Chapter 200: A Purse of Snacks (3)
Meanwhile, Chu Lian finally arrived at the Empress Dowager’s Ninghe Palace, together with Royal Princess Duanjia.
At this time, Ninghe Palace was in a flurry. Most of the female imperial relatives had already arrived. Since she had been delayed for quite some time in the imperial gardens, Chu Lian didn’t have the chance to meet the Empress Dowager personally. Instead, it was Princess Wei who pulled her to one side and helped her, giving her instructions on the necessary etiquette for today’s event.
Chu Lian had come into the palace today dressed as an Honoured Lady, so her maidservants had not given her a married noble madam’s hairstyle as usual. When Princess Wei had seen her daughter Duanjia standing together with Chu Lian, their similar figures made them look like a pretty pair of sisters from behind.
Princess Wei smiled and patted Chu Lian’s fair, tender hand. “Matriarch He and Old Duchess Zheng have gone to accompany the Empress Dowager. In a few moments, just follow behind me with Duanjia. After the meal, all the titled noble madams will be allowed to enter the palace for the banquet.”
It was clear that Princess Wei was being kind to Chu Lian. Of course, Chu Lian had sensed it for herself. She immediately gave a genuine smile and agreed.
After having her afternoon meal with the various female members of the imperial family, Chu Lian and Duanjia sat in the corner of a side hall and sipped some honey water to help with digestion. They also watched as some palace servants led a few noble madams in to pay their respects to the Empress Dowager.
This was the first time Chu Lian had seen such a grand event, so she couldn’t resist observing everything.
“Royal Princess, why are all the madams carrying a container of food?” Chu Lian asked curiously.
Royal Princess Duanjia set down the teacup in her hands and cast a strange look at her. She was clearly surprised as she exclaimed, “You don’t know?”
Chu Lian shook her head, puzzled. She really didn’t know anything about that at all. In the original novel, or at least the part she had read, Chu Lian had never attended any event as grand as this in the palace.
Royal Princess Duanjia rolled her eyes at Chu Lian, speechless with her. “Your mind must be completely used up for thinking about food! How could you not know about something this simple?! Those madams are carrying round cakes in those boxes.”
After Royal Princess Duanjia’s explanation, it was only then that Chu Lian found out that there was traditionally a round cake competition held inside the palace during the Mid-Autumn Banquet, ever since the time of the Emperor’s great-grandfather.
Every noble madam who came to pay their respects to the Empress Dowager or the Empress would bring some round cakes prepared in their own estates, representing their house. The palace servants would place each set of round cakes on an offering table. When the banquet ended, everyone would choose the most delicious round cake, and there would be a prize for the winning house.
This was also the current Empress Dowager’s favourite part of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Chu Lian found it a little funny. She hadn’t expected that there would be such an interesting event during the palace’s Mid-Autumn Banquet.
“Which house won the competition last year?” Chu Lian asked.
Royal Princess Duanjia sipped some tea before throwing a sideways glance at her. “The Pan Estate.”
The Pan Estate? Pan Gelao’s estate?
A trace of suspicion showed up on Chu Lian’s face.
Royal Princess Duanjia had been watching her expression. She chuckled once and said, “Chu Liu, you’re pretty sharp! Let me tell you, it wasn’t just last year, two years ago, or even the year before that. The Pan Estate has always been the champion of the Mid-Autumn Banquet!”
Chu Lian’s eyes widened a little. The inklings of something were coming together in her mind.
Royal Princess Duanjia didn’t try to disrupt her thoughts. She continued on to explain, “Last year, Madam Pan presented a plate of hazelnut-flavoured round cakes.”
The princess then reached out to point at a distance away. “There, see that person dressed in a purple overcoat? That’s Madam Pan.”
Following the direction that Royal Princess Duanjia was pointing in, Chu Lian saw a round-faced middle-aged madam with slender brows. Her face was fair and her lips a little thick. When she smiled, she revealed eight pearly-white teeth, and when she was speaking with others, she always carried a slight smile on her lips, giving everyone a good impression of her.
Chu Lian couldn’t help but remember the day she had gone to Guilin Restaurant and chanced upon the sight of her father in front of the Pan Estate’s entrance.
Just as Chu Lian was about to sink into her thoughts, she suddenly heard a voice filled with mockery call out in their direction.