression was somehow displeased at this and she immediately spoke out, "Fei'er, you are already sixteen. Today, many princes and dukes will come to attend and there is no lack of youthful talents. I shall keep watch for you."

    Qu Fei Qing was sipping her tea. She did not want the Empress Dowager to shift the attention to her. When she lifted her head, she was astonished as she looked at the Empress Dowager who was already chatting with her mother again.

    Qu Fei Qing felt depressed, she thought that it would be better for her to enter the Palace with those other ladies than to sit here and become the subject matter of the the Empress Dowager's discussion. She envied Yun Qian Meng. If she had known earlier, she would have preferred to be with her and face the cold night wind, rather than stay in this place to face such a troublesome situation.

    Ji Shu Yu saw her own daughter bowing her head, not speaking, and doing her habitual pinching of the handkerchief in her hands, so she tried to speak to the Empress Dowager "Houye is still recovering. Isn't it too early to talk about Fei'er's marriage?"

    Who would have thought that after hearing these words, the Empress Dowager's expression would abruptly turn serious. She had exerted more effort when she placed the teacup on the table, producing a prominent heavy noise and immediately reprimanded, "Fei'er is already past her marrying age. I didn't mention this matter before because you and Ling Ao were both reluctant to marry off this child, in addition to laotaijun's request to let this child stay by her side for a little longer. Afterwards, Ling Ao happened to meet an accident, so it was dragged on. Now, it is already the ninth month. After three more months, it will be the end of the year and Fei'er will turn seventeen. Don't tell me you want to keep her all your life? You've just heard that Yuen De taifei called upon Hai Tian, whose age is close to Fei'er. If she was to marry into Chen wangfu, Fei'er's options would have been lessened by one. Don't tell me you only plan to marry her to some petty official and let her live a mediocre life? You might want that, but I will certainly disagree."

    Seeing the Empress Dowager so angered, Ji Shu Yu and Qu Fei Qing immediately knelt down.

    The Empress Dowager had gestured to dismiss it, allowing both of them to stand up. Immediately she eased down and continued, "I know your thoughts. You only want to marry her to someone who would really love her. A few days ago, the Empress had intentionally or otherwise suggested the thought of proposing a marriage on behalf of her brother, which I had blocked off. But I don't know how long I will be able to avoid this matter. Fei'er is getting older, if we keep delaying this matter, we might be ruining her future."

    Afterwhich, the Empress Dowager shifted her gaze to Qu Fei Qing. Seeing her dull clothing, she summoned Lan gugu to fetch a Magpie on Plum Flower dangling ornament. Immediately, she made a hand gesture to let Qu Fei Qing approach her, then personally inserted this exquisite and gorgeous hairpin to Qu Fei Qing's hair near her left temple, soon after she asked Qu Fei Qing to stand farther away, then particularly observed this young girl in front of her.

    Qu Fei Qing was only wearing a yellow long dress today, the lapels, cuffs, and the edge of her skirt were embroidered with light purple colored orchids, while her full and slender waist was bundled up with an orange belt. A silver colored purse embroidered with the same orchids hung on one side, and her entire person looked utterly elegant. The added splendid and majestic golden dangling ornament brought out a more significant nobility. Any man would be unable to resist from looking at her.

    Seeing the nice effect the ornament had on her, the Empress Dowager was greatly satisfied and repeatedly praised, "This should be how the eldest daughter of Fu Guo Gong Fu appears. Your previous style of dressing  was too simple. From now on, don't be like that."

    Qu Fei Qing felt that the golden dangling ornament was too heavy. It pressed on her, making it difficult to lift her head. Having not much of a choice, she could only lower her head and bend her body down a bit, "Thank you for bestowing it, Empress Dowager."

    "Empress Dowager, it's almost time." Lan gugu reminded her from a corner.

    The Empress Dowager slightly nodded her head. With Lan gugu's support, she stood up and immediately led Ji Shu Yu and Qu Fei Qing out of Feng Xiang Palace.

    When the crowd finally saw the Empress Dowager come out, all the people immediately composed themselves and orderly greeted, "Our greetings to the Empress Dowager."

    The Empress Dowager was wearing a purely red palace robe. The satin surface of the dress was embroidered with a golden phoenix composed entirely of golden thread. Even if the Empress Dowager did not open her mouth to speak, her grand and majestic aura was like an invisible net that covered the crowd.

    "All of you, please stand up." The Empress Dowager said in a cold and dignified manner. She then led everyone towards the direction of the main hall.

    "You see that golden dangling ornament on Qu Fei Qing's head? It is truly dazzling; such exquisite craftsmanship. It must have been made by the old artisan in the Palace." Xing Jin Die had yet to even notice anything else, but she had already carefully observed the golden dangling ornament on top of Qu Fei Qing's head.

    But Xing Jin Die was quite jealous in her heart at Qu Fei Qing appearing so beautiful today, so she deliberately lower her voice as she spoke in order to incite disharmony between the other daughters and Qu Fei Qing and give rise to hostility.

