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- 郡王 junwang: second-rank prince; also referred to as junwang ye, i.e. “His [Your] Royal Highness”
- 府 fu: compound or estate; (jun)wang fu: prince’s estate/compound
- 郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang
- 郡主 junzhu: title usually given to a daughter of a qinwang (first-rank prince)
- 大嫂 dasao: older brother’s wife, usually of the eldest brother
- 氏 shi: clan/maiden name
- 儿 ’er: form of endearment
- [i]嫂子 saozi: older brother’s wife
- 通房 tongfang: the lowest rank of concubine
- 夫人 furen: mistress or madam/lady
Chapter Twenty-Six: Sisters
When Hua Xi Wan appeared in front of her eldest brother, it was more than an hour later. Hua Chang Bao looked at his grandly dressed younger sister, then at Xian Junwang who was rearranging the hairpins in her hair, and sighed.
When he left with Hua Xi Wan, he turned back and raised his folded hands to Xian Junwang who had walked with them out of the wang fu gates. “Xian Junwang, please stay. I will go first.”
“Eldest Brother-in-Law, have a slow trip.” Yan Jin Qiu helped Hua Xi Wan onto the carriage before he turned and said to Hua Chang Bao, “Forgive me for not seeing you off further.”
“Please stay, please stay.” Hua Chang Bao got on the horse. After they travelled a distance, he looked back. Xian Junwang was still standing in his original spot, but the distance was far, so he could not see what the expression on Xian Junwang’s face was.
Moving his gaze back, Hua Chang Bao looked at the carriage with the insignia of Yi’an Marquis Fu. His brow furrowed. What did Xian Junwang really think?
Mu Tong watched as the carriage from Yi’an Marquis Fu travelled until it could not be seen before he buried his head down.
“Return.” Yan Jin Qiu turned and walked through the gates of the junwang fu. After they walked to the second door, he said in a cold voice, “What rumors are there about the case of Master Zhang?”
“Many people outside are saying this matter is connected to the Crown Prince. But because the Emperor wants to save the Crown Prince, he is pushing the crime onto the heads of the bandits,” Mu Tong said obediently. “Supposedly, even the people from the Zhang Family are starting to suspect the Crown Prince.”
Yan Jin Qiu snorted a laugh and walked towards the study with his hands behind his back. “It seems that Yan Bo Yi is making waves from the shadows. Otherwise, who leaked out all the information?”
Mu Tong was silent and did not dare to speak.
After Yan Jin Qiu stayed half a day in the study, he suddenly remembered a new chef had come into the fu yesterday, so he said, “Get the new chef to make some of his specialty dishes and send them to Junwang Fei.”
Mu Tong stilled and then said, “Junwang Ye, Junwang Fei went back to Yi’an Marquis Fu today.”
Yan Jin Qiu paused in flipping through the book in his hand. He then waved his hand and did not speak further.
In one of the private rooms of a famous rouge shop in Jing, Lin Ping Junzhu stood by the window. When she saw the carriage from Yi’an Marquis Fu pass by, she couldn’t help but frown. Why was the carriage from Yi’an Marquis Fu going from the direction of Xian Junwang Fu toward Yi’an Marquis Fu?
When the carriage passed into the distance, she heard the sound of female conversation from the next room.
“Yi’an Marquis Fu really cares for their daughter. So early on this sixth day of the sixth month, and they have gone to Xian Junwang Fu. Xian Junwang Fei really is fortunate—a good paternal family, the favor of her husband. I really admire her.”
“This is fate; you won’t obtain it even if you admire it.”
Sixth day of the sixth month? Lin Ping Junzhu thought for a moment before recalling that this was Daughter’s Day among the common people. It was when the parents and brothers had the females who had married out come back to stay at home. Hearing the two women in the next room speak about how they admired Hua Xi Wan, she impatiently left the private room with her servant girls.
She, Yan Jin Ling, had decided when she had married that she would not rely on her paternal family. Then today, she would not care about something like Daughter’s Day. It was just something the lowly common people would do, but Yi’an Marquis Fu actually thought it was so important—this was so laughable.
