Final sponsored chapter of the week. Sorry for the late post, wanted to finish all three chapters before releasing at once. Thank you once again to Karen S., and maguiling. Thank you to kikky for filling up the rest of the bar, and for your well wishes.
The eastern palace was scarily silent. After his majesty gave the confinement order, it was even more silent, as though no one was present.
Within the study, no lamps were lit despite the darkness.
The crown prince had yet to snap out of his daze. At the time, he had muttered that he wasn’t planning on ramming the Jin Prince, yet he himself had no idea how he ended up running into him.
Once Emperor Xi’s investigation was concluded, the Jing Prince received the report as well. Actually both sides got the results at the same time since the empress had also sent people over to see.
There was truly nothing abnormal. There were no issues with the field or the horses, leaving the crown prince with no excuses. He could only shut himself in his study and think everything over. In the end, he had a splitting headache but there was still no conclusion. He could only assume he had lost himself in the moment.
“Highness, how about this servant light a lamp?” Chen Qi who had accompanied him this whole time suddenly spoke. He lit the lamp as he spoke. “This servant believes highness definitely wouldn’t do something like this. It was definitely the Jin Prince’s scheme.”
“You also think this humble one was wrongly accused?”
The room lit up. Chen Qi nodded his head, “Highness couldn’t possibly use such clumsy methods. Wouldn’t this be making problems for yourself? This servant is dimwitted but still understands the situation. Highness would rather be injured himself than let the Jin Prince get injured.”
The crown prince suddenly let out a breath, as though feeling at ease now that he heard these words.
“This servant was also there at the time. Highness’s horse clearly sped up and charged over. The others present seemed to have witnessed the same thing as well.”
Seeing the crown prince’s ugly expression, Chen Qi continued speaking: “Therefore, this servant felt something wasn’t right. The easiest way to deduce the truth is to figure out who would benefit from it. Without a doubt, it would be the Jin Prince. But this servant really can’t figure out how the Jin Prince’s horse was able to get itself rammed under everyone’s eyes.”
After speaking back and forth, they were back at the beginning. This was something no one could figure out.
“It actually wasn’t much. This humble prince just had his horse stop for a bit.”
Within the Jin Prince Estate, the Jin Prince’s pale face showed some poorly concealed satisfaction.
His advisor, Mister Chen Da was astonished, “Stop for a bit?”
“It was on impulse. Such a good opportunity landed in front of this humble prince, how could I bear to let it slip by?!”
It sounded easy, but had been difficult.
Under such a high speed gallop, to be able to have his horse stop briefly and continue forward once more required excellent horsemanship, perception and decisiveness.
Horsemanship was needed to control the horse and perception was needed to calculate the timing and distance between himself and the crown prince. A horse’s length was a fleeting distance to begin with, like the spark of a flint. The Jin Prince had actually been able to successfully grasp it. Furthermore, to be able to put his own safety to the back of his mind to seize this opportunity, this required decisiveness.
It had to be said that the Jin Prince was a rare talent. He was determined, courageous and wise.
Mister Chen Da had a face full of praise, “Highness is both a hero and a great strategist. You are bound to succeed in your endeavors.”
“At this point, they won’t be able to hope for this humble prince to return to his vassal state. Before my leg is healed, they wouldn’t dare bring it up.”
“Highness is wise.”
The Jing Prince Estate also received the news, though it was delayed by a day.
Actually this delayed news had been obtained at great cost. Normally, a message carried over these eight hundred li’s distance would take several days. Being able to receive the news from the distant capital one day later was extremely astonishing.
Because the Jing Province was too far from the capital, he had spent quite some effort initially. Messenger pigeons were faster than a galloping horse, but the distance was too far. Who knew whether the pigeon would get eaten by some predator on the way? Therefore, he had sent people to find alternative methods. Only after paying a high price did he obtain the secrets of training messenger hawks.
Without mentioning the cost for this secret, he had spent many years training and only managed to succeed with two hawks. Despite the high price, the effects were extremely good. Normally, news from the capital may arrive within a day, at most two.
“Highness, do you think this matter was intentional?”
The Jing Prince Estate’s role in this matter was extremely small. They had only guided the events a little, intending to muddy the waters. The results exceeded their expectations.
It was almost a little unbelievable. Huang Qin had been stunned after reading the report. He really didn’t know if he should sigh over the Jin Prince’s luck or the crown prince’s misfortune.
The Jing Prince parted the suds in his tea, took a sip and said: “Regardless if it was intentional or not, the Jin Prince’s goal of remaining in the capital has been achieved.”
“Therefore, this was everyone’s desired outcome?” After speaking, Huang Qin couldn’t help but laugh: “Looks like the only unhappy party is the crown prince’s side.”
The Jing Prince didn’t speak. After muttering to himself, he placed the teacup down, “Let’s observe closely for now. The more chaotic it is on that side, the more it benefits us.”
He spoke to Eunuch Chang who was standing on the side: “Send a letter to that side. Have Yang Hui keep an eye on things. Only if these two sides struggle fiercely can we sit on the mountain and watch the tigers fight.”
