Novel Name : After Rebirth, the True Eldest Daughter Starts Brewing Green Tea

Chapter 22 - ARTTEDSBGT Chapter 22

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Chapter 22 - ARTTEDSBGT Chapter 22

As the guests continued to arrive for the banquet, Tingxing Pavilion became lively. The palace here was spacious and open, with curved arcades on both sides, winding around to embrace the entire garden.
In the middle of the garden stood a massive wisteria tree in full bloom, its white flowers covering the branches. When a gentle breeze rustled through, delicate petals fell, emitting a light and non-cloying fragrance that was refreshing and soothing.
Under the tree, there were several banquet tables arranged in a circle, each separated by a short distance. Brass lotus palace lanterns were placed every few feet, and in the corners, there were Yunyan incense burners emitting wisps of pleasing smoke.
The banquet had not yet begun, and many elegantly dressed young ladies stood in the arcade, displaying their beauty. They chatted and greeted each other, filling the garden with the sounds of birds and laughter.
Li Zhizhi was a newcomer, so she immediately attracted attention as people discreetly assessed her and speculated about her background and identity.
Li Zhizhi followed the voice and saw Su Tangyu standing next to the wisteria tree, waving at her with a playful smile. Jiang Ziyu was by her side, and the two of them were dressed somewhat similarly, resembling sisters from a distance.
Li Zhizhi walked over, and Su Tangyu held her hand, shaking it affectionately, saying, “I was looking for you earlier, but I couldn’t find you. I thought you weren’t coming today.”
Li Zhizhi replied, “I was just walking around.”
Jiang Ziyu’s gaze fell on Li Zhizhi’s hair, and she asked, “Your hairpin is so beautiful. Where did you buy it?”
Li Zhizhi smiled and said, “It’s… a gift from my cousin.”
Jiang Ziyu, somewhat envious, playfully scolded Su Tangyu, “Look at her cousin.”
Su Tangyu, with a hint of helplessness, said, “Didn’t I give you a hairpin yesterday?”
Jiang Ziyu pouted and said, “That was silver, and it’s not as beautiful as hers.”
Su Tangyu hesitated for a moment and reluctantly said, “I also have a delicate and exquisite peacock gold hairpin. It’s a new design this year. I remember you said you liked it, so I gave it to you.”
Jiang Ziyu’s eyes lit up, and she teasingly said, “I was just joking earlier. You’re making it seem like I’m reaching out to you for things. I don’t want it.”
She even put on a coquettish act. Li Zhizhi had never seen such an audacious person and couldn’t help but speak, smiling, “Exactly, it’s such a valuable hairpin. Giving it away like this, Jiang Jiejie might need an even more valuable gift in return. You’re really putting her in a difficult spot.”
Jiang Ziyu’s smile froze for a moment, and Su Tangyu said, “No need for a return gift. We are sisters; why would we worry about such things?”
Li Zhizhi, with a mischievous smile, continued, “That’s true, but you know, giving and not receiving can also be impolite. Look, my cousin gave me a hairpin, and I was just thinking about how to give her a big gift in return.”
She said this, glancing at Jiang Ziyu with a playful look. “Right, Jiang Jiejie?”
Jiang Ziyu’s face turned from green to white, as if she had been slapped in the face. After a moment, she managed to force a smile and said, “Yes, you’re right.”
Seemingly unable to endure it any longer, she said, “I’ll go for a walk over there. It’s too noisy here.”
After saying that, she hurriedly left, watching her figure disappear behind the flowers and trees. Li Zhizhi’s face showed a hint of unease as she asked Su Tang, “Did I say something wrong just now? Did it make Sister Jiang angry?”
Su Tang quickly responded, “It’s not your fault. She…”
At this point, she hesitated and then explained softly, “Ziyu has always had this kind of personality. She didn’t mean to target you. Thank you for being understanding.”
Li Zhizhi smiled, “It’s okay. I was just worried that Sister Jiang might be upset with you because of it.”
Su Tang’s heart warmed, and she chuckled, “She shouldn’t be.”

