First sponsored chapter of the week. Thank you to Samia.P and anonymous for sponsoring this chapter. I take the names from Ko-Fi, so let me know via a message there if you want to be listed under a different name.
Xiao Hua idly chatted with Nana He a little longer before saying farewell.
After leaving the small kitchen, she felt a little at a loss.
The people Eunuch Fu arranged, the situation she herself was pushed into, the situation in the rear court, her body’s condition…all these things taken together made the meaning behind Eunuch Fu’s actions quite obvious…..
There was a feeling of fear, and one of helplessness.
Does this sort of highness really need to be shared with others? Her instinctive reaction was an overwhelming flood of unwillingness.
“Madam, shall we go back?”
Xiao Hua nodded.
Before taking more than a few steps, An Chen came towards them.
An Chen’s smile was very bright, but Xiao Hua saw that it was superficial. This was because she had seen An Chen’s superficial smile toward others in the past. This low-ranked eunuch only smiled sincerely towards a select few people.
“Madam, his highness heard that you came and summons you to the hall.”
Xiao Hua let out an “oh”, and followed An Chen along with Ding Xiang.
An Chen was Eunuch Fu’s disciple. The two of them were naturally on the same side, right? Based on An Chen’s attitude she could see Eunuch Fu’s current attitude towards her.
Was it because of her body’s condition? Eunuch Fu couldn’t wait any longer and thus arranged low-ranked palace maids into the Hall of Splendor.
She knew she shouldn’t feel this way, but Xiao Hua couldn’t help but feel betrayed.
At the same time, a voice in her head said that she had no justification to feel this way, since she herself was pushed forward by him.
The Hall of Splendor was still the same as before, yet entering once again it seemed like another world.
Especially since so many things had happened the moment she entered the rear court. Therefore, as Xiao Hua entered the hall and saw the Jing Prince sitting within as he did so long ago, she felt a feeling of unfamiliarity.
The man that she had become extremely close with over the past days was suddenly a stranger again.
After saluting, Xiao Hua stood there blankly with her head lowered.
The Jing Prince frowned and felt a little unsettled in his heart.
Xiao Hua slowly approached and stood in front of him.
The Jing Prince pulled her over with one hand, and had her sit on the recliner next to him.
After she sat, he stroked the ends of her hair by her temples, and only spoke after a while, “What’s wrong?”
Xiao Hua raised her eyes and saw the unperturbed gaze and seemingly emotionless man in front of her, and suddenly the feeling of closeness was back again.
She felt a little like laughing and also a little like crying. She ended up rubbing his finger and saying quietly: “Nothing much.”
The ends of her hair were stroked once again. Xiao Hua’s rubbing motion on his finger never stopped. As she rubbed, she ended up using her hand to grab his large hand and squeezed it tightly, as though she never wanted to let go.
A burst of footsteps sounded out. Xiao Hua turned her head to look.
Eunuch Fu was all smiles as he strode in, bringing with him a bright party of low-ranked palace maids.
They were elegant and supple, even lithe. They stood with various postures and expressions, each with unique appearances. They were all extremely beautiful young girls.
“Highness, this old servant has brought these people for you to take a look at.” Eunuch Fu said to the Jing Prince.
His attitude was extremely natural, as though he hadn’t seen Xiao Hua who was sitting on the side. He also made it appear that bringing these people, who were only supposed to enter the hall the next day, at this time was no big deal.
The Jing Prince didn’t make a sound, and appeared the same as he did in the past. He took a glance and moved his gaze away.
Xiao Hua however stared blankly, her mind thinking back to when she first entered the Hall of Splendor. At that time, his highness was also sitting in this spot and didn’t give her a second glance. Yet as of today, she was so intimate with him….
As she was lost in thought, one of the people standing in line slightly raised her head, sending a curious glance towards Xiao Hua who was sitting above.
Xiao Hua was thunderstruck, looking at that person’s eyes.
Having lived two lives in this body, Xiao Hua was naturally aware of what her eyes looked like.
