Translator’s note: Sponsored chapter 2/2 for the week. Please thank Marchmallow and Tweedledeestwin for once again sponsoring a chapter. Sorry for the slightly later post this time, I was out for the day. Regular chapter will follow shortly since I think they go quite well together. Don’t read too fast 🙂
Die’er glanced at the sky outside and said with a concerned expression: “Senior concubine, it’s snowing outside. Are we still going over to the western pavilion?”
Sometimes Die’er didn’t know what Senior Concubine Qiao was thinking. As a senior concubine who was officially listed on the Jing Prince’s harem jade slip record, she still ran to a low ranked concubine’s residence to express goodwill.
She also understood the senior concubine’s intentions, but having gone so many times they hadn’t run into his highness even once. Was there still a need to go?
His highness was apathetic to begin with. It could be imagined that even the favored Madam Hua would rarely see him. How much time would they have to waste if they wanted to run into him there?
“We’re going. Why would we not?” Senior Concubine Qiao spoke while letting Cui’er dress her up. Her expression was completely relaxed without the slightest trace of impatience.
Senior Concubine Qiao naturally understood what Die’er was trying to say, and raised a hand to stop her, “There’s nothing to do nowadays anyway. Let’s just treat it as passing the time.”
Die’er felt uncomfortable hearing this but no longer argued about it.
Actually there were still some words Senior Concubine Qiao didn’t say out loud.
From the moment his highness came to the Jing Province, he rarely came to the rear court. On the rare occasions he did show up at her place, it was just to sleep without doing anything. Not only was that woman Xiao-Shi feeling desperate, she herself was also desperate. After all these years she no longer thought about whatever favor. She just wanted a child. For the sake of this goal, she wouldn’t let any opportunity, no matter how small, slip through her fingers.
She wasn’t like that fool Xiao-Shi, who tried to use underhanded tricks. Even if she succeeded in making others unable to give birth, if his highness wouldn’t go to her what was the point?
Of course, Senior Concubine Qiao also had some hope in her heart. After all, from an outsider’s perspective, the Jing Prince had only spent the night at her place since arriving at the Jing Province. He had never visited the other places. Perhaps his highness still viewed her a little differently, but had merely forgotten over the course of time.
“Bring the jar of drunken rouge along. This senior concubine will properly let Madam Hua try out some good stuff today.”
Die’er heard her words, and couldn’t resist smiling as she thought about the expressions on those palace western pavilion palace maids’ faces.
“Senior concubine, have you not noticed the expressions on those palace maids’ faces over at the western pavilion? They clearly wish they could kick us out, but they can only endure it.”
Senior Concubine Qiao smiled charmingly, “Unfortunately for them, I’m the senior concubine and she’s a madam.”
“Exactly. But from what this servant sees, that Madam Hua seems to be quite mentally stable, as if she’s not concerned at all. Is she really that dumb or just pretending to be?”
Senior Concubine Qiao’s jade-like finger lightly touched her own lips and smiled profoundly at the mirror, “She naturally wouldn’t be a foolish person.”
After a pause, she spoke again: “It’s because she isn’t foolish that she doesn’t dare refuse this senior concubine. If I tried this with Yu Jiao, this senior concubine wouldn’t even be able to get through her doors.”
“Senior concubine is wise.”
“Alright, let’s go. We don’t want to be late.”
Die’er helped Senior Concubine Qiao up while Cui’er grabbed the wine jug of “drunken rouge” and the group headed outside.
“Little sis Hua, I’ve brought some good stuff today for you to try. Tonight I will have my people bring my food over. The two of us sisters will eat together and sample this excellent “drunken rouge”.
After Senior Concubine Qiao came, these were her first words. Without any hesitation, she had Die’er place the white jar of wine on the table.
Xiao Hua was a little speechless but still maintained her smile, saying: “Big sis senior concubine is really too gracious, always bringing some things over to share with this servant concubine.”
“It’s because the two of us are so intimate, I naturally won’t treat you as a stranger.”
Xiao Hua smiled awkwardly.
The two of them sat on the kiln. Senior Concubine Qiao said: “Little sis Hua’s place is just so comfortable. Even this warm kiln is more comfortable than my place.”
As if you don’t have a kiln yourself!
