The Jing Prince remained gone for around ten days before returning. During this time he had secretly taken care of several people. Those by his side naturally weren’t aware of this.
Actually based on the Jing Prince’s character, those culprits should have all been publicly beheaded for their crimes. However, he didn’t want to further complicate the matter and could only handle it secretly.
The Heishan County’s magistrate suddenly passed away in his house, and his position was assumed by his deputy. His steward as well as his household’s servants all disappeared. Their fate was self-evident.
As for the survivors from Sangshan Village, the prince’s domain was vast and there would definitely be somewhere to take them in. However, the mayor’s teenage son wanted to have some control over his own fate and begged Vice Commander Lin to take him in and train him. This could be counted as a sort of opportunity for him.
The Jing Prince was very busy after returning to the estate. He had naturally sent people to guard Mt. Dahei, and was waiting for winter to pass before beginning excavations.
Because the snow was heavy the Jing Prince hadn’t sent people to explore, but just based on the Heishan County magistrate’s information, he knew that the mountain was actually a silver mine. As for what it was like on the inside, and how much silver can be mined from it, the Jing Prince wasn’t able to estimate.
But just this was enough to let the usually apathetic Jing Prince feel abnormally excited in his heart.
No one would feel they had too much silver, especially he who was extremely lacking in silver. In his past life the Jing Prince used to be impoverished. But since he lived very simply he didn’t feel the lack of silver. In this life, he felt that silver was extremely important if he wanted to survive.
As people said, there were many things one couldn’t buy with silver. However, if you wanted to do anything, you cannot be lacking in silver.
The Jing Prince seemed to be very busy these days. What he was busy with, Xiao Hua didn’t know. All she knew was that he left early and returned late, and hadn’t come to her room in a long time.
Luckily Xiao Hua had a stable mentality, and didn’t have any unnecessary, distracting thoughts. Whether he came or not, her days still passed the same way.
Xiao Hua spent these days very peacefully and was also very idle.
When she got bored, apart from practicing her embroidery she would at most go to the small kitchen to talk with Nana He, or find Chun Cao to chat. There was one additional thing. As the Jing Prince exhausted himself mentally busying himself, Xiao Hua unavoidably had to give him massages.
Xiao Hua could tell the prince was very weary. His expression was unperturbed as always but Xiao Hua could infer based on his tensed and stiff bones and muscles. The muscles in his shoulders and neck were especially stiff.
Xiao Hua was aware why her daily life was so easy and comfortable recently. She couldn’t help but want to do her best to preserve it and thus made a proposal to Eunuch Fu. Every day after the Jing Prince returned, he would soak in the tub for half an hour before she would give him a round of massage.
Eunuch Fu organized things well. Apart from making the necessary preparations, he had also gotten some ointment from Doctor Hu for Xiao Hua to use during her massage.
This night, the Jing Prince finished soaking and settled down within the inner hall.
He sat on the edge of the bed, wearing a purple light silk gown and white underpants underneath. Having just soaked in the bath, his hair was slightly wet and draped over his back, winding down all the way to his waist. His robes were open wide, revealing the jade-like skin beneath it.
Seeing Xiao Hua come in, the Jing Prince’s eyes flashed and he shed his robe, flipped over and lay face down on the bed. Xiao Hua blushed slightly. She walked to the bed, took off her shoes and sat down beside him.
The Jing Prince’s long dark hair was scattered across his back. Xiao Hua carefully brushed it to the side.
The ointment from Doctor Hu was very useful. Eunuch Fu was probably also aware the prince felt discomfort in his back and specially acquired it from the doctor. Xiao Hua used it a couple times in her massages and this time could clearly feel the Jing Prince was no longer as tight.
The ointment was clear and had a medicinal fragrance.
Xiao Hua dug some out, rubbing it over her palms before starting to massage the Jing Prince.
Xiao Hua was familiar with the process. After finishing, over half an hour had passed as usual.
After stopping she snuck a glance at the person on the bed. The Jing Prince happened to be facing away from her, and his breathing was steady, most likely asleep.
She carefully got off the bed, put on her shoes and was about to leave when her arm was grabbed.
“Sleep with this prince.”
Xiao Hua froze and lowered her head, “This servant will wash up.”
The Jing Prince didn’t speak again. Xiao Hua was fixed in place for a moment before standing up and leaving.
An Chen had been outside the entire time. Xiao Hua went over and spoke with him in a low voice, and someone arranged a bath for her.
After bathing, she entered those purple curtains once again. The Jing Prince had changed his posture. His shapely eyes were closed, his chest was bare and the purple silk blankets half covered his stomach while his long black hair draped over the bedside.
Xiao Hua had always known the Jing Prince was very handsome, but this scene unwittingly made her hold her breath and her heart started pounding.
She blinked her eyes and took a deep breath before carefully climbing up from the end of the bed, lying down in the spot next to him. She was tense for a while, but seeing that there was no movement next to her, she relaxed.
