This chapter has been brought to you by me, vivie, ororomunroe90, and leecherleechleech.
Yimu means aunt from the maternal side.
Chapter One Hundred and Eight Competing for the Empress’ Favor Rather Than The Emperor
His Highness the Eldest Imperial Son was the only heir of the Emperor at present so everyone knew that this Eldest Imperial Son held special meaning. So when the third day “washing ceremony” came, the people who were allowed to attend all prepared auspicious gifts for the basin to express their regard for the Eldest Imperial Son.
Because the Empress was in her confinement period, the Eldest Imperial Son was personally carried out by the two Empress Dowagers. Additionally, the Emperor sat from beginning to end. Everyone could see how much importance was placed on the infant by the three major personages of the palace.
At the washing ceremony, some noblewomen of significant status were fortunate enough to get close to the Eldest Imperial Son. When they left the palace, they kept on praising how well the Eldest Imperial Son looked and how auspicious his features were.
Those that didn’t have enough status to be close to the Empress Dowagers also crowded around to praise as though they would offend someone if they said it too late.
More people in Jing started to fawn over the members of the Tian Family, but to their surprise, the Tian Family became more low-key. Even the families that the shu daughters of the Tian Family married into started to be low-key. When the actions of the Tian Family passed into He Heng’s ears, it improved his impression of the Tian Family to be even better. After a short while, he would find a chance to bestow some things to the Tian Family to imply that he was very satisfied with the Tian Family’s methods.
The Jing City was always a prosperous place and there were naturally people in stalls on the sides of the street. So when one vendor saw a large stallion with a golden-yellow cloth tied around it, he knew that it was a messenger with a decree and chatted about it with his customers.
“After the Empress gave birth to the Eldest Imperial Son, our Jing City has become busier as well,” A dumpling vendor chuckled as he wrapped the dumplings in lotus leaves and handed them to the customer in front of him, “We can try to partake in the cheer as well.”
Qu Wang Zi had a difficult expression on his face as he stared at the cabbage stuffed buns in his hand. He turned to look at the distant stallion, asking in befuddlement: “That road seems to be Zhong Yi Gong Fu?”
“Yup. The Duke of Zhong Yi is a good official, and also the paternal family of the Empress. For the palace to bestow something to Zhong Yi Gong Fu, isn’t that very normal?” The owner placed the prepared buns into the steamer basket, lowering his head to look at the fire in the stove, his face proud as he said, “The empress once brought the stewed eggs that my dai jie sold. Right now, many noble personages go to taste my da jie’s stewed eggs. They all say that my da jie’s stewed eggs are full of flavor. If this guest is interested, then go buy some for a taste.” He pointed at the stewed eggs stall opposite the street, his face full of pride.
Qu Wang Zhi twisted his head to look. As expected, many people were crowded around the stall buying eggs. He had seen some of them people, they were the stewards of some noble families.
“Hey, isn’t this Young Master Qu?” A youth wearing the uniform of the Dong Shan Academy sitting on a horse looked down at Qu Wang Zhi with a scornful expression, “What lucky day is this that I’m so fortunate to see Young Master personally buying buns?”
The manservant that held the reins for the youth respectfully raised his hands, uttering: “This one greets Young Master Qu.”
Qu Wang Zi recognized that this youth was the Duke of Zhong Yi’s shumei’s son and instantly felt his face burn. He laughed dryly and raised his hands to greet: “Nice to see Young Master Chen.”
“I can’t receive Young Master Qu’s bow,” The youth sat straight on the horse, smiling coldly as he declared, “Your fu is such a noble family that it feels even the Empress is lower than them. Us poor little families cannot receive a bow.” That year at the Empress’ coming of age ceremony, that was how Liang shi had mocked his mother. When his mother had returned home, she had cried over the matter to the point she became sick. If it wasn’t that the Emperor had decreed a marriage for biao jie half a month later, his mother would have remained ill for much longer.
He had never met his yimu but heard from his mother say that his yimu had been very caring of her, and never bullied her because his mother was a shu daughter. So even though it had been a few decades, his mother still sighed when she mentioned yimu.
Thinking about the family of Chang De Gong Fu, he felt slightly disgusted. At the very least, they were a ducal family but they acted worse than any common family. And this Young Master Qu always carried himself arrogantly in the past at the Dong Shan Academy. Every time they met, his nose was pointed at the heavens. Seeing Qu Wang Zhi’s lackluster state, he felt it was karma.
“Young Master Chen is joking,” Qu Wang Zhi couldn’t even force out a smile. He even felt that the eyes of the surrounding vendors become strange as they looked at him. That made him, who was very attentive to his honor, almost not able to stay up. He made a messy bow, “This one still has other matters, and will go first. Young Master Chen, do whatever you want.”
