Chapter 118: Substitute
The sixth day of the third lunar month was a very busy day in Feng Cheng – The Imperial City. It was the birthday of Da Hui’s Emperor. Today, the Emperor would ride a roofless carriage around the city and greet his citizens in Feng Cheng.
This year was especially loud, as it was the fiftieth birthday of the Emperor. Following their old custom, by the end of the second lunar month, Feng Cheng had already become lively and bustling. However, this year, since the first month, refugees from the North Desert, the border between Da Hui and Blood Union, had stormed into Feng Cheng. The citizens in Feng Cheng were so annoyed; they had complained a lot. The Emperor had ordered the officers to use their soldiers to capture the refugees who made riots in the city by early February.
Perhaps the Emperor had worried that the joy of his birthday would be reduced; thus, by the end of the second lunar month, he made a special announcement: On the next sixth day, the Third Princess of Da Hui Empire would come to Swan Pavilion and throw the embroidered ball to choose her Fuma*.
(驸马 / Fùmǎ: the Emperor’s son-in-law)
This breaking news had stirred Feng Cheng’s citizens’ enthusiasm. They heard that the Third Princess was both beautiful and talented, with great morality. She was the daughter the Emperor loved the most.
Ever since then, not only people in Feng Cheng, but also in the two adjacent cities, Jin City and Xiu City, and the six, big and small, towns in the middle. All of the young and eligible bachelors swarmed to Swan Pavilion with great expectations for the sixth.
It was a Heaven-given chance that could make an unknown, poor man become a member of the royal family and enjoy endless wealth in just a blink of an eye!
It was such an enticing chance. Who didn’t want to try his luck? All they needed to do was to sway and push through the crowd, throw their arms into the sky, and grab the embroidered ball to become a Fuma. No one wanted to miss such an opportunity.
“What? Xi Yue?” Su Shuilian almost jolted up from her seat.
“Yeah, Long Xi Yue will choose the Fuma on behalf of the Princess. It’s an open secret circulating the palace.” Feng Cai Yun sighed. By the afternoon, she came back from the Empress Dowager, where she confirmed the rumor.
“Why? Didn’t they say that the Emperor never lies or jokes?” Su Shuilian hurried to ask. “He announced that the Third Princess wanted to find a Fuma. Why did he change to Xi Yue?”
Long Xi Yue, like her, was also a transmigrator. Su Shuilian hoped that her life wouldn’t be decided so casually like that.
She was such a generous and straightforward girl. How could she let an embroidered ball decide her marriage? If… if a rogue caught the ball, did that mean she would become his wife?
How could the Emperor of Da Hui Empire be so muddleheaded? He said it was the Third Princess. And now, he changed to Long Xi Yue… Was it true that the women were so helpless in their own fate and marriage? They had to follow through with the Emperor’s jokes?
Su Shuilian remembered Suzhou in the time of the Republic of China. Although at that time, most people had to get arranged marriages, especially rich families like the Su family… At least the man and the woman would have time to meet before their wedding. She would be able to know who her husband would be, the man who would accompany her for the rest of her life, and how he was.
But now, the man who would live with Xi Yue for the rest of her life would be decided by an embroidered ball. Once she threw it, she could never get it back. To Xi Yue, a woman who said she came from a more open-minded society, where they could decide their own marriages, this was such a cruel thing to her!
“Because the Emperor doesn’t joke, Long Xi Yue is to replace the Princess. To find a Fuma is something that can’t be changed, no matter what.” Feng Cai Yun sighed.
“Is there no other method?” Su Shuilian looked at Lin Si Yao, who was sitting silently, and Liang En Zai, who was enjoying his tea.
“Big brother…” Su Shuilian furrowed her brows. This was a solemn discussion. Even if they couldn’t come up with a solution, he still shouldn’t display such a hurtful attitude!
“She chose it herself. Everybody should be responsible for their own choices.” Liang En Zai put his cup of tea down at her plea, his face cold when he spoke.
“She chose it herself?” Su Shuilian was astounded, looking at Feng Cai Yun. Didn’t she just say that she was forced to do so?
“Yes, it’s true. Because Ouyang Xun made a wrong diagnosis, the Emperor jailed him. Long Xi Yue voluntarily came and begged for his mercy. The Emperor thought of this idea to test her faithfulness. It helps her show her loyalty and her filiation to Ouyang Xun.” Liang En Zai explained disdainfully. “Hmph, just a woman. It doesn’t matter whom she marries! No matter what, she will get married with the ceremony for a Princess. That is already an honor!”
“Liang En Zai!” Someone seized Su Shuilian’s line.
Hearing him, Feng Cai Yun slammed the table in anger. “Don’t act like you’re so noble and virtuous! If you have the ability, save Doctor Ouyang Hun! Let’s see if Xi Yue will still agree to marry in such a manner!”
“None of my business!” Liang En Zai stood up, brushing his shirt nonchalantly, and left the room.
“Really… I’ll be infuriated to death by him.” Feng Cai Yun took a sip of tea, shaking her head, sighing.
“Mother, my big brother…” On the surface, it seems that Liang En Zai has no concern for Xi Yue as he made such cynical remarks. But his provoking words hinted at his actual mood; he cares a lot (about the situation).
So why did he act differently from his thoughts?
