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And the hole gets deeper… …
Chapter One Hundred and Fifteen A Liberal Culture
Waking up in the morning, Qu Qing Ju looked beside her. The space had become empty, the light coming in through the windows. She rubbed her forehead as she got up. It seemed to be late in the morning.
The palace attendants waiting outside heard the noise from inside, and quickly came in with the washing tools. They served her to get out of bed and change. After everything was prepared, she then sat in front of the table to sedately eat the morning meal.
“Mu Jing, how many days until Cheng Wang Fei’s confinement ends?” When the child was one month old, they would have a month-old banquet. She didn’t need to personally go, but it would be good to prepare what she needed to give.
“About ten more days. Is niangniang worried about what to give for the month-old banquet?” Mu Jin handed over a handkerchief for Qu Qing Ju to wipe her hands and then a lotion for Qu Qing Ju to rub on. After entering autumn, the wind became stronger. If the hands weren’t taken care off, they wouldn’t look good after a few days.
“En,” Qu Qing Ju rubbed her hands against each other and sighed, “The wives of the noble families, this back and forth isn’t something easy. Any other person, I can hand off for someone else to do, but not Cheng Wang Fei.” Thinking some more, she eventually had them prepare things that would help a woman recover and things that infants could use. For other people, she only had to give things that looked good. But she and Luo Wen Yao had some feelings between them, so she naturally had to repay her for her sincerity.
“Today’s weather is good to take a walk.” Qu Qing Ju thought for a second, “Let the nursemaid take His Highness Imperial Son out to walk as well.”
Mu Jin hurriedly let the others prepare. She saw that the Empress’ expression didn’t seem right and couldn’t resist asking: “Niangniang, should the phoenix carriage be prepared?”
“No need, we’ll just walk outside,” Qu Qing Ju stood to walk to the door. The warm sunlight spilled onto her body, making her dazed for an instant. She raised her head to look at the sky and turned back and saw that the nursemaid had already carried Tun Tun over. Smiling, she said: “Let’s go.”
When the Empress set out, even though there wasn’t a troop of servants before and after her, there were still many attendants that followed. Even more, there were quite a few servants that were there to take care of Tun Tun. Qu Qing Ju walked over the white jade bridge over the lotus pond and entered the Imperial Gardens. Looking at the blooming chrysanthemums, she suddenly realized that autumn had really arrived.
Passing by a pavilion, Qu Qing Ju stopped walking. She turned back to look at that pavilion in the midst of the flowers, asking with a raised eyebrow: “Winter last year, didn’t Han liangdi sing there for the Emperor?”
Mu Jin didn’t know why the Empress would suddenly mention Han liangdi. She looked at the pavilion, nodding: “Niangniang, what is it?”
“Nothing,” Qu Qing Ju sighed, seemingly in regret, “Just rueful. Almost a year has passed in the blink of an eye. Time passes so quickly.”
“Niangniang doesn’t have to think about these things,” Mu Jin smiled as she supported Qu Qing Ju’s wrist, “nubi heard the black chrysanthemums over there have flowered well. Do you want to see?”
“No, Tun Tun is still little, it’s not good to be too close to the flowers,” Qu Qing Ju pointed to a stone table near a fake mountain not far away, “Let’s go sit there. We can also soak in some sun.”
Tea and pastries quickly were put on the stone table. A soft cushion was put on the stone bench. Qu Qing Ju sat down on the bench. Seeing Tun Tun looked around at the surroundings with wide eyes, she knew that he was curious about the outside scenery so she let the nursemaid carry him to see the surroundings. Listening to his happy cries, she couldn’t resist laughing: “Children are just children, anything can make them happy.”
“His Highness is clever,” Mu Jin put out a cup of hot tea for Qu Qing Ju then turned to give a hand bell to His Highness the Imperial Son. Seeing him happily grasp the hand bell, she remarked happily, “His Highness grips it so steadily and can wave it around. He really has strong wrists.”