Just as the carriage reached the marquis fu gates and stilled, Hua Xi Wan heard the voice of her second brother. When she looked outside of the carriage, she saw her brother looking over eagerly as she expected. She couldn’t help but smile. “Second Brother.”
“You finally came.” Hua Ding Chen went forward to the carriage to help Hua Xi Wan off. He examined Hua Xi Wan and saw from her complexion that she was living well at Junwang Fu before he said in satisfaction, “It seems that Junwang Ye has been good to you. I can rest my worries.”
Hua Chang Bao got off the horse and walked next to them, saying, “Let’s go into the fu before talking. What does it look like with all of us standing at the gates?”
Sister and brother exchanged a look and docilely followed behind Hua Chang Bao through the gates of the marquis fu. While the three of them had vastly different personalities, the authority of Hua Chang Bao as the oldest brother was guaranteed.
Along the road, Hua Xi Wan saw that not much in the marquis fu had changed from when she had married. When Hua Xi Wan entered the main yard, she saw her mother and her dasao, Sun shi, who were waiting for her. She walked forward quickly, curtsied, and said, “Daughter greets Mother. Mother, have you been well recently?”
“Good, good, good,” Lu shi repeated. She carefully examined Hua Xi Wan. “Are you used to the junwang fu? Are there any people who are not obedient in the fu?” The last time when her daughter returned, there had been too many people and she did not ask about too many things. Since there were only members of their family in the room now, she did not need to be wary of anything.
“I get the final say in everything in the junwang fu—who dares to disobey?” Hua Xi Wan sat down next to Lu shi and said to Sun shi beside her, “It has been a time since I saw Dasao. You are looking even better.”
Sun shi smiled. “You, little girl, still have such a sweet mouth.”
Hua Xi Wan said with a serious expression, “It is not that I have a sweet mouth. I am an honest person and never lie.”
Sun shi shook her head helplessly. When she turned her head, she saw that while her husband’s expression was cool, there was still joy in his eyes. She knew that Hua Chang Bao was someone who appeared cool but had a warm heart. Sun shi was used to this and said, “That is because Mother is very good to me. She has given me all the good things to eat and drink, to make my complexion like this.”
Lu shi smiled and said, “I just have you two daughters. If I do not give the good things to you, who do I give them to?” She pointed at Hua Chang Bao and Hua Ding Chen. “Should I give them to these two brats? Even if you two bear to, I will think that they will waste it.” This was her saying that she thought of Sun shi as her own daughter and not an outsider.
Sun shi covered her mouth and laughed lightly. She did not feel that her mother-in-law was being polite. In all of Jing, how many mothers-in-law were as considerate and generous as hers?
Hua Ding Chen did not agree, but in front of the women, there was no place for him to speak. In the end, he was teased by all the women.
saozi: older brother’s wife
After a while of talking, Hua Xi Wan said, “I received a few bolts of snow brocade a few days ago and had Zi Shan make a few inner garments for Fu’er. Saozi,[i] try and see if they fit later. If they do not fit, have the servants modify them.”
The snow brocade was cool yet not cold. It was not something one could buy with money. Sun shi instantly said, “Fu’er is just a child eleven months old—how can he use such good cloth?”
“It is because our Fu’er is an infant that more care needs to be taken with his inner garments,” Hua Xi Wan said with a smile. “When he is older, even if you make him wear rough cloth, I will not care.”
Sun shi’s heart warmed. She knew that Hua Xi Wan did not care about courtesies, and accepted the goodwill with a smile.
When they had the noon meal, Hua Xi Wan found that most of the dishes were ones she liked. Lu shi had even personally cooked some of them. She felt sore inside, but when she raised her head, she was full of smiles.
