Li Hong Chang left with this misunderstanding and explained the situation to everyone. The Li family was out of ideas.
Temporarily unable to come up with anything, they decided to remain in place for now.
The news from the south finally arrived, and the Jing Prince got a better understanding of this uncle.
“This is what happened with lord uncle. It seems due to something his superior did, everyone was investigated. Based on these numbers, his punishment should have been exile. It seems like the judge responsible for his sentencing knew that he was related to highness, and was thus lenient. Furthermore, since he was only implicated in passing, and hadn’t committed any other crimes, they merely confiscated his belongings and annulled his post.”
“Lord uncle isn’t smart, but since he is timid he didn’t dare do anything apart from embezzle some silver. These years as the magistrate in Pengyang County, he couldn’t be said to have managed things well but at least he didn’t anger the commoners into an uprising.”
In the end, someone who wasn’t that smart but was still a little smart and also timid, knew what he should touch and what he shouldn’t. Of course, having a royal nephew was still of some use, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to fumble about for so many years without any achievements and still remain untouched. Those under him didn’t dare touch him, and those above couldn’t be bothered with him.
“Then the reason he didn’t get in touch before was because he was threatened?”
Within both lifetimes, the Jing Prince never expected this to be the reason.
Eunuch Fu muttered to himself before saying: “Venerated concubine had told this old servant and Auntie Qi a little back then. She said this older brother of hers didn’t have any major issues, but was just blinded by his desire for status, and wanted to rise up in ranks with all his heart. This was how the venerated concubine ended up in the palace. When she died, highness was still young. Although the empress and the senior concubine didn’t feel too threatened, they more or less still had some caution. Thus they sent their subordinates to threaten lord uncle with a few words.”
As he spoke to this point, Eunuch Fu’s smile faded a little, “The Li family isn’t some major clan, and they were just the owners of a few acres of land. Lord uncle passed the imperial exam and wasn’t able to advance any further, becoming a minor official. The capital, the palace and the emperor were all unreachable mountains to him. It’s quite reasonable for him to be thoroughly frightened by a few threats.”
Although Eunuch Fu didn’t like that group of people, he wouldn’t intentionally smear them. After all, he was also clear that they were his highness’s only family on his mother’s side. These people had some minor issues, but they couldn’t be counted as bad people. They were at most kind of trashy, and could still be adjusted and taught.
“This humble prince understands.”
Eunuch Fu endured a little before speaking once again, “Lord uncle coming up with this idea is probably because he’s afraid you aren’t close with them. Of course, part of it is wanting to get a better job for himself. If this isn’t resolved, things probably won’t calm down. Also, about miss Miao Lian….”
The Jing Prince fell into deep thought, and didn’t speak.
New Year’s came in the blink of an eye.
This year the New Year’s Eve banquet couldn’t be held the same way as last year. Firstly, the Jing Consort’s confinement had been lifted and the Jing Prince had to make an appearance. Secondly, because lord uncle’s family had come to the estate.
Xiao Hua had discussed spending this day by herself at the western pavilion, but the Jing Prince didn’t agree. He only said that she couldn’t always remain secluded.
This was also true. Since it was just for a short period of time, might as well treat it as going out for a bit. Xiao Hua also knew that lord uncle’s family was full of curiosity towards her, and had asked a lot of questions about her to their palace maids. If she still refused to meet them it would be too impolite.
The banquet was held at the Hall of Splendor. There were a total of four tables. The Jing Prince and his harem at one table, the men of the Li family at another, the women at the third and the younger generation at the fourth.
At the banquet, Xiao Hua completely disregarded the Li family’s various probes as well as the Jing Consort and Senior Concubine Qiao’s insincere smiles and sour words. She only lowered her head and focused on eating.
What was surprising was Yu Jiao and Yu Rong, who were both extremely silent. They looked haggard, and neither of them had any smiles on what should have been a joyous occasion. Their eyes like pools of stagnant water.
