Chapter 14: Does This Girl Have the Appetite of a Cat?
Long Heng had been invited by the old madame to look at the present his fiancée had supposedly sent. He wasn’t someone who liked paintings, so he didn’t think much of it after glancing at it. He wasn’t sure what his fiancée was like, but by looking at this painting, he thought her to be a talented woman.
Song Jiaoyue also complimented the painting before smiling and retreating to one side. Although the painting was good, it wasn’t as stunning as the wooden sculpture from before.
Eh? It seemed like the events had diverged from the story.
It seemed like her arrival had indeed made a few ripples, but she had no idea whether the changes were for the better or worse. She also didn’t know that the old madame had started to take note of her after she had offered up her present.
If Bai Xiangxiu was going to start acting above her station after that meager offering of her skills, the old madame was fully prepared to suppress her spirit. What the old madame hadn’t expected was for Bai Xiangxiu to remain well-behaved. She didn’t even try to insert herself into the conversations of those madames and misses. Even when her son made an appearance, she didn’t try to squeeze in to gain his favor; it seemed she was an honest one.
The old madame had gotten rather tired of managing the rear court and wanted to find an assistant to help her after her daughter-in-law married in. However, if she found a troublemaker, then the rear court would hardly remain peaceful. Amongst the four Noble Concubines, only Bai Xiangxiu looked like the most appealing candidate today.
Long Heng followed his mother’s gaze and also took a look at the girl who had just captured the limelight in presenting that impressive present. Eh…
She sat really far away, and was even hidden under the shadow of a pillar. She just watched the guests mill around as she drank tea, seemingly without any intention of joining them. Most importantly, those eyes were as calm as water, without any sort of desire. He couldn’t help but find it strange. A girl with eyes free of desire was rather rare.
After each guest had presented their gifts, it was time to start the banquet. When the start of the banquet was called, Bai Xiangxiu grew even more despondent. She had grown up with her grandparents, both devout Buddhists. As a result, they would only eat vegetarian on the first and fifteenth of each month. After so many years, it was an ingrained habit, and even her transmigration hadn’t broken it. Coincidentally, the banquet was on the fifteenth of the month.
Xiao Shi knew of her habits after two months of serving her mistress. She couldn’t help but whisper, “Mistress Xiu, should I mention it to the servants?”
Bai Xiangxiu shook her head and said, “Don’t. It would do no good to stand out now. I’ll just pick out some vegetarian dishes to eat.”
In this dynasty, banquets were held with small square tables instead of large ones. A small table would be placed in front of each guest. Roughly four or five dishes would be placed on the table at a time. The guests would then pick out the ones they liked and place it into a small plate. When it was time for the next round of dishes, the previous round would be removed.
This was the so-called free flowing banquet. It was extremely wasteful but was very mindful of hygiene. Unlike the esteemed guests, the concubines had a different seating system, sitting two to a table. Bai Xiangxiu shared a table with the mistress of the Autumn Garden. She was a gorgeous beauty, but her looks still paled in comparison to Bai Xiangxiu’s. Thus, she wasn’t very friendly to Bai Xiangxiu.
The dishes were quickly served. She didn’t get Xiao Shi to place the food in her bowl. Instead, she just picked some items like Chinese cabbage and tofu and placed them on her plate.
After a while, Long Heng walked over to accompany the old madame for the meal. He was her only son, and the old madame was naturally very happy. The two of them shared a table, but didn’t speak much with each other.
However, Long Heng couldn’t help but glance at the girl from the Winter Garden to find that she’d already been squeezed to the end of the table. The girl she was sharing her table with had already taken up more than half the available space, making it look like Bai Xiangxiu was being crowded out. Although the dishes had just been served, she was already using her handkerchief to wipe her mouth, seemingly already done with this round. Looking at her plate, more than half the food lay untouched. Did this girl have the appetite of a cat?
The banquet was still underway, but Bai Xiangxiu had been crowded out to the point that she couldn’t remain comfortably seated. She felt that since her gift had already been presented, there was no need to continue sitting here and suffer being squeezed out by the other three. She flagged down a nearby elderly female servant to help her ask the old madame if she could leave early, using the excuse that she wasn’t feeling well.
The old madame could clearly tell that she was being ostracized, so she nodded and let her leave. She also had the servants tell the other three to leave. Acting so freely in front of those esteemed ladies without caring for their own positions, it was shaming the prince’s household. She would need to discipline them more strictly afterwards.
Thus, Bai Xiangxiu and Xiao Shi left the banquet at an appropriate interval. They didn’t walk fast, but as they walked, they spotted a suspicious servant ahead of them. He was a rather short man, doing an awful job of hiding behind a tree to peek at something.
On the other side, a crowd of people was slowly walking over, Long Heng in the lead. She hadn’t thought he’d bring people to walk around the courtyard after leaving the old madame’s place. How leisurely of him! However, the ones with him were all esteemed guests. Other than Song Jiaoyue, there were also a few other young and handsome gentlemen.
Although Long Heng was rather cold tempered, he had a wide variety of friends. At court, he was someone who got along well with all sides. She didn’t want to be seen by them, so she shifted towards that suspicious servant. There was a fake mountain that would nicely serve her purposes in blocking the sight of those people.
When the servant heard someone approaching from behind, he turned around and spotted a fairy-like beauty walking closer to him. He couldn’t help but stare blankly for a moment before saying absent-mindedly, “How beautiful, like a fairy…”
After he finished speaking, both he and the beauty in front of him were startled.
One of them was startled because of the beauty of the person before him. Not only was she beautiful, she was dressed elegantly, yet not gaudily. Upon seeing her, one would surely have a favorable impression of her. The other was startled because she could tell from ‘his’ voice that this servant was female. Looking again at ‘his’ appearance, then at ‘his’ throat, Bai Xiangxiu immediately guessed that this ‘he’ was definitely a ‘she’.
“You’re…” Xiao Shi hadn’t finished asking who the other was when her own mistress covered her mouth. That servant then put ‘his’ hand by ‘his’ mouth and said, “Be a little quieter.”
After ‘he’ finished speaking, ‘he’ chuckled and said, “I… this servant… was helping the madames retrieve something, but it was lost along the way. This servant is looking for it now, and is afraid that others will find out.”
That was clearly an excuse. Bai Xiangxiu looked closely at this suspicious young girl. She looked to be about fourteen or fifteen, with fine and cute features. Especially that pair of watery and beautiful eyes, it looked as if tears could drip at any moment. This girl was so cute and well worth a second look. However, this bold spying, it wasn’t something that a well-bred young miss would do.
“What are you peeking at? I won’t tell anyone.” Bai Xiangxiu found it curious, and she had a suspicion she had to verify. Seeing that her mistress had lowered her head, Xiao Shi followed along and crouched low, finding it strange that her mistress was asking this. No, she was clearly using a affirmative tone.
“I… only heard that Prince Li is extremely scary, like a demon. I wanted to see if he’s as scary as the rumours say.” For some reason, this mysterious girl couldn’t help but tell the truth when getting stared at by such a beauty.
The corner of Bai Xiangxiu’s mouth twitched. She was even more sure now. There was only a single person in the book that would have this appearance and do this kind of action. This was the legendary female lead. She hadn’t thought that she would come to peek at her fiancé. The story didn’t mention this part. It only described how she had confirmed that the male lead was extremely violent towards women and had packed her bags to run away.
Was it possible that she had confirmed it by peeking?
However, although Prince Li was an impressive character who could serenely order someone to be beaten to death , he usually treated women normally. At least, she had never heard of him personally beating up any women.