Squeezing out of the crowd that had been spectating, he didn’t even realize that the buns in his hand had been crushed flat by his hands. His steps grew faster and by the end he was sprinting. Only when no one was looking at him anymore did he find a store selling medicine as he panted. He brought a packet of medicine and then slowly made his way outside the city.
After his father was especially pardoned, because it had been cold in the jail, his knees had worsened. Now, he could only lay in bed all day. Because his jiejie had died, his mother cried all day. His grandmother couldn’t endure it and passed away not long ago. The funeral had been done by erjie who gave the silver. Thinking about the mutually-blaming father and mother, he wanted to turn and leave, and never return to the old village house.
“You don’t have any right to blame me. That year, it was you that begged for me to marry to the fu. You couldn’t teach your daughter properly and blame me for neglecting her, why don’t you think of what you did before?!”
“You evil woman. That year, I shouldn’t have married you. If it wasn’t for you, I would be the Emperor’s father-in-law, it’s all because of you ……”
Hearing the sounds of arguing inside the house, Qu Wang Zhi showed a fed up expression. In the end, he put the buns and the medicine at the doorway, then turned and left the noisy place.
In the rear hall of Tian Qi Palace, Qu Qing Ju finally came out of the confinement. She took a refreshing bath and changed into a beautiful silk dress before sitting at the bed to slowly wave a fan at the deeply asleep son. In the end, she couldn’t resist kissing her son’s mouth.
Mu Jin saw the Empress’ actions and she smiled. Walking next to the bed to look at the imperial son who fisted his hands in sleep, she informed in a small voice: “Niangniang, Heng fei niangniang has come to pay respects.”
“Heng fei has come?” Qu Qing Ju moved her gaze away from her son. After ordering the nursemaid to keep a watch over the imperial son, she stood, ordering, “Let’s go and see her”
Jiang Yong Yu had been drinking tea as she sat on a chair. Seeing Qu Qing Ju come out, she immediately put down the teacup and rose to give her a greeting.
“Heng fei doesn’t have to be so courteous,” Qu Qing Ju smiled as she sat down at the front, “Please sit. Now that it’s the sixth month, it’s so hot. Why did you come over?”
“Pinqie has nothing to do usually, and made some clothing for His Highness, just not sure if they fit,” Jiang Yong Yu took a stack of infant clothing from Ai Lu’s hands, “Hope that Empress doesn’t dislike pinqie’s handiwork.”
Qu Qing Ju took over the clothing for a look. She sighed in admiration: “Heng fei’s skills are so exquisite. What ben gong makes cannot compare to you.” She indicated for Mu Jin to put the clothing away, “It must have been great trouble for you to make such eye-straining things in this heat.”
Jiang Yong Yu hurriedly responded: “Just some children’s things, it doesn’t take much effort. Saying something inappropriate here, pinqie has liked His Highness at first sight. Pinqie is happy to make clothing for His Highness.”
“Then in the future, da imperial son’s clothing will have to trouble his shu mother,” Qu Qing Ju’s face was happy, “Then ben gong will be much more idle.”
Jiang Yong Yu’s smile grew wider when she heard Qu Qing Ju’s words. But she was very aware of her boundaries and knew that the Emperor might come over at this time. She stood to bid farewell. Her intention was to follow the Empress to live her life. If she met the Emperor, then what would that be?
Mu Jin saw Heng fei off and then, with the other servants, inspected the clothing that Heng fei brought one by one. She concluded: “The materials are the best, and there’s nothing wrong with them.”
“En,” Qu Qing Ju wasn’t surprised. She knew that a person like Jiang Yong Yu definitely wouldn’t do something disadvantageous to others and to her. She randomly picked up one of the undergarments. The material used was fine satin, smooth and fine to the touch. Even if it was worn in the summer heat, it would feel cool. It was most likely that Heng fei had used the best fabric she had to make these things. Touching the tiger embroidered on the undergarment, she smiled, remarking, “After His Highness takes a bath, put this on him.”
Mu Jin hesitated for a second before asking: “Niangniang, why do you treat Heng fei so well?”
“She has never harmed me, and expressed goodwill to me. I won’t make it difficult for her,” Qu Qing Ju looked at the pile of baby clothes. She didn’t know how long it would take to make these clothes that even the threads were cut clean, “We’re all women, I don’t have to make life difficult for her.”
Mu Jin pondered and then understood what the Empress was thinking. Thinking about the usual conduct of Heng fei, she asked in puzzlement: “Heng fei didn’t try to take advantage of the opportunity to catch the attention of the Emperor, it’s such a surprise.”
