The imperial palace.
Within Senior Concubine Xu’s Chunluan Palace.
Whenever Senior Concubine Xu was mentioned, everyone’s first impression was that she had never fallen out of favor. For a woman that was over forty, being able to be favored by his highness for decades was something everyone had to smack their lips over and praise.
But actually Senior Concubine Xu wasn’t very beautiful. At least, there were many imperial concubines within the palace that was better looking than her. But she was able to occupy his majesty for his favor. One couldn’t help but be impressed by this.
She used to be the daughter of a small common household, and was one day chosen to be placed by the monarch’s side. Her road from an attendant to the most favored concubine within the six palaces wasn’t just due to her face and her schemes, but also because she had caught the emperor’s eye.
While others couldn’t get used to Senior Concubine Xu’s daily tearstained appearance despite her age, his majesty was very taken in by this act.
Senior Concubine Xu was oval-faced and had willow leaf shaped eyebrows. Her eyes contained amorous feelings and her appearance seemed too frail to withstand the wind. Her physique was slender like a weak willow against the wind. Her face and body were extremely well maintained for a woman over forty. Especially when she cried like teardrops on a pear blossom, her appearance really made one’s heartache.
“Majesty, this concubine really misses Jin’er a lot. Just summon him back so this concubine can see him.”
Senior Concubine Xu had been weeping for a long time, both crying and acting pampered. This ended up grinding down the originally insistent Emperor Xi’s resolve. His face even some hints of sympathy.
“Alright, don’t cry anymore. We1 will find a day to summon him back to the capital.”
Senior Concubine Xu’s face was full of joy. Her face was tearstained, but it had to be said this half smiling half crying appearance suited her quite well, adding some moving freshness and charm.
“Would We speak falsely?” Emperor Xi acted angry.
Senior Concubine Xu laughed between her sobs and cuddled up to him, “This concubine naturally trusts your majesty. Your majesty’s words are golden.”
After obtaining the outcome she wanted, Senior Concubine Xu flattered him for a while. Emperor Xi looked at the sky outside: “Alright, it’s getting late. We have to go sit at the Fengqi Palace for a while. Imperial Physician Xu said the empress’s royal body is slightly unwell.”
“Respectfully seeing your majesty off.”
Only after Emperor Xi left did Senior Concubine reveal the indignation on her face.
It’s the empress again. That old woman still won’t die off after struggling with her for several decades. She would often use the excuse that her royal body was slightly unwell to coax his majesty over to her!
The key was that she couldn’t expose the empress’s false appearance because what his majesty hated most was the jealous bickering between women. He could favor you however he wanted, but you couldn’t smear “other people’s” name in front of him.
This “other people” referred to the current empress Xiao-Shi.2
Empress Xiao-Shi was born within the Jing County’s Governmental Estate, and was Emperor Xi’s first partner. She went from the crown prince’s concubine all the way to empress. If Senior Concubine Xu was said to be favored for several decades, Xiao-Shi had been favored for an even longer period of time. She and the current emperor were married at a young age, and their affections ran deep.
Xiao-Shi was magnanimous and tolerant. As the nation’s matron, she treated all of the harem equally and cherished all the princes, making Emperor Xi extremely grateful and respectful. Of course, even though he respected her, with so many concubines in the rear palace there were bound to be some that caught his eye. Senior Concubine Xu was one such outstanding concubine.
As Empress Xiao’s old opponent for so many years, no one understood her better than Senior Concubine Xu. If Senior Concubine Xu was someone who pretended to be delicate, Empress Xiao was someone who was extremely fake.
On the surface she appeared to treat all the concubines equally and cared for the princes they gave birth to, but in reality countless concubines had died by her hands, as well as those princes and princesses who died prematurely. Of course, the number of miscarriages were even more countless.
When Senior Concubine Xu entered the palace that year, she didn’t know the situation and suffered quite a bit due to Empress Xiao. She even miscarried once. From then on, she and Empress Xiao could no longer coexist and struggled fiercely in the open and in the dark. Of course, this was all done in private.
On the surface, everyone said Empress Xiao and Senior Concubine Xu’s relationship was harmonious, as close as sisters.
Of course, anyone who could stand out amongst so many women and be favored wouldn’t be simple. Anyone who said their hands were clean would be speaking absolute nonsense.
Seeing Senior Concubine Xu’s ugly expression, the palace maid in charge of the Chunluan Palace Qin’er said on the side: “Congratulations imperial concubine. His highness the Jin Prince can once again reunite with imperial concubine in the capital.”
