This chapter has been brought to you by me, Adnana, and Vivie.
Chapter Seventy-Eight: The Empress Dowager’s Thoughts
After the First Moon Festival, the people in Jing slowly came out of the shadow of Rui He Fuma’s and the Crown Prince’s death. For the common people, it was not important to them who lived or died, but if their peace would be disturbed.
The Emperor’s decree of posthumously titling the Crown Prince was not announced in the end because the Crown Prince had been without virtue in life, and without talent. He could not be elevated beyond protocol by his father. Unless the unborn imperial grandson could win the argument against the officials in the future, this Crown Prince might never be titled an emperor.
The Crown Prince’s body was left in Zhu Que Palace for a whole thirty days. The Taoists from all major monasteries came to perform ceremonies for the Crown Prince. In the end, the Crown Prince was buried with the title “Cheng.”[i] Many people felt it was a waste to give this character to the Crown Prince. However, the person was dead, and the Emperor had taken a step back, so they did not fight with the Emperor about this title.
Not long after the Crown Prince was buried, the Emperor started to become interested in the inner palace again. He even had thoughts of expanding the inner palace, but after mentioning it, he ended the thought. The officials who had daughters sighed in relief.
Though some people were curious why the Emperor had changed ideas in the span of a night, no one would pick up the topic. Since the Emperor did not mention it again, they would pretend they hadn’t heard anything at all.
The Crown Princess sat silently by the window. She looked with slight irritation at the servant women around her who had serious expressions, “You can all leave; I want to be alone.”
“Please, Crown Princess, forgive us. This servant has been ordered to protect you—please understand.” The leader among the servant women was careful in her attitude and respectful in her tone, but she did not move.
“The Emperor has assigned you to protect bengong, not to supervise bengong.” The Crown Princess felt her anger rise and threw her bowl of nourishing soup to the ground. Watching as the fine white porcelain shattered, she felt pleasure. “Get out!”
The servant women all saw her emotions were unstable. They were afraid that her anger would harm the child inside her belly, so they hurriedly picked up the pieces of porcelain and then left.
After the room full of people left, the Crown Princess covered her face and started to cry. She thought of the time when she and the Crown Prince had just married, thought of how the Crown Prince had sunk into lust, thought of how joyful he had been when he had come out of the Heavenly Prison and learned that she was pregnant.
The Crown Prince knew that his body was slightly weak due to overexertion and it was difficult for him to make women pregnant. That was why he was so happy when he learned she was pregnant.
But only she knew that the child in her belly had nothing to do with the Crown Prince. She lightly caressed her slightly protruding belly. She could not forget how the Empress had looked at her when they had sent the Crown Prince off at his burial.
She understood that the Empress definitely knew that the child in her belly was not the Crown Prince’s but she could do nothing now. No matter if it was the Crown Prince’s or the Emperor’s, what she could do was endure until the moment when her child would be born.
But how did she end up like this? If she had not married into the Imperial Family to start with, how could she have encountered such a terrible matter, or become widowed at such a young age?
She, more than almost everyone, hoped that her child was female. Only that would guarantee that this child could safely grow up when there were too many eyes on this child in her belly, so many that she was afraid.
The more the Crown Princess thought, the more fearful she became. She didn’t even detect that her palm was bleeding from where her nails had dug in.
“Crown Princess.” The voice of the Crown Princess’ personal maid came from outside the door. The Crown Princess sat up and wiped away the tears on her face. “Come in.”
The personal maid walked in and detected that the Crown Princess’ expression was not quite right, but she did not ask any questions. She pretended nothing was out of the ordinary and said, “This servant heard some news.”
“What?” Even though the Crown Princess did not like to scheme, in her present position, she could only choose to act first.
“A few days ago, the Empress Dowager was chatting with a few noble ladies. They mentioned Xian Wang Fei, and she seemed to be slightly dissatisfied that there was no news from Xian Wang Fei after half a year of marriage.” The maid lowered her voice. “Just yesterday, she bestowed down some nourishing medicine to Xian Wang Fei to imply to her to have a child soon.”
Even though they were on different sides, the Crown Princess admired Hua Xi Wan. Adding on the fact that her paternal family had entered a marriage agreement with the Hua Family just recently, she did not want to make the relationship strained. Now, the Empress Dowager was in a hurry for Hua Xi Wan to have a child and increase the weight of Xian Wang in the fight for the throne. However, Hua Xi Wan’s belly had not responded, and the Empress Dowager in her hurry had attempted what was not a wise action.
Leaving aside how young Hua Xi Wan was now, even if Hua Xi Wan was eighteen now, the Empress Dowager should not have been so obvious. What would the other people think of the Imperial Family? The couple was deeply in love, but the Empress Dowager, the grandmother, was just in a hurry for the person to have a child. This was ugly to see.
“Isn’t the Empress Dowager humiliating Xian Wang Fei with this action?” The Crown Princess raised an eyebrow. She had personally seen how much Xian Wang liked Xian Wang Fei. The Empress Dowager’s action would clearly cause the displeasure of Xian Wang Fei. Xian Wang would be stuck in the middle, and this would put some barriers between him and the Empress Dowager. This was not bad for her.
“It is right for the Empress Dowager to be concerned about her juniors,” the Crown Princess said lightly. “We need to keep a close watch on Sheng Junwang Fei.” Her biggest enemy was not Xian Wang but that seemingly just and selfless Sheng Junwang.