This was the first time Xiao Hua spent the night in the Jing Prince’s bed. In the past after serving, she had to return to the palace maids’ room. After moving into the hall, the Jing Prince hadn’t summoned her anymore, but went to her room instead.
It wasn’t like they hadn’t slept in the same bed before, it was just a change of location. However, this made Xiao Hua unable to fall asleep. It wasn’t known how much time had passed when the Jing Prince suddenly turned over. Xiao Hua froze before being suddenly pulled into his embrace.
She nervously prepared herself in her heart, but realized that the Jing Prince didn’t make any further movements.
Xiao Hua’s eyes remained open that night. Only when the night was almost over was she unable to hold on and ended up falling asleep.
The next day when Xiao Hua awoke, the Jing Prince had already left at some point.
Feeling slightly nervous in her heart, she hurriedly dressed and went outside. She saw Xiao Li Zi standing in the hall.
“Eunuch Li, has his highness left?”
Xiao Li Zi showed no change in his expression. This was the expression often put on by those who served in the Hall of Splendor. He nodded his head slightly and said: “Miss Xiao Hua, his highness has left for the front court.”
“Oh, I overslept.” Xiao Hua said a little uncomfortably.
“His highness ordered us not to wake you when he left.” Xiao Li Zi finished speaking and lowered his eyes.
Xiao Hua nodded and returned to her own room.
On the 29th day of the 12th month, the Jing Prince entertained the various officials under his jurisdiction in the Hall of Ascension.
As before, the same situation occurred where the crowd put on a joyous appearance.
The reason it wasn’t held on New Year’s Eve was because the prince had always sympathized with his subordinate officials. New Year’s Eve was supposed to be spent with family, and there was no need to make them busily rush to the Jing Prince Estate for a meal, and then rush back again. The Jing Prince never liked such superficial displays, but since the other vassal princes would hold celebrations, he could only follow along.
At first he didn’t see the point of doing these displays, but he had gradually come to understand. It was a display of his status as the vassal prince, and it served as a sort of deterrence. Of course there was also some coaxing the officials involved, but unfortunately he didn’t know how to do such things.
Just as in his previous life, the Jing Prince had also not received an imperial edict inviting him back to the capital this year.
In his past life the Jing Prince would feel sadness at the neglect of not being invited, but after reincarnating he no longer had these thoughts. A child’s desire to be loved by their parent was something everyone would have, but it was unable to withstand the erosion and passage of time.
If he wasn’t invited then he wasn’t invited. The days would continue to pass regardless.
The banquet on the night of New Year’s Eve should be one where the Jing Prince spent time with his own concubines and wives. Although he never like such appearances, they were unavoidable.
It was only on this day when the Jing Consort and Senior Concubine Qiao, along with the two Madams Yu could openly enter the Hall of Splendor that was forbidden to them.
The feast was carried out via individual tables, where everyone would have their own narrow table in front of them filled with delicacies and fine wine.
The Jing Prince and Jing Consort Xiao-Shi took the seat of honor, while Senior Concubine Qiao sat to the left of them and the Madams Yu sat to the right.
The Hall of Splendor’s main hall was vary spacious, making the few people seated within seem very sparse. However, there were a good number of palace maids and eunuchs to the side. It was brightly lit and splendidly decorated, but it also seemed a little cold and cheerless.
The Jing Prince didn’t like clamor, so there was no song or dance arranged.
The Jing Prince rarely opened his mouth to speak, so no one dared to make the first sound. No matter how much these women desired to foolishly say a few things, they were afraid the prince would dislike it, thus they all behaved themselves and silently ate their food.
Every time at this occasion, the Jing Consort would never pass the opportunity to display her own status as the consort. Especially in the past few years, she had become more and more aware of how to do so. Therefore she took the initiative to speak, saying a few auspicious words and then giving a toast to the Jing Prince.
The Jing Prince gave a lot of face, and silently raised and drank from his cup.
The Jing Consort then condescendingly spoke a few encouraging words to the three others who were lower than her in status, toasting and drinking from her own cup first. Xiao-Shi finished her display, so it was now Senior Concubine Qiao’s turn. She followed the consort’s example, but added Xiao-Shi to her toast.
The other two madams followed along in similar fashion.
Afterwards, the hall fell into silence once again.
During this time no matter what others were saying, the Jing Prince only gave a glance or a toast, and otherwise didn’t do much else.
The Jing Consort was dressed gorgeously today, a crimson robe embroidered with a golden peony tree, and a similar colored brocaded long skirt. Her face was brightly made up without losing any of her dignified aura.
She seemed extremely joyful, smiling the entire night and speaking more than usual. However, most of it was nonsense ranging from asking the other three younger sisters about their health or talking to herself with the prince.
