Chapter 151: Drinking contest, no end of trouble
Long Tianmo's incredulous gaze rested on Han Yunxi. This was his second time seeing her up close. The first time was when she had cured his strange illness and saved his life. His feeling this time was completely different. Even if he tried to ignore it, he couldn't lie to himself-he liked this woman. He also knew that she was different from Duanmu Yao. While marrying Duanmu Yao could help him secure his position as crown prince and solidify his claim to the throne, Han Yunxi was someone who could lift his entire life to greater heights.
But he was quick to remind himself of the reality. Behind this woman was a man who could either support his claim to the throne, or easily lift his hand to ruin everything he had today.
He couldn't afford to offend him!
He could only hope silently in his heart that the Duke of Qin hadn't discovered how unique this woman was. Perhaps the proud and aloof duke would miss out on this woman. Perhaps, one day in the future, he might have hope as well.
Long Tianmo's applause gradually revived the rest of the crowd, many of whom joined in the clapping.
"Ingenious! The concept is lofty and magnanimous, these verses are sure to become a classic!"
"Esteemed wangfei really does have hidden depths. The Duke of Qin...has a good eye! Hehe!"
"It's no wonder she's Qin Wangfei. This humble one concedes defeat! I'm sincerely convinced from the bottom of my heart!"
"Without the right bearing, it's impossible to compose lines like these! Esteemed wangfei, we really don't need to compose any more poems!"
Amongst the people who were waiting to laugh at Han Yunxi, a good majority had generously praised her instead, perfectly willing to consider her their superior. After one reached a certain level of skill, many people would grow jealous. But when one truly reached a high level, their jealousy would change to admiration instead.
Han Yunxi didn't like plagiarizing, but if this method could shut these people up and have the females recognize her as an exception, she was quite content to play the part of Lei Feng once. Now was her chance to take revenge. She looked towards Duanmu Yao with a soft smile.
"Princess Rongle, it's your turn."
Only now did Duanmu Yao recover from her shock. Her heart pounded wildly as her body trembled. It was her turn to show off. But if she couldn't compose something better, then it'd only serve to enhance Han Yunxi's work while making a fool of herself! Moreover, Han Yunxi had even said that she was afraid her verses were too good for a follow-up without embarrassing her.
If she were to really compose something now, and it wasn't as good in comparison, wouldn't she lose even more face?
What should she do?
She originally wanted to humiliate Han Yunxi, but now she was under everyone else's scrutiny. There was no way to advance or retreat, especially as the crowd grew quieter and quieter with the passing time. Duanmu Yao's face gradually reddened as she dearly wished to hide in a crack in the ground! Everyone was waiting. The few who'd spoken out beforehand, or were mentioned by Princess Changping, silently rejoiced at the fact that they hadn't gone onstage. Otherwise, they'd be the ones embarrassed today! Han Yunxi was such a terrifying woman; her depths were too deep! It looked like they shouldn't get into conflicts with her in the future, or else they'd die without ever knowing how! Right now, even Princess Changping was relieved that Han Yunxi had only made a bet with Duanmu Yao. If it was her in her place, then she'd be today's biggest laughingstock!
Han Yunxi's patience had limits. She laughed a little before reminding helpfully, "Princess Rongle, you've been thinking for a long time. You've written so many books of poetry, but this is just an ode to the plum blossoms. It doesn't need so much thought, right?"
Duanmu Yao suddenly raised her head to meet her sparkling eyes. She felt like stabbing this woman through with her sword. Taking a deep breath, she finally admitted her loss between gritted teeth. "Esteemed wangfei is formidable. This princess resigns herself to the fact that she can't compare!"
Han Yunxi was definitely a girl with a grudge. She wasn't modest at all, but laughingly said, "Aiya, didn't I remind you beforehand? You still insisted that I go first and made that bet. Now you have to fulfill the terms, right?"
Duanmu Yao was angry enough to taste blood in her throat. Heaven knows how sullen she felt, but she lowered her voice and spat, "Of course. If you agree to bet, you must be prepared to lose. Starting from today, this princess will never compose another poem!"
Han Yunxi was thoroughly satisfied, her smile radiant and harmless. She turned back to look at Princess Changping. "Changping, are we going to compete in other things too? Painting? Qin playing? Or perhaps chess?"
Princess Changping dared not agree, but quickly rejected the ideas. "We do these things every year, how boring! I think there's no need!"
Right now, nobody knew the extent of Han Yunxi's abilities. Who would dare to compete against her? Princess Changping thoroughly regretted the idea! If she knew beforehand that this would happen, she wouldn't have insisted on a poetry contest. It ended up with Han Yunxi trampling all over Princess Rongle in a stunning victory. Once that poem was circulated to the public, it'd probably create a sensation in the entire capital city. Just the fact that Han Yunxi defeated Princess Rongle and stopped her from composing poetry forever would be news enough to cause a stir in all of Cloud Realm Continent.
After all, Princess Rongle was Cloud Realm Continent's famous female scholar. Anyone who bested her was bound to be famous! Part of the reason her namesake was so widespread was because she had genuine talent, but the other part came from careful thought, timing, and gold spent molding public opinion. But Han Yunxi had simply used a single poem to gain an overwhelming advantage!
