Chapter 675 - Coming-of-age Ceremony
Chapter 675 Coming-of-age Ceremony
“Can you remember it now?” Ao Chenyi narrowed his eyes and knocked on their table with his slender fingers. His voice sounded a tad threatening.
“I… I really can’t remember.” Ning Xueyan felt like she had thought of all the possible answers but she was still coming up empty. She had no choice but to admit her fault.
“You really can’t remember?” His beautiful eyes curved into a charming arc and his expression was sinister. Sure enough, this was a bad situation to be in. She didn’t even hesitate to grab his hand with a bright smile on her tender face.
“Even if I can’t remember, you can still remind me, right?” She knew it would pay well to cajole this man.
Ao Chenyi wasn’t polite with her either. He turned his hand over and pinched her soft face. His expression had improved considerably. There was a faint smile on his face as he asked, “If I tell you, can you really understand and remember what it is?”
“Of course I can!” Ning Xueyan nodded firmly. Only an idiot wouldn’t be able to remember after being reminded!
“All right, that’s what I want to hear!” Ao Chenyi nodded and raised his eyebrow with a naughty expression. He stood up, straightened his robe, and left just like that. He even seemed to be in quite a good mood.
When Eunuch Zhu entered the hall, the first thing he did was saluting Ning Xueyan with a cheery expression. Then, he grabbed the documents that Ao Chenyi set aside and left.
Ning Xueyan watched Ao Chenyi leave with a blank expression. She still didn’t understand why he would come here so early in the day and tell her such things, and with such a satisfied look too. What was he referring to?
She couldn’t understand, so she asked Lanning when she saw the latter come in. “Lanning, what does the Emperor mean?”
“I don’t know either. His Majesty came just as soon as you left. When he heard that you had left the palace, he just waited without saying anything. He only asked for a cup of tea from me. Then, he stayed inside and read his documents the entire time. When you returned, he even told us not to disturb you two.”
Lanning was just as bewildered as her master. She couldn’t fathom why the Emperor would wait for her master for so long only to say such mysterious words. She had been standing at the door along with Eunuch Zhu earlier, so she heard their conversation loud and clear. Even her master didn’t know what the Emperor was talking about.
That day, Ning Xueyan went to bed late. She wanted to wait for Ao Chenyi to come and question him but the man didn’t come. She had to fall asleep with confusion and frustration pent-up inside her. Worst of all, Ao Chenyi seemed to have disappeared after their conversation. He didn’t come back for three days straight.
She was curious what he was up to so she didn’t send anyone to invite him over. She wanted to see what he would come up with next.
When the morning of the fourth day rolled around, Lanning continued to help her wash up. She had just finished breakfast when she saw a group of maids enter deferentially in rows of two.
They carried ornate clothes and accessories boxes in their hands with bright smiles on their faces.
Seeing the four pairs of maids in front of her, as well as more maids coming in after them, Ning Xueyan laughed. She was interested to see what Ao Chenyi was planning.
When eight pairs of maids finally entered the hall, she saw that they were carrying clothes, ornaments, and even delicate shoes. Then, Eunuch Zhu came in with a cheerful chuckle.
He stopped in front of Ning Xueyan and bowed deeply to her. “Congratulations, Your Highness. I hope you will celebrate today every year and live a long and happy life.”
“Oh? Why should I celebrate today every year?” Ning Xueyan replied calmly.
“Your Highness, the Emperor is throwing a coming-of-age ceremony for you today.” Eunuch Zhu was smiling so widely that his eyes could barely be seen. It made the servants happy when their masters were harmonious. This was especially true for him because his master stopped exuding such sharp momentum all day ever since marrying Ning Xueyan, making every servant tremble in fear and not dare to misspeak.
Was today her birthday? Was it her coming-of-age day already? Ning Xueyan’s limpid eyes widened. It seemed that she had been so busy lately that she didn’t realize that it was time for her coming-of-age ceremony.
“The Emperor said he has already invited Madam Dowager of the Lord Guardian’s Manor, some other prestigious Madam Dowagers, and a few young princesses to attend the ceremony. He even invited Eldest Young Lady Heng,” Eunuch Zhu said, smiling. The Emperor had been keeping busy the past few days, not for national affairs but the Empress. He felt that he had to let Ning Xueyan know how hard the Emperor had worked.
“The Emperor has been spending the past few days sending invitations, choosing materials, making your clothes, and selecting your accessories. He picked it all himself.” Eunuch Zhu raised his head with a proud and contented look because he had contributed to the Emperor’s efforts as well.
Ning Xueyan’s gaze went from the ornate top to the beautiful matching skirt, a same-colored belt, as well as the shoes and socks. Immediately, her heart was warm and full of love. Ao Chenyi had personally selected and prepared all these for her. It wasn’t something the Emperor or the gloomy Prince Yi of yesterday could have done.
The only reason that this was possible was that he was Ao Chenyi, her husband!
Was this the important day that he was trying to remind her of?
Eunuch Zhu excused himself, allowing Lanning and the others to help Ning Xueyan put on her new clothes. Reflected in the large mirror was a dignified but charming woman. Ning Xueyan wondered if this was really her. From the corners of her eyes to her eyebrows, her face was lit with joy.
