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Qu Qing Ju visits her new home.
Chapter Eighty Nine The New Kui Yuan Palace
After the people of the hougong were titled, it was then time to give new titles to those who did service in the Royal Court. Of course, these new titles weren’t like cheap lettuce that everyone could get a bite of. The first ones to be rewarded were the clans of the two Empress Dowagers in the two palaces. The paternal clans were all people of leisure. So He Heng only bestowed a noble title, full of glory but no real power.
And then it was senior officials who served He Heng. They were promoted, and bestowed things. As for the people who had sided with He Yuan, sorry, go stand to one side, it’s a miracle that you were being demoted.
Of all of the rewards, the most spectacular one was given to Tian Jin Ke. His family already had a hereditary marquis title but in Jing where marquises were everywhere, his present position had all been due to his own efforts. Now the Emperor waved his hand and made his hereditary marquis elevated to a hereditary first-rank duke, and bestowed the title Zhong Yi.[i]He also rewarded down five thousand taels of silver to the Duke of Zhong Yi to construct the compound and generously personally wrote “Zhong Yi Gong Fu” on the plaque for the compound to bestow upon Tian Jin Ke. His imperial favour was enormous.
Zhong, it was naturally referring to his loyalty to the Emperor. As for Yi, some thought that it was the Emperor remembering the care Tian Jin Ke gave to the Empress as well as his call for justice for his sister, Tian shi, so he was given the character Yi.
When they compared the honored Duke of Zhong Yi to the fallen Qu Family, many sighed. It could be seen that people had to accumulate virtue. Karma really did come back to bite you.
The Duke of Zhong Yi might not have a good daughter, but he had a good niece. That was his life, they could only admire it.
When Qu Qing Ju heard He Heng had elevated her jiujiu to first –rank Duke of Zhong Yi, she wasn’t surprised. She had earlier detected that He Heng admired jiujiu and clearly enjoyed his personal conduct. Now that he was in power, he needed people like jiujiu to work for him. Rather than saying that he was rewarding jiujiu, it was better to say that he was telling the world just how much he admired talented people who were loyal to the throne.
Ming He entered the back hall and bowed in front of Qu Qing Ju, mentioning Kui Yuan Palace that was still in the process of renovation, “Empress, the construction of Kui Yuan Palace is almost done. Why don’t you take a look to see if there are any places that are not to your liking so it could be changed. Then the decorations can be moved in.”
The renovation of Kui Yuan Palace was the biggest project in hougong. Over the past month, there were three shifts of people working day and night in order to renovate the palace according to the blueprints. Because they were afraid that the new paint would crack since it was being applied in the summer, blocks of ice were specially placed in all the areas a few days before painting commenced. It was obvious the amount of importance the Emperor had placed on this matter.
Qu Qing Ju looked at the sky outside. Today was shady and it wouldn’t be too sunny to go outside. Ming He must have deliberately picked this kind of weather before he opened to speak. She nodded, responding: “Today there is a lot of shade. It will be good to take a walk. It’s been suffocating for ben gong to stay inside all day.”
Because Tian Qi Palace and Kui Yuan Palace were very close, Qu Qing Ju didn’t ride the phoenix carriage. She, along with her entourage, walked on the main road of the palace that led straight to Kui Yuan Palace. As she entered the palace, she found that the inside was quite different to when she had first seen Kui Yuan Palace. At that time, Kui Yuan Palace had been spacious but felt quiet. Also, at that time, she had only been a wang fei who was going to see the Empress. Now, she was the owner of this palace. The attitude wasn’t the same.
The house, the garden and the trees in her view had already been meticulously turned over, so that when one entered, it would look tasteful yet bright. This was the so-called “easy on the eyes.” The flowers, grasses, and the fake mountain in the outside gardens were in the Jiang Nan style so that from a glance, it would feel extremely elegant. Inside was the main hall. The doors and windows of the main hall were all new. A dragon and phoenix were carved on the door, and other designs had been carefully chosen for the windows.
The main hall was the place where Qu Qing Ju would live. She found that every part of the main hall was in great taste, and she could see just how much effort the designer had put in. She couldn’t pick out any place that was lacking.
Ming He saw the Empress wearing a satisfied expression and spoke: “The Emperor heard that some paints are damaging to the body and specially ordered them to use paints made from natural materials. Empress, take a sniff. The paints all have a fragrance.”
When Qu Qing Ju entered the room, she had detected a faint fragrance. Hearing Ming He’s words, she smiled, responding, “The Emperor took a lot of trouble.”
“The Emperor said that it’s all good as long as the Empress likes it,” Ming He retreated a step to the side, “Niangniang, please follow nucai to the western side hall for a look.”
When the door of the western side hall was opened, Qu Qing Ju was stunned. Because inside was a very large white jade bath. On all four sides of the bath, there were two dragon heads, the wide gaping maws of the dragon clearly were the places for introducing the water. Beside the bath was a place enclosed in silk coverings. Qu Qing Ju brushed aside the silk and saw that inside was a very large couch. Beside the window there was a table and two comfortable recliners. From a look, it made one feel the impulse to lie down.
She hadn’t thought that He Heng would actually remember that she had wanted a swimming pool. She came out from under the silk canopy, walked to the pool and reached down to touch the warm and clear water. A long time later, she said: “Ben gong likes it very much.”
