Chapter 275 - The Offering Ceremony
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On that night, after Lord Liang had left, Concubine Xiao stayed with Qi Zhen and endlessly praised Kong Yu. As a result, Qi Zhen spent a sleepless night trying to analyze the pros & cons of the union.
The next morning, he went back to Fuyang Hall and took another day to reconsider the matter.
At the hour of the monkey. [1. Hour of the monkey = between 3-5pm]
A succession of carriages drove into the palace, making the usually cheerless south gate bustling with noise and excitement. Countless officials and honorable characters had assembled tonight in order to offer their congratulations and gifts at the Emperor’s birthday banquet. The place was also filled with happy young ladies coming to attend the occasion. Many carts transporting all kind of gifts were mixed amongst the crowd, but none passed through the gate without authorization. At the gate entrance, some imperial guards were unloading the carts of their gifts while others were busily pulling the carriages and carts to the sides. There was so much activity that it could make any observer dizzy.
At that moment, Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu were seated inside a carriage, looking at the crowd rushing to and fro.
Jing Rong grabbed her hand and said, “You don’t actually need to accompany me into the palace.”
“I have no reason not to attend the Emperor’s birthday banquet,” she answered.
Jing Rong sighed while shaking his head.
Ji Yunshu followed up and spoke in a mysterious tone. “In fact, I have a purpose for coming here.”
“I am curious about the birthday gifts you have prepared!” Ji Yunshu frowned, then leaned toward him. “Tell me…”
However, Jing Rong smirked and avoided her, refusing to sell his secret. “You will know when the time comes.”
Tsk! Like I want to know that much. Ji Yunshu rolled her eyes at him. She pouted and lifted the curtain of the window carriage to look at the scenery outside - lavish carriages were jam-packed at the entrance of the gate.
She blurted out, “Why did she fall ill for no reason?” she alluded to Ji Muqing.
In response, he said, “So? Are you regretting the Crown Princess isn’t from your Ji Family?”
She glared at him as soon as he spoke rhetorically. “What kind of nonsense is that?!”
Jing Rong laughed. “This may be what the common people said - what goes around comes around. For a person as vicious as your eldest sister, the title of Crown Princess is only a pipe dream.” Suddenly, he realized something. “Wrong! You’re no longer a member of the Ji Family. She isn’t your eldest sister anymore. Since you’re this Prince’s wife, the imperial family is your family, so the Crown Princess matter had nothing to do with you.”
His shamelessness sure had no limit.
Although Ji Yunshu hated it when he was acting all narcissistic, she hated it more when she is the loser of their verbal spar. He was right though. She was expelled from the Ji family. Even if she would marry Jing Rong and becomes Princess Rong in the future, she wasn’t a member of the imperial family at present.
At that moment, she could only tolerate him, swallowing her anger.
When they finally reached the gate, they alighted from the carriage. Noticing Prince Rong, the imperial guards immediately cleared the way and escorted them inside.
The birthday festivities were held at Chengqing Hall. The venue wasn’t inside but set outdoors. A terrace was built and a stage was built for troubadours and different troupes to perform on. The stage also served as a platform for the many congratulatory performances scheduled during the banquet program.
Similar to every year, the whole hill around the hall was lit with lanterns hung on steel wires. It lit the place as bright as day and it was quite a pleasant view.
At the hour of the rooster[1. Hour of the rooster = between 5-7pm], everyone was finally seated.
The banquet was in almost full attendance with the presence of Old General Li, even the always-sick Jing Xian had joined the event. All the candidates for the Crown Princess’ selection were seated to the side. Each of them was dressed in beautiful clothes with makeup and adorned with dazzling accessories. They were outdoing one another for the front seats.
From time to time, the Crown Prince’s gaze would shift to them. Curiously, Ji Li and Ji Huan were not present, excusing themselves for familial reasons. Qi Zhen also didn’t account them for that because their sister Ji Muqing was sick. They needed to take care of her. Besides, the Crown Princess’ selection no longer concerned them. Weren’t they asking to be embarrassed if they attended the selection?
