Coming of age Banquet
Two days passed and the banquet was here. The palace halls were decorated beautifully because this was the year that Princess An Choeng turned sixteen and all the nobles and royals who turn sixteen would also be having their coming of age ceremony with her.
The banquet started three gongs after Shen period.
The nobles and royals living in palaces across the empire arrived. Parents escorted their sons and daughters.
Yue Mian was with Crown Prince An Cheng and Yu Sheng in his Palace. The Crown Prince was not having a good day. He knew that today would be the day his wife would be selected and Yue Mian was not her.
He wanted her to not attend the banquet, but his sister An Choeng begged the emperor to make Yue Mian attend. With the emperor’s word - she had to attend.
Yue Mian knew what An Cheng was thinking, but did not care on the inside. She and Yu Sheng tried comforting him but he just grew more and more restless.
Soon the palace maids came in and Yue Mian had to leave because she couldn’t watch the Crown Prince get dressed. Yu Sheng accompanied the Crown Prince while Yue Mian went on her way towards the palace hall where the banquet was being held.
On her way, through the palace, she saw the nobles and royals who ignored her existence as she passed by them. This was something she is used to, being ignored by the silver spoons was normal.
She looked at the inside of the hall and paused. Standing there and watching as the silver spoons walked past her looking all happy and excited for tonight. She sighed and turned around.
[I change my mind], she walked towards Crown Prince An Cheng’s palace and got onto her horse and rode out through the south palace entrance.
[If I return to the palace, who knows what that An Choeng will do?]
In the past, An Choeng and An Chong would always play horrible pranks on her and try getting her in trouble. General Ye would always berate her and what made it worse was that even though she refused to go to the Imperial Palace, they forced her.
Crown Prince An Cheng stopped his sisters from bullying her but that didn’t stop them from getting the commoners to do them as well.
Managing her anger was already tough to deal with and having these little pranks fuel it was even worse.
Three hours have passed since the banquet has started and Yue Mian still did not show up. Princess An Choeng was upset and couldn’t enjoy herself because Yue Mian hadn’t shown up and ruined all her plans.
The beauties of the empire were all called up one by one and introduced themselves to the Crown Prince. At first, he disliked it, but from the corner of his eye, he could see this one beautiful girl that attracted his attention.
She was nervous and kept delaying her turn to go up and introduce herself to him. He smiled inside at her silliness and for some reason he wanted to meet her too. Tolerating all the girls who came before her it was finally her turn.
Bowing before him she kept her head down, “Rise,” said the Crown Prince. She straightened her legs and looked at him, but looked between his brows avoiding eye contact with him.
“What is your name?” he asked her seeing that she didn’t speak. Her hands were folded in front of her and she was fiddling with her fingers.
“M-m-my name is Qing Hǎi kuí, y-your highness, I am General Feng’s goddaughter,” she said with a slight hesitation.
“Hǎi kuí, why are you so nervous?” he asked. General Feng’s goddaughter’s body froze, she looked him in the eyes then looked at the Crown Prince again, he was smiling at her. He had a dreamy smile that he barely shows to others and yet now, he was smiling at her.
Yu Sheng on the side saw An Cheng’s smile and felt confused. He couldn’t understand why the Crown Prince was interacting with this girl when he ignored all the other girls.
The Emperor saw this too and he was slightly happy but disappointed too. His son was interested in this girl and what about his love for Yue Mian?
Her time was up and it was time for someone else to introduce herself to the Crown Prince. An Cheng stopped smiling and told one of the servants that they should invite Qing Hǎi kuí to sit at the head table later on during dinner time.
During dinner Yu Sheng decided that he had had enough, he was also worried about Yue Mian. He wanted to find her but did not know where to go in order to find her.
As he exited the toilet on the far end of the palace, he decided to take a detour and head to the gardens. When he arrived there he saw Yue Mian’s horse and walked over, but he couldn’t find her.
After ten minutes of waiting, Yue Mian finally arrived, but Yu Sheng was not aware of this. She slowly walked up from behind him and called his name, “Yu Sheng!”
He caught such a fright and ended up on the ground. Yue Mian’s horse neighed and trotted over to the other side while shaking its head.
Yue Mian looked down at Yu Sheng who was on the grass, looking up at her while holding his hand over his heart and breathing heavily.
The oil lamps lit across the garden lit the space up just enough to make out someone’s features, especially where they were now, a bit further away from the entrance.
“Ye Yue Mian!!! Why did you come out of nowhere? Are you trying to kill me?” he yelled with a hushed tone as he asked her.
She scoffed and began walking away while saying, “Sheng, if I wanted you dead, you’d be dead ages ago.”
He got up from the ground and dusted himself off, jogging to Yue Mian’s side and stopping to walk at her pace. His face grew serious as he thought of the Crown Prince and said, “The Crown Prince is interested in someone, General Feng’s goddaughter.”
Yue Mian’s mouth twitched, she was about to smile, but did not. “It’s good that he has found someone, now he won’t be my problem anymore.”
Yu Sheng chuckled and said, “To think that he would fall for someone so easily is quite pitiful of him.”
“Yu Sheng, you shouldn’t speak like that about your Crown Prince,” she said.
“True, but are you not royalty yourself?” he asked her. Yue Mian stopped in her step and turned to look at Yu Sheng. This tall and handsome young man with sword-like eyebrows, his hair was flowing with the slight breeze and the grin on his face made him look naughty.
Yue Mian raised her right arm slowly and placed her index finger on her lips and looked him in the eye. Yu Sheng straightened his body and stopped smiling and bowed slightly and said, “Yes Your Highness.”
