Another long chapter… I secretly love when there is a “battle” in the Inner Palace, all the multiple meanings behind each sentences are so fun to read and dissect!
Chapter 35: Failing To Appreciate Favours (Part 1)
The sun gradually set and with the sky filled with clouds, the rays are no longer scorching hot but the air was more sultry than in the afternoon. In the Yang Xin Lake, the lotus was swaying in its stems along with the light breeze but it was unfortunate that it was not cooling or refreshing. The humid warm wind made one feel more uncomfortable. Two shadows was walking along the lake, slowly headed towards the direction of Xi Xia Palace but they were walking with difficulty.
After drinking that bowl of medicine, her abdomen started to throb in pain. Qing Feng have to rely on Fu Ling’s support in order for her to continue to move forward. Even though she know that the banquet tonight was held to make things difficult for her, Qing Feng still decided to go. She wanted to see what kind of tricks can the Empress Dowager play and also see how powerful is that Princess Chao Yun.
It was such a hot day but Qing Feng’s hand that was holding on to her was getting colder. Fu Ling looked worriedly at the pale made up face of Qing Feng and said in a worried tone, “Mistress, lets rest at the pavilion in front before continuing on.”
Qing Feng looked up and saw that there was a small pavilion in the lake filled with summer lotuses but in order to reach there, one will need to walk through the winding bridge. After reaching there, she will be able to reach Xi Xia Palace faster. Qing Feng was still contemplating when her sight was attracted by an oncoming female. She was dressed in a light purple attire, her waist was adorned with silver tassels and gold threads shimmered as she elegantly walked. From afar, it was like painting of a beautiful female, that noble and demure look made one surprise and envious. Qing Feng sighed secretly, what a beautiful female.
Looking along Qing Feng’s line of sight and seeing the oncoming person, Fu Ling slightly frown and whispered into her ears, “Mistress, this is Imperial Concubine Hui.”
She is Imperial Concubine Hui? She is truly a beauty carved from clouds. For the Palace to have such a beauty, no wonder Xin Yue Ning was that jealous and Yan Hong Tian favoured her that much. When Qing Feng was sizing Chen Zhen up, Chen Zhen also noticed her standing not farHer abdomen started to hurt away. The jet-black hair hanging behind her and the blue dress she wore fell onto the ground which outline her slender figure and made is graceful. She stood like that facing the water, like a a cloud by the horizon, fluttering by the wind and pondering about uncertainties.
When both of their sights set on one another, Chen Zhen was secretly apprehensive. Such clear bright eyes, ice-cold and sharp yet clear and lucid. It has been a long time since such eyes appeared in the Palace. No wonder the Emperor treated her favourably. Under her surprise and slight anxiety, Chen Zhen nodded her head lightly to Qing Feng and smiled. Qing Feng’s heart hesitated before she returned the smile.
“Two younger sisters are heading to Xi Xia Palace for the banquet?” Both of them did not have time to greet another when a female voice sounded from behind them. Both of them turned their heads and saw Xin Yue Ning wearing a glamorous outfit and was smiling at them.
Two of them exchanged a look and greeted, “Greeting the Empress.” Qing Feng saw a faint impatience in Chen Zhen eyes. It seems that these two bear deep grudges.
“Two younger sisters shouldn’t stand on ceremony.” Her mouth say those words but Xin Yue Ning only extended her hand to prop Qing Feng up and softly asked, “Is younger sister’s health better these days?”
Chen Zhen got up and seems to be used to Xin Yue Ning habit of creating difficulties. The elegant gesture of extending her hands made Xin Yue Ning seem disrespectful. Qing Feng is interested in Imperial Concubine Hui who was the most favoured within the Inner Palace. She secretly observe her while she withdrew her hand that was held by Xin Yue Ning naturally and replied, “Many thanks for the Empress concern, it is no longer a hindrance.”