“Who knows! Just like his father’s stingy character!” Feng Cai Yun spat out. Then, she remembered that Liang En Zai wasn’t the biological son of Liang Xuan Jing; he was Liang Xuan An’s son. She turned to Su Shuilian, smiling embarrassedly. “I’m saying that his character is just like your stingy father.”
“You apparently mind it a lot. Why don’t you take some action?” Lou Xia Er helplessly watched the indifferent Liang En Zai occupying his garden’s octagonal pavilion, drinking his apricot blossom wine.
“What action? Who knows if it’s the trap set up by the palace?” Liang En Zai helped himself to a second tumbler of apricot blossom wine and replied in a husky voice.
“Trap?” Listening to him, Lou Xia Er paused for a while. Then, he shook his head, laughing and sighing. “Are you afraid that he would change the result? He said that Long Xi Yue would throw the embroidered ball instead of the Third Princess. But if you get the ball, the Third Princess will be the one who marries you. And, if you don’t catch the ball, some lucky guy will catch it and Long Xi Yue will be his bride?” The man in the palace would probably do that. What he liked to do the most was to see people live miserably. Especially when Liang En Zai, the one he had targeted, didn’t like his Princess.
“Yeah,” Liang En Zai snorted glumly. He directly lifted the wine jar, pouring it into his mouth.
“Sigh, drinking like this, you’re just wasting my good wine.” Lou Xia Er’s heart twinged, looking at the bottle in Liang En Zai’s hand. It was his treasure he had stored for three years! This love-sick moron didn’t know how to savour good wine.
“Truth be told, the Third Princess isn’t bad. You should marry her, then marry Long Xi Yue as your concubine.” Lou Xia Er patted Liang En Zai, who was lying on the table after finishing the bottle. A jar of wine couldn’t make him drunk. Lou Xia Er had known him since they were kids. He was well aware of his tolerance.
“Go away!” A croaky voice snarled from the table. Lou Xia Er smiled like a kitten successfully stealing some fish. “Tch, tch. Who always has a grumpy face when I bring up Long Xi Yue. Turns out…”
“No one would ask if you’re mute even if you don’t talk.” Liang En Zai stood up with a dark face, walking out of the octagonal pavilion.
“Are you leaving? So tomorrow…”
“Talk later.” Liang En Zai waved his hand, but he didn’t turn his head back. Slowly, he walked out of the main door of Prince Xiang’s Mansion.
Lou Xia Er frowned as he watched his lonely back walking away. He didn’t know what his friend would choose to do tomorrow. Would he just watch the girl he loved get married to someone else? Or, would he stand up and marry the Princess he didn’t love, which would give Long Xi Yue a chance to choose the one she loved?
It was a tough choice… It was difficult because no matter what he chose, Long Xi Yue would never be his wife…
Everybody gathered at Prince Jing’s Mansion’s dining room early in the morning of the sixth. Sitting around a red circular sandalwood table, which could host about sixteen people.
“Big brother, are you sure you’re not going to catch the embroidered ball?” Yesterday, she and Feng Cai Yun had discussed for a long time to come up with a method in which Liang En Zai would catch the ball. Coincidently, Liang En Zai was around the same age as Long Xi Yue. Moreover, they knew each other. If they couldn’t stop the fact that Long Xi Yue must throw the ball, it would be the best solution they currently have.
However, Liang En Zai refused to do so; he headed back to Iris Courtyard without looking back.
“How about letting Yun’er catch it! Yun’er is skilled in martial arts. He must be able to catch that ball!” When Su Shuilian noticed Situ Yun, an idea suddenly popped up in her head.
Situ Yun almost spat out his steamed rice that he was wolfing down. Feeling pitiful, he cocked his head towards Su Shuilian. He really wanted to say, “It’s not my business.”
He was just thirteen years old this year! And, the Third Princess was already sixteen, while Long Xi Yue was seventeen years old. But the most important thing was that, Situ Yun, he himself didn’t want to get married yet! Could the waiter’s words at the restaurant in Yue Kui Town really be becoming the truth? Wuuwuuwuu…
Someone else wanted to cry even more than him, but he was trying to maintain an emotionless face.
“Is that… not okay? At least, I believe in Yun-er’s character…” When everyone heard her suggestion, they all turned and gazed at her as if they had just heard an awkward joke.
But she had seriously thought it through. It was better than allowing Long Xi Yue to marry a stranger. Even though Yun-er was young, his ability wasn’t less than a grown-up man.
Liang En Zai was their best choice, but he denied it. She could only force Situ Yun onto the stage now.
“Uncle…” Situ Yun looked at Su Shuilian beggingly, but he couldn’t make her withdraw her idea. He couldn’t help but turn to ask Lin Si Yao for help.
“Actually, it’s a good alternative.” Elder Wangye Jing, who had kept silent, suddenly spoke up. And, he agreed with Su Shuilian’s proposal, causing everyone else to become speechless.
“Letting our man seize the embroidered ball is also a rescue plan.” Liang Xun Jing continued indifferently. This sentence was for a specific listener to allow him to process his words.
“That’s right. After getting married, we can let them divorce.” Feng Cai Yun clapped her hands, nodding in approval.
“I’m not…” Situ Yun wanted to speak for his freedom; his right to get married. However, Lin Si Yao patted his head. “Someone’s livelihood is in danger. Tolerate it for now!”