Hearing this, Senior Concubine Xu’s expression turned a little better, but she still said: “What reunion? We can only see each other briefly. He can’t stay long before having to return to his vassal state.”
“Being summoned to the capital indicates his majesty’s bountiful affection. Look at the Yun Prince and the Jing Prince. Ever since they left, they have never been summoned back. Who isn’t aware that they aren’t favored by his majesty?”
Senior Concubine Xu smiled disdainfully, “How can they be compared to my Jin’er and Qi’er?” Her brows immediately knitted again, “It’s just unfortunate this seat can only ask for one son to come back at a time. Poor Qi’er. Both times it was Jin’er who was summoned. Would Qi’er have complaints about this seat?”
“His highness the Qi Prince would definitely understand imperial concubine’s efforts. After all, we are also doing this for his sake.”
Senior Concubine Xu looked at the nail polish on her hands with a profound smile.
At the Fengqi Palace.
After Emperor Xi left, Empress Xiao leaned against the phoenix recliner and rubbed her brows.
Thinking of his majesty who stubbornly insisted on summoning the Jin Prince back to the capital, she felt endlessly worried.
After sitting for a while, Empress Xiao called her personal eunuch and said: “Personally go to the eastern palace. Summon the crown prince over.”
The crown prince came very quickly.
“Mother Empress, what have you summoned your son over for?”
Empress Xiao brought the crown prince in front of her and told him in detail about the Jin Prince being summoned to the capital.
The crown prince furrowed his brow, “Royal father is summoning him to the capital again? It hasn’t even been that long since the last time!”
Empress Xiao naturally understood this reasoning, but his majesty had made up his mind and her attempts at persuading him hadn’t worked. They could only take the necessary precautions now.
From Emperor Xi’s perspective, summoning the Jin Prince back was just to relieve the senior concubine’s suffering. From Empress Xiao’s perspective, that bitch was scheming something again.
It’s just that the last time the Jin Prince returned to the capital it was all very aboveboard. Apart from accompanying Senior Concubine Xu and occasionally fulfilling his filial duties with Emperor Xi, there hadn’t been anything abnormal. After staying for less than half a month, he had requested to return to his vassal state. They couldn’t find anything to use against him.
That they couldn’t find anything suspicious naturally wasn’t convenient to mention to his majesty. Therefore, when Emperor Xi planned on summoning the Jin Prince to the capital this time, Empress Xiao only spoke a few words on the surface and didn’t say any words of absolute refusal.
After all, the senior concubine had even cried from missing her son so much!
This was Emperor Xi’s words, but Empress Xiao was able to understand his meaning. The crown prince was in the capital so you naturally won’t miss him. But Senior Concubine Xu’s sons were both in their vassal states, and she rarely saw them. You naturally wouldn’t understand her suffering.
Well, Empress Xiao couldn’t say anything to that.
Seeing the crown prince pacing back and forth, Empress Xiao said: “Alright, don’t panic. You are the crown prince and your position is unshakeable. Mother Empress telling you this isn’t to stir up your emotions, and instead is to have you keep an eye on him. Vassal princes aren’t allowed to interact with court officials. As long as they show any abnormality, we can preemptively strike at them.”
Empress Xiao had spoken these words countless times before, and the crown prince naturally understood their meaning. However, always being on the defensive made one feel extremely sullen. But what else could they do? If they brought it up to his royal father, he and his mother empress would only be labelled as intolerant. After all, the senior concubine and the Jin Prince hadn’t done anything!
To put it plainly, it was pure bias!
The crown prince had long since been filled with anger.
“Your son understands.”
“If anything comes up, discuss it with your grandfather. Don’t be rash.”
Empress Xiao was clear about her own son’s personality. He was hot tempered, and she would feel more relieved with her father watching over him.”
The two spoke a while longer before the crown prince hurriedly departed the Fengqi Palace.
The Jing Prince naturally knew about the deadlock between the crown prince’s side and Senior Concubine Xu’s side in the capital.
After thinking about it for a long time, he still wasn’t able to rationalize the Jin Prince’s frequent trips to the capital. But to say something was fishy, none of his subordinates were able to find any useful information.
The situation was ghoulishly abnormal.
Towards the Jin Prince, due to his past life’s experience, the Jing Prince had put several times his effort.
Huang Qin also didn’t think the senior concubine was fumbling about aimlessly. It wasn’t easy for a vassal prince to enter the capital. Senior Concubine Xu wouldn’t have put in all this effort just because she missed her son.