    "Xing xiaojie, Qu xiaojie is indeed an honorable daughter of the houfu, of course that golden dangling ornament fits her well. Is there a need for your to say that grapes are sour when you can't eat them?" Qin Yi An, who was walking in front of her, turned around and mocked her. She was extremely fed up with the daughter of the Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Justice, she felt that she was trying to start a quarrel out of nothing and was most likely a person who liked to cause a disturbance.

    Xing Jin Die, was annoyed by being stabbed by the hurtful words of Qin Yi An. She was about to talk further, but Su Qian Yue had stopped her by shooting her gloomy stare so Xing Jin Die had immediately gone silent.

    The bout of dispute silently ceased, just like that.

    Even so, Lan gugu, who was walking behind the Empress Dowager, pretended to cast a glance behind her. With a normal expression, she turned her head back.

    A line of people followed behind the Empress Dowager as they wound around the Front Hall and  entered through the doorway. But when they stepped into the threshold of the Palace, they bumped into Yuan de taifei's group who had come from the opposite direction.

    "Greetings, Empress Dowager." Yuan de taifei led Hai wangfei and Hai Tian as they made their salutations towards the Empress Dowager.

    The Empress Dowager indifferently glanced at Hai wangfei and Hai Tian. The two of them had normal expression, but an extremely undetectable awkward expression still reflected through their eyes, so she immediately responded with a gentle smile, "Please stand up, all of you. Hai wangfu is quite far from the Imperial Palace, it must have been exhausting for wangfei and junzhu."

    Hai wangfei sensed that the Empress Dowager was being too courteous, and was terrified as she immediately replied, "Yes, Empress Dowager, today is a great day for the celebration of a happy occasion, how can I feel exhausted?"

    The Empress Dowager only laughed but did not speak further, but after a long while, she finally said, "I originally planned to visit wangfei to have a chat during my free time, but quite unexpectedly you've been invited by sister, what a shame."

    Yuan de taifei knew that the Empress Dowager said these words on purpose, so the expression on her face increasingly became colder and her tone carried the arrogance that ordinary people would not dare use in this situation. "I didn't expect that sister would think of something similar to what I was thinking."

    All the people present stood frozen upon hearing Yuan de taifei's tone of voice, they felt the temperature in the surrounding plummet. One by one, they lowered their heads, not daring to utter a word.

    The Empress Dowager just generously smiled and in a profound voice, she said, "Oh yes, but I was a few steps behind you, sister. Nevertheless, I am still on time. I'll go ahead and hop onto my carriage now, sister, remember to steady yourself on a stool before you ascend the carriage behind mine."

    The Empress Dowager then slowly climbed over to her phoenix carriage in front of Yuan de taifei's cold smile.

    Yuan de taifei only stared at the carriage behind the phoenix carriage and a reluctant expression quickly streaked across her face. Immediately, she raised her hand to fix the dangling ornament of a golden phoenix with spread out wings on her head. Then, with the assistance of a palace eunuch, she climbed over to her carriage with composed and graceful posture.

    At this time, the Emperor and Empress were leading the civil and military officials over and they also greeted the Empress Dowager. Emperor Yu Qian, along with the Empress, rode his own dragon carriage, while the civil and military officials stood behind Yuan de taifei's carriage in a single line formation with their families behind them.

    A palace eunuch for the ceremony then shouted loudly, "It is time!"

    Emperor Yu Qian's dragon carriage slowly moved. In front of the dragon carriage, the Imperial Guards led by Wu daren made their way forward. This time, the palace gates were opened wide, and the Imperial Guards standing on both sides one after another knelt down on one knee and shouted, "Long live His Majesty!"

    In their carriage, Emperor Yu Qian and the Empress both sat in the same strong dignified posture, their ramrod sitting position displayed the composed stance of the Imperial Family. The common people surrounding the Imperial Palace tried to peek inside the dragon carriage, to try to get a look at their Emperor and Empress.

    As if realizing the importance of this festive occasion of conferring the title. For the morning of the ceremony, Emperor Yu Qian did not allow the emissary's group to participate. Rather, he commanded Chen wang to have his people "protect" them.

    The Imperial Palace's majestic and grand group marched orderly and tidily along the street to proceed towards the direction of the celebration platform. The long queue of ten thousand people looked more stunning in comparison to the emissary group from Northern Qi.

    Particularly, when the common people saw those madams and young ladies from affluent families who they rarely saw during normal days, one by one they discussed in low voices.

    "Look, who do you think is the eldest daughter of the Yun xiangfu? She was the one who attempted suicide after being rejected by Chen wangye." A married woman carrying a baby in her hands had squeezed herself in the middle of the large crowd. Her gossipy eyes were enviously staring at those madams and ladies who slowly walked past. Their clothes were bright in color, with their precious adornments and their well maintained appearances, the common people's mouths did not remain idle, as they started to quarrel in their discussions.

