Chapter 145: An Awkward Empress (II)
Knowing that the empress was making an excursion to Oft Spring Garden today, the servants had prepared a banquet in a quiet corner of the rear garden.
The empress was gazing around from her position in the head seat. She was slightly pacified by the crabapple blossom encircled surroundings and strands of birdsong from all around. A trace of a smile also appeared on her face, allowing the group to relax when they saw that the imperial presence no longer imitated a walking thundercloud.
The empress raised a small wine cup. Her pure gold nail guards were tipped with crimson nail polish, beautifully offsetting her sparkling skin. The combination also complemented the gold wine up, further highlighting her embroidered, loose sleeve, garnet robe. She was the epitome of opulence and sumptuous.
The group cast reverent glances at the head seat when they saw that the empress wanted to offer a toast. She quite enjoyed being the center of attention and cleared her throat.
“Our peace talks with Great Zhou were successful, and peace will be known beneath the heavens in the future.” She called out, “The emperor and this seat are immensely gratified. I have invited everyone here today first for…”
Fireworks soared into the air, their sudden explosions reverberating through the mountain and drowning out the empress’ speech. The crowd jerked their heads in the relevant direction and saw multi colored fireworks shooting into the sky from Ning Park’s direction. The radiant red, green, and yellow on display were bedazzling even in the daylight. Whoever was setting them off wasn’t being stingy about them at all as fireworks gushed forth like a fountain, showing no signs of stopping at all.
While the pops and cracks of the fireworks rang and echoed, it wasn’t so loud as to be deafening, but it beat a great racket on one’s heart all the same. Nothing could be heard now even if the empress yelled next to everyone’s ear, much less giving a simple speech at the head of a table!
Although fireworks weren’t an exceedingly rare sight, they were uncommon during ordinary times, particularly a stupendous show like this. The madames and misses couldn’t tear their eyes away and were quite taken with wonder. They’d actually forgotten about the empress’ speech!
Meanwhile, her imperial majesty was livid and clenching her teeth. She wanted to lose her temper, but she was completely drowned out by the fireworks. They’d taken the wrong way earlier and someone else’s garden had completely outshone hers. Now her speech was being interrupted? How could she endure all this??
The display went on for a full fifteen minutes, bringing the smell of gunpowder to everyone’s nose when they breathed in. The group turned around to see the empress with a heavily displeased expression on her face. No one knew what to do. It’s probably an inauspicious day today. Why else would the empress have lost face so many times?
A servant was summoned and the empress murmured, “Go and tell whoever’s at Ning Park that the empress wishes to borrow their premises for a banquet. Have whoever’s inside leave as soon as possible. I will set off for there shortly with the group.”
The servant whispered back, “In response to Your Majesty, the statesman did say that the owner of the park has a great background, and that we should avoid interacting with them.”
A vicious glare shot out of the empress’ eyes. “Shut your mouth! Why can’t this seat use a park that my own father fixed up? Everything beneath the heavens belongs to the emperor, and I am the empress. Do I not even have the power to host a celebratory banquet in a Great Yan property?”
“But the statesman said not to…”
“Impudence! I’ll have your head if you don’t go!”
The servant didn’t dare utter another word when he saw that the empress was truly angry. He spun on his heel and trotted off to Ning Park to borrow their location. The empress lifted her chin with a supercilious smile. “Well? Were the fireworks pretty?”
No one dared respond and everyone lowered their heads. The empress sniffed and continued, “I’ve already sent someone off to borrow that yard. Didn’t someone say that it was as beautiful as a heavenly palace? Then we’ll have our banquet there and dine amongst the gods.”
“Your Majesty is the mother of all beneath heaven, and it’s to that park’s great fortune if it hosts you.”
“Indeed, Oft Spring Garden is elegant and tranquil. It’s already a great favor that we can keep Your Majesty company here.” The madames offered ingratiating words again, making the empress feel slightly better.
She glimpsed the servant’s return out of the corner of her eye. The empress rose and elegantly twitched her skirts. “Let’s go then, over there…”
“Your Majesty.” The servant almost burst out into tears when he saw his mistress stand and prepare to leave. “The owner of the park said no.”
“No?!” was the shrilled reply.
The servant thumped to his knees. “Yes. This servant was stopped at the door and the guard there said that his master had spoken. The park would be lent out to no one.”
“Did you tell him that the empress wanted to use his yard?!”
“In response to Your Majesty, this servant did say so, but they said no was no.”
“How dare they!” The empress could finally stand for this no longer and angrily swept all of the dishes onto the ground. Porcelain shattered, food scattered, and wine sprayed all over the ground, sending the womenfolk shooting to their feet in frightened huddles.
Even an ordinary noblewoman would find repeated losses of face humiliating, much less the empress. The imperial majesty was in a hot fury and stalked forward. “Come with me! This empress would like to see just who is the owner of Ning Park! As the mother of the nation, how dare they decline my request to use the premises! We’re going to tour Ning Park today no matter what!”
Even the statesman’s wife didn’t dare try to calm down an empress in a towering rage. Cao Yuqing hadn’t even spoken a word on the entire excursion. The other noble ladies had even less courage to do so. They could only follow their liege wherever she may go.
The group swept out of the Oft Spring Garden and took the now familiar bluestone path. They turned again into the magical peach blossom grove and made straight for Ning Park’s brand new crimson doors.
This quick summary sounded easy, but the noble womenfolk rarely exercised and all had bound feet apart from Qin Yining. It wasn’t easy for tiny, bound feet to tread the mountain paths and walk so long. Those like the old dowager were barely keeping up thanks to servants supporting her on both sides. However, no one dared voice their complaints out loud.
When they arrived at the main doors of Ning Park, the empress coldly gestured with her chin. “Go and smash those doors open!”
The servants quickly assented, but they hadn’t even touched the doors before the doors were pulled open. A middle-aged man in a deep blue shirt, buttons running down the front, snuck at a peek at the crowd of opulently dressed womenfolk. He frowned deeply, “Madames and misses, what are you doing?”
The servant lifted his chin in response and angled his body to the side to show the empress. “Take a good look. This is the empress of Great Yan. It’s great fortune accumulated from your ancestors that she wishes to tour your yard. Hurry up and open the doors!”
The guard looked at the empress, then at the collection behind the empress. He raised a cupped fist salute and responded evenly, “I already told you earlier, our master has said that we’re not open to any visitors.”
The empress had thought everything would be fine if she was here in person, but to think that rejection was still staring her down even still!
Her face had been pummeled to the bottom of a canyon and she finally erupted shrilly, “How dare you! I am the mother of the nation, why can’t I borrow the use of a yard?! Servants, drag out everyone in Ning Park! I will have the emperor send troops to raze this raggedy yard to the ground!”
“Who dares raze my park?” A lazy, resonant voice sounded from within.
Qin Yining abruptly lifted her head to see Pang Xiao stride out garbed in ivory robes, a white jade buckle at his waist, a small golden crown on his head, and a magnificent air between his brows.
He stood with his arms crossed at the head of a group and looked at the empress as if looking at something dead. “Borrowing things has to be a voluntary act. Will the empress seize by force if such agreement is lacking?”
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