Chapter 659 The Banquet Officially Begins
Madam Wu Yao’s banquet went on as scheduled.
But she didn’t host the banquet at her manor, but a well-known courtyard in the capital that used to belong to Hua Yunheng, the famous Peach Blossom Island. It was said that it had a new name now that Hua Manor wasn’t the owner anymore.
No one knew where Wu Yao heard that the new owners hadn’t moved in yet, so she found a way to borrow the courtyard for a day. Thus, the banquet was held there.
Ning Xueyan had been to the courtyard before, but she had entered through the side door then. She had never entered the courtyard through the main entrance. This time, a sharp-eyed servant immediately addressed her the moment her carriage arrived at the manor.
“Is this Her Highness the Crown Princess’ carriage?” Ning Xueyan sat inside the lavish carriage, feeling helpless. When she heard the voice outside, she indicated to Qingyu to answer.
It was all because of Ao Chenyi’s insistence that she came in such a lavish carriage. She would have refused otherwise.
His arrogant persistence left her helpless, so she had to travel to the manor in the carriage that he prepared for her. The carriage was so lavish that it was almost ostentatious.
Thus, one didn’t have to ask to know that she had arrived.
Qingyu stepped out of the carriage and jumped to the ground. “Yes, this is the Crown Princess’ carriage,” she told the servant outside. Upon hearing that it was Ning Xueyan’s carriage, the two carriages on both sides of the road gave way.
After all, Ao Chenyi wasn’t your average Crown Prince. He was the icon of power who was evenly matched with the Emperor when he was still Prince Yi. Now that he had become the Crown Prince, most people wouldn’t even dare to offend him.
Though people disapproved and even mocked the quiet Crown Princess for becoming so high-profile all of a sudden, they dared not gossip out of fear of the Crown Prince.
“Please come this way, Your Highness,” the servant said cleverly, reaching out to guide the way. She pointed to the now-empty road that led straight to the main entrance.
Before everyone’s eyes, Ning Xueyan’s carriage entered the main entrance and moved toward the Chuihua Gate in the back. The courtyard was so large that walking was inconvenient for it would take far too long.
The carriage entered the Chuihua Gate and stopped at a space nearby. Ning Xueyan got down from the carriage with Xinmei’s help. Before she could stand firm and raise her head, she felt something knocking her from the side. She dodged purely out of instinct, but Xinmei was even quicker and pulled her aside, allowing her to avoid the maid in front of her.
The maid seemed quite young.
She had quite a pretty face but was thin and weak. She was so frightened that she immediately knelt at Ning Xueyan’s feet. Trembling, she said, “Please punish me, Your Highness.”
Ning Xueyan looked at the wet footprints on the ground and noticed the sign of skidding. It was evident that the maid was careless while walking, causing her to slip and knock into her.
Why would this maid appear here? Ning Xueyan looked at the handful of maids standing on the side of the empty ground and noticed that they were wearing the same clothes as the maid before her. Wu Yao must have brought these maids here to serve her guests. They must have been standing by earlier. Only God knew why this particular maid would slip and knock into her.
“You may rise,” Ning Xueyan said indifferently. She let go of Xinmei’s hand and flicked her sleeves.
“Please, Your Highness! I really didn’t do it on purpose! It was an accident. I was trying to help you down the carriage, but I slipped and fell.” It was as if the maid didn’t notice that Ning Xueyan had pardoned her. She continued to kowtow to Ning Xueyan.
In just seconds, her fair forehead became red and stained with mud.
Ning Xueyan glanced at Xinmei. Xinmei walked over to the maid and pulled her up from the ground. She used so much force that the maid was forced up despite still trying to kneel. The maid staggered and almost fell again.
Xinmei looked at the maid with a cold expression and said harshly, “Our master said that it’s fine. You can go now.”
She had spoken out of anger, so her voice was inevitably loud.
Several carriages came to a stop at that moment. It seemed that they had just arrived.
Suddenly, Ya Moqin’s voice resounded.”Your Highness, don’t be mad at a little maid. If anything is upsetting you, you can tell me and I’ll let my aunt know. I’ll have her educate this little maid who is stupid enough to offend you.”
She didn’t come out of a carriage. It seemed that she had come after hearing that Ning Xueyan had arrived, to receive Ning Xueyan on her aunt’s behalf. She appeared at the road crossing with several maids and her words were particularly pleasant.
