Chapter 45: Imperial Generosity To A Favourite
Within Ling Yun Palace, Chen Zhen was lying on the couch reading when a palace maid softly entered the room and stopped by Wu-er’s side, softly saying, “Older sister Wu-er, Concubine Qing is outside asking for an audience.”
Chen Zhen looked up from her book, scaring the palace maid into kneeling down. Imperial Concubine Hui prefer quietness and usually her Ladyship’s temperament was really good but one must never to disturb her when she is reading or resting. The palace maid was so scared that she was shaking. Wu-er waved her hands at her and the palace maid immediately retreated out.
What is she doing here? Chen Zhen’s brow knitted and Wu-er spoke, “This servant will reply her saying that your Ladyship has yet to wake up.”
When Wu-er was almost at the door, Chen Zhen suddenly voiced out, “No need, invite her in.”
“Yes.” Even if Wu-er was reluctant to do it, she did not dare to go against Chen Zhen’s wishes thus she could only go out to welcome Qing Feng in.
When Qing Feng entered the house, she saw Chen Zhen half lying on the couch, without any signs of wanting to get up. Qing Feng walked to her and gave a bow and greeting, “Qing Feng greets your Ladyship Imperial Concubine Hui.”
Chen Zhen pulled the blanket over to cover up her body and softly replied, “No need to be too polite. After one enters the Inner Palace, one is the Emperor’s women. We should refer to one another as sisters.”
Qing Feng secretly raised her eyebrow, the females in the Inner Palace indeed really like to refer one another as “sisters”. The last time when the Empress said it, Qing Feng was dismissive but this time Qing Feng obediently replied, “As what older sister says.”
Looking around Ling Yun Palace, Qing Feng smiled, “Older sister’s place is furnished really elegantly and refined.” Qing Feng’s words were not half-heartedly at all. Chen Zhen’s place was indeed fitting to be called “elegant and refined”. The spacious main hall, the plain white curtains swaying with the wind, a painting of irises and orchids were hanged in the position facing the door, a large comfortable slightly tilting bed couch was placed beside the opened window and there was a mid-height bookshelf place beside it. Chen Zhen was lying by her side on the soft couch, looking sleepy but not losing her elegance. Qing Feng silently sighed,this is a female which one will feel comfortable at sight. It is just that maybe she was thoroughly ill, as she still wore a long shawl in the midsummer morning and cover herself to the chest with a thin blanket.
Chen Zhen smile faintly, “I’m flattered.”
Qing Feng’s gaze stopped at a koi embroidery in front of the window and her eyes slightly narrowed. Qing Feng walked over and lightly touched the delicate silk. Qing Feng was entranced with it as Chen Zhen slowly sat up and said, “Younger sister is also interested in embroidery?”
This silk was extremely familiar. Covering the suspicions in her heart, Qing Feng looked at the embroidered koi and smiled, “I was only sighing about older sister’s skill. The ability to sew such intricate embroidery on such valuable type of silk really make this younger sister feel incompetent. Anyway to be able to have this thin of silk, it is indeed uncommon. Presumably a rare item.”
“This is not anything exotic as the Weaving Department will make a few bouts every quarter. It is just that this material is too thin for clothes and too delicate for handkerchief thus the mistresses of every palace doesn’t like to use it. Only I love its fine and soft texture as it is best for embroidery. If younger sister likes it, then do take some of it.”
“Then many thanks for it older sister.” Qing Feng secretly watched Chen Zhen’s expression, gentle and natural. Could it be that she has thought too much into it?
Chen Zhen raise her hand to Wu-er who was standing beside and Wu-er walked into the chambers. After a short while, she came out with half a bout of silk and Fu Ling went up to receive it.
Qing Feng sat down on one of the stools and for a moment there was nothing said between the two person as they do not have any interaction before. It was fortunate that both of them were introverted people that staying silent was not awkward for both of them. When the tea was drank to half, Qing Feng then smile and said, “Actually, I am here today to discuss about an issue with older sister. I like to paint, older sister love embroidery and Qiong Yue ceremony is approaching. Why not both of us offer a gift during the celebration? I would draw and older sister would do the embroidery. The Emperor would definitely be very fond of the gift. It’s just that I do not know if older sister’s health…”
“This is a a very good idea but recently my health is not very good so younger sister can draw the design and let the Weaving Department to rush it out before the celebration.”