That pair of eyes was too similar to her own. Both had eyelids that were relatively more curved, the inner corners slightly tilted below, and the outer corners vaguely slanted. The shape was like a peach blossom petal. Due to her young age, they appeared a little unripe. What was clearly a charming pair of eyes were unable to express their seductive appearance due to the immaturity. However, that same immaturity paired with those eyes resulted in its own extremely attractive charm.
Xiao Hua looked instinctively towards Eunuch Fu’s face below, and saw that he was still beaming, his eyes rather full of meaning.
The words Xiao Xia Zi said not long ago seemed to echo in her ears, “Those few were arranged by Eunuch Fu in the courtyard a few days ago. They were specially found, and have yet to enter the hall itself……”
Specially found, specially found……
At that instant in a brief lapse, Xiao Hua’s hand started trembling slightly.
Xiao Hua shook her head and didn’t dare look at the Jing Prince. She didn’t dare look to see if he had noticed that person’s eyes. She didn’t dare guess how he would react after seeing that person. She didn’t dare think about anything……
“This servant concubine remembered that highness’s clothes haven’t been finished yet, and will head back first.”
She put on a calm appearance and finished speaking before fleeing in a panic.
The Jing Prince had noticed something was off at first, but was distracted by the mention of the clothes. His mind was focused on her thoughtfulness, and didn’t notice Xiao Hua’s abnormal appearance. There was even less need to mention her inappropriate behavior.
After Xiao Hua left, Eunuch Fu bowed and asked: “Highness, how do you think we should arrange things?”
The Jing Prince stood up and was too lazy to even look, “Up to you.” He went into the study.
Seeing Xiao Hua walk out of the hall in a panic, Ding Xiang who had been waiting outside the hall came over.
“Madam what’s wrong?” Eunuch Fu had used the side doors to bring the people inside. Ding Xiang who had been standing by the main doors naturally didn’t see anything.
Xiao Hua shook her head, took a deep, deep breath and did her best to pull her lips up in a smile.
As they walked out of the Hall of Splendor, the door guarding low-ranked eunuchs still had the flattering smiles on their faces.
Ding Xiang felt Xiao Hua’s cold, clammy hands and still felt something was off. Thinking of the low-ranked eunuch’s words from before, she felt a little anxious.
After getting back to the western pavilion, Ding Xiang sent everyone out.
Only then did Xiao Hua sprawl onto the kiln, unable to regain her energy for some time.
“Madam, did you anger his highness?” Ding Xiang couldn’t think of any other explanation for her being summoned and then leaving so soon after.
Xiao Hua shook her head.
Ding Xiang saw that her expression was off, and said: “This servant will pour some tea for you first.”
Only after slowly drinking some tea did Xiao Hua stabilize her emotions.
She looked at Ding Xiang who was next to her with an extremely powerless feeling, “Ding Xiang, Eunuch Fu brought the people into the Hall of Splendor.”
Ding Xiang was shocked at first, and then felt very complicated. She didn’t know what to say.
What could she say? Didn’t Madam Hua come in the same way initially?
Although Madam Hua was now a madam, with half a mistress’s status, within the overall royal family she was merely a small concubine. With the Jing Prince’s attitude being an exception, such a low ranked concubine truly wasn’t enough for Eunuch Fu, who was both someone close to the master and the general manager of the estate, to take seriously.
Back in the imperial palace, Ding Xiang had seen too many out-of-favor concubines suck up to those eunuchs. Although this wasn’t the palace, there wasn’t any difference.
“I saw someone who looks a lot like me within the group of people.” Xiao Hua said with a trembling voice.
This time even Ding Xiang wasn’t able to maintain a calm expression.
“Nana He sending me that slip of paper was for this purpose. Only when I saw it with my own eyes did I understand what Xiao Xia Zi meant by “specially found”, hur hur… …”
This laugh was clearly a laugh, yet it sounded like a sob.
“Madam, don’t overthink it……” Apart from this, Ding Xiang really didn’t know what to say.
