C100 – Betrothal Presents
Yueyang Marquis scrutinized his son with a long, contemplative gaze. He couldn’t fathom why the Crown Prince had taken such a keen interest in him. Was it merely to reciprocate some favor?
“Has His Highness ever confided in you about his feelings?” Yueyang Marquis fretted that his son’s youthful naivety might lead him astray, clouded by the allure of power.
It must be acknowledged that a marriage between men wasn’t exactly well-regarded. While such relationships existed among the common folk, they were often choices made out of desperation rather than genuine affection.
The title of Crown Princess sounded lovely, but it would seem rather out of place atop a man’s head.
If the Crown Prince had a genuine interest in their daughter, Yueyang Marquis would readily prepare the dowry without hesitation.
Tang Yue hesitated briefly before nodding. “I assumed he was jesting.”
“Do you comprehend the implications of marrying the Crown Prince?”
“What do you mean?”
Wang Yao continued, “The king is in his prime and in good health, but the princes have ambitions of their own. While the Crown Prince is capable, ascending to the throne won’t be without challenges.”
In essence, Tang Yue would be exposed to considerably greater risks if he decided to become involved.
“I fear my son might bring trouble to our family.” This was Tang Yue’s primary concern.
Yueyang Marquis gazed at Tang Yue’s sincere expression, and his heart softened into a muddle. “Yue’er, you’re worrying excessively. Although our Marquis’s Mansion may not hold as lofty a status as the seven dukes and three dukes, who in Ye City wouldn’t extend me their respect? If we truly back a prince’s claim to the throne, I will wholeheartedly support the Crown Prince. You needn’t fret over this.”
Tang Yue rolled his eyes and moved closer to his father, inquiring tentatively, “Could you provide me with a brief overview of the court’s situation? I wouldn’t want to be clueless about everything once I’m married.”
Yueyang Marquis gave him a disapproving look. “Is my son growing up too quickly? You’re already worried about such matters even before the marriage.”
“I have a strategist, Mr. Xuan Jing, in my service. When you’re married, I’ll assign him to assist you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to consult him.”
“Mr. Xuan Jing?” The name sounded enigmatic. Could this person possibly be a reclusive master?
Furthermore, it had been quite some time since anyone had seen him at Marquis’s Mansion. Where could he have hidden himself?
Could he be one of those experts who come and go without leaving a trace?
Just as the father and son were reaching an agreement, Prince Zhao’s Mansion impatiently sent over the betrothal gifts, along with offerings from the palace.
Tang Yue was astounded by Li Zhao’s efficiency. Not only did he manage to acquire so many gifts in such a short span, but he also found a way to evade his parents. How did he pull it off?
Nevertheless, Tang Yue couldn’t deny that Li Zhao’s eagerness made him feel a sense of pride.
It was heartwarming to have someone care so deeply for him, even if it was partly due to his own talents.
As soon as Tang Yue left the room, he sensed an unfamiliar and powerful aura. People he encountered on his way treated him with profound respect. They bowed more earnestly than usual, some even prostrating themselves without rising.
Tang Yue’s smile froze on his face. When he arrived at the main hall, his expression was hidden by the festive atmosphere.
He gazed around the newly adorned hall in astonishment. He couldn’t determine when, but the hall had been completely draped in crimson silk. The floor had been polished to a brilliant sheen, allowing him to see his own reflection on the bluestone surface.
“Yue’er, come take a look quickly. His Highness has truly sent an abundance of gifts!” The elderly lady’s wrinkled face beamed with delight, revealing a rare display of teeth, almost blinding in their whiteness.
Tang Yue felt somewhat uneasy, particularly under the mocking gazes of those present. He approached uncomfortably.
“Grandmother,” he said, “You’ve seen far grander treasures in the Golden Mountain and Silver Mountain. Why set your sights on these common items?” Tang Yue stood behind his grandmother and affectionately squeezed her shoulders.
His grandmother was delighted by the flattery. She handed him a small box containing pearls the size of a thumb. “Don’t speak nonsense,” she chided. “Even if the old lady had riches, she wouldn’t be able to purchase such an exquisite eastern pearl. You’ve received a gift from the Crown Prince, after all.”
“Oh? He only sent you such a modest gift?” Tang Yue shook his head. “You’re the most esteemed member of our family. It’s only right for him to send me ten boxes of Eastern Pearls.”
“Haha… You have such a way with words. It’s no wonder His Highness is interested in you. It’s a shame that your father didn’t bless you with striking looks. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have a worry in the world,” the old mistress remarked. Tang Yue understood her underlying concern.
She felt that her appearance was just too ordinary and feared it might not capture the Crown Prince’s heart.
In reality, their worries were unfounded. At the moment, all he sought was a simple working relationship. As for the future, it remained uncertain, and who could predict it anyway?
“Grandmother, take a good look. Is my grandson’s appearance lacking? His features are impeccable and radiate masculinity, a true Tang Family trait passed down through the generations!” Tang Yue jokingly pulled his own face, earning laughter from the old madam and her sisters.
“Furthermore, beauty is a blessing, but one should not judge a hero solely by their looks. His Highness is not that shallow.”
“Exactly! Yue’er makes a valid point!” Yueyang Marquis had always been considered plain-looking since childhood, which had caused him some hardship. Now, hearing Tang Yue’s words, he couldn’t help but feel pleased.
Marquis’s Wife covered her mouth, offering an apologetic smile, then added, “Although that’s true, His Highness is not an ordinary person after all. In the future, with three wives and four concubines, how can one not be tempted?”
