The next morning, the Jing Prince got up much later than usual.
Xiao Hua was used to getting up early by now since she had to pay respects to the Jing Consort every morning.
She opened her eyes and realized the person next to her hadn’t gotten up yet. She snuck a glance and happened to meet his eyes. Xiao Hua blushed and quietly shrunk into the blankets, burying her face in it.
Last night couldn’t be said to be smooth, but it was already better than before by a lot. This Jing Prince seemed clumsy enough in bed, but had actually started learning a few small moves from her. During their second round, Xiao Hua had felt a lot better. Although it wasn’t huge progress, it at least signified some lessons learned.
Perhaps because the feeling in her heart was different, but although it wasn’t their first time doing it Xiao Hua inexplicably felt extremely embarrassed at the moment.
The Jing Prince sat up and Xiao Hua also didn’t dare delay, pulling on some clothes before helping him put his on. From start to finish, she didn’t dare raise her head, deeply afraid to see anger in his eyes.
The Jing Prince didn’t stay for breakfast. Before he left, he stroked Xiao Hua’s hair that was hanging in front of her chest.
Xiao Hua blanked out. What was this supposed to mean?
The Jing Prince walked from the western pavilion gates towards the martial training grounds.
Ever since he started learning martial arts, he would practice for an hour every day, and had done so for the past four years. However, today he was late.
After taking only a few steps, the Jing Prince and Eunuch Fu happened to encounter Eunuch Chang, who had ran the whole way over.
Eunuch Chang spoke a few words by the Jing Prince’s ear. The Jing Prince who had intended to go to the martial training grounds immediately changed directions and headed to the front court.
Someone was waiting for the Jing Prince as he entered one of the inner rooms in the Hall of Deliberation.
Seeing the Jing Prince, that person revealed a happy expression as he knelt to the floor with a thud.
This inner room was a secret area not even Eunuch Fu could enter. The Jing Prince walked forward in a rare display and lightly helped the kneeling person up.
Eunuch Su was nearing forty in age. He was thick and sturdy, large and wide. If one didn’t know he was a eunuch, no one would be able to tell from his appearance. He had served by the prince’s side when the prince was only ten years old. Although it wasn’t as long as Eunuch Fu, it was also quite a long time. That year he had followed the Jing Prince to the Jing Province. It was just that he rarely appeared in the estate.
The reason was none other than his heavy responsibilities that kept him busy.
In his past life after Luo Jing came to the Jing Province, his barren vassal state’s taxes couldn’t even cover his expenditures. Those responsible for allocating his official allowance would delay repeatedly, causing his Jing Prince Estate to fall into the awkward situation of not even having enough for its daily expenditure.
At that time he had endured.
In this life, he endured on the surface but secretly had his trusted aide undertake all sorts of profitable ventures within the Jing Province’s borders. The money from these ventures were used to supplement the estate’s expenditures, but part of it was also saved for the future to make certain affairs easier to handle.
After all, changing one’s destiny couldn’t be done without money.
Eunuch Su was precisely that trusted aide. Not only did he handle the Jing Prince’s personal ventures, he also handled the secret gathering of intelligence. Although he was a eunuch, he was tall and sturdy. After putting on a fake mustache, his identity as a castrate would not be revealed.
Seeing the Jing Prince’s questioning appearance, Eunuch Su smiled and said: “This servant felt he hasn’t returned in a very long time, and decided to stop by and take a look.”
“It’s been hard on you.”
The Jing Prince went over to the chair and sat down, indicating for Eunuch Su to do the same.
Eunuch Su spent most of the year away and wasn’t a reserved person to begin with. He also understood the prince’s personality so he didn’t put on airs and sat down as well.
“It’s not hard. This servant will risk life and limb to handle master’s affairs.” After Eunuch Su finished with the pleasantries, he continued to speak: “The world outside is much more exciting than in here. Although this servant has been busy this whole time, there’s plenty of energy to spare.”
This was actually the truth. If it weren’t for this opportunity, eunuchs who entered the palace would spend their entire lives there. Eunuch Su’s life on the other hand was a lot like a normal person’s, and was actually a lot more carefree. Apart from his status as a eunuch, everyone who saw Eunuch Su on the outside would have to call him elder.
All along, the most profitable businesses was in tea and salt.
