The Potential of an Unrequited Love
What sort of words were those?
Not to mention the madams and young misses who had come, as even Zhu Kongshan herself was left dazed. What did she mean by “since she came”? Was it not you, Imperial Concubine Li, who personally gave me the invitation to come?
But while she could think this to herself, she could not allow it to be expressed on her face. Even if the madams and young misses behind her were lacking in this ability, she, Zhu Kongshan, was an expert in this area. Thus she put on a smile and stood up while acting as if she never heard what had just been said. While smiling, she said: “Ever since the last time Kongshan came to visit aunty, I have been looking forward to this banquet the entire time since going back. The ones who came with Kongshan to celebrate second aunt’s promotion were the madams and young misses who came along with me to perform good deeds in the northern part of the city. There are also some who did not come together with us and will be arriving later. For not coming earlier to greet aunty, I hope that aunty will not blame me. Peng Zhou has a housewarming custom, and Kongshan wanted to give a kind gesture, hoping that Zhang Ning Palace would become more lively and aunty would be able to enjoy a smooth and prosperous life.”
With Zhu Kongshan speaking up, the madams and young misses quickly stepped forward with smiles on their faces and brought out the gifts that they had brought.
Imperial Concubine Li was clear on what Zhu Kongshan meant. She had hosted a banquet and could not manage to invite many people. There would be few from inside the palace and even from outside the palace. If Zhu Kongshan did not bring these people, it was possible that the scene would have been silent and awkward. Normally speaking, she originally hoped that Zhu Kongshan would be able to bring that many people in, and she thought that with that girl’s ability to be thorough in her consideration, she would think of such a thing. But plans could not keep up with changes. Now, the situation was completely different. Feng Yuheng and Xuan Tiange had come, and they had brought the daughters of the right prime minister’s family and General Ping Nan’s family. With these four standing there, they were enough to bring the atmosphere up. She no longer needed these lowly people that Zhu Kongshan had brought to help supplement the atmosphere. That was why the people that she had hoped would come were now extras. Even if Imperial Concubine Li was clear that she should not slap someone in the face for no reason, it was hard to find any joy in her face.
Zuo’er led the palace servants forward to receive the gifts then saw that Imperial Concubine Li had no desire to speak with these people, thus she smiled and took the initiative to say: “Madams and young misses, the banquet today is in the parlor. This servant will bring you over!”
Everyone agreed. They really did not want to continue staying in this main hall. Imperial Concubine Li’s expression already made it clear that she did not welcome them. Their top priority was to quickly get away from under Imperial Concubine Li’s gaze and find a place to figure out what was going on.
The madams and young misses had left, but Zhu Kongshan stayed behind. When she had entered the hall, she had paid attention to the situation in the yard. Now that she had also entered the main hall, she had still not seen Noble Lady Yuan. She knew that Noble Lady Yuan would definitely be coming. It was just that she had not come so early! She watched Imperial Concubine Li warmly speak with Feng Yuheng, but Feng Yuheng’s tone and expression were indifferent. There were many times when she would just nod or shake her head, not even responding. The feeling was the same as with her and Imperial Concubine Li, one side was being cold and the other was being warm. It was just that the situation was flipped with Feng Yuheng.
Zhu Kongshan was wondering what Imperial Concubine Li intended by doing this. Not long later, Zuo’er had returned. Looking at Zhu Kongshan, she finally reminded Imperial Concubine Li: “Your Highness, almost everyone has arrived. Palace Princess Wu Yang has also headed toward the parlor. We should go over there a bit earlier!”
Only then did Imperial Concubine Li nod and said: “Right, right, we must not let palace princess wait.” After saying this, she went to grab Feng Yuheng’s hand.
Feng Yuheng apathetically pulled her hand free and said to Zuo’er: “Take care of Her Highness. It snowed a bit last night, and it’s slippery outside!”
Imperial Concubine Li felt a bit awkward, but she still kept a smile on her face. While walking, she brushed past Zhu Kongshan but did not even look at her. Her behavior was completely different from when they had last met.
Zhu Kongshan followed along behind with her brow slightly furrowed. She truly could not understand why Imperial Concubine Li would change so quickly. As for herself, she did not enter the palace after that day, thus it could not possibly be that she had offended her. If there was a problem here, it was most likely that Noble Lady Yuan had done something to make Imperial Concubine Li unhappy, right? She faintly sighed to herself and felt a little bit annoyed. Who knew what Noble Lady Yuan had done; however, the eighth prince had told her to ingratiate herself with Imperial Concubine Li!
The banquet was set in the palace’s parlor, but it was only after they entered the parlor that they found that the usual decorations found at a palace banquet were missing. Normally speaking, palace banquets had the masters sitting separately from the guests, with an open area between the two for dancing and performances. In front of the seats, there would be tables with fruits and wine. Only something like that would have a banquet’s atmosphere.
But now, Zhang Ning Palace’s banquet only had some tables and chairs, and there was no set seating places. The people who arrived first were seated all over, and there was absolutely no order. The tables did have fruits and drinks, but the fruits were just normal apples, and there were some grapes that did not look very fresh. There was no wine, only tea. In addition to this, each table had a plate of seeds. It looked both cheap and hilarious. Even the banquets held by normal families would have better preparations than this, right?
Zhu Kongshan could not help but sigh once more. She had heard that this second aunt was a loner, that she was eccentric and that she did not have much of an understanding of the world. In Noble Lady Yuan’s words, she was someone who could not be presented. But she never thought that it would be to such a degree! Looking all around, the people who had arrived first said in confusion: “Doesn’t a banquet need dancing and performances? There isn’t enough room for dancing?”
