The Yingguo Duke’s family wasn’t the only one who had such thoughts. There were many others. Similarly, the Jing Duke’s Xiao clan also didn’t fall behind.
However, the Jing Duke Estate was much more excessive. They called the Chengen Count and his madam over, and directly told them to have the empress convince his majesty to pick another daughter from the Xiao clan as the next empress.
The Chengen madam didn’t say anything at the time, but the couple started arguing after going back. The Chengen madam harshly criticized the Xiao clan for not treating her daughter as a human being. She hadn’t even died yet and there were people trying to replace her already.
The Chengen madam was after all a woman who married in, and although the Chengen Count now had his title, he was still part of the Xiao clan. Could he go against the main branch’s decision? After all, they still needed to rely on the Xiao clan in the future if something truly happened to the empress.
However, the Jing Duke didn’t concern himself with such trivial matters. The Chengen Count took several days before finally convincing his wife.
It was still the same Fengqi Palace and still the hall which was dark as night in the middle of the day.
The empress seemed to be just a slight bit more energetic. She had a palace maid support her into a seated position to meet with the Chengen madam.
Sometimes the empress was quite fed up with people like her mom who only knew how to cry. Back when she was married off to the fifth prince her mom had been like this, and now that she didn’t have long to live, her mom was still the same way. But since her mom had raised her from birth, she also didn’t know how to criticize her.
The Chengen madam cried for a long time before finally stammering what she had been assigned to do.
The empress was stupefied, her gaze deathly still.
After a long, long time, she finally let out a breath and said mockingly: “This seat hasn’t died yet but the Xiao clan is already so impatient.”
The empress wanted to curse, but shut her mouth after gasping for breath. After a while, she finally said: “This seat doesn’t have enough face in front of his majesty to convince him. You guys should put these thoughts to rest.”
“Qian Qian, your mom knows you’re upset, but this is also for the good of the clan. Mom knows this is making things difficult for you, but our family still has to comply with the main branch….”
The empress laughed sorrowfully, “You guys overestimate this seat, this empress. Don’t they know his majesty doesn’t favor me? Don’t you know?”
“Qian Qian, since you’ve been married to his majesty for over ten years, your words should still have some effect.”
The empress suddenly shut her eyes, her expression suddenly changing. There was resentment, misery, and despair. After a long, long time, she finally said in a faint, bitter voice: “You guys are overthinking things. There’s already someone in line for this seat’s position.”
“The prime senior concubine.” The empress muttered these words soundlessly a few more times, before saying mockingly: “His majesty has waited a long time for me to vacate this position for his beloved woman. You guys shouldn’t waste your time….”
It was that prime senior concubine again!
When the Chengen madam came out from the palace, the words she had exchanged with the empress spread rapidly throughout the capital. Many of the ambitious households thought the same thing.
Only now did these fervent people remember that their path to wealth and status had a stumbling block: the emperor’s favored concubine, the prime senior concubine. After giving birth to three children, the crown prince was also her son. The Jing Emperor had challenged his officials in court for her sake. Prime! Senior! Concubine!
Something happened next that poured another bucketful of cold water onto their heads.
The Jing Emperor instructed the empress to hand over the phoenix seal symbolizing her status to the prime senior concubine, giving her temporary control over the six offices!
Just as everyone was becoming restless, the Jinyang madam sent a request to the palace for a meeting with the prime senior concubine.
Xiao Hua met her in the Chenxi Palace’s main hall. She was also curious what Tian-Shi wanted to see her for.
After exchanging pleasantries, Tian-Shi made her speech.
The gist of it was that the empress was about to be stripped of her position, but the senior concubine’s birth definitely wasn’t sufficient for her to take the position. Rather than have a new, unrelated empress as her opponent, she might as well have someone on friendly terms with her. Tian-Shi then recommended her maternal family’s niece. She said her niece Qi Yue was very amicable, gentle and magnanimous. She would definitely become good friends with the senior concubine. At that time, with the combined power of the empress and the senior concubine, the rear palace would be fully under their control.
Tian-Shi’s words were very ambiguous, but Xiao Hua could understand her meaning.
Xiao Hua wondered where Tian-Shi got her thick skin from. Why was she so sure she needed to cooperate with the future empress to be able to live peacefully!? Couldn’t she do so alone?
She was the Grand Xi’s majestic senior concubine, who was only beneath a few people. After giving birth to three of his majesty’s children, including the crown prince, did she really need to join forces with others?
