2nd sponsored chapter of the week.
Having thought about it continuously for several days, the Jinyang madam still couldn’t resist calling her son Ruan Siyi’s concubine Bi Yuan over.
Bi Yuan couldn’t figure out why the madam was asking about a maid’s appearance from long ago. However, being personally summoned by the madam meant was an opportunity to get closer to her. She naturally racked her brains and did her best to recall.
After thinking for a while, she finally remembered this person. The reason she could remember was because this person’s appearance was quite outstanding and also because that event had ended up causing quite the mess.
Although four or five years had passed, she was still able to remember if she put some effort into it.
Bi Yuan slowly described the person in her memories. As her memories were stirred, her description slowly became more and more detailed.
After the Jinyang madam finished listening, her willow brows furrowed.
“If I found a painter, could you describe her features to him?”
Bi Yuan nodded hesitantly and said: “Should be able to.”
After Tian-Shi heard this, she let out a breath. She didn’t let anyone else handle it and took Bi Yuan to the study.
Tian-Shi was quite the talent when she was younger, and was rather good at painting.
Bi Yuan carefully spoke as Tian-Shi’s brush moved. After countless revisions which took an entire afternoon, they managed to sketch out a small likeness painting of a girl.
The girl in the painting was extremely frail, her body slender and her posture was half lowered with her eyes withdrawn. Only her exquisite little face could be seen while her eyes remained hidden.
Tian-Shi frowned but Bi Yuan said it looked extremely close.
Seeing that the madam seemed a little unhappy, Bi Yuan asked quietly: “Madam, is something….”
“How old was this person back then?”
Bi Yuan thought for a while: “Very young. Perhaps thirteen or fourteen. When the young master placed her under this servant, this servant wondered where he got such a young lass.”
“Alright, you can take your leave first. Don’t mention this to anyone.”
“Yes.” Bi Yuan bent her knees in salute. Before she left, she said, “In the past, she was close with Grandma Wang from the small kitchen. This servant would always see her in the small kitchen.”
Tian-Shi waved her hand and Bi Yuan took her leave.
The Jinyang madam was a little dispirited. The sketch looked completely different from that person.
The person in the drawing was young, inexperienced and frail. Her face looked decent but there was only half of it visible. As for that person, she had been full of the natural grace that could only be developed from being endlessly pampered. Apart from the sharp chin, nothing else looked similar.
Thinking of the Grandma Wang that Bi Yuan mentioned, Tian-Shi’s heart stirred once again. She called her subordinate Matron Qu over and gave some detailed instructions. Matron Qu went to carry out her instructions.
A few years had passed and Grandma Wang was even older now. She still stayed in the Jingxiu Pavilion’s small kitchen, and often sat in the same spot without moving.
These days some people had come trying to make her acquaintance but she didn’t even spare them a glance. She sat and waited for them to reveal their fox’s tail.
They finally revealed their intentions, but it turns out they had actually wanted to ask about the little lass from several years ago.
Grandma Wang still remembered that lass. Who knew where such a fine little lass ended up being sold off to. Grandma Wang felt sad just thinking about it.
She was sad for herself, and it was also a sort of sympathy for someone suffering the same plight.
Grandma Wang’s eyes stared vacantly, confusion written across her wizened face, “Who are you asking about? You, from the Liu family’s second branch, this old woman is already old. My memory hasn’t been good these few years….”
As she spoke, Grandma Wang fumbled around, using a stick to prod at the stove fire. Her movements were slow and wooden.
This person from the Liu family’s second branch also felt they were making things difficult for this old woman. She was so old her memory definitely wasn’t good. Seeing that they couldn’t get anything out of her, they returned and reported to Matron Qu.
Grandma Wang watched him leave and sighed again. Who knows why they’re bringing up that lass, it’s been almost five years since she was sold!
Tian-Shi received the reply and felt even less confident.
Just as she was about to dispel this notion, Bi Yuan suddenly asked to see her.
“Madam, this servant remembered one more thing. That little lass had a pair of extremely beautiful eyes.”
Tian-Shi quivered, and called someone to bring over a paper and a brush. She make a few strokes with her brush.
“Did it look like this?”
“Right, right. The shape is very similar. This servant hadn’t seen such an eye shape her entire life.”
Tian-Shi took a deep breath and took out a new piece of paper. She started drawing carefully, and soon an exquisite beauty’s face appeared. After adding the final touches, she had Bi Yuan take a look.
“Did she look like this?”
Bi Yuan continuously nodded “This servant has only noticed her once. This little lass looked very outstanding, but strangely never attracted anyone’s attention.”
