Feeling a gaze on her back, Gu Lian turned her head towards the gaze’s direction before catching the eye of the man.
He stared at her with interest while also lacking any sort of embarrassment of being caught from staring, even waggling his brows at her teasingly, to whom Gu Lian looked away nonchalantly, as if she had not seen anything.
Her lack of reactions seemed to somewhat interest him more, as she had shown none of the usual shyness of the ladies. “Which house is that lady from?” He pointed at her leaving figure while asking a nearby eunuch.
Unfortunately, the eunuch was unable to figure out who she was from her back, but that had not made him give up. There was only so many noble girls in the entire city, which is why he would find out sooner or later.
Gu Lian follow Yan Shi in a relaxed manner, pretending to enjoy the flowers they passed by ever so often, but in truth, not a single person’s mind was on these beautiful flowers. Even Gu Qing, who was convinced that her performance today had been extremely eye-catching, but regretfully, no one came up to her.
The young masters who attended the feast today were few, but the ones who came were mostly from extremely rich and prestigious families, hence they would most certainly not lay their eyes on a lady from a lower-ranked families. Even in extremely rare cases where a young master like that fell madly in love with a striking beauty who came from a lower-ranked house, he would not be allowed to take her as his legitimate wife, at most, she would be allowed to be taken as a mistress.
But Gu Qing, on the other hand, was extremely proud and spoiled, hence it was not possible that she would accept to be any man’s mistress, and worst of all, even if she was taken as the legitimate wife, she would definitely not allow her husband to take any mistresses at all.
Other than those group of young masters, the other group that had attended would be the parents of young masters who are of age for marriage. They had attended the feast in hope of searching for the perfect daughter-in-law, and most of them would search for a well-mannered lady from a well-off family, because in a large house, the legitimate wife would be required to bear children and take care of her husband, hence facial looks are not as important to them.
Meanwhile, all young misses from House Gu were more to the skinny side, especially for Gu Lian, who had grown up somewhat malnourished.
All of these factors would then turn the sisters into an unattractive future wife or future daughter-in-law.
Yan Shi was quite disappointed with the lack of response from the other houses even though she had somewhat expected this to happen, which was why she was still able to maintain a calm face, while Gu Qing’s displeasure was pasted all over her face in an ugly scowl.
Gu Yi, on the other hand, had been busy comparing the young masters here with her aunt’s husband, and finally lost interest as no one was as perfect as her uncle. But as she noticed her second sister’s disappointment, her lack of interest turned immediately into a malicious grin.
“Second sister, why do you seem so unhappy?” Gu Yi moved closer to her sister curiously, “Do you not like the princess’s flower garden?”
Gu Qing glared at her with narrowed eyes before looking away in rage. For even though she was a little slow in her head, she knew that Gu Yi’s question was a trap no matter what her answer was, as Gu Yi would only continue to laugh at her failure if she answered ‘yes’, even asking why she would look so upset if the flowers were beautiful. But if she had answered ‘no’, Gu Yi would most certainly raise an uproar on how she looked down on the princess.
Even though this was technically a match-making party, ancient people were quite modest in this department as they would never openly admit it.
Yan Shi, who had been listening in to their conversation, glared angrily at Gu Yi before coming to her daughter’s aid, “Qing Er, are you tired of walking? How about we take a short rest in the pavilion in front?”
Yan Shi knew that there was no point walking around aimlessly, so they may as well rest in that pavilion in front, as it was placed in a very strategic place, which might even bring people to them.
Gu Qing nodded her head gratefully before wrapping her arms around Yan Shi’s arms, like a little kitten begging to be pampered, but her actions had instead, sent a wave of goosebumps up Gu Yi’s arms.
As they seated themselves appropriately in the new pavilion, Yan Shi took upon the chance to subtly interrogate Gu Lian before anyone else arrived.
“Lian Er, why did the princess requested for you just now? I’m not aware that you two were familiar with each other.” Yan Shi stared intently at her, convinced that she had changed into a much more difficult person ever since she recovered from her illness.
“I met her highness while on the way back from the washroom, perhaps she had pitied my extremely weak body, in addition to her boredom during the feast, she had called me over for a simple chat.” Gu Lian answered weakly as she kept her eyes downcast.
Tsk. Yan Shi scoffed at her words, obviously not believing her.
But Gu Lian had not expected her to believe her words, as it was merely a random lie she made up on the spot, and she had not cared whether it sounded legitimate or fake.
“This daughter isn’t suited to the social world, how is it possible for me to understand the princess’s thought.” Gu Lian continued pitifully as her large beautiful eyes were filled with pity, the exact look that men loved, and while it wasn’t enough to make a female pity her, at least no one would think that she was a white lotus bitch.
Gu Wan, who had been silent in a corner, stole a peek at Yan Shi who was being too aggressive to her innocent and pitiful elder sister. Plus what her elder sister said was probably the truth, as it was a known fact that the princess lived a carefree life, perhaps she had really been curious about Gu Lian?
But still, these were not words that Gu Wan could ever speak out, hence all she could do was to give Gu Lian a gentle stare to comfort her.
Gu Lian, who had always been sensitive to stares that landed on her, turned towards Gu Wan, only to realize what had gone through her sixth sister’s mind. She was somewhat confused on Gu Wan’s actions and thoughts, as this sister of hers was full of contradictions.