The wind by the lake is quite big, making the scarf around Qing Feng’s neck flutter. The females in the Inner Palace are very sensitive and will not let go of any tiny hints of a secrets, let alone the little red marks that were on Qing Feng’s neck which cannot be covered. Chen Zhen’s watery shimmering eyes flashed, even thought it quickly recovered to a calm state, it was still noticed by Xin Yue Ning.
Chen Zhen, you too have such a day. You have finally taste the jealousy of guarding an empty room for the entire night! Xin Yue Ning, whose mood was considerably good, pretended to help her to arrange her scarf as she laughed, “The Emperor shouldn’t have. Younger sister’s health just improve and he should be more considerate.”
Her cynical tone of voice made Qing Feng frown, the Empress is using her to provoke Imperial Concubine Hui? The females in the Palace really do not have anything else to do? Her abdominal started to hurt and since Qing Feng did not want to be involved in their silly jealousy game, she simply kept her mouth shut. Qing Feng’s silence was somewhat unusual and Chen Zhen only smiled while she stood at the side. Seeing that no one continue her words, Xin Yue Ning felt that it was uninteresting and said melancholy, “It is getting late, two younger sister will head with Bengong to the location.” Humph, Chen Zhen, Bengong will like to see how long you can endure it!
Three of them silently walked all the way to Xi Xia Palace and into the hall. Qing Feng only knew then that there are really a lot of Yan Hong Tian’s women. In such a big house, there was already more than twenty females waiting there, each as beautiful as a flower. For those who were qualified to come for this banquet have already made Qing Feng dazzled and who knows how many are there who were not qualified to be there. Qing Feng scoffed, Yan Hong Tian blessings is indeed not shallow.
When everyone saw the arrival of the Empress, they came forward to pay their respect in succession but their sight stopped at Qing Feng. Especially for those who had stayed in the Palace for a number of years but only remain at the title of Beauty or Talent were staring a hole into Qing Feng. Qing Feng was not afraid of them looking but only felt impatience. The female in the Palace is numerous and comparison is not made by the titles but by the appearances, thus it is not worth fighting.
“The Empress Dowager has arrived.” After the loud voice has spoken, a larger physique, fifty over years old woman walked in with support from a mama.
“May the Empress Dowager have innumerable fortune and safety.”
“All rise.” The gentle voice sounded kind. Qing Feng raise her head to look at the highest seating position. That woman was dressed in a deep plum long dress and her hair is styled simply making it look rustic and her smile is very friendly. She is the Empress Dowager? Qing Feng was quite surprised. The West Empress Dowager was not what she imagine. Qing Feng secretly observe and the West Empress Dowager suddenly look at her with a pair of smiling eyes which made Qing Feng shuddered. After looking at her for a while, the West Empress Dowager did not make things difficult for her and smiled to everyone, “Today is the first day of the month, the Reverend from Xiu Yun Temple has prepared vegetarian courses for Aijia (how Empress Dowager refer to themselves instead of using I). Aijia specially invited you all over to taste and spread the goodness of Buddhism.”
“Thanking the Empress Dowager for the banquet.”
“Do be seated.” The Empress was naturally seated on the right side of the Empress Dowager and constantly whispering a few words with the Empress Dowager. Imperial Concubine Hui sat at the next row, deliberately avoiding seating at the same level as the queen.
Qing Feng’s pain was hard to bear thus she did not have any mood to observe the rest and sat at a position at the back. After she was seated, she realised that many female sat behind her. There were only six or seven of them who dared to sit in front of her. She now could somewhat understand why others are jealous of her.
An old mama walked in from outside the courtyard and whispered a few words to Yang Zhi Lan. The edges of Yang Zhi Lan’s lips hooked up and she said smilingly, “Today Aijia also invited a special guest.”
Everyone was secretly guessing who was the person that the Empress Dowager regarded as a special quest? Without a long wait, the old mama brought a female into the hall.
The female was tall and she has an elegant face. It is just that on her cheeks, there were also two scars. Everyone lingered between Qing Feng and that female and they quickly understood the female’s identity.