“Alright, you may leave. Remember not to mention this to anyone.”
After Bi Yuan left, Tian-Shi’s eyes flashed weirdly.
A person’s temperament could change and their appearance would change a little as they matured. But this sort of change would definitely not be too big. She looked at the person in the drawing once again and revealed a profound smile.
However, Tian-Shi was always thorough in doing things. Despite being sure in her heart, she still had people ask around outside.
Although Xiao Hua’s background seemed mysterious to many people, it wasn’t really a secret. After the Jinyang madam investigated and matched up the timing, she finally confirmed that this prime senior concubine was a bed-crawling maid she had sold off back in the day.
Could this information be used to her advantage?
The pampered prime senior concubine. She grew excited just thinking about it.
Once the empress somewhat recovered, she came to pay respects to Royal Concubine Xiao. This was the first time meeting with the royal concubine after being conferred empress.
The royal concubine lived in the Cian Palace’s main hall. Compared to the other former concubines who shared a side hall, her treatment could be counted as extremely good.
None of the former concubines dared to kick this dog who had fallen into the water, even though the royal concubine was no longer the empress and even though she didn’t even have a son.
Her daily life was extremely leisurely, copying down a few scriptures and burning some incense in worship. If seemed that after the previous emperor died, she had gotten addicted to burning incense and worshipping Buddha.
When the empress came to pay respects, she was in the middle of copying a scripture. She didn’t put on any airs, and didn’t force the empress to wait outside. Instead, she allowed the empress to stand and watch next to her.
Around half an hour later, the royal concubine placed the brush in her hand down and slowly let out a breath. Two palace maids offered a warm hand towel which she pressed against her face before using to wipe her hands and throwing it back on the palace maid’s tray.
They went to the main hall and took a seat. The royal concubine sat in the higher seat while the empress sat in the lower one. They royal concubine lifted her tea cup and started drinking tea.
What the empress hated most about the royal concubine was this point. No matter the occasion, she always had to display this lofty attitude. The empress hadn’t met her that many times, and it was all when she had first married the fifth prince. Every time she went to the Fengqi Palace, this so called aunt of hers was always seated high up on her throne while she kowtowed below and trembled.
As of today, she was now the empress while her status had become awkward. But it still seemed that her own status was lower than hers.
The empress suddenly had the urge to smash her cup and leave, but managed to suppress it. She understood what she was here for.
“I heard your health isn’t too good?”
As she spoke, the empress couldn’t help but cough a couple of times. Although she seemed to have recovered, it was really just on the surface.
The royal concubine gave her a glance and said faintly: “Your body is your biggest asset. Those outside hadn’t even made a move yet and you’re already angering yourself to death. What’s the point of struggling on? Why not just honestly stay in place.”
The empress’s face suddenly flushed. She felt humiliated at having her flaws pointed out. She wanted to speak, but was interrupted before she could.
“Here are a few scriptures. Take them back and write down a copy every day to clear your mind. Bai Shao, send the empress back.”
The empress left unwillingly. Bai Shao returned to the royal concubine’s side.
“Concubine, is this ok? This servant noticed that the empress’s face was full of indignation. I’m just afraid she’ll form some resentment in her heart.”
“If this seat had known things would turn out like this, I definitely wouldn’t have given her to the Jing Prince. Any other daughter in the Xiao clan would have been more presentable than her. This personality of hers needs to be properly polished.” After speaking, the royal concubine lifted the tea cup. She said with a frown, “This tea is getting worse and worse…..”
Bai Shao didn’t dare speak.
When the royal concubine was still the empress, all the good things in the palace was first given to the Fengqi Palace. This included the finest tea leaves. As of today, the empress was now the royal concubine, and her treatment naturally wasn’t as good. Of course, this didn’t mean that the Jing Emperor was mistreating the former concubines. It’s just that a concubine’s allocations were this way to begin with. It’s hard to become frugal after being accustomed to luxury. This saying was quite fitting.
“How are things over at Bai Zhi’s side?”
Bai Shao shook her head, her face full of worry. “His majesty didn’t do anything to her, but that Esteemed Official Qi’s methods are extremely good. Since she’s also clearly one of his majesty’s people, everyone naturally yields to her. Esteemed Official Chen….isn’t doing too well….”
The royal concubine vented her anger as she let out a cold hmph, “Fool! This grand empress of ours isn’t thinking of properly consolidating her power in the rear palace, and is fussing over some trivial matters instead. This makes it difficult for us to make any progress in the palace. Is she even a daughter of the Xiao clan!?”
