Translator’s notes: Thank you again Frances for your support!
The Jing Consort truly hadn’t made many preparations.
Having been married so many years to the Jing Prince, although she didn’t truly understand him she at least knew him a little. This man didn’t seem like a man, and he was very apathetic towards things between men and women.
When they first got married, due to the unwillingness in her heart, they didn’t even consummate their marriage on their wedding night. It was only after a few days when she was afraid the palace would make inquiries that she reluctantly consummated their marriage. In reality she was just going through the motions.
While they were newlywed, he would come to her room every few days. However, she wasn’t willing, and he also didn’t force her. Afterwards, things slowly dulled down until today. He never spent the night at her place anymore.
Thinking of the past, the Jing Consort had cursed herself for her foolishness several times.
Over the years, she would occasionally imagine that if she hadn’t been so foolish in the beginning, they could probably have become a loving couple. After all, when she married him the Jing Prince’s situation was extremely rough. He wasn’t young anymore but he wasn’t old enough to leave for his vassal state yet. All he had in the palace were cold glances and mockery.
If she had been more sensible and helped him weather these tribulations, their relationship would definitely be extremely good. Unfortunately she had been too young, and could only think of her “cousin” while forgetting that her husband was actually the one whom she would spend a lifetime with.
“What do we do, what do we do? Nana?”
The Jing Consort was really desperate this time.
Others may not realize what visiting twice in five days implied, but she did.
The Jing Prince was afraid of inconvenience and liked to simplify matters. His personality was apathetic to begin with, and therefore would rarely come to the rear court.
Since her relationship with him was estranged, even if she clearly knew his main issue with the rear court was the inconvenience, she would never give the others a clue. As long as she didn’t have a child, she would not permit anyone else to have one first. Putting medicine in the tea was one method, and playing dumb about the situation was another.
This was also why she was extremely irritated at Eunuch Fu’s group for taking the initiative, and also why she would make countless schemes to move that person out of the Hall of Splendor and into the rear court. Because she understood the Jing Prince’s personality. He was an independent person, and to put the idea in his mind of visiting the rear court was very difficult.
However, there was now an exception in this difficulty.
But the exception wasn’t for her!
Nana Li looked at the Jing Consort whose face was filled with panic, and couldn’t think of any good ideas at the moment.
“Consort, don’t panic yet.” Chun Xiang soothed.
The Jing Consort smashed the decorations at her side and was a little hysterical, “You told me not to panic yet while she was still in the Hall of Splendor. Now you’re still telling me not to panic. When she wasn’t able to get pregnant at that time, it was because she didn’t have the luck. Now if his highness continues visiting her so frequently, it’s only a matter of time before she gets pregnant.”
Something the Jing Consort hadn’t said, but what even a blind person would know, was that being able to change the Jing Prince’s personality was something truly horrifying.
The Jing Consort’s face was horrifyingly twisted. Only the heavens were aware how much effort she had spent in preventing herself from tearing that person apart earlier.
Nana Li opened her mouth and said, “Consort, panicking now won’t do anything. First of all, who knows if his highness isn’t just briefly interested? We can’t discern anything from just these two visits. His personality has been like this for many years, it’s impossible for him to change overnight. His highness rarely visits to begin with, and in such a short time becoming pregnant isn’t a certainty. As long as we put forth a little more effort, she would have no hope left.”
“But haven’t you seen it? She refuses to touch any of the Changchun Pavilion’s things.”
“Then we will force her to.”
The next day while they were paying respects, the Jing Consort said she wanted to invite all her sisters to the Changchun Pavilion for a banquet. The time was set three nights later.
The Jing Consort smiled very good-naturedly, her attitude seeming to have done a complete 180, making people inevitably bewildered by their doubts.
But since the consort who was above them had spoken, those below could only honestly obey.
Although she said “invite”, could they really treat it as an invitation? Don’t be silly, she was really just informing you about it, and you couldn’t refuse to go.
On the way back to the Rongxi Pavilion, Senior Concubine Qiao’s smile was filled with considerable meaning.
Cui’er didn’t understand the implications, but Die’er did.
Let’s see how that Madam Hua would handle this.
There never seemed to be too much liveliness to watch. If no one was targeting you, you can naturally sit back and watch the show.
