Translator’s notes: Sponsored chapter 1/2 for the week. Thank you to Penguin Eats for the chapter. Not sure if there’s some sort of notification system but you filled up the bar a few minutes after I reset it. Thank you also to Marchmallow for donating after the bar filled up. Regular chapter will be released in a couple hours hopefully.
Because the Jing Prince had spent the night twice in Xiao Hua’s room, the layout had been rearranged a couple of times.
Initially it was decorated according to standards one level lower than a concubine. Unexpectedly the Jing Prince had spent two nights there. The first time might have been because he was too tired and didn’t want to move, but once he stayed a second night the situation didn’t seem quite as ordinary anymore.
Eunuch Fu had always been meticulous, so he rearranged Xiao Hua’s room after the fact. Not only were the things on the bed upgraded to something more ornate and exquisite, the decorations in the room had also been switched. Originally her bed was already a palanquin bed1, but perhaps Eunuch Fu had thought it too small and switched it for a wider, more magnificent and sturdier palanquin bed.
The room was divided by a patterned agarwood screen into an inner and outer area. The outer area was used as a living room and the inner area was for sleeping. The decorations on the cabinet had been switched as well, and one could clearly tell they were considerably valuable at a glance.
Seeing her room undergo vast changes until it became similar to a treasure vault made Xiao Hua space out a little.
She had seen such situations before. If the master favors a concubine, he would naturally not be stingy and bestow various objects to show his appreciation. However in her past life she had to use many schemes to please the 4th young master before he would be willing to give such things. Unexpectedly in this life, someone had already prepared everything without her having to do anything.
How considerate. Of course, Xiao Hua lamented that this consideration was from Eunuch Fu, and not the Jing Prince. Although she still wasn’t able to see through the prince, she was aware that he wouldn’t be mindful of such things. Although she didn’t want to admit it, Xiao Hua clearly understood that she was just a plaything to the Jing Prince, a plaything that warmed the bed.
Since someone was handing her things, she might as well accept them. Just treat it as something in exchange for her suffering.
Eunuch Fu didn’t say anything regarding Xiao Hua’s work, so she continued to honestly work her shift every day. Apart from living in a nicer place and wearing slightly nicer clothes compared to other palace maids, Xiao Hua’s situation was still the same as before. The way other people looked at her had changed, but Xiao Hua didn’t care about these things and turned a deaf ear to it.
This day the Jing Prince wasn’t present. Seeing the sky turn dark, Xiao Hua finished her meal and returned to her room.
Perhaps since she had to serve the prince every once in a while, she received another benefit that others didn’t. Every night she would be given water to take a bath. After returning to her room, two low-ranked eunuchs would prepare water and carry it over for her to use.
At first Xiao Hua didn’t understand what was going on. Seeing people bring over water, she had honestly received it. After several times, she had pretty much figured out the meaning behind this situation.
Undoubtedly this was Eunuch Fu’s intentions. It had to be said this Eunuch Fu was quite considerate. Apart from laughing about it, Xiao Hua didn’t know how else to react.
And therefore, when the low-ranked eunuchs again showed up, this time to present her with so called “clothes to wear at night while sleeping”, she had received them without saying a word.
There were two pieces to the clothing, and the appearance was something she had never seen before. But holding the clothes in her hand, she knew what they were for. In her past life, she didn’t lack for these types of clothing.
Xiao Hua’s biggest strength was that she was discreet and tactful. When she couldn’t afford to offend anyone, she would be well behaved.
Even if that set of clothing appeared to be extremely indecent, after her bath she always put them on when she went to bed. Who knows when the lord might show up? Eunuch Fu that old bastard probably thought the same way.
She couldn’t figure it out. Whether or not the Jing Prince slept with women, what did it have to do with the eunuch? His being so concerned with everything made her fearful and unavoidably jittery.
Xiao Hua finished bathing, changed into those clothes and casually wore another layer over them before calling the low ranked eunuchs waiting behind the screen to clean up the bathwater. She entered her bed and pulled down the canopy curtains.
The eunuchs worked very fast. After they finished, they took their leave and closed the door.
