Chapter 97 : Imperial Cosort Chen (Part II)
It was the day before the palace feast and the clothes that Old Jiang Madame had specifically made to order from Ruyi Lou were delivered. All the clothes were made by materials personally chosen by the Jiang fu’s young ladies. As Liu Ru Yi presented the clothes, she looked at Jiang Ruan with much heartache, “Eldest Jiang Miss has such a fair complexion; the other day there was that bolt of red cloud satin that would have made a splendid outfit. Alas, while this pale peach pink colour looks just as good, it is nothing when compared to that brilliant red material.”
From Liu Ru Yi’s perspective, Jiang Ruan was very suited to wear bright red clothes as she had a fair silky complexion. When she dressed in brilliant clothes, she was incomparable in her beauty, bearing a hint of a fiery liveliness, yet still composed. Though interestingly, while adorned in that fire-like colour, her strange, cold-like and indifferent demeanor was enhanced. Ordinarily fire and ice are two extremes, but in her case, they seemed to blend into an exceptional harmony- a beauty beyond comparison who immediately grabbed one’s attention after just a look.
Jiang Ruan herself was well aware of this point, which was why her usual attire was mostly red in colour. However, for this particular occasion, she had done the unprecedented by selecting a pale colour. Although Liu Ru Yi had tactly tried to suggest otherwise, Jiang Ruan was still adamant in her selection. So without much ado, Liu Ru Yi had to resign herself to make the outfit as per Jiang Ruan’s instruction.
“Many thanks to Shopkeeper Liu’s kind consideration.” Jiang Ruan smiled, “However, I still like the colour of this material.”
While she couldn’t fathom why Jiang Ruan was so resolute in her decision, Liu Ru Yi had come to acknowledge the fact that this Jiang family’s eldest young miss was a person who knew her own mind. Furthermore, there was definitely a reason for her decision and it was only that she was not privy to it. Acknowledging this, she laughed in reply, “Eldest Jiang Miss is a beauty without rival, and will look splendid in whatever you choose to wear- it is I who have overstepped my boundaries. It is just that all the other young ladies of the fu appear to consider the palace feast as rather important and have made me alter and adjust their clothes many times.”
She once again tactfully pointed this out, to which Jiang Ruan only smiled slightly, “The palace feast is indeed of great importance, and my younger sisters do not want to cause the Jiang fu to lose out in appearance, thus they ought to be fastidious.”
Indeed, what kind of event was the palace feast! If it weren’t for the major flood disaster in the Great Jin dynasty this year, perhaps these officials’ daughters might never have such an opportunity to attend this event in their lifetime. Furthermore, there would be many n.o.ble families and their young masters in attendance, and so who wouldn’t want to leave behind a lasting impression in the hopes that it might bring about a prestigious marriage offer in the future. Wouldn’t this be a splendous outcome. Therefore, for these government officials’ young ladies, especially those born of concubines, this palace feast would be an opportunity more important than life itself.
After Liu Ru Yi finished, she stood and bid her leave. Jiang Ruan had Lu Zhu see her out, but then unexpectedly Jiang Xin Zhi entered her courtyard.
Seeing her, he asked, “Ah Ruan, are you all prepared for tomorrow?” Noticing the new clothes at the side, he continued, “Since you’ve also got new clothes, tomorrow, Ah Ruan, your beauty will absolutely outshine all others.”
In Jiang Xin Zhi’s eyes, Jiang Ruan was most definitely the best- she was beautiful and gentle, yet sensible and courageous. Even though he was clueless in regards to a red dress or a pink one, he only knew that Jiang Ruan would look beautiful in whatever she chose to wear.
Jiang Ruan was too lazy to pay attention to his nonsensical chatter, nor did she expect that Jiang Xin Zhi would actually sit down across from her and say in all seriousness, “The imperial palace is nothing like the fu, there are rules and decorum for everything. I’m sure the people in the Jiang family would not have ever taught you the etiquette when entering the palace, or even now thought of arranging for someone to help advise and instruct. This has all been done in hopes that you will make a blunder at tomorrow’s event, so you have to remember…”
“Dage,” not waiting for Jiang Xin Zhi to continue on, Jiang Ruan interrupted him, “since the day Dage returned, have you found me lacking in any way?”
Jiang Xin Zhi was momentarily blindsided, then immediately shook his head in reply, “Not at all.”
