Xi’er had watched with her own eyes as Xiu Yun was beaten to death. She had never thought the smiling Eunuch Fu would be so ruthless.
Furthermore, it was carried out in front of all the uniformed palace maids and eunuchs in the Hall of Splendor. There had been another palace maid who was beaten alongside Xiu Yun who Xi’er didn’t recognize.
It was only due to this that she realized both times Xiao Hua had gotten sick was due to Xiu Yun poisoning her.
Xi’er had been scared to tears on the spot. She had never known someone could die so tragically. Directly getting beaten to death by the plank, bleeding from all seven orifices1 and the body clearly beaten to a pulp.
They were dragged out after they died. Xi’er and the rest of the low-ranked palace maids cleaned the courtyard bit by bit with water.
No one dared to cry at the time, and merely cleaned with trembling hands and dulled eyes….Xi’er would never forget what she had seen for her entire life. That kind of thudding sound, Xiu Yun and that unfamiliar palace maid’s gagged mouths and fierce faces, and the acrid smell of blood….
After they were taken out of the Hall of Splendor and into other areas to work, Xi’er had nightmares multiple nights in a row for over half a month before slowly recovering.
Xi’er was assigned to the estate’s needlework area after leaving the Hall of Splendor, and was responsible for the estate’s handicraft.
Although it couldn’t compare to what she initially did in the Hall of Splendor, it was better than the sweeper area by far.
The current Xi’er seemed to be a completely different person if one didn’t look at her face. She became taciturn and didn’t like interacting with others.
She never revealed to anyone the fact that she had served in the Hall of Splendor before. Before she left, one of Eunuch Fu’s subordinates had warned them not to reveal anything regarding the hall.
Thinking of Xiu Yun being beaten to death, Xi’er kept this warning solidly in her mind.
When she woke up in the middle of the night, she would also think of Xiao Hua.
Out of the six of them, only Xiao Hua was not expelled, and she wondered how she was doing.
But she merely thought about it a little, since the happenings at the Hall of Splendor had very little to do with her anymore.
Only now did Xi’er realize the good fortune she had stumbled into previously, to actually be able to serve in the Hall of Splendor. Unfortunately she did not seize the opportunity properly and now, she wasn’t even able to touch its doors.
Her previously noisy self had matured quite a bit after this experience. Only now did she realize this grand, imposing, majestic estate also had a different face.
Just as the elderly palace maids she interacted with said, only with suffering comes growth, and only those who have been beaten know the meaning of pain. Before she hadn’t taken their words to heart, and only now did she truly experience what they meant.
“Xi’er, you’ve been working for so long. Rest your eyes. It’s lunch time, let’s go eat.” A fourteen or fifteen year old low-ranked palace maid ran up to Xi’er and said with a smile.
Xi’er lightly smiled in response and put down the needle in her hand.
This low-ranked palace maid was called Cheng’er, and was also a low-ranked palace maid in the needlework area. She was around Xi’er’s age and was very cute and lively.
Every time she saw Cheng’er smiling, Xi’er would be reminded of her past self. Although only a few months had passed, she felt like she aged quite a lot, and was unable to smile as freely as she did in the past.
Because of this, after coming to the needlework area Cheng’er was the only one who could be counted as her friend. Their relationship was very good, and they were also assigned to the same room. They did everything together so they naturally grew closer.
Xi’er thought that perhaps after a period of recovery, she could smile unhindered like Cheng’er once again….
Because the Jing Prince Estate was the vassal state’s governing residence, the rules were very complicated. The estate was divided into different parts for internal affairs and external affairs.
For example, things that had to do with official business were external affairs, and were taken care of by the tribute center’s management eunuchs and the adjutant’s office. Internal affairs were managed by the same eunuchs and Auntie Qi.
As the Jing Consort, Xiao-Shi didn’t actually have to manage anything within the estate.
However, although she wasn’t able to interfere in external affairs or the Hall of Splendor, as the consort she had a grasp over the other areas.
The moment the low-ranked palace maids arranged by Eunuch Fu were expelled, Xiao-Shi had her eyes on them.
At first she was just casually gathering information, and it wasn’t as though she hadn’t encountered the palace maids who were expelled in the previous batches before. However, this time seemed to be out of the ordinary.
These few low palace maids all had very tight lips. All attempts by her underlings to worm information out of them ended in failure. Only Chun Xiang who had bribed a low-ranked palace maid quite close with one of them had gotten a trickle of information.
They only found out that the Hall of Splendor had beaten two palace maids to death. They couldn’t get anything else out of that low-ranked palace maid.
This abnormality naturally made its way to Xiao-Shi’s ears, making her extremely curious.
Because Auntie Qi had always been strict with the rules, those trying to dig up information didn’t dare act too overtly. Seeing the lack of results, Xiao-Shi became a little desperate and her methods became rougher.
That day, Xi’er was taken to the Changchun Pavilion. She was the low-ranked palace maid who had leaked a little information.
Although she was quick witted and had some insight, it was hard for her to fully change her nature. Her big mouth had gotten her into trouble.
Xi’er knelt below. Rumor has it this was where the consort lived, and she was the one who wanted to see her, making her thoroughly frightened. She couldn’t help but wonder how they found out about her time at the Hall of Splendor, and she thought of Cheng’er as her thoughts grew disordered…..
A few words from Nana Li and Chun Xiang on the side and Xi’er spilled everything.
Including why people were beaten to death and also including the fact that Xiao Hua still remained in the hall.
