The bridal return of consorts had certain regulations. Everything was handled by the internal affairs department.
Therefore, when the day arrived, Yan Yan just needed to dress up nicely and sit in the palace carriage to return to the Weiyuan Marquis Estate.
There were beating gongs that cleared the way. When they arrived at the doors, there was a group of people standing there. Shen Yi Yao and Xue-shi were in front. The Jinwu Guards had already cleared the streets in advance, and there were no idlers around.
Luo Huai Yuan got out first. He wore a standard prince’s outfit and looked quite a bit more dignified. He turned around and helped Yan Yan out. She wore a consort’s outfit and looked incomparably beautiful.
Shen Yi Yao hurried forward. Before she spoke, her eyes were already red.
“Alright, alright. It’s good the miss is back. Let’s wait until we go inside before talking.” Xue-shi interrupted.
The group of people entered the gates and went inside.
In theory, they should have gone to pay respects to the old madam at the Rongan Hall. Unfortunately, no one mentioned this matter and they went directly to the Jinse Pavilion.
Yan Ting wasn’t present today and Shen Yi Yao hadn’t insisted on him coming. Yan Yan didn’t care whether he was present or not anyway.
Once they sat down in the Jinse Pavilion, Yan Yan and Luo Huai Yuan paid respects to Shen Yi Yao. Shen YI Yao excitedly said “good” repeatedly. They were all womenfolk so it wasn’t suitable for Luo Huai Yuan to remain. He was thus led elsewhere by Yan Mo. The few women sat together and chatted for a bit before Xue-shi took Yan Ling and left. They were tactfully allowing mother and daughter some space to speak privately.
They got the space, but didn’t know what to say right away.
“Mom, is everything ok in the estate? No one’s making trouble, right?”
The silence was broken by Yan Yan.
“No, it’s been very quiet these past couple of days. What about you? Are you and Yuan’er well? You should be. Although that child Yuan’er is a little fat, he’s a good child.”
Yan Yan paused, “He treats daughter pretty well.”
Shen Yi Yao nodded as various emotions welled up.
Actually, Yan Yan wasn’t used to such a gentle and tender scene. Perhaps it was due to what happened in the past or perhaps it was due to her personality. Her relationship with Shen Yi Yao seemed to be lacking something. Despite clearly having countless things to say, they weren’t able to bring it up.
“It’s good that you’re well. Women all have to get married someday and assume the role of a wife. To have a considerate husband is something that money cannot buy. Your temper is too direct. Although Yuan’er, that child, has a good nature, you should also yield to him occasionally. It’s good that he knows to yield to you, but a relationship cannot be so one-sided in yielding all the time….”
Once Shen Yi Yao started speaking, she chattered on and told her daughter some of the things she had learned in life.
Her daughter was her own flesh and blood. Despite having married out, she couldn’t bear letting her go. As a mother, she inevitably worried about her children. Although her fussing may seem very annoying, it was actually just her being concerned.
Children would have to leave one day as they matured, and look upon the world with their own tender eyes. She couldn’t and also wasn’t able to confine her. She could only be fussy to try and stuff everything she knew to her, for the sake of allowing her to take one less wrong turn or stumble one time less.
Actually, all her countless words could be condensed into one phrase: you have to live well.
When lunchtime came, the meal was set at the Jinse Pavilion.
There were four people at the table: Shen Yi Yao, Yan Mo, Yan Yan and Luo Huai Yuan. The four of them sat around the table and ate an extremely sumptuous lunch.
After the meal was done, they all went and rested for a bit.
Yan Yan accompanied Shen Yi Yao in the Jinse Pavilion. Luo Huai Yuan went to Yan Yan’s old chambers, the Ningxiang Chambers, to pass the time.
It was afternoon in the blink of an eye. Luo Huai Yuan and Yan Yan were living in the palace at the moment, and naturally weren’t as free as they would be at their own estate. They prepared to return. Shen Yi Yao and Yan Mo walked with them all the way until the carriage. They were unwilling to leave even after the carriage drove off into the distance.
Yan Yan’s face was tight as she sat in the carriage.
She endured for a long time, but still couldn’t help but turn her head and glance back.
She quickly turned away, but her tears finally started flowing.
Why? Just why?!
They were clearly very close by, and it was clearly possible to come visit them. However, she suddenly had the feeling that two very close people were suddenly leaving her life.
