Chapter 97 Part 1: The Princess of Northern Qi Battled in Spite of Sickness

    "The Crown Prince of Northern Qi brought along the Eldest Prince and the Tenth Prince here to see Emperor Yu Qian, the Empress Dowager, the Empress, and Rong guifei." Qi Jing Yuan's steps were steady as he brought along his group of envoys as they entered the Imperial Garden under the guide of Qu gonggong.

    Those long and narrow eyes were like ice and snow as they sharply swept through the few he greeted, following which he looked at the Ministers of Western Chu. When his eyes fell upon Chu Fei Yang, Chen wang, Hai junwang, and Rong Yun He, the cold grin on his face looked even more grim.

    From the side of the daughters, they had not expected that the Crown Prince of Northern Qi would be such a dashing good-looking man.

    Although this man looked ruthless and mean, but with his nice skin and status as the Crown Prince, he had attained extra credit in the hearts of those daughters.

    Only Xing Jin Die was not as arrogant and rude, as she had been moments ago, she only hung her head with eyes fixated at her own skirt and kept silent. Su Qian Yue who was sitting beside her noticed her whole body shivering, even her hands that were firmly gripping her handkerchief trembled violently.

    Seeing her reactions, Su Qian Yue gradually realized that perhaps in her heart there was still a shadow of the incident wherein she was almost killed by the Eldest Prince of Northern Qi. Hearing the Crown Prince speak of the Eldest Prince, she was scared to such an extent.

    Looking at Xing Jin Die's useless appearance, Su Qian Yue's eyes sneered at her coldly, she then immediately shifted her gaze to Chen wang in the opposite side.

    "Crown Prince, you must be exhausted after your journey here, please have a seat." Because he had already met everyone yesterday, Emperor Yu Qian did not bother to say anything further to Qi Jing Yuan, as they were led by Qu gonggong to their respective seats as honored guests.

    Qi Jing Yuan's gaze had swept through the faces of few powerful people inside the Palace before he led his group to their respective seats.

    When everyone was seated, Emperor Yu Qian lifted up a wine cup, smiled and said, "For the group of envoys who came here from the far away Northern Qi, I offer this cup of wine to you, Crown Prince, Eldest Prince, and Tenth Prince!"

    Qi Jing Yuan took a glance at Emperor Yu Qian, his gloomy and cold eyes were filled with faint cold smile, yet he did not refuse. Together, the Eldest Prince and the Tenth Prince sat beside him facing Emperor Yu Qian. They lifted up their cups and the four of them drank the sweet osmanthus wine.

    "Why does this wine taste so sweet? Your Majesty, don't you have strong alcoholic drinks in Western Chu? This is the wine the women drink, as people of Northern Qi, how could we drink this? Are you insulting us by saying that we are like women? Your Majesty, do you despised people of Northern Qi to the point that you are deliberately using this wine to humiliate us?" after drinking the wine, and before anyone had put down their wine cups, the Tenth Prince, Qi Jing Han, had chupsed and blurtted out these words.

    They were now in an awkward situation, and the Ministers of Western Chu were showing anger on their faces. The madams and ladies on the opposite side were trembling in fear as they looked at the arrogant and despotic Qi Jing Han, one by one they hung down their heads, deeply fearing that Emperor Yu Qian's wrath.

    "So the Tenth Prince is unexpectedly fond of wine! Can someone replace the wine of the group of envoys from Northern Qi with Lu Zhou wine*, this wine is extremely difficult to ferment, so today I shall have my distinguished guests taste it." Emperor Yu Qian skillfully deflected with his laughing response, while outside the hall, the palace eunuchs grew busy because of Qi Jing Han's comment. They went to the wine storehouse to get the new wine. After a short while, ten palace maids carrying strong alcoholic drinks entered the Imperial Garden, they placed the wine in front of Qi Jing Yuan and his people.

    "Your Majesty, Imperial Concubines, and the daren, don't tell me you won't be drinking this wine? That seems rather unfair." Qi Jing Han started nitpicking, and only stared at the wine in front of him without making a move to touch it. His face, as he looked at Emperor Yu Qian, were sneering.

    "Tenth Prince, didn't you know that strong alcoholic drinks can cause harm to the body? This is not surprising, as it turns out, Tenth Prince seems to be an alcoholic. That must be why last time, you made the mistake of bursting inside the main gate of our Western Chu. How 'unfortunate' to have entered our capital." Chu Fei Yang said with a faint smile.

    The sun had already set in the west, and the bright moon was already suspended above. The clear white color of moonlight sprinkled the earth, reflecting the coldness in Chu Fei Yang's eyes.

