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- 郡王 junwang: second-rank prince; also referred to as junwang ye, i.e. “His [Your] Royal Highness”
- 郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang
- 府 fu: compound or estate; (jun)wang fu: prince’s estate/compound
- 太太 taitai: married woman, madam
- 郡主 junzhu: title usually given to a daughter of a qinwang (first-rank prince)
- 堂兄 tang xiong: father’s brother’s (older) son
- 堂弟 tang di: father’s brother’s (younger) son
- 嫡 di: child born of the official wife, not of a concubine
- 老爷 laoye: (respectful) old master, lord
- 夫人 furen: mistress or madam/lady
- 氏 shi: clan/maiden name
- 弟妹 dimei: younger brother’s wife
Chapter Twenty-Four: Undercurrents
The weather became increasingly hot. Hua Xi Wan started to take off her brocade palace attire and to wear wide-sleeved silk dresses. The fragrance in the rooms was switched to the cool and insect-repelling mint fragrance. But even so, she felt it was uncomfortably hot. Already lazy to start with, she disliked going out even more. If there was a matron who would invite her to some part tours, she would cleanly refuse them because she could not tolerate walking outside in this temperature.
Bai Xia and the other servant girls knew that she had a hard time in summer, so when they served her at this time, they would use all kinds of cooling methods. They were just worried that Junwang Ye would be unhappy that Junwang Fei refused all the invitations. The relationships between womenfolk were also very important among prestigious families.
Hua Xi Wan asked with a smile after learning of their worries, “What do you feel about Princess Rui He’s personality?”
Bai Xia, Lu Zhu and the others stared at each other. A moment later, Lu Zhu said hesitantly, “This servant does not dare to discuss the noble princess.”
“Ha.” Hua Xi Wan lazily leaned back on the chaise. She picked up a lychee that had been skinned and iced. After eating it, she said, “The so-called inner compound relations are either from those lower to those above them, or for those who band together. Our junwang fu does not want to band with others, and just hopes to live clean days. It is not important for me to go to these tours or not.” She was not as virtuous as Sheng Junwang Fei, who didn’t just run a good household of the inner compound of the entire wang fu but also had a high reputation among the womenfolk.
There were those who said she relied on her status, and those who said she was too proud. In any case, these women who did not have good opinions of her still had to carefully give smiles and treat her well. So was it important if those people liked her or not?
If the status of men in the entire dynasty depended on the good relationships between women, what was the use in having these men?
“Princess Rui He is always high up and has a proud attitude. But in all of Jing, who dares to not respect her, who doesn’t flatter her?” Hua Xi Wan’s voice was unconcerned. “Even if you are extremely skilled, in front of noble status, everything is futile.”
Bai Xia and the others were silent. Junwang Fei’s words were too direct and displeasing to hear, but the truth was so. Everyone desired power. In front of power, the so-called friendships were not worth a mention. They remembered back at the marquis fu, there had been womenfolk who said their taitai was too valiant and was rough. But in front of Taitai, how many of them were impolite and didn’t have a smile?
“Right, Junwang Fei, the day after tomorrow is the sixth day of the sixth month. Should we invite Lin Ping Junzhu back to the junwang fu to stay for a day?” Lu Zhu suddenly remembered that the sixth day of the six month was Daughter’s Day. According to tradition, the family would invite the daughters who were married back to their paternal home for a short visit. But Lin Ping Junzhu had not sent anyone to call at Junwang Fu since she had come to Jing, so this matter would be awkward to treat.
“Didn’t Junwang Ye say that everyone should act as normal? We do the same as what we have done before.” Hua Xi Wan did not have a lot of good feelings for her sister-in-law, so she was too lazy to even pretend. Since even Yan Jin Qiu, her younger brother, was distanced from this person, what did it have to do with her, the sister-in-law?
In the Judicial Office, Yan Bo Yi looked at the information gathered from all places. The information indiscernibly all pointed at the Crown Prince. He looked at the Chief Justice who was sitting in front of him and was sweating, and put the information back down on the table. “Official Zhao, what do you think of this matter?”
“This lowly official… this lowly official does not dare to decide. Please, Sheng Junwang, guide me.” More sweat rolled down Official Zhao’s head, but he did not dare to take out the handkerchief on his body. He pulled his sleeve to wipe.
“Official Zhao is joking. You are the Chief Justice of the Judicial Office; even you cannot remember how many cases you have solved. How can this case pose a problem for you?” Yan Bo Yi’s index finger tapped a rhythm on the table with his fingers. It caused Official Zhao’s heart to jump as well.
“Sheng Junwang, Official Zhao, Xian Junwang is asking for a meeting.” A guard hurriedly walked in to report.
Yan Bo Yi’s brow creased slightly. He then stood. “Quick, welcome him in.”
Moments later, Yan Jin Qiu walked in, dressed in blue robes. He also held a paper fan in his hand and appeared extremely ethereal. He saw Yan Bo Yi and bowed with a greeting of equals. “Zi Ling greets Tang Xiong.”
“Tang Di is too polite.” Yan Bo Yi said after he returned the bow, “For what matter has Tang Di come to this place?”
“Zi Ling has come without a greeting and has disturbed the two of you. My junwang fei is extremely concerned about the case of Master Zhang. I do not bear to see her in difficulty, so I have come to ask.” Yan Jin Qiu’s gaze swept the two as he said slowly, “If there is a problem, please tell me. I am just making an inquiry.”