“Should I feel pleased with myself? Should I feel proud of my accomplishments? Specially found…….”
Although she had clearly told herself she shouldn’t be like this, she still couldn’t help herself. She was too clear on how amazing Eunuch Fu’s methods were. She was even clearer about the Jing Prince’s attitude towards Eunuch Fu.
Was she enough for others to take seriously? Was she enough?
Having seen Eunuch Fu’s gaze earlier she understood his meaning. Although he didn’t say it outright, the two of them were well aware in their hearts……
Hearing these words, Ding Xiang inexplicably felt like crying. She had always respected Eunuch Fu since he was very close with Auntie Qi. But why did she feel like cursing him now? Cursing him for doing such a thing. Wasn’t this just stabbing madam’s sore spot with a knife?
The western pavilion was scarily silent. After a long, long time, a listless voice sounded out.
“I’m going to rest for a while. No one disturb me.”
Xiao Hua went to the bedroom and Ding Xiang didn’t dare follow.
Thinking of Ding Lan and Chun Cao whose faces were filled with doubts as she sent them out, she opened the doors to the main residence.
“Big sis Ding Xiang, just what on earth happened?” Chun Cao asked immediately after entering.
None of them were fools. When Madam Hua came back just now, her expression was too ugly. Along with Ding Xiang’s attitude, they naturally knew something major had happened.
Ding Xiang wearily shook her head and didn’t know what to say.
“Keep your voice down. Madam went inside to rest, and doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
“Just what on earth happened? Hurry and tell us, I’m worried to death.”
Chun Cao wasn’t the only one panicking, even Ding Lan’s face was filled with worry. Ding Xiang motioned Ding Lan to close the doors before pulling both of them into the western room. After summarizing the situation, since madam hadn’t told her everything, Ding Xiang told the two of them what she had heard and what the madam had said.
After Chun Cao finished listening, her expression was ugly and weird.
“This Eunuch Fu, isn’t he treating others too contemptibly? Isn’t this clearly treating our madam with contempt?”
“Don’t say these words outside. If others knew about it……”
Ding Xiang didn’t finish the rest of her words. Thinking of Eunuch Fu’s methods, Chun Cao couldn’t help but shiver.
“So we can only let him bully our madam? What about his highness? Also not saying anything?”
Ding Xiang shook her head silently, “Madam didn’t mention his highness’s reaction.”
“It’s definitely the case, definitely the case. Men are all easily distracted by novel things. His highness definitely saw the fresh beauties and abandoned our madam to the side. Otherwise madam wouldn’t have sorrowfully gone to rest.”
Xiao Hua would always find some time for herself when her emotions were chaotic, while giving the excuse of “resting for a while, no one disturb”. Also, Chun Cao’s theory was a little too laughable. Xiao Hua was only fifteen, how much fresher than that could someone get?
Ding Xiang’s emotions were also a mess. Hearing Chun Cao’s words she felt a little like laughing, but also felt that she was being improper, and in the end all sorts of complications combined into one sentence, “These words cannot be said outside.”
Ding Lan was also looking miserable on the side. Fighting over favor with others was one thing. Now Eunuch Fu popped up, and brought an entire pack of fresh-faced low-ranked palace maids that looked extremely like madam into the Hall of Splendor.
The tower closest to the water gets the moon first. This was a fact that everyone looked down upon yet its effectiveness couldn’t be denied.
What should madam do?!
The Jing Prince had only sat in the study for a little bit when Eunuch Chang came in with a stern face.
Seeing his hurried behavior, the Jing Prince’s expression also turned serious.
“Highness, Mister Huang’s side is asking for you. It seems something has happened in the capital.”
The Jing Prince Estate’s intelligence organization would always provide two copies of their reports. One copy would be sent to advisor Huang Qin, the other would be sent to the Jing Prince.
Because the news was fragmented, it required someone to organize before something could be gleaned from it. This task was far too menial yet also extremely important, and was thus handed over to Huang Qin to deal with. Since the Jing Prince had reincarnated, he knew a few things others didn’t but he couldn’t reveal how. He also knew that if he didn’t fill himself in, many smaller details would slip through the cracks. Therefore, he would also take a copy of the report to analyze during his free time before comparing both of their conclusions.