In the main hall, it was quite lively at the moment, with all the noblewomen chatting and laughing. Lady Li was also present, sitting towards the back, not actively participating in the conversation, just listening with a smile.
The ladies discussed various gossip, such as which couples weren’t getting along, which children weren’t behaving, and whose backyard was in turmoil. There was nothing they didn’t know about in the capital, and anyone who wasn’t present could become a topic of discussion.
The host of the spring outing was the Lady of Yiguo, who held a teacup and asked with a smile, “I heard that your third daughter will be coming of age next month. Have you found a good match for her?”
The lady next to her waved her fan and replied, “I haven’t made a decision yet. Although General Wuwei’s son became a marquis last year and earned the emperor’s favor, he has only one son. I haven’t rushed into an agreement. My youngest daughter is not yet of age, so there’s no need to hurry.”
Some of the ladies couldn’t help but feel envious and said, “General Wuwei achieved a great merit last year, and he was ennobled as Marquis of Loyalty and Righteousness. He has only one son. If you don’t make a move, someone else will.”
The lady shook her head and smiled, “There are plenty of good husbands in the capital. No need to focus on just one.”
Seeing Lady Li looking over, she pursed her lips and whispered, “Her second daughter got married last year, to the son of a Minister of War. She seemed to be quite pleased about it, as he was recently ennobled. But within a couple of months, her daughter was sent back to her parents’ home. I heard it was because of a conflict with her in-laws. The Wang family wanted to divorce her.”
She took a sip of tea and sneered, “Her youngest daughter doesn’t look very intelligent. We mentioned it once before, and Lady Wuwei was there, and she asked a couple of questions. Now, in Lady Li’s mouth, her daughter has become a highly sought-after commodity. It’s only because the Lady of Yiguo is easygoing and willing to chat with her. If it were me, I’d expose her on the spot.”
As she spoke, the conversation somehow turned to Lady Li. The Lady of Jianchang laughed and said, “I saw Lady Ling earlier, and she is exceptionally beautiful. It seems she’ll be coming of age this May.”
Everyone turned to look, and Lady Li straightened up slightly and replied with a smile, “Yes, that’s right, it will be in May.”
“Oh, we must be invited to witness the coming-of-age ceremony.”
Lady Li hurriedly agreed, “Of course.”
Someone jokingly said, “When the time comes, you can have the Marquise preside over the ceremony for your daughter. She was busy with your eldest son’s wedding last year, so she’s experienced. In a few years, she can be busy again with your younger son.”
The Marquise responded confidently, “If that really happens, I’ll be the one benefiting. I just hope Lady Li is willing to part with her daughter.”
Lady Li smiled discreetly and said, “There’s no rush. My youngest daughter is still studying in Mingyuan. If she can become kin with the Marquise, it would be an honor for our family. As for the coming-of-age ceremony, I’ve already entrusted it to the Lady of Yiguo.”
The Lady of Yiguo added, “That’s correct.”
Another person suddenly said, “Speaking of which, hasn’t the Crown Prince chosen a proper consort yet? I think I saw him earlier when I arrived.”
The crowd immediately became interested and exclaimed, “Is it true?”
“The Central Palace has no mistress, and it’s about time to decide on this marriage for the Crown Prince,” someone said.
“How can it be that easy? The Emperor sent the Ministry of Rites to discuss it last year, and there’s still no result. In short, he is not satisfied,” another person added.
“Who isn’t satisfied?”
When this question was asked, the air fell silent for a moment. Someone asked a lady nearby in a hushed voice, “Madam Zhu must know, right?”
Everyone turned to look at Madam Zhu, who forced a smile and said, “I’m truly flattered. How could I know?”
No one believed her, and someone remarked, “Mr. Zunfu is a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Rites. He must have shared some information with you.”
Madam Zhu could only use her fan to cover her mouth and whispered, “Ladies of officials above the third rank cannot be discussed, and the same goes for nobility. Current military officials in the court are even more off-limits.”
Someone chimed in, “So, the Crown Prince can’t marry a commoner, right?”
And another person said, “The Emperor…”
Suddenly, the Duchess of Yiguo cleared her throat, interrupting the conversation. She smiled and said, “We shouldn’t speculate on matters of the royal family. Let’s have some tea.”