The other three were somewhat aware of the Jing Consort’s personality, and knew that her behavior was actually extremely abnormal. But what did that have to do with them? The three sitting on either side ignored Xiao-Shi’s words, and used the opportunity to send flirtatious glances at the Jing Prince.
The Jing Consort rambled for a long while and raised her cup to wet her mouth, and spoke in feigned casualness to the prince: “Rumor has it that there’s a new little sis by your highness’s side. Why isn’t she here today?”
As her voice fell, all eyes within the hall gathered upon the Jing Consort.
Rumor has it? Where did you here such rumors from?
Senior Concubine Qiao, Yu Jiao and Yu Rong couldn’t make heads or tails of this, but knew that Xiao-Shi definitely had her reasons for saying this.
Could it be that someone had been arranged beside his highness?
Why did they not hear anything about it?
It had to be said that Eunuch Fu and Auntie Qi were too good at keeping secrets. Another reason was because the other three didn’t have much of a foundation within the estate, and were never favored by the Jing Prince. Naturally they were unaware of the inner workings.
Those within the hall knew what the Jing Consort was talking about, especially Eunuch Fu. He glanced at the Jing Prince and darkly pondered in his heart: could there be a traitor within the Hall of Splendor?
Eunuch Fu was normally a little indecent, laughing and scolding at his whim. However, there was practically no one in the hall who wasn’t afraid of him. They knew that those who broke his rules would suffer a tragic fate.
Therefore, as Eunuch Fu’s eyes subconsciously glanced around at the others in the hall, all the eunuchs and palace maids felt their legs trembling.
Dear heavens, consort. Who on earth did you hear the rumors from!? Our Hall of Splendor doesn’t have anyone with loose lips!
The Jing Consort wasn’t aware of their thoughts. Even if she was, she wouldn’t care about it.
Ever since the time Xi’er met with Xiao Hua, the Jing Consort had been mulling over ideas to stop the situation from continuing. These days she had racked her brains without any success, and smashed several objects and decorations in her own house. There were a few times she wanted to ask the Jing Prince himself, but was stopped by Nana Li and Chun Xiang. The current situation was the result of her helplessness.
The hall was extremely quiet.
The Jing Prince didn’t speak, looking at the wine glass in his hand with his head lowered.
The Jing Consort’s face turned a little rigid, before letting out an even brighter smile.
“Really your highness, how could you hide someone away on this splendid occasion? After all, this is someone who had “serviced” you for a time.” She continued towards Eunuch Fu, “Eunuch Fu, why don’t you hurry and invite that little sis over. His highness is busy with everyday affairs and naturally doesn’t have time to think about such little things. You should have reminded him. Speaking of which, wouldn’t it be a little inappropriate if we didn’t even manage to see her once at this gathering of sisters?”
Although the latter part was directed at Eunuch Fu, it was also meant for the Jing Prince to hear.
The Jing Consort’s ability in speaking to herself had improved a lot recently.
When dealing with a man like the Jing Prince, this ability was a must.
Senior Concubine Qiao was better at this than the Jing Consort, so in the past she could be counted as the most favored out of these women. At least, the others had never been graced with the Jing Prince’s present at night, and they naturally didn’t understand this. The Jing Consort had learned a little, but unfortunately the estrangement from her past actions made it quite ineffective.
The Jing Prince indeed didn’t favor the Jing Consort much, but on the surface she was still his consort. Especially since she had spoken out in front of so many people. Therefore Eunuch Fu was put in a difficult position, and his eyes involuntarily looked towards the Jing Prince.
The Jing Prince’s expression was still unperturbed. Not even his eyebrows had moved. He had only gave the Jing Consort a single glance when she suddenly raised the matter, and hadn’t changed his expression since.
The other three women now completely understood the meaning behind the Jing Consort’s words.
It turns out that while they were unaware, the number of people by his highness’s side had increased? It was still that saying “unafraid of scarcity but of uneven distribution”. The Jing Consort’s words implicitly and explicitly stated that they must see the person in question, and their own thoughts were naturally the same.
Only after understanding their opponent could they take the appropriate steps to solve the problem. Furthermore, they weren’t the ones who brought up the situation. Even if the Jing Prince hated it, the hate wouldn’t fall upon their heads. The three of them were naturally happy to watch the show.
“Since the consort has said so, this concubine is also starting to get curious.” Senior Concubine Qiao had a coquettish smile on her face, and her voice was moving like an oriole.
The Jing Prince didn’t speak and gave the Jing Consort another glance before nodding slightly to Eunuch Fu. Eunuch Fu sighed in his heart, and glanced at a low-ranked eunuch to the side who took his leave.
The hall was still extremely silent. Since this topic was raised by the Jing Consort, she was naturally fidgety while the other three appeared to be watching a good show.
The Jing Prince’s dark glance inexplicably made the consort feel a chill. Although her heart pounded on the inside, she appeared calm and collected on the outside.