Before Eunuch Chang’s voice fell, the Jing Prince had got up and left. He was gone before Eunuch Chang straightened himself from his bow.
“Where’s his highness going in such a hurry?” Huang Qin was stunned.
Eunuch Chang covered his mouth and coughed lightly, “Things are naturally different as a father.”
Huang Qin laughed involuntarily, “This is a good thing. At least our highness finally has some offspring.”
This was something all his subordinates were happy to see. Of course it would have been better if they were of his first wife, but since that wasn’t possible it was also good to have children with his concubine.
People’s thoughts would always adapt to the circumstances. Because the Jing Prince had been apathetic for so many years, just being able to have an heir made everyone extremely joyful. They no longer cared if it was from the wife or the concubine.
Eunuch Chang laughed awkwardly and waved at Huang Qin before going off to carry out his orders.
When the Jing Prince arrived at the western pavilion, Xiao Hua was getting a headache within the main residence.
The reason was that Zhuo’er and Yi Yi had learned to recognize people.
Being able to recognize people meant they weren’t easy to take care of anymore. If Xiao Hua held onto one, the other would start crying.
If neither one was being held, there wasn’t a problem. If both were being held by wet nurses, there wasn’t a problem. But if Xiao Hua was to do the holding, she would have to hold both of them at once, and no one could help.
Of course there was one exception. That was if the Jing Prince personally acted. This was also why the Jing Prince had left in a hurry from Huang Qin’s place. It was time for the children to feed.
The two babies were smacking their lips from hunger. Xiao Hua felt bad and wanted to hold and feed one first. But as expected, the other one started crying. The one she held was busy happily feeding, and couldn’t be bothered with the other’s tears.
“Yi Yi, behave ok? You can eat after your brother is done. You ate first in the morning, it’s your brother’s turn.”
The Jing Prince heard the crying and entered quickly.
Ding Xiang and the rest saw his highness approach and hurriedly moved out of the way.
“That’s right. I had no idea such young babies could be jealous. They’re extremely domineering!”
The Jing Prince didn’t respond and went to hold his daughter who was on the kiln. He sat down and let her lean against his chest. The moment she sat in place, she stopped crying.
“I see, so you stop crying the moment your father comes? Are you doing it on purpose?”
How can a child understand an adult’s words? Yi Yi just blinked her large eyes, glanced at her feeding brother before turning and playing with her father’s fingers.
After she spoke, Xiao Hua also laughed in spite of herself. Having taken care of the two children for a while, she had recently started talking to them without caring if they could understand her.
After she finished feeding her son, she exchanged him with the Jing Prince. Xiao Hua lifted her daughter over while Zhuo’er sat in his father’s lap and watched his mother feed his sister.
Xiao Hua glanced at her daughter and then looked over at the father son pair, and burst out laughing.
“Zhuo’er’s expression and movements are just like yours. You’re identical.”
The Jing Prince frowned and looked at his son. The two of them stared at each other without commenting, and then returned to their previous positions.
“If only highness could be present whenever it was time to feed.” Xiao Hua lamented.
Although she said this, Xiao Hua also knew the Jing Prince was busy. How could he watch over these two and their mother all the time? It’s already pretty good if he could occasionally make it back.
“Recently it’s not as busy. If there isn’t anything, this humble prince will come.”
Xiao Hua smiled and nodded.
After Yi Yi finished eating, the Jing Prince sat for a while longer before leaving.
The two little babies lay next to each other on the kiln. The two of them were now able to flip over, and their limbs had some strength. They weren’t as still as before, and after lying for a bit they would turn on their sides and nudge each other, playing happily together.
“Are you two doing this on purpose, hmm?” Xiao Hua pinched her daughter’s nose and said.
As she saw her confused look, she suddenly laughed in spite of herself, “Really, two little scoundrels. But this is also pretty good…..”
Thinking to this point, Xiao Hua’s face turned red.
“It’s just that your father is busy…”
The Jing Prince truly wasn’t that busy recently.
Things had temporarily calmed down in the capital after the Jin Prince’s injury and the crown prince’s confinement. Although there were quite a few things going on behind the scenes, they just had to observe and send the news over. They didn’t have to do or care about anything else for the moment.
Now that he was idle, he put the majority of his focus on other things, and the rest of his attention was placed on the western pavilion.
Zhuo’er and Yi Yi were already seven months old. They were already able to sit up without anyone supporting them. They could play with little toys by themselves. They also grew noisier, and made quite a fuss. Xiao Hua would often sit with them as they played by themselves. As they played, they would make all sorts of cries and coos at people, but unfortunately no one could understand them.
At this time the two’s personalities had started to show. Yi Yi was the younger sister, but was actually livelier than her older brother. She also moved around a little more.
Zhuo’er was the older brother, but he had the same calm temperament as his father. He could sit and play by himself for a long time. Yi Yi was the opposite. After playing for a while without anyone, she wouldn’t cry but she would go find her brother.
The most common occurrence nowadays was that Yi Yi would get bored of playing by herself and go harass Zhuo’er. Zhuo’er would get bugged until his little face wrinkled, and lie on his side not wanting to bother with her.