The people woke up to reality and started talking about other things, but the previous conversation remained in many minds.
Lady Li chatted with a few other women, occasionally glancing outside. When she saw a familiar figure, she excused herself and walked out.
“Why did you take so long to come?” she asked.
Li Suwan was walking with her head down when a hand suddenly grabbed her. She was startled and almost screamed, but upon realizing it was her mother, Lady Li, she breathed a sigh of relief. “Mother.”
Lady Li squinted at her and asked, “Why are you sweating?”
Li Suwan took out a handkerchief and said, “Let me wipe it off quickly.”
Lady Li led her to a corner, scrutinizing her from head to toe. This made Li Suwan feel uncomfortable, and she nervously asked, “Mother, what’s the matter?”
Lady Li questioned with a frown, “Why is there one less hairpin in your hair?”
Li Suwan hurriedly explained, “I lent it to my cousin to wear. Her outfit was too plain, and I was afraid people would mock her.”
“You are indeed kind,” Lady Li scolded gently, but then she didn’t say more. She just straightened Li Suwan’s clothes and smiled contentedly, saying, “My daughter is truly beautiful. With this appearance and figure, there are very few in the capital who can compare. Earlier, the Duchess of Jianchang was inquiring about you.”
She chuckled and let out a disdainful snort, adding, “If it were her eldest son, he might be a decent match, but her younger son is a complete dolt. Who would want to marry their daughter into that?”
Li Suwan was taken aback and asked, “You mean Pei Yanchuan?”
“He’s not worthy of you,” Lady Li said, her face full of scorn. She took Li Suwan’s hand and whispered, “I heard a rumor just now that the Crown Prince is also in the Qionglin Garden today.”
Li Suwan hesitated and stammered, “Are you suggesting…?”
Lady Li held her hand and smiled, “The Crown Prince hasn’t married an official wife yet. It’s said he doesn’t even have any concubines. If you could marry him, wouldn’t that be a step to the heavens?”
Li Suwan was very tempted by these words and hesitated, “Can the Crown Prince really be interested in me? There are so many people here today…”
“Wan’er, don’t underestimate yourself. Besides, the Crown Prince won’t come here,” Lady Li lightly patted her hand and said, “Mother has a way.”
Li Suwan’s heart began to beat faster. She nodded and replied, “I understand, Mother.”
As the mother and daughter were conversing, a woman emerged from the flower hall. It was the Lady of Jianchang Marquis. Her gaze scanned the crowd, and she asked a servant girl beside her, “Wasn’t Chuan here already?”
The servant girl replied, “Yes, I saw the young master here earlier. He…”
Her sharp eyes suddenly fixed on the massive weeping willow tree in the courtyard. She whispered, “Madam, is that our young master up there?”
The Lady of Jianchang Marquis followed her pointing and saw a foot sticking out from the lush tree branches, with deep blue boots and sky-blue robes. Wasn’t that what her son was wearing today?
The Marquise’s anger flared up. She didn’t care about anything else and hurriedly rushed towards the tree, shouting, “Pei Yanchuan, get down here!”
The person on the tree seemed startled for a moment and quickly withdrew his leg. This movement made the branches sway, and underneath the tree, Li Zhizhi was talking to Su Tangyu. They both suddenly felt something and looked up, locking eyes with each other.
The Lady of Jianchang Marquis practically roared, “You dare to hide!”
Hasty footsteps approached, and the young man in the tree couldn’t think of anything else. He somersaulted and jumped down from the tree. The branches trembled violently, and numerous weeping willow flowers fell like a light snow, creating a beautiful and mesmerizing scene that prompted a few exclamations and gasps.
Li Zhizhi, who was standing under the tree, was taken by surprise and ended up covered in flower petals. Despite the intoxicating fragrance of the weeping willow flowers, it was a bit overwhelming, and she couldn’t help but let out a small sneeze.
The young man turned around, his handsome face showing a hint of confusion. He reached out his hand instinctively but quickly retracted it and asked, “Are you okay?”
