Everyone’s attention was naturally focused on the new emperor’s first offspring after his ascension.
The moment the second prince was born, the news was spread all over.
Xiao Hua didn’t take long to deliver him. She had adjusted herself well during pregnancy and had made plenty of preparations. Before evening fell, the baby was safely delivered.
When the empress received the news, she immediately let out a breath, and then gripped the bowl of medicine in her hands tightly.
The next day, the empress conferral ceremony continued according to convention.
The Jing Prince’s apathetic air seemed to have faded quite a bit on this day. Considering the birth of the second prince, the officials all understood the reason.
Xiao Hua should have been the one leading the concubines to pay respects to the empress. Virtuous Concubine Qiao took over the role instead.
The empress sat high above on her throne and seemed extremely satisfied. The only regret she had was that Xiao Hua wasn’t there. But what others had said was right. In the future, she would be the empress, and thus was in charge of the rear palace. She wielded the phoenix seal, and would have other opportunities to deal with that person.
This day belonged to the empress. Xiao-Shi had never experienced this feeling of looking down upon everyone while sitting up high. She grew intoxicated on this feeling, but something suddenly happened that snapped her out of it.
On the second day of the empress conferral ceremony, the Jing Emperor passed down an edict conferring the eldest prince Luo Zhuo as the crown prince.
This imperial edict immediately aroused great waves.
Many officials submitted memorandums saying that this was unreasonable.
This time the Jing Emperor didn’t engage in tai-chi with these people and overruled them extremely abruptly. What was unreasonable? Apart from emphasizing the principle wife, the Grand Xi Dynasty had always emphasized seniority as well. Since the principle wife didn’t have any offspring as of this moment, there was no need to consider her. Thus, it made sense to go with seniority. The eldest prince was the Jing Emperor’s oldest son, and his mother’s status was also not low. She was personally conferred the senior concubine by his majesty, and even had a meaningful title.
What do you mean the prime senior concubine had a lowly background? Within the imperial rear palace, there was no regard for background. Everything under the heavens belonged to the emperor. If the emperor said someone was highborn, who would dare call that person lowly?
Furthermore, the Jing Emperor also said that establishing the crown prince early made the nation more stable. This was also truly reasonable.
Those underneath naturally weren’t able to pick out any faults with the emperor’s attitude and actions. The few who did were intentionally ignored by the Jing Emperor. Things were thus decided.
Jia Sheng, the director of the Board of Rites, was unperturbed. While the others were astonished, he was the only one who wasn’t.
This was because he had received the edict establishing the crown prince at the same time as those conferring the empress and the senior concubine. He had already gone through the procedures early on, and was only now bringing it out.
The meaning of this was worth some serious consideration.
Of course, Jia Sheng was also an old talent. He had some thoughts in his mind, and didn’t mention them to anyone.
The second prince’s Third Wash ceremony was held at the Chenxi Palace. The Jing Emperor presided over it personally. This time wasn’t as before with Luo Zhuo’s case. Many people wanted to attend, but since the Third Wash ceremony was for within the family, only the rear palace’s concubines and the former emperor’s few princesses were in attendance.
Empress Xiao’s teeth itched with resentment but she still had to act magnanimous and come along. She looked aggrievedly at the Jing Emperor but he didn’t even spare her a glance. After she returned, she fell ill due to her anger.
After coming to the capital, the empress rarely became seriously ill. She at most had to keep drinking medicine, and occasionally had a headache or coughed a couple of times. She had been incredibly excited at being conferred the crown prince consort and then the empress.
This time she became bedridden after getting back. She didn’t even have to pretend, and summoned many imperial physicians to diagnose her. It could be seen how much the series of events had stimulated her.
Some people commented privately that the empress wasn’t magnanimous enough. Merely showing up for the second prince’s ceremony was enough to make her bedridden with anger.
In the Chenxi Palace.
“Mother concubine, why doesn’t this little bro wake up. He’s always sleeping.”
“Little bro is still young. Wait until he’s as big as our little Yi Yi. Then he’ll play with Yi Yi every day.”
Yi Yi pouted, her face showing a hint of complaint.
“Yi Yi isn’t little anymore. I’m a big princess. Eldest Princess Calm Virtue.”1
Yi Yi’s conferred title had already been granted. She was given the title of “Calm Virtue”. After being called “eldest princess” by everyone, she started correcting Xiao Hua whenever she called her little Yi Yi. It’s not little. It’s big. It seemed as if the word “big” was much, much better than the word “little”.
Crown Prince Zhuo’er glanced at his silly sister and rubbed his finger against his younger brother’s little face.