The atmosphere fell silent instantly. Tang Ya tugged on her mother’s sleeve, signaling her not to bring up sensitive topics.
“Oh, I was just speaking in jest. Today is a joyous occasion. Let’s not dwell on this,” Marquis’s Wife quickly attempted to change the subject. “Master Hou, come and have a look. His Highness has thoughtfully brought individual gifts for everyone in the family.”
Tang Yue, observing everyone eagerly opening their gifts, whispered, “Master Hou, come and see. His Highness has thoughtfully brought individual gifts for everyone in the family. What did he give Madam? Hopefully, it’s not too extravagant.”
Marquis’s Wife’s lips twitched, struggling to maintain her smile.
Tang Yue’s eyes lit up as he inquired, “It must be another rare treasure, right? Madam, please show it to everyone.”
All eyes turned to Marquis’s Wife. She had no choice but to reveal the contents. It was an exquisite sandalwood box. Tang Yue’s heart raced. Could he have been mistaken?
Perhaps this woman hesitated not because she didn’t want to show it.
The box was opened, revealing neatly stacked golden cakes. Rows upon rows of these golden cakes, likely amounting to hundreds of gold pieces.
Tang Yue took a sharp breath, a pang of heartache coursing through him. Regardless of the value others assigned to their gifts, he recognized the undeniable worth of gold.
The Marquis of Yueyang cleared his throat, offering solace with tact, “My dear, you are the Marquise, and His Highness may not have known your preferences, so he thoughtfully presented gold.”
The Marquise chuckled and remarked, “Perhaps it was the steward’s diligent efforts that earned us this.”
Tang Yue mused silently, “Perhaps he discerned her pettiness and gifted the gold to ruffle her feathers.”
Nevertheless, Tang Yue couldn’t help but feel secretly delighted, even as his heart ached for the gold.
The gifts he bestowed upon his seven sisters were of a more conventional nature, featuring high-quality fabrics. The hairpins and other items for the youngest were both exquisite and precious, yet practical.
This demonstrated the sincerity Prince Lee Zhao had invested in his selections. While his words may have been few, his intentions were undeniable.
Besides the gifts intended for everyone in the Yueyang Marquis’s Mansion, the remaining presents were all dowry gifts, filling more than half of the hall. An abundance of boxes and cages were adorned with vibrant red silk and tied with crimson flowers. The festive atmosphere was palpable.
In his previous life, Tang Yue had never experienced marriage, so he had missed out on the joy it brought. Now, enveloped in this jubilant ambiance, he felt his entire being relax, overwhelmed by a blend of emotions.
“Brother, will you still be around after getting married?” Tang Yun scampered over on her little legs and inquired.
Tang Yue affectionately pinched her plump cheeks. Despite her youth, he could already discern the promise of her future beauty. He had seen her biological mother once—an elegant and graceful beauty from Jiangnan.
“Ah Yun, do you want Brother to stay with you at home?” Tang Yue teased her.
“Yes,” Tang Yun affirmed with a nod, listing the perks of having her brother at home.
“With Brother here, Ah Yun can enjoy delicious candies and snacks, receive beautiful hairpins, and witness Brother’s heroic deeds.”
“Ahem… Ah Yun, don’t fabricate stories. When has Brother ever engaged in heroic deeds?”
Ah Yun scanned the area but couldn’t spot the person she was seeking. She gestured with her hand and remarked, “It’s that rather… rotund young master.”
Marquis’s Wife was the first to express her displeasure, reprimanding, “Ah Yun, how can you be so impolite? Noble Heir will be your future brother-in-law.”
Tang Yue noticed that Tang Yun was startled by Marquis’s Wife’s stern expression. He scooped her up and clarified, “Ah Yun is referring to that individual. He is the Noble Heir of State Duke Heng, Ya’s fiancé. He’s not round anymore. You can use a different word.”
Tang Yue added, stealing a glance at Tang Ya. He noticed that her initial resistance had faded. Instead, her expression was subdued, devoid of any joy.
Upon reflection, it made sense. Even if Ping Shun shed some weight, he wouldn’t transform into a dashing young gentleman. He was likely rather simple-minded. Winning the heart of a beauty would indeed be a challenging endeavor.
Over the past couple of days, Tang Yue had paid little attention to that young man. He had no idea where he had gone off to. In any case, most of the guards in his courtyard were “engaged” with him. He wasn’t concerned about losing track of him.
“Brother, what does ‘fiancé’ mean?” Tang Yun furrowed her brow and pondered for a while.
“Well… You’ll understand when you grow up, Ah Yun,” Tang Yue replied, unsure of how to broach the topic of marriage to a young girl.
“Speaking of which, does His Highness have a marriage proposal? And when is the wedding scheduled?” Yueyang Marquis interjected.
“It’s here. The wedding date is set for the Laba Festival just before the New Year. We’re in a bit of a rush,” the elderly mistress said, her brow furrowing. She wished she could ask her son to postpone the date, but the words remained unspoken.
Her grandson had only returned a few months ago, and now he was getting married. The lady sat in the temple hall the entire night, grappling with the fact that her only grandson was about to be wed.
“Your Highness seems rather eager,” Yueyang Marquis remarked, casting a knowing glance at his son, causing Tang Yue to blush.
He couldn’t reveal that the Crown Prince highly valued his abilities and had proposed this marriage to further his own plans, could he?
Tang Yue didn’t believe it himself, let alone anyone else.
So, why was that young man in such a hurry to marry him? Tang Yue had a vague answer in his heart, but he couldn’t quite believe it.