“Xian Junwang Ye is the example of all husbands.” Official Zhao chuckled but did not mention if there was a problem about the matter. “We are investigating the case of Master Zhang. Junwang Ye, do not worry—we will get to the bottom of this case.”
“If that is the case, then I will trouble Tang Xiong and Official Zhang.” Yan Jin Qiu slowly folded his fan and used the fan to lightly tap the palm of his other hand. “I will not disturb you further. Farewell.”
Hearing this, Official Zhao instantly stood up. “This lowly official has many matters and cannot receive Junwang Ye properly. Junwang Ye, please have tolerance.”
“Official Zhao is too polite.” Yan Jin Qiu raised his folded hands towards Yan Bo Yi and then walked away.
Official Zhao followed behind him and saw him to the gates of the Judicial Office before he said, “Junwang Ye, this lowly official will not see you off any further.”
“Official Zhao, please stop.” Yan Jin Qiu nodded politely. Under Official Zhao’s gaze, he stepped onto the carriage.
Watching as the carriage of Xian Junwang travelled into the distance, Official Zhao moved his gaze and sighed. This case was connected to too many matters, and there were many prestigious families that were watching. It really increased the pressure on him as Chief Justice. But all the clues pointed towards His Highness the Crown Prince. What were they to do now?
Returning to the office, Official Zhao saw Sheng Junwang was still sitting properly at his original spot. He sighed inside again. None of these people were easy to talk to. Even that Xian Junwang who seemed to be easy-going was not a simple person.
The news that Xian Junwang repaid evil with good, and went to the Judicial Official in person to ask about the case of Master Zhang for his junwang fei, quickly spread through Jing. Some said that Xian Junwang was deeply in love with his junwang fei and went to ask for someone who had offended him many times. Some womenfolk also felt that Xian Junwang Fei was using her beauty to get Xian Junwang who had been clean and noble to meddle in such a terrible manner, and that there would be a day when she fell out of favor.
No matter what the outside said, the people of the Zhang Family were very grateful to Xian Junwang Fu. In this world, there were not many who sent coal in the snow. Their only son of the di branch dying meant that their root had been broken off. They would be replaced by the people of the cadet branch sooner or later. It was extremely valuable for someone to lend a helping hand at this time.
Zhang Laoye who had grown old in a night due to losing his only son said to his furen with a sigh, “Only a person as outstanding as Xian Junwang would help us based on my Zhang Family’s reputation as a scholarly family.”
“The outside is saying that Xian Junwang is helping us because of Xian Junwang Fei…” Zhang Furen recalled how her eldest daughter had personally gone to Xian Junwang Fu to get Junwang Fei to help. “Is that not the case?”
“I do not know much about the conduct of Xian Junwang, but I have heard many things. He is not someone to change his ideas because of beauty. He is a very clean and honest person who has skill in poetry and drawing. He is willing to help my Zhang Family most likely because of our Zhang Family’s reputation these past years.” Zhang Laoye’s eyes were filled with exhaustion. “I will remember his goodwill.”
Zhang Furen wanted to say that even if Xian Junwang would not be affected by usual beauty, Xian Junwang Fei’s beauty was not something that could be described by outstanding. But seeing her husband’s tired expression, she did not say what she thought. Maybe there really were men who were not affected by beauty?
Compared to the people who believed the rumors, Yi’an Maquis Fu was more concerned about another matter—having Hua Xi Wan come back on the sixth day of the month to stay for a day.
As the eldest brother of Hua Xi Wan, Hua Chang Bao was naturally the first choice to go receive Hua Xi Wan. But the sixth day of the six month was a folk day, and they did not know if Xian Junwang would feel that the paternal family was being bothersome.
“Is there any meaning in thinking so much?” Lu Furen said directly. “Having our girls back in the paternal home is our goodwill. Can Xian Junwang Fu be so noble that they will not allow our girl to come back to her paternal home?”
Hua Ding Chen nodded in agreement. “Mother is right. With Xian Junwang’s breadth of mind, he would not overthink this.”
Hua He Zheng sighed helplessly. Now that his daughter had married into that kind of family, even if Yi’an Marquis Fu could support her, what was the use? If this minor matter affected the relationship between them, that would not be what they intended.
Just as they were hesitating, they heard a servant report that Xian Junwang had come.
“Why has Xian Junwang come at this time?” Lu shi raised an eyebrow. She recalled the case of Master Zhang which had been very popular in the last few days. “Is it for the matter of Second Dimei’s paternal family?”
Hua He Zheng thought carefully but could not conclude anything. He shook his head and said, “Do not speculate. Zhang Bao, Ding Chen, come with me to meet the guest.”
Hua Zhang Bao and Hua Ding Chen exchanged a look and walked outside with their father.
Lu shi looked at the father and sons trio walk out the door of the main yard. She seemed to complain to the servant girl next to her. “Those three are staying together.”
“Eldest Master and Second Master are capable people. It is good for the Marquis to take them out to see.” The servant girl went up to massage Lu shi’s shoulder and said half in praise and half in sincerity, “This fall, Second Master is going to attend the Fall Examination. It is good for him to see more of the prestigious families of Jing.”
Lu shi smiled and did not lecture the servant girl for being too chatty. Her eyebrows were full of pride in her three children.
Translator Ramblings: And the murder case thickens!