“Almost half a year old, it isn’t strange that he can grasp things,” Qu Qing Ju smiled as she informed, “Not long from now, he should be able to crawl.”
Mu Jin smiled as she bowed: “Niangniang, don’t laugh at nubi for making a fuss. Nubi thinks anything that His Highness does is good.”
Qu Qing Ju laughed at her words. When she turned her head, she saw a procession that surprised her. She asked with a furrowed brow, “What is going on there?”
Mu Jin looked into the distance and saw Ming He leading some womenfolk around the Imperial Gardens. Most of the womenfolk were the furen of the envoys of the subordinate countries, but the princess from the country of Jing was also among them.
“Nubi will go ask,” Mu Jin bowed, and turned to walk in the direction of Ming He and the others.
Because several of the furen of the officials and the princess had looked forward to seeing the Imperial Gardens of Da Long, Ming He had to, under the imperial order, serve them to tour the Imperial Gardens. But thinking about the rumors from outside about the princess of Jing and the Empress, his heart was bitter. If the Empress saw, he didn’t know what would happen.
Just when he was thinking it inside, he saw Mu Jin coming over when he raised his head. He sighed inside, but forced a smile onto his face. He went forward a few steps, exchanging bows with Mu Jin: “Where is Mu Jin guniang coming from? The Empress can’t be without your service.”
“Ming He gonggong is exaggerating,” Mu Jin smiled and looked at the womenfolk behind him. She gave a shallow bow: “Nubi Mu Jin greets everyone.”
These women might not have recognized Mu Jin but all knew that there was a high ranked palace maid called Mu Jin that was especially favored by the Empress. Additionally, when they saw that Ming He’s attitude towards Mu Jin was especially friendly, they were certain to Mu Jin’s identity. Then they all gave slight smiles, and exchanged some pleasantries with Mu Jin using their basic knowledge of Da Long language.
“Because all the furen has never toured the Imperial Gardens, so nucai has been ordered by the Emperor to accompany the furen to walk the garden,” Ming He said with a faint smile, “Didn’t think to encounter Mu Jin guniang.”
“Niangniang is drinking tea up front. She saw you leading the women into the garden so she let nubi come ask,” Mu Jin’s gaze swept in the direction of the princess of Jing, her smile not changing as she responded, “Since gongong is busy, I won’t disturb any further.” It seems that the Emperor didn’t think much of the furen of the envoys. Otherwise the one receiving them wouldn’t be Ming He. At the very least, it would be a noblewoman of some significant status or a furen from the Imperial House.
“Since the Empress is here, we should greet the Empress,” The furen of the envoy from Dong Yu said in a respectful tone, “If it wasn’t that the Hu Guo Princess that especially asked, we wouldn’t have the good fortune to enter the palace for a tour. To greet the Empress, it is our good fortune.”
Mu Jin smiled as she looked at the Dong Yu envoy’s furen. This envoy’s wife said what seemed to be a normal and casual sentence but in reality it was expressing goodwill towards the Empress. She followed with a smile, answering: “Nubi doesn’t dare to make a decision. Please, honored guest, wait for nubi to inform the Empress.”
Watching Mu Jin walk towards the fake mountain in the front, Dai Rong couldn’t help looking more at the fake mountain. When her movements were spotted by Ming He’s eyes, he thought scornfully, country ignoramuses are country ignoramuses. Just this kind of scheming, any palace maid in the hougong is stronger than her. It seems that the country of Jing was one generation worse than the previous.
When Qu Qing Ju heard Mu Jin’s report, her brow slightly furrowed, “A special request from the princess of Jing?” Having said that, she couldn’t resist snorting, “It seems that she is exceptionally interested in our Da Long’s hougong. Alright, let them come. Ben gong wants to get to know this princess of Jing.”
She looked at Tun Tun who was still playing with the handbell and said to the nursemaids: “Take Tun Tun back to the rear hall of Tian Qi Palace, don’t let anyone casually near His Highness.”