Don’t blame Xiao Hua for talking big. Someone had truly instilled her with such confidence.
Xiao Hua had revealed her feelings of inferiority to the Jing Emperor last time, and although he hadn’t said anything at the time, he constantly instilled some confidence in her whenever he had free time.
For example: you’re currently the senior concubine, which is an existence higher than a first-rank official. Your yearly salary is even higher than the prime minister’s. The crown prince was raised by you, and he will be the next emperor in the future. At that point, you would be the empress dowager. The royal concubine had wanted that position for so long but was unsuccessful. You’re able to obtain it so easily. We currently solely favor you, and there isn’t anyone else. Just based on this, you’re able to look down on everyone else….
As the Jing Emperor was speaking, his attitude was very serious and his expression solemn. Xiao Hua also listened very seriously, but her expression was a little twisted. The Jing Emperor using such a serious tone to talk her up gave Xiao Hua a sort of very weird feeling.
Although she felt weird about it, she understood his intentions. He was giving her confidence while also telling her what he would give her. He would give everything to her. She was certainly moved. Especially since the most powerful man was repeatedly telling her things like you’re awesome, you’re more awesome than anyone else. We and the children are sufficient for you not to fear anything.
Thus, Xiao Hua was hypnotized.
Therefore, she was very calm when facing Tian-Shi, and wasn’t worried at all. This is why she was rather surprised at Tian-Shi’s thoughts. How are you worthy to say such things to me?
Don’t you know that if I wanted you dead, it would be as easy as stepping on an ant!?
As she thought this, Xiao Hua accidentally choked on her own spit. Tian-Shi mistook this as a sign that the prime senior concubine was afraid. She was afraid of her information, so she was showing weakness.
Tian-Shi gave a dignified smile and said: “Looks like senior concubine agrees?”
Chun Cao who was standing on the side wished she could drag this person out for a beating. How dare she threaten their concubine? She truly was asking for death.
Xiao Hua snapped out of it and said: “How are you worthy to say such things to this seat?”
Tian-Shi froze and blinked in disbelief, “Senior Concubine!”
Xiao Hua touched her ears, “This seat knows I’m the senior concubine. You don’t have to remind this seat.”
“Jinyang madam, our concubine has already said that she knows she’s the senior concubine. Why are you still repeating yourself?” Chun Cao spoke with a straight face. Those who had stayed in the palace for a while weren’t simple. She had naturally learned to use her connections to intimidate others.
Tian-Shi laughed awkwardly and half lowered her head, “This servant was merely rambling….”
“It’s good that you know this. Our concubine has always been benevolent and magnanimous. She won’t bicker with you about this.”
Xiao Hua let out a soul-stirring smile, “Madam asked to meet with this seat just to say these things?”
“Concubine should understand this servant’s meaning. This servant thinks that concubine will definitely make the right decision.”
Xiao Hua suddenly laughed softly, “The right decision? This seat has already said it once: are you worthy to say such things?”
Tian-Shi looked wretched and said quietly: “Concubine, don’t you forget the things in the past!”
“What things? This seat is finding madam’s words harder and harder to understand.” Xiao Hua smiled faintly and lifted her brows, “Madam’s words were repeatedly insolent today. This seat won’t make things difficult for you on account of the Jinyang Marquis’s face. Why don’t you go back?”
Chun Cao stepped up, “Jinyang madam. This way, please.”
After Tian-Shi left, Xiao Hua’s expression became grave as she remained in place.
That Tian-Shi wouldn’t shoot blindly. Could it be that a lot of households are having thoughts on the empress’s position due to her illness?
Furthermore, it seemed Tian-Shi had started making threats. This matter needed to be taken care of.
Xiao Hua truly wasn’t good at dealing with such things. Especially since she wasn’t clear about the court’s authority.
Forget it, forget it. Since his majesty had said she didn’t need to fear anyone or anything, she would listen to him. Might as well go find her man for support.
A rumor started spreading around the major households of the capital.
It was said that the prime senior concubine’s birth was lowly, and that used to be a maid in one of the major households. Because she had climbed into the master’s bed, she was sold out of the capital by the mistress of the estate. She somehow ended up in the Jing Prince Estate, and managed to ascend to the heavens in a single day after serving by the Jing Prince’s side.
Her lowly birth wasn’t the main point. Instead, it was the implication of illicit affairs. Although no one said it clearly, they all exchanged meaningful glances. Of course, no one dared to bring up the main point. They weren’t afraid to discuss the senior concubine, but if they implicated the Jing Emperor it would become a major issue. Such things were better if implied.
