Translator’s notes: Thank you to Anonymous for their support and generosity in filling up the sponsored chapter bar in one go, and for their kind comments. Extra thanks for being the first donor. Extra chapter of the week below. Also thanks to my good friend irl S.W. for running over and bombing me donations after hearing about my site….
When Eunuch Fu, who had vanished after bringing them into the hall, announced that from today on they would be serving inside the hall itself, the group of low-ranked palace maids were speechless in disbelief and pleasant surprise.
What kind of luck did they stumble into? Why was it that all their wishes seemed to be coming true? All these thoughts and emotions didn’t need words to be expressed.
Of course, this didn’t include Xiao Hua.
Not only did Eunuch Fu permit them to serve inside the hall itself, he even handed them two sets of beautiful clothes. The material was of excellent quality, and even included some head ornaments and jewelry.
These palace maids were astonished. Were these the benefits of working inside the hall?
Everyone’s complicated thoughts and feelings didn’t need to be described in detail. After they put away the things they received, Eunuch Fu had been considerate to the end and let them have the rest of the afternoon off to prepare for tomorrow’s work.
Within the palace maids’ room, Xi’er stroked the clothing fabric fondly, spreading it out and looking it over repeatedly.
“This is for us to wear? How nice!” After being excited for a while, she said again: “Would we get into trouble for not wearing the low-ranked palace maid outfit?”
“Country bumpkin.” Sneered Qiao Lian.
By now those in the room had learned to ignore Qiao Lian’s harsh remarks, since after all if they were to argue with her every day they might as well not have a life.
Zhi’er smiled prettily like a flower to the side, “Definitely not. Eunuch Fu is the estate’s general manager. Since he has spoken, there would definitely be no one to punish us.”
The Jing Prince Estate’s rules were strict. Every level of palace maid had their own attire.
The mid-ranked palace maids wore bright red short coats and verdant green skirts, high-ranked palace maids wore pinkish red short coats and lilac skirts. The aunties in charge wore maroon layered short coats with periwinkle1 skirt with an extra white necktie. Some aunties in charge had an extra brown hat on, though as of today Xiao Hua had only seen it appear on Auntie Qi.
The low-ranked palace maid attire was especially ugly. The short coat was indigo blue and the skirt was ginger. The colors were extremely dark, a dirty blur when seen from afar. But because these low-ranked palace maids all did unskilled labor, the dirt couldn’t be seen on their dark faces.
Having worn these dark colors for almost two months, seeing these bright and fresh colored clothing and being told they could wear it, even the normally silent and wooden Xiu Yun had a happy expression.
After all they were young girls. Were there any who wouldn’t like appearing beautiful? Each of them started trying on their new outfits.
“You guys take a look. Does it look good?” Xi’er finished changing and asked excitedly.
Xi’er had put on the crimson orange short coat and pea green skirt. The colors were extremely vivid, and Xi’er’s pale face and large eyes stood out beautifully in contrast.
The few who hadn’t put on their clothes yet saw Xi’er’s suddenly beautiful appearance and their eyes flashed in admiration while their actions became several times quicker.
The clothes they received were all the same, but because each had their own unique traits the clothes brought out different flavors in each of them.
Xi’er was naturally bright and lively, Qiao Lian was flashy and overbearing, Xiu Yun was gentle and refined, Zhi’er was charming and agreeable, Mei’er was fresh and pure. Each had their own flavor.
This Eunuch Fu really knew how to pick people. There was one of every type.
“Xiao Hua, why don’t you try on your new clothes?”
Xiao Hua’s expression froze and she softly said: “I’d better pass. I was thinking to take a bath first and put it on tomorrow.”
Eunuch Fu had told them prior to leaving that he would prepare a place for them to bath tonight so they could go to work tomorrow clean and fair.
Of course what Eunuch Fu was saying in his heart was so they could go to work tomorrow clean and fair and dressed prettily so that my house’s indifferent highness’s appetite could better be stimulated.
