Translator’s notes: First sponsored chapter of the week. Thank you BellMarst for sponsoring the entire chapter and for your supportive comments. I hadn’t announced that I reset the chapter bar yet but I guess I got caught….This chapter is almost twice as long as others for some reason, so you definitely got a lot of bang for your buck. Enjoy!
The reason Xiao Hua flipped out this time was firstly because she didn’t want to be seen as overindulgent and secondly because she wanted some peace for herself.
Out of the six low palace maids, only two remained inside the hall. Eunuch Fu also seemed to favor her quite a bit more, so recently all her roommates looked at her with increasingly complicated expressions. She had seen the state of things and naturally wanted to use her attitude to suppress things a little.
As expected, when Xiao Hua got back from work that evening, the room was unprecedentedly silent.
Xiao Hua didn’t bother with those complicated gazes, acting as though they didn’t exist. It was fine as long as they were quiet and didn’t annoy her.
The days continued to pass, and they turned out to be the most peaceful days Xiao Hua has had in recent times. But it was then that someone who had always been very low key did something that was not low key.
That day, the wind was calm and the day was sunny and cloudless. The Hall of Splendor was quiet and peaceful.
Xiao Hua stood in an inconspicuous corner within the hall. Having been a pillar for so long, she was already used to such a quiet atmosphere, as well as standing on duty for an extended period of time. She also gradually got used to being able to feel at ease.
The Jing Prince sat pondering something within the hall.
His posture was ramrod straight, as though propped up by a bamboo yet without losing his elegance. His face was apathetic as usual.
Xiao Hua often saw the prince stare off into space, but the level of his stare seemed to be several times more advanced than her own. When she acted as a pillar and stared off into space, her head would be half lowered making it hard for others to tell. The Jing Prince on the other hand stared straight ahead into the distance, making it possible for others to clearly see his tranquil face and unfocused pupils. However, no one dared suggest that his highness was actually spacing out instead of pondering things.
This was what Xiao Hua had observed after acting as a pillar for a long time. Her assumptions were based on her own secretly bored state of mind. Of course, these could all not be said aloud.
The silence in the hall made it seem like time had frozen, but there was a feeling of satisfaction in the air.
Xiao Hua knew the prince was in a good mood today. Although his mood couldn’t be inferred from his face, it was visible via Eunuch Fu’s appearance.
When the Jing Prince was in a good mood, Eunuch Fu’s actions and behavior would be relaxed and pleased. When the Jing Prince was in a bad mood, Eunuch Fu would be solemn and quiet, his gaze strict. Eunuch Fu was the Jing Prince’s barometer. After Xiao Hua had figured this out, she had been able to navigate situations well in advance during her shifts, making things even less stressful for her.
Everyone would have their moody days. When the master was in a bad mood, the servants naturally had to hide further away. This was the way of things.
Eunuch Fu made a gesture in their direction and Xiao Hua knew it was time to switch out the prince’s tea. Seeing Xiu Yun take the lead to go over, she stood unmoved and lowered her head once more.
After a moment of silence, Xiao Hua suddenly heard an “aiya!”.
That was Xiu Yun’s voice. Her tone was off-key to the extent that it was hard to tell who the voice originated from. However, Xiu Yun was the only other female in the hall apart from Xiao Hua, so it must have been her. Actually the sound was very suave, full of feminine charm and flavor. Unfortunately in this silent setting and current atmosphere, it sounded incredibly laughable.
Xiao Hua reflexively looked over and saw a very dumbfounding scene.
She saw Xiu Yun half lying on the Jing Prince’s legs, her face bashful. But this scene lasted only a split second. In the next moment, Xiu Yun was flung out. She was really flung out. Xiao Hua saw the Jing Prince’s arm lift up and swing out. Xiu Yun flew over a zhang1 away and fell to the floor.
Xiao Hua first winced. That looked painful. She then thought that Xiu Yun must have done it on purpose.
This was what Xiao Hua thought in an instant. She couldn’t avoid thinking that Xiu Yun had done it on purpose, because her ‘aiya’ sound would make others think inappropriate thoughts.
