This chapter was edited by Din2.
The jade color green shade (of a tree), the cluster of bushes were short, this was Zhuo Qing’s first impression towards the splendid Imperial garden, but a moment afterwards, she became somewhat dizzy. She finally knew why Lou Xi Wu wanted to decorate herself like a Christmas tree, because if you dressed in a silk clothing at this time, then one would really look very different!
Zhuo Qing was secretly glad, fortunately, she only partially cut the long cheongsam skirt, and only wore three layers of skirt from the original five layers, she removed half of the golden hairpins that were on her head, except for the golden head ornament, jadeite bracelet and dangling tassels. But she did not lack anything from these basic elements, strictly speaking, her whole body could not be regarded as too obtrusive!!
The more she went inside, the more she startlingly sighed, the room was filled with colorful brocade dresses, pearls and gold ornaments, dazzling her, it could even be said there was plump, swallow and thin women in front of her, beautiful women as cloud, every one of them was as delicate as a flower. But squinting her eyes, Zhuo Qing nevertheless felt like she was mistreated!
She really agreed to that sentence about many confusing eyes, she almost could not see clearly what their appearances were, naturally there were some women who were similar like her, the women whose complexions were not pleased, she estimated that this was due to various kind of reasons.
Zhuo Qing was following behind Lou Xi Wu, lowering her head to move towards the assigned place.
In the middle of the garden, an empty and small piece of an open space, both sides had about five to six rows of stools. Zhuo Qing and Lou Xi Wu were seated on the right side of the first row, Zhuo Qing closed her eyes to rest once she was seated, what the eyes didn’t see, the heart didn’t grieve over it! (ZQ pretended to sleep and tried to ignore everybody). Automatically ignoring to hear the low laughter from a group of women who were exchanging conventional greetings by her side, soon, the voices around here were quiet all of a sudden. Zhuo Qing opened her eyes, and saw that the East and West Empress Dowagers were walking with the escort from a group of the palace eunuchs and maids.
In today’s occasion, both of them adorned themselves with utmost care, but in comparison, Yang Zhi Lan’s dress was still relatively plain and simple. Her face still had a benevolent smile, and the dress on Lou Su Xin’s body was an extreme dark red changpao, the golden silk belt appeared to be vivid and through on her good figure, a string of green jade pearls was on her neck. It really matched with her arrogant look and really still made people not to dare to watch intently.
Both of them were seated at the masters seats in the middle of the garden, all of the people were orderly half kneeling to salute and say: “Pay respect to both the Imperial palace’s Empress Dowagers, may the Empress Dowagers have good fortune and peace.”
Zhuo Qing slowly half squatting her body down, Lou Su Xin’s arrogant voice faintly echoed: “You may rise, ok.”
“Thank you Empress Dowager.”
After the salutation, each family’s young lady returned to their seats, calmly lowering their heads, gentle, refined and graceful, it was really in contrast with the distinct noise from a moment ago. Zhuo Qing sniggered, she also lowered her head, and continued to close her eyes to rest.
Yang Zhi Lan looked towards Lou Su Xin, after seeing that she lightly nodded afterwards, still smiling and saying at the same time: “Today’s invitation to all of you, young ladies, madams, to enter the Imperial palace to attend a banquet, is to select the talented and good looking, women who will have both integrity and talent at the celebration’s talent show. With regards to this, it can be say that this is Qiong Yue’s credibility matter, Aijia will not say anymore, using the old established standard, you can do the four arts (zither, go, calligraphy, painting), poetry, singing and dancing, the highest skill will be victorious.”
“Let us start with the zither skill, ok, which young lady will come first?” Yang Zhi Lan finished speaking, with a smile on her face, she swept everybody’s eyes with a glance, the women were still shy timidly and lowering their heads, whispering, nobody came out.
Yang Zhi Lan gently smiled, and said: “Everyone modestly declines like this, then Aijia will just appoint to one person to throw a brick to attract a jade (she’s offering a humble remark so the young ladies will give their opinion), ok.”
