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At the same time, within the Chenxi Palace.
Xiao Hua finally revealed her first sincere smile since the eldest princess had fallen into the water. This sort of smile came from her innermost being, and seemed as though she had been relieved from a burden.
Don’t call her malicious. Under such circumstances, those who struck first had the initiative. She couldn’t just continue passively taking a beating.
“Concubine, did the empress really end up this way?”
Xiao Hua leaned on the couch and lazily grunted in affirmation.
“To think she got tuberculosis just from being frustrated and angered. This tuberculosis truly isn’t simple!”
Xiao Hua couldn’t help but laugh. She sat up and unhappily tapped her forehead, “Enough, it’s not as mysterious as you’re making it out to be.”
“But, but…..Chun Cao feels it seems to be the case….”
Xiao Hua smiled and explained, “This seat has sent a letter to Doctor Hu asking about it. The empress already had the roots of the illness within her, but it hadn’t developed into something as serious as tuberculosis yet. This was why I’d go stress her out during my free time.”
“But wasn’t it a little too effective?”
Ding Xiang smiled and pushed Chun Cao away, not letting her bother the concubine with her astonishment, “Alright, hurry up and get back to work. My ears are almost hurting from your fussing.”
“This servant just feels it was too mysterious….”
Xiao Hua only smiled and didn’t explain.
It definitely wasn’t that simple. For it to work required tailoring her actions based on the person’s personality and illness. The empress had always been someone whose emotions fluctuated wildly and overthought things. There had already been hints of it back in the Jing Province. Doctor Hu had warned her previously, but unfortunately she never listened to him.
After getting to the capital, the empress went through great joys then great sorrow. After repeated stimulation, she had long since been an arrow at the end of its flight. She still forced herself to display her dignity as the empress and still thought about so many things without properly adjusting her health. The final straw had broken the camel’s back.
Actually Xiao Ha hadn’t expected to see results so soon. She had been prepared for a war of attrition.
Suddenly the sound of the little puppy’s barking rang out, following which Yi Yi ran over like a gust of wind.
“Mother concubine, mother concubine….”
“What is it, my eldest princess Yi Yi.” Xiao Hua smiled as she caught her daughter who flew directly into her arms. She checked to see if her forehead was covered in sweat.
Seeing that there was sweat, she called Chun Cao to bring over a handkerchief and helped her wipe it off.
“Whitey is too bad. It bit my dress.”1
Xiao Hua looked at Whitey who was by her daughter’s feet. Whitey seemed to know that this was the biggest mistress, even bigger than the little mistress. The dog’s mouth let out panting sounds as its tail wagged energetically. The dog seemed to have a fawning expression.
“Then how about mother concubine punishes Whitey by not giving it food tonight?”
Yi Yi thought about it and looked at the pitiful Whitey next to her feet. “Forget it, Whitey is still so young. It would starve if it missed a meal.”
“Eldest princess, little dogs like to chew things because they need to grind their teeth.”
“Really, Auntie Ding Xiang?”
Ding Xiang nodded, “We’ll have the servants make some knotted cloth for it to chew on. Then it won’t bite princess’s dress anymore.”
“Then let’s go right away. Otherwise, stinky Whitey keeps biting my beautiful dress.”
Although Eldest Princess Yi Yi wasn’t that old, she still knew to show off her looks.
Xiao Hua nodded and Ding Xiang took Yi Yi out.
Before Ding Xiang was done with the knotted cloth, Eunuch Fu went over to them. He had probably heard about Whitey biting Yi Yi’s dress.
“Fu Fu, why are you here?”
Eunuch Fu looked at the eldest princess who seemed to have recovered her liveliness from before. He smiled until his eyes became slits.
“This old servant brought some good things for eldest princess.”
“What good things? Hurry and let Yi Yi see.” Yi Yi was always extremely pleased with Fu Fu’s gifts. Therefore, she was full of expectations.
Who knew that Eunuch Fu would take a plate from the low-ranked eunuch next to him? On the plate were a few pieces of pork bones.
“These are good things?” Yi Yi looked disbelieving.
Eunuch Fu smiled mysteriously. He picked up a bone from the plate and threw it in front of Whitey.
Although Whitey was still young, it was extremely vigilant. It first used its puppy eyes to give Eunuch Fu a glance, as though scrutinizing whether he was familiar. It then sniffed at the bone before running off. But this little dog seemed reluctant to leave the bone behind. Its little pink tongue licked its nose as it looked at the bone. It seemed like it really wanted to eat it, but didn’t go over.
Eunuch Fu clicked his tongue and smiled: “This little thing has been raised pretty well. Who raised it?”
A low-ranked eunuch ran over and said with a bow: “Grandpa Fu, this little one is called Xiao Li Zi, and is responsible for taking care of Whitey.”
“En. Not bad.”
The low-ranked eunuch seemed to be overwhelmed by his favor. “Thank you Grandpa Fu for your praise. This little one will work even harder in the future.”
On the other side, Yi Yi picked up the bone and put it next to Whitey’s leg.
“Whitey, hurry and eat.”
Whitey licked Yi Yi’s fingers before picking the bone up with its mouth. It gave a couple of licks and seemed to feel it suited its tastes. It then held it down with its paws and started gnawing at it.
“Aiya, Fu Fu. It turns out Whitey really likes this.”
Whitey seemed to have heard someone calling it, looking up and giving a bark before resuming gnawing with great gusto. The bone was extremely well chosen. It wasn’t too big to prevent Whitey from picking it up, but not so small that it would be gone in a few bites. Instead, it lasted for a very long time.