Verdant green curtains embroidered with flowery vines hung over the carved and lacquered palanquin bed. There was a red satin mattress upon which lay an agarwood colored cotton filled silk blanket embroidered with golden lines around twin lotus flowers.
Xiao Hua took off her outer layer and lowered her head to examine the nightgown on her body.
A pea green little negligee and matching pair of thin muslin trousers. The negligee narrowed at the waist and slanted upwards, making her appear slender and full-chested with a slim waist. The muslin trousers were very thin, and the waistline was also very low, barely hanging onto the hips. Xiao Hua would often be worried it was about to fall off.
Looking at her surroundings, Xiao Hua kept feeling like it was a dream.
But this sort of feeling usually didn’t last long, because Xiao Hua knew clearly the moment she stepped out the door she was still the same low-ranked palace maid who was careful with her words and actions.
The bed looked soft and warm, making Xiao Hua unable to stop herself from yawning.
After getting in bed and burrowing under the blankets, she subconsciously rolled and rubbed against it a little. How comfortable. High quality stuff really had a different feel.
The light in the room wasn’t bright but wasn’t dark. There was only one light burning on the counter of the inner room. The faint yellow light shone through the thin gauze canopy, making it possible to clearly see the situation outside without being blinding.
Xiao Hua half closed her eyes and felt herself falling asleep. As she lay half asleep, the room’s light suddenly lit up brightly. It seemed like a dream to her so she exhaustedly rubbed her eyes, rolled over to hide from the light and continued sleeping.
The Jing Prince who had half lifted the curtains saw the whole thing—
Her black hair was like a waterfall that draped over her slender shoulders and back. The silk blankets bunched up messily covered her body with half her leg sticking out. Under the glow of the light, her snow white calves seemed even more fresh and alluring.
The Jing Prince had never seen such a shockingly beautiful scene in both his lifetimes. He felt his breath stop at that moment.
He instinctively put the canopy back down as he had the low-ranked eunuchs on the side help him out of his outer clothes and then waved his hand for them to leave. Only wearing his undergarments, he walked into the curtained bed.
Xiao Hua was half awake and half asleep, and kept feeling someone rubbing her body. Perhaps it was due to the heated vents, but she felt her body was limp and extremely lethargic.
Only until there was a sudden stabbing pain did she regain her consciousness a little, but was once again muddle-headed immediately afterwards.
She felt the prince’s presence, but also felt like she was dreaming. In her confusion, she did not suppress herself as she did in the past. When it hurt she would groan softly, and when it felt good she would breathe out. The moans and cries resulted in her being taken even more vigorously. She subconsciously started to sob. She seemed to be crying but not crying. Although it was said it wasn’t crying, it still seemed like it.
The Jing Prince hadn’t expect to show up at this time and see the scene of the low-ranked palace maid in such an appearance. The past few times he could tell she was very tensed up. Only after moving vigorously for some time would she in her muddle-headedness reveal such an appearance.
It was the so called rapture and ecstasy. This was the first time in both his lives that the Jing Prince felt it.
He was a little unsatisfied in his heart. It seems like this low-ranked palace maid had still been acting reserved with him the past few times?
Thinking of her normal appearance and looking at the charming person underneath him, he inexplicable intensified his movements. The fiercer he went at it the more he felt the delicious taste, and the more he was reluctant for it to end.
It wasn’t known how much time had passed. After having tangled for so long, he could not endure any longer.
Afterwards, he could still feel the mind numbing pleasure lingering and subconsciously hugged her close to his chest, his hands idly stroking the low-ranked palace maid’s long hair.
Xiao Hua was wide awake at this moment. She was extremely not used to this type of intimacy. In the past after doing the deed, he wouldn’t pay her any further attention. Unexpectedly, this time was different.
Her nerves were on edge for a while, but she didn’t last long before falling back asleep. She didn’t notice the Jing Prince watching her with his ink black pupils.
Xiao Hua was unable to sleep peacefully. When she was finally about to fall deeply asleep, she was woken once again. Her head was fuzzy and her eyelids were heavy.
