This chapter has been brought to you by me, Adnana and Vivie.
- 郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang
- 郡王 junwang: second-rank prince; also referred to as junwang ye, i.e. “His [Your] Royal Highness”
- 夫人 furen: mistress or madam/lady; usually refers to the legitimate wife
- 妾 qie: I, your servant (deprecatory self-reference for women)
- 府 fu: compound or estate; junwang fu: prince’s estate/compound
- 孤 gu: how a king or crown prince refers to himself, similar to zhen for the emperor.
Chapter Fifteen: Crown Princess
There was actually someone who asked this question at the palace banquet. Was this to make trouble for Xian Junwang Fei, or for the Emperor who had decreed the marriage? No matter what the rumors were, the Emperor “did not know.” He had decreed a marriage under the identity of an elder and out of consideration for Xian Junwang who did not have any parents. If the people in the Imperial House knew of the rumors outside, didn’t it mean they were accusing the Emperor of making terrible matches?
Hua Xi Wan raised her head to look at the person who had spoken. It was a matron with white skin and slightly heavyset. The gold hairpins in her hair flashed brightly and added a noble and intimidating air to the matron.
“Is Li Yao Furen talking about how the outside speaks of how Junwang Ye treats qie well?” When she said this, Hua Xi Wan’s face was bashful. “Junwang Ye does treat qie well.”
The matron’s husband, Count Jing Ping’s grandfather had been a junwang. After three generations, they had barely managed to keep their title of count. This was only because the man’s son was favored by the Emperor, so the Emperor had promoted him from third-rank count to first-rank count. This family could only be considered poor imperial relatives compared to the grandness of Xian Junwang Fu. This Jing Ping Countess’s hairpins were clearly common, and the style was that from several years ago. If this was in an average prestigious family, the hairpins would be melted down to new styles and then bestowed to servant girls to play with.
Countess Jing Ping hadn’t expected Hua Xi Wan to agree with the rumors. She opened her mouth and wanted to say that this wasn’t what she was asking about, but then she saw the people in the surroundings had strange expressions. Even the people who were on good relations with her were giving her looks. She was unwilling but she couldn’t keep pressing.
This world never lacked people without brains, even in the Imperial Family. Hua Xi Wan saw Countess Jing Ping back down, and was too lazy to argue with her in this kind of setting. She pretended nothing had happened, smiled at everyone looking at her, and then lowered her head.
This smile caused many people to inhale sharply. Some men who liked beauty even thought that, if Hua Xi Wan smiled at them alone, they would be willing to do anything she wanted.
“Drink some digestive tea for your stomach.” Yan Jin Qiu raised his wide sleeve and reached out to pour tea for Hua Xi Wan. It also covered half of the stares in this direction. His actions were flowing, and the tea drew out an elegant curve in the air before it accurately poured into the cup. Not a drop was spilled.
Hua Xi Wan picked up the teacup. Even though the tea was still steaming, the cup gave off a feeling of coolness in her hand. She took a sip before putting down the teacup, and looked outside the hall. “The time is late.” This was the time for her sleep.
Yan Jin Qiu realized what Hua Xi Wan was thinking about and said in a low voice by her ear, “It will end soon.”
Hua Xi Wan smiled and imperceptibly tilted her head to move her ear further away from Yan Jin Qiu’s mouth.
Yan Jin Qiu looked at her pearl-in-cage earring as he smiled and poured a cup of wine for himself.
As Yan Jin Qiu had predicted, fifteen minutes later, the three most noble people in the Imperial Palace left quickly one after the other. Since the hosts had left, the guests only sat for a while longer before making their farewells.
Just as Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu were about to get on the carriage, an inner palace attendant rushed and knelt in front of the two with a sandalwood box. “Greetings to Xian Junwang, Xian Junwang Fei. This servant is a personal attendant of the Crown Prince Fu, Yang Neng. The Crown Princess saw you and instantly felt you were like an old friend, so she specially ordered this servant to deliver some playthings to Xian Junwang Fei.”
During the entire banquet, other than when they first exchanged greetings, when were they like friends?
Hua Xi Wan looked at the sandalwood boxes embedded with pearls, nodded and then said with a smile, “Her Highness the Crown Princess is really too polite, subject-wife is afraid.”
Yang Neng saw that Hua Xi Wan had not shown any surprise at receiving special treatment from the Crown Princess, and guessed that while this Xian Junwang Fei was not an extremely smart woman, she was steady. He gave the box to Hua Xi Wan’s personal servant girl, Bai Xia, and then bowed. “This servant has done as the Crown Princess has said—thousand gold cannot buy a true friend; it is the greatest fortune to see Xian Junwang Fei as an old friend. These little things are just dead objects for people to play with and are not worth a mention.”
