郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang
府 fu: compound or estate; junwang fu: prince’s estate/compound
太监 taijian: court or palace eunuch
郡王 junwang: second-rank prince; also referred to as junwang ye, i.e. “His [Your] Royal Highness”
妾 qie: I, your servant (used by a wife or concubine)
哀家 aijia: lit. “grieving one”; illeism for the empress dowager
本宫 ben gong: lit. “this palace”; illeism for high-ranked denizens of the Imperial Palace
堂 tang: relatives with the same surname
Chapter Thirty: Peaceful Relations
It was two days later when Yan Jin Qiu stepped into the inner compound. At this time, the sunshine was perfect. He stood in the shadows as he watched Hua Xi Wan listen to the performance of a vocal mimicry performer. After his expression changed a few times, he still stood where he was and did not go forward.
What the vocal mimicry performer was performing was the “Hundred Birds Paying Respects to the Phoenix.” There were all kinds of bird sounds, and even the sound of wind in the valley was nimble and realistic. There were also the sounds of water flowing in the mountains, the sound of fish leaping out of the water. When Hua Xi Wan closed her eyes, she seemed to see a paradise.
There were too many skills in the ancient era that were lost in the river of time. In the modern era, she had always been exceptionally respectful of all kinds of old experts. Because acting was a hard job, she rarely went to watch these performances. Now that she had such a good chance, how could she bear to miss the performance of someone who had over fifty years of experience in vocal mimicry? After he finished performing, Hua Xi Wan had a servant bring him a bowl of water to moisten his throat. Only when he finished drinking did she say, “Old Mister, your skill is really good, as expected of a vocal mimicry prestigious family.”
Hearing this, the old person was startled by the praise. “It is this old man’s good fortune for eight lifetimes to be able to receive praise from Junwang Fei.” He was someone who sold his talents. If it was said nicely, his was called a vocal mimicry prestigious family, but in reality, they were the lowest of the low who were eking out a survival. He usually encountered many rolls of the eyes and never imagined that he would have a chance to perform in front of Junwang Fei and have her call him “Mister.”
“Old Mister, do not be too humble,” Hua Xi Wan said with a smile. “Your performance is so realistic—not everyone can do this. If Old Mister does not disdain the junwang fu for being so crude, please come frequently to the junwang fu to perform.”
Hearing this, the old person was overjoyed. He hurriedly bowed and said, “Junwang Fei likes to hear this, it is this old man’s good fortune to come to the junwang fu to perform and he doesn’t dare to disdain it.”
A taijian came forward to help the old person up. Bai Xia gave the old man another pouch that was filled with some silver.” Since Old Mister does not disdain this, then please come frequently to the junwang fu to perform. Our junwang fei likes things like this.” The old man weighed in his hand the pouch that was substantial. After bowing and thanking Hua Xi Wan and Bai Xia, he followed a manservant out of the yard. When he reached the corridor, he saw the manservant leading him kneel down. He didn’t dare to raise his head and guessed there was a noble personage in front of him, so he followed in kneeling.
“Stand up. Since Junwang Fei likes this old mister’s performance, remember to take care to send him back.”
The old person could hear that this voice was extremely young. When he was standing up, he saw a man dressed in grand white robes standing in the shadows. He was old, but his eyesight was still good. With just a peek, he felt this young man was unspeakably handsome. After going to so many places in these years, he had never seen such a good-looking young person.
When the old performer followed the young servant out of the compound, the young servant said with a smile, “Old Mister, you really have good luck. Just now, the one who spoke is our junwang ye. You will have good fortune in the future.”
“Junwang Ye?” The old man looked with shock at the young manservant. After seeing him nod in certainty, he trembled and said, “Heavens, I really had good luck today.” Finishing, he took out a piece of silver from the pouch to give to the young servant. But after the young servant would not accept it no matter what, he could only put it away.
When he sat on the carriage the junwang fu had prepared to go back to his home, the old person touched the pouch and could not suppress the joyful expression. That junwang fei had a clear and delicate brow, open eyes and a delicate nose—this was a face of nobility. That junwang ye‘s presence was extraordinary, and with a glance, it was possible to see that this was someone with good fortune and nobility. These two were both of extraordinary appearance, and even their faces were the rare faces of nobility. As expected of Junwang Ye and Junwang Fei. Their presence was different than that of normal people.
