Chapter 1243:[YeXi] Dedicated gifts

Even without Baili Lixiang’s remarks, everyone could tell that the tableware before them was exceptional. However, she still surprised them. For example, Baili Lixiang noted that the secondary seats had rare sets of black porcelain that were hard to buy with even a thousand gold. Each set consisted of 59 pieces, only 10 pieces short of the seven-hued dragon and phoenix porcelain set. 

As another example, Baili Lixiang said that the rest of the tables below the secondary seats were outfitted with uncommon sets of white jade porcelain. Although they were technically made of jade, they could still be counted as porcelain. 55 pieces constituted a complete set, just four short of the black porcelain collection. Leaving aside the rarity of their materials, just the sheer quantity of tableware would amount to a total over the thousands for all the guests present. How much food would they need to fill up every piece in the set?

And how was a single person supposed to finish over ten servings alone? 

Even if Northern Li wasn’t suffering from disasters, even if the Great Qin had no grain shortages, even if the country was extremely wealthy and prosperous, such blatant waste was uncalled for! Every single guest had a round plate, a pair of chopsticks, and a wine cup on their table. The rest of the tableware were used for holding food that the court ladies brought up in successive dishes. By the time Baili Lixiang finished speaking, the court ladies had already handed out three servings of food in pots from small to large sizes. All of them were covered with lids, making it impossible to tell what was inside. But the guests could see the steam and smell the aromas wafting into the air. 

Judging from the fragrance of the food, they could guess the contents were meat. Although Long Feiye had declared the start of the banquet, he hadn’t touched his chopsticks, so nobody else could, either. Faced with the delicious smelling covered dishes, everyone could only sniff but not touch. Baili Yuanlong and Xiao An looked cold and unmoved, but their hearts were quite agitated. The ever restless Baili Yuanlong couldn’t settle his nerves completely. He was waiting for all the dishes to arrive, and for the righteously loyal courtiers of the court to lose all faith in Han Yunxi.

He knew the emperor was guarded against him, so there was no promise he could dissuade him, but if the loyal courtiers joined in the protests, the emperor would at least see the woman beside him in a different light. He had long heard that the emperor had told a few civil officials in the imperial study that he had changed; that the Baili Clan was different from its past self. 

So now he would let the emperor see. All people changed. Even Han Yunxi, who hadn’t hesitated to endanger herself for the sake of the refugees in the past, could change. In fact, the emperor himself had changed as well. Perhaps his transformation was the earliest to happen. From the moment he met Han Yunxi, he was no longer the former master who led the Baili Clan. 

Aside from Baili Yuanlong’s faction, a few officials seated further down were wearing worried expressions too as they exchanged looks. They deeply respected the empress and were filled with expectations, yet tonight’s banquet had completely let them down. Indeed, the crown prince’s birthday was an important affair that couldn’t be overlooked, but under these special circumstances, it was better for the empress to be a bit more restrained. Of course, they hid their worries inside their hearts. Still nobody dared to speak out since the emperor had only said one line the entire night. His views on the empress’s actions were still a mystery. Moreover, the banquet had just begun and the dishes were still coming. 

Even if they wanted to admonish her, they needed adequate reasons to convince the emperor. Besides the few stalwart companions of Long Feiye and Han Yunxi, the hundred or so guests were growing more and more dissatisfied with Han Yunxi. She ignored them all, her focus on Baili Lixiang. The woman was pleasing her more by the moment.

With a chuckle, she said, “It’s rare to find someone so knowledgeable. Lady Lixiang, you can simply take the tableware as a reward from the crown prince.”

Baili Lixiang hastily stepped out from her seat to give thanks. When she returned to the table, everyone had fallen silent again. Only the court ladies weaved among the guests in a dance of dishes and serving plates. All of the items were covered and steaming, tempting the guests with their fragrance. The weather was bitterly cold and it was only custom to hide the food beneath covers, so no one suspected anything. By now, dinnertime had arrived and many of the guests were getting hungry, but they weren’t allowed to eat before the emperor started first. For now they could only keep him company. 

High above the crowd, Long Feiye sat with more tenderness than his usual severe expression. Still, his piercing brows and noble air didn’t waver a bit. He ignored the masses beneath and only focused on Han Yunxi, even when she was discussing tableware with Baili Lixiang. It was as if he was perfectly aware of Han Yunxi’s frivolous acts yet happily permitting it anyways. 

Baili Lixiang couldn’t resist shooting a glance towards Long Feiye when she sat down. She had heard many things about this man, but now she was finally seeing him in the flesh. His handsome features, domineering air, and aloof, cold personality moved her heart like any other woman. But she was perfectly clear that she had missed her chance more than 20 years ago. She could only blame her little sister Baili Mingxiang. There were so many chances for her sister after she entered the Duke of Qin’s estate as a servant, but why did she never take them? Otherwise, this man would at least have a noble consort by his side today, giving the Baili Clan another chip in their favor.