When these few palace maids heard her words, they were all extremely vexed.
Turns out Xiao Hua was the smart one after all, knowing to take care of her clothing. It wasn’t often they got a chance to bath as low palace maids, perhaps once in ten days in the public bathhouse for palace maids. Normally when they felt dirty, they would wipe themselves down with water.
Putting on new clothing over their dirty bodies made them feel uncomfortable inside, afraid to get the clothes dirty. They quickly took off the clothes and carefully put them away.
After a moment of silence, they each started trying on their head ornaments and jewelry. The head ornament was a silver plum-blossom hairpin, and the jewelry was a small pearl earring. Everyone had the same things. These pieces were all extremely beautiful, causing Xi’er to start making a fuss again.
The next day they all put on their clothes and accessories and left to go to work.
After spending the afternoon and night, everyone had more or less figured out their circumstances. Everyone’s moods were unusual. Although they didn’t show much on the outside, since they were all young some evidence still appeared in their expressions.
“Xiao Hua, who would have thought you were so good looking.” Xi’er exclaimed.
All the eyes in the room gathered upon Xiao Hua in an instant.
Dawn had just broken at the moment, and the rising sun shone through the window onto Xiao Hua’s body clad in crimson orange and pea green.
Her body was very slim with hints of newly developed curves. Her pale skin and small pointed face made her silhouette appear exceptionally delicate. The most outstanding were her pair of eyes. They were long, with a high curve on her upper eyelids and their inner corners were sharp and pointed downwards. The shape was similar to that of peach blossom petals. Her thick eyelashes unwitting let out a sort of seductive charm as they blinked.
That’s right, peach blossom eyes. Xiao Hua only knew about this because the 4th young master had described them as such while touching her eyes in her past life.
In order to not stand out and draw attention, Xiao Hua normally kept her head half lowered and eyes half shut. But when Xi’er suddenly called out, she had reflexively turned to look, allowing others to see her original appearance in that moment.
A few people’s expressions turned complicated, and Xiao Hua knew what that meant.
Xiu Yun opened her mouth and interrupted: “Alright, let’s go. Careful or we’ll be late.” But in her half-lowered eyes there was an unknowingly gloomy flicker of abnormal expression.
Qiao Lian coughed lightly and took the lead in walking out, everyone else following behind in single file.
Seeing the six uniquely good looking low-ranked palace maids before him, Eunuch Fu hated that he couldn’t stroke his imaginary mustache in satisfaction.
He would have this feeling from time to time, but how it usually ends up turning out was unknown.
The first time Xiao Hua saw the Jing Prince was when he came back from the front court around noon.
She was acting as a pillar inside the hall when the Jing Prince walked in from outside.
She looked over reflexively and the words Xi’er said suddenly rang out in her mind –
“I was awestruck.”
Xiao Hua also turned a little sluggish when she looked, but she quickly lowered her eyes and didn’t dare to peek any further.
The Jing Prince wore a royal crown of white jade, his delicate and fair face was slightly androgynous with a high nose and thin lips. His eyes were slender and slanted, with dark pupils full of depth. He wore a set of murky green robes embroidered with clouds, which made his skin appear white as jade. His frame was not sturdy, but also not weak. Tall and straight, slender yet full of energy, his entire body was filled with a very apathetic air.
The Jing Prince entered the hall and sat down, and a low-ranked palace maid stepped forward to serve tea.
Eunuch Fu stood to the side with his head half lowered and said smilingly: “Your highness, these few are the ones this old servant has arranged to enter the hall. There are a total of six people.” He seemed to be explaining why the tea servers had changed, and also the presence of the two other low-ranked palace maids standing at attention in the hall.
The Jing Prince didn’t even take a glance and didn’t say anything, only raising his tea up for a sip.
Xiao Hua’s group of six was arranged in the inner hall, each with a different role. Two were responsible for serving meals, two responsible for steeping and serving tea, and two were responsible to serve nearby. Those serving nearby, to speak plainly, were just standing there at attention. They lent a hand if someone called for them, but at other times they would stand unmoving.
