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   Chapter 98 Marriage Granted at Chinese New Year's Eve

Eight-year-old Princess: Phoenix Reborn By Lan You Ruo Characters: 16742

Updated: 2018-09-03 16:57

After Yun Shang returned from Lady Ming's Palace, Qian Yin whispered to her. "Your Highness, we just received rewards from His Majesty. There's clothes, jewelry, and accessories for the New Year. I heard that every Palace received the same." Qian Yin looked around before lowering her voice. "Rewards for Qiwu Palace were double..."

"Really?" Yun Shang squinted. "I knew this would happen when His Majesty concealed the Empress's fake pregnancy and punished Lady Shu for causing her Majesty's supposed miscarriage. The Empress miscarried and needed rest. That was all. Of course, she will come back on stage now that she has recovered. Since it was New Year's Eve, all the officials of a rank higher than three would be present, along with their families. On such a day, father will have to show Grand Councilor Li some respect. After all, the Li Clan still enjoys supreme political power and status. But it won't last too long."

Qian Yin knew that many of those whom Her Highness trained would become government officials one day. Maybe Her Highness had foreseen this situation?

"Your Highness, the Zhuangyuan's* name is Liu Qiyan. His name sounds familiar." Qian Yin smiled shrewdly.

(TN*: title conferred on the person who scores the highest in the Imperial examination)

Yun Shang smiled as well. "I heard that you two got along well during the training. Do you fancy him? If so, I can betroth you to him. But he is renowned now. We don't know if his feelings for you still remain the same..."

Qian Yin blushed. She had meant to tease Yun Shang but accidentally drew fire on herself. She hurried to explain. "Don't make fun of me, Your Highness... I'm only 14 years old."

Yun Shang laughed. "It's New Year's Eve. Pick that rouge red dress for me and match it with a decent hairstyle and some exquisite jewelry."

Qian Yin agreed. She fetched the outfit from the wardrobe and helped Yun Shang get dressed. Yun Shang hardly wore bright colors so Qin Yi was stunned when she walked in. Yun Shang's skin looked as white as snow in contrast to the rouge red. The wide train of the dress lent a majestic aura to the dress. All in all, the outfit highlighted the Princess's elegance and grace.

"Your Highness is looking so gorgeous today. Princess Hua Jing is said to be the most beautiful in Ning, but I think Your Highness is even beyond compare. Your Highness is getting more and more beautiful as time passes. Let me make a Cloud Bun* and do some makeup for you. You are going to be the belle tonight, Your Highness." Qin Yi came toward them and helped Yun Shang sit down before the dresser.

(*TN: a kind of hairstyle in which a bun is shaped like a cloud.)

Yun Shang smiled peacefully. In her previous life, she had been so innocent that she believed in the Empress and Hua Jing, who had taught her to wear gaudy clothes and put on as much valuable jewelry as she could. Hence, the ladies from respectable families all laughed at her. She couldn't help sighing in retrospect. Yun Shang looked in the mirror and almost didn't recognize herself. She looked so different in this life.

After dressing up, Yun Shang ate some pastries that Qin Yi had prepared. Since it was a long ceremony, she might not get the chance to eat.

"Your Highness, it's time. It's still snowing outside, so let me accompany Your Highness to Jinluan Hall." Qin Yi put a white cloak on Yun Shang's shoulders, picked up an umbrella, and helped Yun Shang walk to Jinluan Hall with Qian Yin's assistance.

Once at Jinluan Hall, Yun Shang was led to the platform meant for the royals. She was asked to sit on the third seat on the left. Her seating attracted a lot of attention.

Yun Shang didn't grow up in the Imperial City, and she had rarely appeared at public occasions after her return, so not many people knew about her. But it was not hard to figure out her identity based on her seat. Only imperial concubines of a certain grade were allowed to attend such feasts. At the moment, only the Empress and Lady Jin had this honor. If the Empress came, she would undoubtedly sit with the Emperor. The first seat would be for Lady Jin, and the second for Princess Hua Jing, the eldest princess. So the person being seated on the third seat must be Yun Shang.

Yun Shang ignored all their whispering and sat quietly.

Soon afterwards, Lady Jin entered and took her place on the first seat. Yun Shang's expressions became tender after seeing Lady Jin's swelling belly.

"It's Princess Hua Jing..." "I heard that Princess Hua Jing went to the border for her husband. Such a faithful and brave wife." "Princess Hua Jing seems to have pined away. It must be because she worried so much about the Emperor's Son-in-Law." The discussions could be heard clearly. At Hua Jing's mention, Yun Shang looked up and saw the Princess walk toward her. She was dressed in dark green, and her hairband was the only accessory that she wore. She did look pitiful and humble this way...

Yun Shang lowered her head to hide her emotions. When Hua Jing was seated, Yun Shang said to her, "Sister, you don't look too well. Are you alright?"

Hua Jing sneered. 'Are you laughing at me? Prince Qingsu will come in early spring and I'll be the one laughing then.'

"I'm good. It's just that I'm a bit exhausted from all the things that have been happening recently." Hua Jing lowered her head and sounded feeble as if she were about to cry, which made others feel protective.

