Translator’s notes: Thank you Frances for the donation! I know I’ve been slacking on resetting the bar, so I’ve reset it and counted your contribution towards it as well. I keep intending to work harder and translate ahead, but somehow I’m just barely keeping up. I’ll try to do more over the weekend.
What “seems to be”, it clearly was!
Xiao Hua raised her eyes and looked over, happening to see up ahead the Jing Prince taking Eunuch Fu back towards the Hall of Splendor.
The Jing Prince was wearing a black fox fur overcoat and a black fox fur warm hat inlaid with white jade. The contrast made him seem even more pale and handsome. Eunuch Fu stood to the side following along while holding an umbrella.
The moment Xiao Hua saw the Jing Prince was the moment he saw her as well.
Seeing the person over there dressed as a madam, he at first didn’t recognize her. Only when that person raised her head did he see the delicate little face under the hooded cloak.
The Jing Prince’s steps imperceptibly paused, and Eunuch Fu spoke to the side: “It’s Madam Hua. This old servant sees that she’s thinking of coming to pay respects. Should we stop for a bit your highness?” He added quietly, “The weather is cold and the snow covered ground is slippery….”
Seeing the Jing Prince come to a stop, Xiao Hua could only hurriedly take a couple steps forward and lower herself in salute.
“Greetings to your highness.”
The Jing Prince clasped his hands behind his back and didn’t speak. Eunuch Fu could only help alleviate the embarrassment from the side: “Where did Madam Hua come back from?”
Xiao Hua smiled and nodded her head at Eunuch Fu in salute, “Eunuch Fu, this servant concubine came from paying respects to the consort at the Changchun Pavilion.”
After speaking, Xiao Hua snuck a glance at the Jing Prince. She saw his usual apathetic appearance and his eyes glancing off into the distance, seemingly not intending to pay her any attention.
She twitched her rigid mouth and bowed once more, “Then, this servant concubine will take her leave first.”
After speaking, she pulled her hood down and left with Ding Xian and Ding Lan.
On the other side, the Jing Prince stood still a little longer before leaving with Eunuch Fu. Eunuch Fu sighed in his heart. This Madam Hua was simply much too dutiful. Why couldn’t she come up and speak some tender and affectionate words?
Ding Lan seemed as if she wanted to say something, but Ding Xiang gave her a look and she shut her mouth. Xiao Hua kept her head lowered and didn’t notice the expressions of her two personal palace maids.
Senior Concubine Qiao was supported by Die’er and Cui’er on the way back to the Rongxi Pavilion.
“This Madam Yu Jiao really made a huge joke of herself today. She wanted to step on others but ended up hurting her foot instead.” Cui’er said quietly.
Senior Concubine Qiao smiled and didn’t speak.
“The consort was really polite today. Normally she gives everyone the cold shoulder but today she was already waiting in the hall bright and early.” Die’er said.
“She just wanted to investigate things, put on airs and make others feel uncomfortable. Only Yu Jiao that idiot would offer herself up as cannon fodder.” Senior Concubine Qiao pointed out.
Actually all the women in the rear court had similar intentions, wanting to show off their strength to Xiao Hua. It’s just that some did it openly while others kept their thoughts hidden.
The senior concubine belonged to those who kept their thoughts hidden, acting as a bystander. Of course this didn’t mean her methods were necessarily correct. It could only be said that she left herself some room to retreat. Before the situation became clear, she would not offend anyone.
Yu Jiao was a little foolish in this regard. Just based on today it could be said she had become enemies with the western pavilion’s Madam Hua.
In the Changchun Pavilion.
After everyone paying respects had left, the Jing Consort looked at Nana Li.
Nana Li had a calm expression and didn’t say anything. She waved her hand to signal those unrelated to take their leave. She and three of the Xiangs supported the consort into the residence. Chun Xiang stayed behind to clean up Xiao Hua’s tea.
“Nana, what do you think?”
Nana Li pondered for a moment before speaking, “She’s not simple, but she’s also a little narrow-minded. Her words were a little unrestrained. After all she was low born, and didn’t have much of an upbringing.”
The Jing Consort nodded her head. She felt the same way.