“Aijia has heard that the Qing family sisters’ reputations are outstanding within the six countries, during the celebration three years ago, Hao Yue put forward a paradise landscape picture, a splendid object, it was reportedly to be drawn by the the three young ladies. Two of the ladies are in the Imperial palace today, it will be better to throw a brick to attract a jade at the Qing’s family eldest daughter, Qing Ling to do these refined activities (regarding literature, paintings, etc), what does everyone think?” Finished speaking, she still looked towards Zhuo Qing with an incomparable concern.
The Imperial concubines who were sitting on the side also agreed hurriedly and said: “This is extremely fine, Chenqie (third party calling for concubines when they speak to emperor or empress dowager or empress) always hear from some people that the zither skill of the Qing’s family eldest daughter is extremely high. Playing for two to three days and the sound still lingered on, the people will praise without ceasing after listening to it, there is finally an opportunity to increase our knowledge today.”
Originally Zhuo Qing was still concerned about her own matter by closing her eyes to rest, she suddenly opened her eyes, and looked at Yang Zhi Lan, both of their expressions met, Yang Zhi Lan still had a loving smile, Zhuo Qing’s expression was actually dark, was this her purpose? Making her like a fool in front of everyone, this was considered taking a revenge for her daughter?!
Both of their expressions were in confrontation, Yang Zhi Lan was smiling all along, with a clear sound, she called out: “Someone, prepare the zither.”
“Hold on.” Zhuo Qing stood up, it would not be this easy to make a fool of herself.
Performing a lady like courtesy by bending over, Zhuo Qing raised her head, then with a grievance face and eyes filled with melancholy, she answered with a low voice: “Many thanks to everybody’s love, but unfortunately, I have suffered injury on my way to come to Qiong Yue, I can only remember a lot of things vaguely. Those melodies that I was familiar before, I could not remember any of it now. I am afraid that I will make everybody feel disappointed today.” Being together with Lou Xi Yan for this long time, she just looked at him, she had also learned a lot on how to pretend, how could this be difficult?!
Yang Zhi Lan barely wanted to open her mouth, Zhuo Qing pulled out another unfathomable mystery again, and continued to say: “But I know that Xi Wu’s zither skill is definitely not beneath my skill. She was practicing zither with Su Mu Feng a few days ago and he spoke about Xi Wu’s zither skill, and he also praised her skill. It will be better to let Xi Wu be the person to throw a brick to attract a jade, she will surely not let all of you to be disappointed.”
Lou Xi Wu was surprised at first, after she reacted back, she ferociously pinched Zhuo Qing’s waist, this woman really dared to speak like this!! When did she and Su Gongzi speak about the zither skill, when did Su Gongzi praise her skill?! Obviously, the one whom she was referring to did not know it! Unexpectedly, she still had a very familiar look!
Zhuo Qing was in pain, but she still could not show anything, this darn girl was very fierce, she did this for her sake, if maybe, she would be chosen to play for the esteemed guests at the celebration, and her social status would rise highly at that time.
“Oh?” Yang Zhi Lan looked towards Lou Su Xin who was by her side, smilingly said: “Elder sister, unexpectedly, Xi Wu’s zither skill has a breakthrough after all these years, since it is this way, just let Xi Wu to play one song, ok.”
Lou Su Xin who always had an arrogant face finally was somewhat at ease, she quietly laughed and said towards Lou Xi Wu: “Xi Wu, then, you play one song, ok.”
“Yes.” The matter was already like this, besides bracing herself to do it, Lou Xi Wu did not have any other way either.
Zhuo Qing secretly relaxed, Lou Su Xin’s attitude towards Lou Xi Wu was gentle like this, it seemed that she really liked her. She did not need to be anxious for Xi Wu, even if the performance failed, nobody would dare to do anything to the Empress Dowager’s niece, right!
Barely wanting to sit down, however, Yang Zhi Lan was not ready to let her off either, with a deliberate soft voice, she smiled and said: “But only listening to the music is rather monotonous, Ling-er does not remember the melody, but can always remember to write characters, right. That paradise landscape painting from last time is still at the Imperial study room, Ling-er can do another one and it is good to let them increase their knowledges.”