At the western pavilion.
Because of the Jing Consort’s sudden banquet invitation, Xiao Hua was very quiet these two days.
Although it wasn’t really apparent on the surface, Ding Xiang and Ding Lan who served her closely could see she was abnormal.
She seemed a little fidgety, but she had suppressed it beneath her silent exterior. She ate and slept as normal without saying anything. Ding Xiang wanted to speak up, but didn’t know where to start.
In the end, no matter how competent she was, she was still a servant.
It’s true that in the past she had been with Auntie Qi, but since Auntie Qi had sent her over she had made it very clear. In the future, her mistress would be Madam Hua.
Auntie Qi’s meaning was clear to Ding Xiang. Auntie Qi managed internal affairs but never interfered in the business of the rear court. This attitude Ding Xiang was also clear about. In the future, she could only rely on herself, or on Madam Hua.
Actually if Ding Xiang had the choice, she wouldn’t have wanted to come serve Madam Hua.
The Jing Estate’s rear court had always been peaceful, but that was because there hadn’t been any wind. Madam Hua’s appearance shattered this previous peace. Regarding this situation, Auntie Qi had hinted at it a couple times. She understood even more clearly what she would have to face in the future.
But since Auntie Qi ordered it, even if she was unwilling she could only obey.
Before she came, she was nervous. After she came, she got rid of any distracting thoughts and set her heart to do her job well. She knew that Auntie Qi looked well upon her always steady appearance and sent her over to give Madam Hua some assistance.
Having spent some time with her, she felt this mistress of hers was not simple. After the Jing Prince visited twice, she was joyful in her heart, and felt even more that Madam Hua’s future prospects wouldn’t be bad.
Although her thoughts were good and their momentum looked to be decent, it couldn’t withstand the Jing Consort’s continuous pressure.
Without any proof, no one could accuse the Jing Consort of wanting to do something.
She was the consort, and apart from the Jing Prince she had the highest status in the estate. Even if everyone knew in their hearts this wasn’t really the case, just based on her status she was able to easily manipulate the concubines beneath her.
Furthermore the Jing Consort hadn’t done anything that was over the line these few days. She had merely offered some tea and snacks while people came to pay respects. It was just treating her guests, and there wasn’t anything anyone could fault her on. Also, there was a reason for the banquet: to celebrate the addition of a new little sis in the rear court.
Xiao Hua would actually prefer it if the consort came at her with her knives bared. It would make it easier for her to deal with her schemes. But since she maintained a warm appearance, her schemes in the dark were especially hard to deal with.
Although her methods were crude, it was still not possible to guard against them.
In other words, even if Xiao Hua accidentally fell victim, could she say it was done by the Jing Consort? Who would believe anyone would openly slip medicine to someone inside their own pavilion? Even fools wouldn’t do such a thing, but the Jing Consort precisely did such a “foolish” thing.
Without falling victim, just based on her conjecture no one would believe her. After falling victim and using herself as evidence, what use would it be to make a fuss then? Moreover, the Jing Prince hadn’t come to visit since coming those two times. He was an apathetic master who was hard to see through, and didn’t seem to be treating anyone more favorably.
From an outsider’s perspective, the Jing Prince visiting twice in five days was a sort of special favor. But Ding Xiang who served by Xiao Hua’s side had never seen the Jing Prince’s apathetic face show any trace of special feelings towards Madam Hua.
When other men favored a woman, they would eventually bestow some things, or use various methods to make the woman feel special and make others feel afraid to intrude.
But this usual convention seemed to be lost on the Jing Prince. He came with an apathetic face, and left with the exact same expression. He didn’t bestow anything and didn’t make any extra motions, not even saying a few words more. No one could understand what he was thinking.
In the past while Ding Xiang worked as a palace maid in the estate, she at most felt that the Jing Prince’s personality was a little strange, but didn’t think too much about it. But coming to the western pavilion to serve Madam Hua, her status and circumstances had changed. Looking at the Jing Prince now, she couldn’t help but feel more anxious, especially since Madam Hua’s situation looked unstable at the moment.
Xiao Hua understood the situation as well.
Therefore she could only constantly endure, and didn’t get into open conflict with the Jing Consort. She also never assumed that the Jing Prince’s treatment of her meant that he favored her. To put it plainly, it wasn’t love, it wasn’t favor. It was at most lust.
