The Princess Wei Yang Chapter 69 - Part 2
Chapter 69: Demonstrate one’s talent in court
4琴: a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family
5箜篌: ancient plucked string instrument
The spring festival hadn’t passed for long; it was the third month of the year already.
When the spring flowers blossomed, it was the time when there were countless banquets and when many families sent out invitations. Lao furen had deliberated for a while before she finally decided to bring Li Wei Yang with her to visit others.
Lao furen usually didn’t leave the residence, so an invitation that was able to move her was certainly from the imperial family. This time the invitation came from the Emperor’s Princess Yongning. Speaking of this Princess Yongning, she was born from low-ranked Consort Hui. Because Consort Hui passed away from miscarriage, Princess Yongning was given to be raised by the Empress. The Empress only had the Crown Prince so she sincerely raised Princess Yongning by her side, in fact, this princess was four years older than the prince. Once she reached fifteen years of age, the Emperor ordered the ministry of rites to select a husband. But ever since the incident of the prince consort’s rebellion had happened in the previous dynasty, all princesses of this dynasty who marry had to follow a law and that was any imperial prince consorts could not become officials in the court and the so-called prince consort held a position in name only. In addition to the princess being of noble birth, no one dared to offend her, thus, the true aristocratic family who had sons who were skilled in both literary studies and military arts, none wanted to become in-laws with the imperial family. But whoever the Emperor decided to choose, that person must become the future prince consort, with no other choice.
When it was Princess Yongning’s turn, the palace spread the news. Every noble family immediately found ways to ensure that their sons who are of marriageable age had wed a wife, especially Duke Ying of the Zhou family. All of his four sons at once became engaged, which made the Emperor furious since he initially wanted to select a son from the Zhou family. The Empress personally summoned Duke Ying’s wife into the palace and forced her to select a son skilled in literary studies and military arts for the marriage. Duke Ying’s family didn’t dare defy yet they truly didn’t want to send one of their four talented sons. So they complied but covertly oppose by recommending Zhou Ming Chang, who was the eldest son of the second household in Duke Ying’s family. The Emperor summoned Zhou Ming Chang and seeing that he was a strikingly talented man, he expressed satisfaction and sent his most trusted head of eunuch to investigate Zhou Gongzi. This head of eunuch was a greedy person; after being bribed off, he naturally sang praises to the Emperor about Zhou.
Princess Yongning was glamorously sent off to marry, it was originally a joyful matter but Zhou Ming Chang wasn’t as great as he seemed to be. He was narrow-minded since he was young and he also suffered from tuberculosis. Because he became the prince consort and he had no hope on a career, he was depressed from the start; he was also mocked by his cousins, who added frost to snow3. At the wedding, the agitated and overly tired Zhou Ming Chang vomited blood in front of the crowd. Not long after the wedding, Princess Yongning discovered the truth and became extremely angry. Zhou Ming Chang felt guilty and had been bed-ridden ever since. Not even six months, he passed away. Having reached this point, the truth could no longer be concealed. The Emperor banished the entire Duke Ying’s family, executed the corrupted head of eunuch, and also renovated the princess’ residence in the palace so that Princess Yongning could reside in it.
The noble princess, who was of royal blood, though didn’t have to keep vigil but she still had married so she could only spend her life in the princess residence of Fu Li Tang. After a while, she would definitely feel bored and frequently held banquets and invited nobilities in the capital to lessen the loneliness.
In the carriage, Lao furen narrated this old story. On the surface, it seemed like Li Wei Yang was listening attentively, in actuality, her mind had already flew afar.
Others knew that everything wasn’t as it seemed. The imperial family would never commit such foolish behavior. Back then, Duke Ying was a contributor to the founding of the country. Moreover, his four sons held important positions in the court, and one even held authority to an army of twenty-thousand, so he gradually became arrogant and wasn’t as respectful and loyal to the Emperor anymore. The Emperor wanted to get rid of the Zhou family but after waiting for two years, he couldn’t find a good enough reason, so what reason was justifiable than deceiving the emperor? Princess Yongning was perhaps a pawn for the imperial family. Due to this marriage, she ruined her life yet she made great contribution to the imperial family.
“Princess Yongning is very pitiful, how could she marry such a man.” Lao furen shook her head and let out a sigh.
