Chapter 308: Empress Dowager's birthday banquet (2)
The empress dowager had long known that Emperor Tianhui was going to cause trouble for the Duke of Qin during the banquet, and she supported his choice. But the banquet had just started. If he kept up like this, how was she supposed to celebrate? She was still looking forward to getting her presents! Moreover, if Emperor Tianhui was this stubborn to begin with, it made him seem impatient. That was behavior unfitting of a sovereign.
"Emperor, six jugs of wine is quite enough. Have His Highness Duke of Qin rest for awhile. If Grand Concubine Yi saw, she'd feel distressed by the sight." The empress dowager's benevolent expression might even trick people into thinking she actually doted on Long Feiye.
Emperor Tianhui calmed down enough to realize his lack of bearing and gave a laugh. "Muhou, you're being biased. Erchen never said that the Duke of Qin had to keep drinking. Punishing him with six jugs of wine...Zhen has more in store than that!"
Emperor Tianhui intentionally mentioned 'more in store than that.' If six jugs of wine weren't enough to make Long Feiye drunk, he had plenty of other ruthless tricks in store for him later. He could make a fool of him at his leisure! This time, Emperor Tianhui wasn't here to celebrate the empress dowager's birthday, but to take the chance in front of Tianning's assembled powers and Western Zhou's crown prince to thoroughly crush Long Feiye beneath him. He wanted everyone in the world to know that no one could afford to provoke the imperial might of Tianning. Even if he was Long Feiye, he'd have to submit himself to his rule all the same. Long Feiye's show of strength against Eunuch Xue was only wishful thinking of authority on his part!
Long Feiye allowed the empress dowager and Emperor Tianhui to play their parts without saying a word. Very soon, his expression resumed its usual iciness as he sat down. Seeing this, the empress dowager wished to say a few more words when she stopped herself. It was obviously Long Feiye who had been penalized, but their side didn't feel gratified at all. Instead, it felt like they'd stuck their burning faces against his icy behind. The empress dowager shot Emperor Tianhui a look. No matter what, Emperor Tianhui had to find a way to get back at Long Feiye. She wasn't planning to let him off! He could act as he liked for now, but they'll stomp his arrogance soon enough!
Though Long Feiye hadn't gotten drunk, Han Yunxi was still worried. She secretly observed him for a while until she was sure he was alright. She couldn't help but wonder just how good his alcohol tolerance was. Had he ever gotten drunk in this lifetime before? What was he like when he was drunk?
After the song of congratulations finished, the solemn music changed to a jubilant melody as female singers and dancers took to the hall. Immediately, the surroundings grew lively. This marked the official start of the birthday banquet. Naturally, the emperor would be the first to offer his gift. The empress dowager was most expectant for her son's present. Right now, she was sitting with a rare, genuine smile. The next moment, a eunuch entered with a round object in his arms covered by a large red cloth. What could it be? It didn't seem like something simply.
The empress dowager couldn't resist a laugh. "Emperor, are you presenting me with a riddle? What is this item?"
Emperor Tianhui took off the cloth himself and said, "Muhou, this was personally found by erchen to amuse you, may you live long and happily in good health!"
As it turned out, the eunuch was holding none other than a small Persian cat with mystical blue eyes and fur as white as snow. There was nothing rare about the animal in Han Yunxi's eyes, but it was considered a rare and exotic animal in Cloud Realm Continent. The eunuch carried over the kitten, causing many of the people present to marvel and acclaim the sight. Here was the perfect chance to flatter Emperor Tianhui while getting on the empress dowager's good side. See there, Western Zhou's Crown Prince Duanmu Baiye had already opened his mouth to speak.
"I've heard that this creature comes from across the seas. Nobody's been able to ask for one except for Emperor Tianhui."
Magistrate Xu from the Ministry of Appointments was quick to chime in, "Isn't that so? Apparently, the Northern Li emperor once posted a huge reward in gold for one of these creatures so he could gift it to the empress to cheer her up. Despite this, no one could provide it."
"The emperor's filial conduct is a model to all the people in Tianning!" piped up the people from the Ministry of Rites.
"Esteemed Empress Dowager, it's your fortune to have the emperor be so filial. More than that, it's the great blessing of our Tianning people as well!" Marquis Pingnan added on to the flattery.
If Han Yunxi had listened closely to these praises, she might have broken into a cold laugh. Currently, she was preoccupied with keeping Lil Thing in her sleeve so it wouldn't poke its head out. What was this little creature doing by acting up in such a public setting? Though there was no change in Han Yunxi's expression, her hand kept stuffing and re-stuffing Lil Thing in her sleeve. In the end, she had no choice but to reach her hand towards Long Feiye, thus exposing her sleeve to him too. Immediately, Lil Thing stopped moving.
Long Feiye's basically Lil Thing's natural enemy!
Lil Thing curled up miserably in Han Yunxi's sleeve. It'd finally caught a whiff of a real cat and wanted to steal a peek, but why was its master so mean? Fine, it'll just remember this place and come back another day to steal the cat for itself!
The empress dowager picked up the Persian cat, extremely taken with the creature. She placed it in her lap and gently stroked its fur as she repeated again and again, "Emperor, you've taken cares! Taken cares!"
She'd wanted something like this for a long time, but she'd never been able to find one. She was about to give up entirely until the emperor found one for her.
