Chapter 20 — The Birthday Feast in the Great Hall
The luxurious Great Hall was full of ministers and their families sitting inside. The brightly dressed women were sitting beside their respective parents, frequently looking over the rich young masters. At the top of the Great Hall were seated several Imperial concubines. Though the emperor had many concubines, there were only three present today. Emperor Shang was wearing a bright yellow informal robe, sitting at the highest seat. His pair of shrewd eyes were brimming with strength as he occasionally glanced at several ministers. Those ministers appeared respectful, but in fact, they were all a little afraid.
“Your Majesty, everyone’s gathered. We might as well begin!” Consort Xin said with a smile as she looked the emperor. She was wearing a purple palace attire, while her face was finely made up, making her appear sweet and charming. Her hair was rolled up in a bun, supported by a golden pearl hairpin that sparkled and dazzled the eyes. She was separately decorated with numerous other pearl and jade ornaments, entirely covered in jewels.
Consort Xin had a son and a daughter. Her son was the third prince Shang ChengYing, while her daughter was the eldest princess Shang QinMi. Consort Xin was an arrogant and willful mistress within the palace, often acting like a spoiled child irrespective of the occasion. Yet emperor Shang had never shown any discontent with her. After all, ever since knowing Empress Qiu, he had never visited another consort’s chambers again. Even though Empress Qiu had been dead for 13 years now, he had never called upon any concubine to serve him in bed.
“Everyone? There’s still someone who’s not here. The East Palace’s Crown Prince has actually not come to the Emperor birthday. That’s highly improper!” Consort Qin stated resentfully. She was wearing a snow white flowing brocade dress, while her beautiful hair was left down. Her pretty face looked a bit charming and her demeanor was stylish. But when she mentioned the crown prince, her glossy eyes darkened with hatred.
Consort Qin was an elder at the palace. At the time the emperor was still a crown prince, she was already his side consort, so she was also the first one to give birth to a prince. Unfortunately, her child hadn’t been conferred the title of Crown Prince. Consort Qin only had this son, the eldest prince Shang ChenZhao.
Consort Qin’s words made everyone take a look around the Great Hall, but they didn’t find the rumored crown prince. Their hearts were unavoidably full of doubts; could the rumors among the commoners from the previous days be false? Was the crown prince still that worthless crown prince they knew?
Huan Mo Che’s brows creased for a brief moment, finding Consort Qin’s words too harmful to the crown prince. So his circumstances had always been this difficult. Thinking of that graceful and keen youngster growing up in such a dirty environment, Huan Mo Che was suddenly filled with disgust for Consort Qin. So much that he felt like saying a few words in chastisement to her. If it weren’t for his formidable self-control, he would’ve probably really done so. However, why did he want to do such a thing? Just because he was the crown prince’s mentor?
Leng Yufeng determined that the crown prince really wasn’t inside the Great Hall and couldn’t help but wonder. He obviously saw him enter at the palace gates, but the crown prince wasn’t currently here. What had actually happened? Could it be that he had run into some problem, or did simply not wish to attend the birthday banquet? Saying things like the crown prince being afraid and similar guesses, Leng Yufeng couldn’t accept those as true, because the look in the crown prince’s eyes was as fearsome as those of the wild beasts he had seen before. What would that kind of person be afraid of?
Consort Qin smiled complacently. After the crown prince had schemed against her son in the streets, Minister Bai had really come to the emperor to say that the eldest prince wasn’t well-mannered. His Majesty had ordered her son to stay put in his residence and reflect. He wasn’t allowed to go out even for the emperor’s birthday. It had turned Consort Qin into a target for ridicule by the other concubines in the Imperial palace.
Emperor Shang kept sitting with a face that showed neither joy nor anger, making people speculate whether he still loathed the crown prince as before and also revising their own views of the prince. They wanted to get a hint from Emperor Shang’s expression, but as an emperor, he had learned to conceal his emotions long ago, so that no one could guess his inner thoughts.
“Ah? Is the crown prince really so audacious that he still hasn’t come yet? It can’t be that he doesn’t put the emperor in his sights!” Consort Xin’s hand covered her mouth, yet her voice was clear enough for everyone to hear. But it wasn’t like everyone around was so brainless that they couldn’t figure her out. The other concubines didn’t utter a thing.