Li Wei Yang smiled and didn’t say a word. She knew that actually Princess Yongning and her former prince consort were very in love. Even though the prince consort wasn’t well but he was poetic and romantic and skilled in the various arts. Moreover, with his tender and gentle personality, he and the princess were an inseparable couple. The so-called narrow-mindedness and envy were all unreal. After the prince consort had passed away, Li Wei Yang heard from the Empress’ slip of tongue that in actuality it wasn’t tuberculosis……
“Yes, the princess is very pitiful.” Li Wei Yang nodded as a form of response to Lao furen.
“Mainly because of this, the Emperor treats the princess like this. Two days ago, five thousand acre of the bureau of agriculture was used to build the princess a residence. Once we arrive later, you have to speak with the princess and let her like you in order to become a frequent guest so you can be accepted by others.”
Li Wei Yang nodded but she was actually thinking of something else.
“Lao furen, this time the invitation ---“
Lao furen slowly smiled: “Your Da jie is currently reflecting on her faults and so I couldn’t bring her.”
Li Wei Yang also smiled, her beautiful eyes carried a light trace of sarcasm. Li Chang Le, because of the Disaster-Relief Five-Steps Policy, was suffering from countless censures. Now the thing she had to do the most was to appear in an appropriate occasion and wash away the bad impression of her in front of them. Today was the princess’ banquet, everyone who came were nobility and officials, how would Da furen let this precious opportunity go.
The mother-daughter was not willing to let others obstruct them, so Lao furen had possibly miscalculated.
Li Min De silently stared at them and didn’t say a word. Today, Lao furen originally didn’t want to bring him but his San jie said that after San furen passed away, he had been depressing and unhappy. She asked Lao furen to bring him out to relax but he knew very well that the truth was San jie was worried to leave him alone in the Li family.
Surely he wasn’t weak to the point of needing San jie to protect him like this? Li Min De drooped his long lashes, his expression complicated. Perhaps, he should let San jie know, he wasn’t as weak as she thought of him, when he put up with the humiliation, it was because he didn’t want to show too much of his ability.
The Princess’ residence was situated south the capital and stretched across acres. As the horse carriage entered, Li Wei Yang opened the curtain and saw the path was densely wooded and luxuriant with flowers; the multi-story pavilions were uneven and set each other off, the princess’ residence seemed accommodated the entire spring.
In front of the first door, the horse carriage finally stopped. Li Wei Yang helped Lao furen off the carriage and then immediately spotted Da furen’s carriage. And Li Chang Le who was supposed to stay home and reflect, was actually gorgeously dressed and stood by Da furen as she made small talks with the other noble ladies.
Lao furen’s smile momentarily froze on her face.
She actually came! Li Wei Yang’s clenched her fist in her sleeve and tried really hard to prevent her emotions from revealing. She gently tugged on Lao furen’s arm, which made Lao furen finally react and then darkened her face: “Isn’t Chang Le still sick, how could she come out.”
Li Wei Yang smiled: “Looking at Da jie’s behavior, she must have gotten permission from Father.”
Lao furen’s complexion worsened, Li Xiao Ran usually acted meticulously and cleverly yet only towards this daughter, he overly doted, men and women avoiding one another wasn’t a huge topic, especially in these types of situation, this was a matchmaking banquet, it seemed like this matter --- he still hadn’t give up on the idea.
Li Chang Le noticed something and lifted her eyes to look over and right at this moment, she and Li Wei Yang looked at each other.
The dim sunlight shone onto Li Wei Yang, she was dressed in plain and white clothes as usual, her brows curled, she released bland coldness as she held up her arm. Whenever she saw her, she always had on this carefree expression yet she was ingenious and scheming, Li Chang Le unwillingly clenched her fists and her face revealed a delighted smile: “San mei.”
Li Wei Yang smiled: “Da jie.”
Lao furen coldly coughed and said: “Really shameless.”
Li Chang Le’s facial countenance changed, her smile was like a mask, from her forehead revealed a crevice and in the end it crashed open.
She couldn’t believe that after the voodoo incident, Lao furen loathed her to this point.
Lao furen looked at her abruptly changing expression, she coldly smiled yet didn’t say much. She waved her hand to signal Da furen and everyone to follow behind her. Since they came, she can’t tell them to leave in front of everyone, it was just that she didn’t feel at ease in her heart.
Da furen calmly sighed, she knew even though Lao furen really didn’t like Chang Le, but they are all part of the Li family in the end. In front of others, Lao furen won’t make them look bad. She gently smiled at Li Chang Le and said: “Let’s enter.”