Xiu Yun reacted quickly, unable to nurse her pain before immediately kneeling in place.
“I beg your highness for forgiveness. This servant’s foot slipped. I beg your highness for forgiveness…” she said while kowtowing.
The floor in the Hall of Splendor was uniformly covered in metal bricks 2, and was extremely hard. The sound of kowtowing made clanging noises that caused Xiao Hua’s own forehead to start feeling sore. She saw Xiu Yun’s forehead swell up after kowtowing just a couple of times.
She snuck a glance at the Jing Prince and saw his apathetic expression. Towards the pitiful palace maid kowtowing on the floor he turned a deaf ear and didn’t spare her a glance, still seeming lost in thought.
After a while, a voice sounded indifferently.
Eunuch Fu had started glaring at Xiu Yun early on, hating that he couldn’t glare her to death. Hearing this command, he impatiently waved his hand to indicate Xiu Yun to leave while spitting out in his heart why she couldn’t have used her brain a little. If this sort of method worked, this Grandpa Fu wouldn’t have to rack his brains so hard! It was still that lass Xiao Hua who didn’t cause any trouble, and knew how to make progress.
Thinking of this, he glanced towards the “pillar” on the side and was even more satisfied with Xiao Hua.
Xiu Yun’s expression was pale and her legs were weak. She was unable to stand and still wanted to beg for mercy. Xiao Xia Zi appeared at some point, his face smiling but his hands were merciless as they yanked the sorry looking Xiu Yun out of the hall.
After Xiu Yun returned to the palace maids’ room, everyone’s reactions and Xiu Yun’s own responses will temporarily be left unsaid. Right as she was feeling apprehensive along with a trace of hope, Xiao Xia Zi came by that night to inform Xiu Yun that she would be working in the courtyard from now on.
Xiu Yun’s face paled and she was unable to keep her calm expression. She climbed onto her bed and started crying hysterically.
It’s ruined. It’s all her fault for not listening to her sister and being too impatient. Now everything was thoroughly ruined. How could she have been so impulsive, why so impulsive….?
The others put on the appearance of being comforting, but Xiao Hua truly felt some sorrow in her heart.
However, she had recently thought it through. She didn’t have any superfluous thoughts, and also didn’t have any “ambitions”. Even if she really ended up violating one of his highness’s taboos one day, she would just honestly go sweep outside the hall.
Having thought of this, she suddenly no longer felt any pressure. She covered her head and went to sleep.
After Xiao Xia Zi finished his duties he went and reported to Eunuch Fu.
After summarizing everything in a few sentences, he asked in a low voice: “Grandpa Fu, what should we do with those low-ranked palace maids? Aren’t we going to transfer them out?”
Eunuch Fu stroked his chin and gave Xiao Xia Zi a side-glance.
Xiao Xia Zi paused a little, but didn’t speak further.
Eunuch Fu was aware of Xiao Xia Zi’s line of thought. He was undoubtedly wondering why they would keep the palace maids in the Hall of Splendor if they didn’t have any further use for them.
Eunuch Fu’s mood at this moment was both good and bad. The reason it was bad was because the seemingly calm Xiu Yun that he had hopes for did something foolish. The reason it was good was because he had become more and more satisfied with that low-ranked palace maid called Xiao Hua. Overall, his good mood trumped his bad by a little, so in his good mood he decided to explain things to the foolish kid.
“Do you understand grandpa’s meaning?”
Xiao Xia Zi wasn’t able to form a response right away since this question was so unexpected.
Seeing Xiao Xia Zi blank out foolishly, Eunuch Fu hated that the iron couldn’t turn to steel and spoke again: “Use a casting net to fish over a large area. Use a fishing rod to fish in the hot spot. Do you understand what this means?”
Xiao Xia Zi was completely unable to follow Eunuch Fu’s line of thought. He blankly shook his head, seemingly still pondering the meaning of his words.
Eunuch Fu sighed and shook his head, leaving behind one more thought as he walked away.
“Only with competition comes motivation. This is something all of us who came from the palace had experienced.”
Only after he had been gone for a long time did Xiao Xia Zi clap his forehead and understand what he meant.
