The Seventh Lady and Ah Luo packed up the silver taels and slowly walked to the hall for a meeting. It was probably to discuss the matter of Qing Lei becoming the Crown Princess.

When they walked into the hall, the whole family was there. Qing Luo sat next to the Seventh Madam in the back chair towards the right, listening to her father. Li Xianqing coughed a couple times first and then began to speak, "On the 15th of August, the Empress has summoned all officials in the top three ranks to admire the moon. She also specifically mentioned the fact that she wanted to enjoy the talents of the young ladies. Ah Lei, Ah Fei, Ah Luo, what do you think about this?"

The master of the household is the one that is supposed to decide what we think. Ah Luo thought about her father, he was the right-hand prime minister but he had no children to carry on his family name, but still wanted to sell of every one of his daughters at a good price and had planned it since they were extremely young. What did he mean by asking them? She was a little confused for a moment as to what Prime Minister Li was really planning.

She heard Qing Lei faintly speak, "Father wouldn't want his daughter to play the qin again, right? Everybody else will use the qin again and again after last time. This daughter thinks that she should just leave the qin for everyone else to play, since these days the Crown Prince has been favouring me, so it would be better if I didn't play the qin."

Li Xiang's eyes revealed his satisfaction, it seemed like he didn't intent to let Qing Lei play the qin either, it was extremely obvious that the Crown Prince's mind was already thinking about Qing Lei, the Empress was just a little bit upset that her niece, Wang Yan Hui wasn't even given a chance to become the Crown Princess before the she even made an appearance. Li Xiang spoke with a smile, "During this moon viewing, the queen intends to make Miss Yan Hui play a game against you, and this game will not be the qin."

All the Empress wanted to do was giver Wang Yan Hui a chance to aim at Crown Princess.

The First Madam spoke up, "I have met Wang Yan Hui when she was much younger. She grew up in the army with her father, General Wang and is extremely well versed in the art of war. When I visited the Wang family with my father, I went into the garden alone to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers but I couldn't find my way out. Then a three year old girl... she laughed as she came out under a flower tree and said that the 'mesmerizing array really did work well,' I asked her if she understood these garden formations and all she said was that she read the book and then gave it a try. At the time, I really couldn't believe it, she was only three year old, but had such tactics."

Li Xiang interrupted, "Now Wang Yan Hui is seventeen years old and after fourteen years, the rumour that she is scheming and intelligent is not false."

After hearing these words, there was a silence in the hall. If the Empress really was trying to host a banquet to make sure that Wang Yan Hui would be the Crown Princess, it would be considered really bad news for them. Maybe even the Emperor would hear this and wonder if Qing Lei as the future Crown Princess was headstrong and brainless. After all, in the future the Crown Princess would become the next Empress, the mother of all the country. If the Crown Prince liked someone, it wouldn't be difficult for him to appoint them as his concubine instead. The Empress of a country should be intelligent and skilled to manage her husband's concubines.

Li Xiang spoke again, "Ah Lei, you are skilled in the art of qin and your poetry is also good, but now we don't know what you will have to do at the banquet. Go with more than one skill, learn things in all areas."

After saying this, he turned over to look at Qing Fei and Qing Luo, "The purpose of you two going to the palace is to make sure that your elder sister's performance goes smoothly. Follow her closely, make a move only when needed. Just stay hidden and make sure that nobody find out a thing. Your father is old and now the hopes of the Li family rests on your elder sister, do you understand?"

Both of them replied, "Yes, father."

Then Li Xiang spoke directly to Qing Fei, "Ah Fei, since eldest sister isn't married yet, it's not good for you to get married so soon, we must follow our tradition. Father needs to wait for your elder sister to be betrothed to make a decision."

The Fourth Lady hurriedly replied, "What the Master said is extremely true, we have been traditional and honest for generations, we will not disobey our ancestors and do such a rude thing."

Ah Luo saw Qing Fei's eyes brighten and dim again. She knew that Prime Minister Li was using this as an opportunity to blackmail Qing Fei and her mother into doing all they can at the banquet.

Li Xiang laughed and said, "Cheng Si Yue said that he was hoping to get closer to our Li family and is very excited, especially when I told him that he might be the brother-in-law of the Crown Prince."

Ah Luo thought that he was stating extremely obvious information. Even if Qing Lei married the Crown Prince and Qing Fei got together with Cheng Si Yue as she wanted to, her fate would still be in the hands of whether her elder sister was favored. Because of this, anything that Qing Fei did with the Crown Prince would have a direct affect on their own lives.

Li Xiang smiled and then turned to Qing Luo, "Ah Luo, you will be celebrating your thirteenth birthday next month, so you can start to try to find a husband. It's a good thing to go to the banquet and see what everyone else is doing, because sooner or later you're going to have to marry into a good family.

Ah Luo was a little surprised at this, "Father, Ah Luo is still young and foolish and wants to stay closer to her parents for a few more years."

Li Xiang smiled and said, "Father can't bear to let you go either, so you can settle on a person to marry and get betrothed to them, then marry in another two years at fifteen."

Ah Luo could only bow her head in agreement.

Ah Luo did not play the flute near the bamboo forest anymore, and for several days, she didn't hear the sound of the flute from Zi Li. She only heard someone sob, and it grew louder as the days went on. One day, she couldn't help but climb to the top of the wall to hide and watch. From a distance, she saw the figure of Zi Li sitting under the willow tree. Ah Luo was a little sympathetic but she did not go over.

After a few more days, the sound of the sobbing disappeared. Ah Luo left the house again to go to Feng City but didn't pass by the river. The jade pendant that Zi Li had given her was also placed to one side.