In a blur, she heard the Jing Prince seemingly ask, “You’re afraid of this prince?”
She thought she was dreaming and didn’t respond.
Xiao Hua wasn’t sure when the Jing Prince left this time. When she awoke, it was already noon.
She heard movement by the curtains, and Chun Cao walked inside. She brushed aside the canopy, saw Xiao Hua and said: “Miss Xiao Hua, please lay back. I will have them bring some water for you to bathe.”
Chun Cao would be called to serve her every time after the prince left. After a couple times, Xiao Hua had also gotten used to it.
After the hot water was brought over, Chun Cao assisted her over behind the screen.
Only after soaking in the tub for a while did she feel herself come alive. She dried herself and put her clothes on while Chun Cao helped brush her hair.
At this time, someone brought over lunch and Chun Cao went to carry it over. Placing it on the table and setting each dish out, she spoke: “Eunuch Fu said to let you rest properly. There’s no need to rush to work.”
Xiao Hua couldn’t help her face from turning red.
Every time she finished serving the prince, Eunuch Fu would say something like this. The cause of this was one occasion when she had served the prince but didn’t feel tired the next day, and showed up to work on time. Since then, someone would be sent over to remind her to rest every time.
Lunch was very simple: three dishes and a portion of soup. It was plenty of food for one person. Xiao Hua didn’t have much appetite, casually eating a few bites, drinking the soup and returning to curl up in bed.
Since the dishes were mostly untouched, Xiao Hua let Chun Cao eat the rest. Ever since she had moved into the hall, Chun Cao hadn’t eaten with her anymore, and Xiao Hua also didn’t force her to. However, whenever Chun Cao was present, Xiao Hua would split a portion of her food with her since she wouldn’t be able to finish it all by herself.
After Chun Cao finished eating, she cleared the table and set the dishes by the door. She then sat at the foot of the bed doing needlework while idly chatting with Xiao Hua.
“Miss Xiao Hua, I feel like you actually don’t have to continue working, why continue to make things hard on yourself. From what I see, his highness likes you quite a bit. Just ask him to confer you a status.”
Chun Cao had wanted to say this for a long time, but was never sure how to approach the subject. Big sis Xiao Hua seemed like a quiet person, but was actually very opinionated. There were times when Chun Cao had no idea what she was thinking.
It was fine in the past, but now that she moved into the hall it was clear this was treatment only reserved for concubines. And not any ordinary concubine at that. Yet she still continued to do the chores of a low-ranked palace maid.
Xiao Hua also didn’t know how she should explain it to Chun Cao, and could only ambiguously say, “I feel that this is pretty good.”
Chun Cao secretly gave her a glance, and seeing her not really want to discuss this topic she no longer brought it up. She changed the subject to something lighter.
Perhaps Miss Xiao Hua had her own plans? Chun Cao could only think this way for now.
There was a knock on the door. Chun Cao went to open it and saw one of the eunuchs serving in the hall, Xiao Qin Zi.
“Eunuch Qin, is something the matter?”
Xiao Qin Zi followed Chun Cao in, standing in front of the screen to speak in a quiet voice: “Miss Xiao Hua, the eunuch guarding the door reports that someone is here to see you from the outside. It’s the low-ranked palace maid who used to work here, Xi’er.”
Hearing this, Xiao Hua spaced out a little.
Chun Cao knew Xi’er since she was there while Xiao Hua was sick. She also knew that the relationship between Miss Xiao Hua and Xi’er was not that good.
When Chun Cao first arrived, Eunuch Fu’s underling had given her instructions, and she knew a little bit of the details regarding why they didn’t ask one of Xiao Hua’s roommates to look after her at the time.
Xiao Qin Zi continued speaking, “The rules of our hall state that no outsiders are allowed inside. Of course, if Miss Xiao Hua wants to see her, then you are free to do so by stepping outside the hall.”
Ever since Xiao Hua moved into the hall, everyone in the Hall of Splendor started addressing her as “Miss Xiao Hua”. Xiao Hua didn’t know that they had struggled over the decision of what title to address her by until someone finally asked An Chen to confirm with Eunuch Fu.
