In the end, Madam Rong couldn’t gather the courage to step forward, and could only quietly place the jade amulet in her hands back into her sleeves.
The people around her noted her hesitation and her eventual decision to not participate in the wager. Some of the madams nearby immediately rolled their eyes. Madam Rong had no choice but to keep her indignation at their reactions to herself.
Miss Su was more clever and understood that this wasn’t something that an unmarried young lady like her should join in, so she could only watch what was happening from the crowd.
On the other hand, Miss Yuan kept staring at the sparkling accessories on the silver tray, her greed showing in her eyes. The twenty or so accessories in that tray were all extraordinary items; if all of them were to become hers, she would likely go mad from the euphoria. Thus, she couldn’t help the traces of jealousy and hatred leaking from her gaze when she looked at Chu Lian. She fervently hoped that Chu Lian would lose.
When Chu Lian’s gaze turned to Madam Rong, she noticed that Madam Rong had her head lowered and didn’t dare to meet her eyes. She smiled inwardly, but didn’t take Madam Rong’s actions to heart.
“House Jing’an’s Third Young Madam, this way please!” Madam Huang slightly raised her voice, the corners of her lips tilting upwards. Although her tone was neither hot nor cold, her eyes carried clear contempt for Chu Lian.
Chu Lian stood amongst the crowd, dressed rather plainly compared to the others, but her fearless expression invoked praise and approval from the crowd. She bobbed in greeting to the ladies before her and said, “Dear madams, if you would kindly send some people to follow me to the kitchen as witnesses.”
Madam Huang hadn’t expected that Chu Lian would bring up a request like that, but she saw no harm in acquiescing to it. She immediately waved her hand to send two of her senior servants with Chu Lian; Lady Yang did the same.
As the crowd watched Chu Lian leading her maidservants and the four senior servants off to the kitchen of Mei Court, the sounds of fervent gossiping grew in volume.
Madam Huang inwardly scoffed as a maidservant helped her to a seat. She didn’t believe that an unfavoured little girl from House Ying could work her way out of a situation like this.
Don’t assume that you’re craftier than the rest of us, just because your womb is a little more fertile than most!
Lady Yang sat right next to Madam Huang. Her maidservant passed her a cup of freshly brewed sencha, which she received and took a small sip from. Then, she smiled before speaking to Madam Huang. “What’s wrong? Are you already scared of losing that precious pearl bracelet of yours, Madam Huang?”
“Lady Yang, the longevity peach buns haven’t even come out of the kitchen yet. How are you so sure that you’ve already won?”
The two of them exchanged looks full of hidden daggers; the madams standing around them shivered as chills ran down their spines. They all tried to shrink into the background. None of them wanted to accidentally become a pawn in the battle between the two fearsome madams, like Chu Lian had.
At Qingfeng Court, right across from Mei Court, the azure eyes watching from the third floor window glimmered. They filled with humor as the man murmured to himself in a low voice, “That Sanlang has gotten a rather interesting wife for himself.”
The man waved his hand and the shadow within the room appeared once again. “Tell the men to retreat for now. This prince wants to see what this Sixth Miss Chu can do.”
“As you wish, Master.”
In the same building, down at the veranda facing the pond, a manservant dressed in blue was whispering into the ears of Heir Zheng. While watching the crowd across the pond, Heir Zheng’s eyes immediately lit up.
“Is that so?”
“Heir Zheng, this servant dare not hide a thing.”
“Then go quickly! Once you have news, report to me immediately!” In his urgency, Heir Zheng kicked the manservant’s bottom. The manservant simply laughed and ran off.