The consort’s gracious words ruthlessly stabbed into Xiao Hua’s heart.
All sorts of retorts worked their way up her throat, but she ended up swallowing everything back down. She thought she could act naturally, but misjudged her body’s reactions.
Ever since she got pregnant again, she was easily emotional. Her body reacted faster than her mind, and a tear rolled down her face. Luckily everyone was focused on the consort. She lowered her head and wiped her face with a handkerchief. She thought her actions were surreptitious but didn’t realize the man beside her had seen everything.
Luo Jing patted her hand, and right as he was about to speak, Yi Yi’s immature voice sounded out.
“Big bro, what does she mean? What does “mother” mean?”
“Mother means the same thing as mom. Ignore her, she’s lying.”
“Is she trying to trick little children and sell them off?”
“That’s right, so don’t speak with her.”
Xiao Hua had told the two children not to talk to strangers back at the East Yuling alley since there were people who would kidnap children and sell them off. Zhuo’er and Yi Yi kept this clearly in their minds. Especially Zhuo’er, who often instructed his sister in things.
When Yi Yi heard a kidnapper was trying to sell off children, she immediately pulled her brother along as she sprinted back towards Luo Jing. While she ran, she called out: “Fu Fu, hurry and beat that kidnapper up…..father, there’s a kidnapper trying to lure baby Yi Yi away to be sold off….”
The trace of discomfort in Xiao Hua’s heart vanished as she was cheered up by Yi Yi’s baby talk.
She crouched down and only said: “Yi Yi, don’t be so insensible. There are so many people around, no one will kidnap and sell you off…..”
The consort had wanted to embarrass this Virtuous Wife Tao, but ended up being mocked as a kidnapper by these two children who weren’t even three years old. Suddenly, her benevolent expression could no longer be maintained, her mask slipping bit by bit.
“The crown prince consort’s health isn’t good. Hurry and bring her back to rest.” Luo Jing said coldly.
Her shrill cry was abruptly cut off like a hen whose neck was grabbed, “You, you…cough cough, cough cough….”
Eunuch Fu’s face was cold and his brows slanted, “Are you all blind? The crown prince consort’s health isn’t good, why don’t you try and persuade her a little? Letting her run out in this cold weather, what if she catches a cold?”
The crown prince consort’s personal palace maids were all sent over from the imperial internal affairs department, and were managed by Eunuch Fu. Seeing the crown prince’s displeasure and Eunuch Fu’s anger, they hurriedly supported the consort back inside. She still wanted to struggle and say something, but was helpless against the circumstances. This wasn’t supporting, they were clearly dragging her. Her body was feeble and she was also coughing continuously, and could only be carried away.
The crowd at the gates suddenly thinned by quite a bit. Virtuous Wife Qiao who had come along with the consort had also vanished without a trace.
“Let’s go inside. This humble one has already picked out the place. It’s right next to this humble one’s pavilion.”
Xiao Hua nodded her head, and pulled her two children along as she followed Luo Jing into the eastern palace.
Xiao Hua’s pavilion truly was very close to the crown prince. Luo Jing’s study was in the center of the eastern palace and Xiao Hua’s pavilion was slightly to the side of it. From the study’s rear corner door, Xiao Hua’s pavilion was pretty much a single door away.
It was a single compound pavilion. Although it was small, it was very complete. Actually it wasn’t that small. A single compound in the palace naturally couldn’t be compared to the outside, and was several times larger. Especially since the eastern palace had traditionally been the crown prince’s residence, so it naturally was constructed with extraordinary magnificence.
“We moved quite hurriedly so things are a little crude. If there’s anything inconvenient, just let Auntie Qi know.”
Xiao Hua pulled Luo Jing’s hand and smiled as she looked around, “How can there be any inconvenience. This place is so nice.”
“Is the baby bothering you?”
“Not too badly. There was some nausea before and lack of appetite. Matron Xu said this is normal.”
“En. Everything from the western pavilion has been moved over. Don’t hesitate to ask if there’s something you want to eat.”
Luo Jing sat with Xiao Hua for a while before leaving.
He had set aside some time in his busy schedule to be able to come over. The beginning was always the hardest. Governing a nation naturally couldn’t be compared to governing a vassal state. Others could only provide some guidance. Many things he would have to figure out on his own.
The various things in the pavilion had been prepared in advance. This included Xiao Hua’s previous things, which had been sent over from the Jing Province. Ding Xiang’s group spent some time organizing the things she and the two children brought over.