Many people didn’t believe it, but others said where there’s smoke there’s fire, and thus believed some of it.
A couple days later, the rumors had spread even further. Things boiled over the more it spread, and it seemed like it would spread until it reached the heavens.
The wise people in the capital finally realized that someone was going against that prime senior concubine. It wasn’t clear how things were going to be resolved this time.
Last time things were resolved due to the Jing Emperor supporting her from behind, allowing the prime senior concubine to come out unscathed. The situation this time was one which any man would be unable to tolerate. Even if he did, there would be dissatisfaction in his heart. Regardless, the prime senior concubine’s situation looked bleak.
What was weird was that the Jing Emperor in the palace didn’t seem to have heard about the rumors. His revealed no clues on his face, and there were no rumors about the prime senior concubine falling out of favor.
The rumors spread further and further, but the person responsible felt less and less confident.
“Chengyang madam. Was this what the virtuous concubine meant by ‘his majesty should react very quickly’?”
The Chengyang madam smiled faintly, her attitude relaxed. “Jinyang madam, don’t be anxious. There will definitely be movements within the palace soon.”
Tian-Shi however wasn’t able to have such a relaxed attitude. Ever since the rumors started, she had been on edge. She grew more worried the more the rumors spread.
In comparison, the Chengyang madam was extremely steady, as though she wasn’t one of the co-conspirators.
That day after Tian-Shi left the Chenxi Palace, her mind had been a mess. She had offended the prime senior concubine’s dignity twice, and she didn’t feel confident this time that she would let her off.
After returning to her estate, the Chengyang madam happened to come visit. Tian-Shi thought of the virtuous concubine, and thought of how she offended the prime senior concubine, and thus decided to form an alliance.
This way of thinking wasn’t bad. Joining forces with the virtuous concubine to pull the prime senior concubine down and have her ascend instead. If Virtuous Concubine Qiao could truly become the empress, she could help Tian-Shi’s niece become the new senior concubine. In any case, if Virtuous Concubine Qiao couldn’t do it, she would help her daughter become the empress and the two would join forces in the palace.
Everything sounded great, but the way things developed made one apprehensive.
“Madam Ruan, don’t worry too much. This was something my side started, what do you have to worry about?”
That was true.
Tian-Shi wasn’t someone clueless. As part of their agreement, the Chengyang Count’s Estate would be the one responsible for spreading the rumors while she remained uninvolved. If things worked out, everyone would be happy. If things didn’t, she wouldn’t be implicated.
Of course, the senior concubine would know that the rumors came from Tian-Shi. But at that time, she could just come up with an excuse. For example, she could say Virtuous Concubine Qiao had seen her talking to the senior concubine and got suspicious. She had been secretly forced by her and could only reveal the situation.
Tian-Shi couldn’t avoid the prime senior concubine’s resentment, but she had already offended her anyway. How much worse could it get? Of course, if things worked out she could solve a major issue and get some benefits out of it as well.
Thinking like this, Tian-Shi recovered her usual steady attitude.
“Madam is right. I was a little panicked.”
The Chengyang madam revealed an understanding expression, “That’s reasonable. After all, this isn’t a minor event. But wealth and status always comes with risk. Once we succeed, our families will be prosperous for a century.”
These words resonated with Tian-Shi. She idly chatted a little longer before saying her farewells.
“It’s getting late, I should go back. I’ll trouble madam to handle the rest.”
“No trouble. This is what we agreed upon. Our family will naturally do things properly.”
Tian-Shi nodded before finally stepping out of the jewelry store’s private booth.
After stepping out, her personal maid was already waiting for her with an embroidered box in hand. Tian-Shi got on her carriage with the help of her maid.
After Tian-Shi left, the Chengyang madam revealed a fierce mocking smile.
“What wishful thinking. Wanting to get the benefits while remaining uninvolved.”
A middle-aged, matron-like woman agreed, “That’s right. This Tian-Shi’s thinking is a little too wishful. How should we proceed, madam?”
“Find someone to pass the word to the Jing Duke’s Estate. Then, we just have to sit back and watch the show. The news was spread from the Jinyang Marquis’s Estate. The ones who fanned the flames would be the Jing Duke’s Estate. It’s got nothing to do with us.”
“Madam is wise.”
The Chengyang Count’s madam revealed a meaningful smile, “It’s not your madam’s wisdom. It’s the concubine’s wisdom.”
“The virtuous concubine is wise. She’s definitely fit to be empress.”