“That is also a good idea. Once I have finish drawing, it would then be brought to older sister to view. With regards to the embroidery, it would be best to have older sister’s advice.”
“You are being too modest.”
With the topic of embroidery, both of them could continue to chat and a shichen (modern: 2 hours) quickly passed. Seeing the colour in the sky, Qing Feng smiled, “Did not think that older sister and me could hit it off so well. It would seem that it is almost noon and I do not want to delay older sister to rest. Qing Feng will retire and come back tomorrow for a visit.”
Still coming here tomorrow? Chen Zhen quickly said, “This is an old chronic problem and should not trouble younger sister to come over everyday.”
“It is of no trouble. I am also very bored in the Palace, if older sister do not mind, we would be one another partners. Qing Feng will retire.” Finishing her words and not waiting for Chen Zhen to speak, Qing Feng gave a bow and left Ling Yun Palace with Fu Ling.
Qing Feng left arrogantly like that and made her mistress frown deeply. Wu-er started to get angry and scolded softly, “She is being too much!”
Chen Zhen have been thinking about the purpose of Qing Feng’s visit today and only recovered when she heard the girl beside her complaining. She looked up and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“She need not come over early in the morning to agitate your Ladyship even though the Emperor graced her last night.” Wu-er grumpily complained about the injustice. Chen Zhen laugh in spite of herself, “She is not such a meaningless person.”
She is not? Wu-er did not understand and asked, “Then why is she here?”
Chen Zhen shook her head. She also wanted to know what was Qing Feng here for. When the topic of embroidery was brought up, Qing Feng saw the embroidery she did and casually commented on it. What is her purpose of coming here today and why is there a need to come again tomorrow?
Wu-er lowered her voice and spoke to Chen Zhen worriedly, “Your Ladyship, if she comes here everyday, it would be easy for her to find out.”
“Stop mentioning about it. Just wait and observe the changes.” The words touched on Chen Zhen’s anxieties and her brows unconsciously furrowed. Listening to what Qing Feng spoke the other day, she guessed that Qing Feng would not be resigned to her fate and she is afraid that the Inner Palace will no longer be peaceful. But why did she not direct it to the Empress and Empress Dowager and instead came to her. Ai. She has miscalculated this time, she should not have provoked Qing Feng.
Exiting Ling Yun Palace, Qing Feng leisurely walked in front and asked in a cold voice, “Is it that kind of silk?”
“Yes.” That night she re-sew the brocade bag and carefully inspected it. The light and soft texture with the weaving grain are all consistent with the bolt of silk in her arms.
Qing Feng’s leisurely pace did not change but her voice got colder, “Go and inquire from the Weaving Department if it was like what Chen Zhen has said that this material can be used by anyone and… Within the past six months, which palace has asked for it.”
Both of them were walking on a small trail between flowers with an earthy fragrance and warmth of the sun surrounded them and the green leaves above their head interrupted the sun rays to many strands and landed on the neatly-arrange quartzite little road. It was Qing Feng’s favourite place as it is shady, peaceful and secluded and the flowers are arranged better as compared to the Imperial Gardens. Qing Feng slow her pace down and at this time a green clad child ran over from an arched door all the way to Qing Feng’s side. He bowed to his waist and lowered his voice to speak, “Your Ladyship Concubine Qing, Prime Minister Lou let this servant pass a message over saying that Lou Furen is doing fine now. Please do not worry about it.”
The child suddenly sprang out of nowhere, scaring Qing Feng and Fu Ling. Hearing his words, Qing Feng was then able to recover from it and size him up. The child was shorter than her, his voice is clear and bright and he spoke quickly, seemingly like he was twelve or thirteen. Settling her mind, Qing Feng then whispered back, “I understand. Which palace are you from?”