Soon after everyone was seated, Qi Zhen emperor arrived. He took his seat on the throne placed on the highest platform. Beside him was none other than Concubine Xiao garbed in magnificent brocade clothes.
Everyone got up and spoke in unison. “We wish your Majesty to be flooded with fortune and blessing. May your Majesty live as long as the Zhongnan Mountains. Long live, long, long live.”
“You may rise!” Qi Zhen gestured. A smile plastered on his face. “There is no need to be ceremonious today.”
“Thank you, your Majesty!”
One by one, they sat back down.
Qi Zhen knew that Old General Li was present. Hence, he conversed with him. “We didn’t expect to be reunited with Old General Li on this day after so many years. We are very happy you could attend this banquet.”
Old General Li stayed mute. He continued to drink wine, not deigning to say two words.
During the banquet, there were many celebratory performances with opera singers interpreting many songs. After that section of the birthday banquet was over, it was time for the offering ceremony which started from the court officials showing their gifts.
However, the Crown Prince’s patience was thin. He got up, brushed his sleeves and wound in between the seating mats. He saluted his imperial father. “Son wishes Imperial Father happiness as immense as the East Sea. May Imperial Father lives as long as the Zhongnan Mountains.”
His words were as old as yesterday’s food.
Yet, Qi Zhen was beaming with pleasure. “Crown Prince, you are very considerate.”
Right after, Jing Hua ordered servants to bring his gift in - a big crimson box about a meter tall was placed on the ground.
The venue became noisy with everyone guessing the contents of that huge box. Several eunuchs slowly unveiled its content and with great effort, they brought the object to view. Everyone gawked. What was inside was a tree… an enormous tree made of hetian jade. That’s right! Everyone saw it correctly. It was a hetian jade sculpted into a centennial tree. The sculpture was incredibly refined.
The smile on Qi Zhen didn’t recede after seeing that outrageous sculpture. On the contrary, he seemed even more pleased.
Jing Hua was observing his father’s expression. He slightly lifted his chin and pointed at his expensive gift. “Imperial Father, Son has searched far and wide for a jade of this size. Then, I asked the best sculptor in the world to create this. This sculpture has been specially made for Imperial Father.” He clasped his hands in respect.
Qi Zhen nodded and hummed in satisfaction. “A jade sculpted into a tree. You must have poured much effort and thought into this. We like it a lot.”
“Son still have another present.”
Jing Hua clapped his hands and several eunuchs came in with a frame covered by a red cloth. Next, they tore off the cloth, revealing an eight immortals screen. This was the gift Jing Rong intended to prepare, but he changed his mind later fortunately. Otherwise, he would be the one embarrassed showing an identical gift.
However, this meant that the Crown Prince was monitoring him and had a special interest in the gifts he had prepared.
Jing Hua deliberately looked at Jing Rong with a smirk. Afterwards, he continued to talk with Qi Zhen. “Son knows that Imperial Father is fond of screens. I have ordered people to make this eight immortals screen. Moreover, on the screen, I asked the craftsmen to infuse it with your favorite pear fragrance which will help soothe Imperial Father’s mind.”
Qi Zhen had yet to open his mouth; Concubine Xia spoke in his stead. “Both gifts are remarkably thoughtful - one turned the finest hetian jade into a tree and the other had the eight immortals on it. The items are excellent. Your Highness must have spent a considerable amount of gold and silver. No wonder his Majesty often praises how filial you are. It can clearly be seen from these gifts how true those praises are.” Her tone was mystifying.
No everyone understood the double meaning behind her words, but Qi Zhen was no fool.
These two gifts were without a doubt costly. As the heir to the throne, he should be hardworking, frugal and love his people. However, he squandered so much just to please his old man. This was a bit excessive.
Grenn's Rants Corner
Jing Hua is not that stupid, but he doesn't think very far. He might be the type who needs close guidance or he ends up getting misled easily.
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