Shi Qingxue looked at Jing Yi in surprise, “Isn’t my sister still painting in her seat just now? How could the painting be missing?”
But Jing Yi was so anxious that she couldn’t even explain what had happened. Shi Qingxue could only follow her to find Shi Baoning. Shi Baoning was seen sitting at the table upset, and her eyes were red, as if she had cried.
“Baoning, what’s going on?” Shi Qingxue glanced at the drawing table. There were only used brush and ink on it, but the painting was missing.
When Shi Baoning saw Qingxue, her pale face suddenly looked excited. She grabbed Qingxue’s hand as if she had seen the last straw, and hurriedly said, “I was painting here just now. A pillar of joss sticks of time ago, I finished “Affection”. But when I turned around to chat with Third Lady and the others, the painting was gone. What should I do now?”
“What did Shi Baojin say to you?” Shi Qingxue keenly captured the key of the problem. She instinctively thought that Shi Baojin suddenly came to Shi Baoning to build close relationship with her because of her dirty plan.
Baoning also knew what she was thinking, and quickly clarified, “You misunderstood her, Third Lady didn’t steal my painting. She just wasn’t good at painting skills and came to ask me. I thought that sisters should help each other, and I taught her for a while.
But she just watched from beginning to end, and didn’t move my painting, so it wouldn’t be her!”
“That’s it!” The clue was useless, and Shi Qingxue didn’t suspect her any more. After all, the most important thing at this moment was not to find out the thief, but how to deal with it.
Empress Dowager was fully expecting Shi Baoning’s ability, but at this time Shi Baoning said that her painting was missing. A better result would be that she lost her face. But if Empress Dowager was angry and accused Shi Baoning of lying, that would be a big trouble.
“At first, we thought that it was the servant in the palace who took the painting and forgot to tell us, but only after we asked about it did I know that my painting was not handed in at all. And Mammy Chang by Empress Dowager’s side had urged us just now and she told us that if we had evidence to prove somebody had stolen my painting, Empress Dowager wouldn’t care about it!”
As Shi Baoning said, her eyes became completely dim.
Shi Qingxue raised her eyebrows in surprise, and asked in amazement, “You have told Empress Dowager?”
“Yeah! Jing Yi said that the painting was lost during the competition. It was not good to hide it from Empress Dowager. And our power was weak. We need Empress Dowager to help us find back my painting.” Shi Baoning’s words made sense, but when Qingxue heard it, she was so speechless.
If Ling Ruiyin didn’t know about it, they could use another painting if they couldn’t find Shi Baoning’s painting. But they told all this matter to Ling Ruiyin earlier.
They couldn’t even hide it at this moment!
Shi Qingxue gave an angry glance at Jing Yi. Shi Baoning rarely attended banquets and didn’t know how to deal with these matters and it was fine. But Jing Yi was the first-class servant selected strictly by Mo Shujun. She didn’t help her master to settle her embarrassment. However, she revealed this matter instead.
It made her so ferocious!
“Qingxue, what should we do now?” Shi Baoning looked at Shi Qingxue’s cold look, and thought they were really helpless this time. She couldn’t help but be regretful, “Is there really no way out?”
Shi Qingxue sighed deeply. When she saw Shi Baoning so upset, she couldn’t say anything reproachful.
“Jing Yi, you wait at the intersection now, and don’t let anyone approach us.” She thought for a while, and decisively ordered.
Jing Yi tipped her head in doubt, “Sixth Lady, what do you want to do?”
“Don’t ask. Just do what I ask you to.” Shi Qingxue didn’t want to explain too much to Jing Yi and drove her away. Then she began to implement her plan.
Half an hour later, the last noble lady also handed in her painting. But the two daughters of Duke Shi were still hiding behind the screen. No one knew what they were doing.
Ling Ruiyin didn’t ask Empress and Imperial Concubine Liu to accompany her this time. She sat alone in the room and looked at the paintings sent by subordinates.
Qiqiao Festival was also Chinese Valentine’s Day. Almost all the noble ladies painted scenes of having fun and begging to the moon. Sometimes there were a few bold paintings showed the affection between boys and girls and the scenes of their dating under the moon.
It was not that the paintings were not good, but after admiring them one after another, Ling Ruiyin couldn’t help but feel a little tired of those.
She then handed the paintings in her hand to Mammy Chang, and asked, “Chang, come and see for me. Which of these paintings is better?”
Mammy Chang followed Ling Ruiyin since a young age, and she guessed that her master was bored. She hurriedly took over the paintings, and after carefully admiring them, she lowered her eyes and said respectfully, “I haven’t even read books. How could I know about those matters of eulogizing the wind or admiring the moon. But the conceptions of these paintings are all very beautiful. I think they must not be bad.”
How could Ling Ruiyin not know that Mammy Chang was unwilling to offend any noble lady? She glazed at her, laughed and criticized, “You are becoming smarter as you grow elder. When you were young, you would still tell me some of your real thoughts. But now, you completely hide them, and won’t tell the truth even to me?”
“Your Majesty really misunderstands me! It’s not that I’m not willing to tell the truth, but these paintings have similar artistic conceptions, and it is really difficult to decide which one is better.”