Under the shadow of the tree, Hua Xi Wan looked with half-lidded eyes as Yan Jin Qiu walked towards her. She put the fan in her hand on the table and raised the mung-bean soup to slowly drink it. When Yan Jin Qiu walked close, she still didn’t put down the bowl in her hand.
Yan Jin Qiu saw that Hua Xi Wan ignored him and silently sat down by her side. After seeing her drink half of the bowl, he said, “There has been a few days since we went into the palace to see Imperial Grandmother. Will you go with me tomorrow?”
Hua Xi Wan put down the bowl and took the tea that Hong Ying handed over to rinse her mouth. After she slowly wiped her mouth with a handkerchief, she said, “Since Junwang Ye has said so, qie will naturally obey.”
“I already said that we do not need to be like this between us.” Yan Jin Qiu beckoned at Mu Tong and took a sandalwood box from him. “A few days ago, you said you like the embroidery of the Shu area. I had people embroider some handkerchiefs in a rush. See if they fit your desire. If you like them, then have them make a few dresses for you.”
Hua Xi Wan took the box from his hand. Opening the box and looking at the handkerchiefs in the box, she looked at Yan Jin Qiu with a smile and nodded. She said, “It was trouble for Junwang Ye to spend so much thought.” Finishing, she did not say if she liked them or not. She put the box to one side.
Yan Jin Qiu’s gaze swept across the box that had been put aside, then over the male and female servants around them. He waved his hand for them to retreat before he sighed and said, “Xi Wan, sometimes, I really do not understand what you think.”
Hearing this, Hua Xi Wan smiled rather than get angry. “Sometimes, I think the same way that you do.”
Yan Jin Qiu’s expression stilled for a moment. He moved his gave aside slightly. “We are husband and wife—what can we not talk about?”
Hua Xi Wan stared at him. A moment later, she smiled and said, “Then what you want to say to me, I will definitely listen.”
The mood instantly became heavy. A long time later, Yan Jin Qiu raised a hand to brush the scattered hairs by her ear. He said with a sigh, “Let us have good days and not have unhappiness due to little matters. It doesn’t just harm our love, it is not good for you and I.”
The hand by her face held some warmth. Hua Xi Wan raised her head to look at this man who had a warm smile. Gradually, a smile appeared at the corner of her lips. “All right.”
Yan Jin Qiu curled an arm around her waist to carry her and then… he stumbled.
Hua Xi Wan flipped out of his arms and said with a smile, “I’ll walk.” The public knew that Xian Junwang only liked scholarly pursuits, not martial ones. He, who did not like martial pursuits, could he easily carry someone?
She turned her head to look at the servants standing at a distance. She allowed Yan Jin Qiu to grip her hand, and then under the other’s awkward smile, she said considerately, “It is nothing if you cannot carry me. I might look thin, but I do have some weight.”
Yan Jin Qiu: “…” He felt that he was not comforted, especially when the other was smiling without any sincerity.
The servants in the inner compound discovered that Junwang Ye had moved back to reside in the inner compound. He also piled a lot of things into Junwang Fei‘s personal stores. Junwang Fei was still idly eating, drinking and playing, as though the matter of Junwang Ye staying for a few successive nights in the study had never occurred.
Mu Tong, Bai Xia and the other people sighed in relief. It was not good for the servants if the mistress and master were in conflict. Now that they were as good as they were before, it was the best.
Hua Xi Wan had not come into the Imperial Palace many times. One reason was that they needed to avoid doing this because of their status, the second was because she was too lazy to cross swords in secret with the people of the Imperial Palace. But no matter what, they had to work on the surface. Just like the Empress and the Empress Dowager. They clearly had no feelings between them, but at important occasions, they had to project that the mother and daughter-in-law had harmonious relations.
The Fu Kang Palace where the Empress Dowager lived gave Hua Xi Wan the feeling of luxury and heaviness. She looked at the palace maid who was ushering them. She thought of the Empress Dowager who was always satisfied with her, and then the Empress whose every sentence was filled with traps. She sighed inside.
