The next day, the Jing Prince gave Xiao Hua a key before he left.
When he placed the key into her hands, Xiao Hua was a little surprised. Only after asking did she know this was the key to his personal storage.
She thought that he probably wanted to compensate her. He made what should have been a serious matter kind of cute.
Actually Xiao Hua really didn’t need this because all the good things in the Jing Prince Estate had already been slowly migrating over to her place without her realizing it. This would happen even without her instructions. Before she got pregnant, this was already the case. After she got pregnant it was even more so, and there was no need to mention the situation after the children were born. Even the children’s food and clothing weren’t brought up by her, but had already been appropriately arranged.
But since it was his intentions that counted, she felt that she should accept it.
Xiao Hua didn’t say anything, merely putting the key away and giving the Jing Prince a very sweet smile.
The Jing Prince’s gaze immediately softened, and he stroked her hair.
Xiao Hua thought that would be the end of it, but when Eunuch Chang sent over an account ledger after the Jing Prince left, she realized it wasn’t that simple.
The Jing Prince Estate’s affairs were divided into internal and external. The revenue and expenses of external affairs were handled via the external storage. Internal affairs, which included the Jing Prince and his harem, as well as the palace maids and eunuchs’ salaries, and the daily expenses of the various offices, were all handled via the internal storage, which was actually from the Jing Prince’s personal storage.
Every year, a large amount would be transferred from the external storage into the Jing Prince’s personal storage. This included the revenue from the Jing Prince’s personal businesses. Similarly, the Jing Prince would put a portion from his personal storage in the internal storage. The internal storage was only used to pay out expenses, and every six months they would go over the account ledgers to make sure everything matched.
This was to say, the financial authority was now in her hands. If she refused to hand the money out, even the Jing Prince would have to go hungry, let alone the Jing Consort.
Of course, this example was a little far-fetched. What it meant was that internal expenditures now required Xiao Hua’s approval.
This pleasant surprise was a little big, making Xiao Hua blank out for a long time.
“Madam, this isn’t actually that complicated. The internal affairs area has a department dedicated to handling expenses. They report directly to Auntie Qi who verifies the accuracy of the information before reporting it to you. Normally highness doesn’t bother with all this, and leaves it to Auntie Qi and her subordinates. Only when the key is required would she come find his highness. Now that his highness handed the key and the account ledger to you, feel free to go through it if you have time, but if you don’t it’s also fine.”
Xiao Hua let out a small breath of relief and smiled: “That’s fine then. I also don’t have time to do this. How about leaving this ledger to Eunuch Chang? In any case, I don’t understand all this.”
“Madam, this servant is busy every day. To be honest, there wasn’t anyone this matter could be entrusted to in the past. His highness is busy with things on the outside, forcing this servant to worry about this matter.”
Xiao Hua was aware of this, and said: “Fine then, just leave it here.”
Eunuch Chang put it down and took his leave.
Xiao Hua thought about it and had Ding Xiang put it away for now.
She wasn’t being careless. She just knew that Eunuch Chang and Auntie Qi were both trusted by the Jing Prince. Those that earned his trust naturally wouldn’t cause any problems.
That evening, the Jing Prince returned and asked if Eunuch Chang had handed the thing over. Xiao Hua confirmed it, but also said she didn’t understand these matters.
The Jing Prince said that it was fine, Eunuch Chang and Auntie Qi could be relied on. Actually, with Auntie Qi handling things, Xiao Hua only had to think about it when funds needed to be allocated.
Only now did Xiao Hua realize that Eunuch Chang was embellishing his own role when he said he verified things with Auntie Qi. No wonder Auntie Qi seemed so busy all the time. Everything had been thrown to her to handle.
This included Eunuch Fu, who she knew was selling dog meat while hanging a sheep’s head. Despite being the general manager in name, he didn’t actually manage anything. Apart from serving by the Jing Prince’s side every day, he would secretly go see Zhuo’er and Yi Yi in his free time.
Xiao Hua would often see Eunuch Fu playing with the two children when he was free during the day. The two children were also quite fond of him, and would let out little cries whenever he came. Once Xiao Hua figured out his schedule, she would put the children in the western wing before he came, in case he was embarrassed to come over to her place.
Hearing the Jing Prince’s words, Xiao Hua felt relieved.
She also didn’t say anything, and didn’t ask about the situation with the Jing Consort. It didn’t have anything to do with her. She just had to raise her children properly in the western pavilion.
The past year hadn’t been good to the Jing Consort.
Her health was poor and she would often be bedridden. After constantly drinking medicinal soup, her health would finally improve but she would fall ill again at the turn of the weather or the wind.