This clearly some hidden derogatory words, listening to these, Zhuo Qing was somewhat angry, Yang Zhi Lan was deliberately after her with a sharpen knife, right!
Getting up one more time, Zhuo Qing’s complexion was clearly dark: “I …..”
Zhuo Qing only said this one word, she was already interrupted by a clear and cold sound of a woman: “Answering to Empress Dowager, normally, we, sisters, like to paint to amuse ourselves cheerfully, just let Chenqie and elder sister to paint together for everybody today, Chenqie is not sure if it is possible or not.”
Zhuo Qing looked up to see, the person who spoke was Qing Feng, she was unexpectedly here also, but she was sitting across with a group of women. She did not even look carefully, and did not find that it was strange, but painting together? Was she harming her or helping her?! Could you regard grinding the ink stick as painting?!
Yang Zhi Lan looked towards Lou Su Xin one more time, and smilingly asked: “What does elder sister think of this?” Fine, she did not have to make things difficult for her even more, the conclusion would be the same in a moment anyway.
Zhuo Qing did not have Lou Xi Wu’s good luck, Lou Su Xin casted a sidelong glance at her, with a cold voice, she said: “This is also fine, Aijia wants to see it also, what wonderful talents that the Qing family’s sisters have after all.” She really wanted to see what was so special about the woman whom Xi Yan kept going to the Imperial palace to request for a marriage with her over and over again.
Pointing ahead at the pond that the gorgeous and lovable lotus started to open, Yang Zhi Lan smilingly said: “Elder sister, it is exactly the time for the lotus to bloom at the moment, it will be better to let them paint by the side of the lotus pond, playing the zither, the lovable flowers will conform together with the beauties, is it not a wonderful thing?”
“It is also good.” Lou Su Xin indifferently said: “Someone comes, prepare the tools to paint.”
Soon, several agile palace eunuchs already put a big table and moved it by the side of the lotus pond, the back of the table was a slab to support the platform, this desk was fortunately above the lotus pond. Standing here to appreciate the flowers, it just seemed like being surrounded by the flowering shrubs, and was really beautiful.
It was a pity, Zhuo Qing did not have the mood to appreciate the flowers at the moment, she said towards Qing Feng who was standing beside her confidently and she urgently said: “I really can not paint!!” She was not Qing Ling, and did not understand anything about painting ah!
Smiling confidently, Qing Feng answered: “It does not matter, wait until I blend some good colors, you just use the writing brush to draw several circles on the paper, it will be good.”
“Draw several circles?” Zhuo Qing stared blankly, very quickly asked again: “How big? How many? Do you want round circles or ovals? Where will be the specific position?!” If it was merely drawing circles, she could still accomplish it, but she would have to trouble her to tell her about the specific of the circles! She was really good at geometry subject all together!
Qing Feng answered without thinking: “Whatever you like.”
“Ah?!” Zhuo Qing felt stupid, how did she want to draw them?
She was still in depression, the ink stick on the table was already grounded properly, the paper was also spread out properly, the palace eunuchs retreated to the side, respectfully said: “The tools for painting are already ready, these two mistresses, please start.”
Zhuo Qing was standing by Qing Feng’s side, she could only see her skillfully held the ink stick and poured half of it inside the porcelain dish on the side, then carefully transferred the clear water in it, a moment afterwards, Qing Feng said: “Start, ok.”
The big piece of fine writing paper was spread out in front of her eyes, Zhuo Qing really had this mixed feelings (not knowing whether to laugh or cry), where to start?! If she had known earlier, that she would encounter this kind of adventure, she would consider to learn the calligraphy and Chinese arts with her mother before, it was unlikely to go so far now and she did not know where to draw the circles!
Let it be, Qing Feng did not worry at all, what should she worry about, deeply breathing, Zhuo Qing drew one circle larger than a fist on the paper. Qing Feng transferred the ink stick that was somewhat light in color, leaving behind a shallow color impression on the white paper. Zhuo Qing looked at Qing Feng one glance, her expression was the same as before, she just prepared the red color cinnabar, she estimated that she wanted to draw lotus.