Thinking of Madam Hua’s performance earlier, she spat out, “How vulgar, not caring one bit about her own birth.”
Thinking how this person had been arranged to live in the first western pavilion instead of with Yu Jiao and Yu Rong in the Hanxiang Pavilion, the Jing Consort was extremely resentful.
“Nana, do you think her living situation was arranged by his highness, or by Eunuch Fu that old castrate?”
Nana Li pondered for a moment, “It’s hard to say.”
Actually the consort knew it was hard to say without asking Nana Li. They were unable to glean any information about the Hall of Splendor’s affairs, and naturally wouldn’t know who arranged for Madam Hua to live in the western pavilion.
If it was Eunuch Fu then there was naturally no need to pay attention to it. However, if it was the Jing Prince then she couldn’t refrain from shooting the rat in fear of breaking the vases anymore.1 Due to this, the Jing Consort could only instigate others to act as cannon fodder today to vent her anger. Unfortunately her cannon fodder wasn’t useful, failing to step on others and ended up getting mocked instead.
Nana Li also understood the reasoning behind this. She sighed and said, “It’s a pity about that tea.”
That Madam Hua actually didn’t drink such a good thing because she said she wasn’t used to drinking tea as a servant and would have trouble sleeping at night.
What kind of nonsense was this!
The Grand Xi Dynasty had the tradition of drinking tea. From the emperor down to the commoners, there was almost no one who didn’t drink it. Even poor families would buy some tea dregs to brew and pretend to be refined for a bit.
But someone sold as a servant, their bodies belonged to their master. There was probably no household’s master who would give their servants tea to drink. She was probably someone unremarkable in the past, someone who could only be a sweeper maid and unable to become a senior maid.
Thinking of this, Nana Li also spat, “Really a lowly brat. What a lowly problem to have.”
She had no idea what his highness saw in that Madam Hua!
“If she doesn’t drink tea, then this scheme would be hard to use.” The Jing Consort said with a frown.
Nana Li certainly understood her meaning. The medicine she used had a taste that needed to be covered by something else. In the past it had always been used in tea, but since Madam Hua didn’t drink it things became more difficult.
“What if when she comes to pay respects tomorrow, we give her something else to drink?” Xia Xiang had served the consort for a long time, and naturally knew about this.
“That’s all we can do.” The Jing Consort muttered.
Actually it could also be put in food, but the meal management center wasn’t somewhere the consort could interfere in. Auntie Qi kept a close watch. Therefore she could only compromise and wait to put it in the tea, making it impossible to guard against.
Thinking of this, the Jing Consort couldn’t help but curse that “Qi bitch”.
She could only curse about it. Others may not be aware of it, but she knew clearly that as the consort she was just a figurehead. That’s why she was angry!
Thinking of this, the Jing Consort’s breathing grew urgent and she covered her chest with her hand. Nana Li and the rest hurriedly rubbed her chest and brought tea to calm her breath.
Xiao Hua returned to her residence, shook off the snow on her body at the door, and took off the cloak and clogs before finally entering.
The kiln and charcoal basin were burning inside the room, making it feel warm and cozy the moment she entered.
She took off her outer layers and put on something lighter before going over to sit on the kiln.
Chun Cao steeped and brought over some tea. Xiao Hua tested the temperature before taking a sip.
Ding Xiang and Ding Lan who had gone along with her to pay respects didn’t ask why she was happily drinking tea now when before she had told the consort she didn’t drink it.
When lunch arrived, since it was for one person, Xiao Hua had them arrange it on the kiln and didn’t go eat by the table.
Ding Xiang suddenly spoke to the side, “Since madam has said she never drinks tea, the consort will probably offer some other drink tomorrow.”
At this moment there was only the two of them in the room. Xiao Hua had let the rest of them go eat lunch.
She couldn’t have others only watch while she ate, right? Furthermore, their meals were brought over along with Xiao Hua’s own from the meal management center. If they waited for her to finish before eating, their food would get cold. There wasn’t a small kitchen here so reheating it would be difficult.
