Chapter 12: Vying with the Female Lead Means a Miserable Death?
Bai Xiangxiu creased her brows. She had never been good with interpersonal relationships, but she wouldn’t take stabs at other people on purpose. A person like this would be disliked no matter what her motives were. She withdrew her gaze, her eyes accidentally crossing paths with the male lead at the same time. H-h-he, he was actually looking her way!
She was so frightened that she nearly slid off her chair. Quickly, she dropped her head to stare at her feet, too afraid to look at anyone else for a while. Only after the two mistresses of the Spring and Autumn courtyards had finished presenting their gifts for commentary, did she have time to peek at the supporting male.
He truly was the book’s number one male supporting character. His looks, social status and disposition were both so good. Not to mention how he would display the depths of his love. No matter what happened, at least she wouldn’t be beaten to death if he could bring her out of here. But, would he acknowledge her gift? Would it wrest at least a tiny bit of attention from the female lead?
She felt discouraged when she remembered how the female lead had captured the thoughts of the male lead and supporting male without ever appearing personally. Was it true that any supporting female characters who competed with the female lead was doomed to a miserable death?
“Mistress Xiu, it’s your turn. Mistress Xiu...” She was fine a moment ago, but why had she gotten distracted again? Xiao Shi’s forehead broke out into a sweat before she finally gave her mistress a ruthless jab.
Bai Xiangxiu cried out at the poke, rubbing her shoulder as she stared back cluelessly at Xiao Shi. Why did this girl use such force to poke me? Then she saw Xiao Shi sticking out her chin in the direction of Old Madame and broke out in a cold sweat. Only then did she realize it was her turn to go up. Urk, okay, time to present my gift.
She’d originally prepared rather thoroughly beforehand, but in the end she’d gotten distracted. By the time she stood up all a fluster, dogs had run off with the words in her mind and she’d completely forgotten the speech she’d thought up in advance. She could only stutter along, “I wish the Old Madame good fortune as vast as the eastern seas, and old age like the southern mountains.” These words were rotten in their clicheness. The supporting male would definitely overlook her. What now? She really wanted to cry.
Bai Xiangxiu had a habit of hanging her head and wringing her hands when she was nervous. Right now she only had a handkerchief available, so she wrung that back and forth as she awkwardly dipped and paid her respects.
Yet because she was a beauty, these moves just seemed pleasing to both the eye and mind. Under the stares of her onlookers, the Bai Xiangxiu of this moment was extremely adorable and bashful. It almost seemed like forcing her to say any more would turn into a cruel punishment.
The old madame’s fingers trembled. This woman truly was too beautiful. Even she almost couldn’t bear to see her suffer. She knitted her brows and stole a glance at her son, only to find relief when she saw that he had no reaction. Truly, he resembled his father, a man who wasn’t moved by a woman’s charms. Thus, she spoke. “You’ve shown care.”
Bai Xiangxiu only dared to straighten up after that and responded, “This concubine has prepared a gift for Old Madame. Xiao Shi, have them carry it over!”
Song Jiaoyue gave a start. All of the other gifts had been presented or given, but why does she need to carry hers? This pretty mistress was certainly amusing. Her poetry was interesting and so was her personality. He curved his eyes into a slight smile as he placed his teacup aside to face forward, wanting to see what kind of thing would be carried inside.
Long Heng thought back to that broken tree root. Could it be that she was still crazy and wanted to give his mother a tree root as a gift? With all the guests and visitors present, he actually started thinking of ways to get her out of this mess. An enormous object covered in red silk was carried over while everyone was lost amidst their questions and thoughts. Even the old madame was curious. Typically, the maidens and wives gifted some embroidered Confucian classics, paintings, or calligraphy. What exactly was this concubine giving her?
Bai Xiangxiu walked over to personally pull off the red silk. As a craftsman, she didn’t like being the center of attention, but she very much enjoyed everyone else appreciating her work of art. Thus, when the tea table was revealed before everyone’s eyes, she retreated to the side and stood there after retrieving the red silk.
“This...” The old madame’s eyes lit up. She really did like tea, especially well-made tea sets and tea tables, but this was her first time seeing such a strange and auspicious tea table. She could tell at first glance that it was made from a tree root. The table was supported by three oddly shaped, yet elegant stout legs, while its surface was extremely smooth and glossy. Although its shape wasn’t a regular circle, its form resembled that of the character for longevity, shou (壽). That was already very nice, but carved around the shou character was a celestial crane carrying a Peach of Longevity upon its back. The entire table stood there like an artistic masterpiece, pleasing the eye and mind even as it showcased its practical value.
When she thought about it, if visiting guests were served tea on this table, that would really give its owner face. The old madame had never thought this little lass had such consideration. It seemed like she really wanted to get on her good side. When she looked towards the girl, she expected to see someone happy that their gift was well-received, or at least someone in high spirits! But that young lass had already retreated to the side, her face completely red as she tightly clutched the handkerchief between her fingers. She looked very nervous. With this, she looked less like someone showing arrogance over their gift, and more like a deer ready to bolt.
No, the old madame’s eye was good. When she saw those fingers, she creased her eyebrows and said, “You’ve shown heart, but you’re a pampered sort. Don’t injure your fingers lightly. Servant, give Bai Xiangxiu some cooling ointment.”
“Of course,” the elderly female servant replied.
Bai Xiangxiu already felt constrained by such an attentive gaze, but now that Old Madame had discovered her injured hands, she was even more nervous. She hastily hid her hands and spoke like a little white flower. 1 “This concubine is only a little injured.”
Half of it came from anxiety, the other from playing pretend. After reading the novel, she was very clear on the old madame’s preferences. The woman was partial to obedient, gentle, and likable girls, so she detested the female lead and her unruly nature, nor did she like those who possessed too much ambition. Bai Xiangxiu feared Old Madame, so of course she’d find a way to leave a good impression. As a result, she smoothly acted out her part.
At the same time, she snuck a glance at the supporting male, only to give a start as she saw his eyes fixed on the table. This supporting male character was too hard to entice. You should spare a glance for the table’s creator! That was her motive, all right? Unfortunately, supporting male Song Jiaoyue hadn’t looked at her from the very start. To make his examination of the table easier, he stood up and walked towards it. An almost unintentional “Eh?” came out as he examined it even more closely.
Long Heng asked, “What is it?” Does he object to the gift? He thought it was quite good. It was already very fortunate that the woman hadn’t gone mad and brought a tree root forth instead.
“These characters are so tiny; how were they created?” Song Jiaoyue pointed at the wings of the celestial crane while looking directly at Bai Xiangxiu.
Bai Xiangxiu was thrilled to catch the attention of her target supporting male. But it felt a little off-topic. She wanted to spread word of her poem to the outside world so he could hear about it, but why was he more concerned with how she had carved it into the wood? This was a technical question, should she answer?
Naturally so. She knew the supporting male liked the female lead’s intelligence and creativity, as well as a bit of innocence like a little white flower. Thus, she spoke in a soft and exquisite voice. “With a needle, I carved it in.”
“Needle?” Song Jiaoyue glanced at Bai Xiangxiu’s hands. She’d made such a big sacrifice for the sake of the old madame’s birthday celebrations. It looked like she wanted to make a big showing in front of Prince Li on purpose! He had seen his share of women’s wiles in a household, so all he did was smile, not saying a word.
1. The image of a beautiful, gentle, tender, emotional woman who cries easily.
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