Chapter 264: The Mastermind Behind All This
Bai Xiangxiu knew that the male lead was very attractive. Song Jiaoyue lacked the domineering air that one could find on Long Heng. These sort of men often give women the urge to conquer them. Men conquered the world with their martial prowess, while a woman conquered men by being gentle and understanding.
Bai Xiangxiu rolled her eyes. No wonder they say that young girls are easily attracted to older men. This truly is an eye-opener. Long Heng might be young, but the way he presented himself was even older than any middle-aged man. Therefore, it really wasn’t a surprise that younger girls were attracted to him.
Sir An was quickly depressed. Why would the prince ask him to explain himself when the meaning behind his words was perfectly clear? What other meaning could there be? He was saying that the princess consort had done something improper and wasn’t suitable to be a princess consort, alright? Moreover, he hadn’t come to the prince just to say these things. “I mean to say that she is an unscrupulous person. Your Highness, please reconsider your actions.”
The second uncle from the Long family also had something to add when he heard what Sir An had to say. “Hah! Your Highness, do think twice before you act.”
So what if they were both famous and successful? Wouldn’t they still be a laughingstock if something happened during their wedding?
Bai Xiangxiu clenched her fists secretly. With her fighting spirit ignited, she solidified her resolve to chase these shameless vermin away from her home. When it came to protecting her home, she would not hesitate. She suddenly stood up and no longer seemed as weak and delicate as before. She threw a sharp glare at Sir An, making him tremble and lower his head. “You are Sir An, yes? I wish to ask, have we ever even met before?”
“N-no…” The princess consort’s beauty was out of this world. It was unfortunate that they were not fated to be.
“Then do you bear me any grudge?”
“O-of course… not.” Sir An’s palms were slick with sweat. He was even more nervous answering her than when he was looking at the prince just now.
“Then why is Sir An fabricating a lie to slander me so?”
“N-no… None of what I said is a lie.”
“Is that so? Then let me ask you. Why do you speak of love, betrayal, and abandonment of morals when we have never even met?”
“But… we have a marriage arrangement.”
“And do you have proof?”
“It… a scholar never goes back on his promises.”
“That was a promise between you and my father, not you and me. Besides, my father made that promise when he was drinking at your residence. Can it be that you were the fool who actually took a drunk man’s joke as a promise?”
“It definitely wasn’t a joke…”
“Then have we exchanged age cards and placed them before our ancestors’ altars? Did a matchmaker even come to your home? Are there even any witnesses?”
“Witnesses? My entire family can act as witnesses.”
“Haha…” Bai Xiangxiu laughed in an unreserved manner without even covering her mouth. However, this only served to enhance her beauty and made everyone gasp in amazement at how beautiful she seemed today. “Listen, everyone, his family is going to act as his witness. Well, who's going to prove my innocence if his entire family decides to ruin my reputation? There’s no evidence of this arrangement, and we’ve never even met. Barging in like this and calling me his wife, isn’t this too comical? Then, if all drunken words count as promises in the future, won’t this world go mad?”
“I… I can serve as witness for Sir An. Father has mentioned her betrothal at home, to which mother quickly nodded in agreement.” Bai Rong’er’s tremulous voice suddenly grew stronger. She was taken aback; she wasn’t used to seeing her sister act so arrogant.
“Oh? If mother was willing to agree so readily, then why was your previous betrothal rescinded?”
“I-I… It was them! They were the ones who rescinded the offer, not our family.”
“Is that so? And was it their idea as well for the Bai family to voluntarily gift them three hundred taels of silver in order to rescind the betrothal?”
Bai Rong’er hadn't expected her sister to know about that! She bit her lip in frustration and looked down. “He's just a scholar. Who knows how long it might take him to finally pass the bar to become an official? It was only right for us to rescind the marriage.”
“How despicable of you.” Bai Xiangxiu continued, “Who would believe the words of such a despicable person?”
Bai Rong’er was so angry that her cheeks had flushed red. However, she couldn’t say anything else due to the intense pressure from the crowd's gaze. What went wrong? Didn't that veiled sister assure me that this would never happen?”
“This is just proof that the Bai family is full of liars.” The Long family’s second aunt quickly interjected.
“That's enough.” Long Heng’s voice cut through the air like a knife. “The manor was already well aware of all this when we accepted the princess consort into the manor. We even made sure that the An family was a willing party before we did such a thing. Both parties had talked, and not a single copper was offered to settle this matter. Aren't all of you just trying to make a fuss by bringing up this matter during this joyous occasion? But since you've already brought up the matter, our manor does indeed feel that we should provide you some compensation. Otherwise, this matter might never be put to rest.”
“Uhh…” Why compensate them when we've done nothing wrong? It's obvious that there's a mastermind behind the scenes here. Bai Xiangxiu furrowed her brows while looking at Long Heng. She didn't know why he was doing this.
Long Heng was looking at Song Jiaoyue. If Bai Xiangxiu’s sister hadn't been so rotten, he might’ve actually pushed the sister to Song Jiaoyue. That would’ve stopped Song Jiaoyue from looking at his princess consort so much.
“Your Highness, how do you think this should be settled?” asked the eunuch.
“It’s simple. There's no doubt that the Bai family is in the wrong. However, my wife didn't know of such matters as she'd been living a sheltered life in my manor. Since the Bai family has another daughter, why don't we betroth her to the An family so that the Bai family can correct their previous misdoings?” Long Heng’s smile was completely guileless and without hesitation.
Sir An and Bai Rong’er yelled their objections at the same time, but the old madame had had enough. “The man that I’ve sent to the Bai family has returned with news that Sir Bai has agreed to this arrangement. Eunuch, this should be enough for you to report that your work is done!”
“Things are exactly just as you’ve said, Old Madame,” the eunuch replied.
“Hold. Tell me, who reported this to the emperor?” Long Heng felt that if it’d been anyone else, they would’ve called off the wedding by now. Nobody would ever marry a woman who was accused of being an unscrupulous and power hungry liar with no morals. He never would’ve believed that Bai Xiangxiu was that kind of woman when she’d been through the thick and thin with him. Therefore, he concluded that Bai Xiangxiu’s mother might be the one behind this.
The old madame was even more composed. She already knew of this entire charade before she even took Bai Xiangxiu into the manor. She’d given her consent to continue the bowing rites only because she was sure that someone was actively trying to sabotage their wedding ceremony. Her son simply had too many enemies. Therefore, she must clearly delineate between friend and foe. The enemy’s plans had been almost foolproof this time. Ultimately, the Long family had been too cautious and not fallen for the trap.
The eunuch smiled, “I am here only to perform my duties. I’m afraid everything else about this matter is hidden to me.”
Long Heng never imagined for a second that the eunuch would sell out the mastermind, he just wanted to inform the crowd that there was someone trying to do him harm. And to do that, they were trying to harm the people around him, starting with Bai Xiangxiu, whom the citizens in the capital were praising as the female Zhuge Liang. Now that Prince Rong had returned, tales about her journey were reaching new heights along with her reputation. It was only logical that somebody would try to take her out first. Even though there was no overt discussion, everyone knew that Long Heng and the emperor were now somewhat odds with each other, and that this wasn’t a recent development.
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