After they finished, Hua Xi Wan ate half a bowl more than usual. Lu shi worried about discomfort and had the servants make a digestive tea for Hua Xi Wan to drink. When there was only she, Sun shi, and Hua Xi Wan left in the room, she finally spoke about the matters of the inner compound. “The date of Eldest Miss’ marriage to the son of Minister Zhou has been set down—the second day of the eighth month.”
Hua Xi Wan recalled the rumors about the son of Minister Zhou. “I heard that this Master Zhou has a tongfang who is pregnant right now. Is it true or false?”
“So what if it is true or not?” Lu shi took a sip of tea and spoke coolly. “At the start, it was their Zhou Family that begged for this marriage. Then within ten years of Eldest Miss and Master Zhou’s marriage, their Zhou Family will not have children that other women gave birth to.”
Hua Xi Wan’s brow creased. But then, what was the meaning in Hua Yi Liu marrying a man like this? “Since the Zhou Family dare to do such a thing, why are Second Uncle and Second Aunt not breaking off the engagement?” This place was not one where women who had broken off their engagement could not marry. The broken engagement would be of some harm to a woman’s reputation, but that would be better than marrying an unreliable man.
“The Zhou Family Furen has a good relationship with your second aunt. Who knows what your second aunt is planning?” Lu shi shook her head. “If Master Zhou does not make the same mistake in the future, there will be no problems. If he does the same after the marriage, then Eldest Miss is pitiable.”
Of the three misses of the Hua family, Hua Yi Liu was the eldest, Hua Xi Wan was the youngest. Rationally, Hua Xi Wan should be close to Hua Yi Liu because Second Uncle and her father were full-blooded brothers, but Hua Xi Wan admired Second Sister Hua Chu Yu more. Her opinion of Hua Yi Liu, her eldest female cousin, was average.
But no matter what, she could not watch as Hua Yi Liu married a bad man. “Second Aunt only has this one daughter. She bears to let her own daughter be humiliated?”
Lu shi sighed and did not speak.
Just as they were talking, servants came to report that Eldest Miss and Second Miss had come.
“Quick, invite the misses in.” Lu shi stood and said, “I will go to the inner compound. You sisters have a good talk.”
Seeing this, Sun shi stood and said, “Fu’er should be eating soon. I have to back to attend to this.” Even though she was close to Hua Xi Wan, her sister-in-law, Sun shi did not have many interactions with the other two misses of the Hua Family. Therefore, she did not want to stay here and influence the talk of the three misses.
Hua Xi Wan could only say, “All right, then we will have a good talk later tonight.”
Hua Chu Yu and Hua Yi Liu were surrounded by several servant girls who came to welcome them when they entered the main yard and ushered them into the main room. The servant girls helped them sit down, put out tea and refreshments. It was very busy.
Compared to Hua Chu Yu who had a hale complexion, Hua Yi Liu’s face was slightly pale. She sat silently on the chair as the servant girls hurried about. When she raised her head and saw Hua Xi Wan and Hua Chu Yu conversing happily, she dazed. She said dejectedly, “The weather is becoming even more hot. After the summer, it will be fall.” She once had a meeting with that Master Zhou. Even though he was handsome, he could not compare to Xian Junwang. His status and talents couldn’t even be said to be anything next to Xian Junwang’s. Was she to marry that kind of man in the future?
Hearing this, Hua Chu Yu looked at her and did not make a sound.
Hua Xi Wan’s eyebrow rose slightly. “It will not be so hot when it is fall.”
Hua Yi Liu felt slightly bitter. She was afraid of fall’s arrival because she did not want to marry a man like that. But Hua Xi Wan yearned for fall because she was discomforted by the heat. The happiness of her life in Hua Xi Wan’s eyes probably could not compare to a few cool days.
What sister, this was all that it was.
Translator Ramblings: Does Xian Jun Wang seem like such a virtuous man next to his future cousin-in-law? I don’t want to assign gender roles but in a lot of historical stories, especially ones about the palace, food is a huge part. It mostly is the female making food for the male so it is nice to see a reversal with Yan Jin Qiu wanting Hua Xi Wan to get good food.