Before Li Zhizhi could answer, he yelped in pain. The Lady of Jianchang Marquis had twisted his arm. She gritted her teeth and said, “You still feel pain? I thought you were invulnerable!”
Pei Yanchuan winced in pain, pleading, “Mother, please go easy! If you twist off a piece of my flesh, what will I do?”
The Marquise sneered, “Then I’ll chop you up into pieces and make dumplings out of you.”
Li Zhizhi smiled and curtsied to her, saying, “Greetings, Madam Marquise.”
The Lady of Jianchang Marquis, pleased with Li Zhizhi’s polite manners, responded with a greeting. She also loosened her grip on her son’s arm and smiled, “I saw your aunt earlier, over there. Would you like to come with us?”
Li Zhizhi hesitated for a moment, looked at the flower petals on her, and shook her head, saying, “I should freshen up first.”
The Marquise heard this and then dragged her son away. Pei Yanchuan couldn’t help but look back and asked curiously, “Mother, who is she? I’ve never seen her before.”
The Marquise replied irritably, “What’s so special about never seeing her before?”
“Of course, it’s special,” Pei Yanchuan exclaimed, “I remember every cat and dog on Zhuque Street, how could I not have seen her before?”
The Marquise gave him a smack on the head and scolded, “You keep making up stories.”
Under the weeping willow tree, Li Zhizhi was tidying up her clothes while Su Tangyu helped remove the fallen petals from her hair. Su Tangyu complained, “This person is really up to no good. Why would he climb a tree for no reason?”
“He probably found it fun,” Li Zhizhi said nonchalantly as she helped Su Tangyu brush off the petals.
Just then, Li Xingzhi approached. He looked Li Zhizhi up and down and asked, “Are you okay?”
Li Zhizhi smiled and shook her head. Li Xingzhi let out a sigh of relief and said, “The Spring Banquet is about to start. Let me escort you to your seat.”
Li Zhizhi bid farewell to Su Tangyu and followed Li Xingzhi, heading in the direction of her mother and the Lady of Jianchang Marquis. The seating arrangement had already been set. Lady Li sat in the middle, with Li Suwan on her left and Li Xingzhi on her right. Li Zhizhi’s seat was next to Li Suwan’s. On the red sandalwood cloud-patterned table stood a white porcelain vase with a crane neck, holding a freshly picked slender willow branch and a peach blossom. The willow leaves were fresh and green, while the peach blossoms exuded a gentle, light pink color, adding a touch of charm to the scene.
As Li Zhizhi examined the peach blossoms, she felt Li Suwan glancing at her frequently. She turned to look at her and smiled, saying, “What’s the matter, Sister Wan?”
Li Suwan instinctively denied, “Nothing—” but then quickly changed her tune and asked, “Did you throw away that flower?”
Li Zhizhi looked slightly surprised. “Why would I, Sister? You gave me that flower, and I liked it very much. Why would I throw it away?”
She said, taking the deep blue flower out of her sleeve, perfectly intact, with just a slightly wilted petal at the edge. Li Suwan looked relieved, emphasizing, “I didn’t give it to you; it was Sister Zhao who gave it to you.”
Li Zhizhi looked across to where Zhao Shan’er and Xiao Man were sitting, talking about something. Zhao Shan’er covered her mouth and chuckled, and Li Zhizhi also smiled. She placed the beautiful flower in a vase.
The banquet had already started, and although it was called a “Spring Outing Banquet,” it was mainly for eligible young ladies and young men to get to know each other. If there was mutual interest, they could arrange for a matchmaker to visit later.
The Spring Outing Banquet was organized by the Duke of Yi’s residence. The Duchess sat in the main seat, chatting with other noble ladies, saying, “By the way, our chef came up with a new dessert recently. I thought it was quite good. Since everyone is here today, let’s give it a try and see how we can improve it.”
The ladies all smiled and said, “We’re honored to oblige.”
The Duchess lightly clapped her hands, and a group of maids in green robes entered the courtyard. They each carried lacquered plates with carved designs and delicately walked like flowers, serving each table.
At this moment, Li Zhizhi suddenly felt her sleeve being tugged. She turned her head and saw someone squatting beside her, smiling, “Sister.”