After a while, she spoke again: “Have Nana Zhao give her some pointers.”
The Grand Xi nation had several rankings for female officials. There were six offices and twenty-four departments that worked together to oversee the service in the entire palace.
The six offices were: The esteemed office of the palace, esteemed office of rites, esteemed office of service, esteemed office of meals, esteemed office of housing and esteemed office of merits. Each of them were in charge of four departments and together, they managed affairs inside the palace.
The esteemed office of the palace had two major fifth ranked female officials as the matrons. Under the guidance of the empress, they were in charge of court affairs.
After Nana Zhao pointed a few things out to the empress, she summoned the two esteemed officials. Seeing the one called Esteemed Official Qi, the empress’s heart skipped a beat.
No one understood better than her the methods of this person surnamed Qi. No, it was actually the Jing Emperor’s methods. Back at the Jing Prince Estate, she had been made a mere figurehead. Could it be that it would be the same here in the rear palace?
As expected, the empress’s office of affairs encountered numerous setbacks. They would often encounter things that contradicted the “rules”. Esteemed Official Qi would then bring out the palace’s book of law and inform her.
If she listened to her, then it would be fine. If she didn’t listen…well, it wasn’t important if she listened or not. They would merely proceed according to the “rules”.
The offices and departments were actually established by the previous dynasty. This sort of system definitely restricted the empress’s power. To put it plainly, while the empress was in charge of the entire rear palace, the ones responsible for distributing the orders were the six offices.
Back then, when Xiao-Shi who was still the Jing Consort was made a figurehead, the Jing Prince hadn’t come up with anything original. He merely used the rules of the palace and applied them to the Jing Prince Estate.
Of course, everyone had their own methods. The former empress had installed her own people into the esteemed office of the palace and used them to control the rear palace. That person was the current Esteemed Official Chen. In the past, the other esteemed official was someone who belonged to the Virtuous Loyal Empress1. After the Virtuous Loyal Empress’s death, that person was replaced by Esteemed Official Qi.
The empress was enraged and tried to use her status to suppress Esteemed Official Qi while calling for her to be replaced.
Esteemed Official Qi was calm in the face of the storm, and informed the empress that to replace a major fifth-ranked official required his majesty’s approval. Esteemed Official Qi’s attitude and words were full of respect, but her meaning was very clear: don’t joke around, this servant belongs to his majesty.
In her helplessness, the empress could only borrow Esteemed Official Chen, who could be said to be on her side, to suppress Esteemed Official Qi.
Unfortunately, Auntie Qi had started making arrangements back when she was still in the eastern palace. She had the help of the internal general manager Eunuch Fu, and they both had the backing of the Jing Emperor. None of the female officials in the six offices and twenty four departments were blind. They naturally knew what was beneficial for them.
To be able to live peacefully in the depths of the palace, people all had to go along with the direction of the wind.
The wind was currently blowing towards the current emperor. Wherever his majesty goes, those under him would naturally follow along. Just like when the previous emperor shared his love with both the senior concubine and the empress, the subordinates also divided into two factions.
As of today, his majesty clearly put everything towards the person in the Chenxi Palace, so naturally no one dared make trouble for her. Just like how his majesty clearly wanted to make the empress a figurehead, so no one dared to prevent it.
Even Royal Imperial Concubine Xiao was able to sense this formless muzzle being placed upon her. In the past she had several people she could rely on. Now these people were either unusable or had been relocated from their key positions.
This sort of situation made Royal Imperial Concubine Xiao extremely resentful, while also feeling that Emperor Jing was not a simple person.
Normally, when a man experienced a reversal of fortunes, he would place all his thoughts on governing properly, and would rarely care about the smaller details.
This included the former emperor. The authority of the rear palace had been completely handed over to her. Although Senior Concubine Xu had managed to struggle against her, the former emperor had never interfered in the affairs of the rear palace.
Only this Jing Emperor was different from others. This man actually paid attention to the trivial matters.
The royal concubine had cursed the Jing Emperor countless times in her heart for being petty and unrefined. But although she cursed, she was clearer than anyone why the Jing Emperor would act this way.
Little Xiao-Shi and old Xiao-Shi are a bit at odds. Even the wisest people won’t be able to carry a bad teammate. Don’t worry, those who will act up will all act up in the next chapter. A cornered dog will choose to jump over the wall after all.
Noticed one of the comments under the raws:
“Did the Jinyang madam’s head get squeezed by a door? “Could this information be used to her advantage?” Shouldn’t she be trying to figure out how to apologize and curry favor, in case the senior concubine takes it out on the entire estate?”