Luo Huai Yuan pulled her into his arms and coaxed softly: “Alright, don’t cry. If you really can’t bear it you can return every few days.”
Yan Yan cried incessantly, “Marriage is really not a good thing. Why do people get married!? Why do people have to leave their own families after marriage…”
Luo Huai Yuan clearly knew she was being emotional and her questions were extremely preposterous. However, he still racked his brains to come up with an answer for her: “Because when people grow up, they have to get married, splitting off from a large household to form their own small family. Then they have to give birth to and raise children. After a number of years, they become their own large household. This is the process of development for humanity. Only this way will humans become more and more numerous, and society will continue to flourish.”
“But I hate parting with her and Ah Mo!”
“Don’t cry. If there’s a chance in the future, we can bring your mom and Ah Mo over and live together.”
“How can the mother-in-law and brother-in-law live at the husband’s estate? People would laugh if they found out.”
Luo Huai Yuan smiled uncaringly: “I don’t care about that. They can laugh if they want to, it has nothing to do with us at all. Who told me to cherish my wife so much? For the sake of not letting her cry, I’m willing to do anything.”
Yan Yan couldn’t help but snort, “You smooth-talker!”
He put on an aggrieved appearance, “How am I a smooth-talker? That was clearly heartfelt! Yan Yan, you’ve truly hurt my heart!”
He grumbled a whole bunch before rubbing his mouth shamelessly against Yan Yan’s face, saying “See, my mouth isn’t smooth”.
Yan Yan’s melancholy immediately vanished due to his messing around.
The palace seemed to be a dazzling and majestic place, but it was actually extremely dull and tedious.
When the sky turned dark, the various palace maids and eunuchs weren’t allowed to move around freely. They remained within their master’s palace. During the day the palace seemed to be lively and grand, but at night it seemed a little creepy.
After dinner, Yan Yan and Luo Huai Yuan bathed and turned in.
“When can we leave this place?”
Prior to marriage, Luo Huai Yuan had told Yan Yan that they would live in the palace for a few days before leaving. However, these “few days” weren’t set. Yan Yan was very unaccustomed to the palace’s atmosphere. Everything was filled with regulations and conventions. There would always be a bunch of palace maids following them around. Especially since her daily training had also been put on halt due to being in the palace.
“I’ll go greet royal father tomorrow and then let’s go home.”
Yan Yan nodded. She turned over and prepared to sleep.
Someone pressed up against her from behind, his actions inappropriate.
“What are you doing?”
He merely chuckled mischievously and didn’t say anything.
Yan Yan wanted to be ferocious but couldn’t do it. She mumbled: “Not today. I’m not feeling comfortable down there.”
“Where aren’t you feeling comfortable? Let me see!” A very anxious appearance.
Yan Yan kicked him away.
Oh, mom. It isn’t that I’m not gentle. He’s truly in need of a beating.
Luo Hai Yuan had planned everything nicely but unfortunately, man proposes and god disposes.
Before he could go look for Emperor Xi the next day, Yan Yan received a bolt from the blue at the Fengqi Palace.
Empress Xiao was very amicable and approachable, and pulled Yan Yan over making her confused with small talk. Finally, she got to the main point. She felt quite fated with Yan Yan and wanted her and the fourth prince to live in the palace a little longer. She also said a lot about how the fourth prince shouldn’t be living outside to begin with, and it would make it seem that as the mother empress, she didn’t care about her son.
Luo Huai Yuan setting up an estate outside the palace wasn’t conventional to begin with. Princes usually lived inside the palace even after marriage, up until they went to their vassal states. If no one mentioned it, Luo Huai Yuan could naturally keep up the pretense and leave with Yan Yan.
But since Empress Xiao had spoken, it would be hard for them to leave.
Following which, the rumors spreading around the palace also made its way to Luo Huai Yuan’s ears. He silently cried out in dismay. Someone was trying to screw him over!
Actually, Luo Huai Yuan wasn’t surprised at this turn of events. Ever since he and Yan Yan’s marriage was set, he had been prepared for this. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have repeatedly continued to ruin his own image. The second prince’s proposal was rejected in public and the Zhenguo Duke’s granddaughter was picked up by an out of favor prince. It was inevitably eye-catching. He just didn’t think that Empress Xiao would be so impatient to have them remain behind. They didn’t even have a chance to fish in troubled waters.
She wanted to keep them under her watch!?