Since she did not have any opinion, Zhuo Qing did not care either, boldly drawing ten circles on the paper, big and small circles, after painting the circles, Zhuo Qing did not know what to write, the white paper that she played with was in complete disorder……
At this time, Qing Feng seemed to be ready, she picked up a comparatively thin brush, in lightning speed, those 7-8 random circles that were drawn with the writing brush, one leaf lotus unexpectedly appeared quickly. Her movement was quick, as if there were several brushes, the original numerous and disorderly composition became a realistic lotus on the pond, it was extremely awesome!
Just when Zhuo Qing started to admire, she heard a clear, exquisite and melodious’ zither sound echoing, Zhuo Qing lifted her head up, not a distance ahead, Lou Xi Wu’s naturally and unrestrainedly sat in front of the zither. Her fine and long fingers were on the strings smoothly playing the zither, the light and quick melody echoed within the Imperial garden, this girl’s zither skill was really not bad!
Zhuo Qing was still admiring Lou Xi Wu’s zither sound, Qing Feng’s cold voice echoed lowly.
Done!? So quick, the time that she used was almost the same as when she drew the circles!
Bowing her head again, Zhuo Qing was staring blankly on the painting completely, the painting that was in front of her was a refined ink and wash painting composition, it only used the deep or shallow colors of black, only the lotus leaves and the water on the lake were expressed in great detail. The cinnabar (some kind of chemical that can make a red color) set off some contrast colors, the complete painting seemed to split the new lotus at the seam, it reflected with the color of ink stick, and it looked to be soft pink, fresh and clean. The most amazing thing was the lotus leaves, the lotus petals seemed to have condensation of water droplets, the whole painting seemed to show a hint of moisture, haziness was enveloping the lotus leaves with pink color, similar to when the new lotus started to bloom after the rain!
The upper left corner of the painting still had several small words ‘The hidden morning dew, The human world who was jealous’, the calligraphy style was graceful, and the technique was smooth and easy.
How could this even possible, this short period of time, Zhuo Qing did not dare to believe, this was the piece of paper that she was being tormented a moment ago!
She regarded this as her knowledge and experience, what a real talented girl.
Qing Feng slowly laid down the writing brush, then she pulled Zhuo Qing to retreat one step, she let those several palace eunuchs whose heads were down and calmly stood aside while they lifted the wooden table to head towards the direction of the Empress Dowager.
The painting that was just drawn a moment ago, the paper was extremely soft, so they could not hold it up, Lou Su Xin and Yang Zhi Lan got up to the direction of the long table. Looking at the painting, both of their eyes were bright. Lou Su Xin was rarely boastful and she said: “As expected, the name is not in vain (a well deserved reputation)!”
This kind of art work, even if a specialist learned to paint, it would take about 30-50 years of skill, not all of them could come out of the painting!
Yang Zhi Lan also nodded her head and said: “Imperial concubine Qing, come here to give us the explanation of the meaning of the verse, ok.”
“Yes.” Qing Feng walked slowly to go, Zhuo Qing was standing on the wooden stage and breathing some fresh air, if she could, she would really wish to leave early.
Looking that Qing Feng had walked to come over, Yang Zhi Lan seamlessly swept one glance at the palace maid who was always standing behind her, the palace maid slowly retreated to go out.
Walking to the front of the painting, Qing Feng slightly lifted her head, proudly smiled, with a clear voice, she said: “The meaning is actually very easy, the lotus’s noble and virtuous is unflinching in righteousness, it will not be infringed in an impurity of the secular world, it is precisely because of this quality, that the common people are also jealous.”
“Very well spoken.” Lou Su Xin praised and nodded her head, she really liked a woman who was proud and arrogant!
The phrasing sound was continuous over there, Zhuo Qing was simply stretching her waist lazily, the women in the ancient time were really not easy, the four arts, not a single one was dispensable ah!
Standing on the side of the wooden stage, Zhuo Qing was sighing, while stroking the lotus leaves conveniently, suddenly, Zhuo Qing felt something under her feet, the side of her ears heard a sound of the breaking apart of the wood. She did not have enough time to react either, the wooden stage was unexpectedly caved in and was unstable, then Zhuo Qing fell into the lotus pond…..