Xiao Hua could understand their emotions. It was something she had experienced before, and that sort of absolute despair was not easy to bear. To be able to sit there silently without making any wild moves was quite hard on those two.
After the banquet, everyone dispersed.
The Jing Consort still had some faint hope despite knowing the state of things, and wanted the Jing Prince to leave with her to the Changchun Pavilion or have her remain behind in the Hall of Splendor. But instead she watched as the Jing Prince and Madam Hua hustled around and depart with a group of people back to the western pavilion.
It was as if that bitch was the real consort of this estate, and she herself had become an out of favor concubine.
Thinking too much would make one suffer. The Jing Consort became bedridden after returning. She sent news over to the western pavilion, but what ended up happening was that Doctor Hu got sent over on this New Year’s Eve.
She was unwilling to accept it, she hated it, she resented it…..
The Jing Consort hadn’t felt these emotions in a while. Her restrictions being lifted was something worth being happy about, but she actually felt it may have been better to remain in confinement.
Such thoughts stimulated her quite a bit. She laughed with a twisted expression, laughing and coughing, and as she coughed her handkerchief was stained with a few spot of red.
Chun Xiang had served the Jing Consort for almost two years now. She wasn’t called Chun Xiang in the past, and her name was changed by the consort not long after she arrived at the Changchun Pavilion. Those that came along with her also had their names changed to Xia Xiang, Qiu Xiang and Dong Xiang.
Chun Xiang knew that the consort had these same Xiangs by her side in the past, but they were all beaten to death. Now they became the replacements.
At first she was quite scared of the Jing Consort. She thought that the consort easily lost her temper and would smash things randomly. Her hysterical laughter made her seem insane. However, because the consort would often call out “Chun Xiang, bring me some water”, “Chun Xiang, my chest is hurting”, she no longer feared her.
Especially since the consort grew quieter and quieter as the days passed. Chun Xiang gradually started feeling a sense of sympathy rising in her heart.
Chun Xiang knew what her assignment was, but she couldn’t get rid of the sympathy in her heart.
They had been instructed prior to coming here. They had to serve the consort properly and meticulously, and also had to report the consort’s every move. Chun Xiang complied with the orders from above on one side while wallowing in sympathy day and night.
She just felt that the consort was very pitiful.
She clearly should have been the most respected person in the estate, but had fallen to this extent. Also, based on how she looked when she called “Chun Xiang”, Chun Xiang knew she wasn’t actually calling for her, but she would still respond every time and appear by her side.
After the consort was given medicine and had fallen asleep, the palace maids returned to their room and left one person on duty overnight.
“Chun Xiang, you can’t continue like this. Don’t forget what you’re here to do!” The moment they entered, Xia Xiang said while frowning.
These new Xiangs spent night and day together, and knew each other extremely well. Chun Xiang’s excessive sense of sympathy couldn’t be kept from Xia Xiang and the rest.
“Let’s not talk about the past since we’re all here to serve the mistress after all. But tonight, after midnight on New Year’s Eve, the consort decided to make a fuss and act bedridden to bother his highness, and you actually dared to pass along the message?”
Chun Xiang muttered a few words in agreement and lowered her head.
She was actually a timid person, and she also knew she was in the wrong.
“Ai….just think for yourself a little. Don’t end up harming yourself.”
Chun Xiang let out an inaudible “en”.
Chun Xiang didn’t sleep that night. She knew that she had made a mistake today, but she was also present at the Hall of Splendor. She had followed the Jing Consort’s gaze and could also feel the consort’s sorrow and heartbreaking despair.
Why was his highness so heartless?
Was that Madam Hua really so good to make his highness completely ignore his consort?
Therefore, even though she knew the consort was actually fine, she still pretended to obey and sent the news over. Although the Changchun Pavilion was enormous, only she and the other three Xiangs could really send news outside. Everything else was under close watch.
But Chun Xiang didn’t regret her actions. Her only regret was that the consort had been stimulated after into coughing up blood.
The next day, Chun Xiang went to work with dark circles under her eyes.
