Empress Dowager, Ling Ruiyin heard Shi Qingxue’s words, and the kind smile on her face faded a little.
Looking at Shi Baoning, who had been sitting quietly, although she looked not as energetic and cute as Shi Qingxue, the elegance showed on her could also be outstanding among those noble ladies in aristocratic families.
She was indeed the granddaughter raised by Mo Shujun herself!
Ling Ruiyin nodded secretly and glanced at Qingxue again. Seeing that big wet eyes filled with sincere expectations, she couldn’t bear to refuse her. She called Shi Baoning with a smile, “Is First Lady of the Shi Family also here? I always hear Princess Royal mention you. But I barely meet you since you were always in poor health.
Come to me and let me take a closer look. What’s so outstanding that makes Xue so jealous?”
These words really made the noble ladies sitting below extremely jealous!
It was a great honor for a noble lady of an aristocratic family to be glanced at or asked by those dignified people at the first time to the banquet in the palace. How do they dare to expect to perform in front of the dignified people?
But Shi Baoning came to the palace banquet for the first time, and she was called by Empress Dowager. She really got a good fate!
She had a good sister to help her anyway! People with same status really could have different fates!
Shi Baoning was flattered and her face turned red because of excitement. But soon she realized that this was the opportunity that Qingxue got for her. She calmed down and walked up to Empress Dowager with elegant steps, and saluted, “Your Majesty.”
Ling Ruiyin smiled and nodded. She praised, “You are really a smart child. I heard you were not in good health before. How do you feel now?”
“Thanks for Your Majesty’s concern. Thanks to it that Qingxue had found me a skilled doctor, and I feel much better now.” Shi Baoning was nervous in her heart, and her answer seemed to be cautious, not as natural and adorable as Qingxue’s.
Ling Ruiyin was more satisfied when she heard the words. She thought that Shi Baoning actually understood to be grateful and Qingxue’s contribution was not wasted. Then she said, “It seemed to be worthwhile that Xue took the risk to go to Mang Mountain in person.”
Shi Qingxue took the opportunity to say, “Doesn’t Your Majesty know about me? I am the smartest. My sister is so great, and if she is not in a good health, wouldn’t it be my huge loss?”
She repeatedly emphasized Shi Baoning’s ability. Even though Ling Ruiyin knew that Shi Qingxue was complimenting Shi Baoning on purpose, she couldn’t help but be curious what exactly Shi Baoning could do that Qingxue showed her off like this.
“Since Xue has said so, I really need to see Baoning’s ability!” Ling Ruiyin looked at Shi Baoning with encouragement, but she made the latter even somewhat nervous.
Shi Baoning was raised deep in her boudoir, and she had never performed in public. She couldn’t help but be nervous, and she secretly looked at Shi Qingxue for help.
She also knew that Qingxue was helping her, but in front of so many people, she was scared!
What if she messed up?
Seeing this, Shi Qingxue had to stand out again, and said coquettishly, “Your Majesty, Baoning has a lot of skills! But it’s the banquet for Qiqiao Festival, if she performs alone, wouldn’t she supersede what really matters? How about waiting until the talent competition later, and Your Majesty will see whether I have exaggerated!”
Of course, it would be easier to be outstanding when she was performing alone than when she was competing all the noble ladies, for no matter how great talent she had, she didn’t dare to promise that she could win.
Others heard that, and they thought that Shi Qingxue was stupid, while Shi Baoning was relieved and nodded to Qingxue gratefully.
Ling Ruiyin no longer insisted, and announced the beginning of the banquet.
At the banquet for Qiqiao Festival, the theme would always be chosen by Empress Dowager among Chinese zither, Go, Calligraphy and Painting, and then those noble ladies began to perform, and those ranking the first three would be rewarded at last.
Go was selected last year, and the final winner was Shi Qingxue.
If Shi Qingxue remembered correctly, this year’s project would be painting.
As she had thought, when the banquet was about to end, Empress Dowager announced, “The view of Qiqiao Festival is beautiful this year. Please paint in the theme of Qiqiao Festival. The time limitation is two hours. If you have already had the ideas, you shall start!”
After that, she turned around and looked at Shi Qingxue, and made fun of her, “Last year you got a good deal and took my favorite colored glaze screen. What are you supposed to do this year?”
Almost everyone at present knew that Sixth Lady of the Shi Family had the best Go skills among the four arts, while she was not so outstanding in the aspects of Calligraphy and Chinese zither. As for her painting skill, it was awful.
Shi Qingxue’s weakness was publicly pointed out by Empress Dowager, but she was not ashamed. She said with a smile, “It’s a competition, and participation is more important!”
“Your temper is really good. You don’t have the sense of dispute at all.” Imperial Concubine Liu, Liu Yiyi, had regarded Shi Qingxue as her daughter-in-law, and at this moment, of course she needed to say something to help her.
But Empress Liang Jingxian followed to say at this time, “I just wonder whether it was that she doesn’t dispute or that she just can’t win!”
She seemed to be talking to herself, but it was enough for everyone at present to hear clearly.
It was a little bit awkward. Many people secretly laughed, waiting to see the conflict between Shi Qingxue and the Empress.
Empress’s original family was powerful. Even though Ling Ruiyin was not satisfied with her behavior, she couldn’t blame her in public. If Shi Qingxue really offended Liang Jingxian, it was still Shi Qingxue who should take the consequence.
At this time, even Ling Ruiyin secretly became nervous for Qingxue in her heart.