Yun Shang raised an eyebrow. Hua Jing was getting better at her acting.

Yun Shang turned and happened to make eye contact with Prince Jing. Noticing her gaze, Prince Jing looked down and played with the cup in his hand.

"Here come His Majesty and Her Majesty..." The eunuch announced in a sing-song voice.

People stopped talking right away and knelt. "Long live our Emperor. Long live our Empress."

Even though Yun Shang had foretold the Empress's appearance, it was still quite unpleasant to see Her Majesty walk into Jinluan Hall with father as if nothing had happened.

"All rise, please." Emperor Ning's voice sounded distant. His words echoed in the Hall for a while.

"Thank you, Your Majesty." Yun Shang took her seat and fixed her eyes on the Empress. The Empress looked thinner but she had this unflappable expression as if she didn't do anything wrong.

"It's New Year's Eve, a joyful night shared by the whole nation. We are here to celebrate this special evening, so forget about the formalities and enjoy the wine..." Emperor Ning said in delight and proposed a toast. "May Ning be blessed with permanent prosperity and peace."

All guests raised their cups at once. "Permanent prosperity and peace."

After the toast, a group of dancers entered and danced to the music.

After the show, the Empress smiled. "Today, we have this rare chance to gather all the high-born gentlemen and ladies from respectable families in the Imperial City. Why not give them an opportunity to show their talents?"

Emperor Ning smiled as well. "Good suggestion. Let them draw lots in turns and pick what they will perform. It's a lottery and nobody should refuse to perform what he or she draws. They might just have to drink some wine, of course. As I said, by lottery."

Yun Shang looked around the Hall and understood the Empress's intention when she noticed that all the ladies were exquisitely dressed. The Imperial Palace hardly held feasts and those who received invitations enjoyed high status. Since it was a rare opportunity, young ladies would want to impress noble masters with an attractive appearance. If they were lucky enough to be chosen by His Majesty, they would attain the highest honor in one step.

Yun Shang's lips twisted mockingly. After all the incidents recently, this Palace was in need of new women.

A eunuch brought a lot pot and Yun Shang randomly picked one. It read, "Play Guqin".

(TN*: a seven-stringed plucked instrument in some ways similar to the zither)

Yun Shang raised an eyebrow and glanced at Hua Jing. Her lot said, "Drink three cups of wine."

Wine... Yun Shang put on a faint smile. She stared at Hua Jing's abdomen before looking away.

"Where should we start? How about Princess Hua Jing?" Lady Jin asked. As Emperor Ning's concubine, she was exempted from this game. Hua Jing smiled. "I was lucky enough to ha

ve picked the one about drinking wine. I'll drink three cups of wine then."

Hua Jing lifted the cup on the table and finished the wine in it. The maid standing aside filled the cup for her immediately. Hua Jing proceeded to drink three cups of wine as requested.

"Splendid! Your tolerance for wine does you credit. Princess Hua Jing is indeed an exemplary woman!"

Emperor Ning looked at Hua Jing with ruthlessness flashing in his eyes. But when he gazed at Yun Shang, his expression softened. "Shang'er, what did you get?"

Yun Shang smiled and raised the lot in her hand, "I have to play the Guqin."

Soon, the maids prepared a Guqin and a table, and placed it before the Princess. Yun Shang played some melodies. Behind Yun Shang sat Grand Councilor Li's granddaughter. She was about sixteen or seventeen years old and seemed to be pretty and demure. At a glance, her appearance and temperament quite resembled that of the Empress. Yun Shang recalled her name to be Li Yingying.

"I'm lucky too. It asks me to play the Pipa*, and it also gives me the right to make one request." Yingying stood up and played the Pipa. She was well-trained, but there was a slight impatience reflected in the way that she played. Before long, Yun Shang understood the reason for her impatience. After playing, she did a small elegant curtsy. "I'd like to drink a toast to Prince Jing, and I hope Prince Jing would not turn me down."

(TN*: a plucked string instrument with a fretted fingerboard)

Prince Jing... Yun Shang started at Li Yingying. Was Li Yingying attracted to Prince Jing?

It was widely known that Prince Jing and the Li Clan were rivals. What did this indicate?

Yun Shang caught a glimpse of discontent in Emperor Ning's eyes, which give her a hint. Was Li Clan sowing dissension between His Majesty and Prince Jing?

"Brother mentioned earlier that nobody should refuse, so I have no choice. You are truly very lucky, Miss Li." Prince Jing smiled coldly. His message was clear to everyone. If it weren't for the rule set by Emperor Ning, he would never have agreed to Li Yingying's request.

Li Yingying sat down, dejected. Her eyes were watering and Yun Shang saw her fists clenched under her sleeves. It seemed that all women from Li Clan felt entitled and sought attention. They seemed unaccustomed to rejection as well, Yun Shang thought.

Several more shows were put on. Yun Shang noticed that Emperor Ning was not very interested. Yun Shang glanced at the women who had yet to draw their lots. Then, she finished the wine in her cup.