In the entire Jing Prince Estate, apart from the Jing Consort’s Changchun Pavilion and his highness’s Hall of Splendor which had heated vents, all the other places had kilns and charcoal basins for warmth. Senior Concubine Qiao’s place was the same. Seeing her making a big deal out of something each residence had in common, Xiao Hua couldn’t be blamed for cursing in her heart.
Ever since her first visit, Senior Concubine Qiao had truly started coming by daily. She mostly chose to come in the afternoon.
Whenever she came, she would sit for a while and chat with Xiao Hua about various unimportant things.
After spending some time with her, Xiao Hua realized she was a capable person after all.
At least she was very good at making conversation. Even if you had nothing to say, she could come up with a topic that the two of you could chat about. Furthermore, her attitude was extremely good from the very beginning, her smile amicable without any arrogance or overbearingness. She gave off a very approachable and kind feeling.
But illusions couldn’t become reality. This was something Xiao Hua understood, so she never wavered.
While she could remain unmoved in her heart, she couldn’t prevent the constantly smiling Senior Concubine Qiao from staying longer and longer each day. Now she even brought various tasty foods and drinks as an excuse to stay for dinner.
Therefore, Xiao Hua had been growing more and more annoyed with her recently. She was extremely annoyed at her act, and also annoyed with herself for being so polite in the beginning. Her politeness wasn’t fake, but this person had taken her words “literally”, and started diligently “visiting” her.
Not only was Xiao Hua annoyed, Ding Lan and Chun Cao were recently very annoyed as well. Ding Xiang was better at concealing it, but whenever Senior Concubine Qiao left she also couldn’t resist furrowing her brows.
The two of them chatted idly for a while. It was mostly Senior Concubine Qiao speaking while Xiao Hua listened on the side, occasionally speaking a few words. It appeared very harmonious on the outside, but how it really was under the surface the two of them were probably well aware.
Soon it was dinner time. Xiao Hua and Senior Concubine Qiao’s food had been brought over.
Ding Lan brought the others to the western room to set up a square table where the food was placed. Xiao Hua’s and Senior Concubine Qiao’s dishes together filled the entire table.
The two of them got off the kiln and sat at the table. With the help of their own palace maids, they washed their hands.
“Little sis Hua, big sis will give you a toast first.”
Senior Concubine Qiao had Die’er pour a cup of the alcohol named “drunken rouge”, and lifted it in a toast.
The cup and jar were both Xiao Hua’s. Although the wine was brought over by Senior Concubine Qiao, she had taken a drink first so there naturally wasn’t anything wrong with it. Xiao Hua allowed Ding Xiang to pour some for her.
Xiao Hua was actually quite impressed with Senior Concubine Qiao at times. What should have clearly been an awkward situation was not awkward at all when she did it, and instead seemed completely natural. Just like this wine, and also the food she had brought over in the past. She would always seamlessly volunteer to “taste test” it first, making it hard for one to refuse.
“This drunken rouge is highly distilled but doesn’t burn the mouth. It has a faint fragrance and doesn’t get you drunk. It’s the most suitable for us girls to drink.”
Since it had gotten to this point, Xiao Hua naturally didn’t protest. She lifted her cup and drank.
“Thank you big sis Qiao for the good wine. Please count this cup as servant concubine’s toast to you.”
The alcohol entered her mouth and it really was as Senior Concubine Qiao had said. Strong but didn’t burn the mouth. Not only was there a light fragrance, there were even some hints of fruit flavored sweetness.
In this life, Xiao Hua had almost never drank any alcohol. In her past life she would often accompany the 4th young master in drinking a few cups, and her tolerance naturally wasn’t bad. She just didn’t know if her experience from her past life would carry over.
The two of them ate while occasionally chatting. Senior Concubine Qiao continued drinking alcohol and Xiao Hua also drank along smoothly without declining. As they were eating, Chun Zhu1 hurriedly ran inside, giving Senior Concubine Qiao a glance before whispering in Xiao Hua’s ear.
The Jing Prince was here?
Xiao Hua was a little tipsy but she wasn’t drunk. She glanced at Senior Concubine Qiao and a thought flashed through her mind.
Hur hur, what a coincidence! She really managed to run into it!
Although she was thinking this, she still hurriedly stood up and said, “Big sis Qiao, his highness has come. This servant concubine will go welcome him.” She then took the lead in heading out and prepared to greet him.
Die’er looked at Senior Concubine Qiao in pleasant surprise. She tidied up her appearance a little, pursed her lips and resisted smiling with some difficulty before following Xiao Hua out.