After the silence stretched on for awhile, everyone starting staring at the covered dishes before them. There were still so many servings to go, but was the emperor planning to wait for all of them before starting the meal? Gu Qishao and Gu Beiyue had just arrived today, so they were clueless as to Long Feiye and Han Yunxi’s intentions. Although Gu Qishao often ruined Long Feiye’s efforts, today’s banquet was for Rui’er’s sake which made him shut up. He crossed his arms and waited while earnestly sniffing the various dishes. He seemed to have discovered something in the process.

Meanwhile, Gu Beiyue seemed uninterested in the dishes on his table. He stood up to break the silence. “This official has dedicated a gift to His Highness Crown Prince,” he said, “I hope that Your Majesty will indulge me.”

Gifting presents in this event had two situations. One was delivering the gift ahead of time, while the other was a “dedicated” gift. Delivering gifts was commoner protocol, while dedicating them was an etiquette of the imperial household. Of the 100 or so guests present, they were considered lower ranks who gave their gifts to the palace eunuchs long before entering the palace. Higher ranked members would present their gifts directly at the banquet. Typically speaking, gifts were only dedicated after the banquet began and three rounds of wine were drunken. Since it was Gu Beiyue who started the motion while everyone was still hungry, nobody brought up proper etiquette with him. There weren’t many dedicated gifts to begin with, so perhaps the emperor would start eating after they were done?

The guests were anticipating the Grand Tutor’s gift. Gu Beiyue ordered someone to bring over his present, which turned out to be none other than a huge map! He personally opened the map with his retainer to show the emperor, empress, crown prince, and courtiers. The entire thing was taller than he was and over two meters wide while depicting the entirety of Cloud Realm Continent. 

“Your Highness Crown Prince, this subject spent three months to personally draw and include every prefecture, city, and town in Cloud Realm Continent. This subject also marked the locations prone to floods, droughts, fires, snowstorms, and other rarer disasters.” 

Gu Beiyue paused to sigh, then continued, “This year, the Great Qin’s northern region has been constantly tormented by tribulations. Between famine, plague, and snow, the people have found it hard to survive. As Your Highness is now one years old, this subject offers this gift on behalf of the northern disaster victims as well as Great Qin citizens in hopes of inciting your pity. I wish that our Great Qin suffers no more tragedies.”

Rui’er couldn’t understand him, but he had long been enthralled by the giant map. He glanced at his imperial father, saw him nod, and hopped off his seat to walk in front of the offering. He was only one and already very small, but the giant map completely dwarfed him. Still, he wasn’t cowed by its size and folded his hands behind his back to look up and study every corner. Everyone stilled at the sight, including Long Feiye and Han Yunxi. They watched Rui’er look at the map with the same feelings in mind.

Time flies, and decades would pass by sooner or later. When Rui’er eventually grew up, he wouldn’t have to raise his head to study the map anymore. Instead, he would stand at Great Qin’s tallest point to watch half the kingdom below his feet! By then, Great Qin would definitely become a strong and prosperous country with no more wars or disasters!

To their eyes, this was the expectation Gu Beiyue held for little Rui’er. Unfortunately, many other people present thought differently. They only assumed that Gu Beiyue had mentioned the disaster victims at such a grand setting to remind the emperor of their plight and indirectly express his disapproval with the empress! 

Baili Yuanlong stroked his beard thoughtfully. I respected the right man after all. Of all the people in Great Qin’s camp, he only acknowledged Gu Beiyue. Baili Lixiang only smiled slightly and began to study Gu Beiyue from the shadows. She couldn’t believe that the Medical Academy Head had married a woman who lost use of both legs! 

Xiao Dong kept shooting looks at Xiao An. To him, it was clear that Gu Beiyue had already expressed his stance. Naturally, they had to strike while the iron was hot to make their voices known too. Yet Xiao An only silenced Xiao Dong with a glare of his own. It was still unclear who’d get the best of this show today!

As soon as Gu Beiyue returned to his seat, Gu Qishao went forth to hand over the title and deed to No. 7 Teahouse. Tang Li and Ning Jing gave a specialized hidden weapon toy. After the royal relations were finished their turn, it was time for the four Guogong’s dedicated gifts. Of the quartet, Baili Yuanlong was considered the head. This time he was the first to stand. As everyone looked on expectantly, Baili Yuanlong submitted a single pearl with both hands.

“Your Highness Crown Prince, this is the new white pearl from the East Sea this year. It’s a little token of my appreciation, please indulge it!”

Everyone exchanged looks of panic. After all, His Excellency Baili had only presented an extremely ordinary pearl despite his esteemed position. What did he mean by this? It was akin to provoking the crown prince and empress! 

Rui’er didn’t get what was going on, but he could sense Baili Yuanlong’s unkind intentions and didn’t move. Baili Yuanlong maintained his posture of offering the gift. Very soon, Han Yunxi’s cold voice rang out. “Your Excellency Baili, why don’t you tell us about the particulars of this white pearl? Is it worth the indulgence of His Highness Crown Prince?”

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Ruyi's Thoughts

hehe, i'm having fun reading this arc as i translate. what about you guys?

palace party scenes are a lot of fun, dontcha think? ^-^