After a while, Xiao Xia Zi came over to pay his respects. He told her he would continue serving the virtuous wife in her pavilion, and told her that everything in this place had been arranged by Eunuch Fu according to his highness’s instructions. She could live here at ease and not have to worry about anything.
Xiao Hua naturally understood what he meant. He was telling her that everything was kept under watch, and she wouldn’t have to worry about demons and monsters playing dirty tricks. Having sat in a carriage the entire morning, Xiao Hua was tired. After lunch, she went and took a nap.
When she woke up in the afternoon, Ding Xiang told Xiao Hua what she knew while she brushed her hair.
There weren’t that many people living in the eastern palace. His highness didn’t have many people in his harem, and together they took up less than a third of the palace’s space. His highness’s study was in the center, and the consort’s residence was directly behind. Virtuous Wife Qiao and the two virtuous beauties lived behind the consort’s residence. In theory, Xiao Hua should also be living behind the consort’s residence, but was arranged by the crown prince to live in the pavilion to his right.
This little pavilion wasn’t as nice as the consort’s place, but was the closest to the crown prince. Furthermore, it was well furnished, and even had its own kitchen. Nana He and Auntie Meng’s group didn’t have to move, and remained working in Xiao Hua’s kitchen.
The eastern palace also had a dining area, but it was only responsible for the consort and the other few’s meals. The crown prince and Xiao Hua ate in the small kitchen in her pavilion.
Everything seemed to be the same as before and Xiao Hua temporarily put her heart at ease.
Having been protected by the Jing Prince for several years, Xiao Hua always adopted an attitude of avoidance towards the Jing Consort Xiao-Shi. She also understood that things were no longer the same. In the Jing Prince Estate, his highness could restrain the consort a little. She could hide inside the western pavilion and not go out. Now that they’ve entered the palace, they were constantly under scrutiny. Now that the consort was no longer muzzled, there would probably be quite a few battles in the coming days.
Today at the eastern palace gates was one such example. The consort was clearly trying to embarrass her. If it were anything else, Xiao Hua would naturally choose to avoid it. After all, that person was the principal wife and she was the concubine. But as a mother, she wasn’t able to let it slide. Xiao Hua couldn’t pretend to be magnanimous in this case. She wasn’t willing to pretend, and also didn’t plan on doing so.
She now had two children with a third on the way. His highness was extremely busy and she couldn’t rely on him for everything. She also couldn’t let him protect her forever. She had to stand up for herself.
“Ding Xiang, I won’t beat around the bush. You should be able to understand our current situation. Although his highness is protecting us, he’s extremely busy. We need to be able to stand up for ourselves. You, Ding Lan and Chun Cao should talk things over. Also Chun Mei and the others can probably be used after all this time. Be alert, and if there are any inconveniences come and let me know. You can also tell Eunuch Fu.”
“Imperial concubine, this servant understands.”
“We won’t provoke anything, but we’re also not afraid of anything. You should be able to understand this difference.”
Evening arrived in the blink of an eye.
The crown prince hadn’t returned. The more she understood his current situation, the more Xiao Hua understood how many things depended on him.
Eunuch Chang came and delivered a message. He said the crown prince was in the Violet Imperial Hall, and the imperial concubine should go ahead and eat dinner. He might be quite late in returning tonight.”
Xiao Hua asked a few questions about whether the crown prince had eaten, and if he had eaten enough. Eunuch Chang replied that he had eaten and that imperial concubine shouldn’t worry. Everything had been properly arranged.
Xiao Hua felt relieved and had Eunuch Chang take his leave before instructing Ding Xiang to bring dinner over.
After eating, she accompanied the two children for a while before taking a bath and turning in.
In the middle of the night, she sensed someone get into bed.
A slightly damp body slid into the blankets. Xiao Hua knew he had just taken a bath.
“Woke you up?”
“It’s fine. This servant concubine had slept a lot during the day, and doesn’t feel tired.”
She shifted her position and curled up in his arms before letting out a sigh. “Highness’s status changed too fast. It’s a little hard to adapt right away.”
“It’ll change again after some time. You will have to get used to it eventually.”
Xiao Hua understood his words. Before coming to the capital, she already knew that Emperor Xi didn’t have long left to live. The previous crown prince and the Jin Prince had both died. Otherwise, this heaven’s blessing wouldn’t have fallen upon her man. He hadn’t said it directly that day, but from his words Xiao Hua could tell that he had something to do with what happened to the crown prince and the Jin Prince.
Of course, Xiao Hua wasn’t some saintess. Since one side had to die, she naturally preferred if him and her, and their children, could live happily ever after.