Especially salt. Since the imperial court didn’t permit the smuggling of salt, the Jing Prince was able to take advantage in many ways. The Jing Province was his vassal state, and that included the salt mines within the borders. The Jing Prince’s first venture was to use this salt as a springboard. Using public goods for private transactions, he collected quite a bit of money that was used for developing outward slowly.
With a vassal prince as a backer, his personal businesses were naturally not the same as others. They had money if they needed money, they had troops if they needed troops and they had workers if they needed workers. They could advance and retreat as needed. Over the years, the businesses rapidly developed under Eunuch Su’s hands.
The private salt business had already expanded dramatically, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it was raking in money. The money earned was used to earn more money by opening several taverns, bars, brothels and gambling dens. These were not only good investments, but also good locations for information gathering.
Of course Eunuch Su’s return this time wasn’t just stopping by as he said on the surface. Another reason was to report his gains and losses.
No matter how busy Eunuch Su was, he would return a few times a year to report. Whether or not the Jing Prince looked over it was one thing, but Eunuch Su wouldn’t take his master’s trust for granted.
The Jing Prince was also aware of Eunuch Su’s character. As expected, there was a large chest in the corner of the room. He knew that within it contained all the private ventures’ accounting statements for the year.
Eunuch Su reported the important things to the Jing Prince, and then placed a black box on the table.
“Highness, here is the surplus profit for the year. If there isn’t anything else, this servant will take his leave. Having not been back for so long, this servant plans to find those old fellows for a good chat.”
The Jing Prince was never able to say anything overly emotional, “Stay a little longer. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”
These words were already quite rare coming from the Jing Prince, and Eunuch Su could naturally tell the implicit affection behind them.
“This servant knows.”
The Jing Prince waved his hand and Eunuch Su left.
Xiao Hua was shocked by the Jing Prince stroking her hair, and only snapped out of it after a long time.
She couldn’t figure out why he would suddenly do something like that.
It was getting late, so once the Jing Prince left Ding Xiang dragged Xiao Hua over to get dressed up so she wouldn’t be late in paying respects.
Today Xiao Hua put on a light peach foundation, and wore a buttoned light jacket with decorative embroidered rose edges and a pink traditional skirt. Ding Xiang and Ding Lan had continuously made Xiao Hua several beautiful outfits. It couldn’t be said to be too luxurious since the madam’s allowance was only at such a level. However, at least no one could mock Xiao Hua for wearing rags anymore.
After she was dressed up, Xiao Hua hurried over to the Changchun Pavilion without even eating breakfast.
Who knew she would still be a little late by the time she got there.
Everyone in the rear court had already arrived. Even Yu Jiao who just had her restrictions lifted was already there.
Xiao Hua walked into the hall, sighing in her heart without showing anything on the surface, and paid her respects.
The Jing Consort sat in her seat of honor stirring her tea, seeming not to have noticed. Only after a while did she raise her hand.
Xiao Hua nodded her head once again in gratitude and took her place at the side.
As she sat, Yu Jiao opened her mouth and said, “Keeping so many people waiting, what arrogance.”
Yu Jiao didn’t specify anyone by name, but everyone knew she was referring to Xiao Hua. Yu Jiao looked with jealous resentment at Madam Hua who was changing day by day. She saw her limpid, peach blossom eyes and her continuously developing figure. She looked bright and lovable. Her recent days had clearly been good.
In comparison, during her month of confinement she had been filled with resentment daily, and her complexion was instead not as good as this slut.
Xiao Hua twitched her lips and half lowered her head, not sparing Yu Jiao a glance.
Sometimes she felt that the Jing Prince Estate was really a royal estate, and many things were different from other places. For example, the rules and etiquette. But sometimes she would feel the Jing Prince Estate was actually not much different. For example, paying respects everyday. For example, the struggles inside the harem, and the scathing faces of the women.
But the reason they were scathing was due to jealousy. They were jealous but were also afraid to act in case they ended up hurting themselves, so they could only use words to vent. In her past life, Xiao Hua was pleased when those around her reacted this way. She had felt that if no one was jealous of you, you were mediocre. In this life she encountered the same situation, but apart from sighing in her heart, she wouldn’t do anything else on the surface.
“Don’t say that, little sis Yu Jiao. Little sis Hua has a special reason for being late today.” The Jing Consort who had been silent until now suddenly smiled and spoke. Her words were another bolt from the blue the moment she opened her mouth.