The nursemaids obediently left, not even turning to look back.
Hearing that the Empress was willing to see them, the wives of the envoys all gave smiles. They were highly ranked in their own countries, but compared with the noblewomen of Da Long, they weren’t really anything. Once they came to the City of Jing, they carefully managed their speech and conduct. Whenever they met a noblewoman from one of the noble families, they were extremely courteous. The fact that the Empress was willing to meet them, it was a happy unexpected occurrence.
The procession followed in Mu Jin’s footsteps next to the fake mountain when they saw a woman dressed in a white floor length dress embroidered with red flowers lazily sitting on the stone table. Her black hair was restrained in a beautiful and exquisite feitainji, all of her hair ornaments and jewelry were finely made. But what made them lose their focus the most wasn’t the grand decorations, but the Empress’ own composure and beauty. Just a glance was enough to make them feel inferior, but at the same time, they felt it was appropriate that the Empress of Da Long should be this noble and beautiful, that it was natural that they couldn’t compete with the Empress. When they saw the Empress, they couldn’t find any jealousy, only admiration and reverence.
“Chenfu is the furen of Dong Yu’s prime minister, greets the honored Empress.”
The womenfolk came up one by one to pay their respects to Qu Qing Ju. They all gave the full greetings of their own countries. Before their arrival, Qu Qing Ju had learned a basic understanding of their customs and politely allowed the womenfolk to take a seat.
“The country of Jing’s Dai Rong greets the honored Empress,” This was the first time that Dai Rong saw the Empress at such a close distance. She examined Qu Qing Ju from top to bottom. Even though she wasn’t willing, she still had to admit that this Empress was somewhat beautiful.
“Hu Guo Princess doesn’t have to be this courteous,” Qu Qing Ju indicated for her to sit, “ben gong remembers you. Your dance in Luan He Hall was very beautiful.”
“Didn’t think that Empress would remember this one, this one isn’t worthy,” Dai Rong’s face was full of bashfulness, “Coming to the Imperial Gardens for the first time and being able to encounter Empress, it really is our great fortune.”
“You all like to mention fortune, but ben gong feels that it is destiny,” Qu Qing Ju smiled as she raised a teacup, “Everyone, come taste our Da Long’s tea. It isn’t anything rare, but the taste is still good.”
“Da Long’s tea is worth a thousand gold in our countries, it is very valuable,” The furen of the envoy from Dong Yu smiled as she took a drink, “The tea that the Empress has, it really is a rare and seldom one.”
“If you like it, when you return, take some back,” Qu Qing Ju smiled as she responded, “Coming from so far away to celebrate Emperor’s birthday, it must have been hard.”
“His Majesty the Emperor is brave and outstanding. To celebrate His Highness the Emperor’s birthday, there is no hardship,” Dai Rong put down the teacup, smiling and said, “His Majesty the Emperor is a god in my country of Jing. All the people of Jing would never find it hard for our gods.”
“Ah,” Qu Qing Ju raised an eyebrow at Dai Rong, “Then all of Jing is full of loyalty for my Da Long.
“Of course, my Jing’s heart towards Da Long is like shining like the sun and moon,” Dai Rong’s eyes met Qu Qing Ju’s, “this one believes that the honored His Majesty Jia You will be one of those wise rulers seen once in a thousand years.””
The two’s eyes met in the air. Qu Qing Ju found that the other had a pair of beautiful eyes. She gave a faint smile: “As the Empress of Da Long, I’m very grateful for the loyalty that the people of Jing feels towards Da Long.”
Da Rong followed: “So, as the Hu Guo Princess of Jing, I’m willing, for the honored His Majesty Jia You Emperor, to become his fei.”
Qu Qing Ju laughed out loud. She had heard that the culture of country of Jing was extremely liberal, and the relationships between men and women were relaxed. Hearing Dai Rong’s words today, she finally understood what a liberal culture was like.