After understanding, he became dejected.
Looks like he was destined to remain a eunuch who only did odd jobs! Before he didn’t feel there was much difference between himself and An Chen, but now he knew where the difference lay. Compared to An Chen, he wasn’t even able to understand Eunuch Fu’s words, and needed to think about it for a long time before understanding.
Perhaps due to her newly adjusted mindset, Xiao Hua was able to feel more and more relaxed.
There weren’t many servants inside the Hall of Splendor, and the atmosphere was also simple. Apart from those few roommates, there wasn’t anything negative here. The master she served was also someone who didn’t ask for much.
Xiao Hua wasn’t too clear on the Jing Prince’s situation, but heard that he had a harem. Only after coming to the Hall of Splendor did she realize that the Jing Prince almost never went to the rumored eastern three pavilions. As though living the life of an ascetic monk, he lived a dull and indifferent life, and didn’t seem like a man at all.
Within Xiao Hua’s two lifetimes’ worth of memories, there were basically no men who didn’t like the charms of women. Which man of influence didn’t grab to the left and hug to the right, spending every night in the throes of passion.
Only this Jing Prince was tremendously weird.
However, the master’s circumstances had nothing to do with Xiao Hua. She felt that places with fewer women would have fewer quarrels. Compared to her situation back at the Jinyang Marquis Estate, Xiao Hua felt that this was almost like paradise. She even gradually felt that staying here wasn’t too bad.
When one’s mood was relaxed, more smiles would appear on one’s face. Xiao Hua had always been used to half lowering her head to hide her face in the past, afraid to attract unnecessary troubles. Since this place only had women and eunuchs, she gradually lowered her guard.
As for the Jing Prince, Xiao Hua thought he wasn’t much different from a eunuch. It was said he was several years over twenty and still had no heir. In the Grand Xi Dynasty, men usually got married around seventeen or eighteen. Someone who had a harem but had no heir was quite amazing.
Furthermore the Jing Prince never approached women. If it wasn’t said that his highness was the son of the emperor, she would have thought the Jing Prince a eunuch.
Still, Xiao Hua often felt weird when she saw the Jing Prince. She was sure that this master had a certain “problem”, even faintly lamenting that such a handsome person would have this problem.
The matter regarding the prince not having an heir was told to Xiao Hua by Eunuch Fu.
He had intended to give Xiao Hua some motivation to properly “advance”. After all, if she managed to climb into his bed and give birth to a child, she would become someone who was above others in status.
Who knew that Xiao Hua’s thoughts would end up elsewhere instead? It could only be said that their thoughts were not on the same wavelength. If Eunuch Fu knew that Xiao Hua felt his highness was someone with a “problem”, he would definitely have her dragged out and beaten to death again.
Subconscious influence was an extremely horrifying thing. Having “shameful” thoughts in mind, even if Xiao Hua didn’t show it in her expression, there would still be a few hints of it in her behavior.
What else could it be apart from whenever Xiao Hua would give the prince a massage?
After the last session, the prince had started summoning her every few days to do the same.
Because Xiao Hua thought that “the Jing Prince wasn’t a man”, her hands gradually became less reserved. In the past she only dared massage a few fixed spots and didn’t dare touch anywhere else. Now she no longer had as many misgivings, though she still avoided the overly sensitive spots. Yet a change in mood causes the hand movements to change slightly as well.
The one who noticed this difference was the Jing Prince.
Allowing Eunuch Fu to arrange low-ranked palace maids into the hall was the Jing Prince’s consideration for his years of service. Kicking them out was due to him getting tired of them. Eunuch Fu’s incessant hopping about in anxiety could also be counted as one of the few sources of entertainment in the Jing Prince’s life.
The Jing Prince had intended to kick them out one after the other to avoid them becoming an eyesore. Who knew that Eunuch Fu would dig up a low-ranked palace maid from somewhere with some decent skills. Having been massaged by her a few times, he actually felt it was pretty good.
The Jing Prince often sat rigidly throughout the years. He wouldn’t recline if he had the option to sit. He also had the habit of sitting while reading. Maintaining the same posture during his spinal development would definitely end up being uncomfortable.