    "I haven't seen her, but moments ago, I was able to fortunately get a glimpse of the face of the Hai wangfu's junzhu. She indeed possesses extraordinary beauty, so pretty that she did not seem to be a woman of the mortal world." Beside her, a young man had both eyes rapaciously staring at all those beautiful women, he almost seemed to be drooling.

    "You indecent man, stop your be wishful thinking. Do you think you are suitable for these women? I will not take care of the child anymore, you do it!" seeing her own husband being lascivious in front of her, regardless of the situation that woman suddenly threw the child to him, then she angrily turned around and left.

    At this time, standing behind the crowd, a young man wearing a conical bamboo hat heard the conversation between the married couple and the corner of his mouth hooked up in a mocking smile as he mumbled, "Extraordinary beauty? Seemingly not a woman of the mortal world?"

    At his low mumble, the slightly prominent young man with the same style of clothing beside him immediately remarked, "Even that kind of person would suffice? Humph!"

    "Go back." Since the daughters of the government officials already walked past them, the man suddenly lost interest so he turned around and walked in the opposite direction.

    "Brother, what happened to you? Don't tell me you don't..." The young man was suddenly puzzled. But as the other man already turned around and left, he could only follow behind and could no longer join in the fun.

    This time, the Imperial procession had reached the platform of the celebration. Emperor Yu Qian and the Empress stepped off their dragon carriage. Behind them, the Empress Dowager and Yuan de taifei followed as they respectively stepped out of their carriages. The officials stood at one side with their respective family members at the opposite side. The two Prime Ministers were at the head of the civil and military officials on either side of the Emperor and the Empress. Chen wang, the other wangye, the Imperial Concubines of the harem, and the men and women of the Imperial Family led by the Empress Dowager were standing in front of all the women of the government families. They all stood aside giving sufficient space in the middle for the red felt carpet.

    "The time has arrived to offer sacrifices!" the Official of the Ceremonial Rites stood on the platform had yelled out. Afterwhich, the heavy and solemn sound of bell slowly rang out loud.

    On the other side of the ceremonial platform, Emperor Yu Qian and the Empress were holding onto each other as they tread along the red carpet and slowly walked towards the direction of the ceremonial platform.

    All the people present bent their waists and saluted. Only until the two stepped on the last flight of stairs onto the ceremonial platform did the people slightly straighten their bodies.

    The Official of the Ceremonial Rites shouted loudly again, "The lighting of the incense!"

    Two palace eunuchs carrying three one-meter-long incense sticks, with diameters similar to the wrist of a child, proceeded to the front. Emperor Yu Qian and the Empress simultaneously stretched out their hands to firmly grasp the three incense sticks and waited for the Official of the Ceremonial Rites who then solemnly yelled the word "Kneel!"

    With the fluttering of clothes resounding from below the ceremonial platform, which was followed by the sounds of people kneeling on the ground, Emperor Yu Qian and the Empress slowly knelt down on a soft cushion with earnest expressions.

    "We wish for the peace and prosperity of Western Chu to be eternal!" Emperor Yu Qian and the Empress simultaneously said.

    "We wish for the peace and prosperity of Western Chu to be eternal!" echoed the people below.

    In response, the two palace eunuchs immediately proceeded forward from either side and carefully supported Emperor Yu Qian and the Empress up and quickly removed the soft cushion in front of them. Emperor Yu Qian and the Empress then personally inserted the incense sticks from their hands into the stone cauldron censer.

    "The eldest daughter of Rong Family, please proceed forward to receive the Imperial Decree!" Proceeding with the ceremony, the Official of the Ceremonial Rites continued to the next segment.

    The sound of music had echoed one more time. Rong Rong, dressed in a crimson dress of an Imperial Consort with a serene expression, was supported by Chen laotaijun and Gu laotaijun, as she treaded along the red carpet towards the ceremonial platform.

    When they had reached the steps of the ceremonial platform, the two laotaijun released her and went to join the line while Rong Rong lifted the edge of her skirt, then knelt down on her knees.

    A cue from Emperor Yu Qian and the Chief the Palace Eunuch held up the scroll of the Imperial Decree, he read out loud, "According to the Mandate of Heaven, His Majesty the Emperor released this Imperial Order: The eldest daughter of the Rong Family, being intelligent and smart, with a dignified bearing and virtuous nature, who can be considered a role model for every woman in the world, thereupon will be conferred with the title of Imperial Consort. She is to be granted twelve gold bars and rewarded with jade. Her relatives will be granted to stay at the Chang Le Palace. Signed by His Majesty the Emperor himself!"

    "Your servant thanks Your Majesty for you grand grace. Long live the Emperor." Rong guifei immediately kowtowed to accept the favor. Her voice was as clear as the spring water, making people happy by hearing it.

    The gonggong stepped down from the stairs, then handed over the tray with the scroll of the Imperial Decree, gold bar, and jade to Rong guifei's hands.

    "The ceremony has ended!" the Official of the Ceremonial Rites slowly echoed.
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