She was also clear of her own place. She was just a plaything for the Jing Prince to satisfy his desires. He only came to her because her massage skills were decent, and perhaps because he felt he might as well go with what he was familiar with.
Even though she didn’t want to admit it, Xiao Hua was clear about it. She was just a plaything.
In her past life she was a plaything. It was just that the 4th young master didn’t make her feel like one, so she could pull wool over her own eyes, telling herself that she was the 4th young master’s most favored person.
In this life, the Jing Prince expressed it clearly, making her unable to fool herself. She knew she was just a plaything in reality. Nothing could make Xiao Hua more clearly analyze her circumstances in her past and present life than this moment.
Her analysis was very thorough, and very tragic. These were things she wasn’t willing to think about normally, but she had to face them at this moment.
Apart from this, there was still the constant and increasing pressure from the Changchun Pavilion.
In a blink, the Jing Consort’s banquet was about to arrive. That afternoon, Xiao Hua in a rare occasion had Ding Xiang and the others prepare a bath for her.
There were a few dried flower petals in the tub. Xiao Hua didn’t let anyone serve her, and carefully washed herself clean.
She washed her hair while in the bath. After getting out, Ding Xiang used a handkerchief to wring her hair dry, and then used the steamer to dry it eighty to ninety percent while using a comb to slowly help her straighten it.
Xiao Hua had a mane of thick, jet-black, beautiful hair. It looked like a curtain of top grade satin.
But Xiao Hua knew that her hair was slowly conditioned after coming to the Jing Prince Estate. In the past it had been a little dry and withered. Having improved daily in this place, not only was her person more spritely and tender, her hair quality had also been improving. In her past life she also had nice hair, which was slowly conditioned after becoming the 4th young master’s chambermaid.
Living two lives, with all the twists and turns, she actually ended up in the same situation.
Xiao Hua sat in front of the dressing table and looked at herself. Her face was still that same face, but there was a large difference from the face in her memories.
In her past life, she had been arrogant, flamboyant and domineering. Her eyes had been filled with a charming yet penetrating glare, as though warning others not to provoke her, and that she was not easy to deal with.
Actually that arrogance was a sort of insecurity. Because she was insecure, she covered it up with a display of arrogance.
In this life her face was the same, but her eyes were gentle and refined. She was low-key and graceful, calm and elegant. Her temperament seemed to have changed a lot.
Xiao Hua allowed Ding Xiang to apply some foundation on her face, and then slowly rubbed some makeup over it.
The Jing Prince Estate’s benefits were very good. All these feminine makeup products were sent over as part of her allowance.
Ever since coming back to life, Xiao Hua had never put any makeup on her face. In her past life she was very proficient at it. Not only were her makeup skills pretty good, and she was also decent at discerning quality.
The face powder inside the case was a high-end cosmetic made from ground pearls. In her past life she had used something similar, costing several taels of silver per case. However, that still wasn’t as finely textured as the one currently in her hands. It was glossy and fine, and wasn’t too visible when applied on the face. It only made others feel she had a very good complexion.
Then it was time for lipstick. There were two types of lipstick. One was crimson, and the other was pink. Based on the smell it was clear they were made purely from flower petals. Xiao Hua chose the pink colored one and rubbed it onto her lips. She didn’t apply any blush to her face.
“Ding Xiang. Today I will be wearing the satin lined jacket with woven snow clouds and the dress with golden threaded butterflies flying through clouds and flowers that you newly made for me. Style my hair to match well with this.” Having spent the last few days with her, Xiao Hua knew that Ding Xiang was quite good at styling hair.
Ding Xiang styled Xiao Hua’s hair up in a slanted topknot. It was slanted to the left and hung behind her head, and a few strands of hair on her temple were left loose and hung down level with her chin. The topknot was pinned with a pearl lotus flower, and an ornamental golden threaded pearl was inserted along the same angle.
The look combined with the clothing made her seem as if a different person.
Xiao Hua showed off her beauty in front of the mirror, letting out a smile. The delicate, lush eyes and brows seemed as if drawn with ink, and carved out a divinely appealing display, making one feel unable to look straight at her.
“Alright, let’s go attend the banquet.”