Eunuch Fu handed the rest over to the low-ranked eunuch on the side and crouched next to Yi Yi. “All dogs like bones. It’s good for grinding their teeth but you have to remember to switch it out. This old servant will have the imperial kitchen prepare some every day for princess.”
Yi Yi smiled widely, her beautiful lips curling, “Fu Fu you’re the best.”
“As long as eldest princess is happy.”
Old and young where both in extremely good moods and they watched Whitey gnawing on the bone for a long while.
Yi Yi made a big fuss out of nothing while talking childishly to Whitey. Eunuch Fu also laughed along, stunning the low-ranked eunuch who followed beside him.
The other eunuch remained calm in the face of weirdness, poking the first eunuch and saying quietly: “What are you astonished for? Our Grandpa Fu cherishes the eldest princess the most. He always comes to play with her whenever he’s free.”
The other eunuch hurriedly closed his mouth, and decided to properly consider his attitude when meeting this princess in the future.
The eunuch couldn’t be blamed for his surprise. Within the palace, the eunuchs who could serve by his majesty’s side were all extremely proud. Especially the general managing eunuchs. Let alone princesses, they may not even bother with princes, even if they were from favored concubines. After all, they were his majesty’s servants, and would at most show some superficial emotion.
This is why the saying described servants as iron-forged while concubines were leaky. Concubines may fall out of favor one day, but as long as a servant stayed by his master’s side, their status may be even higher than some of the masters.
To be able to make the head of these eunuchs accompany her in watching a dog was extremely significant.
As for what it signified, those who could remain by Eunuch Fu’s side were all smart enough to figure it out.
Eunuch Fu played with Yi Yi for a long while before saying his goodbyes.
“Eldest princess, this old servant has to go work.”
“Fu Fu, you’re leaving?” Yi Yi looked reluctant, her little hand unwilling to let go of his robes.
Eunuch Fu almost gave in, “This old servant still has a lot to do, but will definitely come play with princess later.”
Yi Yi nodded sensibly and let go. “Then Fu Fu must definitely remember to come.”
“En, this old servant will definitely remember.” Eunuch Fu said seriously.
Only after leaving the Chenxi Palace did Eunuch Fu straighten his waist.
Such a cute eldest princess, how could someone be so ruthless as to make a move on her? The princess was still young and didn’t keep things in mind, but Eunuch Fu kept it well in his mind. The empress was no longer an issue, but there was still the royal concubine.
How should he properly entertain her without leaving behind evidence?
Eunuch Fu stroked his chin as he pondered.
Everyone in the capital was focused on the sick empress. Seeing the Xiao clan quieten down and no longer seek out doctors, everyone had some understanding in their hearts.
The next thing people watched for was when the emperor would strip her of her position.
The empress was not favored, and now contracted this foul ailment. Her position was going to be stripped for sure. If the empress’s spot opened up, does that mean there would be an opportunity for someone else?
All the nobles and officials with daughters of suitable ages started stirring.
In this brief period of time, the capital started boiling over under the surface.
This was the empress’s position. If a household could end up with an empress, they would certainly ascend to the heavens along with her. If that empress could give birth to a son, he would count as the son of the principal wife.
Although there was already a crown prince, didn’t the previous emperor have a crown prince as well? What ended up happening?
The Jinyang Estate’s rear doors had a gatekeeper. A simple and honest looking, swarthy middle-aged man stood there feeling ill-at-ease.
“Are you really that Grandma Wang’s nephew?”
“That’s right, ah truly am. Mah aunt had been sold off early, before ah was even born. The reason mah aunt was sold off was so mah dad could get married. Mah dad kept this in mind his entire life. Initially mah family still kept in contact with mah aunt, but they could never save up enough money to buy her freedom. Since there were many mouths to feed, this matter was delayed year after year. Now, after so many years mah family has finally saved up ten taels of silver, and ah’m here to buy mah aunt back. Mah dad said that ah must buy mah aunt back. This is something mah household never forgot about.” 2
The continuous string of “ah”s was overwhelming the gatekeeper. He waved his hand impatiently, “Shush, shush, shush. Where did this country bumpkin come from? Why can’t you speak properly?”
That middle-aged man looked aggrieved and muttered: “Ah am speaking properly with you.”
That gatekeeper looked the fellow up and down, his face disbelieving, “She’s an old woman with one foot in the grave. What are you buying her back for? Even using ten taels of silver to buy her.”
Looking at the shoddy pieces of silver in the fellow’s hands, the gatekeeper swallowed greedily. That was ten taels of silver. Even though they were a little shoddy looking, they were still silver in the end.
He glanced at the foolish looking yokel and snatched the bag of silver over, “You wait here. I’ll call someone over.”
“Ai, thanks a bunch little bro.” This fellow didn’t seem to notice the malicious intent in the gatekeeper’s eyes and thanked him energetically.
The other gatekeeper followed and left as well, “Aren’t you afraid of him making a fuss if you screw him over like this?”
“Pshh! If that country bumpkin tries to argue with this daddy, watch how I take care of him.” The first gatekeeper spat and smirked. “I’ll show him. If he makes a fuss, I’ll say he used it to bribe me into helping him”
“You’ve really considered everything.”
That gatekeeper glanced sideways at him and patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’re tight. You get a share as the witness. I’ll split it with you later.”
“Don’t forget about it, ok? The witness gets half.”
“Enough, enough. We’ll talk about it later.”
Minor hint to story’s direction in author’s notes.
Hehe, take a guess as to who this “ah”ing fellow is…..
- In case you were wondering, Chinese has a genderless pronoun for objects and animals. Since there hasn’t been any indication whether Whitey is male or female, I’m forced to use “it”.
- The word he used for “I” is in northern dialect. Would have just translated it as “I” but there’s a reference upcoming.