亲王 qinwang: first-rank prince
府 fu: compound or estate; junwang fu: prince’s estate/compound
郡主 junzhu: title given to a daughter of a qinwang (first-rank prince), or to a female of the Imperial Family by the Emperor’s decree
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
嫡 di: child born of the official wife, not of a concubine
氏 shi: clan/maiden name
夫人 furen: mistress or madam/lady, referring to the legitimate wife
翁主 wengzhu: title given to a daughter of an imperial princess
王妃 wang fei: princess consort; the official wife of a (qin)wang or prince
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Qinwang
The name of An Country Duke Fu did not sound as nice as the Princess Shun Yi Fu, but in reality, it was much more noble than Princess Shun Yi who did not hold any true power. Qi Long Emperor’s decree seemed slightly akin to pressing the ox to the water to drink. The An Country Duke Fudid not intend to meddle in the affairs of the Imperial Family, but they knew something about how Min Huai Junzhu was in love with Xian Junwang. Now that Xian Junwang had married such a beautiful Xian Junwang Fei and did not want this junzhu, the Emperor was having their di eldest grandson take her. What did they think that the An Country Duke Fu was, trash-pickers?
The common saying was that those who were matchmakers should do matches that would end in long-lasting marriages of love, and not hate. Qi Long Emperor’s decree was undoubtedly pushing a thorn into An Country Duke’s heart. His di eldest grandson was the one he was most satisfied with. He had originally wanted to get a learned and virtuous wife for his grandson, but then his grandson had been abruptly decreed a marriage.
Yet no matter how unhappy they were, the decree had been proclaimed. They could only show happiness as they went to the palace to state their gratefulness, and then go to Princess Shun Yi Fu to present the betrothal gifts on the day that the Imperial Astronomy Office calculated. However, while there was a lot in the betrothal gifts, there wasn’t much sincerity in the end.
The families close to the An Country Duke Fu knew about how badly they felt. They would express sympathy in private, but in public, all of them would just give their congratulations with a smile. The An Country Duke had to swallow this bitter fruit as though it was sweet and fragrant.
On this day, Lu shi came to Xian Junwang Fu to visit Hua Xi Wan. She made sure that her daughter did not have any scar on her forehead before she sighed in relief. She then cursed the Fang Clan inside before she said in a low voice, “The marriage decree for Min Huai Junzhu and the dieldest grandson of the An Country Duke Fu has come down too fast. I went to the An Country Duke Fu a few days ago. Their betrothal gifts might appear good, but there isn’t much effort put in. Who knows what that person intends.”
Knowing that Mother was speaking of the Empress, Hua Xi Wan said with a thin smile, “Who knows, I only remember that this junzhu who was unmarried came to the bridal chamber on the day of my marriage.”
Lu shi had a strong personality, but that did not mean that she lacked intelligence. Hua Xi Wan’s words caused her brow to furrow. “So that is what she thinks? What I wonder is, if the people in the An Country Duke Fu know.”
“Some time ago, Princess Rui He invited us to the estate in the suburbs to play. When we were playing games, An Country Duke Fu‘s old Furenand the di granddaughter were both present.” Hua Xi Wan’s tone carried slight regret. “At that time, I did not pay attention and accidentally engaged in some slightly intimate actions with Junwang Ye. Min Huai Junzhu‘s expression was slightly ugly. I just don’t know if the An Country Duke’s old Furen saw. If she did, after asking around…” Hua Xi Wan sighed and said worriedly, “Then it would not be good. This is all my fault.”
“How can you be blamed for this matter? You and Son-in-law are newly married and it is understandable for you to be slightly close.” Lu shi smiled and raised a teacup for a drink. “Everyone has their own fate. What is the use in worrying about such things—it tires your mind.”
“Mother is right in lecturing me,” Hua Xi Wan responded. Then she looked at the fragrant laurel flowers in the vase. “We have already entered autumn and it will be Mid-Autumn soon. It is unfilial that Daughter cannot admire the moon together with Father and Mother.”
“We know your intentions.” Lu shi patted her daughter’s hand and forced a smile. She said, “You are a junwang fei now, you have started your own family—how can it be like when you were little? I only hope your days will get even better. That is most filial of you.”
Hua Xi Wan’s heart was sore and soft. She put her head on Lu shi‘s shoulder. “With you all present, I’m forever a child.”
Lu shi sighed and reached out to pat Hua Xi Wan’s shoulder. She knew her own child. This girl seemed to be uncaring of all matters, but in reality, she thought the most of familial love. However, she had too few people in her heart, so not many knew.
It wasn’t even noon when Yan Jin Qiu came back in from the outside. When he saw Lu shi, he first gave a proper bow of a junior and inquired about the health of Lu shi and the family. After he learned that everything was fine, he smiled and said, “My worries are rested knowing you are all fine. Xi Wan misses you usually. If Mother-in-law does not have many matters during the day, please come and visit. We do not have many people in the fu. Sometimes, I have official matters outside. It really is boring for Xi Wan to stay by herself in the fu.”
Lu shi smiled warmly and said, “It is the good fortune of our daughter that Junwang Ye loves Junwang Fei. But it would be too picky to say that in this enormous junwang fu, no one is keeping her company. Junwang, you cannot spoil her so.”
“Mother-in-law, you cannot say this.” Yan Jin Qiu glanced and smiled at Hua Xi Wan, his eyes warm. “There are many people in the fu but they are all servants—how can they compare to Mother-in-law? Also, Xi Wan is not picky. It is just my own selfish desire to have her live more at ease.”