Since yesterday, the servants of Xian Wang Fu had become especially careful because they heard that the Empress Dowager seemed to be dissatisfied with their wang fei. Wang Fei was deeply favored by Wang Ye usually. If she was not in a good mood because of this, wouldn’t the people who suffered be the servants?
Some of the prettier servant girls were secretly happy. If the Empress Dowager was dissatisfied with Wang Fei, it meant that Wang Ye might take a concubine in order to comply with the Empress Dowager. Wouldn’t they have a chance then?
Hua Xi Wan flipped through the list of things that the Empress Dowager had bestowed. They were all ginseng or other medicines that were nourishing to females. She drank a cup of nourishing ginseng tea and then said to Cheng Qiu, “The Empress Dowager is really good to me. All of these are the best among medicines. It would be hard to obtain them even if one had the money.”
Cheng Qiu didn’t know how to answer. She was a personal maid to Wang Fei, but she was not one who had come to the wang fu with Wang Fei from the marquis fu. In front of Wang Fei, she was not put to work as often as her three seniors. Therefore, she was exceptionally careful when she served, and afraid of causing Wang Fei dissatisfaction.
The Empress Dowager’s sudden action was not good for Wang Fei. If Xian Wang took cefei like Sheng Junwang, then many terrible things would happen in the wang fu.
Hua Xi Wan saw Cheng Qiu’s wary state and waved her hand. She said, “Put these things away.” Cheng Qiu was steady, but she liked Bai Xia and the other two better. The three were better at reading people’s expressions.
In the Empress Dowager’s residential palace, Yan Jin Qiu knelt in front of the Empress Dowager and said, “Grandmother, please take back your decree. It is not Hua shi’s fault that she does not have a child right now but it is because Grandson does not want a child.”
“You are this deeply in love with Xian Wang Fei?” The Empress Dowager had not expected that the child she had raised really was a romantic. She was not dissatisfied with Hua Xi Wan, but she would not allow Yan Jin Qiu to become a true romantic. “Also, you are twenty years old. What does it look like to not have even one child?”
“The political situation is not stable right now; Grandson doesn’t dare to risk a child.” Yan Jin Qiu’s tone was sorrowful. “Grandson also wants a child, but this is not the best time to have one.”
The Empress Dowager immediately realized it. The fighting at court was fierce. Even with the Emperor’s protection, it was not guaranteed that the Crown Princess’ child would be safely born, much less a child of a wang fu.
“Grandmother, do you still remember the year when Grandson was six?” Yan Jin Qiu raised his head to look at the Empress Dowager with admiration.
The Empress Dowager stilled and thought back.
“At that time, someone talked in secret and said that Grandson was not your true grandson. You were raising Grandson in order to disgust the Empress. Grandson was angry and punished those servants because Grandson knows that, while Grandson is not your true grandson, your love for Grandson is greater than for your true grandson.” The rims of Yan Jin Qiu’s eyes turned red. “That night, Grandson thought, it would be great if Father-Wang was your son. That way, no one would speak of this.
“Hua shi and Grandson are married. I want her to have a hall full of children and grandchildren, want her to have her own sons and grandsons. I don’t want her to be like my mother who died in depression because of those concubines.” Yan Jin Qiu moved forward on his knees and leaned his head gently against the Empress Dowager’s legs. “Imperial Grandfather and Father-Wang caused much hardship to their women. Grandson does not want his own woman to also experience that. Grandson is useless, and can only use Hua shi to make up for the regrets.” When he said this, Yan Jin Qiu started to choke.
The Empress Dowager was in a daze for a long time. She reached out to touch the top of Yan Jin Qiu’s head. In a trembling tone, she said, “Aijia didn’t know that you have such a pure heart. Aijia was not favored by the previous emperor and never had a child. Raising you has made up for some of the regrets. You can understand what aijia and your mother endured in the past; you live up to your mother doing all she did to protect you.” The Empress Dowager thought back to the past and started to mention the events of the past. Inside, she thought that she hadn’t raised Yan Jin Qiu for nothing.
Yan Jin Qiu’s shoulders shook, and he tried his best to make his voice sound normal. “It is Grandson who is useless and cannot allow you to live as you please.”
“There will be a chance.” The Empress Dowager warmly patted the top of Yan Jin Qiu’s head and then rubbed her forehead tiredly. “Your wife is actually not bad. Since you are not willing to take a concubine, aijia will not force you. It is fine to not have a child now as long as you keep track.”
Seeing the Empress Dowager’s tiredness, Yan Jin Qiu perceptively bowed and left. When he sat on the carriage to return to the wang fu, the reverence on his face disappeared without a trace.
In the past, the Empress Dowager had done many things to guarantee that he, the grandson, would be filial to her. The Empress Dowager even had a hand in the early passing of his mother. Did she think that without a mother, and with his father favoring a concubine, he would be exceptionally close to his grandmother?
The Empress Dowager wanted to use him and the influence of Xian Wang Fu to threaten the Emperor and protect her status as empress dowager. Now, what the Empress Dowager wanted was to become the imperial Grand Empress Dowager who was truly respected by the Emperor.
He wanted the throne, but he did not plan on slighting his only woman in order to walk a path he did not know the result of.
Some things were not able to be obtained by sacrificing a woman.
[i] 诚: sincere, honest, true
Translator Ramblings: Childbirth is dangerous and not even the nice grandmother is doing things out of love.