It’s just that now his status had changed, and her and her children’s statuses had changed as well. With a change in status came a change in environment and circumstances. Additionally, the amount of worries would also increase. It wasn’t that Xiao Hua didn’t understand why they couldn’t always live peacefully together, but she was inevitably a little disappointed and frustrated.
“Don’t worry. Our days will still be the same as before.”
Xiao Hua rubbed her face in Luo Jing’s chest, smiled and said quietly: “At first it’s a little hard getting used to it, but it’ll be fine after a few days. Highness should hurry and sleep. It’s been a busy day.”
Luo Jing responded softly and said: “Might not be able to keep you company these days. Before you moved to the eastern palace, I had been sleeping in the Violet Imperial Hall the whole time.”
Xiao Hua was slightly stunned and said: “His majesty’s health isn’t good, so it’s necessary to show some filial piety. Highness shouldn’t worry about me and the children. We’ll be fine.”
The night passed silently.
The next day when Xiao Hua awoke, she realized Luo Jing was already gone. After asking Ding Xiang, she found out he had left before dawn.
After eating breakfast, she took a stroll around the courtyard. Auntie Qi brought over a forty year old auntie.
“Imperial concubine, this is Auntie Qian. This servant has invited her over to explain some of the palace’s etiquette and relationships.”
Xiao Hua nodded. Before this, she had given her instructions about it. Auntie Qi had moved unexpectedly quickly. There were too many differences between the palace and the estate. There were a lot more people and a lot more things she had to understand. It was better to make preparations early in case she became a laughing stock later and embarrassed his highness.
“Auntie Qian, I’ll have to trouble you for this.”
“Imperial concubine is being too polite. This servant doesn’t have much talent, and only knows quite a lot after living in the palace for many years.”
Auntie Qian came every day to discuss the palace’s rules and etiquette with Xiao Hua. Afterwards, Xiao Hua realized that Auntie Qi and Auntie Qian were old friends during her time in the palace. Only after Auntie Qi moved with his highness did they fall out of touch.
Now that his highness had returned, he naturally brought along the competent people by his side.
Many old folk within the palace secretly discussed this “reversal of fortunes”. They weren’t just talking about the Jing Prince who was now the crown prince, but also about the servants by his side.
Back then, the servants by the fifth prince’s side were all extremely well known by the servants in the palace. They were well known for being completely shameless, and also made the servants feel strange. How was a mute prince worth their efforts in protecting him?
Now the weirdness seemed to have an explanation. The Jing Prince overturned things and was no longer the mute who was hated by his majesty. He had become the grand crown prince, and who would become the emperor of the Grand Xi Nation.
Actually these people had truly misjudged Auntie Qi’s group. Eunuch Chang, Eunuch Su and Auntie Qi were all ordinary people. Eunuch Fu was the bad apple of the bunch. But at that time, Eunuch Fu truly didn’t have a choice. In a place like the imperial palace, they weren’t just afraid of those above not favoring them, but also of the little demons below stepping over them.
What could the masters remember? They were all busy with official business or their own struggles. It was the subordinates who were truly hateful. For the sake of advancement, for the sake of gaining their master’s trust, they would use all sorts of methods. If Eunuch Fu’s methods weren’t ruthless enough or if he wasn’t shameless enough, he wouldn’t have been able to protect his highness all those years ago.
The Yun Prince was such an example. He had suffered quite a bit when he was young. For the sake of not inviting anymore hatred, he had completely destroyed his own image. As for the Jing Prince, he relied on his muteness and his low profile, rarely leaving his palace gates, to be able to grow up without being starved or frozen.
Luckily, the day had finally come when his highness finally emerged. He was no longer the mute fifth prince of the past.
Eunuch Fu sneered coldly in his heart. Like he had said long ago: “Just wait and see”. Didn’t this Granddaddy Fu end up making a comeback with my master?
Minor spoilers ahead.
This cutoff point is a little abrupt. Piecing together a few things in the next chapter.
Eunuch Fu isn’t here to mess around. Moving into the palace isn’t as simple as it seems. Xiao-Shi isn’t the main enemy. It’s Empress Xiao. After all, the palace had been running for so many years, and she had been the empress for so long. She naturally has quite a few subordinates. Even if Emperor Xi dies and the Jing Prince succeeds the throne, he has no foundation inside the palace. If his subordinates don’t obey his orders or if they stir things up secretly, it would cause quite the headache. As the saying goes, the King of Hell is easy to meet, it’s the little demons that are hard to shake off. Within the palace, there are only a few masters and mistresses, but there are countless little demons….
We’ll let Empress Xiao flex her muscles a little first….