At dusk, the banquet hall of Song Royal Palace was filled with liveliness. Tables were set on both the left and right side of the banquet hall. Each table could host four people each, and most that came are people who are of high rank as well as some well-known noble families who were invited.
Everyone was talking with each other, each trying to curry favour as well as mingling with each other. Some even tried to play matchmaker, trying to get their sons or daughters to marry into a prominent family.
“Madam Yu, is that your son that had just passed the state exam before? How handsome!” on one table, several middle-aged women were talking with each other. “My daughter is of the same age as your son. How about letting the two of them meet one day?”
“Why, of course! To have taken the fancy of Madam Yu, this son of mine should be honoured!” the second woman replied while not forgetting to give the others some compliment.
At the table not too far from the two women, a group of men sat down quietly, drinking the wine from their cup. They looked at the two women with disdain, as if finding their action displeasing.
“Those are the women from Yu and Feng, right?” one of the men spoke up.
“Playing matchmaking… I pity their children, ah! That Madam Yu is trying to solidify her family’s standing,” another one joined in into the conversation. Then he signalled for the others to come closer before he said in a soft whisper: “I heard that she had her husband tightly wrapped in her fingers.”
“That’s what happens when a man marries into the woman’s family!” a third person chirped in. “I heard that he had a bright future too. It is just too bad that he can only be the puppet of the Yu family…”
The one who is in charge of attending to the guest was the second prince, Song Lihui. Just with this alone, one could see how important the Song Royal family is making out of this banquet.
Song Lihui made sure that the servants are all in place, and that refreshments on each table would always be refilled. He would also come over personally to entertain the guests.
That is until the envoy from Ruanyu arrived at the banquet hall. The momentum they have on their arrival was enough to make them the focus of everyone’s eyes in just a split moment.
The nobles and officials present in the banquet hall started to whisper while the younger female began to act coquettish. Especially when they saw Bai Ruohan’s handsome figure leading his group.
“Those are the envoys from Ruanyu?” one of the young ladies who managed to catch a glimpse of Bai Ruohan whispered to her friend. “I heard that men from Ruanyu are fierce because they always expand their kingdom by conquering others… I expected that they would all look rough and scary!”
“True! But did you look at that man who led the group? He is very good looking, ah! I think he can be compared to our crown prince?”
“I think that he’s even more handsome than our crown prince! Look at the confidence on his face! Ah… If my parents would matchmake me with him, I would die satisfied,” the first lady replied with a dreamy expression.
“Agreed! I wonder if he has a wife already…” another one joined in into the conversation. “Well, even if he does, I also don’t mind being his concubine! They say that soldiers from Ruanyu are highly sought after because they are paid well!”
“I also heard of that! They say that as long as their rank is Duifu (Lieutenant) or higher, their pay is already on par with our high-rank officials!!”
Even though they are the main attraction, the envoy from Ruanyu is still calm. They took their seat and remain quiet. They would occasionally serve themselves some wine, but they made sure not to drink too much to avoid getting drunk.
“Remember to conduct yourself properly. Do not make me lose face,” Bai Ruohan addressed his men. “I do not want anyone to be a burden tomorrow. We are escorting the princess after all. If anything were to happen… just remember that not only your life will be forfeited, but even your family also will not escape the punishment!”
One of his men just laughed while he held up his cup to toast with Bai Ruohan. “Gongye don’t have to worry. We understand our role.”
Bai Ruohan nods his head and lifts up his cup to return the toast. The rest of his men also followed suit and soon, they started to enjoy their meal.
After a while, Song Lihui came to join them. A smile adorned Song Lihui’s face as he offered to pour Bai Ruohan some wine. “Hanxin Gongye, how about letting this prince pour you some wine?”
“En. Then, Bengong will trouble Your Highness,” Bai Ruohan said as he held out his empty cup.
Though Song Lihui’s rank is actually above Bai Ruohan, since Dong Xing needed Ruanyu’s help, they need to treat the envoy with the utmost respect. If they have to, they will even treat them as their ancestor!
Song Lihui then noticed the masked man who sat beside Bai Ruohan. He couldn’t help but wonder about the other’s identity. From his demeanour, Song Lihui could already guess that the man is not someone ordinary. “Gongye, who is this man?”
“Hmm?” Bai Ruohan glanced at the masked man beside him, then turned his attention back to Song Lihui. “Your Highness doesn’t have to worry about him. He is a very good friend of Bengong.”
“Ah, I see,” Song Lihui continued to stare at the masked man, but the masked man continued to ignore him. After that, he decided to simply converse with Bai Ruohan, hoping to create a friendly relationship with him.
Written by: Lin Xiaolong
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