Ming He smiled. He pointed at the two dragon heads at one of the sides: “The dragon head with the sapphire inlaid is cold water, the dragon head with the ruby is the hot water. If niangniang likes it, then soak often. The Emperor has already asked the dean of the Imperial Hospital. Appropriate amounts of swimming is good for the body.”
Qu Qing Ju stood and, for some reason, thought that for this big pool, it really wasted water and physical labor. Cold water in the summer was good, but if it was hot water, how many people were needed to boil water in order to fill the entire pool?
“Does the palace have a source of water?” Qu Qing Ju straightforwardly asked. She liked to enjoy herself but wasn’t so wasteful to have people labor just so that she could swim.
Ming He smiled, explaining: “Don’t worry, Empress. This place uses water from underground. It was actually a coincidence that there is a hot spring in the palace. The Emperor ordered for the water to be transported here.”
Qu Qing Ju felt relieved. Looking at the night luminous pearls encrusted on the pool, each the size of an infant’s fist, she wondered what this place would look like at night.
When the palace maids and taijian that served Qu Qing Ju stepped into Kui Yuan Palace, they were already shocked stupid. Mu Jing was deeply moved. She had always thought “a surprise around every corner” was an exaggeration but today, she found that there was a place like that. This Kui Yuan palace wasn’t all covered in gold and white jade but it felt unspeakably beautiful. Thinking about it, she felt suspicious. From the time the Emperor ascended until now, it hadn’t been even two months. What kind of genius could plan out the renovation in such a short amount of time and leave so much time for the craftsmen to work?
Or was it that the Emperor had people working before he had succeeded the throne …… her heart shook. Mu Jin slightly furrowed her brows, sensing that she was thinking of something she shouldn’t have and turned to put her attention on the Empress.
As she came out of the western side hall, Qu Qing Ju toured the eastern side hall. It had been changed to a place for writing and painting. The back hall was now her personal storage.
After a tour of the entire Kui Yuan Palace, Qu Qing Ju had only one thought. After all the furnishings were moved in, her Kui Yuan Palace would most likely become even more magnificent than Tian Qi Palace.
“Are the Imperial Gardens located behind the back hall?” Qu Qing Ju pointed in the direction of the back hall. She had come to the palace multiple times, but the roads in the palace twisted and turned. She wasn’t familiar with the major roads, and wasn’t clear about the structure of the hougong.
“Empress, as you come out of the back hall and go through a bamboo forest, there is a lotus pond located at the corner of the Imperial Gardens. When you go through the corridors over the lotus pond, you’d see the Imperial Gardens.” Ming He meticulously explained.
Qu Qing Ju nodded. She didn’t have the desire to go tour the garden. The passing of xiandi wasn’t even two months ago, and if the Empress of the new Emperor went to tour the garden at this time, it wouldn’t be right if the news got out.
“Ben gong has finished looking, the halls are very beautiful,” Qu Qing Ju thought of the white jade pool. She smiled and added, “After seeing the enormous effort the Emperor has put in, ben gong likes it very much.”
Upon hearing this, Ming He raised his hands and replied: “It is good that the Empress likes it. Nucai will leave now to report on the completion of orders. Nucai asks to be excused.”
Qu Qing Ju nodded. As she came out of Kui Yuan Palace, she stepped on the clean black stone path and looked at the roses blooming on both sides of the path. Many butterflies were flying in between the flowers. For some reason, she suddenly felt that she was the Cinderella in a romance novel and He Heng was the rich CEO.
When He Heng finished listening to Ming He’s report, he couldn’t help but smile. He remarked: “If it was any other, they would have already praised it. But she had to care about where the water came from.” He helplessly shook his head, “It seems very hard to get on the good side of zhen’s Empress. Luckily, there is a source of water. Otherwise, the pool that zhen had specially constructed for her wouldn’t have been used.”
These words expressed helplessness but Ming He had attended to He Heng for more than a decade so he knew that the Emperor was happy. He bowed and served a new cup of tea: “Emperor, nucai feels that niangniang doesn’t want the people to work too hard. How can other women compare to the Empress? With an Empress who mothers the world like this, it is the good fortune of the world.”
“En, you’re right,” He Heng nodded. He took the teacup for a drink and started to annotate the memorandums on the table, a sliver of a smile appearing at the corner of his mouth.
Two more hours passed before Ming He saw the Emperor stand. At a glance, he saw a dark colored pouch embroidered with the character of luck hanging at the Emperor’s waist. The Emperor liked to use the pouch the Empress had embroidered for him, and scorned even the pouches made by the palace embroiderers from Jiang Nan.
He Heng looked outside and noticed that the sky had darkened. He was going to ask for the time but then he saw a flash of lighting. Then, thunder started to rumble and the fierce wind blew so hard, the windows shook.
“To the back hall.” He strode quickly towards the outside, clearly not caring that it was going to rain soon.
Ming He and a bunch of younger taijian held lanterns that were protected from the wind as they followed. He looked at the sky and saw another flash of lightning. A rainstorm was most likely going to come down this night.
He looked at the Emperor’s slightly rushed figure. Was the Emperor worried that the Empress was afraid of thunder?
[i]忠 zhong is loyal, devoted. 义yi is friendship, justice, righteousness