    The servants in the Imperial Palace had already lit the colored glass lamps, sprinkling the entire Imperial Garden with light as if it were daytime. The pulsing light of the red candles danced before Chu Fei Yang's eyes, showing his smiling expression yet barely concealing the extreme coldness.

    "Chu xiang you are quite eloquent. But, although we made mistake of intruding because of the wine, we didn't expect that Western Chu's defenses would react so slowly even though sober. If this incident were to spread, your neighboring friends would laugh their teeth off." Speaking slowly, Qi Jing Yuan countered Chu Fei Yang's words.

    He then raised a wine glass from the table, taking the advantage of the moonlight he as looked at the colorless liquid, the fragrance of the wine assailed his nostrils. Before he even tasted it, he already knew that it was first class wine, so his expression seemed to be extremely joyful for the good wine. Standing up, he lifted his cup to Rong guifei. "Today is a great day for guifei. As the Crown Prince, I would like to make a toast. Wishing guifei to live a long and happy life together with His Majesty, and to give birth to a son soon."

    At the last statement, Qi Jing Yuan bit his lips so tightly that he appeared to be sneering at her, causing the guifei to turn pale in an instant and her hands tucked inside her sleeves clenched into fists. Luckily her makeup today was utterly festive, so nobody could see anything wrong with her.

    But, Qi Jing Yuan who was staring directly at her did not let these small details slip by, seeing the embarrassment in Rong guifei's eyes along with the slight disappointment and frustration, Qi Jing Yuan's bloodthirsty smile grew in intensity as he lifted his head and drank the wine.

    Emperor Yu Qian did not seem to hear the sarcasm in Qi Jing Yuan's words, as he indifferently told Rong guifei, "Since the Crown Prince was being generous, don't be too rigid, Rong guifei. Take part and drink this wine for the Crown Prince."

    Rong guifei had already calmed her heart down at that point, so the corners of her mouth held a quiet and secluded smile. She sincerely lifted the wine cup as she stood up, in a shallow voice she said, "Thanks to you, Crown Prince!"

    She then used her sleeve to cover in front of her mouth as she drank the sweet osmanthus wine with graceful posture.

    Qi Jing Yuan seemed unhappy watching the couple echoed each other. His eyes slightly narrowed, the cold smile on his face became even more severe.

    "Let the singing and dancing begin!" when Rong Guifei sat down, Emperor Yu Qian commanded the Head of the Palace Eunuchs to prepare the next program so as to avoid any further difficult questions towards his Imperial Concubines from the people of of Northern Qi.

    The eunuch beside Emperor Yu Qian was already an old man, so he could easily guess what was going on in the Emperor's mind. He immediately gestured towards a palace eunuch, and joyous music immediately surrounded the entire Imperial Garden. A few female dancers with light and graceful dance steps walked in in a line from a circular door. The beautifully alluring figures and charming features not only attracted men, even the women certainly admired them.

    But, even though these dancers were beautiful, they only had low statuses. The various xiaojie of influential families could not bear to look at their flexible figures, their graceful movements, as well as the smiles that baffled the people's hearts, yet they did not exhibit too much enmity towards them.

    The men were different though; they were used to seeing their madams and wives abiding by the formal rules of the family. That, in addition the Emperor had having prohibited singing and dancing banquets for a month, they felt really stifled.

    Now that they finally had a reasonable chance to appreciate the beauties, they obviously would not let this opportunity slip by.

    As the group of Western Chu's Ministers were greedily staring at the young ladies dancing lightly and gracefully, they momentarily forgot the honored guests present, so one by one they exposed lecherous faces.

    As for the women, they were not completely at ease either. Some of them were nervously staring at the men on the opposite side, deeply worried that they might experience some setbacks.

    Hai Tian's expression also went cold, but while watching Chu Fei Yang, her eyes contained the rarely seen gentleness. As Chu Fei Yang was pouring and enjoying cups of wine by himself, he seemed to be unaware of other people's gaze on him.

    But the more he ignored other people, the more it captivated Hai Tian's heart. The silver moonlight shone on Chu Fei Yang's body, reflecting faint light against his black silk outer clothing. Those eyes on his jade white face were like two pieces of dazzling obsidian rocks, flickering with lights, within those eyes were simply the immeasurable wisdom and proficient skills. And the one thing that attracted Hai Tian the most was that never fading smile on the corners of Chu Fei Yang's mouth, as if all the problems were irrelevant in his eyes. In comparison to the sons of the other influential families, Chu Fei Yang seemed to be the most outstanding.