Luo Huai Yuan could even imagine that Empress Xiao had definitely ran it by Emperor Xi already, saying something about how he was pitifully thrown out of the palace. Now that he was married, they couldn’t let their son and daughter-in-law be thrown out. It was better to let them live in the palace. Furthermore, this daughter-in-law was clueless about many things. As the principal mother-in-law, she would be able to guide her a little.
It had to be said, Luo Huai Yuan had stumbled upon the truth.
Empress Xiao had truly put it this way, but more skillfully than he imagined. Her eloquence made Emperor Xi unable to refute her, and he also didn’t have a reason to do so.
Luo Huai Yuan was sure that the rumors also had something to do with Senior Concubine Xu. These two women had struggled against each other for several decades, and had long since come to a mutual understanding when it came to teaming up against outside influences.
He couldn’t help but worry a little. Ah Yan’s personality was direct. Could she deal with these two scheming women?
Yan Yan also sensed the dangers within. The two of them discussed for a bit and decided to bide their time. They would find an opportunity to slip away. In the future, if there wasn’t any pressing reason, they would remain away from the palace.
After making up their minds, Yan Yan ordered people to bring her things over from the fourth prince estate. She also brought Mei Xiang, Yi Yun and Yi Meng in. It was better to have her own people serving her personally.
The palace halls of the princes were all in the southeastern area of the palace, adjacent to the rear palace with their own areas. The second prince, third prince, Luo Huai Yaun and the fifth prince were all here as neighbors. Now that the second prince and the fourth prince were married, the third prince and fifth prince also had marriages bestowed. Their weddings would probably be soon. The princes were required to study at the Chongwen Hall if they were living in the palace. Therefore, Luo Huai Yuan was forced to “carry a backpack and go to school” despite being a married adult.
He was now extremely regretful. He shouldn’t have made a fuss about having the wedding in the palace, and should have just held it at his prince’s estate. Why screw himself over for the sake of dignity? Although he said this, he still wasn’t willing to let his own wife be treated a level lower than the other consorts. How could a consort be a consort if she wasn’t married in the palace?
Yan Yan also understood this. Therefore, she felt extremely complicated when seeing his guilty expression. She could only pat her chest and tell him not to worry. Wasn’t it just some demons and monsters? Her yang energy was dense, and prevented evil from encroaching!
Cough, cough. Looks like Yan Yan had been corrupted by Luo Huai Yuan. Her past self would never have said something so amusing.
Luo Huai Yuan still expressed a lot of worries. He was so worried he couldn’t sleep. Yan Yan had no choice but to go coax him, comfort him, smooth things over. Who knew that as she smoothed things and soothed things, the things ended up taking a turn?
After it was over, Yan Yan was suspicious if that had been that damn fatty’s plan all along. But since she had no proof, she could only forget about it.
No one knew whether Luo Huai Yuan was secretly laughing.
Yan Yan and the second consort Lu Xiu Ling would inevitably meet.
They lived so close together and were in-laws. How could she not stop by to visit?
Whether the two were willing or not, they still had to keep up appearances. But since that time, Lu Xiu Ling felt Yan Yan was coarse and ill-mannered. Yan Yan on the other hand hated how Lu Xiu Ling liked to put on an act. The two didn’t like each other much. Normally when they met, they merely chatted superficially without anything else.
The newlyweds’ daily routine was now set. Luo Huai Yuan showed up at the Chongwen Hall in the morning and went to the training grounds in the afternoon for horseback archery (this was something princes had to practice). As for Yan Yan, after paying respects to the empress in the morning, she was free to do her own thing.
The days thus became idle.
Since they were staying for an extended period of time, it was impossible for Yan Yan to change her habits for the sake of others. She gradually resumed her daily routine from when she was at her own chambers.
The eunuchs and palace maids couldn’t accept this fourth consort that got up early to practice martial arts.
But even if they couldn’t accept it, they had no choice!
When Yan Yan broke an ornamental sculpture with her whip, everyone seemed to look at her with fear in their eyes.
This wasn’t a tigress in makeup. This was a huge tigress, the sort that ate people!
Some of those who had ulterior motives all put away their petty thoughts. If they fell into the fourth consort’s hands, their thin bodies probably couldn’t withstand a single whip! Similarly, those who wanted to make trouble suffered a drawback with their plans. If wasn’t that their people defected, but rather because they were all too afraid to obey. Any orders were pushed back and forth amongst them.
To put it plainly, this was fear!
But since there were people who were set on making trouble, what should come would ultimately come.