“Well!” Ling Ruiyin glanced again at the paintings spread out on the table, but nodded in agreement, “That’s true. I admired them for so long, and only the “Affection” in your hands was a little better.
In the painting, a woman sits alone in the courtyard playing Acacia. White lights drift away with the sound of Chinese zither and fly to the moon, as if she is finding connection with the one she misses in the distance in this way. The conception is dimly discernible and it is exactly a wonderful masterpiece.”
Ling Ruiyin kept praising it, but Mammy Chang saw her dissatisfaction at a glance, and asked carefully, “Does Your Majesty decide the top three?”
“Although Qiqiao Festival of Fifth Lady of the Qin Family obeys the painting rules too strictly, its instruction is delicate, which makes people eager for the activities of those girls, and it should be the third. Third Lady’s “Miss When Facing Each Other” describes the looks and behaviors when a boy and a girl chase love straightforward. Although it is bold, the whims are not lost. It should be the second.”
After quickly deciding on the second and third place, Ling Ruiyin paused and didn’t say anything for a long time.
Mammy Chang tentatively asked again, “‘Affection’ of First Lady of the Chen Family is really outstanding. Does Your Majesty want to make it the first place?”
Ling Ruiyin thought for a moment. Without answering, she asked, “Chang, have you told First Lady of the Shi Family my words?”
“I told her. And the maid in palace said that Sixth Lady also went to see it, and that she drove everyone else away from the painting table. No one knows what they are planning.”
Ling Ruiyin couldn’t help but chuckle when she heard the words, “Since Xue has got involved, and she will definitely settle this matter.”
Mammy Chang was a little hesitant, “But Sixth Lady hasn’t sent the painting yet. Time is up soon.”
No matter how clever Shi Qingxue was, it was actually hard to figure out who deliberately ruined this competition, and it was even more unrealistic to make Shi Baoning draw another painting.
Not knowing who was gossiping, not only did Empress Dowager know that Shi Baoning lost her painting, but it also spread among the noble ladies who participated in the contest.
The noble ladies in favor of Chen Xiujiao naturally ridiculed, and Chen Xiujiao even laughed straightforward, “Doesn’t Baoning want us to admire your masterpiece, so that you hide it yourself?”
She said those words, but actually was implying that Shi Baoning was afraid to lose and pretended that the painting was missing.
Shi Baoning was not good at talking with people, let alone coping with such an aggressive tone as Chen Xiujiao’s. She was so ashamed that her face turned red suddenly. After a while, she said, “Xiujiao, you must be kidding. As long as I participate in the competition, I won’t retreat easily.”
“Really? Then I want to see what kind of work you can come up with? But don’t let us be too disappointed!” They were all daughters in First Master’s Family in their respective families, but Chen Xiujiao was not as favored as Shi Baoning. And she didn’t have the natural elegant temperament as Shi Baoning. Of course, she would be so angry and she was eager to see Shi Baoning lose her face.
Shi Qingxue had just finished her job, and she saw Chen Xiujiao and the others bullying Shi Baoning when she came back. But Shi Baojin, who was also a member of the Shi Family, was standing aside and watching what was happening happily.
She slightly sneered, “My sister is the one painting, and Her Majesty is the one judging. Jiao, don’t bother to worry about us.”
When Chen Xiujiao saw Shi Qingxue dare to laugh at her minding others’ business, she became so angry and didn’t hide her hatred any more. She sneered straightforward, “Someone called a bluff in front of Empress Dowager. Of course it made all of us expect eagerly. I’m just afraid that it will disappoint us then!”
“Xiujiao, don’t you say. What if she really has the real ability?” Luo Wenmei, the second daughter of Minister Luo, who had a good relationship with Chen Xiujiao, pretended to joke.
Chen Xiujiao slowly added up, “Then she should have ability first! I wonder how she has the real ability if she doesn’t even have a painting.”
Shi Qingxue didn’t want to argue with these people, but their words always laughed at her sister’s pain. She was about to teach them a lesson, when Shi Baojin suddenly made a movement.
Shi Baojin stepped in front of Chen Xiujiao, held up her arm, trying to settle this matter, “Well, Xiujiao, Baoning is my eldest sister, and she is annoyed enough today. For the sake of me, don’t upset her anymore.”
When Chen Xiujiao saw that Shi Baoning’s eyes turned red because their irony, she sneered, pretending to be generous, “In this case, I will stop saying it. But I’m afraid Empress Dowager will be disappointed then!”
Seeing that Shi Baojin intended to isolate the two sisters from other noble ladies and still tried to pretend to be the good person, Shi Qingxue sneered, “It’s still uncertain who will be disappointed.”
“Then we wait and see!”
At a time when the atmosphere of the noble ladies was extremely tense, Mammy Chang came bring Ling Ruiyin’s order.
“In honor of Her Majesty, in this talent competition at the banquet for Qiqiao Festival, the third place is Qin Yanyan’s ‘Qiqiao’. There are two ranking the second, and they are Shi Baojin’s ‘Miss When Facing Each Other’ and Chen Xiujiao’s ‘Affection’…”
After announcing those, the noble ladies were all listening carefully and wondered who would be the first place, but at this time, Mammy Chang paused again.
Chen Xiujiao couldn’t hold her breath, urging loudly, “Mammy Chang, who exactly is the first place? Please quickly announce it!”
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