Chapter 42: Xiao Yu
Zheng Yang Palace’s Side Hall
The morning was still early and Sishi (modern timing: 9 – 11 ams) have yet to arrive but the rays of the sun was radiant. The windows and doors in the side hall were open to allow the slight breeze to enter. With the scent of the various teas in the breeze, the air was refreshing.
The teahouse at Zheng Yang Palace is the largest in the entire Palace. All the premium tea can be found here. Except for a few palace maids that were self taught by Xiao Yu, the rest of the other servants are not allowed to enter.
Opening the door of the hall, a slender figure stick her head out and look around before quietly crying, “Older sister Xiao.”
Xiao Yu was dividing the new batch of tea leaves that arrived. When she looked up, she saw Lan-er’s pleasing face. Since Lan-er enter the Palace, she has been working beside her all the time. This girl was quick-witted and flexible but its just that she is sometimes impatient and will not be suitable to serve the Emperor thus Gao Jing had sent her to Qing Feng’s place. She has went there for a few months but she did not see her come and visit her. For her to come running early today morning, it must be that she has something to ask of her. Xiao Yu did not point it out bluntly and smiled, “Come on in. Today you do not have duties and is able to come and see me?”
Lan-er jogged into house and whispered, “That’s not it…”
Xiao Yu’s hands which was dividing the tea paused. She thought that this girl will exchange conventional greetings for a while. It seems that this issue was a thorny one.
Lan-er got anxious and did not wait for Xiao Yu to ask before she said, “It’s her Ladyship Concubine Qing. She said she want… Want to uproot all the peonies in Qing Feng Hall!”
Uproot? Xiao Yu’s heart skip a beat as she asked, “Why?”
Lan-er shooked her head and replied, “I do not know. When she came back from the banquet held by the Empress Dowager last night, she already look like she is in tough straits. After which she started to smash things to vent her anger. And this morning, she said to uproot the peonies.”
The Empress have early on felt that the peony was unpleasant to her eyes but she did not dare to get rid of it. For Qing Feng to do so, was it to attract the attention of the Emperor? Or… Was it to vent her anger with regards to her older sister’s drowning? No matter what was the reason, it is foolish.
Pasting the already written leaflet of the origin and time on the small box that held the tea, Xiao Yu started to keep her hands busy and casually replied, “She ask you to uproot, you should uproot.”
“Ah?” Lan-er did not understand, “But. But the flowers were the favourite of Imperial Concubine Shu and it was personally selected by the Emperor!” Why older sister Xiao Yu did not care about it? If the Emperor lose his temper, what can be done?
“Now there is no longer an Imperial Concubine Shu. The Emperor could choose peonies in the past and now could also choose others.” Just like the previously favoured Imperial Concubine Shu and the currently favoured Imperial Concubine Hui, the Emperor’s heart is not in any particular female, let alone those stalks of flowers?
Older sister Xiao Yu is the most favoured female official at the Emperor’s side thus whatever she say would not be wrong. Leaning closer to Xiao Yu a little, Lan-er softly asked, “Whatever older sister Xiao say, I will listen. What do you think I should do about this matter? Should it be told to Steward Gao?”
The colour of Xiao Yu’s face abruptly sank as she turned and stared at the girl in front of her. She coldly replied, “The most important thing when one works in the Palace is to be clearly aware who is your mistresses. What the mistress order, the servants have to work accordingly and not for you to question. Even at the end if whoever wants to blame anyone, naturally it would not be you to bare it and you can’t bare it too. And also, in the future whatever happens to your mistress, it would be best not to inform me so as not to arouse suspicions.”
Lan-er was stunned by Xiao Yu’s sudden anger and lowered her head in grievance, respectfully replying, “Many thanks for older sister Xiao’s reminders. Lan-er will leave first.”
Xiao Yu did not stop her. With matters relating to the Inner Palace, she did not want to be part of it. If the matter is found out by Qing Feng, she will think that she has place someone by her side. Today what she spoke to Lan-er was to help her. As to if she understood it or not, it would have to see her wits.
Picking up a silk cloth at the side to wipe her hands, she got ready to organize another type of tea and saw a tall figure half leaning against the side of the door with a calm and unruffled smile on the face.
Rolling her eyes at that person, Xiao Yu lightly laughed, “Who could have thought that Commanding Officer Ming is interested to hear conversations between females.”