Everyone understood this reasoning, but those who felt it was fishy were only a few. This was because the senior concubine had always maintained the appearance of a mother who missed her son, and the Jin Prince truly appeared to be visiting his mother upon returning.
The Jing Prince had always kept an eye on the capital, and had spent a lot of effort with Huang Qin trying to figure things out. After a lengthy discussion, they still weren’t able to get anywhere and temporarily set it aside.
Within a northwestern pavilion in the Jing Prince Estate.
“Sister-in-law shouldn’t think too much about it. Since you’ve come you should be at ease. Even if you don’t see anyone else, you should see your son and grandson.” An old woman over fifty years old was speaking.
The old woman being persuaded had a face full of anxiety, “This I also understand, but he hasn’t sent a letter in over half a year. I’m worried. He’s also a recluse. He rarely comes home to begin with, and never tells me anything.”
“You still shouldn’t overthink things. Perhaps he feels this is a little more appropriate. After all, you are also aware of his situation. An imperial physician lives a perilous life. If our household’s old man hadn’t come to the Jing Province, our whole family would also be living in fear.”
“Ai. Sister-in-law Hu, it’s all thanks to your family. I’ve really troubled you.”
“No trouble at all. We’re all one big family. Since you’ve come you can be at ease in staying here.”
“That’s true, I shouldn’t be overthinking things.”
The two of them spoke a few more words before going back to their own business. After all, they both had grandchildren. Although they lived under the same roof, neither of them were idle.
Every time the Jing Prince saw Xiao Hua, his heart would feel alarmed.
Not because of her, but because of her stomach. Such a slender person carrying such a large stomach looked truly frightening.
But Xiao Hua was quite composed. The Jing Prince occasionally saw her caress her stomach while smiling.
The Jing Prince had never understood what motherly love was. He had seen it in books before but was never able to understand. Seeing such a scene, he seemed to have gotten some idea.
“Highness, what’s wrong?” Seeing the Jing Prince seem a little dazed, Xiao Hua opened her mouth and asked.
The Jing Prince snapped out of it and used his fingertip to carefully touch her stomach.
Xiao Hua smiled and placed his hand on top of it. “Isn’t it really big? This servant concubine also feels it’s a bit too big. Doctor Hu said it looks normal, and that it might be twins. He’s just unable to tell at the moment and needs to wait a while.”
“That’s right.” Xiao Hua was all smiles, “But we don’t know for sure. Doctor Hu only said that’s what it looks like, and needs to wait for the pulse to be sure. It would be good if there’s two. This servant concubine can save some effort.”
“En. Doesn’t highness like it?”
“This humble prince is very happy.”
“Highness, do you know the baby can move now? Yesterday it moved a little. This morning it moved a little. It’s a pity it’s only a couple of times. However, Doctor Hu also said they would start moving more and more…..”
Right as she spoke, she suddenly let out an “aiya”.
“What is it?”
“It moved again. You can feel it.”
This sort of novel experience made Xiao Hua excited like a child. She grabbed the Jing Prince’s hand and placed it on her stomach, but the movements seemed to have stopped.
“Aiya, how about moving again? Let daddy also feel it.”
Daddy? The Jing Prince spaced out once again.
Right at this moment, there was a movement under his hand.
“You see? It’s moving.”
While she was extremely excited, the Jing Prince’s nose actually felt a little sour. This feeling was extremely unfamiliar, making him a little helpless.
The Jing Prince suddenly stood up, “You be careful. This humble prince still has some business in the front court.”
Xiao Hua looked at the Jing Prince doubtfully. What business was there at this hour? Normally the Jing Prince returned in the middle of the afternoon after finishing everything in the front court. However, Xiao Hua also knew that the Jing Prince had been very busy recently, and didn’t think too much about it.
“Will highness return for dinner?”
“Eat first if you get hungry.” The Jing Prince knew that after she became pregnant, her appetite had grown a lot and would get hungry very quickly. Sometimes she would hold it in and wait for him despite being uncomfortably hungry.
After the Jing Prince left, Xiao Hua stared at her stomach to examine the movements within.
She had been rather happy about these movements ever since they started yesterday. In the past she didn’t know about such things, and felt it was extremely mysterious.
Especially since those small movements somehow seemed to vaguely transmit the small fetus’s emotions to her.
That sort of feeling was extremely mysterious, and made one’s heart melt…..