She had made a fuss and a ruckus before, but the people around her didn’t pay attention to her. The palace maids all served wholeheartedly, but none of them spoke with her.
She complained and resented, but the person she hated never appeared in front of her. As time went by, the loneliness even caused her hatred to dull.
The Jing Consort had previously wondered if she would spend the rest of her days like this.
Being suddenly released from confinement was like the doors to the world had opened to her once more. Only then did she realize that as long as she was still there, he couldn’t keep her locked up forever.
Senior Concubine Qiao came to the Changchun Pavilion on the first day of the consort’s release.
The Jing Consort knew how powerless she truly was currently. Thus when Senior Concubine Qiao presented the opportunity, both of them let bygones be bygones. The Jing Consort knew why her confinement had been lifted. She really had to thank this aunt of his who suddenly appeared.
As for that person, the Jing Consort hadn’t forgotten about her. She heard from Senior Concubine Qiao how favored that person had been over the past two years. But the Jing Consort knew that with the Jing Prince propping her up from behind, she really couldn’t do anything to her.
But no matter. What she should focus on was getting closer to the women of this uncle’s family. The rest can be figured out later.
“Servants, come help this consort get changed and dolled up.”
The Jing Consort hosted the Li family’s women in the Changchun Pavilion, and it was said they got along quite well.
This news was reported by Chun Cao. Ever since the Jing Consort was released, Xiao Hua sensed that the attitudes of her personal maids had changed. It was like they were all ready for action.
It was like they knew the enemy was ahead, and couldn’t help but prepare their defenses. Xiao Xia Zi and Xiao Qin Zi had been pulled into their camp at some point, and had even come to her to swear their loyalty.
What they meant was that even if there was the Jing Consort above, they would still remain loyal to madam.
Xiao Hua was quite amused, but also a little touched.
Xiao Hua asked Chun Cao about it later, and Chun Cao told her the news was obtained by Xiao Xia Zi. It seemed he knew quite a few people inside the estate. Chun Cao wasn’t sure where Xiao Xia Zi got the news from.
Although Xiao Hua trusted the Jing Prince to protect her, it was still better to be informed about the Jing Consort’s movements. That woman’s insane behavior and cruel methods had left a deep impression on Xiao Hua. Now that she had two children, she couldn’t take any risks.
Therefore, Xiao Hua approved of Ding Xiang, Xiao Xia Zi and the rest’s attitudes. Although she didn’t explicitly say so, everyone was clear in their hearts.
Actually things weren’t really divided into separate camps. Everyone was part of the western pavilion. They would rise together or fall together. Since his highness had even left his own personal storage for madam to manage, everyone knew what they should do.
Even Eunuch Fu and his group didn’t just sit by as the Jing Consort was released. Eunuch Fu especially had arranged countless ears and eyes.
Over at the western pavilion, Old Fu’s attention was placed on the little master and mistress. He would protect them however he could. Even more so since Madam Hua’s actions and deeds were seen by him, including how she would purposefully leave the children in the west wing for his visits. To say he didn’t feel anything would be a lie.
Therefore, both he and Auntie Qi turned a blind eye to Ding Xiang, Xiao Xia Zi and the rest’s movements.
Xiao Xia Zi still felt that following the madam had resulted in glory after all, and would get flattered by people every time he walked out the door. What he didn’t know was those above had been watching him. It’s just that they approved of his actions. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to leave the western pavilion doors, let alone obtain news from the Changchun Pavilion.
Xiao Xia Zi’s information was very up to date and thorough. Xiao Hua would be astonished every time.
It included how many bowls of rice they ate, who came over, even what they talked about, all given in great detail. It gave Xiao Hua a weird feeling that Xiao Xia Zi was omnipotent.
Only when Nana He gave her a few hints during their idle chats did Xiao Hua realize there was someone behind him.
She turned her head, picked up Zhuo’er and Yi Yi and kissed them until they were both yelling loudly, before saying some mysterious words: “Mother is benefitting from my two darlings.”
Ding Lan and the others were confused, but Ding Xiang seemed to understand.
The Jing Prince finished his morning’s work at the Hall of Deliberation, and went towards the western pavilion. On the way, he suddenly asked Eunuch Fu a question out of the blue.
“It seems quite lively recently?”
Eunuch Fu froze and didn’t respond.
Only after the Jing Prince finished his thought did he understand what he meant.
“You’ve done very well.”
It suddenly dawned on Eunuch Fu.
Seems like his highness wasn’t without common sense after all. Was this what Eunuch Chang meant by things were naturally different after becoming a dad?
Eunuch Fu smiled and said, “Thank you for the compliment, master. This old servant’s just doing his duty.”