Senior Concubine Qiao came out just as the Jing Prince walked in. Xiao Hua was in the middle of saluting, and she hurriedly took a few steps forward to salute as well.
The Jing Prince wore black casualwear with golden lines, and a black jade crown rested on his head. A black jade belt was wrapped around his slender but sturdy waist. He looked cool and apathetic but also outstandingly handsome.
Eunuch Fu stood to the side, staring weirdly at Senior Concubine Qiao who wasn’t supposed to appear here. The Jing Prince stood fixed in place for a bit but his expression didn’t reveal anything as he lifted his hand for them to rise.
Xiao Hua, who was the place’s owner, hadn’t said anything yet before Senior Concubine Qiao spoke up first, “Your highness, what great timing. Little sis Hua and I were just eating dinner together. I don’t know if your highness has eaten yet. How about we all eat a little together?”
Senior Concubine Qiao had actually already noticed that there were two low-ranked eunuchs behind Eunuch Fu who were carrying food.
The Jing Prince didn’t say anything. Eunuch Fu sighed in his heart and waved his hand, signaling them to lay the food out.
Senior Concubine Qiao accompanied the Jing Prince into the western room, her face full of smiles. The palace maids of the western pavilion all had ugly expressions on their faces. This Senior Concubine Qiao was being too obvious, making it hard not to have an ugly expression.
Although the drunken rouge was supposed to be for women to drink, it would still make one drunk. Xiao Hua not only felt a little dizzy at the moment, but her face was also bright red. However, she didn’t reveal any unpleasant expressions and followed behind them to the western room.
The Jing Prince had already sat down, and the food he brought over was already laid out. Senior Concubine Qiao sat on his left side so Xiao Hua sat down on his right.
Senior Concubine Qiao’s face was red, extremely tender and beautiful. It wasn’t clear if this was due to the alcohol or her excitement.
“Highness, this is the “drunken rouge” that this concubine specially brought over for little sis Hua to try. Would you like to try some?”
The Jing Prince didn’t speak, only using his chopsticks to grab food without giving Senior Concubine Qiao a glance.
All those who were able to remain by the prince’s side for so many years understood his personality. Seeing his lack of reaction, Senior Concubine Qiao summoned someone to pour some alcohol for him.
After pouring, she also had Die’er pour some more for Xiao Hua, and then refilled her own cup.
“Highness, this concubine offers you a toast.”
Under the lamplight, Senior concubine Qiao appeared especially beautiful today, seeming to have spent meticulous effort on her appearance. Her powdered face, cherried lips and limpid almond eyes were matched with a pale bluish white light jacket embroidered with green lotus patterns. Her waist was pinched tightly, making her upper body bulge outwards with great momentum. Her every move carried heavy charm, like a flower already in bloom, able to attract countless butterflies and bees.
Normally when she came it wasn’t too apparent. They all merely thought Senior Concubine Qiao was a beauty. At this moment, under these circumstances, her appearance made Ding Lan and the rest unable to resist clenching their teeth. Xiao Hua on the other hand merely chuckled a couple times in her heart, and didn’t know how else to react.
That person was scheming, that person had patience, that person was willing to lower herself. With such qualities, that person would always be successful during the struggles in the rear court. Adding on her excellent appearance and decent mind, she was even more unstoppable.
Xiao Hua secretly compared herself to that person and felt that she didn’t even qualify to carry her shoes.
The Jing Prince didn’t speak, lifting his cup to drink the alcohol.
Senior Concubine Qiao was once again full of smiles as she lifted her cup towards Xiao Hua, “Little sis Xiao Hua, big sis offers you a toast. Thank you for your warm welcome today.”
Xiao Hua twitched her lips and snuck a glance at the Jing Prince.
Was he the “warm welcome” she was referring to? Hur hur…..
“Big sis senior concubine, you are being too polite.” Xiao Hua lifted her cup, covering her face with her sleeves as she drank.
The moment Xiao Hua put her cup down, Die’er was beside her refilling it while also pouring more for the Jing Prince and Senior Concubine Qiao.
In front of the Jing Prince, since Senior Concubine Qiao had toasted her, Xiao Hua certainly had to return it. Furthermore, she couldn’t leave out the Jing Prince either.
Xiao Hua could only lift her cup and toast the Jing Prince first.
“Highness, this servant concubine offers you a toast.”