Since the other was persisting in giving the objects, Hua Xi Wan did not resist. After exchanging some more courtesies with this Yang Neng, she stepped onto the stool and into the carriage.
When the carriage left the palace gates, Hua Xi Wan didn’t even look at the things inside the sandalwood box. She said in a tone resonating with hatred, “Lock this up when we get home, and don’t even mention this to me.” Even though Yang Neng kept on mentioning the Crown Princess, she was certain that the one who was sending the gifts was not the Crown Princess but someone else.
Sending her something in front of Yan Jin Qiu, was this looking down on Yan Jin Qiu or trying to disgust her?
Hua Xi Wan fiddled with the jade bangle on her wrist and tried to smooth her temper. She said hatefully in a low voice, “A dog.”
Yan Jin Qiu put a hand on the back of hers and laughed lightly. “He really is a dog.” And a dog who would not have any children.
He raised the curtain and looked outside. The carriage had already entered the main avenues of Jing. The noisy crowds along the streets gave people the feeling of prosperity.
“Is the outside beautiful?”
Yan Jin Qiu turned his head and saw Hua Xi Wan lazily leaning on the cushion. She was asking about the outside, but there wasn’t any curiosity on her face.
“Joy, anger, sorrow, happiness, all the emotions are there.” Yan Jin Qiu put down the curtain and suddenly said, “Has Xi Wan ever seriously thought about truly seeing the thoughts of these people?”
Hua Xi Wan lay on the back cushions and didn’t care about Yan Jin Qiu’s question.
“From the side, a whole range; from the end, a single peak
“far, near, high, low; no two parts alike.
“Why can’t I tell the true shape of Mount Lu?
“Because I myself am in the mountain.[i]
“What does Jin Qiu think about this poem?”
Yan Jin Qiu’s eyes changed slightly, and then he smiled. “What does Xi Wan mean?”
Hua Xi Wan adjusted her position and said lazily, “Just what the poem means. I’m just one of the many people; I cannot even see myself clearly, and never thought about looking at others.”
“Xi Wan is simple and straightforward.” Yan Jin Qiu stared at her eyes. “Then has Xi Wan ever thought that the scenery at the highest place is different?”
“Of course it is different, tall mountains and strong winds.” Hua Xi Wan yawned and said with half-lidded eyes, “If you are going to sightsee next time, prepare thick clothing for me, don’t let me get cold or hungry—then I can accompany you.”
Yan Jin Qiu had a complex expression as he looked at Hua Xi Wan who was resting with her eyes closed. A moment later, he laughed. “You are the woman I’m closest to in this life. How can I bear for you to endure hardship and tiredness?”
Hua Xi Wan’s eyelids moved but did not open.
The carriage continued to move. As it swayed, Hua Xi Wan gradually slipped into sleep.
孤 gu: how a king or crown prince refers to himself, similar to zhen for the emperor.
Inside the Crown Prince Fu, the Crown Prince looked impatiently at the old Imperial Doctor who was taking his pulse. “A check-up and medicine every day, yet gu has not seen any effects.”
Hearing this, the Imperial Doctor went back two steps and knelt on the ground. “Your Highness, your liver and kidneys are weak and should not use wine. Today…”
“All right, gu knows how gu’s body is.” The Crown Prince stood and looked with a dark expression at the old Imperial Doctor who was shaking. “You do not need to speak more. Leave.”
The old Imperial Doctor wanted to advise, but when he saw the Crown Prince’s ugly expression, he suppressed the urge. The Crown Prince was at a prime age and had a high demand in certain areas. But for children, he should rest and nurture his body, drink less, and restrain himself from bedroom matters. But the Crown Prince was one who did what he wanted. What ability did he have to persuade such a person?
Coming out of the inner rooms, the old Imperial Doctor saw the Crown Princess come with a few palace attendants. Before he finished his bow, one of the Crown Princess’ palace attendants came to support him.
“Imperial Doctor He does not need to be so courteous. How is the Crown Prince’s body?” Compared to the lack of etiquette from the Crown Prince, the Crown Princess appeared easy to talk to and gentle. “Is there a good turn?”
Hearing this, Imperial Doctor He said, “Your Highness, His Highness the Crown Prince is just slightly over twenty, and at a good time in life. If he could drink less and rest, it would be more beneficial for having children.”
After the Crown Princess heard this, she had servants see Imperial Doctor He out with a smile on her face. Inside, she sighed. The Crown Prince was like this, and because the Crown Prince had disregarded her a few times, she, the Crown Princess, had lost her authority in front of the other women in the Crown Prince’s palace a long time ago. How could she persuade the Crown Prince to change his attitude?
[i] Modified from Burton Watson translation of “Written on the Wall at West Forest Temple” by Su Shi
Translator Ramblings: Yan Jin Qiu is feeling some jealousy … .. or is that possessiveness?