Ming Jian smiled candidly and replied, “I would never have thought that Xiao Yu have this callous side of her.”
Ming Jian strode into the house and sat in front of the round table. He picked up the freshly brewed tea and help himself to drink without asking. Xiao Yu glared at him and angrily commented, “What are you doing here?”
Finishing drinking a cup of premium tea, Ming Jian then only smiled, “Nothing, just wanted to discuss about some good tea.”
Grabbing the empty cup in his hands, Xiao Yu spit out, “Pei. This tea is not something you can enjoy.”
Even though the teacup was taken away, Ming Jian did not mind as he smile, “The premium Hong Hao tea that the Emperor likes is something I dare not think about. Other types would be acceptable.”
A pa sounded when the empty cup was place down. The corners of Xiao Yu’s mouth perked up as it spit out two words, “Don’t. Have.”
“Like this? I just came from the Imperial Study and seem to have heard the Emperor saying…” Deliberately wetting Xiao Yu’s appetite, Ming Jian only said half of it and did not continue.
This person is always like this, Xiao Yu softly snorted, “Say what?”
“The Emperor said that now it is in the middle of the summer heat. Drinking green tea is more suitable to drink.”
Xiao Yu was annoyed, “Why didn’t you say it earlier?” The Emperor has always been fond of drinking black tea and she just let someone sent a cup over!
Ming Jian innocently replied, “You did not ask. When you ask, I replied.”
“Humph!” Xiao Yu coldly scoffed, turned around and did not bother with him anymore.
Ming Jian got up and stood behind her, seeing her pretending to be busy rummaging around but he did not stop her and leisurely said, “I deliberately came over to tip you. If there is no rewards, that will not do.”
Taking out a small bag of tea leaves from a drawer at the far right, Xiao Yu stuffed it into Ming Jian’s hands and impatiently said, “Take it. Quickly leave and don’t bother me working.”
“Many thanks.” Ming Jian took the tea and contentedly walked out of the teahouse. Reaching outside, Ming Jian smell the bag of tea for a bit. It was his favourite Mao Jian tea and his lips unconsciously arced and felt that the summer sun also softened.
In the Imperial Study, the morning court was just over and the Emperor was reviewing the memorandums while the palace maids and eunuchs were quietly standing at the side. No one dared to disturb the Emperor at such a time. Xiao Yu carried a cup of hot tea and walked slowly over. Passing the large study table and reaching Yan Hong Tian’s side, she lowered her head and saw that the previously served tea was cold and was untouched.
Signaling the palace maid behind her to remove the cold tea away, Xiao Yu served up a freshly brewed hot tea to the short table next to the throne and gently opened the lid. A hint of jasmine fragrance was slowly released into the air.
“Jasmine?” Yan Hong Tian place the brush down and Xiao Yu quickly rushed forward to offer the hot tea.
After tasting a mouthful, the refreshing taste lingered as Yan Hong Tian laughed, “Zhen just thought about it and you send it over. Good. Reward.”
“Thanking the Emperor.” Xiao Yu secretly gave a sigh of relief. It was fortunate that that person told it to her, else if she were to send another cup of black tea, it would be bad.
Gao Jing stood at the side and smiled without saying a word. The Emperor only mention green tea this morning and Xiao Yu so coincidentally and promptly served it up. It must be that someone has tipped her off.
Seeing the smile on Gao Jing’s face, Xiao Yu secretly glared at him. At this time a eunuch came in from the back of the hall and whispered into Gao Jing’s ears. Gao Jing nodded his head and waved his hands to let him withdraw.
Gao Jing took two steps forward and then stopped. He frowned for a moment before stepping back.
Yan Hong Tian was drinking the fragrant tea and his mood was not bad. Seeing Gao Jing’s hesitant look, he laughed, “Gao Jing. What issue that made you so difficult?”
Yan Hong Tian asked and Gao Jing also need not continue concealing thus replying, “Concubine Qing have ordered all the peonies to be uprooted in Qing Feng hall.” Just now he was pondering if the Emperor should be informed of the matter. Ordinarily this kind of small matter in the Inner Palace would not be required to announce to the Emperor but this was after all the “peonies” and the person was Qing Feng. Even though the Emperor ignored her but he felt that the Emperor still want to hear news about her.
Yan Hong Tian’s hand that was lifting the lid paused and the sound of the lid rubbing the rim of the cup stopped. Everyone who was serving in the Imperial Study let out a cold breath and no one dared to breathe in deeply.
