Translator’s note: First sponsored chapter of the week. Thank you Yannieee, Insomnia and Marchmallow for your support once again. Regular chapter will be released later today.
At the same time within the small kitchen.
After the palace maids and eunuchs earlier were finished eating, a new feast of dishes was placed on the table. This time they weren’t prepared by Auntie Meng, but rather personally by Nana He.
Eunuch Fu stuck by the prince’s side almost twenty hours a day. He only rested when the Jing Prince went to rest. Ever since the Jing Prince started going to Xiao Hua’s room to spend the night, Eunuch Fu had quite a bit more free time. He just needed to instruct his disciple An Chen to keep watch and he could go take a proper break.
The Jing Prince had told Eunuch Fu several times not to tire himself out too much, but unfortunately he never listened. The days had passed in the same way for a decade.
When the people in the hall had dispersed and seeing the Jing Prince enter Xiao Hua’s room, Eunuch Fu went to find Nana He in the small kitchen.
Life as servants wasn’t easy. Nana He had already planned on having him and Auntie Qi come over for New Year’s Eve and have a late meal. The few of them had known each other for a long time, from when they were still back in the palace. Their relationship was naturally not simple.
A table of wine and delicacies was shared between four people. Seated were Nana He, Auntie Qi, Eunuch Fu and Eunuch Chang. In the past, there would also be someone called Eunuch Su present. But this year Eunuch Su was busy outside and couldn’t return home in time.
That’s right, return home.
Having come to the Jing Province with the prince five years ago, these people had already started viewing this place as their home.
Out of these people, Eunuch Fu and Auntie Qi had known the Jing Prince the longest, and could be said to have watched him grow up. Nana He was assigned over when the Venerated Concubine was first conferred her title, and had also known the prince a long time. Eunuch Su and Eunuch Chang were assigned to the prince in his youth as personal servants, and were now both managing eunuchs at the Jing Prince Estate.
Despite being people as well, eunuchs had no root, no parents, no heaven or earth. Apart from serving their master, they had nothing else. Auntie Qi and Nana He were also due to various reasons not released from the palace when they reached the age. Since they had no relatives on the outside, they also had nothing else to do but to serve the master.
Everyone here was in the same boat so they would get together every year for a New Year’s meal and paint a picture of liveliness.
“Why are you so early today? What, is the prince asleep?”
Auntie Qi was well aware of Eunuch Fu’s habits. If the prince hadn’t gone to sleep, he would never have left. In the past, Eunuch Fu would always be the last one to arrive since he had to wait until the prince slept.
Eunuch Fu gestured with his hands, “He’s sleeping, in that place.”
Auntie Qi gave made an expression of understanding and pursed her lips in a smile.
Regarding the fact that the Jing Prince now had a low-ranked palace maid by his side, these old fellows were all aware. Eunuch Fu’s initial plan was conceived with their help after all. Unexpectedly, his plan ended up bearing fruit.
“The matter over at Changchun Pavilion, have you looked into it?” Auntie Qi asked with furrowed brows.
This topic wasn’t some secret, and was basically known by everyone after the feast had ended.
Hearing this, Eunuch Fu’s face sank. “Not yet. This grandpa will let them properly celebrate the New Year tonight. Tomorrow, I will go deal with them. Let’s see which bastard has such guts to reveal the Hall of Splendor’s affairs to the outside.”
The Hall of Splendor’s affairs were left for Eunuch Fu and Eunuch Chang to handle, so Auntie Qi naturally didn’t say anything else about it. She turned to Nana He and asked, “Nana, has there been any signs from that lass, no, from Madam Hua?”
Nana He shook her head, her eyes flashed before saying with a heavy voice: “Madam Hua suffered a lot when she was younger, and her period isn’t too smooth. I am currently adjusting her body, but since she is still young things won’t happen so quickly.”
This time Nana He didn’t conceal anything, and spoke plainly. After all, Xiao Hua had status now and could be said to have some backing.
