Chapter 11: Birthday Banquet, Stunning Those Present
Bai Xiangxiu had truly prepared this present in earnest. After she’d finished carving and painting it, even Xiao Shi was greatly surprised. She asked, “This is really meant to be given to the Old Madame?”
“Yes, how is it?” Looking at her finished work, Bai Xiangxiu elegantly twirled an engraving knife in one hand, her other hand on her waist, looking extremely proud of what she had accomplished.
Xiao Shi nodded until her head almost fell off. Why hadn’t she known that her mistress possessed such skills after serving her for so many years? But this was really too good! The old madame would surely look at her mistress in a different light as soon as this gift was presented. Bai Xiangxiu was also very satisfied and went to choose the clothes she would wear that day.
Her face was born beautiful, so even if she appeared without any make-up on, she should also be able to draw many gazes. However, she was highly motivated to tone down her looks since that was what the old madame hated the most. Although she wanted to seduce the male supporting character, she also didn’t wish to be beaten to death by staves before she’d succeeded.
Thus, she chose a light blue dress that didn’t appear too casual along with a red outer vest, not standing out too much while also not appearing too mild. After all, this was a day of a happy tidings, and she had to give some face to the old madame.
As her head accessories, she decided to choose only a few. She felt that her hair was already very heavy to begin with. If she added a bunch of accessories on top of that, she’d probably develop a spinal injury sooner or later.
Xiao Shi sighed. The mistress’ features are far too outstanding. She is dressing so low-key today because she’s worried about being accused of seducing the master.
“Spend some money and have the servants to carry it in. They’d better not drop it,” Bai Xiangxiu instructed before standing up. Gazing at her reflection in the bronze mirror, she mused that however low-key she tried to dress, this face of hers was just still too attractive. Why was it that such a perfectly good face had to end up like that? Could it be because she didn’t have the female lead halo?
Actually, Bai Xiangxiu also knew from the book that concubines of this era actually didn’t have a position at all. While she was a precious concubine having entered the household through legitimate means, she was still just a concubine.
This time, the four concubines actually didn’t have the right to sit in at the old madame’s longevity banquet. They were only going there to present their gifts, and would have to leave after the women of the family  arrived.
Only if the old madame presiding over the banquet or Prince Li, Long Heng, agreed to it, would they be allowed to stay. But she remembered from the novel that they had not been allowed to stay. Therefore, it was fine as long as she presented her gift and caught a little of the male supporting character’s attention. Other than that, there was nothing else to look forward to. The presenting of gifts would come before the outsiders arrived, so they would have to go over early.
The male and female guests should have congregated before the old madame by now, so perhaps she would be able to see that male supporting character Song Jiaoyue. Bai Xiangxiu felt some anticipation begin to bubble inside. After all, she had chosen him, and would be rescued by him if she succeeded, so she may be even… No, she shouldn’t think of anything else. Being able to secure her life was already a very good outcome.
The two once again walked towards the front lounge, heading for the main hall this time. Many guests had already gathered, but most of them were still from within the complex or relatives of the family.
Before having been received his title of Prince Li, Long Heng’s family had been extremely large. His bloodline had flourished the most, but possessed the least amount of people.
Long Heng’s father was also a general, having spent many long years out on the battlefield. Although there were two concubine-born sons  of his who had not managed to survive, he had a concubine-born daughter who had already been married for many years.
Meanwhile his wife, née Liu, who was the current old madame, had only borne him one son, Long Heng. Having obtained the incomparably high position of a common prince for her son, the old madame who had taken great pains and suffered much in raising this son of hers had earned everyone’s respect. This time, even the current king had sent over a congratulatory gift, which had long since been hung over in the main hall. It was a Hundred Longevity Picture.
Right after they’d arrived, Bai Xiangxiu and the other three concubines were instructed to first kneel and pay their respects to that Hundred Longevity Picture to avoid overlooking the rules. Therefore, having not even seen the old madame, Bai Xiangxiu had to first kneel and pay her respects to the Hundred Longevity Picture, and then was supported as she walked over to pay respects to the old madame herself.
The knees of these ancients were really pitiful indeed. She had already kneeled twice in such a short period of time. Just as she was mentally complaining about this unusual torture, she heard someone announce, “His Highness has arrived!”