This was the truth. Since his return to the capital, he had felt that Jiang Ruan had matured immensely, even her temperament compared to before was like that of another person. Her mannerisms were exceptionally refined. Over the past few days he had accompanied Guan Liang Han with errands, and had had many opportunities to encounter various young ladies from high-ranking officials and n.o.ble families, and concluded that they didn’t have even an ounce of Jiang Ruan’s elegant bearing.
Jiang Ruan laughed, “Since there is nothing lacking, then Dage shouldn’t have anything to be concerned about. Since I can manage within the Jiang fu, naturally I will also be able to manage at the imperial palace. There isn’t that much of a difference, except maybe the circ.u.mstances might be a bit more stringent.”
Jiang Xin Zhi knitted his brows, “But, ultimately you’ve never been to the palace…”
“Dage,” Jiang Ruan interrupted yet again, “I am well aware of all the ranks of all the palace ladies, the gratuity to be given to all the head eunuchs, how to curtsey and address all the consorts. Furthermore, I am knowledgeable of which side palace halls and chambers that are out of bounds and should not be entered.”
She countered, “Dage, how much do you know? Within the palace, do you know who is the most trusted head eunuch serving the Emperor? Or which young eunuch under the head eunuch is his adopted son? Do you know which two of the Empress’ personal maids in attendance possess martial art skills? Or which pretty lady has the most terrifying temper and is best be avoided under any circ.u.mstances?”
She spoke slowly and with authority, and so as Jiang Xin Zhi listened he was quite shocked. In his heart this felt absurd and unbelievable, but he never once doubted what Jiang Ruan said. Her tone was like someone who had been shaped and had endured after being put through the very bowels of the palace machinations, an insider’s perspective, almost like….. One who had personally experienced it. It was obviously impossible for Jiang Ruan to have such personal experience. However, all these secrets from within the palace- how could she, who had been a closeted young miss, come by such information? Should all these little secrets be leaked out, that would be catastrophic. Once again his heart abounded with a bizarre feeling as he looked towards Jiang Ruan, “Ah Ruan, how do you know all this?”
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“What does Dage think?” Jiang Ruan looked at him and answered with a rhetorical question.
Jiang Xin Zhi lifted his eyes, but then his gaze fell onto Jiang Ruan’s wrist and he asked curiously, “Since when have you had this bracelet?”
Jiang Xin Zhi was not aware that this was the Blood Moon bracelet, only noticing that the bracelet was skillfully designed and not made from ordinary materials. It also emanated a subtle intriguing glow that after a quick glance, one would know that it was a rare valuable treasure. This particular item of Jiang Ruan’s was not something that had been inherited from Zhao Mei, and it was definitely impossible that it would be given by the Jiang family. Thus his thoughts harboured some suspicion.
Jiang Ruan followed his gaze and looked down, before tugging her sleeves down to conceal the bracelet, “This was a gift from a friend.”
Jiang Xin Zhi was about to enquire further into the matter but Jiang Ruan took over the conversation and changed the topic.
It was only after Jiang Xin Zhi had left that Lu Zhu returned from seeing Liu Ru Yi off. Lian Qiao and Bai Zhi were somewhat fl.u.s.tered over the next evening’s palace feast. Very early on, they had already selected some jewellery from a box on the dressing table. Lian Qiao chose a gold woven bracelet inlaid with chrysoberyl, but Bai Zhi shook her head, “This looks a tad too frivolous. There will be many n.o.ble ladies tomorrow evening, so I think we should choose something more stately.” In saying that, she rummaged through the small box and picked out a green jade bracelet inlaid with gold wound flowers. “How about this?”
To this, Lian Qiao waved her hands, “Not that, it just looks overly solemn, and doesn’t go with our Miss’ attire. The first one is still a better match and would look really nice.”
Jiang Ruan put down the book she was holding in her hands and said, “Don’t bother selecting anything. Tomorrow we will just do a simple spiral coil hairdo, and use that dangling rose ornament.”
Jiang Ruan usually didn’t take any particular interest in her hair styles and make up, and left most of it to these two servants to fuss over which style to do. However, this time, she was very specific in her choice. Lu Zhu expressed “Won’t Miss be dressed a little too low key and simple?”
“I obviously have my reasons.” Jiang Ruan continued, “so that’s settled.”
Lian Qiao and Bai Zhi looked at one another, both still confused, but didn’t pursue nor asked any further. Lu Zhu poked her tongue out and hurriedly tidied up the jewellery box. Jiang Ruan looked at the book before her, but in the next second her gaze turned lingering.
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