Ning Xueyan’s eyes turned as cold as ice for a second but nothing showed on her expression. She smiled at Ya Moqin. “If that’s the case, you should inform Madam Wu Yao about this maid, Eldest Young Lady Ya. It’s best not to use a rude and impetuous maid like her. It doesn’t matter that she has offended me today. It’ll be disastrous if she offends the palace consorts.”
Ning Xueyan’s reply made it hard for Ya Moqin to answer. Even Ya Moqin would have pretended to be kind in such circumstances, expressing that she didn’t care for such a little maid’s transgression. The maid had just slipped and knocked into her by accident. It was no big deal. Moreover, there were so many people coming out of the carriages at the moment. She would fake it if only for their sake.
However, Ning Xueyan dropped her usual gentle demeanor from before. She even sounded fierce and determined. This was beyond Ya Moqin’s expectations.
Still, she had to answer Ning Xueyan. This was something that she had brought up in the first place.
“Alright. I’ll tell my aunt to educate them properly later.” It was rare that Ya Moqin would go along with Ning Xueyan’s words so pleasantly. She reached out, indicating for her servants to help the maid up. It was as if she was trying to drag the maid out of the scene.
More and more carriages were stopping at the parking space. Many married women and young ladies had exited their carriages and were staring at them in surprise. They didn’t know what had happened.
Ning Xueyan sneered on the inside. Ya Moqin’s action made it seem like she was the rude and arrogant one. Still, she noticed that the older servants were making a lot of big movements but using very little strength in dragging the maid out. They didn’t go very far as they tugged at each other.
“Please spare my life, Your Highness! Please spare my life!” The maid struggled with all her might. She was falling back with every few steps, so she didn’t move very far from her original spot.
“Let her go.” Ning Xueyan pointed at the maid with a fair finger and shook it with a smile. Her eyes were colored with mirth.
Hearing her words, the two older servants immediately let go of the maid. The maid fell to the ground with tears flowing down her face. She gave Ning Xueyan a crazed look as she cried, “Thank you, Your Highness! Thank you, Your Highness!”
The maid even kowtowed twice at Ning Xueyan as she spoke, looking deeply grateful. She was looking at Ning Xueyan like she was looking at her savior.
Even as she walked away, she would turn around often to look at Ning Xueyan while wiping her tears. If Ning Xueyan didn’t know that the cause of this incident was something so trivial, she would have thought that she was truly the maid’s savior.
“That was so kind of you, Your Highness. Look at how grateful the maid looked. I bet if you ask her to die for you, she’ll be willing to,” Ya Moqin sighed.
Ning Xueyan would be deemed kind if she let the maid off and arrogant if she didn’t. Even though it was Ya Moqin’s actions, the one bearing a poor reputation would be her. If she were to ruin her reputation among these politically neutral people, she wouldn’t be able to improve it again. This must be why Ya Moqin was so sure that she would ask to spare the maid!
Ya Moqin was always a self-centered person. How could she be so patient and put on such a show in front of her? It seemed that someone was instructing her…
Ning Xueyan’s red lips curved into a cold smile. Everything in this banquet was a trap, down to the wine and the feast. As she had thought, this was a terrible banquet!
She looked around and saw the people glancing at her and the maid. She began to pay more attention to the seemingly ordinary maid.
She gave Ya Moqin a slight nod. This time, she didn’t say anything to her and entered with her maids.
Her status as the Crown Princess put her above everyone. No one would say anything about her bringing a few maids with her.
The banquet was held at the same place where she met Wen Xueran the last time. Heavy curtains were installed this time, with a small platform built where peach blossom trees used to bloom. The tables and seats were arranged around the platform, forming a circular shape.
Ning Xueyan was surprised to see several seats for men.
Several screens were placed a short distance away from the women, carving out a space for the men. Basins of flowers were placed in the space between the screens. The arrangement was elegant without compromising on the separation of men and women.
Still, the separation of men and women was weaker than usual. The handful of male guests sitting behind the screens were dressed in large robes and wide sleeves, looking as elegant as scholars from ancient times.
Several young ladies even walked over to the men’s area, as if noticing someone. No one cared about their actions as if there wasn’t anything wrong with it. No one berated them for not respecting the separation of men and women.
Ning Xueyan’s eyes became unfathomable when she noticed a man behind the screen. Her long lashes fluttered like the wings of butterflies as she glanced at the host who was talking to the men, Wu Yao. There was a pensive look on her face. It took her just one glance to know that Wu Yao was the woman who came to her manor all those years ago.
Wu Yao was the woman who was once close to her mother, the woman who inexplicably appeared in her home.
She was sure that Wu Yao’s appearance wasn’t a coincidence…