The two children’s names were decided: Luo Zhuo and Luo Yi.
The names of the royal family were all hard to pronounce. They were chosen for their meanings, and not for the ease of saying it out loud. Therefore, Xiao Hua had to rack her brains to come up with a nickname for her son and daughter.
The Jing Prince promised to let her decide the nicknames. She put a lot of effort into it, and also put the people around her to use.
Matron Xu suggested choosing a lowly name. A saying amongst commoners was that those with lowly names were easily raised. Examples given were metal, egg, dog, leftovers, and little grass and so on. After she saw everyone’s astonished gazes, she didn’t dare continue speaking.
Nana He took the lead in disagreeing. After all, this was the little master and mistress of the prince’s estate. If they had lowly names they would be laughed at.
In the end Xiao Hua figured it out. Her daughter’s name had the “Yi” sound, so she would be called “Yi Yi”1. As for her son, Xiao Hua really couldn’t think of anything so she went with Zhuo’er.
The two babies were truly small. They were almost a month old but hadn’t grown much. After being raised for so long, they had only grown a little bigger from when they were first born. They did get quite a bit fatter, and were no longer as wrinkly. They also turned fair and lustrous, like two porcelain dolls.
Zhuo’er and Yi Yi were well behaved. They didn’t cry or make a fuss. When they occasionally woke up, they would just stare at you with wide eyes. Nana He said that babies weren’t able to see clearly at stage, but when they looked at you with their dark jade eyes one would inevitably feel sympathy and want to hold them tightly.
The few wet nurses all cherished these two babies to death. Even if no one was keeping an eye on them, they would still carefully take good care of them. Even if Eunuch Fu didn’t order it, they would come to the eastern wing when they were idle. They could just stand there and watch for a long time.
A month passed by in the blink of an eye.
The full month alcohol ceremony wasn’t officially held for the two, and they merely celebrated a little in the western pavilion.
The Jing Prince didn’t explain why they didn’t hold the ceremony and the others didn’t mention it. Eunuch Fu and Xiao Hua also didn’t say anything.
Once the puerperium was over, Xiao Hua seemed to have come alive. The days where she couldn’t take a bath was too hard to endure. Towards the end, Xiao Hua often refused to let the Jing Prince into the room since her body didn’t smell very good.
Xiao Hua moved back into the main residence. Yi Yi and Zhuo’er, along with the few wet nurses, moved into the western wing. Eunuch Fu had long since decorated the place in a suitable manner for the babies. He was very meticulous about it, and had even switched out the windows and doors. Now when the windows were opened, the place would be ventilated without any cold air blowing inside.
After dinner, Xiao Hua had Ding Xiang prepare a bath. Having not bathed for a month, Xiao Hua was quite willing to take several baths. After she was done, she saw the Jing Prince already lying in bed.
Xiao Hua was aware how long the dry spell had been for the Jing Prince. In the last few months, the two hadn’t done anything, not even using alternate methods to give him some release.
Xiao Hua felt her own stomach and was a little lacking in self-confidence.
During her puerperium, she wasn’t only feeding her children. Nana He had used quite a few methods to try and help her figure get back to normal. As of today, she had recovered quite a bit, and her stomach was no longer as saggy as it was after giving birth. Although it had become tighter and more delicate, it definitely couldn’t be compared to how it was before her pregnancy.
Seeing the person remain standing outside the palanquin bed, the Jing Prince raised his eyes and looked at her, “What’s wrong?”
Xiao Hua smiled and agilely got into bed before lying down.
“I’ve gotten much fatter. My waist is so thick.” Saying this, she put the Jing Prince’s hand on her waist.
Xiao Hua’s action was innocent, merely seeing if the Jing Prince would dislike her thicker waist. The Jing Prince misunderstood however, and after feeling her waist he ended up feeling other areas.
The Jing Prince said as he got on top of her.
The eastern palace.
After Chen Qi received the report, he walked towards the study.
Along the way, all the palace maids and eunuchs who saw him were especially respectful. Everyone was aware that Eunuch Chen, Chen Qi, was a rising star by the crown prince’s side. They naturally flattered him carefully, each hoping they would someday receive Eunuch Chen’s guidance.
The study’s doors were tightly shut, and several eunuchs stood guard outside. Chen Qi stood still and asked about the situation. Only then did he realize they were discussing official business inside.