The days gradually grew colder. The cold wind blew, chilling people to the bone.
The palace was different from outside and there were no heated vents apart from Emperor Xi’s Zichen1 Hall and the empress’s Fengqi Palace. The rest all used charcoal to stay warm.
Of course, another exception was Senior Concubine Xu. She was someone from the south. Her body was frail and couldn’t withstand the cold. When the Chunluan Palace was constructed back then, Emperor Xi especially had them build a heated vent for her. Naturally, this made Empress Xiao hate her a little more.
The Xianyun Hall also depended on charcoal to keep warm. Yan Yan was skilled in martial arts and wasn’t afraid of the cold, but Luo Huai Yuan couldn’t withstand it. His large amount of fat wasn’t able to keep him warm. Perhaps he had been living the good life for too long. In his opinion, money was meant to be spent for enjoyment. Therefore, despite seemingly living a simple life, Luo Huai Yuan actually lived rather lavishly. During the winter, the heated vents would be working starting from October all the way until February or March.
But this wasn’t an option in the palace and they could only use charcoal basins. However, everything was allocated within the palace. When people intentionally delayed things, their days wouldn’t be as smooth as before.
The palace’s allowance was distributed at the start of each month, but there were some machinations involved. The masters who were reputable, such as the second and third prince, would never see any delay. They would even get theirs early in case they ran out. But for others, such as Luo Huai Yuan whose dad didn’t love him and whose mom wasn’t powerful enough, they could only sit and wait for the internal affairs department to take their time.
Luo Huai Yuan was a crafty one, and only played dumb in front of his own wife. He couldn’t bear the cold at night and bugged Yan Yan to hold him for warmth. Of course, things always ended up taking a turn. Yan Yan had also understood by now that this was a delight shared by married couples. However, no matter how interested she was, it didn’t prevent the sneak from being sneaky. Her teeth would ache every time from anger, and she wished to give him a beating.
Furthermore, she was never one to suffer in silence. When Mei Xiang reported that they had used the last of their charcoal and the internal affairs department had yet to send any, she flipped out.
Today was exceptionally cold.
The skies were overcast and it was probably going to snow before nightfall.
Yan Yan took a palanquin directly to the internal affairs department.
After arriving, a gust of warmth greeted her. She immediately raised her brows.
A few eunuchs were in the reception drinking tea, chatting and laughing. They suddenly saw the curtains by the door get raised and a person wearing a crimson cloak with peacock patterns walked in. She was tall and upright, her skin fair, an absolute beauty. She had long and thin brows that slanted upwards, giving her a heroic air within her suppleness. Her pair of eyes were extremely bright, her nose-bridge was tall and erect. She looked beautiful like a peach and noble like a peony tree.
Looking at her outfit, she was clearly a noble within the palace, but was different from the imperial concubines. Recalling the fourth consort who had just entered the palace not too long ago, the few people looked at each other.
“Not sure which noble….”
One of the eunuchs stepped up and spoke casually, but was interrupted before he finished.
“Not saluting after seeing our fourth consort. Who taught you etiquette!?”
The person speaking was Yi Yun. During these days, she and Mei Xiang and Yi Meng had also learned how to conduct themselves in the palace. It wasn’t that they were being domineering but there were too many servants who put on an act. They would play dumb if you didn’t report your status.
Hearing these words, the eunuchs all hurriedly smiled and stepped up to give their greetings, inviting Yan Yan to sit in the seat of honor solicitously. With such a servile and respectful manner, normally masters cared about their dignity and wouldn’t keep acting out. They would gently have a discussion, which was what they wanted in the first place.
However, Yan Yan had heard from Luo Huai Yuan that these people in the internal affairs department often made things difficult for others. She naturally wouldn’t be fooled.
“No need to put on such an act. Since you know who this seat is, you should be aware of what this seat is here for! Speak less rubbish, have your manager come out!”
One of the eunuchs looked troubled and stammered: “Was there something fourth consort is dissatisfied with? Please enlighten us and we servants will handle it.”
Yan Yan laughed coldly and gave him a glance.
Yi Yun stepped up and mentioned the matter of the internal affairs department owing the Xianyun Hall charcoal. Her tone was rather resentful.
Within the palace, the personal palace maids naturally served as their master’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth. If some things weren’t appropriate for the master to bring up, the servants would have to do so in their stead. This was what Xiao An Zi had taught Yi Yun’s group. Currently, they were doing pretty well.
