When Xiao Hua got back to the Chenxi Palace, she first went to the side hall where her daughter lived.
Yi Yi had been very clingy these few days. Xiao Hua had left while she was asleep this morning, and didn’t know if she had cried when she didn’t see her.
Unexpectedly, Xiao Hua didn’t hear her daughter crying when she went into the hall. Instead, she heard Yi Yi’s extremely happy laughter. She went over and saw the two children sitting across from each other on the couch. In between them was a snow white little dog who lay there belly up.
“Big bro, this little doggy is really cute. Where did it come from?”
“This was given as an offering from an outer province. Father had specially picked it out and had me give it to little sis.”
Zhuo’er reached his fingers out and gently tickled the puppy’s stomach. The puppy curled up as though it was ticklish. Its eyes were large, its snout was white and its little tongue stuck out. It whined a couple of times but didn’t resist. Yi Yi looked at her brother teasing the little dog and learned to do the same. After teasing it a few times, she started laughing loudly.
Yi Yi hadn’t laughed in a long time. Her most common expressions now were to shiver in fear and alarm. Seeing her daughter reveal a happy expression once again, Xiao Hua couldn’t help but tear up.
Zhuo’er’s eyes were still sharper, and immediately saw Xiao Hua.
She smiled and walked over, sitting next to the children.
“Mom, where did you go? Yi Yi didn’t see mom when I woke up.”
Xiao Hua stroked her daughter’s head and said gently: “Mother went to handle some things, beating away the bad person who scared dear Yi Yi so they wouldn’t dare do it again.”
“Then did the bad person get beaten away?”
“Note yet.” She gave her daughter a kiss, “But father and mom will both protect Yi Yi. We’ll beat that bad person away sooner or later.”
“Is that bad person the empress?” Yi Yi asked with a confused look.
Xiao Hua’s expression turned rigid, “Why do you say so?”
“Big bro told me.”
Xiao Hua’s eyes moved to her son. Zhuo’er sat there and looked stubbornly at Xiao Hua.
Yi Yi continued saying: “Big bro said that the empress doesn’t have children and is jealous that we still have a little bro. That’s why she wants to kill us all….”
Xiao Hua frowned, “Zhuo’er, why would you say these things to your sister?”
“It’s the truth.”
Looking at her son’s stubborn gaze that contained a hint of tears, Xiao Hua’s heart shivered from pain. Her own tears couldn’t help but flow out.
Her son was so young, he wasn’t even four! What should a four year old child be doing? He should have been cuddled up in his mom’s arms acting childish, but instead he had already encountered the darkest of things in this world.
Zhuo’er saw Xiao Hua crying and was a little frightened. He grabbed her hand and said, “Mom, don’t be sad. Zhuo’er won’t tell little sis these things anymore.”
“No….mom isn’t sad because you told your sister. Mom just feels she’s letting you and Yi Yi down….you guys are so young but already encountered such things….mom has been too lax….mom had always thought taking a step back was the magnanimous thing to do, but now I realize it was a mistake…..”
“Mom, don’t cry anymore. If you cry, Yi Yi also wants to cry…..wah….”
In the end, the mother and children hugged each other as they cried. This scared Yi Yi’s palace maids so much they didn’t dare enter to see what the matter was.
“Alright, alright. No more crying. You guys are children, and should be laughing every day. Also, Zhuo’er, don’t worry about adult matters. Just learn properly and grow up well. Let your dad and mom worry about this problem.”
Xiao Hua wiped her eyes and wiped her children’s eyes.
Zhuo’er’s little nose was red. He lowered his head and said: “Zhuo’er understands.”
Xiao Hua stroked her sons head and said to her daughter: “Also Yi Yi, as long as you are fine, mom will be extremely happy…..”
Something was struggling between the three of them. Only now did Xiao Hua realize that when the three of them hugged each other, they had forgotten the little puppy. The little thing was squeezed between the three of them, and was doing its best to get loose.
Xiao Hua hurriedly scooped it out and put it to the side. The little white dog whined in complaint, shook itself and rolled on the couch.
“Wow, this little doggy is really cute.” Yi Yi immediately forgot what she was crying about.
“If Yi Yi likes it, you can raise it, ok?”
“Ok, ok. Yi Yi likes the little doggy.”
Seeing that the little thing can help her daughter take her mind off of things, Xiao Hua was also quite happy. She said: “Then Yi Yi should give it a name.”
“Name?” Yi Yi did her best to think and said: “Doggy is white, let’s call it Whitey?”
“Whitey? Alright, let’s call it that. Our Yi Yi is really smart, knowing how to name the little dog.”
Yi Yi smiled shyly and buried her head into Xiao Hua’s arms.
The little puppy called Whitey was still crouched there foolishly, his tail wagging in circles. He didn’t realize that he had been given such a plain and silly name.
With Whitey accompanying her, Yi Yi finally recovered from her fright.
Actually a child just needed something to take their mind off of things in times like this, and they would quickly forget they were frightened.
After checking with the imperial physician, Xiao Hua once again thanked the heavens that her daughter was still young. If this had happened when she was a little older and understood more, it may have left her scarred for life.
Therefore, Xiao Hua hated the empress even more. Why couldn’t she direct things to the adults instead of being vicious towards the children? But Xiao Hua knew that this question would never be answered. His majesty wasn’t willing to be intimate with the empress so she didn’t have any children. As long as she was solely favored, the empress would never let her off.