    Such outstanding skills simply made Hai Tian steadfastly infatuated, she was likely to detest all other women who set this perfect pearl within their sights.

    But Hai Tian had no idea that as she was attentively staring at Chu Fei Yang, she became another person's prey.

    Hai wang's eyes were not fixed on the singing and dancing, his shrewd eyes were smiling as they swept through every person in the crowd. When he saw his daughter's silly gaze, the corners of his mouth went up in an even wider smile, as he was about to speak while lifting his wine cup, someone had unexpectedly acted faster than him.

    "Your Majesty, is this the standard for Western Chu's beauties? This is barely satisfactory! Does Western Chu really look down upon our Northern Qi by providing such inferior dancers?" Qi Jing Han spoke again and one could see in his eyes that he had the intent to speak more cutting remarks. His arrogant mouth caused the Officials of Western Chu to immediately take back their enthusiastic gazes, remembering themselves in front of all people.

    Qi Jing Han's words were somewhat mean since he evidently knew that with the presence of the honored guests, how could Emperor Yu Qian present ugly women to dance?

    And as for his petty criticism, even if he were given eggs, he could still find bones inside.

    "I have heard that Hai Tian junzhu from the Hai wangfu possesses a unique talent, and is also a well-known beauty in Western Chu. Could we request that junzhu perform for us?" the Eldest Prince, Qi Jing Xuan requested. As he watched Hai Tian attentively, he was filled with such determination that he looked like he had something in his mouth.

    Hai Tian had not noticed she that she had just become the topic of their discussion. When she discovered Qi Jing Xuan's gloomy and ruthless eyes staring fixedly at her, a layer of cold sweat started to seep out and drench her back. Her hands tightened on the handkerchief as she glanced at Hai wang a bit nervously.

    Hai wang simply smiled, before he eventually said, "The Eldest Prince is too fond of my daughter. That is just a form of amusement my daughter does to pass her time, how can it be worthy to do up on stage? I'm afraid it might not meet the Crown Prince and the Eldest Prince's standards."

    "I think Hai wang is too humble! Among all the daughters here, Hai Tian's appearance is the most outstanding, Hai wang is really unduly humble! Or perhaps, you think that I am not fit to appreciate junzhu's dancing? Hmm?" Qi Jing Xuan's expression went cold, yet he had been staring at Hai Tian the entire time causing her to abruptly tense up. Although her face still looked indifferent, her heart was beating violently. Her heart greatly despised this Qi Jing Xuan who was always focusing on her.

    She could not help but to look to Chu Fei Yang, yet he was not even the slightest bit affected by the current proceedings and was still tasting the fine liquor. Hai Tian's heart sank even deeper at this, the hurt in eyes were immediately replaced by resentment, and she immediately stood up. With a plain smile she said, "Eldest Prince, you overpraise me, Hai Tian simply doesn't deserve such praise. Dancing really isn't my expertise as I usually play the guqin as a pastime during ordinary days. I am actually afraid that another person might have surpassed me already. Eldest Prince, if you really wish to appreciate zither skills, it would be better to invite the eldest daughter of Yun xiangfu over to play, she will not disappoint you."

    After her remarks, all gazes were fixed at her. Chu Fei Yang's lips slightly pursed while he was tasting the wine and a cold gaze shot out from his half-closed eyes. This went by unnoticed as he had immediately concealed it with a faint smile.

    Chen wang's expression became more desolate, but he was not looking at Hai Tian who happened to be smiling prettily,instead he was coldly gazing at Yuan de taifei, the radiance in his eyes was like a cold beam, intimidating anyone with just a glance.

    Rong xian taifei quickly stretched out a hand to restrain Rong Yun He who had been about to stand up. Her meaningful glance at him was full of disappointment and reproach, but Rong Yun He was still insistent. He shook off Rong xian taifei's hand, preparing to stand up, yet heard a smiling voice echo from behind, "Why would you refuse that, sister? Let the Eldest Prince enjoy your zither playing, then invite Yun xiaojie to play another tune, so both tunes can be compared. I believe all the people will be happy to determine who is the best! Your Majesty, were my suggestions acceptable?"

    Hai Chen Xi was the one who threw this problematic question at Emperor Yu Qian, regardless of the accusing look from Hai wang.

    Hai Tian's face turned pale white as her eyes were firmly stared at Hai Chen Xi who was laughing more and more arrogantly. The handkerchief in her hands appeared to be deformed now from all her pinching.