The Jing Consort who normally ignored them actually gave her a second glance, and said: “Didn’t sleep well last night?”
Chun Xiang spaced out for a bit before nodding hesitantly.
“It’s not good for women’s health if they don’t sleep well. Take me for example, if I have the slightest trouble sleeping my health would be extremely poor for a period of time.”
After speaking, the Jing Consort didn’t say anything else. She washed up, ate breakfast and drank her medicine like before, without any emotions on her face.
Seeing the Jing Consort not causing a ruckus this day, everyone else let out a sigh of relief. Chun Xiang however, felt that something seemed different.
Zhuo’er and Yi Yi were brought over bright and early.
The two children were both dressed in crimson little jackets embroidered with golden lines. They wore matching little hats on their heads, and looked extremely cute.
“Come quick, come quick. Come give your royal father New Year’s greetings, and have him give my little darlings red envelopes.”
Xiao Hua didn’t get off the kiln. She received the two children and put them in front of her facing the Jing Prince. She had them look at the Jing Prince, and then showed them her own hands. Xiao Hua cupped her hands together, and shook them a couple of times.
The Jing Prince didn’t speak and let her mess around with the children, merely looking on.
The two children didn’t really understand what was going on, their large eyes appearing confused. Xiao Hua demonstrated several times before Zhuo’er learned and cupped his hands together.
“That’s right! Yi Yi, hurry and look at your brother, your brother has figured it out.”
Yi Yi was a little impatient at Xiao Hua’s words. She gave her a frown before looking at her brother. Seeing her brother with his cupped hands in front of him, she pondered for a while by herself and figured out how to do it.
“That’s it, that’s it. Hurry and shake them at your father.”
Yi Yi knew what it meant to shake. She often shook things that made noise.
She liked playing with those things, and every time she wanted to play with it she would squeeze an adult’s hand.
Therefore, Xiao Hua’s hopes were dashed. Yi Yi’s released her clasped hands and reached out to the Jing Prince, squeezing him a couple of times.
Xiao Hua was stunned, and couldn’t help but laugh: “Highness, she’s asking you for red envelopes. Hurry up and hand it over.”
“Gave it yesterday.” The Jing Prince replied calmly but his eyes seemed to be smiling at his daughter.
He had indeed given them last night. After returning from the Hall of Splendor, Eunuch Fu brought over two red envelopes. The Jing Prince and Xiao Hua personally placed some taels of copper inside before placing them under the children’s pillows in the western wing.
“That doesn’t count, you also get one for giving New Year’s greetings.”
The Jing Prince saw her smiling and provocative gaze and unexpectedly took out an embroidered box from behind him. He opened it and took out a pair of jade pendants. The jade pendants weren’t large, about the size of Yi Yi’s palm. The surface was carved with complicated patterns, and on the back was carved a single character. The character was written in seal script, and Xiao Hua couldn’t read it.
Zhuo’er saw that his sister got a jade pendant, and learned to squeeze the Jing Prince a couple of times with his small hand.
The children played with the jade pendants for a while before letting Xiao Hua place them around their necks.
“Mother hasn’t given red envelope yet.” The Jing Prince said.
The two little fellows didn’t understand their father’s words and were extremely puzzled. They blinked their large eyes at their daddy, and then their mom.
“Mom has one as well.”
Xiao Hua took out a red painted gold plated little box, and took out two exquisite gold bracelets. The bracelets seemed like they merely had some patterns engraved on them, but tinkling sounds were heard when she lifted them out of the box.
The sound was extremely pleasant to the ear, and immediately attracted the children’s attention. They grabbed it in their hands and gave it a shake. Not only did Yi Yi reveal a toothless smile, but even Zhuo’er seemed rather curious.
“Alright, let mom put them on for you.”
Xiao Hua grabbed her daughter’s chubby little arm and put it on, and shook it a couple of times. The bracelet hung on Yi Yi’s wrist without being too loose or too tight. Yi Yi saw that her own arm could make the jingling sound when she moved it, and was first surprised, her eyes widening. She then narrowed them and started shaking and flapping her arm.