In today’s terms, it would be fatigue of the sciatic nerve. It wasn’t as obvious now since he was still young, but it would definitely get more serious as he got older. Xiao Hua’s skills just so happened to be able to address this underlying condition. No wonder the Jing Prince would feel it was pretty good and very comfortable.
From the day that low-ranked palace maid had massaged him to sleep, the Jing Prince had taken slight notice of her.
He felt that she was very cautious and prudent, and also very well-behaved. However, he noticeably sensed that she had changed a little over these recent days.
He didn’t know what was different exactly, and only felt that her hand movements were not as reserved and tensed. The places she massaged were also not as restricted to those few spots, having expanded in range a little.
At first the prince had thought he was imagining it, but the next time the range had increased further by a little again.
The Jing Prince guessed that it was subconscious. After all, she didn’t touch anywhere she shouldn’t be touching.
People were strange creatures. For example, let’s say someone was really afraid of a tiger, afraid of being eaten. However, if that tiger appeared and forced that same person to brush its fur, after brushing for a while the fear would basically be gone.
They would even have the feeling that it wasn’t a tiger, but a large cat.
Although this example wasn’t really good, it was what Xiao Hua was feeling now.
Xiao Hua would no longer be nervous when getting close to the Jing Prince. Eunuch Fu saw that she would be half bent over for over an hour every session, and was afraid she would be tired or wouldn’t be able to endure. He raised the couch of the study a little, and even prepared a small stool next to it.
This way, Xiao Hua would be able to massage while seated, making it much more leisurely.
Therefore, the prince clearly felt that this low-ranked palace maid’s massage had gotten even more comfortable. Because it was comfortable, he had her massage a little every day. Helping him loosen up so often made Xiao Hua hesitate in her heart.
She had said early on that the book of notes had warned not to massage too often or too long since it would damage the muscles and bones. This sort of massage wasn’t just for comfort, but it was also a type of osteopathy.
But looking at the Jing Prince’s relaxed body language, Xiao Hua was really afraid she would be ripped apart by him if she said something. Eunuch Fu also wouldn’t spare her.
Therefore she started to secretly slack off. Of course, Xiao Hua’s skills were still pretty good even when slacking. She would do it properly for a while, followed by going through the motions without exerting strength. Her hands would be pushing on the surface, seemingly using a lot of force, but the force would not be transmitted beyond the skin.
She had accomplished her goal, but the Jing Prince had also felt it especially clearly.
While being massaged by this low palace maid, the Jing Prince clearly felt a strange sensation on his back that was there but seemed like it wasn’t. It seemed like it was ticklish, yet upon experiencing it carefully he realized that wasn’t it.
The result of this massage was that after Xiao Hua had finished, the Jing Prince waited a long time before getting up.
Xiao Hua had thought he had fallen asleep when he suddenly sat up and gave her a sort of meaningful glance, making her sweat profusely.
That night, the Jing Prince had another dream as usual.
He couldn’t recall what the dream was about, but remembered that someone was gently caressing his back. The feeling was very special, and made him feel very comfortable.
When he awoke, the Jing Prince realized that his underwear was wet.
The prince was not unfamiliar with this situation.
He didn’t enjoy feminine charms in his past life, but since he had to continue the family line he had still experienced women before. After he converted to Buddhism in his past life, he severed his emotions and desires. Originally already apathetic towards women, he became even more so after.
After reincarnating, he carried forward this attitude of his past life. After getting to his vassal state, he did spend a few nights in the rear court, but it was only done for show to placate the constantly nagging Eunuch Fu. He hadn’t done anything then, and had only slept.
The Jing Prince understood Eunuch Fu’s thoughts, but ultimately after experiencing the events of his past life, his interest in passing on his line had dulled quite a bit. After all, his life or death was still undecided and if possible, he wanted to avoid implicating his offspring.
He was twenty five this year and was a grown adult. It was normal for men like him who rarely had contact with women to occasionally have wet dreams. However, the feeling in his dreams this time made the Jing Prince furrow his brows. That feeling was not unfamiliar. It was the feelings stirred up by that low-ranked palace maid’s hands.