Qing Luo's thirteenth birthday was just around the corner, but she acted like she always did. She left the house secretly and bought two courtyards in the southeast reigon of Feng City. The two courtyards were seperated by a wall, and decided that it would be a good idea to have a secret door into the house. For the larger house on one side, she hired a housekeeper and a few servants and appeared from time to time as a young master.

For the smaller house, she told Nanny Zhang to invite some of her relatives from the countryside over, and a couple watched over the house.

Another month passed and signs of autumn began to appear. The Empress' mid-autumn moon viewing would be soon.

The Li household surrounded Qing Lei, discussing every single matter. What clothes she should wear, what accessories she should wear, what makeup she should wear. Li Xiang had told them before that this moon viewing banquet was a little unusual. They were not allowed to attend in plain, basic clothes, nor were they allowed to be too colorful. Li Xiang had already asked the most famous tailor in Feng City, the Jade Brocade tailor to make the dress in advance.

Qing Luo had heard that many ladies had approached the Jade Brocade tailor in hopes of asking them for a dress but were turned down, and as the women took out the traditional Chinese dress they had a large smile on their faces.

The held it up to Qing Luo, the dress was embroidered with silk thread, depicting Qing Lei's favourite plum picture. [1] Each flower was embedded with a small ruby. The dress wasn't particularly flamboyant or dazzling to the eyes, but when the moonlight hit her dress, it would stand out among the crowd. Qing Lei wore the dress with grace and beauty. Li Xiang was so happy that he visited the courtyards of the Second, Fifth and Sixth Madams in a row to show his appreciation.

[1] The plum flowers (probably without the cranes)plumplum-1

The First Lady then took out a box containing the family ornaments. The Fourth Lady was worried that Qing Lei might not have enough, and drew a few patterns to tie her hair up in for reference. The Seventh Madam seeing this smiled and turned to Ah Luo, "San-er, do you want to be more beautiful than your elder sister?"

Ah Luo waved her hand. "I want to dress up like a girl and swing my dress around and hold my skirt. But Mother, we have to help out Qing Lei get ready, or else Father and the other Madams will get mad."

The Seventh Madam smiled, "Of course, this is natural. Don't worry about it then, just leave it all up to Mother."

So, the Seventh Lady personally combed Qinglei's hair and makeup according to the chosen bun style. Under the skilled hands of the Seventh Madam, Qing Lei came out of the Li residence. When Qinglei came out everyone in the Li Mansion stared in awe. The ideal Crown Princess should be like Qing Lei, difnified and noble yet still charming and gentle. Qing Lei's small melon face was glowing with a light brilliance and Ah Luo thought that like this, Qing Lei would surely match up to the Crown Prince's strength. She wondered what Gu Tian Lin and Wang Yan Hui would wear. She was a little curious.

In order to be her supporting ladies, both Qing Fei and Qing Luo did not wear anything so grand, but in order to dress up to their identity as the daughters of Prime Minister Li, they also put on new clothes and redid their hair accessories. When Ah Luo sat in front of the mirror, she told the Seventh Madam, "Mother, don't comb my hair up, just do it like you normally do."

The Seventh Madam sighed regretfully, "San-er I really want to dress you up."

Ah Luo smiled, "There will be plenty of opportunities in the future, but not today. I'd also like to see what I'd look like when I get all dressed up, but thinking how my mother is so beautiful, surely Ah Luo won't look to bad either."

The Seventh Lady's childish nature burst out, "How about if Mother dresses you up, just once? Let's just see what you look like!"

Ah Luo laughed and nodded, "Tell Xiao Yu to guard the door, so that no outsiders can break in." The two of them smiled at each other.

Ah Luo remembered the first time she and her classmates had gone to a dance when she was just in college, the whole dorm was a busy mess, they had been borrowing each other's clothes and helping each other with makeup. It was stuffy, rushed and fun. It's probably going well now that her classmates are all out of the country and getting married. Suddenly thinking of her Mother and Father as well as the rest of her hometown, after seven years, they should have adjusted to life without her. She began to sob, thinking about the way life everyone back on Earth would have to deal with all this. She heard the Seventh Lady suck in a breath, "San'er, are you crying?"

Ah Luo was busy wiping away her tears, "It's fine, just don't want to go to the banquet and have to go."

She wasn't sure if she would be able to do all the things that she had to. After her mother removed the hair covering her face, and her clean forhead was exposed, her peach shaped face seemed extremely delicate. Ah Luo's eyes were big and glowing and she couldn't help but be captivated by the girl in the mirror. She couldn't help but reach out and try to touch the person in the mirror.

The Seventh Madam sighed, "San'er, if your like this, people won't be able to look away from you, in another two years what would you become, too beautiful is not good ah."

A Luo laughed and said, "That's why I let my hair down to cover up half of my face, I don't want to be a pretty doll for everyone to look at, it's very miserable."

After saying this she spat out her tongue.  Ah Luo looked again at the mirror and turned back to the Seventh Madam, "Mother, let's continue getting ready for the banquet instead."

The Seventh Lady recombed her hair and asked her, "San'er, what kind of husband do you want to find in the future?"

Ah Luo thought about this for a moment, "They don't like me for my face. Then well, they must be able to protect me, and I must be their only wife and... I can't make too many requirements yet. This is already a lot to ask for, and I don't think I'll be able to meet them here in Feng City. But I haven't thought about getting a husband yet. I've been more afraid of people threatening me, or maybe death. There is beheading at every turn... what a wicked feudal world."

The Seventh Madam wondered, "Feudal society? What does that mean?"

Ah Luo laughed, "It's what this country is, all around. That's roughly what it means."

She laughed quietly, Ah Luo couldn't risk talking about too much modern ideas, it was too much trouble to explain and could make her seem like a lunatic.