New Chapter: Luoyang Brocade Ch. 20
Chapter 20 – Birthday Banquet
These few days, Ling Jing Shu was busy making friends with Ling Jing Yan. She had spent a lot less time with Ling Xiao.
Lu Hong, on the other hand, was always with Ling Xiao. He patiently taught him Confucian classics and eight-part essays. Ling Xiao had benefited greatly from his teachings. Since he had few opportunities of getting along with young boys of the same age group, he felt it was quite refreshing. Lu Hong was also deliberately trying to coax him, so the two of them soon became familiar with each other.
Ling Jing Shu sent someone to invite Ling Xiao over to Qiu Shui Pavilion for lunch. Naturally, Ling Xiao would also invite Lu Hong and his brother to come along. He didn’t expect Ling Jing Shu to be so upset.
Even if he couldn’t see anything, he could still hear the coldness from Ling Jing Shu’s intolerant tone.
“Ah Shu.” Ling Xiao felt a little insecure, so he pulled Ling Jing Shu’s sleeve and asked quietly, “Are you a little unhappy?”
Ling Jing Shu’s expression immediately softened, and with a relaxed and cheerful tone, she said, “I’m happy since there are so many people eating together. Don’t you worry so much. The food is ready, we should go over there now.”
As she talked, she pulled Ling Xiao’s hand, then smiled and held Ling Jing Yan’s hand, “Cousin Yan, let’s go in together.”
Lu Hong, who was intentionally or unintentionally put aside, “…”
The two brothers looked at each other. Each hiding their gloom and loss in their hearts, they caught up to them as though it was nothing.
Of course, the food was very rich. There were no elders present, so there was little restraint.
Ling Jing Yan glanced overthe dishes, and couldn’t help but laugh, “Are we going to have a whole fish banquet today?”
Most of the dishes on the table were fish. Steam, braised in brown sauce, sweet and sour, soup… There was no need to elaborate further.
“Ah Xiao likes to eat fish.” Ling Jing Shu smiled and explained briefly. Then, she grabbed a piece of fish, carefully and patiently removed all the bones. After that, she put it into Ling Xiao’s bowl.
Since young, Ling Xiao liked to eat fish. Eating fish became a problem when he couldn’t see anymore. Ling Jing Shu didn’t wish to trouble other people, so she was always the one to remove the fish bones for him.
Ling Jing Shu stopped after seeing Ling Xiao’s bowl was almost full. She said softly, “Ah Xiao, I have removed all the fish bones, you can eat it with ease.”
Ling Xiao happily made a sound of agreement and then immersed himself in eating.
Ling Jing Shu saw Ling Xiao merrily eating, and her face lit up with a smile.
The light, gentle smile instantly lit up her beautiful face, her eyes shimmered like a jewel, richly displaying its light and colors.
All words seemed pale in such a breathtaking light.
Lu Hong took a breath and stared at her with deep emotion.
That heat, that focus.
It’s impossible to ignore.
Ling Jing Shu turned a blind eye, smiling as she picked some food for Ling Jing Yan. “Cousin Yan, I don’t know if these dishes suit your taste. Don’t just sit there, eat more.”
Ling Jing Yan composed herself and agreed with a smile.
Such a charming young man was sitting in front of her, yet Cousin Shu remained unmoved. It was simply amazing.
“Cousin Shu, you’ve been picking fish bones for Cousin Xiao and taking food for Cousin Yan. You’ve not eaten yet!” Lu Qian broke the silence with a laugh and enthusiastically picked food for Ling Jing Shu. Soon, her bowl was full of food. “You must have had a bad appetite these days since you look thinner. It’s better to eat more.”
Faced with such enthusiasm, it was not good for Ling Jing Shu to continue showing a stiff face. She had no choice but to thank him.
At this point, the atmosphere of silence and awkwardness at the dining table had somewhat dissolved.
“Tomorrow is grandmother’s birthday. What birthday gift did you prepare?” Ling Jing Yan asked curiously.
Ling Jing Shu smiled and said, “It was prepared long ago. I made a pair of shoes for grandmother. What about you? What did you prepare?”
“I was going to make clothes for grandmother. However, my mother said my embroidery skill isn’t good. I’m sure grandmother wouldn’t like the clothes I make. So, I changed my mind and made a perfume bag. I put some dried chrysanthemums in it, since it has a calming effect.”
The two sisters chatted endlessly.
Lu Hong was separated by a layer and was unable to speak.
Lu Qian was unscrupulous. He smiled and interrupted, “I copied a Buddhist scripture for grandmother.” Then he asked Ling Xiao enthusiastically, “Cousin Xiao, have you prepared a birthday gift for grandmother?”
Ling Xiao was a little awkward. He said with a small voice, “I wanted to prepare a gift myself. But I can’t see, so I can’t copy Buddhist scriptures.”
He really was picking a kettle that was not boiling! (T/N: This means that someone is saying or doing something that shouldn’t be mentioned in front of others, or that someone is bringing up a sensitive subject) He knew that Ling Xiao was blind and had to be taken care of by others in his daily life. It was impossible for him to prepare a gift himself!
Lu Qian was secretly annoyed at himself, so he quickly smiled and said, “It’s more important to have such filial piety than anything. Even if nothing is given, grandmother won’t mind.”
Ling Xiao smiled reluctantly, but there was some unhappiness between his brows.
“I’ve thought of an idea.” Lu Hong suddenly laughed, “You don’t have to put in too much effort, yet you can make grandmother happy.”
Ling Xiao’s face lit up and he asked in anticipation, “What’s the idea that Cousin Hong thought of?”