Xiao Hua hadn’t raised kids before, and never realized how interesting it would be. The two little ones were only this old, but their deeds and conduct was an endless source of hilarity. Even an apathetic person like the Jing Prince would occasionally twitch his lips at seeing such amusing scenes.
Xiao Hua guessed that this was his way of smiling. Actually Xiao Hua had seen the Jing Prince smile several times, but that was just her feeling. His eyes would seem to be smiling but it wouldn’t be expressed on his face.
Being able to twitch his lips could be seen as a major step forward.
Nana He and Matron Xu discussed providing the children with some supplementary nourishment. This was proposed mainly by Matron Xu. As of today, she seemed to be the western pavilion’s own “childcare specialist”. It had to be said that this old woman’s words made a lot of sense.
Only after did Xiao Hua find out that despite Matron Xu making a living out of delivering babies, she herself didn’t have any children.
Her husband had passed away early and she had never remarried. She remained alone, and perhaps in an attempt to fill the void in her life, she was well versed in these matters. Of course, adding more to her repertoire only served to make her backing firmer.
Since they were both solitary people, she and Nana He’s relationship grew better and better. The two still argued easily, and their arguments mostly involved the two children. It was mostly Matron Xu proposing and Nana He rejecting, and Matron Xu then standing her ground.
At first people tried to mediate their arguments, but they realized after that these two were just arguing out of boredom. Especially since Nana He had whiled away in the palace for so many years. How could Matron Xu be her match if they were truly to argue?
To put it plainly, they were just lonely and wanted to pass the time.
Supplementary nourishment referred to food outside of breastmilk. It was easy to speak of but hard to implement. Without even considering Xiao Hua, just these wet nurses were all against it. First of all, Matron Xu’s suggestion would be threatening their livelihood, and secondly these wet nurses were truly worried for the little young master and mistress as well.
From their perspective, babies should drink milk, and not eat food.
Matron Xu was helpless and did her best to argue. She gave examples and explanations. For example, many rich households would feed their children milk until they were five or six without stopping. These households felt that milk was good and thus only gave them milk, switching out wet nurses one after the other. But in reality, such children ended up having difficulties even walking, and their bodies were so frail they would get ill at the slightest breeze.
On the other hand, in poor households the mother often had to work. The children would at most be fed until seven or eight months old before being handed over to their grandmother to take care of. Since their mother wasn’t always by their side, breastfeeding wasn’t as convenient. Occasionally when the children grew hungry, they would be fed various rice and vegetable porridge slurries. These kids would be lively and jumping about when they were a year old, and their bodies were healthy as well.
Matron Xu’s words made sense, and Nana He also said some babies could be fed porridge. Therefore, Xiao Hua made the decision to feed them some and see.
The two children’s ability to adapt was pretty good. They would eat what they were given, and even got quite into it. They would cry out if they weren’t given it. Xiao Hua had wanted to feed them some more, but was stopped by Matron Xu. She said it was better to feed them less at the start, and slowly increase the amount to prevent their stomachs from getting upset.
And like this, after a few days Zhuo’er and Yi Yi changed from breastfed babies into babies who could “eat food”. However, they didn’t eat that much, half a small bowl’s worth of porridge every day.
There were four wet nurses providing breastmilk, and with the children now eating other foods, Xiao Hua became idle and breastfed increasingly less.
At this point, a problem arose. Xiao Hua began overflowing with milk.
Matron Xu suggested waiting a little longer before putting an end to her lactation. But since the two children only ate so little, the stored milk became a problem. Therefore, Matron Xu taught Xiao Hua a set of techniques used to squeeze the milk out. She told her that she had to squeeze everything out every day.
When the Jing Prince walked in, Ding Xiang and Chun Cao were feeding Yi Yi some vegetable porridge slurry.
Little Yi Yi was wearing a crimson cotton outfit embroidered with crab-apple flowers, and a fine cotton bib hung over her chest. She sat in Chun Cao’s arms while Ding Xiang used a small spoon to feed her bit by bit. The little fellow smacked her lips as she ate with great gusto.
The Jing Prince was someone who liked cleanliness, and was even a bit of a germaphobe. Yet he didn’t mind when he saw his daughter get food all over her mouth and bib. Zhuo’er was sitting on the kiln and playing by himself. Ding Lan kept an eye on him on the side.
The Jing Prince looked around, “Where’s madam?”
Ding Xiang said respectfully: “Madam is in the inner room.”
The Jing Prince went to the inner room. Chun Cao whispered, “Is it alright for his highness to go in while madam is doing that?”
“Since his highness asked, can I refuse to answer?”
Chun Cao saw that Yi Yi was spitting out the slurry and hurriedly wiped her face with a handkerchief.
“Aiya, our little mistress is full. Is it our little young master’s turn to eat? Little mistress, go play for a bit.”
The people around Xiao Hua had also gotten infected by this problem. Despite the two not understanding anything, everyone would still speak to them. However, Matron Xu said this would help the children learn to speak, so no one felt this was silly.