    On her end, Hai wangfei was already like a cat on a hot tin roof, especially when she learned that the Eldest Prince was showing great interest in Hai Tian. Hai wangfei's eyebrows knitted up even more, and regardless of Emperor Yu Qian's intentions, she would not let her daughter be married off like this so she repeatedly casted meaningful glances at Hai wang.

    Yuan de taifei pretended not to notice Chen wang's glances. Without consulting anyone, she spoke, "Your Majesty, Hai Tian junzhu is a blue-blooded noble, how could we allow the neglect in decorum? If this incident were to spread, outsiders may laugh at Western Chu who seems to have juniors who disregard their seniors."

    At Yuan de taifei's words, Hai wangfei took a deep breath. Even though she had yet to directly respond to Yuan de taifei's request, Yuan de taifei had already spoken, and her words had more weight than Hai wangfei's.

    "Taifei seems to be somehow prejudiced. I brought along my very own younger sister, Ling'er, to Western Chu, wishing she could learn something from the most talented girl in Western Chu. Besides, this feast is actually quite dull and stiff, why don't we do something more enjoyable? Something more interesting!" Qi Jing Yuan was the one who had spoken this time.

    When everyone heard that he had actually brought along Ling Xiao Di's favorite little girl with him, the audience stretched out their necks to catch a glimpse of the princess' appearance.

    Even Emperor Yu Qian would not be able to refuse after what Qi Jing Yuan had said.

    After all, between junzhu and princess, the more honorable one was already self-evident.

    And unexpectedly, this caused the people in the crowd to start discussing in whispered tones.

    "Sister Yue, is Qi Ling'er really that popular?" since Qi Jing Xuan had not taken notice of her, Xing Jin Die slowly regained her composure. But looking at Su Qian Yue's expression that looked somewhat worried, she had asked in a low voice.

    Su Qian Yue currently was not in the mood to explain things to her, so she just stared at Xing Jin Die unhappily, silently cursing her for being an idiot. To have not heard of Qi Ling'er's name as the most beautiful woman in Northern Qi, how embarrassing!

    "Your Majesty! Meng'er caught a cold yesterday, I'm afraid she is not suitable to enter the Palace at present." The Empress Dowager uttered, reminding everyone that Yun Qian Meng really was not like Hai Tian who was constantly refusing in every way possible, but was instead down with illness and unable to participate in tonight's festivities.

    "Empress Dowager please don't worry too much, the common people of my Northern Qi possess strong and healthy body. All year round, only a few people catch cold, this is precisely because our Northern Qi has one famous doctor. Once you drink his prescribed medical herbs, you can rest assured that your illness will be completely healed. If the Empress Dowager is really afraid that Yun xiaojie's illness will worsen on her way to the Palace, then I have here a crane overcoat, it should protect her against the cold. I will give this cloak as a present to Yun xiaojie." Unexpectedly, Qi Jing Han had put forth this suggestion. He might have heard beforehand why Yun Qian Meng was not able to attend. So in order to compel her to come out, he had made the necessary preparations.

    "Forgive me for asking, but why would the Tenth Prince want a sick person to leave home?" Chu Fei Yang put down the wine cup that he had been holding to this time. His face was faintly smiling, but his eyes radiating cold light as he spoke.

    If one was not careful, they might fall deeply into those eyes. Although they looked pretty, they were incomparably cold that people's heart began to turn cowardly. Qi Jing Han, who had suffered multiple losses under Chu Fei Yang, even felt alarmed.

    "Xiangye, don't you know that ever since my tenth brother saw Yun xiaojie, she had constantly been on his mind? Now, by means of this event, he would just like to meet Yun xiaojie." After Qi Jing Han did not give any response for some period of time, Qi Jing Yuan had spoken out. When those gloomy eyes met Chu Fei Yang's calm and collected gaze, it was almost as if fiery sparks formed between the two of them. Their mouths each held a smile that seemed to be sneering at each other, yielding a dull chilliness.

    "The people of Western Chu are usually reserved, women from wealthy families rarely show off their talents in front of so many people. Yun xiaojie is currently ill, I'm afraid that the Tenth Prince's wish will not be granted." Quite unexpectedly, while Chu Fei Yang was pitting himself against Qi Jing Yuan, Chen wang had suddenly spoken out without precedent.

    For a period of time, the situation had calmed down, and even the sound of drums had gradually died down. Yuan de taifei's knuckles were suffused with white, wishing she could call Chen wang forward and reprimand him right then and there.

    Chu Fei Yang just plainly smiled as he looked at Chen wang, and his voice was like a warm spring breeze caressing the earth, "This sounds like the first time wangye and I have agreed on something."

    * - Lu Zhou is most likely some place in Sichuan province so we just called the wine as is.
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