It was Xiao Rulei.
She had appeared out of nowhere, with a piece of silk gauze covering her face, leaving only her round eyes visible. Li Zhizhi was taken aback and asked, “Rulei, what are you doing here?”
Xiao Rulei grinned and said, “I came to play with you.”
Li Zhizhi hurriedly looked around and asked, “Is it just you?”
Xiao Rulei nodded and tugged at her veil, saying, “Yes, I sneaked out to find you without letting anyone know. With my face covered like this, no one can recognize me. Am I clever?”
She was even boasting about her cleverness. Li Zhizhi couldn’t help but smile and said, “Yes, you’re very clever.”
Xiao Rulei’s appearance had already attracted the attention of the people at the neighboring tables, and curious or inquisitive glances were directed their way from time to time. Li Zhizhi’s elder sister, Li Suwan, also noticed and asked, “Zhimei, who are you talking to?”
Xiao Rulei didn’t seem to care at all and kept her gaze fixed on the desserts on the table. She asked, “Sister, is this one delicious?”
With no time to do anything else at this point, Li Zhizhi let her sit down next to her. She took a handkerchief and wiped Xiao Rulei’s hands, then said, “You can try it.”
The plate held several pieces of pastry, shaped like peach blossoms with a pale pink color and a touch of crimson accents. Xiao Rulei was obviously tempted and picked up a piece, splitting it in half and comparing the sizes carefully before handing the larger half to Li Zhizhi, saying, “You eat, sister.”
Li Zhizhi chuckled and said, “I don’t like this. You go ahead and eat.”
Xiao Rulei beamed with joy and said, “Then I’ll help you finish it.”
Even while eating, she refused to remove her veil, holding it tightly at the edges. Crumbs kept falling onto her clothes as she ate.
Li Zhizhi had to help her brush them off. At that moment, Li Suwan’s skeptical voice could be heard, “Zhimei, who is this? Does she have an invitation? This is the Imperial Garden; not just anyone can enter.”
Li Zhizhi couldn’t help but think, You’re sitting in someone else’s backyard, and you’re the one questioning the newcomer. However, she maintained a smile and said, “She has an invitation.”
Xiao Ruyue, still eating the dessert, vigorously nodded and agreed, “That’s right! I have an invitation!”
After concurring, she quietly asked Li Zhizhi, “Sister, where is my invitation?”
Li Zhizhi made a hushing gesture, and Xiao Rulei immediately closed her mouth and obediently started eating pastries. Then Li Zhizhi turned to Li Suwan and said, “If Sister Wan’er wants to check her invitation, she’ll have to go find her servants.”
This Spring Gathering was not hosted by the Li family, so Li Suwan had no authority to check someone else’s invitation. She wasn’t foolish and felt somewhat annoyed, but after glancing at Xiao Rulei, she averted her gaze.
It was unclear how Xiao Rulei had sneaked in, probably due to her attire, which didn’t raise suspicion initially. People cast a few glances her way but then paid no further attention, assuming she was some wealthy young lady, even though her behavior wasn’t very refined.
For the next while, Xiao Rulei sat by Li Zhizhi’s side, not causing any disturbances, and focused on eating pastries. However, a group of people entered from outside, catching Li Zhizhi’s attention. They were all dressed in eunuch attire, and the one leading them had a feminine appearance, fair skin, clearly from the palace.
Li Zhizhi’s seat was quite far, so she couldn’t hear clearly, but she saw him say something to the Duchess Yiguo, and her expression immediately turned solemn as she exclaimed, “How could this happen?”
Everyone’s attention was now on them. The head eunuch continued, “It was all because of a careless little fellow, whom we entrusted to carefully guard the flowers planted by Concubine Chun. Little did we know he was negligent, and one of the flowers got picked. Concubine Chun personally planted it, and it had been growing for a whole year. It bloomed only this morning, and it’s quite precious. When we learned of this, Her Ladyship was very upset.”
He turned to the Duchess Yiguo and bowed, saying, “His Majesty is benevolent and has allowed everyone, ladies and young ladies, to come to the Imperial Garden for a spring outing. This is a great favor, so how could someone dare to commit such a disrespectful act?”
