Chapter 263: Your Majesty, Are You Out of Your Mind?
Bai Xiangiu’s father had studied the Classics, and had always been a bookworm. He never could understand this drive to climb the social ladder. But his wife and daughter threw such a tantrum that finally, Bai Xiangxiu was released to go to the Prince Li Manor. That’s how it started. But no one foresaw the consequences.
This gentleman must be Sir An. Why is he dropping by so suddenly? She soon found out, as Bai Rong’er charged in with two old biddies, harping at him, “Sir An, you mustn’t be so impetuous!”
As she went in, Bai Rong’er took note of the face of everyone present. Although scared, she thought back to what that tavern elder sister had said: What good is it letting your elder sister play matchmaker? You might as well put on a good show in front of everyone. That way, Sir Song will know your elder sister’s true character and will be moved by your “justice above all” behavior. You’ll be accorded with utmost honor when he comes to ask for your hand in marriage. Bai Rong’er was naïve and believed every word without reservation, and so had sacrificed ties of blood for self assumed righteousness.
Bai Xiangxiu delicately pressed down on her temple with her finger. “Carry on with the ceremony,” she commanded the matchmaker. Her voice wasn’t all that loud, but it fell on everyone’s ears like velvet over steel. One had to take a moment to remind that Bai Xiangxiu had actually commanded troops on the battlefield. So when she spoke with a certain tone of voice, the matchmaker unconsciously leaped to obey, “Of course. The first bow is to the heavens and earth…”
The corner of Long Heng’s mouth jerked up, as if he hadn’t seen the new arrivals, and he pulled Bai Xiangxiu down and knelt in obeisance.
Bai Rong’er and Sir An were shocked. This wasn’t how they’d previously imagined the situation would develop. Wasn’t it said that if a man hears this kind of talk, he’d seek more information and prolong the wedding? What were they doing, going through with the ceremony!? They were showing complete disregard for the newcomers! These two conspirators were both young and inexperienced, and so were completely nonplussed at being treated like air.
Soon enough, Bai Rong’er was distraught. While everyone’s attention was elsewhere, she kicked Sir An to make him seek help from the seated Old Madame.
Unfortunately, a hand descended on Sir An’s shoulder right at that moment. It held him fast, preventing him from walking forward to seek his justice from the old madame. When he turned to look at the offending party, the sight of a finely dressed gentleman greeted him. However, the latter’s expression was as cold as a winter’s night, sending a chill down Sir An’s spine. Bai Rong’er however, was instantly smitten. She’d seen Song Jiaoyue at last! She hadn’t expected him to be wearing a different outfit for this occasion, but it only added to his charm.
On the other hand, Sir An was no woman to be entranced by a man’s looks. He paused briefly, subdued. Yet, he still turned to the old madame, “Old Madame, Prince Li, I come from the An family. I am the fiancé of the Bai family’s eldest daughter, Bai Xiangxiu. But it seems that today, she has broken faith to wed another. Mayhaps this was something you were not made aware of, but it still remains a violation of propriety. As such, I request your consideration in…”
“The second bow is to your parents.”
Bai Xiangxiu was almost afraid to look up at the old madame during her bow. Would the old madame suddenly take charge of the situation and announce that there was no need to continue with the ceremony?
But the old madame didn’t move at Sir An’s supplication. Not one blink. Bai Xiangxiu felt her entire body relax. Unhindered by the charade, the ceremony continued in solemn silence.
“The third bow to each other as husband and wife.”
This was the last bow. Let’s see who can stop us now.
“An imperial edict has arrived!” A shrill voice shattered the silence, startling everyone present. Bai Xiangxiu nearly burst into tears. Wasn’t she just getting married again in another location? Was it that hard to just leave her alone, just for today? She sighed, already beginning to turn to receive the imperial edict. Right then, Long Heng reached for her hand, stopping her. She met his eyes, and he bowed to her.