“This servant is Xiao Liu-zi, working in the Imperial Household.” Pausing a while, the little child seem to have thought about something and softly replied, “If you have any message to be passed to Prime Minister Lou or Furen, this servant can do so.”
The little child looks very smart but Qing Feng did not let him carry any messages and only answered back plainly, “You can withdraw.”
“Yes.” Just like he came, the little child jogged a few steps and went into the small trail leading to an arched door, quickly disappearing from Qing Feng’s sight.
Elder Sister was taken away by Lou Xi Yan and with his great care, she was very assured. Recalling Lou Xi Yan’s rage that day, Qing Feng was very curious. How would he handle it in the end? It was obvious who was the one who did it but the other party is the Empress Dowager, who is the Emperor’s blood mother, what does he want to do? What can be done?
Suddenly not in the mood to appreciate the scenery, Qing Feng’s pace quickened and they both arrive in Qing Feng Hall shortly. Xia Yin was about to arrange lunch when she saw them returning. Xia Yin went out and softly informed, “Your Ladyship, Zheng Yang Palace sent a message over saying that the Emperor will come over tonight to have dinner with your Ladyship. This servant has already informed the Imperial Kitchens to prepare accordingly.”
“En. Just order them to do what should be done. Lunch is not needed and I want to rest for a while.”
Xia Yin secretly gave a sigh of relief. This mistress is different from other mistresses. According to past experiences, the arrival of the Emperor does not necessarily make her happy. Xia Yin lifted her head and answered, “Yes.” Her eyes inadvertently saw the bout of silk that Fu Ling was holding and Xia Yin’s heart started thumping wildly and her face turned pale. It was fortunate that Qing Feng and Fu Ling had already entered the house.
Xia Yin’s hand gently covered her chest as she quietly retreated.
When it just reached the time to light the lamps, the Imperial Kitchens brought dinner in successively, filling the entire long table. In a short while, a eunuch’s far away shrill cry can be heard, “The Emperor has arrived.”
When Yan Hong Tian step into Qing Feng Hall, that elegant figure has already half knelt down to receive him, “Long live the Emperor.”
“Rise.” Holding her hand to help her up, Yan Hong Tian teased, “Zhen thought that you are accustomed to receive by closing the doors.”
Qing Feng’s lips curled up to a smile as she softly replied, “If the Emperor likes it, Chenqie would gladly do it.”
Yan Hong Tian started to laugh, recently because of the celebration issues, he was worn out by work. The feeling of having someone to bicker with actually felt good.
“Bring the meal over.” Yan Hong Tian seem to be a little exhausted today as he did not spoke during the meal. Qing Feng pick the dishes for him as she spoke, “Chenqie went to Imperial Concubine Hui today for a walk and saw that Imperial Concubine Hui’s embroidery is surperb. So Chenqie discussed with her a while and decided to work together to offer an embroidery work as an offering to the celebration. I would draw it, the Weaving Department will rush it out and Imperial Concubine Hui will provide the guidance. What does the Emperor think of it?”
“Of course it is good. It is rare to see you in such a mood.” Yan Hong Tian faced Gao Jing who was standing behind and said, “Gao Jing, decreed the Weaving Department to send ten people over for Feng-er to dispatch.”
The name Feng-er that he called sounded very natural but Qing Feng felt like her heart was struck by someone. In the past, only her beloved family would call her like that. Now hearing it from Yan Hong Tian’s mouth, it was really loathing. Pressing down her angry thoughts, Qing Feng softly replied, “Thanking the Emperor.”
Yan Hong Tian was extremely acute and naturally could sense the dissatisfaction from Qing Feng. Picking up a piece of pastry to her lips, he smiled and said, “Feng-er, eat a bit more.”
He deliberately did that! Qing Feng glared at him which made Yan Hong Tian laugh as he was happier. Fu Ling timely served up the hot tea and broke the turbulent undercurrent between both of them. Yan Hong Tian took a sip and felt that it has a slightly harsh taste but after the aftertaste was sweet. Thinking back about it, the colour of the tea was bright green and the leaves are uniformly dark green. This was different from what he usually drank. Yan Hong Tian curiously asked, “What tea is this?”