Hearing this, Lu shi‘s smile grew. She glanced at her daughter who had a faint smile all this time, gave a few polite words and then changed the topic.
At the noon meal, Yan Jin Qiu accompanied Hua Xi Wan and Lu shi to eat. After talking for a while after the meal, he stood and went to the study to give mother and daughter time to talk.
Lu shi missed her daughter, but she knew that she could not keep on staying in the junwang fu. That would not be appropriate. She personally neatened her daughter’s clothing and said in a small voice, “The Imperial House is complex and hard to understand, but you will have to live out the days. Remember, nothing can compare to the importance of yourself; do not be stupid.”
Hua Xi Wan nodded and had a choked up throat. “Mother, do not worry for me.”
Lu shi sighed and then became the marquis furen who was slightly fierce. “Please, Junwang Fei, take care of your body. Subject-wife bids farewell.”
Hua Xi Wan jerked her mouth in a smile. She sent off Lu shi out of the second door. Seeing Lu shi enter the sedan, she turned and went back to her yard.
The personal servant girls saw that their mistress was not in a good mood and tried to think of ways to make their mistress happy. They only sighed in relief when Hua Xi Wan finally gave a smile.
“I know that you are all worried about me.” Hua Xi Wan smiled and gave each of them a handful of candy. “Quick, eat some candy and make your mouths sweeter.”
“Then we servants will give thanks.” Bai Xia took the candy with a smile. She glanced at the sky outside. “The weather recently has not been as hot. Junwang Fei, you like to eat spicy food. How about the Food Room making some dishes for you?”
“This idea is pretty good.” Yan Jin Qiu walked in from outside and sat down next to Hua Xi Wan. He said, “Your servant girls are all very smart and serve you well. This is very good.”
“Isn’t it that these dishes fit with your preferences?” Hua Xi Wan raised a brow. “If that is the case, you have to reward these servant girls.”
“Since it is the case, then each one of them will get a gold hairpin.” Yan Jin Qiu smiled and had Mu Tong note this down. “Is this enough sincerity?”
Hua Xi Wan smiled and pointed at her servant girls. “Quick, thank Junwang Ye for his grace.”
Bai Xia and the others thanked him and then perceptively went out, considerately closing the door behind them.
After the servants left, the smile on Yan Jin Qiu’s face faded. “Princess Shun Yi has become even more ill. She probably cannot live for a few more months.”
“No wonder the decree came so quickly, and the time is so rushed.” Hua Xi Wan poured a cup of tea for him. “But I heard that the Holy One and Princess Shun Yi do not have a close relationship. This time…”
“Princess Shun Yi was poisoned because of the Empress. His actions are showing others that he is one who remembers his debts, and are also meant to reassure the prestigious families.” Yan Jin Qiu raised the teacup and took a sip. “However, the choice of Min Huai Junzhu is not very suitable.” If it was any other junzhu or wengzhu of high status, they might be more suitable. As for Min Huai Junzhu… It would be good if she did not cause the opposite effect.
She had not expected Yan Jin Qiu to say it so clearly in front of her. Hua Xi Wan looked in slight surprise at Yan Jin Qiu. Seeing that he was focusing in concentration on drinking the tea she had poured him, she said with a smile, “Jin Qiu, I do not understand your words. Min Huai Junzhu is peerless in her virtues and skills, and many furen of prestigious families have praised her. It is a great and joyous event that the An Country Duke Fu is receiving such a virtuous grandson’s wife.”
Yan Jin Qiu looked at the patterns on the cup of conjoined branches. “Xi Wan is right, this is a joyous event.”
Hua Xi Wan gave Yan Jin Qiu a high review for being able to drop his honor so quickly and change his mind. She added another cup of tea for him as a reward.
Men, they had to be slightly perceptive. Otherwise, how could they survive outside? This was for his own good.
Since it was autumn, the fu had started preparing things for autumn. The servants also received some clothing. The things in the fu that were not used had to be stored away. All the servants in the fu had to help with this. As the mistress of the fu, Hua Xi Wan did not need to arrange every single matter. She only needed to look at the lists the stewards handed over and then decide whether to decrease it or not. As the mistress of the fu, if she had to work on every matter, no matter big or small, then she wouldn’t be able to sleep. She would only be working on the lists.
What Hua Xi Wan needed to pay personal attention to were the gifts for those of equal rank or above. The stewards would arrange and then report the coming-and-going of the lower ranks. Otherwise, what was the use of these stewards? Also, if she, the noble junwang fei, had to decide everything, then no one would praise her for her virtues when news of this spread. Those generous would praise her for being sincere, while those who were not would say that she was miserly.
Today, it was the birthday of this old furen, tomorrow, it would be the one-month celebration of this son, and then the day after, it would be someone’s marriage. In Jing where there were as many prestigious families as dogs, and Imperial Family members walked everywhere, she would have to send out gifts multiple times in a month. This was the time for the stewards to show their skill. She did not need to worry that they would not do their best, because they wanted to do the best they could so they could show their faces in front of Hua Xi Wan.
Hua Xi Wan put a seal on the report for autumn clothing when Mu Tong walked in with a joyous expression and said, “Wang Fei, great news!”
Hua Xi Wan looked with an unchanged expression at Mu Tong who had knelt down. “What good event has happened?”
“The Emperor has sent down a decree today to promote Junwang Ye as special rank Qinwang. The people from the Ministry of Rites are going to come soon. Please prepare.”
Yan Jin Qiu’s rank was elevated without any reason? Hua Xi Wan looked at the bright sun in the sky. Had the sun risen from the west?
Someone as paranoid as Qi Long Emperor was this generous?