These words were similar to what she told Eunuch Fu last time, merely adding the line about her suffering while she was young. Perhaps Eunuch Fu still wouldn’t understand the difference, but as a woman Auntie Qi could tell right away.
“Can this be fixed?” Auntie Qi’s brows were even more tightly furrowed.
“No need to worry about this, it shouldn’t take long. I’ve already fixed it to some extent. Originally it should have been fixed in about a month, but after the consort’s meddling things have gotten more complicated.”
The room suddenly grew quiet. Even Eunuch Chang who had been continuously drinking and not speaking had ceased his sounds of alcohol intake.
“The consort’s side probably isn’t so easily handled.”
These words weren’t phrased as a question, but rather as a certainty. Having survived to such an old age in the palace, Nana He was naturally not simple. Despite Eunuch Fu not describing how events had unfolded, Nana He had already guessed several things.
“She merely doesn’t want to see someone being the tower closest to the water, and at the same time by pulling the person over close by, she would be able to torment her however she wished.” Eunuch Fu revealed a mocking expression.
“She’s really capable. Who knows where she gets her confidence from?” Auntie Qi said.
They couldn’t be blamed for talking about the Jing Consort in such a disparaging manner. These people had wanted to tear Xiao-Shi up and swallow her into their stomachs in the past. Although they were all servants, having followed the Jing Prince for so many years, even if others looked down upon him, they couldn’t forgive his own consort for doing the same.
But they were servants after all and the prince continued to tolerate her. Otherwise, based on these people’s skills, Xiao-Shi probably would have disappeared long ago.
These people had also seen Xiao-Shi’s behavior improve afterwards, but unfortunately the first impression is the one that sticks. They remained respectful towards her on the surface, but none of the viewed her as a mistress in reality. Especially considering that his highness never bothered with her either.
Nana He understood their meaning. These people all had different personalities. Eunuch Fu was slippery, Auntie Qi steady and Eunuch Chang taciturn. However, one thing they all had in common was their ruthlessness, or perhaps heartlessness.
As people who served in the palace, apart from those they recognized as masters, they wouldn’t take anyone else seriously.
While Eunuch Fu and Eunuch Chang were both full of smiles, and even respect towards Xiao Hua, in their hearts she was really just a tool or plaything. Her purpose was to serve the Jing Prince, and even better to give birth to an heir. The reason they continued treating her well and showed her pleasant expressions was because she still had some use as of today.
And now, Xiao Hua wasn’t showing any signs of pregnancy and she was also being moved out. With his highness’s apathetic nature, it wasn’t known if she would still be favored in the future. Therefore, they didn’t waste too much thought on her.
Nana He used to be like this in the past as well. However, since she was older and Xiao Hua would often hang out with her in the small kitchen, she still had some affection towards the little lass.
“I feel like you guys should still wait and see. Although his highness isn’t expressing too much affection, it’s clear that there has to be something at least. Her background is lacking. Don’t let her fall into the hands of the Changchun Pavilion and get swallowed whole.” Nana He didn’t express much concern on the surface and only spoke evenly while refilling Eunuch Chang’s alcohol.
Eunuch Fu placed his chopsticks down and frowned. After some thought, “That’s true. What do you guys think?”
“How about we see what his highness says tomorrow?” Eunuch Chang had always been cautious, and his words were extremely cautious as well.
Auntie Qi interrupted, “Do you guys think his highness is someone who would understand these things?”
Everyone fell silent.
The Jing Prince truly didn’t bother with such things, or rather it was that he didn’t understand it. Having avoided people during the early years in the palace, he focused all his efforts on his vassal state after coming to the Jing Province. He rarely set foot in the rear court, how would he understand the schemes and interactions between women?
Eunuch Fu thought some more and finally concluded, “You guys observe some more. I will sound out his highness’s intentions tomorrow.”
The Jing Prince indeed didn’t bother himself about such things.
It was clear that if Eunuch Fu hadn’t taken care of Xiao Hua, she would probably still be wearing the regular low-ranked palace maids’ outfit and her jewelry would still be the simple head ornaments she initially received upon entering the Hall of Splendor.