The Jing Prince took a glance at his stained underwear after getting up, his brows still furrowed. After thinking a little, he called the low ranked eunuchs that served him to prepare a bath.
The underwear that contained evidence of his dream was also thrown into the water during his bath.
The wet dream left no trace, and the evidence also disappeared without trace.
All the traces could be erased, but his heart could not be unmarked. Especially after such an embarrassing event occurred.
Although the prince didn’t show it in his expression, his mind would inevitably think about it. As he thought about it, his eyes would inevitably investigate.
Of course they weren’t investigating Xiao Hua, but rather this low-ranked palace maid’s hands.
He wondered how her hands could be so magical. Why would they evoke such restlessness? But after examining them all over, he didn’t feel anything special about the hands.
They were small and pale. The nails were very short on her long, jade-like fingers. They weren’t very beautiful, but they weren’t ugly either. He secretly examined his own hands as well, but still couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
The Jing Prince was slow-tempered, and he was also very simple and direct. After being unable to figure it out for several days, he listened to his heart and did something –
Xiao Hu was serving tea, and as she prepared to withdraw her hand, she suddenly felt it being grabbed by the Jing Prince.
At that moment, Xiao Hua’s mind went blank.
Really blank, completely blank.
What appeared in her mind following this were a few large words, “what does he want to do”?
She reflexively pulled her hand back a little, her movements very subtle. She still knew that she couldn’t rebel too openly, otherwise she’d suffer the consequences. She then noticed that as the prince held her hand, it wasn’t with feigned casualness but rather an air of examination.
He appeared very serious. From where she was standing, she could see his slanted eyes lowered, carefully examining her hand.
He looked at the back of her hand, and then flipped it around to look at her palm. He even used his fingertips to rub Xiao Hua’s palm and her fingers.
Just as Xiao Hua’s heart was about to burst from her chest, he loosened his hand and nonchalantly turned his face, taking a sip of his tea.
From his careful examination, the prince realized that this low-ranked palace maid’s hand didn’t have any special areas. Her palm wasn’t very tender, and also had some calluses.
Since there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, it must have been his own problem. He must have been abstinent for too long. Another possibility is that what was felt during the day just happened to appear in his dreams at night.
The Jing Prince wasn’t someone with complicated thoughts. After coming up with an explanation, he no longer paid attention to it. Regarding the owner of that pair of hands, he temporarily put her out of his mind.
Xiao Hua really wanted to ask the Jing Prince what he wanted to do, but unfortunately didn’t have the guts. She could only pretend nothing happened and retreat with the tea set. She had thought herself very calm, but didn’t realize that she was awkwardly walking in a robotic manner, seeming rather amusing.
Eunuch Fu stood to the side smiling, but had to pretend not to have seen anything. But it was really hard, so his expression was extremely twisted.
At this time, Eunuch Chang3 walked in. He looked to be over forty, his head dark and square with an average figure. After entering, he bowed and presented a small cylinder to the Jing Prince.
After the prince received it, he waved his hand and Eunuch Chang left silently.
He opened the cylinder with practiced hands, and pulled out a slip of white paper from the inside. After unrolling it, he saw the slip was filled with densely packed little characters. There was a large chunk of words, but if one read it as was written, they would find nothing made sense. It was a slip of complete nonsense.
But after the Jing Prince saw it, he was able to quickly receive the intended message in his mind.
Then he took a look at the time written on it and a rare frown appeared on his face.
It had already been over ten days by the time this news had reached him.
He tossed the slip of paper into the water, where the words soon became blurred.
The Jing Prince started to ponder once again.
- Author’s notes: these metal bricks were also known as imperial kiln metal bricks. They were used in traditional Han kilns, and were a type of high quality brick often used in constructing palaces and other important buildings. Therefore they were fine and dense, and would produce a metallic clanking sound when hit, hence name. This author thought they were golden bricks when she was younger (since the word gold is the same as that of metal).
- The vice manager eunuch who’s in charge when Eunuch Fu wasn’t there.