Thanks for all the votes. The result is both embeds and footnotes! So I’ll have that from now on. I’ll slowly work my way through the posted chapters but my focus is on what’s posted each day.
Qu Qing Ju finally meets her father-in-law, the most powerful man in the world. And she is not impressed.
Chapter Thirty To Be Partial
Even though the palace banquet was to be happening at night, but Qu Qing Ju and He Heng needed to kowtow to the Emperor and Empress so they rose early.
The relationship between the Imperial Couple wasn’t good but today, the two of them actually sat together. Qu Qing Ju and He Heng traveled to the Emperor’s residence of Tian Qi Palace. When the taijian ushered them in, they saw the married couple of He Qi and Wei Qing E already situated on the chairs.
He Heng went forward a few steps and pulled Qu Qing Ju to kneel in front of the Imperial Couple: “Er chen and wang fei wishes fuhuang and muhou a good new year.” Finishing, he held up a sandalwood box with both hands, “That the three stars of “luck”, “good fortune”, and “long life” accompany fuhuang always and good fortune for the world.”
Qing De Emperor took the sandalwood box and saw the carvings of the three stars inside. He smiled and said: “Heng’er and your wife, stand up.” When a person became old, the thing desired most was luck and long life. This “good fortune” also had a second meaning of status, and it matched Qing De Emperor’s desires so his smile became a fraction softer, “You two sit down.” Finishing, he ordered the taijian to move two chairs for the two.
This was the first time Qu Qing Ju met the Emperor. Making use of the motion of sitting down, she took a peek at the other. The Emperor’s appearance was average compared to his sons, his body softer and heavier. Between his brows, there was tiredness and old age. No wonder his sons all had other ideas.
“Da ge came so early,” He Heng, after he sat, raised his hands in a greeting to He Qi and smiled, “Didi greets gege.”
“Er di came early too,” He Qi gave a bright smile and then looked at the emperor. Seeing the emperor was still looking at what lao er had given him, he said, “Fuhuang, this year the treasury is very rich. Er chen heard that the storytellers in the tea shops and restaurants have been praising fuhuang for your benevolence. I don’t know if fuhuang had heard it.”
Qing De Emperor heard those words and closed the box in his hands. He placed it to one side and looked at He Qi, “You’re such a child. Still running to the shops, there’s nothing worth in hearing these things.”
“Fuhuang, please forgive me. Er chen’s words may slightly offend you. Er chen feels that most of the public are honest and dutiful. If they say you are benevolent, it naturally comes from the heart. When er chen heard this, er chen was secretly happy.” He Qi straightened his neck, looking as though he had to explain, “Er chen cannot be like fuhuang and not place any importance on the reputation. But since they were complimenting you, er chen couldn’t help but feel happy.”
This boot-licking was really well done, Qu Qing Ju though silently. Ning Wang appeared to speak straightforwardly but it was too pleasing to the ear. Look how happy the emperor was, even his laugh was pitched a few notes higher.
“Da ge, really. You already knew that fuhuang doesn’t like hearing this, but you still said it,” He Heng complained, “Not just this year, in the past there have been many citizens that said fuhuang was benevolent and a good ruler. I didn’t dare tell fuhuang and just felt happy in secret.”
He Qi heard this and started to swear on the inside. This lao er was too f—–g good at following up. What he just did with his words, he pushed fuhuang even higher and underneath, he criticized him for only finding out this year. Wasn’t this digging a hole for him?
After hearing He Heng’s words, Qing De Emperor’s smile became even happier. After a few sounds, he turned and said to the empress: “Look at these kids, they don’t look like wang ye at all. To be so happy over such a little thing, people would laugh at them.”
The empress gave a fitting smile and with a tone that said she felt unjust on behalf of the two: “Emperor, these two children are full of filial love. When they hear others praise their father, they naturally are happy. How can you call their love childish, qie will call it unjust for these two children.”
Qu Qing Ju stole a glance at He Heng who was next to her. This person was good with words, understood the hearts of people and his personality was steady. This type of man, wherever you put him, he would be a successful person. So the likelihood that he could become emperor wasn’t small. Thinking that in the future after he succeeded the throne and her possible fates, Qu Qing Ju felt that before he would success the throne, she would enjoy everything.
Even though the separation between the sexes in the Da Long Dynasty wasn’t as serious as the Ming and Qing Dynasties in history, but Qu Qing Ju was very perceptive and kept her head down. Even if she did raise her eyes, it was in the direction of the Empress and Wei Qing e. During one of the times she casually raised her head, she found Wei Qing E was also looking at her and in the other’s expression, it held a certain distain and sympathy for her.