Although Xiao Hua didn’t say much normally, her every action was quite considerate towards others. She herself was a servant in the past, and naturally knew that serving by a master’s side wasn’t as glorious as it appeared on the surface. Having to eat cold meals was a common occurrence. She was just eating lunch, and there was no need for so many people to serve it. Leaving Ding Xiang behind was enough.
Ding Xiang’s words were rather probing, and could be taken in a couple different ways. She could be saying that the consort was considerate, knowing Madam Hua didn’t drink tea and switching it out for her. She could also be saying other things.
Xiao Hua’s eyes flashed and replied: “That’s really quite troublesome.”
She grabbed her food, placed it in her mouth and chewed slowly before continuing: “I’m not used to eating other people’s things before I figure out what’s inside their mind.”
She didn’t look at Ding Xiang this entire time.
Ding Xian also half lowered her head, pouring soup for Xiao Hua.
“You don’t need to worry about the meal management center. The Changchun Pavilion cannot interfere there. Just pay a little attention when it’s time to fetch the meals. This is usually handled by Ding Lan. She is a meticulous person, and won’t make any mistakes.”
Xiao Hua received the soup and took a small sip.
“It’s really troublesome. I can’t be too obvious about it.”
Ding Xiang didn’t speak. She waited for Xiao Hua to put her chopsticks down before bringing over a cup of water for her to rinse her mouth. She planned to help wipe her mouth with a handkerchief afterwards.
Xiao Hua didn’t let her, taking it into her own hands and wiping her mouth off herself. After placing the handkerchief down, she gave Ding Xiang a glance.
Her appearance was ordinary. She could at most be described as pretty, but she was filled with an air of steadiness from head to toe.
How could such a person have been arranged to serve someone without foundations like herself? She would definitely not believe it wasn’t especially arranged by someone.
“Madam.” Ding Xiang kept her head half lowered, stopping her hands’ movements of clearing the table, her attitude extremely respectful.
“Who arranged for you to be here?”
Ding Xiang’s hands started moving again. She only responded after a moment: “This servant was sent over by Auntie Qi.” She paused a little and spoke again: “Don’t worry madam. Ding Xiang clearly understands her role by your side. Auntie Qi has also said that madam will be this servant’s mistress in the future, and that she had nothing to do with this servant from now on.”
“Thank you.” Xiao Hua said again: “Help me thank Auntie Qi.” Eunuch Fu as well, though this part she didn’t say out loud.
Towards Eunuch Fu, this person, Xiao Hua’s feelings were very complicated. Her circumstances today were caused by him. During this time she had felt unwilling and had complaints, and as a servant who couldn’t resist her superior she didn’t feel resigned. However, being able to develop to this extent, she could do nothing else but thank him.
She also understood Eunuch Fu’s heart, even if it was just a little. At least she could sympathize. She also knew why Eunuch Fu viewed her in a different light. It was all due to the Jing Prince.
The Jing Prince…..
Today was her first time paying respects but Xiao Hua could already feel the pointed spears during this time.
Yu Jiao was brainless, but the other three she couldn’t see through yet. Without even thinking about Yu Rong and Senior Concubine Qiao, just the Jing Consort’s wolf in sheep’s clothing appearance was more than enough to keep her occupied.
Whether there was something in the tea or not she wasn’t sure. The first time the Jing Consort said to drink tea, she wasn’t willing to suffer the same fate as in her past life and used her counter against Yu Jiao as excuse to avoid it. When the Jing Consort said to drink a second time, she thoroughly didn’t dare to drink anymore.
She still had to go pay respects tomorrow. Would she really be as considerate as Ding Xiang said and switch her drink?
She didn’t want to assume the worst of others, but this kind of rear court struggle between women was a battlefield filled with smoke and gunpowder. It was no exaggeration to say that it was a life or death situation.
Xiao Hua rubbed her brows in frustration, and let out a sigh.
Ding Lan hurriedly entering interrupted Xiao Hua’s thoughts. Seeing her urgent appearance, she couldn’t help but frown: “What are you panicking about?”
“His, his highness, is here.”
Author’s note: Please don’t call the Jing Consort a dumb c*nt. As someone who wants to give birth to a child but can’t, and is unwilling to see someone else give birth to one, it’s logical they would act this way. Looking ahead….see you tomorrow.