The Rebirth of an Ill-Fated Consort - Chapter 98.2 - Choosing A Consort (Part II)
Chapter 98 : Choosing A Consort (Part II)
Unlike the previous times, today’s journey was filled with solemnity. After some time, the carriage finally came to a stop in front of the palace gate, and Jiang Xin Zhi was led away by a head eunuch to refresh himself in a side palace while the ladies were meant to follow some court ladies to a waiting hall. Of course, other carriages besides the Jiang fu’s were also present at the gate; the entire road was filled with high-ranking officials and noblemen’s carriages. As the wives and daughters disembarked, they all pointed and gawked at the Jiang fu’s carriage.
The matter a few days ago had made many waves. Everyone knew that Eldest Jiang Miss, who returned at the end of the year, was not to be underestimated, while Second Jiang Miss was not at all like a fairy and had made many mistakes. After all, it was in human nature to gossip. Not long after the Jiang fu’s carriage came into view, many pairs of curious eyes had turned towards it.
A maid lifted the curtains of the carriage, and the first to step down was a young lady dressed in yellow with clear brows and a lovable expression. Immediately following her was a charming girl in light green who was also quite beautiful except that her mean expression and her ostentatious clothes did not match this.
After these two girls came a beautiful middle-aged woman who looked warm and gentle, but for some reason also looked a bit haggard which compromised her beauty.
The woman didn’t move away, but rather stayed next to the carriage, waiting for those inside to exit. The surrounding crowd received a shock when Jiang Su Su stepped out. Even though her reputation couldn’t compare to before, she was nonetheless born with a peerless face that made people comfortable just looking at it. Who would have thought that such a refined fairy would become so depraved? Those who still had doubts were shocked upon seeing Jiang Su Su. She had specially dressed up for the day and wore thick make-up to cover the scars on her face. In addition, the clothes and jewelry were all meticulously chosen, so naturally they were very eye-catching
Though the crowd saw the refined fairy, their attention was then caught by a pink silhouette inside the carriage. The very next second, the curtain lifted again, and a pretty figure stepped down.
At first glance, the gorgeous peach-pink seemed to lack elegance, and couldn’t compare to Jiang Su Su’s appearance. However, when she came into full view and stopped next to Jiang Su Su, it became evident that she had her own distinct style such that everyone present there was transfixed by her face and couldn’t help but be affected.
That face was extremely charming. She had upturned eyes, black brows, vermilion lips, dark eyes, and fair skin. Her beauty was unparalleled. However, her bright face was paired with a single coiled bun, instantly reducing her enchanting air by three points, making her appear more delicate.
A three-paneled peach-coloured brocade robe and a floor length skirt with embellished roses, matched with a jacket of metallic golden brocade with silk tapestry of flowers and pearls. Like a freshly bloomed rose with the fragrance of morning dew, it was delicate and unobtrusive. She had only minimal make-up, and there was merely a single rose hairpin in her hair. Her hands had no gaudy jewelry, just a blue bracelet of unusual make.
The crowd looked at her, then at Jiang Su Su. Comparing the two, Jiang Su Su appeared to have caked on too much powder, and her hair ornaments became ostentatious. The fairy wasn’t so fresh, but this lively beauty had her own charm.
Jiang Su Su naturally felt the change in everyone’s eyes. Biting her lower lip, she couldn’t wait to tear Jiang Ruan into pieces. Ever since Jiang Ruan returned to the Jiang fu, her life had been turned upside down. Jiang Ruan stole her legitimacy, stole her elder brother’s position, and now she wanted to steal her position as the capital’s most beautiful woman!
A hint of coldness flashed in Xia Yan’s eyes but she didn’t say anything, only casually chatting with the court lady who led the way with a smile on her face. Jiang Li, already impatient, hurriedly followed the two.
Every noble family’s ladies had a court lady assigned to receive and guide them. Xia Yan chatted with the court lady, but her eyes constantly swept towards Jiang Su Su. Long before entering the palace, she’d invited a respectable momo to teach palace etiquette to Jiang Su Su. Even though Jiang Su Su’s name was well-known in the capital, it was still her first visit to the imperial palace. The imperial palace was a place of opportunities. As long as there was the slightest sliver of hope, her future days might be very different indeed.
Xia Yan considered herself to be an educated person. She put great effort into talking to the court lady but didn’t notice the disdain in her eyes. For a court lady of the imperial palace, which noble hadn’t she seen? Although Xia Yan learnt etiquette, she was after all a concubine’s daughter and her education couldn’t match up to a legitimate lady’s. Thus, she inevitably gave the impression of being a novice. Even Jiang Su Su, into whom she poured her heart and soul, carried a similarly stiff demeanour. No matter how much they tried to cover it up by acting aloof, it was obvious to discerning eyes that it rang false.