“The Mistress saw that the Emperor was recently working very hard on the matters of state, thus specially instructed this servant to prepare a calming and soothing tea.”
Yan Hong Tian looked up and saw a young female holding a tea tray and stood quietly by the side. The sober face look soft but there was a bit of temperament. Yan Hong Tian laughed at Qing Feng, “You still manage to hide an exquisite girl. It is hard to see that she would be able to serve such a crafty person like you and should be rewarded.”
Qing Feng seized the opportunity and replied, “What does the Emperor prepare to reward?”
“What is your name?”
Fu Ling softly replied, “This servant is called Fu Ling.”
“Zhen will reward… Fu Ling will now be promoted to a female official of fifth rank.” Yan Hong Tian seemingly sounded like he only spoke a casual sentence but Fu Ling’s face turned white and immediately knelt down, “Fu Ling don’t dare.”
Qing Feng was also stumped for words with Yan Hong Tian’s sudden bestowal. Once she saw Fu Ling’s pale face and frown, she could not help but to have some suspicions. For the Emperor to bestow a female official, why would they be this frightened?
Qing Feng does not understand the status of Qiong Yue female officials but Fu Ling has been in the Palace for ten over years and naturally know it better than anyone else. There is a ranking system for female officials. Shui Xin and Xiao Yu is the Palace’s highest ranking female officials at the forth rank, and was only slightly lower in rank than the assistant ministers in the various ministries. In the various dynasties, there is not many female officials that even Wu-er, who was serving Imperial Concubine Hui for so many years, was promoted to the female official and of the same fifth rank. Over the many years, there was no instances of palace maids serving concubines that was promoted to the rank of female officials. Let alone her who was working as a lowly ranked palace maid for so many years.
Qing Feng seldom see Fu Ling losing her compose to that extent and thought about whether or not to reject this reward. Yan Hong Tian suddenly lean over with an evil smile and whispered provocatively into her ear, “Why? Didn’t you want to have the upper hand in the Palace? Now you dare not accept Zhen’s favours?”
As he was saying, Yan Hong Tian bit her earlobe. Qing Feng clenched her teeth and spoke loudly, “Fu Ling, quickly thank the Emperor for his grace.” This outcome is also good, there were quite a number of things that she did not trust others and would get Fu Ling to carry it out. With a status of a female official, it would be easier and convenient for her to carry out tasks. After all, everyone in this Palace would flatter the top and bully the ones below them.
The matter was settled with that. Fu ling took a deep breath, calm her mood down and knelt to thank the favour, “Thanking the Emperor’s grace. Long live the Emperor.”
“All of you can withdraw.” Yan Hong Tian waved his hands and everyone retreated out of the place.
Qing Feng thought that he has something to say to her but who knew that Yan Hong Tian carried her up and walked into the inner chambers and place her on the bed.
Its… Only just past Xushi (modern timing: 7 – 9pm)!
The palace maids’ and eunuchs’ steps and voices outside could be heard clearly, Qing Feng awkwardly stared at Yan Hong Tian, who was sitting and half propped himself to look at her. It was also Qing Feng first time looking at his face in such silence. Sharp brows to his temple, unfortunately it is always creasing, the dark eyes were like stars but unfortunately it was too deep, the shadows under his eyes made him look tired and his lips were thin and moist, unfortunately it was always clenched…
“Have you seen enough?” A deep voice startled her staring and Qing Feng lightly coughed and replied, “You are exhausted today.”
Qing Feng’s words hardly finished when Yan Hong Tian suddenly lowered himself and both bodies stuck together. Yan Hong Tian’s deep voice sounded again, “There is still enough strength to want you.”
Qing Feng’s face has flushed red till her ears. It is stupid to discuss this with men, especially Yan Hong Tian type of person. Qing Feng turned her head over to the side and did not reply. There was also no more actions from Yan Hong Tian after a long time. Qing Feng curiously turn over to look at him when that pair of eyes full of mischief looked at her laughingly. Qing Feng got irritated became angry and just as she wanted to push him away, the hands around her waist tighten and Yan Hong Tian hugged her from behind and a deep voice sounded from her neck, “Don’t move.”