The Jing Prince nodded, “Don’t let that side try any schemes.”
These days the Jing Prince had also met with the Li family several times. Perhaps he was excited initially, but it wasn’t even a couple of times later when those feelings dulled.
How should he put it, they weren’t what he had imagined. Exactly what he had in mind, the Jing Prince didn’t know for the moment, but he could feel a large distance between himself and those people. He much preferred the time he spent with Xiao Hua and the two children.
Especially since the Li family’s women frequently visited the Changchun Pavilion. It gave him an indescribably vague feeling in his heart.
“How’s the investigation in the south going?”
“No news yet. This old servant will go hurry them a little.”
The Li family’s women and the Jing Consort seemed to have hit it off right away.
One wanted to use these people to increase her presence to see if she could meet that person. The other side felt that interactions were necessary for relatives to become close. Having been estranged for several decades, they naturally welcomed this chance to pull the distance closer.
Especially since this relative was a lot better off than they had expected. Someone whom they could never meet in the past was now in front of their eyes. It wasn’t like Li Xue Bing and his sons didn’t have any thoughts. Since his nephew (their cousin) was a vassal state’s prince, couldn’t he give them a good position with a wave of his hand?
Since the master was antisocial, putting their efforts into his wife was the logical thing to do.
On this day, Qi-Shi brought Concubine He and her two daughters-in-law, as well as Li Miao Lian and Li Miao Fang, and stayed in the Changchun Pavilion for a long time. When noon came, they naturally stayed for lunch.
The Jing Consort arranged a feast and played the role of a host perfectly.
After they were done eating, they went to sit in the reception.
A palace maid brought over a bowl of medicinal soup. The Jing Consort lifted it and drained it in one go.
“It’s said consort’s health isn’t good. We really shouldn’t be bothering you every day.”
The Jing Consort smiled carelessly. “It’s fine, it’s nothing new. I’ve always been frail, and it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just that I can’t stop drinking medicine.”
Right as she spoke, the palace maid outside reported the arrival of Senior Concubine Qiao.
Some readers mentioned how the uncle’s family didn’t follow any etiquette. They didn’t kneel when meeting the Jing Prince, and Qi-Shi seems to be treating him like some ordinary nephew. Let this author explain.
First of all, there are several types of people. Some understand formal etiquette while others do not. The Li family are at most a wealthy peasant household. The son of the household passed the imperial exam and spent years as the magistrate’s assistance in a small county. To force them to comply with the Jing Prince Estate’s etiquette would be making things hard on them, and they probably wouldn’t understand. Just like how us common folk wouldn’t understand the details of upper class people’s lives. (This is one reason).
There was a joke that circulated around that went something like this: A husband and wife were both farmers who tended their fields. One day after doing some hard work, the farmer sat in his field and lamented, “The lord emperor definitely wouldn’t have to do manual labor every day, and would eat a huge bowl of rice for every meal.” His wife said, “The concubines in the palace definitely get a huge pastry with braised meat for every meal”….er, that was the gist of the joke. This author doesn’t remember the exact wording. The meaning is that those not of the same status aren’t able to comprehend the lives of those outside their circle.
As for the other reason—
Consider Qi-Shi’s thought, “This was the last branch of their family, they definitely have to pull him close.”
Consider why she acted so exaggeratedly and cried in front of the Jing Prince…..
Of course not understanding etiquette due to her low birth was one reason. But it’s more about creating the air of closeness among family. Regardless, she was just a commoner woman. They would at most think she was too inexperienced and didn’t know etiquette. But would the Jing Prince call her out for that? Even he did, it wouldn’t be a big deal. At most she just had to do better in the future. He couldn’t just have her dragged out and beheaded, right? If he didn’t call her out, then her goal (to get closer to him) would have been achieved.
To look at it from another perspective, if a bunch of estranged relatives spoke while kneeling, and complied with all the etiquette, could they still act very intimate?
Why did they all bring up the venerated concubine to the Jing Prince? If they really knelt and called out “highness”, could they still bring up the venerated concubine naturally?
Minor characters still have their own wisdom. Although they aren’t smart, they also aren’t foolish.
Also, the maternal uncle had the highest status amongst relatives in ancient times. Otherwise they wouldn’t be addressed as “uncle father”. This is still present in marriages today. Therefore, although the Li family is a little insensitive and a little bothersome, they can’t be considered to have gone overboard. They are at most thick-skinned. If you want to discuss relatives we can discuss relatives. If you want to discuss a monarch and his officials we can discuss a monarch and his officials. The Jing Prince is also inexperienced, so the result was obvious.