It seemed every child was sensitive towards the word “little”. Zhuo’er was the same way. His age was little and his person was little and those around him always called him little crown prince. Zhuo’er was very displeased. He made a point to correct them and said he should be called big crown prince, just like when they called him eldest prince initially. Yi Yi ended up learning this from her brother.
After Xiao Hua found out about it, she almost couldn’t breathe for laughing. Even the Jing Emperor revealed a rarely seen smile that was between laughter and tears.
“Alright, it’s time for your younger brother to breastfeed. I’ll have auntie Ding Xiang take you guys out to play.”
“No, Yi Yi wants to stay and look at little bro.”
Xiao Hua didn’t say anything else. She pulled aside her clothes and held her second son up. The small baby seemed to have smelled the fresh milk and leaned in without even opening his eyes.
The second prince wasn’t deficient in any nourishment after being born. Xiao Hua hadn’t planned on breastfeeding him herself initially. But after thinking of how healthy Zhuo’er and Yi Yi were after being raised on her breastmilk, she would still personally breastfeed a couple of times. The rest of the time it was left to the wet nurses.
Yi Yi looked at her younger brother suckling vigorously and her eyes turned red from envy. She chewed on her finger and it wasn’t clear what she was thinking.
“Yi Yi, mom has told you many times not to chew on your fingers. It’s a bad habit.”
Yi Yi immediately put her small hands behind her back, and smiled blinkingly at Xiao Hua, saying quietly: “Mom, little bro sure is enjoying himself!”
“Little bro can only drink milk, so he gets hungry more often.”
“Mom, after little bro is done eating, let Yi Yi have a couple mouthfuls.”
Xiao Hua looked at her daughter in shock, “Doesn’t Yi Yi not like the taste?”
Zhuo’er and Yi Yi started eating actual food quite early on, and naturally stopped drinking breastmilk. Such small children insisted on eating tasty food. Xiao Hua had joked about it to the Jing Prince at the time.
“But little bro is enjoying himself so much—-”
She was just envious.
The second prince was still young, and couldn’t drink that much. Xiao Hua didn’t take any lactation preventing medicine, and would have to squeeze out quite a lot every day. Seeing her daughter’s longing gaze, she figured her daughter was still young at three years old. Some households breastfed until the children were seven or eight years old.
“Milk isn’t actually tasty.” Xiao Hua still wanted to discourage her daughter.
Yi Yi pursed her lips, looking disbelieving.
Fine. Children were more curious at this age. Furthermore, they never gave up until the end.
Seeing that the second prince had eaten his fill, Xiao Hua wiped his little mouth with a handkerchief and called her daughter over.
Yi Yi didn’t stand on ceremony and the moment she came over she grabbed her mom’s white mounds and sucked two large mouthfuls.
“Little sis, is it tasty?”
Little Yi Yi’s expression was weird as she nodded: “Tasty.”
Zhuo’er looked bashfully at Xiao Hua, his little face earnest. “Little sis got to eat.”
How could Xiao Hua be unaware of her son’s awkward little personality? She smiled and pulled her son over. Zhuo’er carefully sucked in a mouthful. The taste was weird. He wasn’t willing to believe it and leaned in once again.
When the Jing Emperor arrived, he was greeted with the scene of his eldest son grabbing Xiao Hua’er’s white mounds. He immediately furrowed his brows. He cleared his throat and Zhuo’er immediately retracted his mouth like a startled mouse.
Xiao Hua’s face was aflame as she forced a normal expression and stroked her sons head, “It’s not tasty, right? You guys are already over three years old, but are still envious of your younger brother.”
Zhuo’er muttered: “It tastes very weird.”
Yi Yi burst out laughing and clapped her hands. “Big bro got tricked. It actually wasn’t tasty at all.”
Only now did the Jing Emperor’s expression look a little better. He walked over and sat on the side.
Xiao Hua knew that men were petty. When she first mentioned breastfeeding after giving birth to the second prince, she was refused. Only after bugging him for quite some time did the Jing Emperor agree to let her occasionally do it.
“The two children are still young. They saw their younger brother drinking milk and got curious.”
This could be counted as an explanation, right?
Xiao Hua snuck a glance at the Jing Emperor whose expression was indecipherable.
She thus thought this matter was done with.
After another two days, the second prince turned one month old.
His one month anniversary naturally needed a grand celebration. The Jing Emperor seemed like he wanted to make up for his regrets with Zhuo’er back then, and put a lot of emphasis on this event.
Since it was a grand celebration, all the princesses, officials and titled women all had to participate.