She was unable to be cruel when needed, too timid when she was needed to be brave, and now, showing pity to her enemies, seemingly like an all-forgiving buddha.
And from Gu Lian’s experiences in judging a person’s character, such a contradicting character would always receive a horrible ending in a woman’s power-struggle game.
“Is it?” Yan Shi answered coldly, pulling Gu Lian’s thoughts back from her sixth sister.
Gu Yi, which had stayed quiet ever since Yan Shi pointed her daggers at Gu Lian, shivered slightly as she heard Yan Shi’s unusually cold voice. She turned her gaze instinctively towards Gu Lian, only to see her still as steady and calm as ever, without even a speck of fear and discomfort.
Yan Shi frowned in displeasure at her lack of reaction and had decided to move on, but deep inside, she had now officially drawn a large exclamation mark on Gu Lian’s name as someone dangerous.
The group of women had stayed unmovingly in the pavilion throughout the entire day, but still, not a single person had approached them.
The disappointed Yan Shi lead the group of young ladies back to their own residence, while her hands were clenched into fists as her entire day had been wasted and she had unknowingly allowed Gu Lian a chance to familiarize herself with the princess!
In normal circumstances, even if one was not successful in searching for a future partner, they would still manage to befriend a number of close girlfriends, hence pulling their respective houses closer to each other.
But perhaps it was because of Yan Shi’s horrible social popularity, not a single madam from the other houses came up to her for a chat, and in order to prevent her husband’s illegitimate daughters to gain power through befriending a higher-ranked lady, she had not allowed them to leave her sight at all. Which was a restriction, as the ladies from the other houses would usually move around by themselves.
The impact, though, was unusually crucial for Gu Qing, as it would’ve looked bad for her to move away from her mother to befriend any other ladies while her illegitimate sisters were restricted from leaving Yan Shi’s side.
This was why Yan Shi had been filled with rage as they returned to their residence, as she had somewhat regretted her actions for it had hurt herself and her precious daughter just to prevent good things from happening to the bastard children.
And worst of all, even under all of her restrictions, Gu Lian had still managed to befriend the princess!
“Please calm down, Madam.” Her hand-maiden, YuLan said soothingly while massaging her tired legs, “Surely the princess was momentarily curious about Gu Lian. As someone with her distinguished status, there shouldn’t be a shortage of noble ladies rushing to her side, and she would probably forget about our eldest miss in a few days… As long as Madam can keep her locked in and not provide her with any new chances of communicating with the princess.”
“You’re right.” Yan Shi let out a long sigh of relief.
She HAD been panicking today, and it was probably due to the stressful environment at the feast. Before this, she had always mixed with the bunch of second-rated madams from other houses, and being the only house without an illegitimate son, she had always been the center of attention and jealousy of the madams. But during the princess’s feast today, she had been thrown unaware into the first-rated madams, causing her to be ignored and judged by their proud glances, which had landed a huge toll on her conceited heart.
Meanwhile, ignoring Yan Shi’s possible new schemes, Gu Lian returned immediately to her worn down residence before holding out the jade badge that Qiao MingYu had forced her to accept. The jade was a personal belonging of the princess as it bears her mark, and anyone who holds this jade was allowed to enter the princess’s palace freely.
She examined the jade thoroughly, finally deciding that it was too fragile before placing it carefully into the system’s inventory.
“Eldest Miss, you’re back! Are you tired?” MeiXiang held out a damped cloth towards her face, intending to clean it for her.
“Today had been somewhat interesting.” Gu Lian smiled gently at her cheerful hand-maiden.
“Oh?” MeiXiang began staring at her with big puppy eyes, begging her to share her story.
“I was genuinely surprised to not see Madam Aunt at the feast…” An inscrutable grin spread across Gu Lian’s face as she muttered softly.
MeiXiang gaped at her in surprise, it was really a shock to her, as she remembered clearly that the Madam Aunt had used this feast party as a malicious trigger at Yan Shi, but instead, she had not attended the feast herself? It was highly unlikely that she would give up the chance to befriend the princess just because she didn’t want to appear at the feast together with Yan Shi, right?
“Madam Aunt has always had a weak body…” MeiXiang muttered under her breathe, could it be that she had fallen ill with rage after her husband provided House Gu with the invitations to the feast?
It was possible.
Gu Lian stayed silent as her hand-maiden quickly came to a conclusion, before continuing with the various incidents that happened at the feast, including Yan Shi’s grave mistake of keeping them in her sight.
As she shared her day, Gu Lian stared fondly at MeiXiang, even though this hand-maiden of hers was much more matured, as compared to her other three hand-maidens, MeiXiang was nonetheless still sometimes an impetuous person.
Ever since she had arrived, MeiXiang had been able to eat better food now, and the meat on her body had been growing steadily, turning her into a slightly chubby young lady.
But it was, fortunately, the good kind of chubbiness, which would usually leave behind a cheerful and cute impression on anyone she met.
Gu Lian turned her eyes downcast as she stared at her malnourished boney body. Her body was unhealthy, and it had affected her growth a lot, especially her chest area, which was basically nonexistent as soon as she put on her garments…
But she had accepted it, for now… Being flat was not a serious issue, at least her skin was still pale and smooth…