She reached out her right hand and patted him on his shoulder. Turning around she began walking again and asked, “So, did you find out what your princess has planned for me today?”
“Mn, she has arranged entertainment for all of us later on and has ordered one of the servants to burn your hair,” he said. Yue Mian stopped walking, she turned around sharply and glared at Yu Sheng.
“Does she not know when to stop?” she asked him with a threatening tone. “We can always stop her, but your highness, she really is going overboard this time, do you want me to take care of this?”
Yue Mian didn’t answer him leaving him to sigh. “Your Highness, if you allow this, then I’m afraid…” he trailed.
“Afraid of what? That I will lose face?” she asked him. He slowly nodded his head and agreeing with her question. “Sheng, I have lost face over and over, do you really think that I will be bothered by anything she does now? And also, if her father leaves her and does not punish her then so be it. It is time for me to leave soon and she is just giving me an excuse,” she answered him and walked off.
Yu Sheng stood there watching her walk away as he bit down on his bottom lip and clenched his fists. Taking a deep breath in her jogged up to Yue Mian and they returned to the palace hall where the banquet was held.
The doors opened and the noise from inside hushed for a moment and as soon as they saw it was Yue Mian, they began ignoring her and continued to speak amongst them. Yu Sheng who was walking behind her clenched his fists, but smiled and continued speaking with her.
The two of them walked around all the tables on the left side of the hall and walked up to the main table where they greeted the Emperor and Empress. She greeted the two princesses who chose to ignore her.
Yue Mian stood in front of the two princesses and looked over at The Crown Prince who was looking at her with guilt filled eyes. She looked at the person who was sitting in her place and smiled. She bowed then turned to Yu Sheng and told him something.
The two of them walked off and headed to the Crown Prince’s side, where they stood behind him as if they were his personal guards. This made things awkward for everyone at the main table.
Yue Mian’s hands were folded in front of her with her eyes closed and a slight smile formed on her lips. Yu Sheng, on the other hand, had a serious expression on his face. Crown Prince An Cheng stopped conversing with General Feng’s goddaughter and continued to have dinner with a stiff expression.
The servants offered Yue Mian fruits to eat seeing that she wasn’t seated next to the Crown Prince as usual. She accepted the fruits and passed them over to Yu Sheng who eat them while being slightly annoyed.
The evening went on smoothly and the adults went to have fun while the Emperor and Empress went off to bed. As soon as they left Princess Choeng stood up and clapped her hands together getting everyone attention.
“Everyone, I have entertainment arranged for us outside, please would you all join me,” she said then began walking towards the exit with An Chong beside her. Slowly the nobles and royals began exiting the hall leaving Crown Prince An Cheng, Yu Sheng, Qing Hai kuí and Yue Mian behind.
Yue Mian turned around and followed the crowd to the courtyard before the gardens where a stage was set up and everyone was gathered around the stage.
A few men and woman were wrapped in cloth that exposed their stomachs. They began dancing and this went on for a while.
From the corner of her left eye, Yue Mian could see that she was being watched by the two princesses. A moment she saw a female servant stand next to Princess An Choeng. A chuckle escaped Yue Mian’s mouth.
An Cheng looked over at her and his left brow rose. Yue Mian moved away from the crowd and walked slowly towards an open area near the stage and stood there. The wind blew past her and flowing through her long hair making it blow in the same direction.
Her eyes never left the princess, but it wasn’t obvious. She clapped her hand pretending to enjoy the show and cheered for the dancers. A little while later while the performance was still ongoing, an unknown servant approached her.
“Excuse me miss?” she called out to Yue Mian. “Yes?” she answered. “I-i’m s-sorry about this.” the servant spoke again.
“Mn?” Yue Mian was confused. She observed the servant and noticed that her eyes were slightly red and her mouth was trembling. The next moment the wind blew from behind Yue Mian into the direction of the servant and her hair blew in that direction too.
The servant grabbed her by her hair, pulled her down to the ground and cut Yue Mian’s hair off that was that was in her hand.
Yue Mian looked at the servant with widened eyes, while her chest rose up and down. The servant stood with a hand full of eleven inch long strands of hair in her left hand and a blade in her right.
The group of young people stopped cheering and looked at the scene on the other side of the stage. The performers also stopped dancing and looked over. Yu Sheng jolted pass An Cheng and Qing Hai kuí.
When he reached Yue Mian’s side he knelt down and helped her up. The two of them exchanged glances then Yu Sheng turned around and smacked the servant girl. “Guards,” he yelled out while catching a quick glimpse of the princesses.
Not long after the guards were called they arrived and took her away when the guards and Yu Sheng were gone with the servant to report to the minister of discipline, they left Yue Mian behind with the crowd.
She was looked in the direction wondering why that girl didn’t burn her hair and was pulled away from her train of thought when she heard laughing. Looking to her left where everyone was.
Her eyes stopped on the two princesses and she glared at them. There were some nobles and royals who did not find what happened funny and started walking off. An Cheng and Qing Hai kuí were standing together and Qing Hai kuí was laughing while An Cheng looked over at his sisters.
He walked over to them and Yue Mian could see that they were being berated by him and rolled her eyes. She glanced one last time at those who were laughing at her then headed to the gardens where her horse was.
Climbing on top of him she kicked his sides with the back of her foot and yelled for it to start running. The horse did not need to be told where to go and galloped all the way to the back of the mountains by the river and stopped there.
It was late into the evening and she never climbed onto the boulders to head into her hiding spot.
Shen period - (15:00 - 16:00)