Li Chang Le became delighted and swiftly followed by Da furen’s side. Of course, along the way, she still attracted countless stares. Li Chang Le’s name had already spread throughout the palace and among the people. Countless people had seen her before but each time they saw her, they would still react to her stunning beauty. Now that she was just leisurely standing there, she lit up the entire garden. It was just that the people also noticed the Prime Minister’s San Xiaojie, she, as a concubine-born daughter was actually conferred the title of Anping Xianzhu, it was a matter that was sufficient to amazed the people. Now that Lao furen also bought her along to this banquet, this meant that it was obvious that they thought highly of her.
Wei Guo furen and Gao Min had already arrived earlier; seeing Da furen, they hurriedly went over to greet them but they paid no attention to Li Wei Yang. Li Wei Yang didn’t care, her gaze looked towards the entire banquet. This time the banquet was located in the open-air garden, the fresh flowers in the garden were each captivating and vibrant as if they had on blush and took advantage of the spring winds. In the middle of the garden laid a huge carpet and on top was embroidered hibiscus vines and marks of glorious clouds. Besides the table for the host in the north, things were placed in each table as they were obviously left for the guests. Looking on the west side, the tables were fully seated with noble furens and xiaojies; on the east side, Third Prince Tuoba Zhen, Fifth Prince Tuoba Rui, Seventh Prince Tuoba Yu, and Eighth Prince Tuoba Cong who just turned eleven were seated in order.
Tuoba Zhen was sitting on the east side in the first guest seat; he was wearing a green jinxiu robe, his smile handsome, attracting others’ notice. As for Tuoba Yu, he sat on the east side in the third guest seat; he had on a high jaded crown and was wearing a silver-threaded white robe that emitted luster like jade, which made his entire person extremely dazzling. The two didn’t sit far from each other and laughingly conversed a few words. They seemed like brothers among the commoners, they smiled and sat together as they drank and chatted, Li Wei Yang thought she was dreaming.
Tuoba Zhen’s gaze suddenly looked over and saw the splendid Li Chang Le. Then, his eyes unconsciously fell onto Li Wei Yang who was dressed in dim colors with a blue skirt.
The Prime Minister’s San furen had just passed away. Even though she was an aunt, to show respect, Li Chang Le shouldn’t have dressed up in such bright colors. In comparison, Li Wei Yang was much more intelligent and prudent. The truth was Tuoba Zhen was very disappointed with Li Chang Le now. She always tried to show off and wasn’t clever enough, moreover, she couldn’t endure humiliation, this type of woman, was she even worth staying by his side? How much help would she be to him?
Once Fifth Prince who was by his side saw Li Chang Le, his eyes could no longer be moved elsewhere. He originally planned on finding the right time to tell his imperial mother his desire and then let his imperial father bestowed Li Chang Le to him. But his imperial mother instead told him that his father was recently infuriated by Li Chang Le, this wasn’t the right time and thus, he had to compel himself to hold back.
Tuoba Yu noticed Li Wei Yang, originally in his eyes, she was a clever yatou but now she was also cunning like a fox. This time, her makeup was neat, her face had on a smile, which made her hair looked more like ink, her complexion more like jade. She was unlike other ladies of an eminent family, he almost suspect that the countryside girl he saw and her weren’t the same person.
Li Wei Yang stood by Lao furen’s side, her lashes drooping down, creating a shadow on her face. Her smile compared to the high key Li Chang Le, she seemed much more gentle and easier to approach.
“San jie, I will go to the seats for male guests.” Li Min De glimpsed from afar and saw that his cousin Li Min Feng had arrived earlier and was having small talks with others. Although he was extremely detestable, he knew he had to sit with him.
Li Wei Yang smiled at him and said: “Go.”
To not allow Min De to stay in the Li family alone wasn’t simply to protect him but also to prevent his mind from wandering.
Pondering up until here, she only heard a maidservant said faraway: “Here comes Princess Yongning ---“
Li Wei Yang lightly smiled, turned her head to look and only saw the head of a woman served by a group of maidservants slowly approaching from the long corridor. She combed a very tall hairstyle with a crossed rainbow hairpin, her facial countenance elegant and emitting authority, it was Princess Yongning. However, Li Wei Yang gently sighed at the bottom of her heart. Princess Yongning was only twenty years old yet she looked very haggard. Her face should had been rosy and red but under layers of rouge, it looked a bit grey white with skin that was loose and signs of tiredness at the corners of her eyes. Of course, the worst was her pair of eyes. Dark and deep, like they were two holes carved in wood, if it wasn’t for her pupils that moved around a few times, she wouldn’t had looked alive. Although she had lots of accessories and jade on her head, it wasn’t able to veil her declining aura, giving off a feeling that she had no life in her.