"I've got the one for sword dance..." A sweet and fetching voice wakened everybody. The voice came from the end of the table and the girl speaking looked unfamiliar. Yun Shang found that all the noble masters sitting on the opposite side of the table seemed curious.

"What is your name?" The Empress asked with a gentle smile.

"Her Majesty, this is my sister, Liu Qingya." Liu Qiyan, the Zhuangyuan answered.

"Oh..." It all made sense now. She was the sister of this year's Zhuangyuan, and that explained why they had never seen her.

However, could a woman perform a sword dance too? Liu Qingya stood. She seemed natural and graceful in her movements. "I'm not good at dancing. But since I've drawn this lot. I will change and do my best."

The Empress nodded.

Ladies who had drawn lots after Liu Qingya performed accordingly and soon afterwords, Liu Qingya returned. She whispered to the musician and he began playing the House of Flying Daggers*...

(TN*: famous traditional Chinese music that depicts the scene of being under siege)

A stern look appeared on everyone's face. They all focused on the girl in the red dress. She looked so gentle and sweet in her previous aquamarine dress, but now she was full of glamour and indifference.

After the powerful intro, few candles in the Hall were put out. A bright red figure drew a sword and started to dance. She moved like a butterfly; swift but gentle on her feet. Her heroic and imposing manner complimented her graceful moves.

The audience were entranced. They couldn't move their eyes away at all. From her dance, they almost saw the border and the millions of valiant soldiers who had fought there.

As she finished the last move, people were left stunned. Emperor Ning, impressed by the performance, applauded loudly. "Incredible! We all know that our Zhuangyuan is good at essays, but I didn't expect his sister to be a master of sword dancing."

The Empress noticed the amazed look on Emperor Ning's face and made up her mind. She smiled. "Yes, incredible. Such an adorable young lady and such an impressive dance. I really like her. Why not let her stay in the Palace and be my company?"

This request was another great surprise. Did the Empress just ask Liu Qingya to stay in the Palace?

Emperor Ning wasn't prepared either. He looked the Empress for a while and smiled at the Empress. "It's your choice."

Thus the Empress said, "I'll decide for Your Majesty then. Confer Liu Qingya with the title of Zhaoyi, and choose an auspicious day to send her to the Palace."

Liu Qiyan and Liu Qingya promptly expressed their gratitude and went back to their seats. Yun Shang looked down and smiled secretly. The Zhuangyuan and his sister were born into an ordinary family. A woman with no prominent background was much easier to manipulate than those from respectable families. That was the Empress's plan.

Once the ladies had finished the game, it was time for the noble masters to draw lots. Requests mainly included calligraphy, painting, and swordsmanship. Yun Shang carefully observed their performances. Three masters from the Li Clan were present tonight. And from among the others, only the younger son of Prince Shun Qing was outstanding. Prince Shun Qing was the brother of the deceased Emperor. As an idle prince, he mainly stayed away from politics.

Prince Jing was the last one to draw. He received a lucky shot, which gave him a chance to make a request to anyone present.

All the ladies were anxious to see whom Prince Jing, the most eligible bachelor in the Imperial City, would choose. It would be a supreme honor to be chosen by him.

Prince Jing smiled and glanced at the ladies sitting opposite him. Then he fixed his eyes on Yun Shang. "I'll follow instructions. The ensemble with Princess Hui Guo the other day is so unforgettable, so I'd like to invite Princess Hui Guo to play Eternal Love with me..."

Yun Shang was shocked. It didn't help that all the attention was suddenly on her. Hua Jing raised an eyebrow and turned to Yun Shang. "No wonder sister is all dressed up today..."

Hua Jing didn't finish her sentence, but it was enough to invite gossip. People looked at Prince Jing and Yun Shang in astonishment. The fact that Prince Jing was Princess Hui Guo's uncle made them frown...

And Li Yingying clenched her teeth and forced a smile. "Your Highness is lucky..."

Yun Shang had no choice but to play Eternal Love with Prince Jing. The melody was mellow and beautiful, full of love and affection. People stared at the couple in the center of the Hall. The handsome man and beautiful young woman did look like a heaven-made match.

As the music stopped, a light flashed across Emperor Ning's eyes. He clapped and said. "Wonderful. Such a pleasant scene! This reminds me of something I have to announce. Prince Jing and Shang'er, come near."

Yun Shang, though puzzled, knelt alongside Prince Jing. Lord Zheng announced loudly. "Prince Jing is the foster son of the deceased Emperor. Though he is nominally Princess Hui Guo's uncle, they are not related by blood. Prince Jing and Princess Hui Guo have mutual affection for each other, which is pleasant to witness. So, I'm granting the marriage between Princess Hui Guo and Prince Jing, and the ceremony will be held..."

The Hall was silent. Even Yun Shang was too shocked to make a sound. She heard Prince Jing whispering to her. "Both Prince Qingsu and the Prince of the State of Xia are coming to Ning. If you are not engaged at that time, even if you could get away from Prince Qingsu, you would have to marry the Prince of the State of Xia. Our marriage is only a facade. It's your choice. Consider carefully."

"Thank you very much, Your Majesty." Prince Jing said respectfully...

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