Elder Sister? Seeing clearly the female appearance made Qing Feng’s heart jump up to her throat and the hand that was holding the teacup tighten. Why did her Elder Sister enter the Palace? So the purpose of the banquet was not to direct against her, but… Elder Sister?
Receiving Qing Feng’s alarmed look, Zhou Qing looked towards her direction and was surprise for a moment before she recovered her calm and patient smile. That calm and confident smile made Qing Feng’s heart stabilize a little.
“You are Qing Ling?” The question interrupted the exchange of looks and Qing Ling magnanimously said, “Yes.”
“Come and sit by Aijia.” Zhou Qing walked magnanimous to her side. Yang Zhi Lan at first looked at her from top to bottom to size her up. Just as she about to have goosebumps on her hands, she smile, “Prime Minister Lou does have a good eyesight, indeed a girl full of life. The name given is also good, the name reflects as the person, don’t you all say so?”
The breath that was held by everyone could finally release. The news that Prime Minister Lou will be marrying Qing Ling has cause an uproar in the Palace. At one side it is the Empress Dowager and the other side it is possibly the future Prime Minister Furen. All of them did not want to offend either side. Now it seem that the Empress Dowager did not want to become enemies with Qing Ling thus everyone naturally follow up the Empress Dowager words with praises of Zhou Qing.
“Ling-er will sit beside Aijia. Everyone is here, call for the meal.” After saying that, it was really arranged for her to sit at her left hand side, facing the Empress position.
In a short while, the dishes were laid on the table but Qing Feng have no desire to eat. For whatever reason does the Empress Dowager call Eldest Sister and her to the Xi Xia Palace?
Qing Feng could not eat the fine cuisine but Zhou Qing still remained in melancholy. At this time someone laughing asked, “What does Miss Qing do during her pastime?”
Pastime? “Performing autopsy.”
Zhuo Qing coldly spoke and the large hall fell silent.
Qing Feng choked on the tea and her mouth could not help to laugh. Eldest Sister really dare to say that! Eldest Sister is kind hearted and normal like to take care of injured animals. She also love reading and she also believe that she have studied on some medicine. If it is said that her own Elder Sister did the autopsy in the Great Hall, she would definitely not believe. Even though there were people in the palace who authenticate it, Qing Feng will still not believe.
During the Palace Banquet, Qing Feng was brought away by Yan Hong Tian and did not see the terrifying scene. Personally experiencing the turmoil in the Palace Banquet, Xin Yue Ning’s face turn white and felt nauseous.
In contrast, the Empress Dowager is much calmer. The hand which was picking the food up paused and her face still have the friendly smile as she said, “Concubine Qing have not seen her older sister for quite some time and must be missing her. It would be good to have Ling-er to stay in the Palace for some days so that the two sisters can talk.”
Zhou Qing have yet to refuse when Qing Feng, who was faster than her, replied back, “Thanking Empress Dowager’s grace, the wedding is imminent. Eldest Sister must have numerous things to prepare and furthermore, for a prominent official wife to enter the Palace frequently, it will not reflect well.” Not to mention Yan Hong Tian may have hidden intentions for Eldest Sister, Princess Chao Yun must not take it lying and for the Empress Dowager to do as such, meant that there is a plan in place. She will never ever let her sister enter the Palace.
Wedding is imminent? It has reached the stage of wedding preparation? The Empress Dowager and Emperor have agreed? Everyone was secretly surprise but dare not make any comments. When the Empress Dowager heard the word wedding, her expression darken. Even though there was some anger, but her words that she spoke did not reflect as such, “Those complicated things should be handled by men. But what Concubine Qing said is reasonable. How about this way, Ling-er will be marrying Prime Minister as his wife and needs to learn court etiquette. Aijia will help to get a decree from the Emperor to enter the Palace justly and honourably. Like this both you sisters will be able to be reunited.”