“Grandpa Chen, this lowly one will grab a chair for you. Why don’t you have a seat while waiting?” A low-ranked eunuch said.
Chen Qi gave him a kick, “Even if you’re trying to curry favor, this isn’t the way to do it. The master is inside discussing official business and you want me to sit by the door? Are you trying to harm this one? A servant needs to have a servant’s bearing.”
The low ranked eunuch rubbed his butt with an aggrieved expression: “This lowly one didn’t have any other intentions.”
“Enough, be quiet.”
After standing for around fifteen minutes, the doors opened and several people filed out.
Chen Qi hurriedly bowed in salute, “Greetings to these superiors.”
“Eunuch Chen is too polite.”
Only after sending them all off did Chen Qi return to the door and respectfully say: “Highness, Chen Qi has something to report.”
“What is it?”
Chen Qi walked close and bent over, whispering a few words into the crown prince’s ear.
The crown prince was pleasantly astonished, “Truly?”
Chen Qi nodded his head heavily, his tone full of excitement. “Truly. This servant didn’t really dare believe it after finding them, and only after questioning did I confirm it.”
“Wonderful. This Imperial Physician Zhou is truly cunning!” The crown prince laughed loudly, and patted Chen Qi’s shoulder: “Chen Qi, well done. This humble prince will properly reward you.”
“Taking care of things for highness is this servant’s duty. I don’t dare ask for rewards.”
The crown prince was fully of joy as he said: “This humble prince knows that you are loyal. This thing will be left to you to handle. There will be great rewards if it’s done well.”
“Understood.” Chen Qi knelt and kowtowed in gratitude, before getting up and asking: “Then this servant will get on it right away?”
The crown prince nodded and said again: “This humble prince will have Imperial Bodyguard Liu accompany you.”
Chen Qi’s lowered eyes flashed as he said: “Understood.”
By the time Imperial Physician Zhou got off work and left the imperial palace, the sky had already turned dark.
He glanced towards the left of the palace gates and saw that familiar covered horse carriage of his.
As he approached, the driver respectfully placed the stepping stool down. Only after Imperial Physician Zhou got on the carriage and lowered the curtains did he slowly let out a breath.
After a moment, the carriage started slowly moving. The swaying motion inevitably made him feel sleepy.
Suddenly a soft laugh sounded out. Imperial Physician Zhou’s heart was startled. He was then gagged and things turned black as his head was covered by cloth. He struggled with all his might as he desperately cried out: “Who is it? What are you trying to do? Old Qian, Old Qian….”
Old Qian was Imperial Physician Zhou’s driver, and had driven his carriage for over twenty years.
The carriage didn’t stop, and continued forward slowly.
That person laughed softly once again, and said disdainfully, “No need to cry out. The person outside isn’t Old Qian….”
Imperial Physician Zhou’s thoughts were chaotic. Only now did he realize that the driver had his head lowered the whole time without saying anything. It seemed that someone purposefully used a similar looking carriage to fool him.
“What do you want to do?” Imperial Physician Zhou forced himself to remain calm.
“I don’t want to do anything. I’m only inviting you to go meet someone.”
“Is it necessary to act like bandits?”
“It can’t be helped. Imperial Physician Zhou isn’t willing to give any face normally, so this one could only resort to these methods.”
Imperial Physician Zhou’s heart immediately jumped.
It wasn’t clear how long the carriage drove for before finally coming to a stop.
Imperial Physician Zhou’s head was covered and he couldn’t see anything. He staggered as he was pushed off the carriage, and was then pushed along by someone. Only when he was inside a room did the black cloth bag over his head get removed.
The room was very dark, lit by a single burning candle. The surroundings couldn’t be seen clearly.
That person didn’t delay. “Bring our Imperial Physician Zhou to see the people.”
Two large men pushed him forwards into another room.
The room was brightly lit. Imperial Physician Zhou took a step forward and was blocked by an arm. He heard a familiar crying sound and hurriedly looked over.
He saw an old woman, a young man and a young woman along with a child around ten who were all tightly bound and thrown into the corner of the room. Their muffled cries sounded out through their gagged mouths as though trying to tell him something. The old woman’s face was overflowing with tears.
“Why are you all here? You—–”
Imperial Physician Zhou cried in astonishment before pointing at the bunch of evildoers with wide eyes, feeling like he was about to collapse.
“Enough, he’s seen them. Bring him out.”