On the other hand, the court lady couldn’t help but be surprised when it came to Jiang Ruan. There were plenty of noble daughters who obeyed the rules, and even more people who followed etiquette, but it was truly rare that there was someone who could perform so well. Look at her walking posture – clear eyes, even steps, her skirt gliding across the ground, her hands naturally folded, her chin slightly raised, and an expression that was respectful but not submissive, noble but not arrogant. Simply exemplary. Her every step was steady without fault, and one couldn’t see a hint of the usual panic or curiosity most people had during their first visit to the imperial palace. A thousand emotions were hidden in that beautiful pair of eyes, yet no one could see through them.
Her actions didn’t resemble those of someone from an official’s household, but rather of one who had lived for many years in the complex environment of the imperial palace. Every step and gesture showed familiarity with the regulations.
The court lady naturally had no idea that Jiang Ruan had previously lived an entire life in the imperial palace. Back then, when she had just entered the palace, she was often ostracised by the other women on the basis of palace rules- violating a rule here or overstepping a taboo there. Therefore, for the sake of the Jiang fu’s reputation, she copied down all of the palace rules one by one, and learned them by heart until she made no mistakes. Later, even those who wanted to pull her down could no longer find any misstep to latch on to.
She didn’t think she would benefit from her past sufferings at this place. She sneered lightly in her heart.
Along the way, many noble ladies watched the Jiang fu’s women approach. Disregarding their two shu daughters for now, both Eldest Jiang Miss and Second Jiang Miss had their own merits, but in terms of mannerisms, Eldest Jiang Miss was still better by a wide margin. Although Second Jiang Miss didn’t make any mistakes, she couldn’t match up to Jiang Ruan’s natural and relaxed demeanor, and seemed immature in comparison.
After they passed the palace walls, there was another court lady leading a group of ladies. Before they could make out their identities, they heard a clear voice call out warmly, “Ruan Meimei!”
Jiang Ruan looked up to see that it was Dong Yinger. Her outfit was also very notable today, highlighting her lively temperament. She greeted Xia Yan, spoke a little with Jing Zhao Yin Furen, then looped her arm around Jiang Ruan’s and pulled her aside, whispering.
Dong Yinger looked Jiang Ruan up and down. “I knew you were pretty, but you really dressed up well today.”
Jiang Ruan smiled softly, saying, “Dong Jijeie is the pretty one.”
After hearing Jiang Ruan compliment her looks, Dong Yinger instantly blushed. As if suddenly thinking of something, Dong Yinger sidled up to Jiang Ruan and whispered in her ear: “Did you know? Imperial Consort Chen is going to select a consort for Eighth Prince today.”
Jiang Ruan was slightly startled. In her past life, there was never such an event. She quickly adjusted her expression and let out a bright smile. “What do you mean? Why would Eighth Prince suddenly choose a consort?”
“I heard it’s because of Imperial Consort Chen.” Dong Yinger lowered her voice even more. “Think about it, Eighth Prince has already reached the age for taking a wife, but doesn’t even have a bedfellow* by his side.” Despite blushing profusely, she continued: “Imperial Consort Chen is anxious. There are so many young ladies at tonight’s palace banquet so the Imperial Consort wants to personally select a candidate for Eighth Highness. His Majesty has already agreed.”
*通房 (tongfang) – This is the lowest rank of a concubine. Usually, this position was given to a maid who the prince favours for one night or a maid that prince’s mother is trying to get him to sleep with (typically for the sake of producing an heir). Needless to say, there’s no wedding ceremony.
Jiang Ruan looked at her. “How does Dong Jijeie know all of this?”
“We have a maid in our residence whose sister works in the imperial palace, she heard it when she visited her sister yesterday. This thing is already an open secret, everyone in Si Meng Palace knows about it already.” Dong Yinger stomped her feet. “My mother insisted on dressing me like this today, saying it would be a good thing to enter the palace as Eighth Prince’s consort. But I don’t want to marry him at all. I just want to find someone I really love to spend my life with.” She thought for a bit, then suddenly smiled. “But then, there are so many young ladies tonight, there’s no way Eighth Prince will pay attention to me. Ruan Meimei, you’ve always been smart. Take a guess, who will Imperial Consort Chen pick for Eighth Prince’s consort?”
Not getting a response from Jiang Ruan, Dong Yinger nudged her arm. When Jiang Ruan turned towards her, she couldn’t help but be surprised at the depths in Jiang Ruan’s eyes. Jiang Ruan’s beautiful eyes were as dark as ink, and seemed as if they could pull people in like whirlpools. But they were also filled with indifference, making people have chills.
She called out, “Ruan Meimei?”
Jiang Ruan smiled slightly. “I also don’t know.” The previous haze was swept away, as if it were just Dong Yinger’s illusion. She slowly clenched her hands in her sleeves.
So this was what they were planning, so these were Xuan Li’s thoughts.
She smiled coldly. Tonight, no matter by providence or plans, she feared that Imperial Consort Chen and Xuan Li were bound to be disappointed.
In this life, she will not repeat the mistakes of the past. Marry Xuan Li? She’d rather be married to a stray mutt.