That eunuch was also a capable person. Hearing Yi Yun’s account, his expression went through many changes such as astonishment and shock. Then, he hurriedly knelt and said: “It’s all due to our negligence. Consort, please forgive us. The weather changed too suddenly and all the palaces and other areas are busy, which resulted in the Xianyun Hall being overlooked. This servant will report it upwards right away and arrange it as soon as possible.”
What a great speech. What a great reason!
They all lived in the same area. The second and third princes had long since gotten theirs, and their servants had frequently showed off in front of the Xianyun Hall’s servants. Only the fourth and fifth princes were overlooked. However, Luo Huai Yuan had told Yan Yan that the fifth prince Luo Jing had an extremely capable eunuch by his side. Although it didn’t seem like it, the fifth prince wouldn’t be lacking. This meant that only the Xianyun Hall was left out.
“You’re really good with words!” Yan Yan patted the small table next to her and stood up. “Based on your skillful speech, I’ll let you off this time. If this happens again, don’t blame this seat for not giving you all face.”
After speaking, Yan Yan took her people and left.
Right as she walked out, there was a loud crash.
The chair she was sitting in and the table next to her both split into pieces and scattered to the floor.
Everyone’s gaze turned sluggish.
After a long time, a eunuch said quietly: “It’s said that the fourth consort is the Zhenguo Duke’s granddaughter. She’s skilled in martial arts and isn’t worse off compared to men.”
Another eunuch followed up: “No matter what, it has nothing to do with us. Everything is done by those above, but the servants are the ones who end up suffering.”
“Do you think next time we’ll also end up scattered across the floor?”
That person laughed awkwardly: “Don’t overthink it, how is that possible!?”
“This fourth consort is too imposing. My back is completely soaked despite her not doing anything. If something like this happens again, I won’t be participating. You guys play by yourselves.”
“Isn’t this the birth of another evil star? That third prince is already hard enough to serve.”
The eunuch who took the lead earlier scolded: “Are you guys done yet? Go do your jobs!”
After speaking, he grabbed his cap and walked out.
On the other side, Yan Yan returned to the Xianyun Hall. Mei Xiang’s group helped her take off her cape and then brought her inside to change into casual clothing.
Yi Yun brought out an embroidered pair of shoes that were filled with fur on the inside and helped her put it on. These shoes were exquisitely made and didn’t have any heels. They were extremely comfortable and convenient to put on. The design was provided by the fourth prince. Yan Yan would always wear them when she wasn’t going out.
Yi Yun said a little worriedly: “Consort, I’m afraid it’s not good to act this way. This is the palace after all.”
Yan Yan took a sip of hot tea, “It’s fine. Let people think whatever they want.”
“Let people think what?”
Luo Huai Yuan had come out with Xian An Zi.
He wore a fur coat and looked extremely round. He had a jade-inlaid fur hat on as well. As he walked, he took off his coat and handed it over to Xian An Zi.
“Nothing much. The hall is out of charcoal and I made a trip to the internal affairs department.”
Mei Xiang looked a little worriedly at the fourth prince, deeply afraid he was going to scold the consort for stirring up trouble. Unexpectedly, Luo Huai Yuan gave her a big thumbs up and said with a huge smile: “My wife is badass.”
Fine, after this period of observation, Mei Xiang’s group had already noticed that the fourth prince was a yes-man when it came to his consort. Whatever the consort said goes.
These servants naturally didn’t understand the details of their relationship. Many things couldn’t be seen by looking at the surface. Just like what Luo Huai Yuan had told Yan Yan before: “Wifey, you do you. As long as you don’t commit murder or arson, your husband will have your back.”
This couple didn’t play according to the rules. The Confucian moral injunctions for women were just a bunch of papers to her. The other one was thick-skinned and shameless, never caring about his image.
If things truly got out of hand, Luo Huai Yuan dared to go cry to Emperor Xi.
He could play dumb and raise a ruckus, but did others dare to do so? Many of the schemes in the rear palace were hard to defend against because they were ambiguous, but they had a critical weakness. They couldn’t be brought up directly.
Just like how this time, Luo Huai Yuan and Yan Yan clearly knew the servants were messing with them. Others would naturally just endure it but this couple didn’t suffer in silence.
Since you want to mess with me, I’ll make a mess for you to see. Are you dumbfounded yet?
They’ll leave the palace, just not able to do so right away. They are suppressed by someone in the name of virtue.