She had celebrated her coming-of-age in her previous life but only Ning Ziyan paid a perfunctory visit and became her witness. Nobody else from the Lord Protector’s Manor came. Even though she had sent invitations, nobody was willing to attend her ceremony. So, her ceremony was a quiet one with only a handful of people from the Cloud Reflection Courtyard in attendance.
Xia Yuhang did appear in the end. When he found out, he gave the excuse that he had forgotten about her coming-of-age day and promised that he would give her a present next time. He left shortly after with Ning Ziyan, leaving a girl celebrating her coming-of-age in the desolate Cloud Reflection Courtyard. She wept and began to suspect for the first time that there was a relationship between Xia Yuhang and Ning Ziyan that she didn’t know about.
However, when Xia Yuhang persuaded her and Ning Ziyan pretended to be a good sister to her, she dropped her suspicion…
It was different now. It was her who had forgotten about her birthday, not other people. Not only did Ao Chenyi remember her birthday, but he even invited everyone that should come. How could she not feel touched?
When everything was ready and Ning Xueyan was perfectly dressed, she made her way to the main hall. Eunuch Zhu said that her coming-of-age ceremony must be prepared with the utmost care. It was being held at the main hall of the Empress’ palace.
The hall was packed with distinguished guests. Upon seeing her, all the madams got up from their seats and bowed deeply to her. Only Ao Chenyi remained in his seat on the platform and smiled happily at her. His limpid eyes were full of emotions, lending a trace of gentleness to his handsome face.
The host of the coming-of-age ceremony was Madam Dowager of the Lord Guardian’s Manor. She was widely known as the madam with the highest prestige in the nation.
The hairpin bearer was one of Ao Chenyi’s younger sisters, Princess Liuli. She was, however, older than Ning Xueyan and already married. This allowed her to be the hairpin bearer in the same generation as Ning Xueyan.
The celebrant was another madam of high prestige. The guest of honor was someone that Ning Xueyan had never expected: Honored Consort Shu.
Out of all the imperial consorts that remained, Honored Consort Shu was indeed the most high-ranking one. She had even given birth to a prince. It was most fitting to have her put the hairpin on Ning Xueyan for her coming-of-age ceremony.
Honored Consort Shu looked at Ning Xueyan with a conflicted expression. Ning Xueyan was once a young girl who seemed insignificant to her. It wasn’t until her son repeatedly brought up Ning Xueyan that she began to pay attention to that girl. Even then, her impression of Ning Xueyan was that she was a fragile and harmless girl.
When Ning Xueyan became Princess Yi, she thought that the former was lucky. The former was incredibly lucky to be able to become consort, co-wife, and finally princess in a short time. However, the girl was now a graceful and composed young woman standing in the hall with a calm and confident expression, carrying not even an ounce of timidness.
She had erred in her judgment but perhaps that wasn’t her fault. Everyone was fooled by Ning Xueyan’s appearances and thought that she was just lucky. But how could it be pure luck that allowed her to win the heart of Ao Chenyi, who had never been kind to the fairer sex? It was obvious from the fact that he was so mild-tempered today.
Honored Consort Shu sighed quietly and put the hairpin on Ning Xueyan’s hair. She left after telling her a few words of blessings. She had stopped entertaining any ideas after seeing what happened to Ao Mingyu and Honored Consort Ya. All she wanted was to live an ordinary but peaceful life with her son. It wasn’t a bad idea for her son to become an idle prince. Their days were pretty decent at least.
After the hairpin rite, Ning Xueyan was led to the platform. She sat down beside Ao Chenyi. She was the Empress and couldn’t be treated like an ordinary girl celebrating her coming-of-age. It went without saying that she didn’t have to bow deeply to the women who helped with the rite.
The banquet had been ready a long time ago. Ao Chenyi entertained the guests with Ning Xueyan for a moment before standing up and leaving. It wasn’t convenient for an Emperor to eat and drink with a bunch of women. He had just about reached the limit of impropriety when he left.
Everyone in the hall relaxed as soon as Ao Chenyi left. The madams and princesses weren’t close to Ning Xueyan, and many were quite afraid. They had no choice but to come because of the Emperor’s orders. To their surprise, Ning Xueyan was very gentle and polite to them.
They didn’t think that the seemingly weak and young Empress would be so composed and graceful. Though dignified, her every action hinted at her intelligence. They couldn’t help but be impressed by her. Even Madam Dowager of the Lord Guardian’s Manor who would never fake a smile at anyone was looking at her in admiration.
The banquet ended at a very late hour. Ning Xueyan waited until the madams, princesses, and Honored Consort Shu to leave before returning to the side hall. In the past few days, she had been spending time in the main hall during the day and returning to the side hall to rest. Of course, she would also sneak into the side hall for her afternoon naps.
Taking off her ornate clothes, she soaked in the bath that Qingyu had prepared for her. It wasn’t until she bathed that she was able to relax. Lanning helped her dry her beautiful hair. While waiting for her hair to dry, she read a book on the couch by the window. Before she knew it, she had fallen asleep.
While asleep, she could faintly feel something sliding on her face. It tickled her so she subconsciously reached out and pulled it down with force…
Then, she opened her eyes in shock.