She rolled her eyes towards the heavens. Did this mean that she would have to pay her respects once more?
Indeed, Long Heng sat down after having sincerely greeted his mother, after which the concubines had to kneel and greet their husband.
“All of you, rise. There are no outsiders here today.” The old madame appeared much nicer today than when she had called for someone be beaten to death with staves, but her air of authority still remained. Bai Xiangxiu still feared her very much, not even daring to raise her head.
She could not be faulted for being timid. Having grown up in a modern society, a city-dweller who had never even seen chickens or ducks be killed, the shock that she’d felt at suddenly seeing someone being beaten to death was not something easily washed away.
Bai Xiangxiu rose with the other three, trying to seem as inconspicuous as possible. But just as she sat down, she heard the old madame say smilingly, “Jiaoyue is also here. Don’t stand, come, come, sit. How is your mother doing lately? Will she be coming later?”
Song Jiaoyue’s eyes only casually drifted over the slim figures of the four women before he laughed, “In response to the Old Madame, my mother will naturally be coming. It’s just that she hasn’t left home in a long time, so I’m afraid that it will be some time before she arrives.”
The old madame laughed, “That’s true. Speaking of, we haven’t seen each other in a few months. With how busy the various affairs of our complexes have been, we haven’t sat down to chat in a long while. If not for this matter, I’m afraid that she would still not be willing to come over!”
Song Jiaoyue only smiled, politely exchanging small talk with the old madame. While this went on, the cold-faced male lead hadn’t said anything at all. He hadn’t even moved. It seemed that he was really like how it was written in the novel, he treasured his words like gold! Bai Xiangxiu only hoped that she could quickly present her gift and leave. Those who were meant to be here were already all here.
Just as she was thinking thus, the old servant behind the old madame laughed, “Old Madame, look, the wives and women are all waiting to wish you longevity. Shouldn’t you ask them to come over?”
The meaning of this was that the time was growing late, and the concubines should quickly get over with the presenting of gifts to show their sincerity before making way for the official wife and daughters.
“Yes, let them come forward!” The old madame smiled.
However, the corners of Bai Xiangxiu’s lips twitched. She had long known that the positions of concubines in the ancient times were very low, but this was really just like a slave, wasn’t it? Presenting a gift was like being a beggar begging for alms. This caused her to feel rather depressed.
However, who told her to transmigrate over and not become the female lead? This was a grievance she had to bear even if she didn’t want to. Hence, she simply sat there waiting. Of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, she was the very last. Moreover, they had also arranged a female cousin in the queue, also one of the supporting female characters of the novel, a character who had suffered a fate worse than death despite not having died in the end.
Bai Xiangxiu glanced over at her out of curiosity. The novel wrote that she had the figure and looks of Lin Daiyu [4. One of the principal characters of Cao Xueqin's classic Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber. She is portrayed as a well-educated, intelligent and beautiful young woman, however mentally and physically weak sometimes.], just that sadly, she had an extremely venomous personality. What sort of woman was this? She really wanted to see it with her own eyes.
After just a single glance, she determined that this cannon fodder was just like her, both completely within the category of cannon fodder. She wouldn’t live up to that Sister Lin’s face of her as well as Sister Lin’s style if she wasn’t cannon fodder.
According to the usual doctrine, there was definitely no way someone like her could become a female lead. Although she had a nice figure and pretty features, she had a harsh way of speaking. What kind of man would like her? However, she didn’t say anything wrong before the old madame, just showering her with some congratulatory words. After having said her piece, she commanded the maid beside her to present her gift. But for some reason, that maid stumbled and fell.
The little female cousin smiled unwillingly, “Look at you! You’re usually rather clever, how come you suddenly became so stupid at this time? Stand up quickly, lest you dirty cousin’s shoes.” Having said this, she even coughed twice before smiling lightly once more. Even a blind man would be able to see the contempt within that smile. It went without saying that she was clearly mocking the maid for harboring hopes of climbing upwards and stealing Prince Li’s heart. Otherwise, why would she have fallen like that? But that was her own serving maid. Wasn’t this personality of hers a little too unpleasant?
- The official, legal wives and daughters
- Concubine-born children were inferior in social status to the proper children born of the legal wife, but still better than illegitimate children from women who never married the father.
- The title of prince was bestowed on him, but he possesses no royal blood and is not in the line of succession