The princess was exactly the same as the impression Li Wei Yang had of her.
Princess Yongning was escorted by a tall, beautiful female official into her seat. The princes in their seats all rose to greet, this imperial sister, had always been their imperial father and mother’s beloved pearl, to her, they were especially loving, none of them dared to slight her.
Li Wei Yang watched as the princess gently smiled and nodded towards everyone; she felt sympathetic towards her. This banquet, she didn’t want to organize this in the start but it was the Emperor and Empress’ idea. They’ve used their daughter so they had extreme guilt in their heart and wanted to give her enough honor through another method. Every three months, a banquet was organized to let others know of their kindness and respect towards Princess Yongning. But because of this, it had stabbed Yongning in the heart once again.
The banquet was held as usual.
In the middle of the feast, Princess Yongning said: “Today’s banquet, I thank everyone for coming, Imperial Father had gifted me a musician who is highly skilled in qin4, I asked her to play a score for everyone.
At this moment, everyone noticed a young lady dressed in pink and with a snowy white complexion, slowly approached forth. She bowed with respects in front of all officials and nobles and then began to play her qin. The sound from her qin was very melodic, like a hovering dragon, gradually flowing and coiling out, it was as if it turned into lingering musical notes, dancing in circles and then plunged into everyone’s bodies, making everyone change their countenance.
After the music ended for a long while, everyone had finally awaken from a dreamlike state; they recollected and thought that it was like they just had a dream.
“Imperial sister, this musician definitely has superb qin skills!” Tuoba Zhen applauded as he praised.
Princess Yongning smiled yet her smile carried a trace of indifference.
The naïve Eighth Prince Tuoba Zhen was born with a face carved from jade, making him very adorable: “Huang Jie, allow her to play another song!”
Princess Yongning nodded, the musician placed her fingers to the side of the qin and soon beautiful sound flowed out from the qin. This time the qin sounds were extremely melodic, gentle, and changing, making everyone unable to withhold, as they hovered in midair and hung onto each person’s ears, allowing them to touch their hearts.
Li Wei Yang noticed that from the start, Princess Yongning’s face didn’t have an expression, moreover, there were no traces of ease or joy in her expression.
After the song ended, the crowded applauded.
Tuoba Rui curled his lips and said: “Today’s sunlight is just right, the Xiaojies who are here are all skilled in musical instruments, why don't we ask them to play a song or two for everyone?”
Princess Yongnng’s expression was dull: “Really, I don’t know if the Xiaojies agree with this?”
All the seated noble qianjins glanced at each other and thought that this was a great opportunity. If a daughter from an eminent family show herself too much, it was certainly not good, but in this type of scene --- a matchmaking banquet, let’s not only mention sons of eminent families, even the seated princes, if they were to capture their attention, then they would be able rise in status, even more, this rare opportunity, if they missed it, then they wouldn’t have another chance!
Only Li Wei Yang showed a disinterested smile as she looked at the Tuoba Rui whose smile revealed a hint of malice. He knew Li Chang Le was skilled in literature and poetry and would definitely show extraordinary talents and reverse her reputation in front of the princess. As for herself who grew up in the countryside, compared to the other xiaojies, her talent was definitely inferior and couldn’t be shown to others or else she would be laughed at. It must be known that these qianjin xiaojies’ skills had been learned for years. She, herself, had only been in the capital for a few months, how could she leap above them?
These words --- were not wrong at all. Whether it was previous life or this life, Li Wei Yang was never skilled in this area. Perhaps it was because of this, she was rejected by Tuoba Zhen, she lowered her head and gently smiled.
Seeing this scene, Tuoba Yu’s lips curled into a curious smile. He was aware that this time Tuoba Rui obviously wanted this newly appointed Xianzhu look bad; he didn’t know how this young woman will handle this.
Not far away, Li Min De watched and he furrowed his brows tightly.
These people, obviously no one provoked them yet they continuously seek trouble.
Fifth Prince Tuoba Rui looked at Li Chang Le and gave her smile to please her. Li Chang Le reciprocated with an appreciative slight smile and Tuoba Rui immediately felt that his brilliance was incomparable to others.
Li Chang Le was, of course, delighted, or even excited. Today, her mother wanted to let her shine at the banquet, how could she let this opportunity slip! As for Li Wei Yang, today she would definitely become the laughingstock, as a Xianzhu, she actually couldn’t perform a decent talent, she would make a fool out of herself! Thinking about this, her smiled became more complacent.