The Duchess Yiguo’s face changed between pale and green. Though she didn’t pick the flower herself, today’s spring gathering was organized by her, and this incident was akin to a public humiliation.
She managed to maintain her composure and said, “Such an incident is partially due to my negligence. I will investigate this promptly, and if we find out who is responsible, we will report to Concubine Chun and provide an explanation.”
The head eunuch nodded and said, “Please do so quickly. Concubine Chun is still waiting.”
The people at the table had various expressions – some were surprised, some disdainful. Those who knew about it, like Zhao Shan’er and Li Suwan, appeared uncomfortable. Li Suwan, in particular, was nervously avoiding eye contact with others and discreetly glancing at Li Zhizhi.
And then there was one person…
Li Zhizhi’s gaze fell on Xiao Man’s face. She was leisurely sipping tea, elegant and composed, seemingly unaware of the situation. Sensing Li Zhizhi’s eyes on her, she looked back with a raised eyebrow, exuding an air of pride and arrogance.
Just at that moment, the Duchess Yiguo suddenly pointed in the direction of Li Zhizhi and asked, “My lord, do you see over there? Are those the flowers planted by Concubine Chun?”
All eyes followed her gesture, and Li Zhizhi took a quick glance at the vase. It was empty. Where were the flowers? She had definitely put them there, but how…
Li Zhizhi realized something and immediately looked at Xiao Rulei. She saw Xiao Rulei holding a deep blue flower in her hand, exclaiming with excitement, “Sister, look at this flower, it’s so strange, it’s blue!”
Li Zhizhi’s scalp tingled, and then she heard a loud shout from the chief eunuch, his voice sharp and piercing, “You have a lot of nerve! Someone, seize her!”
Several young eunuchs rushed over to grab Xiao Rulei, and Li Zhizhi immediately stood up to shield her, saying, “Honorable Sir, this must be a misunderstanding.”
The chief eunuch pointed at her, his face filled with anger, and said, “Caught red-handed, and you want to defend her?”
But Li Zhizhi said, “I’m not defending her, Honorable Sir. This flower belongs to me, it has nothing to do with her.”
This statement surprised everyone, and they all looked at her with various expressions, some curious, some contemptuous, even Zhao Shan’er looked very astonished, as if she was looking at a fool. Li Suwan, on the other hand, seemed somewhat pleased.
The chief eunuch scrutinized Li Zhizhi and nodded, asking, “You have some courage. Whose child are you?”
The Lady of the Yiguo Duke and several other noble ladies looked over as well. Lady Li couldn’t sit still now. Just like when she was chatting with the Lady of Jianchang Marquis earlier, she revealed the fact that they had adopted Li Zhizhi and received a lot of praise. This made her face light up. However, she didn’t expect that in less than half a day, Li Zhizhi would cause such a big trouble.
She had to stand up and forced a smile at the chief eunuch, saying, “I’m truly sorry, Honorable Sir. This child was recently adopted by our house from the countryside. She’s not familiar with the rules and has offended Her Ladyship.”
The chief eunuch looked at her and then turned to Li Zhizhi, saying, “You have offended the Noble Consort today. She is quite angry. You should follow us to accept the punishment.”
After saying this, he asked, “Will you come with us on your own, or should we have someone fetch you?”
Li Xingzhi stood up and was about to speak when Lady Li quickly pulled him back, giving him a stern look and whispering, “Sit down. You shouldn’t speak at a time like this.”
On the other side, Pei Yanchuan watched the delicate-looking girl standing alone as if she had no support. He felt a bit sorry and gently tugged at his mother’s sleeve, whispering, “Mother, why don’t you say something?”
The Lady of Jianchang Marquis glanced at him, pulled back her own sleeve, and whispered, “I can’t even say a word in front of the Noble Consort. I’m willing to speak, but will that eunuch be willing to listen?”
Li Zhizhi remained still, and the chief eunuch’s expression turned somewhat unpleasant. He said, “It seems that the young lady wants us to fetch her.”
