Second and final sponsored chapter of the week, and of this novel. Extra thank you to the sponsors for the final two extra chapters, because without them I probably wouldn’t have decided toss in the rest and release everything by this week. Thank you as well to all the sponsors who have supported me and helped your fellow readers get more chapters every week.
At the same time, the eastern palace was also having its meal.
A large round table was filled with various dishes. There were five people seated.
They were all children who weren’t ten years old yet.
Yi Yi looked at Luo Yu as he got rice everywhere and couldn’t help but say disdainfully: “Aiya, I told you not to come but you insisted. Look, you got rice everywhere.”
Luo Yu glared at her and let out a hmph, saying self-righteously: “I’m still young.”
Yi Yi used a handkerchief to wipe off the rice around his mouth, “You’re almost five. Still young? Ask your big bro. The two of us didn’t spill our rice when we were five.”
“Big bro Heng Heng is almost eight, but isn’t he spilling as well?!”
The boy on the other side who was stuffing his face froze. His face was also covered in rice as he looked blankly at Yi Yi and Luo Yu.
Luo Zhuo couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Next to him, Yang Nuo laughed as well.
Yang Nuo let out a sigh, and took out a handkerchief to wipe Yang Heng’s face. “Can’t you eat a little slower? Mom taught you countless times but you’re still like this. You’re making a fool of yourself, even in the palace.”
“Uncle says that men have to take big bites of food and drink big gulps of alcohol to embody the true manly spirit!”
Well, it seemed that the Dingyuan Marquis had led his little nephew astray. But the Dingyuan Marquis didn’t eat like this, ok?
Luo Yu was laughing loudly, his gaze provocative. He seemed to be making a show of it as he vigorously scooped another spoonful of rice and stained his face even more.
Yi Yi rubbed her forehead. This brat was too hateful.
“Big bro——look at him!”
Yi Yi used her ultimate move and summoned her big bro to deal with her disobedient little brother.
Luo Zhuo’s elegant brows contained amusement as he tried to settle things, “Alright, alright. Second bro isn’t normally like this either. Only when we’re together is he a little more casual.”
This was truly the case. Xiao Hua still didn’t know what her second son would get rice all over his face when eating. Of course, it had happened before, but that was only when Luo Yu first learned to eat by himself. Now, it was no longer the case.
Yi Yi let out a hmph and couldn’t be bothered to look at Luo Yu anymore. She muttered, “Look at our big bro Yang Nuo. So refined. The two of you are like bandits.”
Her words didn’t have any other meaning but the listener’s thoughts stirred. Yang Nuo looked at the girl dressed in pink across from him. He saw her large, limpid eyes which slanted slightly upwards and her pouted little cherry lips. He couldn’t help but lower his head.
After lunch, Yi Yi pulled Luo Zhuo along for a walk in the courtyard. This was something she learned from their parents, saying it could help with digestion.
Yang Nuo naturally followed along. Yang Heng and the youngest Luo Yu also came, but the two naughty brats ran off before long, presumably going to play by themselves.
Although Yang Heng was one of the crown prince’s classmates in name, he never studied. Of course, he did a bit of it, but he wasn’t very interested in reading. He merely followed along in learning a few words to become literate. In contrast, he was extremely interested in learning martial arts.
When Luo Zhuo turned six, the Jing Emperor assigned him extra studies. Every morning he would learn literature and every afternoon he would learn martial arts. If he had interest and talent, he could learn a little more. If not, he could treat it as strengthening his body.
As of today, Luo Zhuo handled things pretty well. He made progress in both literature and martial arts.
The imperial instructors all praised his outstanding talents, and said he would definitely not be simple in the future. One of the scholars even lamented that if Luo Zhuo could focus on his studies alone, he would definitely become a famous scholar. Unfortunately, Luo Zhuo was the crown prince, and naturally couldn’t bury himself in books and theory. What he learned was the application of theories to practical matters and people’s livelihoods, as well as matters of the court and the nation.
According to the Jing Emperor’s martial arts instructor, the crown prince was far more talented than his majesty.