Senior Concubine Qiao let out a meaningful smile and followed along: “His highness slept at the western pavilion last night. Little sis Hua’s lateness should naturally be forgiven.”
Xiao Hua looked at the two of them and thought ‘here we go again’ before lowering her head.
Regardless of what she said it would be wrong, so she might as well say nothing.
Yu Jiao and Yu Rong didn’t have much of an information network, and hearing this they were first shocked and then jealous. Especially Yu Jiao whose eyes were about to pop out. She was originally decent looking, but the jealousy added a few shades of ugliness to her appearance.
The Jing Consort and Senior Concubine Qiao spoke a few stinging remarks intermittently, while Yu Jiao served as cannon fodder and continuously threw out sour ridicule at Xiao Hua. But having heard too much of it, it was quite easy to ignore. Her skills were too low.
Xiao Hua said nothing, having made up her mind not to respond. You can say your piece while she didn’t hear a thing.
It seemed that these women were angered quite a bit.
They had known this Madam Hua was a troublemaker, but it was the first time they experienced just how profound this troublemaker was. In the past it was only Yu Jiao who wasn’t able to adapt to the situation. This time not only the Jing Consort, but also Senior Concubine Qiao who rarely spoke couldn’t hold it in any longer. However, Xiao Hua still remained unmoving like a mountain.
Such a repetitive performance, even if the listener didn’t get tired of it the speakers would. Towards the troublemaking Xiao Hua, the Jing Consort was full of weariness in her heart. She couldn’t even be bothered to speak, and waved her hands to have everyone disperse.
“Madam, it seems to this servant that the consort won’t be able to sit still any longer.” Ding Xiang said.
Xiao Hua frowned as she walked. She slept too late last night and got up too early this morning. Having been attacked from all sides, her head was extremely sore.
“She hasn’t been able to sit still for a while, it’s not like today was the first time.”
“But in the past, she hadn’t disregarded her own appearance like she did today.” Ding Xiang pointed out with meaning.
Every day the madam came to pay respects, Ding Xiang would be waiting in the corner. She naturally saw the key points of the situation clearly. The consort would sometimes be a little too obvious, but she had never lowered herself to argue with a madam before, and merely instigated others to do so. But today she had changed.
Xiao Hua curled her lips mockingly. Did the Jing Consort still have an appearance to maintain?
Ever since the Jing Consort found out the Jing Prince would visit the western pavilion, her people had kept a close watch. Whenever the prince visited, Xiao Hua would have to endure a new round of baptism the next day.
Ever since the banquet, the Jing Consort had changed her strategy. She never offered her “tea” anymore, and sometimes couldn’t even be bothered to treat her guests. Instead, she started instigating others to attack her with words.
Before Yu Jiao was released from her confinement, Senior Concubine Qiao and Yu Rong both didn’t enjoy accepting the knife the consort passed to them. Today with Yu Jiao’s return coinciding with the Jing Prince’s visit last night as well as her tardiness this morning, it immediately attracted everyone’s blades towards her.
Luckily she had seen such situations many times before in her past life, and wouldn’t be at a loss. In her past life she would have directly counterattacked, but in this life she chose to “play deaf”. After playing deaf for a while, she actually felt this was better than counterattacking. It prevented a lot of problems from arising.
Xiao Hua gave Ding Xiang a glance, “There are going to be some tough battles ahead. Based on what I’ve seen, I reckon it’s about time they stop their actions on the surface, and start using schemes in the dark.”
Ding Xiang didn’t say anything and only nodded her head.
After returning to the western pavilion, Xiao Hua had Ding Xiang undo her hair and change her clothes before returning to her bedroom’s palanquin bed and laying down.
“Madam, how about eating something before resting.”
Xiao Hua yawned, “Let me sleep a little first and we’ll see.”
Having worked hard all night and gotten mocked by others during the day, not only was her body tired, her heart was tired as well. Sometimes Xiao Hua felt her life was very hard, without a day of peace.
But since things had developed to this extent, she could only face it. Luckily her present circumstances were still a lot better than the past. As long as the Jing Prince continued to visit her place, the others would refrain from acting in case they screwed themselves over. At least they didn’t dare on the surface. She just had to guard against their hidden schemes. As for the future…..
Xiao Hua thought maybe it would be better if she gave birth to a child.
The Jing Prince…
Thinking of last night’s Jing Prince, Xiao Hua couldn’t help but blush again.