After a long time, Yan Hong Tian then continued to leisurely sipping the tea and unenthusiastically said, “Her guts are not small at all.” The deep voice did not convey any joy or anger and the roomful of servants dare not make a sound and held their breath. The monarch’s mind is hard to fathom.
Drinking half of the tea before placing it down, Yan Hong Tian softly called out, “Xiao Yu.”
“This servant is here.” Xiao Yu came forward and was about to clear the tea out when Yan Hong Tian suddenly spoke, “Go and take a look. After they have finish uprooting then show yourself and announce to Qing Feng to see Zhen.”
Xiao Yu was surprised for a moment and looked up to Yan Hong Tian and see that he has continued to review the memorandums. Xiao Yu suspected that she has heard incorrectly. The tasks of relaying messages was something that the Emperor seldom let her do. Since he has ordered her to go, why is there a need to wait till all the peonies are uprooted before announcing to Qing Feng? Xiao Yu did not understand but could only obediently head towards Qing Feng Hall.
When Xiao Yu reached Qing Feng hall, a few eunuchs has already shoveled most of the flowers. Yes. Using the shovel, the flower stems and roots were ruined and if it is not removed, the flowers would also have died.
Waited for a while outside the hall, Xiao Yu only then slowly walked out. Seeing Xiao Yu walking slowly from afar, the few eunuchs that were shoveling broke into a cold sweat and their hands were trembling during the hot summer day. Xiao Yu was a female official by the Emperor’s side, if she has come, does it mean that the Emperor has lost his temper?
Originally she thought that Qing Feng was in the house and Xiao Yu wanted to call one of the servants to inform her but she saw a gorgeous blue figure standing in the shade. From afar, it was an ultimate elegant female whose features were peerless and exuding an air of magnificence. She who was walking all the way was filled with sweat but the female who stood under the shade of the tree was still peaceful. Xiao Yu was in a trance till the person walked slowly towards her and was in front of her. Seeing the two scars on her face, Xiao Yu only then recovered her senses and gave a slight bow to cover up her embarrassment, “This servant, Xiao Yu, greets your Ladyship.”
“Do raise.” Qing Feng could recognize her with a look. The first time arriving in Yan Hong Tian’s palace, she saw this female. Even though she called herself a servant, she did not look like one. In the entire Qiong Yue Imperial Palace, she only saw two of such kind of female, one is Shui Xin and the other is her. Qing Feng secretly ridiculed, they are indeed husband and wife, the people beside him are not ordinary at all.
“This servant is here to pass the Emperor’s words and invite your Ladyship to the Imperial Study.”
The servants around her were so scared that their face paled. Qing Feng however gave a smile and replied, “Thats good, it just so happen that I want to see the Emperor too.”
Fu Ling’s palm started sweating and wanted to go with Qing Feng but Qing Feng stopped her from doing so and loudly spoke, “Fu Ling, you stay behind and get them to loosen the soil to plant… Begonia.”
“Yes.” Fu Ling was anxious for Qing Feng but dare not defy her orders.
After giving Fu Ling a look to placate her, Qing Feng smiled to Xiao Yu, “Lets go.” If Yan Hong Tian wanted to punish her, she now would have been on the way to the Imperial Prison and not heading towards the Imperial Study.
The two persons walk one in front of another and there was no dialogue between them. Xiao Yu walked in front to guide the way and could not see Qing Feng’s expression but she could hear that Qing Feng’s footsteps were calm like her breathing. Xiao Yu have been by the Emperor’s side for a long time and roughly guessed that the Emperor would not do anything much to Qing Feng but for Qing Feng to be this confident, is it that she was so assured of the outcome or really not afraid of death?
Xiao Yu was secretly pondering and they quickly reached the Imperial Study. Entering the hall, she saw Yan Hong Tian’s back leaning against the dragon seat with a small booklet in his hands. Seeing that he was no longer reviewing memorandums, Xiao Yu then clearly call out, “Emperor, Concubine Qing has been invited over.”
The small booklet in his hands was slowly brought down and behind it was a pair of deep black eyes. It was slightly amused like a black panther watching its prey and it was of no hurry to devour it but the prey absolutely have no escape. Xiao Yu could not help but to have goosebumps everywhere but that “prey” is taking a leisurely pace towards the person who was seated on a higher level.