Qing Feng’s body stiffen but after a long time, there was no movement from the man at her back.
Qing Feng called out in a soft voice, “Emperor?”
“Yan Hong Tian?” Her only response was his even breathing.
He fell asleep? Qing Feng tried to struggle for a bit but the large hands on her waist did not allow her to do so and she could only give up in the end. Annoyed that he actually fell asleep, Qing Feng kicked him twice. Can’t he sleep in his Zheng Yang Palace?
And the man that she thought was sleeping soundly inadvertently flip his body over and press on top on her.
So heavy… Qing Feng felt like weeping but had no tears.
The night was already late but the eunuchs and palace maids in Yi Lan Palace was still standing straight, diligently keeping guard in the courtyard, not daring to show a hint of fatigue as the candles were still lit in the Empress’s chambers.
“What exactly is the Emperor thinking!” An angry low voice sounded from the chambers. Xin Yue Ning really did not understand. A few days back, the Emperor did not bother about Qing Feng and even though the Emperor flip over Qing Feng’s plaque, he did not went over. But now, he has gone continuously for seven nights to Qing Feng Hall. Even during the time when the Emperor was favouring Chen Zhen, he never did that before. Even the palace maid serving by Qing Feng’s side was also elevated to the rank of a female official. The Emperor has never favoured a female to this extent before, what exactly is Qing Feng’s charm?
Xin Yue Ning anxiously paced back and forth while Shui Xin quietly stood in front of the dividing screen and continue to update on Qing Feng’s current activities, “Qing Feng have been heading daily to Ling Yun Palace to accompany Imperial Concubine and leaving only in the afternoon.”
Xin Yue Ning stopped in her steps and urgently spoke, “What are both of them doing together?” Originally she was thinking of using Qing Feng to obstruct Chen Zhen spirits but who knew that they were actually together.
“Composing poetry, painting, playing chess and appreciating tea.”
Xin Yue Ning coldly scoffed, “So there is time for such pursuits? Qing Feng wants to get together with Chen Zhen to go against with Bengong!” Staring at Shui Xin, who was standing quietly at the side, Xin Yue Ning urgently spoke, “Quickly help Bengong to think of an idea. One Chen Zhen is already enough and now there is a Qing Feng to deal with. Lou Xi Yan was possessed to insist on marrying Qing Ling and thus Qing Feng has Lou Xi Yan as her backing. With the additional favour from the Emperor and Chen Zhen alliance, there would not be any position for Bengong in the Palace!”
Seeing Xin Yue Ning flustered and exasperated, Shui Xin advised softly, “Mistress do not need to be angry…”
Before Shui Xin can finish her words, Xin Yue Ning heard her cold words and got even more frustrated and shouted, “How can Bengong not be angry! The worst of all is that if she got pregnant with an imperial child…” The more Xin Yue Ning thought, the more she got angry and glared at Shui Xin to scold, “Its all your fault.! If you had gotten rid of her earlier on, there would not be so much troubles now!”
Xin Yue Ning snapped and Shui Xin, who accustomed to it, quickly became calm and softly replied, “Mistress, keep calm and don’t get agitated. Allowing to have children does not mean able to conceive. Moreover, it is a good thing that Qing Feng and Imperial Concubine Hui are closer to one another as Mistress is able to shoot two birds with one arrow.”
Xin Yue Ning’s eyes brighten as she urgently asked, “What of shooting two birds with one arrow?”
Shui Xin took a slight step forward and whispered softly into Xin Yue Ning’s ear, “Mistress can…”
Listening to what Shui Xin spoke, Xin Yue Ning’s face changed a number of times, from worried to excitment. Xin Yue Ning lowered her voice and replied, “Good! Do it like that then! You can go and prepare but this matter must be carefully carried out. Not a flaw can be detected.”
Shui Xin lightly nodded her head and replied, “Yes.”
Xin Yue Ning’s mood was much better and her face was flushed due to the excitement and nervousness. Taking a deep breath, Xin Yue Ning could not replace the smile on her face. If this matter is successful, she would be able to get rid of both of them!