“All right, this is settled.” The Empress Dowager waved her hands and refused to let her speak more. Qing Feng wanted to speak more but Elder Sister gave her a look which stop her from speaking again. It was just a worried look but it felt like a long forgotten warm to Qing Feng.
The Empress Dowager used so much energy to get Elder Sister to enter the Palace and will definitely not have any good intentions. Qing Feng was thinking of how to get her Elder Sister out of this danger when a eunuch piercing loud voice called out from afar, “The East Empress has arrived.”
The East Empress Dowager? Lou Xi Yan paternal aunt! What is she here for?
The eunuch’s voice just finished, a woman in a grand dark red outfit walked in surrounded by eunuch and palace maids. A face that was maintained properly and a tall figure made her look younger than the West Empress Dowager, she look like she is in her early forties. Her noble and extravagance outfit and the air of importance as comparison made the West Empress Dowager look simpler and approachable.
Her sudden arrival put the group of concubines in a state of panic as they got up to greet, “Greetings to the Empress Dowager, may the Empress Dowager have innumerable fortune and safety.”
“Get up then.” Not looking that the whole floor of kneeling women, Lou Su Xin headed towards Yang Zhi Lan.
Yang Zhi Lan quickly got up and greeted with a smile, “Older sister please quickly sit down. Why do you have time to come over here?”
“Heard that younger sister is having a banquet in the palace. Aijia came over to join in the crowd.” Lou Su Xin swept the floor with her eyes and seemingly randomly asked, “Do continue what was spoken before.”
Unfortunately everyone kept their head bowed and no one dared to answer. It seems that everyone is afraid of her. The West Empress Dowager intimately pat Zhou Qing’s hand and smiled, “Heard that Xi Yan will be marrying but he hid the bride so well. So I specifically gotten someone to invite her in to take a look. She is indeed a pure hearted and spirited lady. One will like her when one look at her. Just now we discussed about letting the Emperor pass a decree to let Ling-er enter the Palace to learn the etiquette and she can also accompany Concubine Qing. Both of them have left home for so long, they must have lots to say.”
Her eyes only drift pass her, Zhou Qing doubt that Lou Su Xin didn’t even look clearly at her appearance. Lou Su Xin put on an arrogance and distinctively said, “Oh its about this matter. Xi Yan’s health is weak since young, every spring and summer he would easily fall ill. Ling-er knows acupuncture and she treats him when he gets sick, thus he literally begged me to let Wu Mama leave the Palace to teach Ling-er the palace etiquette. Aijia was unable to win him so it was agreed as such.”
The West Empress Dowager obviously know the change in situation and she changed the subject. She smiled, “So this was the case. Since it is related to Xi Yan’s health, that let this matter rest. Older sister rarely come here, lets eat a meal together.”
“All right.” The two Empress Dowagers sat there and the atmosphere which was not joyous became depressing. Everyone ate this meal with difficultly. After the last dish, Lou Su Xin put down her pair of chopsticks and said a few pleasantries before leading Zhou Qing out of Xi Xia Palace.
Qing Feng look at the back view of Zhou Qing walking away and started to worry endlessly. This East Empress Dowager is so domineering and she suddenly appeared today to take Elder Sister away. Wonder where do her intentions lie at?
Princess Chao Yun is the only pearl in the West Empress Dowager’s palm. With the marriage news of Prime Minister Lou spreading like wildfire in the Palace, for the West Empress Dowager to hold this banquet and invite Qing Ling, it is certainly not as polite as it seems on the surface. But when it just started, the East Empress Dowager messed it all up and in the end the person was also taken away. It was obvious to all that the West Empress Dowager’s current mood is definitely darker than her current facial expression.
Everyone started to retire, as Qing Feng stood up, Yan Zhi Lan suddenly said, “Concubine Qing just entered the place a short while ago. Do stay behind and speak to Aijia.”
Qing Feng’s steps slips, indeed, what needs to come will definitely come. Yang Zhi Lan failed to keep Eldest Sister here so now she should be venting it out on her.