When she looked into the inner rooms, the Empress was there as expected. She was not the only one present; the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess were also there. Hua Xi Wan glanced at Yan Jin Qiu. She went forward a few steps and said, “Xi Wan greets Imperial Grandmother. It has been a few days since we met, and Imperial Grandmother’s complexion looks better. Is it because grandson-wife has not come to bother Imperial Grandmother, so Imperial Grandmother is in a refreshed mood and energetic?”
“Aiya, aijia doesn’t bear to part with such a good grandson-wife.” The Empress Dowager broke into smiles at Hua Xi Wan’s words. She did not wait for Hua Xi Wan to greet the Empress and the others before pulling her closer. After a bout of praise, she said to Yan Jin Qiu, “I think that Xi Wan has become thinner these days. It seems that you, as her husband, is not taking good enough care of her.”
“Imperial Grandmother, Junwang Ye treats grandson-wife well. It’s just that it has been too hot lately, thus I have not eaten as much. In order to have grandson-wife eat more, Junwang Ye wants to give to grandson-wife everything that is good to eat and use in the fu. You cannot blame him. Otherwise, what will happen if he is not good to grandson-wife after we leave?” Hua Xi Wan grabbed her sleeve and explained with a red face. “Then grandson-wife can only find you and cry, Imperial Grandmother.”
“He doesn’t dare.” The Empress Dowager had a servant bring a bench for Yan Jin Qiu, and then she said to the Empress, “Look at these juniors close together—aijia feels sweet inside.”
The Empress knew that that the Empress Dowager was directing this at the Crown Prince and Crown Princess. She said with a tense smile, “Mother-Empress is right.”
The Crown Princess glanced in admiration at Hua Xi Wan and then at the Crown Prince beside her. She felt both embarrassed and sad. She buried her head down.
The Crown Prince had taken a few looks at Hua Xi Wan, but because the Empress Dowager and Yan Jin Qiu were still present, he was not extremely obvious. However, his gaze when he looked at Hua Xi Wan caused Yan Jin Qiu’s eyebrows to shift slightly.
“Your Highness Crown Prince,” Yan Jin Qiu suddenly said, “I heard that Your Highness has been studying with Grand Tutor Zhong these days. Is Grand Tutor Zhong very strict?”
“Ah,” the Crown Prince sighed. Seeing the Empress stare at him, he forced a smile and said, “Grand Tutor Zhong is very knowledgeable, and ben gong has gained a lot from studying with him.” Thinking about the stern face of Grand Tutor Zhong, His Highness the Crown Prince felt suffocated.
“Grand Tutor Zhong is skilled in all four arts of zither, weiqi, drawing and writing. Most people cannot even ask for his teaching. It is very good that Your Highness can receive Grand Tutor Zhong’s teaching.” Yan Jin Qiu raised his folded hands at the Crown Prince. He said, “If subject-brother has something that is not understandable, Your Highness, please teach me.”
“Haha, you are too polite, you are too polite.” The Crown Prince laughed dryly. Him going to teach Yan Jin Qiu who was outstandingly accomplished—this was a great joke.
Hua Xi Wan silently moved her gaze away. In front of Yan Jin Qiu, the Crown Prince’s intelligence had reached a new low that she didn’t even bear to look at. She sneaked a glance at the Empress, and the other was smiling insincerely as she expected and seemed to be suppressing anger. The Emperor and Empress were clearly smart people, so why didn’t the Crown Prince’s intelligence increase, but seemed to decrease?
The Empress wanted to speak but was interrupted by the Empress Dowager. “All right, you tang brothers are all good children, do not stand on courtesy. A few days ago, the Department of Household Affairs has sent someone with new blood swallow’s nests. I had the kitchen make some. You should all have a taste.”
When she finished speaking, some palace attendants came in with trays. Each tray had just one exquisite porcelain bow that was the size of a fist. Hua Xi Wan took a look as she accepted the bowl and then raised an eyebrow as she turned towards the Empress.
When the Empress saw the color of the cooked swallow’s nest, she instantly changed expression and then knelt down facing the Empress Dowager.
Hua Xi Wan had been sitting on a small bench in front of the Empress Dowager. Seeing the Empress kneel down, she hurriedly stood and walked next to Yan Jin Qiu who had stood up already.