Wei Guo furen’s daughter Gao Min played a song with a bamboo flute, the minister of the ministry of rites’ daughter Wang Xiaojie’s beautiful flute music attracted butterflies, the official of the ministry of affairs’ daughter Li Xiaojie’s long-sleeved dance attracted others’ fixed gazes, Admiral Zhou’s granddaughter’s sword dance was valiant; performances followed one after another, everyone had their own talents and equally shone. These Xiaojies usually wouldn’t have easily reveal themselves in public, this kind of opportunity was definitely rare, everyone excitedly clapped.
Fifth Prince’ gaze fell on the gorgeous Li Chang Le: “It is Prime Minister’s Da Xiaojie’s turn, please.”
Li Chang Le actually unconsciously gave Tuoba Zhen a glimpse and discovered that he was gently looking at her; her heart suddenly jumped and she couldn’t help but smile. She stood up and said: “Please do not laugh at Xiao Nv’s performance.”
Everyone couldn’t refrain from being curious, all eighteen types of instruments had been performed, they wondered what this beautiful Li Chang Le had that made her special.
Li Chang Le clapped her hands, a maidservant from the side carried out an item covered with a red silk cloth.
Surprise revealed on everyone’s face, what was this? Why was it covered by a red cloth?
Da furen’s face exposed a slight smile, the common things that the Xiaojies used to perform, how could Chang Le use them!
Li Wei Yang watched and suddenly lowered her head to hide her smile of malice. Dajie, this time, you brought upon your own destruction.
Li Chang Le lightly stepped forward, her slim fingers lifted the red silk and revealed what was originally covered.
Everyone was stunned and saw something that was similar to a harp yet different instrument revealed in front of their eyes. This qin was made with walnut wood sheet and the case itself had butterflies embroidered on it. It had 13 strings evenly spread out and on the it, a phoenix was carved; looking at it, it seemed sophisticated and magnificent.
“Is that a konghou5?” Gao Min astonishingly raised his brows.
Li Chang Le smiled and said: “No, this is a crested harp, it was passed here from the faraway Western Regions.”
Everyone was shocked except for Princess Yongning whose complexion was turning white. The female official by her side looked at Li Chang Le as if she wanted to speak to warn her of something yet Li Chang Le was immersed in her delight of the anticipated limelight so she didn’t notice.
Li Wei Yang’s smile, Li Min De saw clearly, his gaze drifted to the instrument and then he suddenly brightened up.
Li Chang Le sat down, her left hand holding it, her right hand played a string. The instrument immediately released a deep, low sound like ringing from a guqin. Soon after, her five fingers sprang up and continued to play the strings. The sound was like high mountains and flowing water, her white fingers slowly quickened its speed. The crisp and clear sound was like the guzheng was singing and at times released sound of water from the qin.
Everyone thought that the crested harp’s sounds were emitted from like transparent water, even the water was gently shaking, clear and bright, floating and fleeting.
Fifth Prince sighed: “This instrument is very rare, compared to the guzheng, it is more clear and ethereal, a sound like the night water of the lotus pond and the cold and snowy mountains!” As he continued to listen, he became enchanted, his expression was much more energetic, his brows thoughtlessly moved, his eyes were also shimmering, he held out his hands as he soundlessly clapped and then suddenly took out a jaded flute and then played along with the crested harp.
Li Wei Yang held up a cup of tea and slowly took a sip. She saw Tuoba Yu who was sitting on the opposite side looking over with a curious gaze and gave him a slight smile.
Tuoba Zhen listened to Li Chang Le’s song earnestly, he only thought that the sound from the two types of instruments blended together had reached perfection, the two sounds mildly entangled and relying on each other, becoming one and turned into a graceful dancing fairy, dancing in each person’s mind. Li Chang Le gently sang.
Her voice was moving and the song she sang was a trending song, a beautiful woman with a beautiful song played with a beautiful instrument, this scene was definitely stunning.
Da furen complacently watched this scene, she knew, from this day on, Li Chang Le would be wiping away her bad reputation and once again gaining everyone’s praises. As for Li Wei Yang, she would certainly be ashamed of her lack of talent and have no place to hide her face.
After, Tuoba Yu who was on the side was greatly curious, he didn’t know why Li Wei Yang would reveal such an odd smile. He had a premonition that Li Chang Le who was currently enjoying the limelight would perhaps be out of luck!