Xiao Hua then put the other on her son.
“When did highness prepare the jade pendants?”
The Jing Prince squeezed her finger, and didn’t give a straight answer, “Didn’t you prepare yours last month already?”
He had seen it and realized these were clearly meant for the children. Thus he prepared his own. Furthermore, the jade pendants should have been given to them long ago. It’s just unfortunate that they weren’t given along with a conferred title, but had been specially carved by someone instead.
“So you also prepared yours at that time?”
The Jing Prince’s lip curled in an implied smile and nodded.
Xiao Hua looked infatuated at the Jing Prince’s smile. This was the first time she had seen him smile. Nothing else could compare to it. Her finger reached out and stroked the curve.
“Highness looks really good when you smile.”
The servants around them had all left at some point.
The two children smiled as they shook their arms around while the Jing Prince and Xiao Hua were already kissing on the other side.
Some readers are asking why the Jing Prince is so indecisive, and are saying it’s not satisfying at all. There are several points.
- The story is written in omniscient 3rd person perspective, which makes it clear what is going on. For example, the uncle’s family’s little thoughts. Although the Jing Prince and Xiao Hua are both aware of this, they should be oblivious on the surface because the Li family had yet to mention it. Therefore, if the Jing Prince acted as he pleased and told the Li family that they didn’t have to think about it, this humble prince isn’t interested in cousin at all, what would it imply? It would tell them that “I’ve got people watching you. Let alone your little thoughts, I even know the color of your underwear.” It’s proper to keep an eye on them, but improper to let them know they are being watched. Especially since they are relatives. Even if the emperor sent someone to observe the court officials, he still wouldn’t call out the bad things they had done today, or yesterday. He would choose to not say anything unless he’s ready to shed all pretenses.
- Li Hong Chang is basically a joke. The only person who wouldn’t laugh at what he was saying is himself. Furthermore, he had misunderstood and left after speaking. It wasn’t that the Jing Prince didn’t refuse his offer, he just didn’t have time to do so. Please imagine a scene where someone’s clowning around in front of you, and as you’re laughing the person ran off.
- In the Jing Prince’s eyes, if he doesn’t consider their relationship, the Li family was a group of people he could snuff out without raising a hand. He really doesn’t need to bicker with them because in his mind it could be resolved in a matter of minutes. He isn’t dealing with it at the moment because he doesn’t have the spare time. There’s also the fact that they are relatives. No matter what, this was still his mother’s older brother. Outside of Xiao Hua and the two children, they were his only family (the people in the palace don’t count). Therefore, it’s natural that he’s more lenient. The Jing Prince had always been very generous. This is apparent from the Jing Consort’s situation. He isn’t fickle, and his generosity is very high quality. We can’t let a man be petty like those women in those household drama novels, snuffing people out just because they have some little thoughts. A good candidate for the throne must have the right qualities. Especially since these little thoughts of theirs couldn’t be said to be an issue for him. Even if it were an issue, it was something he could quickly take care of. It’s like ants crawling on an elephant’s leg. Would the elephant bother with them? It would at most feel that their chosen route was very laughable: why don’t they walk along the flat ground?
- Wasn’t it obvious that these annoyances actually became sources of amusement for the Jing Prince and Xiao Hua?
This author said before that there won’t be any contrived drama like having the younger female cousin bother her older male cousin. They’re really just here for comic relief while giving the Jing Consort a reason to be released. If the Jing Prince or Xiao Hua were the ones who had to bring it up, there might be some hang-ups between them (it’s been mentioned before that the Jing Prince never brought this up to Xiao Hua because he was afraid she would feel uncomfortable. But it’s not possible to have the Jing Consort confined forever, right? That would be too unrealistic.). It’s also to give Xiao Hua some benefits: she now manages the personal storage, and can also openly spy on the Jing Consort.
Next chapter, lord uncle’s part is wrapped up.