Barbarian Yan was precisely Luo Zhuo’s martial arts instructor. When he taught the Jing Emperor, it was more to amuse himself. When he taught Luo Zhuo, Barbarian Yan was far more focused. Good seedlings were hard to come by, and Barbarian Yan naturally felt inspired by his talent.
What made Barbarian Yan even more pleased was that he had suddenly encountered three good seedlings all at once. The other two were Yang Heng and Luo Yu. Luo Zhuo was the crown prince, and he naturally couldn’t put all his efforts into martial arts. Therefore, Barbarian Yan put his thoughts on Yang Heng and Luo Yu, wanting them to surpass him in the future.
The three had all taken him as their master, and the situation was naturally different from the casual training with the Jing Emperor in the past. This had required a type of special ceremony. Therefore, the three of them were now fellow disciples. Luo Zhuo was the senior disciple, Yang Heng was the second disciple and the youngest naughty brat Luo Yu was the youngest disciple.
Of course, this wasn’t something that was mentioned within the palace. It was merely used in private.
Yang Nuo and Yi Yi naturally wouldn’t fall behind. Yang Nuo didn’t have the aptitude for martial arts, and merely learned a few things to strengthen the body. Yi Yi always did things halfheartedly. She didn’t have enough perseverance and couldn’t endure suffering. Therefore, she merely tagged along a couple of times for the liveliness and then put her thoughts to rest.
Yi Yi was now focused on learning the feminine arts, such as etiquette, needlework, poetry and calligraphy, as well as studying the Confucian moral injunctions for women……
As their only daughter, both Xiao Hua and the Jing Emperor spent a lot of effort on her, but they also didn’t lack in pampering and indulging her. Yi Yi had grown up with Luo Zhuo, and had spent her time messing around with him. Since her environment had been different growing up, her way of thinking was naturally different from ordinary girls.
She had a lively nature, and was being spoiled by the most influential couple under the heavens. She felt that the Confucian morals for women were complete nonsense. Therefore, she merely learned what she needed to regarding these virtues, but didn’t bother with learning the things she hated.
Furthermore, Lin Qing Wan often came into the palace, and she was someone who was different from most of the women in this age. She was carefree, wise and often saw things differently than other women. Her views sometimes even conflicted with the ethics of this world, but still gave off a sense of moral wisdom. Since she often interacted with Xiao Hua in the palace, Yi Yi was naturally influenced by her as well.
Perhaps from the perspective of titled women, such an eldest princess was undignified. However, Yi Yi was happiest this way.
“Where did those two little brats run off to?” Yi Yi stomped her foot angrily.
Luo Zhuo strolled lazily while talking with Yang Nuo. Hearing her words, he told Yi Yi: “There are people following them, they won’t get lost.”
Yi Yi let out a hmph, and pulled at Luo Zhuo’s hand. “Big bro, come back to the Fengqi Palace for dinner. You don’t know, but mom has been harping on for two days about how you haven’t come back for dinner.”
Luo Zhuo rubbed his nose, his expression a little awkward. “I spent too long on my homework the past couple of days. Didn’t I have someone send a message over?”
Only during such occasions did Luo Zhuo seem more like a child, and less like Grand Xi’s crown prince.
“Ever since you moved to the eastern palace, mom started liking you more than me. She talks about you every day.” Yi Yi pouted, a jealous expression on her face.
“Then you should move to your own palace as well. Princesses need to live alone once they are seven years old.”
Yi Yi tilted her chin and bragged: “Out of the question. I’m going to live with mom for a few more years. Not just anyone can enjoy the treatment of mom tucking them in and hugging them to sleep.”
Luo Zhuo’s gaze contained a hint of jealousy as he glanced at his sister. He definitely wouldn’t admit he wanted such treatment from his mom as well.
But he was a boy, and was also the crown prince. It’s been a long, long time since his mom had held him.
He felt deeply aggrieved, “Yi Yi, this humble one is very busy tomorrow. The day after is very busy as well. You shouldn’t come to the eastern palace in the next two days.”
“Great! Big bro is threatening me. I’m going to tell father and mother empress….”
“Only someone as young as second bro would be idle enough to go tattle….”
“You, you, you. You’re so mean.” Yi Yi switched her target and pulled at Yang Nuo’s sleeve, “Big bro Yang Nuo, look at him. He’s bullying me….”
