Zhanghe twelveth year, the fourth day of the second month.
Yuancheng Emperor hosted a banquet in Jingtai palace to celebrate Empress Dowager’s sixtieth birthday.
The imperial princes, members of the imperial clan, court officials and imperial consorts and concubines were all present.
Empress Dowager Jin sat upright at Emperor’s right-hand side.
She was attired in a bright yellow phoenix robe decorated with light red peony embroidery.
A phoenix crown embellished with pearls and green jades adorned her head.
She wore a jade thumb ring on her left hand and a gold crystal nail guard on the right hand.
The Empress Dowager’s gaze was bright and clear, her expression amiable.
She was talking with Yuancheng Emperor.
The two seemed quite close.
All the imperial consorts and concubines have dressed with utmost care.
Smiles filled their faces.
The cheerful atmosphere had them engaging in talks and amusing each other.
The imperial princes were seated according to their seniority, all of them accompanied by womenfolks of sufficient status.
Today, Zhong Zheng Lin has, uncommonly, worn a dark red ceremonial robe of an imperial prince which reduced a little bit of his coldness and added him a bit of handsomeness.
Mu Xi Yao was attired in a plum red colored formal dress of cefei.
Its top was a buttoned little jacket with coated edges and her lower garment was a celestial trailing long skirt.
There was a tiny swell on her belly.
Due to the pregnancy, she appeared even more seductive.
When Zhong Zheng Lin looked at her, he had an urge to drape a cloak over her.
The sixth Highness sat there straight as a ramrod with a solemn face.
Fortunately, there was a gentle and charming Mu cefei by his side to attend him – serving him a tea, toasting wine and from time to time leaning sideways to say something to him.
This made the sixth prince appear more relaxed.
Otherwise, it would truly turn like how Yuancheng Emperor had imagined, an unsightly spectacle.
Mu Xi Yao’s little hand was grasped by Zhong Zheng Lin.
She was currently watching artists from Yin Yue Ge presenting dance at the center of the main hall.
A song 《Bodhisattva’s birthday congratulation》was an eye-opener for Mu Xi Yao.
She felt that it was quite similar to《Thousand Hand Bodhisattva》from nowadays.
Just there were two more baskets in their hands.
“Does your Highness enjoy appreciating dances” When Mu Xi Yao saw others dance cheerfully, her heart felt enticed.
“Oh Does Bendian’s cefei know how to” It was Zhong Zheng’s first time hearing Mu Xi Yao mention singing and dancing.
He had never seen her dance in estate before.
But when he thought carefully about how well she coped with those difficult morning movements, she certainly must have some foundation.
Thereupon, he narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth to say meaningfully, “Is Jiao Jiao willing to, after giving birth, dance for Bendian”
Hearing him use the endearment he usually called her during their intimate moments at the public place with numerous people present, her face heated up.
She cast him a displeased glance and then turned her head, complying bashfully.
The following opera《Happiness offered by peaches of immortality》was sang cheerfully.
For a moment, the audience raised glasses and exchanged cups, applauding ceaselessly.
Mu Xi Yao wasn’t fond of theatre play kind of art.
Watching it made her mind confused and disoriented.
She leaned against Zhong Zheng Lin and grumbled in a small voice that she did watch it but didn’t understand.
Zhong Zheng Lin didn’t expect Mu Xi Yao to be this blunt about it.
He was rendered speechless for a moment.
Amused, he pinched her little hand and seized her waist underneath the table to let her lean against him and rest.
It was the first time other imperial princes saw Zhong Zheng Lin being close with a woman.
They were very astonished.
Subsequently, they saw the two being quite intimate with each other.
Zhong Zheng would occasionally pick up food for her with a gentle expression, which made them so surprised they couldn’t help themselves but to throw them few more glances.
Upon the closer look, they’ve discovered that she was indeed a beauty.
Lovable and delicate, pink cheeks and bright eyes, vivid facial features, and stunning posture.
Especially that distinct aura that enveloped her body.
It was agile yet graceful, so charming that it made people enamored.
Furthermore, she had exquisite curves.
Even the pregnancy didn’t have the slightest bit of effect on it.
As a result, they could understand a little.
She was, most likely, that quite favored lady Mu from the rumors.
She must be now Zhong Zheng Lin’s cefei.
The crown prince and the first prince uncontrollably cast her several more looks, sighing that it was a great pity.
Such a beauty, yet she was appointed to that wood, the sixth.
If she was given to them….their imagination couldn’t refrain from roaming.
The fourth prince also has appreciatively thrown her few glances.
He sighed that no wonder his younger brother came to him for the folk remedy.
She was actually quite a beauty.
The mood of the fifth prince Zhong Zheng Ming was very complicated.
So this was that lady Mu.
She was just like her name, beautiful and quick-witted, worth of the ideas he had harbored about her.
If Zhong Zheng Lin hadn’t intervened at the selection, she would have been his shufei now.
For a moment, anger engulfed his mind.
Inside, he ferociously made a brushstroke of ZZL1.
The fifth princess consort next to him also looked at Mu Xi Yao.