Qu Qing Ju, who felt very strange at seeing such emotions, paused for a while. Just at the same time, the rumoured “Little Student Ming” came in. She finally found some interest in sitting here. She wanted to see how this child that had been overlooked by his father looked like.
Quickly scanning the blue-clad He Ming, she found he wasn’t as masculine as He Qi, not as warm and gentle as He Heng and not as beautiful as He Yuan. He looked very normal, but could be considered a handsome little fellow. Looking at his sincere greeting before sitting down, Qu Qing Ju felt a bit sad. Such a good baby, such a pity he met such a bad father.
Seeing that lao si had arrived but lao san, who he favoured the most, hadn’t arrived, the smile on Qing De Emperor’s face became fainter and fainter. And the three brothers present, as though they had planned it, didn’t try to amuse the emperor anymore, each becoming silent.
After sitting for close to fifteen minutes, when the smile on Qing De Emperor’s face had disappeared, He Yuan finally arrived. Qu Qing Ju saw how he, with just a few words, made Qing De Emperor smile and laugh and understood what it meant to have a heart that deviated until it was at the armpit. 
Watching as Qing De Emperor cheerfully put on the Buddhist beads that He Yuan gave onto his wrist, He Heng calmly took a drink of tea. He Qi jerked his mouth to one side. He Ming sat silently. The expressions of the three, it was proof that they were used to this occurring commonly, that they didn’t even have any jealousy left.
Qu Qing Ju felt grief on behalf of the emperor. Maybe he didn’t know yet that his other three sons didn’t have any feelings left for him. Because if they did feel anything, they wouldn’t be so calm seeing what occurred. On the other hand, it was more tragic for the three imperial sons. Having such a father, it was a great misfortune. Not giving them any love, and being partial to only one child and pretending they didn’t exist.
A short while later, the three brothers were ushered out under the excuse of greeting their mother consorts. Only He Yuan was left sitting there. The contrast became even more obvious. No wonder He Yuan was so arrogant.
Qu Qing Ju walked with Wei Qing E. After the plum blossom banquet, they hadn’t seen each other again. This time, the two both had warm smiles on their faces.
“Er dimei, your life has been good lately. I heard a rude person had been married into an estate a few days earlier from the fu?” Wei Qing E asked with a faint smile, “I heard it from san dimei, not sure if it is true or not.”
“Just an ignorant yahuan. Originally, it was just sending her away, but I couldn’t bear seeing her so young and without a support so I appealed to wang ye that it was good to marry her off,” Qu Qing Ju gave an unburdened smile, “These minor things, I wonder where san dimei heard it.”
“Er dimei is too kind. This kind of disobedient servants, you should just sell them, there’s no need to think more for them,” Wei Qing E jerked her lips, “As to how san dimei know, I don’t know either.”
“There is nothing that can’t be said. It was probably san dimei’s concern for me.” Qu qing Ju smiled as she rubbed at her earing. She gave a sweet smile, “As to sending off this person, it was wang ye’s desire. I was fine either way.”
Wei Qing E suddenly felt that this smile was blinding to her eyes. Seeing that her own wang ye was bidding farewell to Duan Wang Ye, she said in a regretful voice: “It looks like I will have to part with dimei here, we’ll meet again at the banquet.”
“Walk carefully, saosao,” Qu Qing Ju cheerfully bowed and bid farewell. After Wei Qing E walked alongside He Qi, she then walked to He Heng’s side. They were all muddling along in this profession called wang fei, who didn’t know how to make others choke?
He Heng knew that Qu qing Ju had been conserving with da sao just earlier, but as a man, he wasn’t interested in the topics of women and didn’t listen carefully. Seeing the smile on Qu Qing Ju’s face, he didn’t ask but slowed his steps to match Qu Qing Ju’s as they walked forward.
When they reached Jing guifei’s Zhong Jing Palace, before they even entered, Qu Qing Ju first heard the laughter of a young female. The palace maids wouldn’t dare laugh like this, the imperial concubines wouldn’t laugh like this. It looked like it was somebody that Jing guifei was familiar with.
When they walked into the room, Qu Qing Ju, as expected, saw a female standing behind Jing guifei. As she massaged Jing guifei’s shoulders, she joked to amused Jing guifei. Then she saw that this female’s eyes fly over to He Heng.
Jing guifei saw He Heng and the smile on her face became more visible. After the two performed their greetings, she let them sit and asked a few questions about He Heng’s living conditions. She then turned and said to Qu Qing Ju: “Erxifu, you might not know this yatou, she is ben gong’s maternal family’s cousin’s daughter. Ran Shuang, come greet your gege and saozi.
