The guests carried the caged bird in front and greeted Feng Jun Yi and Lin Xulian. "Greetings your majesty Emperor Feng, empress. I am the envoy sent by our king to present this gift." He took out the bird from the cage. But surprisingly the bird didn't fly away. It remained on the envoy's palm while looking at Feng Jun Yi in the eye. "This is called the Feng bird since it looks like the mythical creature, the phoenix. This can only be found in the mountains in Quiangdu. And since your majesty is named Feng, our king thought it should be an appropriate gift."
Feng Jun Yi's mouth twitched hearing his words. "No offense but your king's humor is…..I could say surprising."
"None taken your majesty. I am actually surprised that you could tell that this gift's purpose is to humor you. The king's advisers told him that this gift might not be a good idea and might offend your majesty. Although this gift is a bit silly, it is a rare bird and a very smart and loyal one. You can make him deliver messages and other things. This is still considered a chick though. It will grow as huge as a hawk when it matures."
This finally took Feng Jun Yi's interest and looked at the bird, only to find it looking straight to his eyes. The bird looked even more majestic up close outside the cage. Its feathers are a blend of red, orange and a bit of yellow. Its eyes look like a glimmering gold like a glowing orb inside a sea of fire. Just before Feng Jun Yi started to be alarmed with the bird's piercing gaze, he heard the envoy say. "It is currently assessing and memorizing you your majesty before it acknowledges you as his master. This bird has a free will to choose its own master."
Lin Xulian became intrigued too so she scooted a bit closer to Feng Jun Yi and the bird. Feng Jun Yi waited for the bird to finish examining him. But his expression turned grave when the bird suddenly flew and landed on Lin Xulian's shoulder. "Too bad your majesty. It seems like it prefers your empress." The envoy even rubbed salt to his wound. He is not familiar with this kind of bird but he knew he was rejected. Lin Xulian is flattered but also felt a bit guilty. The bird is supposed to be a birthday gift for Feng Jun Yi but it ended up on her. She gave him an apologetic sweet smile. Feng Jun Yi just sighed in defeat.
"Don't be disappointed your majesty. Our King said that this might happen so he prepared an alternative gift." The envoy said in a deadpan face. The corner of Feng Jun Yi's eye twitched after hearing the envoy. 'So he anticipated me to be rejected? Should I be offended now?'.
The envoy took out a wooden box. Seeing the box containing the said gift, the officials' expression turned grave. It looks so simple that they felt like this so called king is out rightly looking down on the emperor. But the envoy didn't mind their glares and opened the box then introduced the gift. Inside the box, there is a black metal like bracelet. It wasn't fancy or shiny. It doesn't have any luster and its color is the same as the midnight moonless sky kind of black. "This bracelet is made from a special kind of stone that can only be found in the Quiangdu country. The stone isn't mined but was handed down to generations of Kings that ruled the country. A part of it is made into accessories worn as a symbol of power. It is blessed by the heads of the clan that resides in Quiangdu."
Feng Jun Yi is stunned that such an unattractive accessory had a deep history but he is also puzzled as to why they are willing to give such important thing to him. "Zhen doesn't mean to be rude but this is such an important thing for Quiangdu country. Zhen wonders why your King is willing to give this to zhen?"
"Our King said it is the only other thing that could rival the Feng bird's worth. Your majesty is no ordinary person. You are a ruler and a symbol of power is worthy for you." Feng Jun Yi looked at the bird in Lin Xulian's shoulder and wondered why it is deemed as important as the black accessory that is passed down through generations. But he is still not convinced with the envoy's explanation.
Lin Xulian who is finally done marveling the little bird also looked at the bracelet in Feng Jun Yi's hand. The envoy didn't show any change in expression from the start so she can't figure out whether they have ulterior motive or not. So she decided to confront him head on. "Can I ask you something Master….?"
"Hu, the name is Hu your majesty, empress….?"
Hearing her name, the envoy finally had a reaction. His eyebrows raised a little and he looked at the little bird in Lin Xulian's shoulder. Then he lowered his head. "You can ask me anything your majesty empress Lin."
Lin Xulian caught the little reaction. Her eyes narrowed and observed the bowing envoy for a few seconds before finally speaking. "How old are you?"
Hearing the question that's also running through everyone's mind, they commend the courage of their empress. Feng Jun Yi on the other hand can't help but sigh.
"Answering your majesty, I am forty-eight years old." Envoy Hu replied without any emotion.
"You're old?!" Lin Xulian's sudden reply shocked everyone. Anyone would be offended if called old. Cold sweat run through everyone's back while waiting for the envoy's reply.
"Yes your majesty. I already have five grandchildren." Contrary to their expectation, the envoy answered her calmly.
"You don't even look thirty yet. This made me curious about your country. Your environment must be nice for you to maintain such youthful look."
"I'll inform the King about your interest your majesty."
"The Quiangdu country never interacted with other countries before despite numerous invitations. I am wondering why your country suddenly sent someone to participate in this kind of banquet?" The lightened mood became heavy again after Lin Xulian asked. Feng Jun Yi is also uneasy but he is more concerned about the Quiangdu country's real motive.
"Actually it is just pure luck your majesty." His answer surprised Lin Xulian. She gave him a questioning look that he immediately answered. "Someone came back after his journey and discovered the invitation. Seeing that the date hasn't passed, he brought it in and delivered it to the King. Then the King sent me over. No one is stationed outside the walls of the country that is why no one receives anything from outside. But the Feng bird could make things easy once it matures."
Everyone is stunned. Just by hearing the envoy's explanation, one thing is finally clarified. The Quiangdu country's reputation as aloof and refuses to mingle with other countries is a huge misunderstanding.