The Jing Emperor arranged a banquet at the Hall of Bright Sun. Another banquet was arranged at the Hall of Harmony in the rear palace. The empress should have been the one to preside over it, but she was bedridden and thus naturally didn’t qualify. Therefore, Xiao Hua who had the highest status in the rear palace outside of the empress and was the birth mother of the second prince ended up presiding over things.
This could be counted as the prime senior concubine’s first time meeting all the titled women since Xiao Hua wasn’t present during the empress’s conferral.
Xiao Hua had assumed it would just be a casual encounter, but realized she had been mistaken.
The titled women outside the palace had to salute the higher ranked titled women on the inside. The salutations differed based on their various statuses. Normally, the highest ranked titled woman outside the palace was a first-ranked madam. Since Xiao Hua was currently a major first-ranked senior concubine and since women inside the palace were higher than those outside by a rank, everyone had to pay their respects to Xiao Hua.
Since there were too many people, they naturally couldn’t do so one by one. Apart from the Duchesses with extremely high ranks, everyone else saluted in a group along with those of their rank.
Luckily the paying of respect was overseen by a female official, and didn’t require Xiao Hua to spend too much thought. She just had to sit on the Luan Throne and accept the salutes, and bid them to rise once it was done.
Xiao Hua wore the royal robes of a senior concubine as she sat on her throne. Her face held a smile as she watched a group of titled women approach. These women wore the proper clothes of nobility and their bearings were extremely good. There were young and pretty ones as well as ones who were old and grey.
Xiao Hua saw an extremely familiar person within the group, and after thinking for a while she recalled who she was.
It was the Jinyang Marquis’s madam!
This name stirred up Xiao Hua’s distant memories and she couldn’t help but space out.
She still vaguely remembered how she had knelt wretchedly in front of her back then for a path of survival, but ended up being dragged off and sold…..
“Concubine, are you tired?”
Ding Xiang’s voice sounded in her ear. Xiao Hua had just gotten out of her puerperium, and everyone in the Chenxi Palace worried about her condition as she had to go through such an extremely formal occasion wearing the heavy royal robes.
The eunuch leading the rites called out: “Salute—–”
“Greetings to the senior concubine. Long live the senior concubine, long live the senior concubine.”
“Thank you senior concubine.”
This wasn’t the first time the Jinyang Madam entered the palace. Titled women had to enter the palace and offer congratulations whenever there were major events. Previously she had come to congratulate the empress during her conferral ceremony. This time it was for the second prince’s one month anniversary while also paying respects to the senior concubine.
Seeing this large arrangement, it seemed the emperor’s true purpose was to increase the senior concubine’s reputation. Otherwise, why did the female officials make this into such a big event? No one would believe that there wasn’t someone directing things in the back.
Although she thought this in her mind, the Jinyang Madam wasn’t foolish enough to show anything on the surface. None of the titled women that were present were fools. They probably saw through many things but no one dared to show any abnormalities.
The emperor wanted to increase his favored woman’s reputation. They were all women here, and naturally understood the meaning behind this. Furthermore, the prime senior concubine’s power was currently at its peak. In terms of favor, she was the solely favored one. In terms of children, she had two sons and a daughter while the empress didn’t even manage to lay an egg. Since none of them had any vested interests, no one would offend her for no reason.
The Jinyang madam was quite curious about this person who could make the most powerful man put in so much effort. She took the opportunity while saluting to sneak a glance at the prime senior concubine seated on the throne.
This prime senior concubine was extremely beautiful. Her palm sized little face contained a pair of limpid eyes. Her skin was extremely fair and her bearing extremely graceful. Yet she also contained a hint of youth and inexperience. The combined effect gave her a charm that made one unable to look away. It wasn’t clear how old she was. She seemed as though she was in her twenties, yet also seemed very young…..
Up until she stepped down, the Jinyang madam had still been lost in the prime senior concubine’s beauty. Yet as she thought about it, her brows couldn’t help but furrow. She felt that this prime senior concubine looked a little familiar.
Virtuous Concubine Qiao and the Serene and Tranquil Concubines stood on the side, unable to conceal their jealousy. The Serene and Tranquil Concubines were still all right, and were merely admiring. Virtuous Concubine Qiao’s expression was strange. She wanted to show a magnanimous and appropriate smile, but wasn’t quite successful and it became extremely weird.
But the three of them were just bystanders on this day, and no one paid attention to them. Even if they did, they could all sympathize with the jealousy of the three who had to share a man with this solely favored person. They were all women after all.
Don’t think this author is being vulgar. This author has seen six or seven year old children watching their mother breastfeed a younger sibling and wanting to have a taste out of curiosity.