After Princess Changping's refusal, no one else dared to incite any more troubles. A new round of tea and cake were served up, and everyone fell silent as they sampled the goods. Princess Changping angrily lowered her head as she drank her tea, completely thrown off by Han Yunxi's performance. She needed some time to recover and examine her anew. Meanwhile, Duanmu Yao had truly taken a blow. The more she thought, the more sullen and ashamed she felt. She didn't even dare to lift her head and look at anyone else. Finally, she couldn't sit still anymore and made up an excuse that she felt unwell to leave the gathering. Long Tianmo, who was under the emperor's orders to get close to her, had no choice but to accompany her as she left.
Han Yunxi enjoyed her tasty pastries as she watched Duanmu Yao's retreating back. The more she looked, the more she thought of Long Feiye. It had been days since she last saw that fellow. She was expecting him to be here to entertain the guest of honor, but Long Tianmo had come instead. Rumors said that there were three possible marriage candidates for Duanmu Yao: Long Feiye, Long Tianmo, and Mu Qingwu. Judging by Princess Changping's attitude, Mu Qingwu was an impossible pick. That meant the choice had to be between Long Feiye or Long Tianmo.
What did that guy think of all this?
She told herself that she wouldn't care about his affairs, but somehow she was mixed up in them again. There were only a few days left before the New Year's festival. Duanmu Yao wanted to spend the New Year's in Tianning, so who would she celebrate with on New Year's Eve? And where would she stay?
Would the marriage alliance have new developments after the new year?
Was Long Feiye really planning to travel then?
Before long, the plum blossom wine arrived, causing Princess Changping to finally look up. Only them did she notice that Murong Wanru had been shooting her looks the whole time. Princess Changping glanced at the jars of plum blossom wine as her eyes turned cold and fierce. She pulled herself together and nodded towards Murong Wanru to tell her not to worry.
The Plum Blossom Meet was only halfway through when the wine arrived. Although Han Yunxi had managed to change the direction of things in the first round, there was still the second half. This time, Princess Changping had thoroughly prepared. How could she let Han Yunxi go that easily?
The best part was in the second half!
Plum blossom wine was only available at the Plum Blossom Meet, brewed from the snows and fermented plum blossoms of the previous year. This wine had a sweet, fragrant scent, but was quick to intoxicate its drinker. At most, everyone only took shallow doses. Of course, there were still those who drank in excess. If they got accidentally drunk, they could rest in one of the wings in a distant house before going home the next day.
After trying a few sips, Princess Changping started speaking. "Every year we compete in poems and songs or music and painting. That's no fun. We've seen enough of the plum blossoms too, so let's try something new! How's that?"
"Princess must have a good idea, right?" the silent Murong Wanru finally spoke up.
Next to her, a few girls also followed in agreement. "There should be something new! Since the princess is hosting this year, what the princess says, counts!"
"Your Highness Princess, hurry and tell us your good idea!"
Princess Changping laughed. "This year my imperial mother isn't here, so let's raise the stakes, how's that?"
Han Yunxi's heart dropped at these words. She was instantly on guard, but everyone else seemed delighted at the news as they agreed one after the other, livening up the mood.
Princess Changping stood up. "Let's have a drinking contest! We'll compete using this plum blossom wine!"
"That's new and fresh! We'll play this!"
"Your Highness Princess, this is a good idea. Us girls won't lose against the men, we'll see who can drink more today!"
A drinking contest was much more fun than a poetry contest. For many of the females present, it was a rare chance to let themselves loose and showcase their true feelings. Much of the crowd was in high spirits. Without the empress here, the princess was hostess, so whatever the princess approved of wouldn't be taboo. Of course, many of the men had decided to wait and see. They didn't plan on participating, since competing against a woman gave them unfair advantages. But to watch women compete in a drinking contest was one of life's joys. In comparison, the North and South Lords were eager to give it a try, the excitement palpable in their pupils.
Lord Che lightly shook his fan, his smile bewitching to see. "Princess Changping, how are we going to compete?"
Princess Changping was waiting for these exact words and replied instantly. "In previous years, new guests always had to give a performance to show off their skills. I think this year, you should all compete in drinking! Do you dare?"
New guests meant those who were attending the gathering for the first time this year. They included Han Yunxi and the North and South Lords.
Have them compete in drinking?
What was the meaning of this?
Han Yunxi knitted her brows as she looked towards Princess Changping. "Changping, say things clearly. You want this wangfei to compete with men in a drinking game? What kind of idea is this?"
Princess Changping pretended not to understand the meaning behind Han Yunxi's words. She was very earnest as she replied, "The three of you new guests should compete to produce a winner, then a runner up. Esteemed wangfei, you're not afraid to, right? It's fine if you are, just admit your loss and you can withdraw."
Murong Wanru spoke up as soon as she finished. "Sister-in-law, everyone's in such high spirits so you shouldn't disappoint them!"
"That's right, that's right. Esteemed wangfei, we all support you!"
"Esteemed wangfei, you have to represent all the females to win against those two! Don't lose face!"
"Esteemed wangfei, it's rare to have such good wine. Don't let us down!"
Everyone took turns urging her on until Han Yunxi knew that escape was impossible. She darted a glance at the North and South Lords, feeling complicated. The true troubles had arrived. Her capacity for liquor wasn't bad, but it wasn't all that great, either. She'd heard that these two lords were well-known in their own right. One had distinguished accomplishments in the brothels while the other frequented the theaters. The two of them spent their days in drinking environments!
If she didn't compete, she wouldn't just disappoint everyone else, but become a topic for gossip. However, it was going to be a tough battle if she really participated!
 Lei Feng () - (1940-1962), a soldier made into a model of altruism and loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party as government propaganda during the 1960s.