“Ran Shuang greets gege, greets saosao,” Wei Ran Shuang moved with ease and with a shy smile, she bowed in front of the two. She then retreated with a blush to one side, but her gaze still sneakily remained on He Heng’s figure.
“So you are my wang ye’s meimei. I didn’t know you would be here today, and didn’t prepare any gifts,” Finishing, she took down the jade bangle on her wrist and stood to walk in front of Wei Ran Shuang. She took the other’s hand and after personally putting the bangle on, she said “This was a piece that my mother left for me. Even though it isn’t very famous, but its color is good and I hope meimei won’t dislike it.”
Qu Qing Ju knew that Jing guifei’s surname was Wei. Her father had been the tai bao when the present emperor had been crown prince. The present Wei daren still carried the title of taibao but had no real power. Wei daren had a younger brother who was a fifth rank provincial governor. In all these years, he hadn’t made any real progress. Right now when Jing guifei was calling Wei Ran Shuang her cousin’s daughter, it was just to disguise Wei Ran Shuang to look better. Wasn’t she really just a fifth-grade local level official’s granddaughter? Since this Wei Ran Shuang had the guts to call her saosao, then she would happily accept it.
“Ran Shuang doesn’t dare take saosao’s things,” Wei Ran Shuang wanted to take off the bangle but her hand was pulled by Qu Qing Ju, “You are wang ye’s meimei, then you are my meimei. We shan’t be so courteous.” Finishing, she looked in confusion at Jing guifei, “Mufei, meimei didn’t live in Jing before, did she? Otherwise, such a beautiful memei, how come I haven’t seen her before?”
Jing guifei looked at how Qu Qing Ju had stopped her niece and smiled faintly: “Her father had held a post elsewhere, they have returned to the city just recently.”
“No wonder,” Qu qing Ju smiled as she pulled Wei Ran Shuang to sit beside her, “Now that meimei has returned to Jing, then I have another sibling in the future to play with.”
Jing guifei looked at Qu Qing Ju’s enthusiasm and felt her heart hurt. Did her erxifu not even think about the meaning of her leading this person here?
Her cousin was only a little sixth-grade official now that he transferred back to Jing City. Even if she did have the desire to promote him, even if Ran Shuang would marry someone of a good family, she wouldn’t be able to hold her hand up. So she wanted to let her son see this yatou. If he liked her, then she wouldn’t be done a disservice in the future. If he didn’t like her, then it was just letting cousins meet. Also, she actually didn’t really want her niece to be a qie of her son.
Seeing that her son didn’t even look once at her niece, Jing guifei knew it wasn’t going to happen. She turned to look at Qu Qing Ju and her expression almost broke.
What was she doing holding Wei yatou’s hand and not letting go, what did she mean?!
“Meimei’s skin is so good, it’s so smooth to the touch,” Qu Qing Ju had a face of envy, “I can see that the place meimei lived in was better than Jing City.” Finishing, she actually smiled and rubbed that tender and white hand.
Jing guifei felt it. Where did her erxifu’s brains go, didn’t she have a sense of danger, didn’t she know to be wary of other women? Complimenting another woman’s skin in front of her own husband, was it to arouse curiosity in her husband?!
For no apparent reason, when she looked at Qu Qing Ju’s joyful smile, Jing guifei felt helpless and fretful.
She turned to look at her son and saw her son smile as he savoured his tea with no hint of response. She could only say: “Heng’er, in a few days, your second uncle will visit you. Find a time to meet him.”
He Heng knew his mother’s intentions and nodded lightly. He answered: “Er chen understands.” Finishing, he pushed a plate of kumquats beside him in the direction that Qu Qing Ju was sitting in.
Jing guifei saw his movement but didn’t say anything. But when she looked at Qu Qing Ju, she felt her heart was even more fretful.
 天启宫: 天 is sky, heaven启 is open, start, to enlighten. This palace could be called the Palace of Heavenly Enlightenment. However, 天启 in modern times also means apocalypse.
 The three stars are 福禄寿. 福 is luck or good fortune, 禄 is good fortune but also means the salary an official receives寿 is long life.
 The word used here rather than world is 天下 which means the world, land under heaven and China as a country. Due to the pseudo-alternate world nature of this novel, “China” doesn’t exist and the novel states later that the surrounding countries pay tribute to the Emperor, hence the “world”, rather than just the country.
 The idiom for favouring is usually “偏心” which literally means slanted, deviating heart.
 太傅: Grand Tutor