As for the truly intimate jobs such as changing clothes, it was still left to the eunuchs. Eunuch Fu was still aware of his highness’s bottom line, and didn’t casually try to cross it.
Xiao Hua was assigned to the standing role along with Xiu Yun. Qiao Lian and Zhi’er were responsible for the tea, Mei’er and Xi’er were responsible for the meals.
Before they started their jobs, Eunuch Fu had warned them to be mindful of their words and actions and perform their roles carefully. Therefore, although Qiao Lian and Zhi’er were extremely excited at the moment, they were able to serve the tea without incident.
Palace maids had to step down after serving tea. Before Qiao Lian and Zhi’er left, their gazes intentionally or otherwise wandered over Xiao Hua and Xiu Yun.
The Jing Prince drank his tea, sat for a while and then entered the inner hall to change his clothes. After coming out, lunch was already served.
The ones who served lunch was Mei’er and Xi’er.
Having seen the Jing Prince for only a brief amount of time, Xiao Hua already felt the weirdness.
She wasn’t able to figure out exactly what was weird yet. Only after the Jing Prince finished the meal and returned to sit on the chair in the hall did she realize. The weirdness was coming from the prince himself.
During this entire time, she hadn’t heard him speak and from the very beginning she hadn’t seen his expression change. Only Eunuch Fu’s voice would ring out every once in a while. If it wasn’t to order the eunuchs to do something, it was to have a one-sided conversation with the prince. Meanwhile, the prince would either have no response to Eunuch Fu’s words, or merely give a nod or shake of his head.
The prince had already sat in the hall for quite a while after finishing his meal. During this time, he hadn’t done anything except sit there. The hall remained very quiet, quiet enough to make one’s heart palpitate.
Within the hall, only Xiao Hua and Xiu Yun remained as pillars along with the prince and Eunuch Fu. Xiao Hua secretly raised her eyes. Her position was very convenient, being able to see the seated prince by just raising her eyes.
The Jing Prince sat majestically, his posture upright and without moving. His eyes remained apathetic, seemingly focused yet unfocused at the same time, his face without any expression. The kind of apathetic feeling coming from him made it seem as though he wasn’t a mortal, but rather a god looking down from above. After a while, it even made people feel that it wasn’t a person sitting there, but a beautiful white jade statue of a Bodhisattva.
Xiao Hua new that everyone inevitably had their eccentricities, but this was her first time seeing such a strange person.
It wasn’t clear how much time had passed when the Jing Prince suddenly stood up and walked towards the hall’s study.
After Xiao Hua and the rest had entered the hall before noon, they had already been familiarized with the layout of the hall.
The Hall of Splendor was divided into two parts front and back. The front hall had five chambers, three bright rooms and two dark ones. The bright rooms had doors leading outside and cracked ice patterned windows2. The front hall was used as a living room and study, whereas the back hall was used as the sleeping quarters where unrelated personnel were not permitted to enter. Xiao Hua and the rest were only permitted inside the front hall.
Eunuch Fu gave her and Xiu Yun the task of remaining within the scope of the Jing Prince’s gaze. Seeing the Jing Prince stand and Eunuch Fu follow three steps behind him, Xiao Hua and Xiu Yun kept their distance and silently followed behind Eunuch Fu.
Entering the study, the two each found a corner to stand silently in.
Xiao Hua’s first day in the inner hall was very smooth. Apart from her legs being a little tired, everything was normal.
From start to finish, the Jing Prince had not given them any orders. The most she did was when Eunuch Fu hinted at them to change the tea, and she had gone to the tea room and asked for tea to be served.
This day, Xiao Hua had not heard the Jing Prince say a word.
- Exact Chinese colors see here. High maids second from left, aunties fifth from left. Compared with English color schemes since I also had no clue about various shades of purple, but there seemed to be a lot of inconsistencies in pictures. Just think of it as pale pink purple and pale blue purple
- Something like this.