"Excellent, excellent!" the empress dowager's mood improved vastly. Her first gift had been a big surprise, so now she was anticipating the rest even more. Even though she could have anything she wanted as an empress dowager, she still reveled in presents and surprises. Of course, the gifts had to be to her taste, first. She wasn't someone who accepted every single present, even at her own birthday banquet.
Between all the flattering voices, Qinwang Rong rose to his feet. "Esteemed Empress Dowager, chendi1 wishes for great health to your phoenix body. May your happiness be as boundless as the eastern seas."
"Qinrang Rong, quickly rise!" the empress dowager personally helped him up. Qinwang Rong was a good brother to the former emperor. Because the Duke of Qin's birth status had fallen into question, he had to pick the side of the emperor in the end. Despite this, the empress dowager wished for him to support the crown prince as well.
Qinwang Rong raised up a brocade-covered box and smiled. "This is an expression of my wishes for Esteemed Empress Dowager to be healthy and happy."
When the empress dowager opened the box, she found a huge luminous-night pearl inside. She could only pick it up with both of her hands. Everyone was stunned by the sight. Luminous-night pearls were uncommon enough, much less one at this size.
Fully satisfied, the empress dowager held the pearl in her hands and sighed with admiration. "As warm as jade, as bright as the moon, and as lively as water. This shall be the first amongst all luminous-night pearls!"
"Indeed it is. That's why its name is the Night Moon Pearl," Qinwang Rong replied with a smile. Hearing this, the empress dowager felt even more delighted. She'd received two rare presents in a row. It looks like she'd have her fill of surprises tonight.
According to rank, it should be the Duke of Qin and Qin Wangfei's turn next. Both the empress dowager and guests looked forward to their performance the most. Emperor Tianhui and Qinwang Rong had both offered up such large gifts. If the Duke of Qin didn't prepare something equally rare, wouldn't he be losing face? His Highness Duke of Qin had always been liberal with money, so what kind of treasure would he take out this time? Judging by Emperor Tianhui's earlier attitude, the empress dowager might not even accept his gift even if it was some sort of treasure!
A good show was about to start!
Qinwang Rong hadn't even sat back down before all eyes landed on Long Feiye and Han Yunxi. Han Yunxi could feel her mouth starting to twitch. She had no idea what kind of gift Long Feiye had prepared. Originally, she assumed that they'd used the Medicine Fan, but he'd told her to fan herself with it instead. When she saw the empress dowager's anticipatory stare, Han Yunxi half wanted to take out the Medicine Fan and fan herself a bit, just to show off. She was debating whether she should take it out for real when she noticed that Long Feiye had stood up. Hastily, she made to follow.
Are we going to give our present now?
But Long Feiye simply poured two cups of wine, giving one to her while keeping one for himself.
"May the empress dowager's phoenix body be in good health," Long Feiye was congratulating with wine! He raised the cup in a toast, before downing it all in one gulp. Then...then he simply sat back down. All he did was offer congratulations without a gift!
In a flash, the scene grew silent. Everyone was stunned as they gaped at the pair in disbelief. How could Long Feiye do such a thing?
Emperor Tianhui and the empress dowager's faces had both turned black.
Everyone had been expecting their gifts, including the empress dowager. She'd even prepared her words of rejection ahead of time, just so she could publically humiliate Long Feiye. Instead, he hadn't given her a gift at all. He was even stingy with his congratulations, only wishing her phoenix body good health before dismissing the entire affair? He was simply rejecting her before she got the chance to reject him!
Since Han Yunxi hadn't offered her congratulations yet, was he waiting to present his gift after she spoke? Now Han Yunxi had become the source of hope for many a spectator. Even the empress dowager's fiery gaze rested on her form. She couldn't believe that Long Feiye would dare to have the guts to make her look bad in such a large, public setting. After all, making her look bad was making the emperor look bad!
Just what is Long Feiye thinking? Can his strength really be enough to contend with Emperor Tianhui? Is he ready to spread his wings?
Hadn't he had enough with Eunuch Xue? He still wants to make a ruckus?
Actually, Han Yunxi was just as clueless as everyone else. She didn't know the consequences of Long Feiye's actions, but she enjoyed his behavior immensely! It was true to form and utterly superb! He really didn't want to give any gifts.
The fellow's done a beautiful job!
Han Yunxi smiled brightly beneath everyone's stares. She copied Long Feiye as she raised her cup and easily gave her congrats. "May Esteemed Empress Dowager's phoenix body be in good health!"
How could the wife not follow her husband? As soon as she finished, she sat back down in her seat. Just like that, they presented their congrats without a single present! The silent hall turned even more quiet. A sinister look flashed past the empress dowager's eyes as she felt humiliation from being played the fool. Although nobody dared to laugh at her here, she still couldn't accept Long Feiye's blatant, rude actions! The hands on her armrests had curled completely into fists. How could she continue to be the empress dowager if she left such debts unpaid? Of course she wouldn't question Long Feiye right then and there, or else it'd seem like she was purposely asking for presents. That would shameful. She simply glanced at the emperor, telling him that it was fine to make his move.
But Emperor Tianhui was currently narrowing his eyes at Long Feiye. Long Feiye was simply here to demonstrate his strength. Still, the man esteemed himself too highly! Out of courtesy, he'd always yielded three parts before him, but if Long Feiye thought his three parts were enough to conquer the other seven, then he was too naive!
Emperor Tianhui was about to give him grief when another celebrated and illustrious figure suddenly rose to his feet...