Shi Qingxue seemed not to understand Liang Jingxian’s irony. She looked innocent, and nodded in agreement, saying, “Your Majesty, you are right. I can’t win!”
Liang Jingxian was immediately overjoyed, but before she continued to ridicule, Qingxue continued to say with a smile, “Anyway, I have my sister here, and the Shi Family won’t lose face! Your Majesty doesn’t need to bother to worry about our Shi Family!”
Argued back like this, Liang Jingxian’s smile froze on her face, and the corners of her eyes twitched.
But it was her who had satirized Shi Qingxue first, and Shi Qingxue agreed with her very generously, even if it sounded like she was implying that it was none of her business.
If she was still stuck to it, she would seem to be ungraceful.
Liang Jingxian had to tolerate this reluctantly.
Shi Qingxue smiled secretly, but she was still full of smiles on her face, and got into Ling Ruiyin’s arms, coquettishly saying, “Your Majesty loves me dearly. Your Majesty must be unwilling to see me lose face. Can I ask for a temporary job from Your Majesty?”
Liang Jingxian’s look was cold, and she said sarcastically, “Aren’t you just not caring at all? Now, are you trying to make Her Majesty open a back door for you?”
“Your Majesty, you are making fun of me. Her Majesty is so fair and selfless. How will Her Majesty break the rules for me?” Shi Qingxue pretended to be surprised and asked.
With this argument, Liang Jingxian had nothing to say. Shi Qingxue continued to say, “I wish Your Majesty could make me be your eyes in this painting competition and watched those noble girls perform for you.”
This time, even Ling Ruiyin was stunned for the time being. After a while, she burst into laughter, “You this little girl! You obviously don’t dare to compete, but you find the excuse of being the invigilator for me!”
This trick to draw the woods under the kettle was absolutely wonderful. Shi Qingxue did not give those noble ladies any chance to mock her at all!
“Your Majesty, please allow me!” Shi Qingxue didn’t deny it, but she was just clinging in Ling Ruiyin’s arms and act coquettish.
Ling Ruiyin’s heart was soft and she responded, “Okay, then you should be the invigilator for me this time! You watch them paint. When they finish, you collect their paintings and give them to me and have a look.”
“Sure!” Shi Qingxue agreed quickly, and actively rushed to ask others to clean up the contest site.
Liang Jingxian was argued over and over again by Shi Qingxue and became speechless, and she couldn’t help sneering seeing Shi Qingxue’s back, “Flattering!”
“I’m afraid that Your Majesty’s words are biased. Qingxue took the initiative to share the worries of Her Majesty. How is it flattering?” Liu Yiyi responded immediately. Apparently she was arguing Liang Jingxian.
Liang Jingxian snorted coldly and said, “Other ladies all obey the rules and participate the contest. Only her bothers to be the invigilator. Isn’t she trying to stand out and be different?”
However, Liu Yiyi said with a serious look, “Everyone else wants to perform before Her Majesty, but there should be someone to be the invigilator to make sure that this contest is fair. Qingxue took the initiative to be the invigilator and left others the chance to perform, which showed that she got no intention to dispute.”
In a few words, Qingxue’s behavior of avoiding the test was whitewashed into a generous behavior.
Liang Jingxian still wanted to refute, but Ling Ruiyin said impatiently, “Enough! Look at your identities. Arguing at the banquet, are you trying to lose face of the Imperial Family?”
The two stopped quickly, and responded in unison, “I don’t dare.”
Shi Qingxue didn’t know the quarrel between the two dignified madams in the palace because of her. Once she took the job as an invigilator, she started to do her duty to set up the site.
As in previous years, the test place was also selected on the open space by Molian Lake. The sun moved westwards in the afternoon, and sunlight was blocked by those tall banyan trees. An open and cool site was formed by the lake. It was suitable to paint, and there was no worry that those noble ladies couldn’t bear the heat.
Shi Qingxue was very satisfied with the site. But Shi Baoning in front of the table was still very nervous. She kept looking around but couldn’t find a way to calm down.
She couldn’t paint in this condition!
Qingxue thought for a while and guessed that her sister should be nervous for she hadn’t been together with so many people for too long.
Then she called the servant again and whispered, “You move some screens and separate each position.”
The servant didn’t know her intention, but still did as she said. She used screens to create a private space to paint for all the noble ladies.
Then, it was obvious that not only Shi Baoning, but many noble ladies settled down to paint.
After two hours, there were constantly noble ladies who stopped and handed in their paintings.
Seeing that so many delicate paintings were presented in the front one after another, but Shi Baoning still didn’t finish, Chen Xiujiao, the daughter of Mr. Chen couldn’t bare that Qingxue tasted tea with relief. She faked a smile and said, “Shi Qingxue, you complimented your sister’s painting skills repeatedly just now, which made us expect it much!”
Qingxue calmly took a sip of tea, and said indifferently, “What are you anxious about? Her Majesty surely will show the best painting to the public. Then you should know!”
Chen Xiujiao was very confident with her painting this time. She didn’t expect Qingxue to be so arrogant, and sneered, “Then we shall wait and see. If Baoning can’t win the first, I hope you don’t slap your own face!”
Shi Qingxue shrugged indifferently, saying, “No matter whose face is to be slapped, it’s my own business. Why are you so worried?”
“You!” In a way, Shi Qingxue was very good at bringing an awkward ending to the conversation. Chen Xiujiao was speechless and walked away angrily.
However, Qingxue was relaxed too early this time, because Shi Baoning’s servant, Jing Yi, rushed to her and said, “Sixth Lady, something bad happened. First Lady’s painting is missing!”
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