“She knows what she wants,” Qu Qing Ju put down the undergarment in her hand, smiling, “she’s a smart person so that’s why I dare to treat her so.”
When He Heng walked into the inner room of the rear hall of Tian Qi Palace, he saw Qing Ju fiddling with a pile of baby clothes. He walked in front of her and picked up a small shirt, “The bat embroidered on here isn’t bad.”
“En, Heng fei embroidered it,” Qu Qing Ju looked at him, “These clothes are all made well.”
Putting down the shirt in his hand, He Heng turned to ask, “Huang’er is still sleeping?”
“Slept for two hours, he might wake soon,” Qu Qing Ju pulled him over to the bed to look at her son. Pointing at the askew limbs of her son, she commented, “Like a pig.”
“My son sleeps so aggressively,” He Heng gave a satisfied smile as he examined his son from head to toe. Along the way, he pulled up the silk blanket on his son’s stomach, “Looking at his posture, why don’t we name him Tun’er ,[i] a base name makes it easier to raise.”
When Qu Qing Ju heard the name, the first she thought about were the cute animals like dolphins and blowfish .[ii] She looked again at the round tummy that was pushing on the silk blanket. He seemed more like a piglet.
“You don’t like it?” He Heng saw her face full of doubt and thought she wasn’t happy. He pointed to his son’s stomach: “Look at that stomach, it’s like a pig.”
So Tun meant pig. She laughed dryly: “Tun Tun is good, I like it.”
Maybe that he was disturbed by his unreliable parents, Tun Tun pouted as he opened his eyes. Smelling the fragrance of his mother, he moaned a few times but didn’t cry. Just as He Heng went to lift him, a stream of infant urine landed on He Heng’s robes.
The nursemaid on the side was so scared her face changed. But Qu Qing Ju roared with laughter as she pointed at He Heng’s dripping robes, “Emperor is very lucky. An infant’s urine is good stuff, it can ward off evil. This year, our Da Long will have a good year of good weather.”
Tun Tun groaned on his father’s body as though he agreed with what his mother said. He Heng helplessly rubbed his son’s butt once before handing the child to the nursemaid and let them leave for his son to nurse. Turning, he went to sit down next to Qu Qing Ju.
“Don’t come over, you’re damp,” Qu Qing Ju held a hand out to block but she was pinned down by He Heng on the bed and rubbed against.
“It can’t be just me alone that enjoys our infant son’s urine. Qing Ju should also ward off spirits,” He Heng pinned the other under him, reaching to touch the waist that had recovered very well, “They all say that after a woman gives birth, the waist becomes thick. How come Qing Ju’s waist is still so soft?” As he spoke, he placed a kiss on Qu Qing Ju’s face.
Qu Qing Ju reached to touch his ticklish spot, but her hand was caught in his. His other hand took advantage of the opportunity and sneaked inside her clothes.
Standing outside, Mu Jin, Qian Chang Xin and the others heard the laughter of the two zhuzi as they played around. They indicated for the people waiting outside to retreat to the outer doors and then dropped their heads to stare on the patterns of the floorboards.
More than an hour later, the Emperor and Empress finally came out. Both had changed, and their moods were pretty good.
Qian Chang Xin and the others quickly served the noon meal up. He looked the Emperor’s eagerly attentive state as he personally served the Empress. He thought on the inside, the da ren of the court, would any of them ever think that the Emperor could act like this?
Looking at the Empress that had no qualms about accepting the Emperor’s service, he thought that it was hard to find a woman who could treat the Emperor like a normal person. The Empress was also rare in the world.
As the sun set in the west, Yu Ping palace was a flurry of activity. The Emperor and Empress had bestowed down many good things which caused the entire palace to be enveloped in good cheer.
Jiang Yong Yu looked at the valuable objects and smiled as she rewarded some to her servants. Then she let Ai Lu put everything away in her personal stores, her anxious heart finally settled down.
It looked like that the Empress really had accepted her. In the future, it meant that she would have a steady support.
“Didn’t think that the Emperor would also bestow so much,” Ai Lu said happily, “It seems that the Emperor still has zhuzi in his heart.”
“Stupid girl, the Emperor is rewarding me for being tactful,” The corner of Jiang Yong Yu’s lips went up, “Don’t think about those useless things, serve the evening meal now.”
Today, the Emperor had gone as far as to send down a decree to let her have her own small kitchen. That represented that she had really become the mistress of a palace.
It didn’t matter if it was fated to not compete for the favor of the Emperor, it was better to compete for the favor of the Empress. The days were idle and secure, so why not?
[i]豚 (tun): suckling pig
[ii] Dolphin in Chinese is海豚 (sea pig) and blowfish is 河豚 (river pig)