Lu Hong leaned over to Ling Xiao’s side and whispered into his ears. As Ling Xiao listened, he nodded with excitement.
Ling Jing Shu was also curious and wanted to open her mouth to ask. But when she saw Lu Hong’s eyes which were full of affection, she felt nausea, and she swallowed her words silently.
The Ling Family was a famous family in Ding Province. First Ling Master was an official in the capital. Fifth Ling Master was a well-known talent in Ding Province. Then, there was Lu An, the son-in-law who was Ji Province’s governor, who had come back as well. Naturally, Old Madam Ling’s seventieth birthday banquet had to be grand.
Early in the morning, the Ling Residence opened the front door to welcome guests.
A lot of guests turned up. The Ling Family’s sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and grandchildren-in-law were all very busy entertaining the guests. They were so busy that their feet hardly touched the ground. (T/N: It simply means that they were so busy running around)
Ling Jing Shu was also not allowed to relax. She and her cousin sisters—Ling Jing Xian, Ling Jing Wan, Ling Jing Yan—were responsible for greeting the young girls who came with their elders.
Those who were eligible to visit were from some of Ding Province’s famous boudoirs. Most of them were acquainted with Ling Jing Shu. When they met, it was inevitable for them to exchange some warm greetings.
After half a day, Ling Jing Shu’s mouth was dry and her throat was almost smoking.
Due to his blindness, Ling Xiao could not come out to greet the guests, so he was pretty relaxed. All along, he obediently stood beside Old Madam Ling.
Those women who came over to greet and talk to Old Madam Ling would inevitably take a sad look at Ling Xiao.
This handsome and intelligent young man had been blinded by accident. He couldn’t read and write, and his daily activities had to be taken care of by others. It was as though he was a good-for-nothing. It was indeed a pity.
Ling Xiao may or may not have noticed all these strange looks, but what could he do? He had been living under this kind of gaze since he was eight. Over time, he had to get used to it.
Finally, it was the end of greeting and gift-giving session.
Old Madam Ling, who was in excellent spirits today, did not feel tired. She smiled at Madam Ling and said, “Your father passed away early. All these years, I’ve been raising you and your brothers on my own. In just the blink of an eye, I’ve also grown old now.”
It was rare to live till seventy years old. To be able to live till seventy years old and yet remain so energetic, it was indeed considered long-lived.
Madam Ling’s mouth was sweet since young; she was used to coaxing Old Madam Ling. After hearing what Old Madam Ling said, she immediately smiled, “Mother, your complexion is still rosy, healthy and energetic. You look like you’re in your fifties, how are you old?”
Old Madam Ling was coaxed until she was laughing.
Ling Xiao who had been silent for a long time suddenly laughed and said, “Grandmother, grandson has also prepared a birthday gift for you!”
Old Madam Ling immediately got excited. “Since you have prepared a gift, why didn’t you present it together with Shu-jie’er and the others just now?”
“Grandson’s present is different.” Ling Xiao said with a clear smile like an innocent and naïve child.
Old Madam Ling had always loved Ling Xiao. She smiled amicably, “What’s the present? When you say it like that, grandmother’s heart is curious and full of anticipation.”
Ling Xiao stood up and cleared his throat, “Grandson composed a poem dedicated to grandmother as birthday gift.”
Oh, so it was a birthday poem.
Old Madam Ling listened with great interest.
“Good fortune wine’s fragrance float around and all the guests stopped. Just like receiving the three immortal’s spirit of happiness, good fortune, and longevity. East tower’s jade green mountain ridge has green pines and cranes. Sea is vast, mind is broad as the world. Longevity and luck to shine every day and every month. Comparing poetry composed for wishing the elderly. Southern sky displaces the ginseng and banyan. Mountain bestows peaches of immortality that has entered the pavilion.” Ling Xiao slowly recited with a clear and pleasant voice. (T/N: The first word (bold) of each part of the sentence can be joined together to form 福如东海，寿比南山 which is a Chinese idiom/phrase that means “Good fortune as boundless as the East China Sea, Life as long as the Southern Mountain.”)
Old Madam Ling was very knowledgeable. She listened with a smile and nodded repeatedly, “Good, good, good! It’s a wonderful poem. Grandmother received so many gifts today, but this is the best gift.”
As soon as Old Madam Ling said something, the others would have to say some compliments as well.
Ling Xiao finally got in the limelight and felt very happy. Unfortunately, Ah Shu had gone to the garden with a bunch of girls to appreciate the flowers. He couldn’t share his happiness with her.
A familiar young man’s voice rang in his ear, “Cousin Xiao, you’ve composed a really good birthday poem.”
Ling Xiao grinned, “Thank you Cousin Hong for giving me such a good idea.”
Lu Hong, however, did not take the credit and smiled modestly, “I merely made a casual suggestion. This birthday poem was composed by you entirely; I didn’t help at all.”
After a pause, he tried to ask, “Cousin Xiao, just now, did you intend to look for Cousin Shu? It’s inconvenient for you to walk alone, so I’ll go out with you to find her!”
Ling Xiao was stunned, and he nodded quickly.
Lu Hong kept the joy in his heart under control and escaped with Ling Xiao from the inner hall while the others were not watching.
It was a good decision to get along with Ling Xiao. This was the easiest way to approach Ling Jing Shu. Best of all, he could take advantage of this crowd and leave Lu Qian behind. Lu Qian was always behind him, and because of this, he couldn’t find a chance to confess to her.
Just as Lu Hong was pondering about this, Ling Xiao suddenly stopped in his tracks. He whispered in a volume that only the two of them could hear, “Cousin Hong, do you like Ah Shu?”
Lu Hong, “…”