Xi’er couldn’t figure out the reasoning behind the consort’s questions, but she instinctively recalled the madam of the previous estate she worked at asking similar questions and thus pushed everything onto Xiao Hua.
She exaggerated the story, saying how his highness had especially been captivated by that low-ranked palace maid called Xiao Hua, how even Eunuch Fu treated her differently, and how Xiu Yun had poisoned Xiao Hua out of jealousy.
Actually Xi’er wasn’t sure what the current situation was at the Hall of Splendor. She just combined her imagination with a few of the things she had witnessed and spun some conjectures. Although she hadn’t made up any details and merely spoke based on her opinions, it would still cause others to start speculating. Xiao-Shi’s face grew more and more heavy.
Seeing Xiao-Shi about to start raging, Nana Li hurriedly waved her hand for someone to see Xi’er out.
“Consort, I think this low-ranked palace maid called Xi’er isn’t being entirely honest.” Chun Xiang spoke from the side.
Naturally as Xiao-Shi’s trusted aide, she wasn’t simple. Her judge of character alone was formidable. Low-ranked palace maids like Xi’er weren’t even worthy of carrying Chun Xiang’s shoes, and her little tricks could not fool anyone.
Xiao-Shi furrowed her brows and waved her hands in a jittery manner, “Even if there was some dishonesty, parts of it were definitely based on fact. Just based on the situation with the poisoning and the beatings we can infer many things.”
The surroundings suddenly became very quiet. Everyone was aware in their hearts the implications of this.
“Eunuch Fu that old thing! And the bitch surnamed Qi, they are all cheap hypocrites!”
Xiao-Shi waved her hand and smashed the teacup by her side2, her face red from anger.
“Stuffing women under his highness’s mouth, I have no idea how they managed to come up with this! Are all the women in his harem dead? Why do they need to send those cheap hypocrites over?”
Nana Li, Chun Xiang and the rest didn’t dare say a word.
Basically, Xiao-Shi was currently trapped in an impossible situation.
Having ruined the relationship when she first married in, the Jing Prince never spends the night at the Chang Chun Pavilion. Luckily he rarely spent it anywhere else either, making jealousy, resentment and struggling for favor unnecessary.
The saying “not being afraid of scarcity but being afraid of unequal distribution” could be applied here. It was fine if no one was favored. If someone suddenly appeared, it was no surprise Xiao-Shi would be enraged.
“Nana, what should we do? If a royal grandson is really born, then there would be no place for me in this estate!”
“That won’t happen, that won’t happen. This is merely our own conjectures. After all, we aren’t sure what the situation really is like in the hall. No one is sure. It’s not like you aren’t aware of his highness’s apathetic character. If he would really put his hands on palace maids, then Eunuch Fu’s several attempts wouldn’t have ended in them all getting expelled.”
“But this one is different. In the past everyone had been expelled within half a month. This batch has also all been expelled save for one, there has to be a reason for that.”
Nana Li also understood what she meant, but still comforted with her mouth: “Consort, don’t overthink things. Let’s continue investigating.”
“How do we investigate? The Hall of Splendor is impregnable.”
That’s right, if it was possible to get in, she wouldn’t have been stuck like this over the years.
Even the estate had been made watertight by his highness’s subordinates. While the one responsible for the rear court, Auntie Qi, was always respectful and deferential to the consort, since the consort wasn’t responsible for anything in the estate her power was actually less than that of Auntie Qi.
Normally she didn’t think that was a big deal, but when she needed to investigate or do something, everything became restrictive.
Dong Xiang hesitantly spoke on the side: “How about we let that Xi’er give it a try? Wasn’t she always together with that Xiao Hua since they entered the estate? According to her their relationship seems to be pretty good.”
Xi’er could be said to have dug herself into a pit this time. Because she wanted to push everything onto Xiao Hua and to make her case more convincing, she had especially emphasized how good their relationship was as the reason she knew so many secret details.
Everyone’s eyes lit up at Dong Xiang’s words.
Who cares if it worked or not, at least it was worth a try?
Xi’er slowly walked back to the needlework area. Although she felt her legs were weak, she still made it back.
Entering her room, she saw Cheng’er who smiled sweetly at her.
“You, how could you tell others about it? Didn’t I tell you not to say anything?” Xi’er finally let out her tears of terror and her hands trembled violently.
Although she had been able to handle herself quite well in front of the consort, she was still scared.
She was scared of death!
The scene of Xiu Yun being beaten to death appeared before her eyes again….
Cheng’er’s smile didn’t even waver. She pulled Xi’er to the bed to sit and said nonchalantly: “It wasn’t just telling someone random, it was the consort.”
“But Eunuch Fu had ordered before not to reveal anything about the Hall of Splendor. People could end up dead you know!” Xi’er was a little hysterical and her hands continued to tremble.
Cheng’er waved the matter away, and continued to placate Xi’er in a low voice: “You’re overthinking things. Is Eunuch Fu higher up or is the consort? The consort’s status is only second to his highness within this estate. Working for her, would Eunuch Fu dare do anything to us?!”
“It’s fine Xi’er, you should stop thinking about it. The consort merely asked a few questions about the situation. You said you used to work for some rich household as a maid before. Wasn’t everything in the pavilion the madam’s responsibility? Eunuch Fu’s status is without a doubt significant, but the consort is still higher ranked.”
Xi’er’s heart slightly calmed down. Perhaps Cheng’er was right?!
That’s right, that’s right. The consort was only second to the prince.3 She shouldn’t continue thinking too much.
But looking at Cheng’er’s smiling face, her heart still felt extremely complicated.