LADY WEI LI LIAN
The Summer Festival dance that had to be performed at the Imperial palace was now closer than before. And so Le-anne, accompanied by the Lady Queens, spent the whole morning shopping for the dancing costumes material at the market. Young Miss Ai loved the market so much that she was reluctant to leave when the time to go back to the manor came.
Mistress Han and the princess chose white silks that would be used to make the dance costumes by the manor's seamstress. Princess Le-anne was going to be the lead dancer so they bought fine expensive yellow material for her. The dancers' white colour was to depict the winter season that was drawing to an end, and the yellow would stand for the blooming summer that was now beginning.
The seamstress was not going to be the one to make Le-anne's costume since she herself was good with needle work and embroidery. Princess Le-anne enjoyed making her own clothes, so she found it preferable to take over the job for her own costume. The only thing that bothered her was how she had not yet thought up a design for her ensemble.
After years of lying under Mistress Kei's rebuking stick, it was obvious that she would stand out with her dancing skills, but her outfit had to be eye catching, attention seeking, and elaborate.
The emperor's eyes had to be on her the whole time.
Everyone in the manor was running around in a buzz getting ready for Consort Wang's arrival. She was going to inspect their preparations for the Imperial Summer Dance festival if they were in par with what was expected of them. Ribbons, brushes, makeup and robes were scattered all over the Lady Queens' large dressing room. No one wanted to leave a bad impression.
"Out of the dozens of concubines the emperor has, I heard she is the favourite!" One of the girls started with the gossip.
"No, she is not. She only became consort because the dowager empress is also from the Wang clan," a girl named Jiji chimed in from another corner. "And besides, she is the only concubine who managed to bear the emperor a child, thus it is only fair."
"That's because she has been feeding other concubines with poison to close their wombs!" Another joined in.
"Maybe the emperor himself has no good seed. A man can't be perfect at everything, after all."
The princess stifled a laugh. If only their dancing skills were as good as their worthless talk.
A girl suddenly entered the room, squealing, "She is on her way! She is on her way! Let's go and prepare for the welcoming procession!"
Everyone ran for the entrance. Ai handed her mistress a large deep green bamboo hat with a veil that would drape to the princess' waist. They were all wearing uniformed green hanfu while Mistress Han, who was already standing at the gate entrance, wore beautiful lime green robes.
She made a skittish smile when she noticed Princess Le-anne's arrival, then frowned in disapproval as she took stand at the back. In truth, she would have preferred for both of them to wear the same clothes and stand together in front; however, the princess found it to be too reckless. There were rumours circling around about how the consort, when visiting other manors, had excluded some ladies from partaking in the dance because she found them too good looking. Whether or not it was the truth, she had no idea, but was unwilling to test it out.
"Her Highness Consort Wang arrives!" An announcer dressed in heavy royal blue robes appeared while shouting. He lifted the imperial flag he was carrying before stomping his feet and standing in salutation. Everyone went on their knees and bowed their heads low. It was a moment later on that a carriage slowly pulled up followed by some rushed movements.
Le-anne would have liked to see what was going on but lifting her head would warrant her death.
"Greetings and blessings to her Highness, the consort of our Great Nevoria!" They spoke in unison.
"Don't stand on ceremony," the consort answered dismissively, but they continued to hold their posture. It was only after she passed them could they rise.
"Greetings and welcome to our humbled manor, your Highness." Mistress Han spoke up nervously.
"You must be Mistress..."
Hah! She didn't even know the owner of the manor she had come to visit.
"Please, this way your Highness." Mistress Han lead the way. The consort followed, her bright gold robes shining under the basking sun. Talk about making a statement. The pungent redolence of her rose perfume could also be smelled from a distance away.
"And who is that?" the consort said in disapproval. She was now facing the row in which Le-anne was situated, no longer following Mistress Han.
"She is the leading dancer, your Highness." Mistress Han lowered her body.
"Why is she veiled? What's so special about her that she sees herself fit to hide her face in my presence?" she bellowed.
"Your Grace, forgive this undeserving servant, but I'm disfigured, and this servant figured it insulting to not cover my face in front of her Highness." The princess spoke in a shaken voice, trying to sound vulnerable, but her heart was not beating one beat. The world could be against her and she still would not falter.
"Insolent wench! Who gave you permission to speak?" The consort admonished her. "Since this manor is so incompetent to have beautiful flowers, have them moved to the afternoon slot."
"Yes, your Highness." The official behind her, who Le-anne figured to be the Minister of Rites, kowtowed behind the consort. Rage was pulsing in Le-anne's veins and it took all her willpower to control herself. The afternoon slot meant they would dance for the insignificant members of the royal family, for the emperor was to only attend the evening performances.
Consort Wang turned around and followed after Mistress Han as she was there to inspect their costumes, dance moves and everything she could get her ugly hands on. For the past few years, the dowager empress was the one who normally hosted palace events since becoming empress and she was one who never bothered attending inspections. She just sent the officials and entrusted them with everything. This year however, keys were handed over to the new consort and hell had broken loose.
That did not move the princess a bit. She was Princess Le-anne, Mistress Kei's prodigy, and for her there was always a way.
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