However, the Jing Province’s daily official affairs were already quite a lot to handle, and the Jing Prince was also very busy. Occasionally Huang Qin’s side would have things completed earlier by a bit. If the news was trivial then it wasn’t a big deal, but if things were slightly more important he would invite the Jing Prince over for discussion.
Since the Jing Prince knew the seriousness of the situation, he hurriedly rushed to Huang Qin’s living quarters within the estate.
Huang Qin lived in an unnamed pavilion on the side of the Hall of Deliberation. Because there were many important things in his pavilion, servants were not permitted to enter. Not only were there guards outside the door, the Jing Prince had even arranged for some trusted aides to guard on the inside.
Within the study, the table was buried beneath imperial documents. Behind the table sat a rather hallowed old man with an elegant figure, his expression slightly anxious. This was the Jing Prince’s trusted advisor Huang Qin.
Seeing the Jing Prince walk in, he didn’t even bother saluting before having the prince take a seat.
“Mister Huang, what is it?”
Huang Qin also didn’t bother with pleasantries, and directly said, “There is news from the capital. The crown prince has submitted a memorandum to the emperor asking to reduce the military authority of the vassal princes.”
These words made the Jing Prince’s expression directly turn dark.
With the Jing Prince’s usual apathetic personality and expressionless face, something that was able to make him have such a large reaction was naturally no small matter.
Perhaps in his last life, the Jing Prince wouldn’t have understood what military authority meant for a vassal state and its prince. He also had no desire to understand back then. But in this life he couldn’t have been clearer. If the vassal prince was a person, the military authority of his vassal state would be the vassal prince’s bones.
Could a person still stand straight if his bones were reduced?
These five years were neither long nor short. The Jing Prince had spent a lot of effort on his vassal state. Others didn’t understand but he himself knew very clearly. He had finally managed to put his own man in as the vice commander of the troops, and the vassal state’s military authority could be said to have fallen into his hands. Now there was this sudden development.
“Has his majesty permitted it?”
The moment he spoke, the Jing Prince knew that his question was a little ignorant. If he had permitted it, Mister Huang’s expression wouldn’t be like this.
Thinking of the events in his past life, the Jing Prince was slightly relieved.
“Don’t panic, let’s observe the developments.” He ended up comforting the other instead.
Huang Qin didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. He stroked his beard and said: “Highness, this old man naturally knows that panicking isn’t of any use. With those two holding down the fort in front, there shouldn’t be any major effects.”
Those two referred naturally to the Jin Prince and the Qi Prince. The two princes birthed by Senior Concubine Xu was rather favored by the emperor, to the extent that even the crown prince would have to be cautious if it weren’t for his status as the crown prince.
“Who knows what this crown prince is thinking. His majesty has just recovered from a major illness. Submitting such a request at this time, isn’t he just stirring things up?”
The Jing Prince’s understanding of the crown prince was only based on the impressions of his younger self as well as the intelligence reports he received after moving to the Jing Provinve. He naturally wasn’t able to say much at this time.
“Highness, has there been any news from that side?”
Two years ago, the Jing Prince had managed to arrange a mole by the crown prince’s side. Huang Qin naturally knew about this, but since it was such a sensitive detail, even he didn’t know who the mole was. He just knew there was such a person. That person didn’t seem to be trusted much by the crown prince yet since the secret intelligence the mole managed to gather was far too little.
The Jing Prince shook his head and Huang Qin sighed slightly.
“This thing cannot be rushed. We can only keep an eye on the developments for now.”
The two of them had another round of discussion before the Jing Prince left Huang Qin’s pavilion. After going to the Hall of Deliberation, he called for Eunuch Chang.
“Send a message to the person by the crown prince’s side asking about the situation there.”
Normally the Jing Prince rarely let his subordinates contact that person. But only with inside information could the truth about the current situation be discovered.