Now she had several sets of clothing, but this was still something within Eunuch Fu’s authority. If she were to have more, it was something that had to be decided by the prince.
But the prince didn’t show any movements, and Xiao Hua had never thought herself to be anything special let alone try to ingratiate herself with him. Therefore things remained in this weird state.
The next day, Eunuch Fu brought up Madam Hua’s living situation in the future. The Jing Prince still said the same words, “Up to you”.
After a pause, he remembered that low-ranked palace maid saying she couldn’t bear being too far away and his eyes flashed faintly before saying: “Western three pavilion’s first pavilion.”
The western and eastern three pavilions were laid out in the same way. They were located behind the Hall of Splendor, but one was on the east side and one was on the west side. Changchun Pavilion was the first pavilion amongst the three eastern ones, located in the rear east of the Hall of Splendor. It was the pavilion closest to the hall out of the three eastern ones. The first pavilion on the western side was also close to the hall, located to the rear west.
Eunuch Fu’s eyes flashed but he didn’t say anything, merely responding with a bow.
According to reason, Xiao Hua’s status today was insufficient to inhabit an entire pavilion. Even Yu Rong and Yu Jiao, although they lived together in the Hanxiang Pavilion, could only inhabit the eastern and western wings, leaving the main residence empty.
Eunuch Fu had intended to arrange for Xiao Hua to move into the Hanxiang Pavilion, but since the prince had spoken he naturally changed the location. Also due to the prince’s rare consideration, Eunuch Fu’s thoughts began to stir and he changed many of his previous plans.
Having sounded out the situation, those few people naturally split up to carry out their plans. Eunuch Fu naturally didn’t forget to investigate the leak within the Hall of Splendor.
Having gathered everyone for interrogation, many of the palace maids and eunuchs felt unjustly accused. The weather was extremely cold and not many people had been going outside the hall. Even if it was for official business, there were always two to a shift, and almost no one acted alone. Everyone was able to provide an alibi, and Eunuch Fu also had his own thoughts. These people were vetted by him several times, and he was sure they wouldn’t purposefully act out and seek death.
Having investigated thoroughly, Eunuch Fu’s conclusion was that the news hadn’t leaked from inside the hall, and communicated with Auntie Qi to have her investigate outside.
The situation with Xi’er coming to see Xiao Hua several times was naturally not overlooked. Along with finding out that Chun Xiang had bribed a low-ranked palace maid called Cheng’er, Eunuch Fu was naturally able to obtain the answer. The Jing Consort could only have inferred some clues due to Xi’er’s repeated visits, and used the New Year’s banquet as an opportunity to confirm her suspicions.
It had to be said that the Jing Consort’s trick was quite sinister. Using just the slightest hints to piece together the truth, and using the banquet to bring it up in front of everyone, her words and actions irreproachable, making one unable to refuse her. If Madam Hua was foolish, she might even feel grateful towards the consort.
But according to Eunuch Fu’s understanding of her, Xiao-Shi that woman shouldn’t be so wise. Thinking of the few trusted aides by the Jing Consort’s side, Eunuch Fu understood a few things. However, he didn’t say anything, and also didn’t go warn Xiao Hua.
Everyone had their own fate, and whether they could rise up depended on their own understanding. Eunuch Fu didn’t deny that Madam Hua was raised by his own hand, but how far she could go in the future depended on her own wits.
While he, Auntie Qi and Eunuch Chang were all responsible for the estate’s internal affairs, they each had their own roles. Those like them who served by their master’s side usually wouldn’t get too close with any of the master’s women. This concept would be understood by anyone who had spent some time in the palace, and Eunuch Fu naturally understood this as well.
For the sake of his own thoughts, the small bit of help he had provided was fine. But he couldn’t do anything beyond that, and Madam Hua would have to walk her own path.
Having gotten to this point, Eunuch Fu and Auntie Qi stopped investigating further. As long as nothing was leaked from the Hall of Splendor things were fine. As for Xi’er and that Cheng’er, Auntie Qi used some excuse to relocate them both to the laundry area. Of course, this was something that happened later.