He was back in the dark room once again. Everyone else left, leaving only a thin middle-aged man with a mustache shaped like the “八” character.
“Alright, you’ve seen the people. Does Imperial Physician Zhou have any thoughts?”
“You people are truly shameless. You would even use such methods, kidnapping women and children. Truly immoral!”
That person smiled and said: “Imperial Physician Zhou, how about saying something else. It took us quite some effort to find them. Since we’ve already shown you the people, perhaps it’s time to tell us the truth.”
“What truth?” Imperial Physician Zhou forced himself to remain calm.
“What do you think?”
His stern demeanor finally cracked, and he wasn’t able to conceal the fear in his eyes.
The middle-aged man silently thought that he truly had cause to fear. His entire family, young and old, were held in his hands. Even if you were a reincarnated saint, you would still have to admit defeat.
“Who is your master?” Imperial Physician Zhou put on a brave front.
“You shouldn’t ask this. There’s no way I would tell you. Regardless, since we’re at this point, you should properly consider whether or not you will speak.”
“This old man, this old man….”
“Imperial Physician Zhou, you shouldn’t play dumb. You won’t be able to afford the consequences of doing so. Since your people are in our hands, you should know that you have to speak even if you don’t want to.” That person let out a soft laugh. “Since you’ve forced us to reveal our trump card, you shouldn’t be too stubborn.”
“Prying into the emperor’s affairs is a great crime.”
“Hahahaha, you are truly inflexible. Your people are already in our hands and you’re still talking about this?”
Imperial Physician Zhou was limp on the floor, his face full of fear. He was pale as paper and covered in cold sweat.
“Hurry and speak, don’t test my patience. You have quite a lot of people in your family. How about we kill one every incense stick’s worth of time and see how long you can last? There’re four of them, so we can do this for four incense sticks of time.”
As he spoke, he pulled out an incense stick from somewhere and used the candle’s fire to light it. He placed it on the incense burner. That faint red light was bright in the dark room, but appeared to Imperial Physician Zhou like a life-stealing malevolent spirit.
The room was scarily silent. There was only the sound of his rough breathing.
Speak, don’t speak, speak, don’t speak….
Speaking meant death. Not speaking also meant death. What should he do?
That incense stick wasn’t long, and gradually neared its end under Imperial Physician Zhou’s eyes.
His dried lips trembled as he said, “It’s death if I speak. His majesty won’t let me off….”
That person lightly laughed as he leaned in close, “Imperial Physician Zhou, you have to consider this. Even if you speak, we won’t spread the word. How would his majesty know? Even if he does find out, there would still be a chance to survive. Moreover, your wife, son and grandson are all in our hands. There’s no need to implicate your family…..”
The room was very dark. Only the single candle flickered, making the man’s face alternate between light and shadow. To Imperial Physician Zhou, he appeared to be the devil.
Even his family had fallen into their hands….
He didn’t care about himself, but what about his wife, son and his cute grandson? He hid them with great difficulty for half his life, but still couldn’t hide them forever.
That spot of red flickered a few times before finally going out.
“Imperial Physician Zhou….”
Could he not speak?
Especially since those words were truly alluring: a chance to survive…..
After Imperial Physician Zhou was taken away, the room fell silent.
Behind a screen in a dark corner of the room, Chen Qi smiled at Imperial Bodyguard Liu, “Success.”
“I’ll congratulate Eunuch Chen first. This is a huge merit.”
The two of them didn’t seem to feel how cruel the earlier scene was, or perhaps didn’t even pay attention to it.
“You flatter me. This merit belongs to everyone.”
“His highness will definitely be pleased.”
Chen Qi cupped his hands in salute, “Then I will let Imperial Bodyguard Liu report the good news to his highness first.”
Imperial Guard Liu hesitated, “Eunuch Chen, this—–”
Chen Qi looked around and said meaningfully: “This place still needs to be taken care of.”
“Yes, yes, yes. Many thanks to Eunuch Chen’s generosity.”
Even though Chen Qi had organized the matter, the one who reported it would also be rewarded. Everyone was extremely clear regarding who did what. Even if Imperial Bodyguard Liu was the one to report the good news, it wouldn’t wipe away Chen Qi’s huge merit. Eating the meat while sharing some soup with others, this was how one should conduct himself.
Imperial Bodyguard Liu hurried away while Chen Qi stood in place and let out an inexplicable smile.