Since they couldn’t coexist, then neither of them should blame the other!
Xiao Hua would punctually go to the Fengqi Palace every day to frustrate the empress. The empress would sometimes see her, and sometimes not.
When she didn’t see her, she had to give a convincing reason. Therefore, she would say she was ill. This made it even easier because Xiao Hua then insisted on helping her get better. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, since that would be disrespectful to the main wife and the palace’s environment.
Since the empress was bedridden, who else would dare refuse the senior concubine?
Even if they refused, it wasn’t of any use. For example, Nana Zhao had stepped out of line and stopped her once. Xiao Hua’s reaction was as expected—-
I’m the mistress and you’re a servant. How dare you block my way?
Xiao Hua would bring quite a lot of people every time she came. There were palace maids and eunuchs. The senior concubine only had to raise a finger and there would be several extremely vicious servants who would press the person down and give them a whipping.
These people were all experienced in carrying out punishments, and could whip you until you cried for your parents and wish to be reborn, but wouldn’t leave the slightest wound behind. Only your teeth and gums would show some damage. After being whipped, Nana Zhao couldn’t eat for several days and several of her old teeth had fallen out.
The senior concubine is carrying out personal sentencing?
Where are the wounds?
You’re saying there’s some problems with her teeth? Isn’t it normal for someone her age to be losing a few teeth? Furthermore, did mistresses need a reason to give servants a beating? Since she was already known as a demoness, what could they do but endure her beatings?
Since none of her subordinates dared to stop Xiao Hua, the empress could only take matters into her own hands.
“Senior concubine what are you trying to do? How dare you be so unbridled in the Fengqi Palace?”
Xiao Hua played dumb quite appropriately, “When the empress is ill, it’s only natural for the concubines throughout the palace to come care for her. These are the rules! This servant concubine can’t forget her place just because she’s favored. This servant concubine respects the empress a lot.”
“You’ve got guts…..cough cough…..”
“This servant concubine’s guts are rather small. Ask his majesty if you don’t believe it!”
No wonder the royal concubine had said her body was her biggest asset. The empress had countless words she wanted to curse the senior concubine with, but unfortunately her body couldn’t support it. Due to her anger, she was already out of breath from coughing, her limbs weak and body feeble.
Therefore, she could only be “taken care” of.
Of course Xiao Hua didn’t personally take care of her. As the grand senior concubine, does she need to do it personally?
As previously mentioned, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The Serene Concubine and the Tranquil Concubine haven’t forgotten who was to blame for their current condition. That sort of hatred where they wanted to eat her flesh and drink her blood had been constantly suppressed within their hearts. After holding it in for several years, it had long since become an overwhelming sense of impulsiveness that bubbled over.
Since the senior concubine made it clear she planned on fighting the empress to the end, the two of them naturally wouldn’t pass this opportunity by.
She’s the awesome empress so they couldn’t do anything openly. Learning from the senior concubine and angering her to death without risking their own lives was a good idea. This was truly stabbing her in her sore spots. Since there was someone acting as a shield, the two naturally complied wholeheartedly and added salt onto the empress’s wounds.
After suffering this for a day, the empress forced herself to sit in in her throne the next day. Despite truly being ill and unable to get up, she had her palace maids support her as she allowed the concubines to pay her respect. But at this point, they weren’t really paying her respect. They were “paying” her back.1
The empress naturally didn’t forget her own status. She was the empress who wielded the phoenix seal and commanded the harem. But his majesty never paid attention to her, and any message she sent over was like casting a stone into the ocean. Furthermore, the six offices had stopped obeying her commands!
Esteemed Official Chen2 from the esteemed office of the palace had been switched out. The office had naturally turned into the Jing Emperor’s echo chamber. Since the Jing Emperor didn’t make any moves, the six offices naturally all played dumb.
Therefore, within the rear palace, everyone watched as the empress was thoroughly “respected” by the rampaging senior concubine. There were even some servants who secretly placed bets on how long the empress could endure.
The empress had also asked the royal concubine for help, but unfortunately she was ignored.
The royal concubine wasn’t really ignoring her, she was just truly powerless to help. The rear palace was completely grasped by the inner management and the six offices. Even the royal concubine found it hard to make any progress.
There was no need to try sending a message out. How could they submit a memorandum accusing the senior concubine of overly following “etiquette” and being too “considerate”, causing the empress to hate her and having her scram as far as she could? After all, she was properly complying with palace etiquette. To say she was stabbing her sore spots? Where was the proof?!
Don’t forget, there was no need to pay with one’s life if one angered someone to death.
It’s your own fault for not being able to control your anger! If you could, then everything would be fine. To put it plainly, you just aren’t magnanimous enough, your heart isn’t broad enough. You don’t know how to self-reflect. No one else gets as angered as you do.
The royal concubine could only tell the empress the same thing over and over—-
“Calm your mind, calm your mind. Treat her as a barking dog.”
- The term “paying respect” in Chinese when read literally is “asking for good health”. The wordplay used here in Chinese is that they weren’t asking for her health, but asking for her life instead.
- Previously translated as Matron, but felt this translation is better since I had used the matron title for other things, and it more closely resembles the Chinese.