Someone immediately chimed in: “What dancing and performances! As I see it, it’s just for us to sit down and chat. Give the gift then just leave. Her Highness Imperial Concubine Li never had any intention of hosting a banquet. To put it plainly, it should have been for the sake of receiving gifts, right? I heard that Imperial Concubine Li is extremely poor.”
This voice had not been loud, but it was not quiet either. Zhu Kongshan could hear it, and Feng Yuheng could also hear it. Even Imperial Concubine Li could hear it, but she did not care. She just wanted to do what she could to bring Feng Yuheng to the head table to sit with her.
But Feng Yuheng shook her head, saying: “I must not. Today, I called Palace Princess Wu Yang to come with me. Manners dictate that I should sit with her.” After saying this, she stopped paying attention to Imperial Concubine Li’s kindness and head straight for Xuan Tiange. Huang Quan followed behind her but could not stop herself from saying: “Princess Yu is just a normal guest today. Your Highness, there’s no need to be so courteous.”
Huang Quan’s words had slightly agitated Imperial Concubine Li. Zuo’er, who was supporting her from the side, could feel Imperial Concubine Li slightly trembling. Her hands also clenched into fists. Zuo’er was a bit shocked, and she quickly advised her in a quiet voice: “Your Highness, what she said is right. Your attitude towards Princess Yu is indeed too warm.”
“What? Can this one not chat a bit more with the one that this One likes?” Her expression became cold, as she said such a cold thing. After saying this, however, she glared at Zhu Kongshan, immediately changing the subject: “Instead of finding your own seat, what are you following this One around the entire time for?”
Zhu Kongshan really was getting attacked for absolutely no reason. Helplessly bowing, she found a place with her friends and sat down, as she heard one of the people near her speak about how this did not have the bearing of a banquet, ” We are all girls. There is not much point in watching dances or performances.”
Once these words came out, someone immediately reminded the young miss complaining about the lack of dances and performances: “Don’t be so picky about everything. You must remember what we came into the palace for!”
“I know!” That young miss’ temper was not very good, even flicking her sleeve and saying in great annoyance: “Isn’t it just to give face to Imperial Concubine Li! But how was it said before we came? Although Imperial Concubine Li is an imperial concubine, she does not have any influence and does not have enough face to invite people of influence to her banquet. We came with great gifts to Zhang Ning Palace for the sake of improving Imperial Concubine Li’s image. Even if Imperial Concubine Li was not moved, she should at least know to remember this kindness. What was the result? Look, how is she lacking face in the slightest? She has quite a great deal of influence! Not only was the right prime minister’s family’s daughter of the first wife here, but even General Ping Nan’s family’s daughter of the first wife has come. Even Princess Yu and Palace Princess Wu Yang have come! Even this sort of damn banquet could bring out these sorts of people. Won’t it come to be that even Her Highness the Empress will end up making an appearance?”
“Keep your voice down.” Someone quickly advised her while pointing at Zhu Kongshan, who was quite expressionless. She then lowered her voice and said: “You’ve already come, so just finish acting things out. Either way, if there is any fault to be found, it is not with us.”
Feng Yuheng coldly looked at the scene in the room. The talented ladies who had come to improve the atmosphere took the initiative to come and pay respects to her and Xuan Tiange. This caused her to feel quite embarrassed. This banquet hosted by Imperial Concubine Li truly was too lacking in class. What banquet? This was no different from a gathering for tea. It was like a restaurant or a tea house. There were waiters walking around and pouring tea. When the seeds ran out, they would quickly be replenished, but for some of the tables, when the apples were taken, they would not be replenished. She helplessly said to Xuan Tiange: “Imperial Concubine Li really is poor.”
Xuan Tiange said with great disdain: “The one to lose the most face for her son is probably her! You don’t know this, but before sixth brother went to the military camp in the Northwest, Imperial Concubine Li would occasionally call sixth brother into the palace. Normally, she never goes out, but when sixth brother came, she would bring sixth brother everywhere and announce to everyone that she had a son. Sixth brother once got so mad over it that he snapped at her, and she even made a huge fuss over it, calling sixth brother unfilial.”
Ren Xifeng interjected: “Imperial Concubine Li always thought the world of her son. She believed that her son was worthy of any girl, regardless of who it was. As long as His Highness the sixth prince had taken an interest, that would be a matter of good fortune. Of course, to most girls, a prince taking an interest in them is considered good fortune, but there isn’t anyone who showers affection on uninterested people quite as much as Imperial Concubine Li. There was a year when His Highness the sixth prince and I only happened to meet and say a few words, but as Imperial Concubine Li saw it, that was His Highness the sixth prince thinking highly of General Ping Nan’s manor. She actually sent someone to the manor the next day to discuss marriage, even saying in front of my father to have the official princess position filled first before finding a secondary princess. This would be considered as giving face to General Ping Nan’s manor. My dad was so angry that he broke the leg of the granny that had come to bring this up before chasing her out!”
Feng Yuheng never knew that such a thing had happened. Thinking more about Imperial Concubine Li’s attitude towards her, she finally had a bit more clarity. It turned out that Imperial Concubine Li’s habit of showering affection on an uninterested party was not something new. She had been like this since many years earlier!
As the group was chatting, a palace servant came in through the parlor’s doors with a guest. It was a young miss leading a two-year-old child. Fung Tianyu was the first to speak up, saying: “Isn’t that the Feng family’s young miss of a concubine?”
At this moment, Feng Yuheng was also able to see clearly. The person that had come was Feng Fendai, and the one that she was leading along was the child that she had taken away from Hundred Herb Hall a few days earlier…
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