As he spoke, he signaled, and the young eunuchs moved to grab Li Zhizhi. Just then, a small teacup flew from the side and struck one of the men in the face. He cried out in pain, and a clear, crisp voice shouted, “How dare you touch my sister Zhizhi!”
Xiao Rule held Li Zhizhi’s waist and stepped back a few paces, angrily telling them, “All of you, get lost!”
The chief eunuch was furious, pointing at both of them and saying, “Seize them!”
“Wait!” Li Zhizhi hurriedly explained, “Honorable Sir, although this flower belongs to me, I didn’t pick it myself. It was given to me by someone.”
The chief eunuch narrowed his eyes and asked, “Who gave it to you?”
Li Zhizhi turned to look at Li Suwan, biting her lip lightly, her eyes slightly red, and said with deep regret, “Elder Sister Wan’er, I’m sorry, but I can’t bear to see others get implicated…”
There was a moment of silence in the air, and everyone had a look of sudden realization, thinking it was about her cousin taking the blame for her. They began to whisper among themselves.
At the glance Li Zhizhi gave, Li Suwan’s face turned pale. She tightly clutched her sleeve and tried to maintain her composure, saying, “You… what are you talking about? How could the flowers be from me?”
Li Zhizhi widened her eyes in disbelief and said, “It was you who gave them to me, you—”
“No, I didn’t,” Li Suwan interrupted her, her tone both aggrieved and sad, with a pitiful look. She said, “I have never given you any flowers. Even if you were afraid of Empress Chun’s punishment, you shouldn’t accuse me.”
Li Zhizhi didn’t argue with her, only turning to the eunuch and asking, “Eunuch, are these flowers planted in the Small Buddha Hall?”
The eunuch nodded and said, “Exactly.”
Li Zhizhi explained, “At that time, when they said they wanted to go to the Small Buddha Hall to see the flowers, I didn’t go with them. Since I never went to the Small Buddha Hall, how could I have picked Empress Chun’s flowers?”
“They,” the eunuch asked, “who else?”
Li Zhizhi hesitated, “Eunuch, I…”
“What are you afraid of?” the eunuch raised his chin slightly and said, “You were so courageous just now, admitting that you picked this flower. Now you’re afraid to mention someone else’s name?”
Meanwhile, in another part of the room, Xiao Man gently pushed Zhao Shan’er and whispered, “If she continues, today might not end well.”
Zhao Shan’er looked puzzled, “Why?”
Xiao Man cursed her inwardly as a fool and said, “The eunuch clearly believes Li Zhizhi’s words more. Do you want her to say it?”
Upon hearing this, Zhao Shan’er became nervous. Xiao Man’s voice was very low, with a hint of encouragement. She said, “Go help Sister Wan, expose her.”
“They are… Miss Zhao and Princess Rong’an.”
Zhao Shan’er stood up abruptly, her voice sharp, “What nonsense are you talking about? You were clearly in the Small Buddha Hall too. You picked the flower yourself. I didn’t point you out at the time because we were classmates, and now you’ve completely cleared yourself, why are you still splashing dirty water on us?”
Zhao Shan’er was the eldest granddaughter of the Prime Minister, with a prominent family background. Almost everyone in the room recognized her. Even the eunuch knew her and put on a smiling face, saying, “So it’s Miss Zhao and Princess Rong’an.”
Zhao Shan’er composed herself and said confidently, “I was in the Small Buddha Hall at the time and saw Li Zhizhi picking that flower with my own eyes. The princess can testify.”
Li Zhizhi shook her head vigorously and explained, “I really didn’t go to the Small Buddha Hall.”
“You did go,” Zhao Shan’er sneered, glancing at her and saying, “We were all there. Do you want to lie?”
“I was with…” Li Zhizhi began.
“I can testify for her too,” a voice suddenly came from the entrance. A graceful woman walked in, dressed in a beautiful palace robe, with a tall figure, high-piled hair, and a dignified and elegant demeanor. She was Princess Yongning.
Li Zhizhi finally had the opportunity to complete her statement, saying, “I didn’t go to the Small Buddha Hall because I was having tea with Princess Yongning.”
Li Suwan, Zhao Shan’er, and Xiao Man, among others, were left dumbfounded.
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