Xiao Hua’s status wasn’t clear. Everyone clearly knew she wasn’t merely a low-ranked palace maid, but those above had also never specified what status was granted to her.
Eunuch Fu also had a headache when asked by An Chen, and randomly said to call her “Miss”. Nowadays, even Eunuch Fu followed along and called her “Miss”.
Although it was just a form of address, it clearly showed the difference in treatment. At least, Xiao Hua felt the servants within the hall treated her much more respectfully. This included both Eunuch Fu and Eunuch Chang. During her interactions with them, she could clearly feel their attitudes were friendlier than before.
How should she put it? In the past, they had viewed her from up high, and didn’t really take her seriously. Now they treated her as equals. Before she was an object, now she had become a person.
Sometimes Xiao Hua couldn’t help but lament. Is this the so called “fox borrowing the tiger’s might”2? Although this analogy might not be quite fitting, it really was due to the Jing Prince that others had started viewing her in a new light.
Back to the topic at hand, Xiao Hua also couldn’t figure out why Xi’er suddenly wanted to see her. Ever since the others were expelled, she hadn’t received any news regarding them.
Of course this was because she never left the Hall of Splendor, and also because those people never had a place in her heart. Especially when they had ignored her the first time she got sick. Their scornful behavior naturally resulted in a lack of relationship.
Chun Cao could tell that Xiao Hua didn’t really want to see that Xi’er, and in a sudden flash of inspiration said: “Miss Xiao Hua was just about to rest. This Xi’er really knows to pick her timing. Could Eunuch Qin please ask the eunuch by the door to turn her away?”
Her voice was raised in question towards Xiao Hua, as though consulting her opinion. Since this was Chun Cao’s first time encountering such a situation, she naturally didn’t decide things for Xiao Hua.
Xiao Hua heard Chun Cao’s words and nodded.
Chun Cao smiled on the spot and said: “Then we’ll have to trouble Eunuch Qin!”
“Alright.” Xiao Qin Zi understood their meaning and left the room.
Xiao Hua leaned back on her pillow wondering why Xi’er would suddenly come look for her. The two of them never really interacted, so this situation was really confusing.
“I supposed it might be because she was expelled from the hall. The work outside is definitely not as good as in here.” Chun Cao said.
No one understood this better than her. What were her days like back at the laundry area? Having to wash clothing before the sky was bright, the food was scarce and her clothes had been lacking. It was still acceptable in the summer but winter was awful.
Compared to her days in the Hall of Splendor now, the difference was clear.
This was also why Eunuch Fu had never explicitly told Chun Cao to serve Xiao Hua before she moved into the hall. On the surface, Chun Cao was to help out in the courtyard, but in reality it was essentially serving Xiao Hua.
Especially after Xiao Hua had started “serving” the prince. The little needlework Chun Cao was responsible for was all for Xiao Hua. As for the nominal sweeper position in the courtyard, Chun Cao could tell these few days someone would take care of that if she was busy with Xiao Hua. There was clearly no need for her to do it.
There were no foolish people who were able to stay in the estate for several years. Even though the higher ups didn’t explicitly say it, those underneath them were smart enough to read between the lines and thereby improve their own standing. The palace maids and eunuchs in the Hall of Splendors were all examples, and Xiao Hua herself was one too.
The correct timing, the correct place or the correct person. These were all the relevant aspects.
Xiao Hua felt what Chun Cao was saying made sense, but what did that have to do with her? She was just a low-ranked palace maid, how would she be able to help Xi’er? Regardless, their relationship wasn’t to that extent.
She therefore put Xi’er’s visit to the back of her mind, adjusted her pillow and lay back under her blanket.
Chun Cao saw that Xiao Hua was about to sleep and got up quietly, lowering the curtains of her bed. She continued sitting at the foot of the bed, but no longer spoke.
- Translated based on its appearance, not sure if there’s a proper English term. It’s an ancient bed often used for marriage, see here for pics.
- Probably able to guess, but it means using powerful connections to intimidate others.