Yang Nuo smiled helplessly, “Princess, the person bullying you is the crown prince.”
Therefore, he was powerless.
“Great! You are all on the same side!” Yi Yi stomped her foot and ran off angrily.
Luo Zhuo and Yang Nuo looked at each other and smiled.
The warm afternoon sun shone through the green foliage above their heads. The golden, fragmented rays of light scattered upon the young, still immature faces of the two people.
This moment was very beautiful.
After settling Eunuch Fu and Auntie Qi’s affairs, Xiao Hua turned her gaze upon Ding Lan and Chun Cao.
The marriage of these two personal palace maids had been weighing on Xiao Hua’s mind over the past two years. But no matter what she said, one would say she didn’t feel like marrying and the other would say she was still young.
One was twenty-six and the other was twenty. Was this still young? They would be counted as old maids outside the palace!
Chun Cao was still ok. She spent her days laughing away, and did indeed seem young if one didn’t consider her age. But if Ding Lan delayed further, she could only remain in the palace her entire life.
On this day, Xiao Hua specially called Ding Lan and Chun Cao for a conversation.
Ding Lan had never been willing to reveal the reason she wasn’t willing to get married. But with the empress’s attitude today, she had no choice but to speak.
“Empress, this servant isn’t like big sis Ding Xiang, who entered the palace at a very young age. This servant was sold at fourteen into the palace in exchange for silver so my brothers could get married….because I had grown up outside and understood the way of things, I know that a married woman’s life outside isn’t as nice as one imagines….”
“……life outside is bitter, and there’s always the worry of not having enough to eat. Even if life isn’t bitter, that means the man is rich, and how many concubines would he have in that case? It’s better to stay with empress and serve the rest of my life. When this servant is old, empress just has to continue providing food…..”
After hearing her words, Xiao Hua fell silent.
Actually, Ding Lan’s words weren’t wrong at all. Without money, she would worry about food. With money, she would have to worry about various flowers making trouble for her. This world was too unfair towards women. No wonder Ding Lan would have such thoughts.
“How would you know without giving it a try? Your life is still what you make of it, right?” This was Xiao Hua speaking from experience.
“This servant is already this old, and hasn’t met anyone suitable. Actually, from another perspective, this servant’s situation is pretty good. No need to wait upon a mother-in-law, and my days are comfortable. Empress is a good mistress, and never curses or beats us, and never even gives us attitude. Life outside isn’t as good, might as well assume this servant is greedy for the good life in the palace. Regardless, regardless, this servant doesn’t want to get married. Empress, don’t drive Ding Lan away.”
“What foolish words, how could this seat drive you away? But, I still feel…..ai, forget it if you don’t want it…..” Xiao Hua let out a sigh, and looked at Chun Cao. “What about you? You aren’t old, but now is the best time to get married.”
Chun Cao giggled, “This servant is also greedy for the good life in the palace. Empress, don’t drive this servant away.”
Xiao Hua rubbed her forehead. These two!
“Can’t you guys follow good examples? Isn’t Ding Xiang living a nice life?”
Ding Xiang was truly living a nice life. Zhao Da cherished her a lot. She had only just given birth to a chubby baby boy but Zhao Da pretty much put her on a pedestal. Zhao Da was an orphan, and there were no in-laws to speak of. Ding Xiang could essentially treat the house as her own, and her days were especially beautiful.
“How many good men like Zhao Da are there?”
Seeing the two’s stubborn expressions, Xiao Hua didn’t know what she should say.
After another while, she finally said: “Regardless, this seat will leave things at that. If you change your minds, just let this seat know. This seat will let you get married off grandly. Of course, this seat won’t force you. After all, everyone has their own paths.”
“Thank you empress for your grace.”
It’s not that this author refuses to let them get married, it’s they who are unwilling. Actually, this authors feels it really wasn’t a good choice to get married back then. Might as well serve by the empress’s side in the palace. There’s more freedom. Ding Lan seems to have made up her mind. Chun Cao might not be for sure, but that’s something for the future.
Everyone will be grown up in the next chapter. Time to worry about marriage.