Chapter 314 Ensemble of Zither and Dance
“Fifth Sister, you don’t want to play the zither?” Looking at Ning Xueyan’s gorgeous dancing dress, Ning Qingshan turned blue in the face. Even though she was usually quick witted, she was stunned this time.
After all kinds of calculative moves and plans, when she heard Ning Xueyan’s consent in the hall, she told the palace maid earlier that she would be performing with Ning Xueyan, and even chose the longest song. Unexpectedly, Ning Xueyan would not be playing the zither, and wanted to dance at the last moment. When did she bring this gorgeous dance dress in? How could she not have known?
Ning Xueyan said calmly, “Yes. Mother taught me some dance movements previously. I decided to dance when I saw that the song you chose is suitable for dancing.”
“But, but, I…” Ning Qingshan was anxious and angry.
“What’s wrong? Third Sister, don’t you think it’s good?” Ning Xueyan looked at Ning Qingshan with her clear, black eyes.
“It’s not bad. It’s always easier to play the zither. If one of us makes a slight mistake, nobody will notice it. But dancing, in front of the emperor, the empress, and several princes, it will hold things up if we make a mistake.” Ning Qingshan was not willing to see her grand scheme coming to nothing. Now, she came to her senses and immediately tried to dissuade her.
“Thank you for your kindness, Third Sister. It’s our turn soon.” Ning Xueyan smiled slightly, and her lips were light and relaxed. She lifted her dress and walked out. Behind her, Lanning also helped her to lift it.
“Young Lady, what should we do?” Caifen did not expect that this would happen. Seeing Ning Xueyan go out, she asked Ning Qingshan anxiously.
“Don’t think that you’ll be so lucky every time.” Ning Qingshan gritted her teeth and tried to suppress her inner rage. Her trap failed because Ning Xueyan chose to dance. Ning Qingshan grounded her teeth and she felt helpless, as if she had dealt a heavy blow and hit against cotton, instead.
“This bitch is so lucky!” She was not a person who could not afford to lose. Now that it had been done, she had no way to think about it. When she heard the music slowing down and was about to end, she had no time to think anymore. She walked out of the room with a cold face and went to the wing room in the hall. “Dancing? How could she dance?”
She did not believe that Ning Xueyan, the bitch, could dance. At the right moment, she would speed up the rhythm of the music. She did not think that Ning Xueyan could keep up with her pace. Then, Ning Xueyan would become a laughing stock.
Thinking of this, she calmed down a little. She took a few steps forward and followed in Ning Xueyan’s footsteps. The look on her face was as gentle as usual. She looked completely different when she was inside and outside of the room, as if she had changed her face.
This was so unexpected. Coupled with Ning Qingshan’s previous anger, Caifen rushed over hurriedly with the zither box in her hand. How dare she make her Young Lady angry?
When the two of them entered the wing room, the music in the main hall ended. The sixth beautiful lady’s music slowed down, but the melody lingered in one’s ears, which was somewhat meaningful. Someone cheered. A palace maid came in and saw that both of them were already dressed. From their appearances, she knew that one would play the zither, while the other would dance. She took the box from Caifen and walked out.
The palace maid had already taken the zither. She took it out of the box and placed it in the hall. Then, Ning Qingshan would come out of the room to perform. After she finished her performance, the palace maid would take the zither out. As for the two maids, they did not need to go out at all.
“Uncle, how do you feel about that Young Lady earlier?” Ao Mingyu asked, with a gentle smile on his face. Prince Yi, Ao Chenyi, appeared to be listening, but he seemed to be resting in order to attain his mental composure. His responsibility today was to help Ao Chenyi choose a co-consort, because the emperor had a plan in mind about his wife.
The emperor had ordered Ao Chenyi not to refuse and let his wife and consort be chosen. To treat everyone equally without discrimination, he would do the same for the Third Prince and the Fourth Prince.
Ao Chenyi opened his evil eyes slightly and squinted at the woman who was walking out. He said with indifference in his eyes, “No.”
“What’s wrong with her? Isn’t that the censor-in-chief Lin’s daughter? I heard that she is famous for her talent, elegance, and beauty. She is also regarded as an excellent beauty. If you like her, I’ll tell my father later.”
Ao Mingyu asked in confusion, because Miss Lin was indeed a beauty. She had a slender waist and a beautiful face. Moreover, she was gentle and charming. She was the best among the top few. Ao Mingyu’s question was reasonable.
“Mingyu, the emperor has already decided who my wife will be. I think it’s up to fate to find a co-consort!”
Ao Chenyi’s long and narrow eyes were slightly slanted. He leaned against the chair rail, and said this with a faint smile on his face.
“How… how can you depend on fate?” Ao Mingyu did not give up and asked. After hesitating for a while, he said tentatively, “Do you want to find a co-consort, who looks like your concubine?”
“No, no… The beauties look alike. I want to choose a different beauty this time. I’ll ask them to visit the Small Jing’an Temple tomorrow. I’ll know then, if any of the girls are fated to have a relationship with me.”