Bai Xiangxiu’s eyes went wide. Without a second’s hesitation, she too bowed to him. Deep in her bow, her heart was surging. It was only a simple bow, but in that moment, she found meaning in those words she had always heard but never truly understood.
A husband and wife pair truly stood apart from others.
Perhaps their resolve was infectious, or the matchmaker knew her duty well, but as the new husband and wife bowed, she exclaimed, “The ceremony has concluded!” Just those four words.
At those four words, Long Heng rose from his bow, speaking to his aide, “Reward her for her service”. He held his hand out to his brand new wife, walking forward together to receive the imperial edict.
It really had been a topsy-turvy wedding, but for some reason, the display of grace and resolve from the bride and groom had been profoundly moving. This was particularly the case for Song Jiaoyue. The force of his hand squeezing Sir An;s shoulder made the later cry out in pain. Now that those two were husband and wife, it was time to give up on his intentions!
“Sir Song, I’m Bai Xiangxiu’s little sister. Are you alright?” Bai Rong’er wanted to emphasize her presence, but the other didn’t even glance in her direction. He too went straight up to receive the imperial edict.
Everyone knelt on the floor as a eunuch loudly read the proclamation. Flowery words aside, the gist of it was that there were other complications with Bai Xiangxiu’s marriage. Therefore they should halt proceedings for the time being until everything was cleared up.
Long Heng’s lip curved up in a sneer as he received the edict. “Eunuch, let me trouble you to go back and report to His Majesty not to worry about this matter. The ceremony has already concluded. Since His Majesty has already decreed Miss Bai to be Princess Consort Li, the matter cannot be changed no matter what. She will always be Princess Consort Li, wedding ceremony or not.”
The eunuch’s mouth twitched. Clearly, when he’d entered, the ceremony had not been concluded yet, but he also couldn’t say that they had defied the edict. They had just delayed in receiving the edict. And thanks to the imperial edict being delayed two hours, even the emperor couldn’t do anything now. So, he’d come too late? The emperor had obviously wanted him to take full advantage of all the people and the resulting commotion in announcing the imperial decree.
“His Majesty’s verbal instructions were for me to wait here while the various families sorted everything out, and only then report back with the edict.” The eunuch was dispirited. He really didn’t want to hang around here.
“Prepare a seat!” Long Heng had barely opened his mouth before the servants had already arranged a seat for the eunuch. Then, Long Heng and Bai Xiangxiu sat as well. Long Heng’s smile was chilly. “Bring them forward.”
And so Sir An and Bai Rong’er were brought forward. Once there, they felt rather gloomy. It felt like they’d been hauled before the authorities for a crime instead of coming to air a grievance.
“Speak. If you don’t speak clearly, you’ll be turned over to the authorities.”
Sir An dropped to his knees with a loud thud as Long Heng’s words hung in the air. He even kowtowed to Long Heng. “Your… Your Highness,” his voice trembled. “My family name is An. I’m a scholar by trade. Last year Uncle Bai was drinking at my home when… when he promised, to marry his eldest daughter to me as a wife.”
“Oh?” Long Heng didn’t comment, indicating he should continue.
Sir An had no choice but to go on. “But she coveted wealth and rank, and backed out of our arrangement to enter the prince’s residence. How can Your Highness take such a fickle, untrustworthy woman as your wife?”
“Then what do you suggest?”
No one dared interrupt Long Heng. For some reason, Bai Rong’er, also kneeling on the ground, felt that this brother-in-law of hers was really quite alluring. Such aloof behavior with power and influence really seemed to make a man stately and charming.
Song Jiaoyue was quite handsome himself, but he lacked that domineering edge. And so as she drifted off into her own world, her heart was faltering, uncertain who she should choose. If, if elder sister was expelled from the manor because of this matter, might she have a chance to marry into the manor herself?
Bai Xiangxiu was watching everything like a disinterested bystander, observing the changing expressions of the guests and Bai Rong’er ruminations. However, her heart clenched when she saw her younger sister’s covetous gaze on Xiangxiu’s own husband!