Inwardly, she was greatly relieved.
Fortunately, she had got the wrong person at the time.
Otherwise, if a woman with such looks entered the estate, which man wouldn’t like it Even that the most solemn and dignified sixth prince was bewitched by her into submitting a memorial to request her promotion.
She couldn’t stop herself from feeling secretly glad.
Zhong Zheng Lin has naturally sensed the fifth prince’s indistinct gazes.
Yet, he was unperturbed and hugged the person, not afraid at all of the knife like gazes that flew over at him.
Since the person has already entered his estate, what could he do to him
However, the other few gazes, that clearly contained a covet, made Zhong Zheng Lin very displeased.
His handsome face carried a slight chillness.
As soon as Zhong Zheng Lin’s expression changed, Mu Xi Yao who was watching the dance and singing immediately had a reaction.
She glanced at him with a puzzled look.
The man adjusted his posture and then took the person into his arms.
He had his gaze fixed at the front, his big hand squeezed her little hand to caress it.
Only after birthday banquet entered into presenting the gift segment did everyone’s spirit raise up, secretly keeping in mind the competing thoughts.
The crown prince was the first to go on the stage.
What he presented was the authentic painting 《Red Bird》by the sage painter Qing Xu of Xuande Emperor’s period.
The drawing was the sage painter’s work of later years after retirement that has been long lost.
Now that it has reappeared, it’s value was incalculable.
Apart from that, the red bird itself was an auspicious sign by the folklore.
Its metaphorical meaning was very felicitous.
The Empress Dowager nodded with a smile.
She praised the crown prince for being sincere and that his filial piety was laudable.
Yuancheng Emperor, seeing the drawing, greatly praised Qin Xu’s clear and handsome, lofty and unsullied painting style.
Following, the first prince Zhong Zheng Chun presented a bracelet strung with seventy-two camphor coated sandalwood beads.
Those camphor beads were extremely rare.
They were produced only from more than century-old fragrant camphor trees at the mountain stream of the Mt Weiya.
However, up to the present, there were only less than half a hundred of camphor trees at the mountain stream.
The century-old trees were even more scarce.
On top of that, this bead naturally carried a light sandalwood fragrance and had the ability to calm one’s mind and heart, assist the sleep and prolong one’s lifespan.
Therefore, it had the value but no market2 and was exceptionally rare.
After Empress Dowager received the bracelet, she praised the first prince with a laugh that he was thoughtful and has gone to a lot of trouble for her birthday present.
Subsequently, the Buddhist texts presented by fourth prince Zhong Zheng Yun and the golden statue of the Empress Dowager presented by fifth prince Zhong Zheng Ming, Empress Dowager was quite fond of them.
She commended the two for being filial and sincere.
She indicated to the eunuch behind her to take the scriptures and statue to the Buddhistic hall at Empress Dowager’s Fengan palace.
When it was the sixth prince Zhong Zheng Lin’s turn to present a gift, they saw six little eunuchs carry forward three pots of the most common five-needle pine bonsai.
The pine trees were very ordinary and there was nothing original about the pots.
Although pine tree had always had a metaphorical meaning of longevity, it seemed too average at the Empress Dowager’s birthday banquet.
Furthermore, their amount was quite strange.
This unusual congratulatory gift had evoked Empress Dowager and Yuancheng Emperor’s interest.
Zhong Zheng Lin stood in the middle of the hall with a tall and straight figure.
He spoke with a steady voice.
“Grandson has specially sought three five-needle pines for grandmother.
They’re transplanted separately from three places.” He moved slightly sideways to let eunuchs who were carrying the pots to step forward and put them down.
He then continued.
“The first tree comes from the border town of Xinzhou.” As soon as his voice fell, everyone saw Empress Dowager’s body stiffen.
The eyes of hers that were looking at cedar tree seemed to be absent-minded.
Zhong Zheng Lin went on to say, “The latter two separately come from Hai city of Fuzhou and Taishan of Qinzhou.
Although these three pines are ordinary, grandson hopes they could often accompany grandmother.
May grandmother be like a pine tree, live in a continuous prosperous life and unfailing vigor.”
Hearing Zhong Zheng Lin’s words, Empress Dowager again looked toward the three bonsais, gazing at them for a good while until tears welled in her eyes.
She silently erased them with her silk handkerchief.
Afterward, she affectionately nodded to Zhong Zheng Lin, and praised him vigorously three times in a row.
In addition, on the spot, she ordered people to carefully carry the bonsais back to her palace.
She actually meant to arrange them in her palace to look at them daily.
Yuancheng Emperor was also quite moved deeply.
For the first time at the banquet, he opened his mouth to give praise, saying that the sixth prince was a filial son and obedient grandson, being genuinely sincere.
There were many clever people seated underneath.
After connecting events before and after they had sized up the merit of the sixth prince’s ordinary object.
 Make a brushstroke of someone means to remember, mark, memorize an unpleasant/grudging incident.
 Have a value but no market means that although the commodity is very precious its base price far exceeds the price budget of the person who wants to buy, therefore since no one buys it, there is no market.