The Small Jing’an Temple was a Buddhist temple in the imperial palace. It was located at the edge of the palace and had been in existence since the previous dynasty. It was said that it was used by the Empress Dowager of the previous dynasty to worship the Buddha. As the previous dynasty was destroyed, more than half of the palace had burned down. However, the temple had surprisingly been preserved, and there were even several nuns still staying there.
The previous emperor was the one who preserved the Small Jing’an Temple. Now, the Empress went there most frequently. The other imperial concubines went there for enshrining and worshiping, from time to time. Then, the Empress invited a nun to live in the Small Jing’an Temple, who was good at teaching Buddhist doctrines. Not only the imperial concubines believed it, but even the emperor recognized its fame. Therefore, everyone in the palace was aware of the reputation of the Small Jing’an Temple.
However, his marriage with the co-consort had to be decided by the Small Jing’an Temple. Ao Mingyu felt that it was like a child’s play!
He never knew that the Small Jing’an Temple could decide one’s marriage. If this had been said by others, Ao Mingyu did not care about it at all. However, it was Ao Chenyi who said that. Even if Ao Mingyu did no think so, he had to go ahead. His father had already decided on Prince Yi’s wife. To avoid displeasing Prince Yi, the emperor said that Prince Yi could determine who his co-consort was going to be.
He had the right to decide whom he was fated to marry, and he had the right to ask the ladies to worship Bodhisattva. Although it was absurd, he would obediently marry the principal wife, only if he got what he wanted.
Since that was his idea, he had to tell his father. He was here to accompany Ao Chenyi today. As for his principal wife, co-consort, and concubine, Ao Mingyu did not think he needed to give it more thought. Since he knew that his mother and Ning Qingshan plotted against him together, he forced the Honored Consort Ya to agree that he would take Ning Qingshan as a co-consort.
His mother was considering the right person for his principal wife, and maybe the candidate would be selected from these noble ladies. The ladies of high rank would not attend the Beauty Contest. He had chosen the co-consort, Ning Qingshan, and the concubine, Ning Xueyan, so Ao Mingyu felt that he could accept any arrangement from her mother. Anyway, his mother had always had thought about herself.
Ao Mingyu’s focus today was not on the beauties, but Ao Chenyi.
While they were talking, the palace maid had already announced the next song. The performers were the two Young Ladies of the Lord Protector’s Manor. One of them would play a musical instrument, while the other would dance. Immediately, the hall, which had been slightly noisy, became quiet.
Everyone was well-informed. The Honored Consort Ya favored the Third Young Lady of the Lord Protector’s Manor. It was known when Ning Qingshan attended the imperial banquet for the first time. After she went back, Ning Qingshan seldom showed up in public. Many people had never seen Ning Qingshan before, so they all wanted to see her this time.
How could the Honored Consort Ya favor her? It was the same three years ago, and three years later. It could be seen that she must have something extraordinary. Although there were bad rumors, there was no evidence.
As for the Fifth Young Lady of the Lord Protector’s Manor, she seemed to be more low-key. She stood out conspicuously during the last half a year. Few people had seen her, but those who had seen her said that the Fifth Young Lady was gorgeous and elegant. She was not as bad as what the rumors outside had said.
Based on curiosity about both of them, the hall became quiet.
Ning Qingshan came out first. By now, she had calmed down and had changed her clothes. She was wearing a dark blue gradient palace dress. Her waist was pliant, and her lips were red. There were four hairpins on her head. A thin layer of golden silk net with tassels was at the edge of her hair. Small round beads fell around her ears, which made her look more charming.
She was beautiful. Her dress, coupled with her gentle and jade-like temperament, made her appear more beautiful than the other young ladies. Some childes of noble families immediately stared blankly at her. Although they knew that she was the Third Prince’s concubine, it was not the right time. So, it was better to steal a few more glances at her.
Ning Qingshan bowed to the emperor and the empress respectfully. Then, she moved delicately and gracefully to the seat and sat down. As she moved her fingers slightly, the sound of music was natural and smooth. One could tell that she had attained great heights in playing the zither. It could be seen that she had made great efforts. It was heard that the Third Young Lady of the Lord Protector’s Manor was talented and elegant. Now, everyone nodded, secretly.
The sweet and lingering music played on. After a drumbeat, Ning Xueyan appeared in front of everyone.
Today, her get up was considered luxurious for Ning Xueyan. In comparison with Ning Qingshan’s, it was less posh, like a secluded orchid in a deserted valley. With her exquisite features, although she was not grown up yet, she was still on par with Ning Qingshan. A lofty flower was no less beautiful than a gorgeous peony.
Her bright silver dress with its long skirt and the numerous lotus flowers at the edge of the bright silver dress, made a huge impact on the audience.
The sound of drums was accompanied by the musical sound of the zither. As she twirled about lightly, the soft snow-white ribbon in her hand fluttered gracefully with her movements.
Her figure was beautiful and graceful. Coupled with her beautiful and pale face, she looked fragile as if she would break at the slightest touch. However, her dance was not gentle, but seemed like a wild wind sweeping over delicate orchids. In the wind, the orchids were smiling with affection, which brought a sense of softness and charm, yet with a touch of coldness.