Not all the concubines within the Imperial palace hated the crown prince initially. But because Empress Qiu had seized all of the emperor’s love, it had made them resentful. Emperor Shang’s heart wouldn’t let another woman inside. How could such a love not make the numerous concubines jealous? But as Empress Qiu was already dead, the resentment had shifted onto the crown prince instead.
“As a mere concubine, you actually dare speak behind This Prince’s back? I wonder what filthy thing Consort Xin’s mouth has eaten today?” A low voice, cold enough to freeze people, rang from outside the main hall. Everyone realized that the crown prince had come, so they turned to look at the main hall’s entrance. While Huan Mo Che’s expression loosened up as his heart calmed down. Leng Yufeng blanked when he heard the crown prince’s words. The crown prince seemed to be fairly unrestrained.
Everyone noticed when the youngster wearing a black brocade robe entered the hall. What astounded them was the youth’s breathtaking features. He had a fair complexion with a certain frailness to it, yet that didn’t decrease his appeal. His eyes were tranquil without a ripple, but so clear, one could see the bottom; there wasn’t a single impurity within them. They seemed able to absorb a person’s heart and soul. He had a delicate but straight nose bridge; the corners of his lips were pulled back in a gentle smile. He was like the spring rain in March, subtle and delicate.
Watching the crown prince, something briefly flashed through Emperor Shang’s eyes, before it disappeared as though it never existed.
The whole crowd was astonished by the crown prince’s looks. It wasn’t that none of them had seen him before. Even though he rarely came out, there were ministers who had already met him. But each time, the crown prince would hang his head low, so no one could clearly see his face. Thus, it was the first time for everyone to witness the crown prince’s exceptional countenance. He didn’t lose to the top place holders of the beauty rankings among the young noble males; in fact, he was more remarkable than them. Even the two most outstanding men in the Great Hall – General Leng and young master Huan, couldn’t compare to the crown prince in terms of appearance. It wasn’t that their looks were inferior; the three of them each had their own strong points. However, the crown prince’s eyes and his body seemed to hide many secrets, and that sort of mysterious appeal amplified his extraordinary looks.
“Greeting Imperial father.” Shang Wuxin didn’t care a sliver about everyone else’s expressions. After she entered the main hall, she bowed slightly in salutation. Although it wasn’t the kowtow required by etiquette, there was nothing inappropriate about it when it concerned the East Palace’s Crown Prince.
“You’ve come.” Emperor Shang didn’t even glance at the crown prince below him. That made many believe that he wasn’t fond of the crown prince as usual. The emperor spoke without reserve, “Come take your seat.”
Shang Wuxin nodded, then walked toward the special seat designated for the crown prince. The seat was below the emperor’s, conspicuously positioned first on the right. Below that was Leng Yufeng’s seat, then Huan Mo Che’s.
“Crown Prince!” Leng Yufeng and Huan Mo Che greeted at the same time. Leng Yufeng thought the prince was out of the ordinary, so he decided to say something. While Huan Mo Che felt his mood improve as soon as he saw the crown prince for whatever reason, so he couldn’t help but open his mouth to speak.
Shang Wuxin nodded in response. No matter what, those two men held enormous influence within the Imperial capital. As long as there was no need to, she wouldn’t make them her enemies. Moreover, Shang Wuxin was absolutely certain that those two weren’t as affable as they presented themselves. No, they didn’t look that gentle on the surface either, but many couldn’t see that.
At that moment, the people who felt that the crown prince’s position was hopeless, suddenly got a shock. The two men, who had greeted the crown prince on their own initiative, were actually General Leng and young master Huan. When had those two ever taken the initiative to greet any of the other princes before? It seemed that there really was something different about the crown prince, but recalling the emperor’s earlier manner, many kept wavering. Everyone hesitated over what move to make next. Should they, or shouldn’t they support the crown prince from now on?
Translator: GirlyNovels –> From chapter 21 to half of 28, Vin will be the translator. Translation styles are quite different.