王爷 wang ye: His [Your] Royal Highness
太监 taijian: court or palace eunuch
王妃 wang fei: princess consort; the official wife of a (qin)wang or prince
府 fu: compound or estate; junwang fu: prince’s estate/compound
公公 gonggong: how to refer to a taijian
郡王 junwang: second-rank prince
亲王 qinwang: first-rank prince
亲王妃 qinwang fei: the official wife of a qinwang
氏 shi: clan/maiden name
堂嫂 tang sao: father’s brother’s (older) son’s wife
堂弟妹 tang dimei: father’s brother’s (younger) son’s wife
郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang
Chapter Forty-Two: The Truth Was So…
“Did Wang Ye take Mu Tong to court today?” Hua Xi Wan touched the robe in her arms and looked with a smile at the junior taijian who was kneeling in front of her. Under her gaze, the other trembled, so she moved her eyes away.
“Wang Fei, Chief Steward Mu is on rest today and did not accompany Wang Ye to court.” The young taijian did not understand what Wang Feiintended, but watching Wang Fei caress the robe that Wang Ye had worn out yesterday as though it was something beloved, his back felt cold.
“If that is so, go invite Chief Steward Mu over—say that I have something to ask him.” Hua Xi Wan put down this outer robe and rubbed her forehead. She did not like the female arts, but the marquis fu had hired people to teach her all kinds of needlework methods. The sleeve of this robe clearly had been torn open and then sewn back together. Looking at the sewing method, it seemed to be from south of the river.
When Mu Tong heard that he was being summoned by Wang Fei, he was puzzled but he was not slow in his steps. He quickly rushed to the door, then adjusted his clothing before he said loudly, “This small one, Mu Tong, asks for an audience.”
Mu Tong could not hear any emotion in this tone, so he buried his head and entered. After he made a bow, he found the robe in Wang Fei‘s arms. His heart skipped a beat. So Wang Fei knew?
Seeing Mu Tong change expression, Hua Xi Wan did not try to keep up the mannerisms expected of a wang fei, and had Mu Tong stand up to speak. “I saw that the sleeve of Wang Ye‘s robe does not seem to be hemmed. There are always people from the embroidery room who take care of Wang Ye‘s clothing, and a mistake like this should not occur. So I thought that someone outside had bumped into Wang Ye. After thinking for so long, I do not feel at ease, so I have summoned you to ask. You were serving Wang Ye yesterday. Do you know what occurred?”
What could Mu Tong say? If he said he did not know, then it was him, the servant, who was not fulfilling his duties. Fortunately, there was a solution. After slightly thinking, he narrated the matter in truth.
“Yesterday, when we came out of the palace, Wang Ye originally wanted to go to a shop to get something. But halfway along the road, a little miss’ basket caught Wang Ye‘s sleeve and damaged it.” Mu Tong saw that Wang Fei‘s expression was as usual, so he continued to speak. “The little miss’ needlework shop was just nearby, so she used needle and thread to repair it.”
What he said was the truth, but he had left out what he ought to leave out. For example, this little miss had a fresh face, and her body was thin like a willow, and her voice was like a songbird’s. Or for example, when the little miss bent down to repair Wang Ye‘s sleeve, she accidentally revealed she was a widow.
Mu Tong was a taijian but had to admit that the little miss was a very good-looking woman even though there was no seductiveness to be found from her.
After Hua Xi Wan heard this, she nodded and handed the clothing to Bai Xia. She said, “Put this away. Wang Ye is someone who does not waste, but let us not have Wang Ye wear something that has been repaired.”
“Yes.” Bai Xia curtsied. After taking the outer robe, she looked at Mu Tong who was in a bent position before turning and going out the door.
There was fine sweat on Mu Tong’s face. As a servant, he could not say to Wang Fei that this little miss’ manner was suspicious. But standing here under Wang Fei‘s gaze, it was slightly frightening.
“Even though she damaged Wang Ye‘s sleeve accidentally, she still repaired Wang Ye‘s robe for him.” Hua Xi Wan stood up from the chaise and held Cheng Qiu’s hand to walk in front of Mu Tong. “How about you give the little miss twenty taels of silver on my behalf? It is not easy for such a young woman to live alone after being widowed.”
After taking the twenty taels of silver that Hong Ying handed over, Mu Tong accepted his orders and left. Coming out of the yard, he sighed in relief. Looking at the shiny white silver, he looked down at the ground.
When he came into the dim secret room with the silver, Mu Tong looked around and asked, “Did the woman who was delivered last night confess?”
“Chief Steward Mu, she has already confessed.” A man dressed in brown short robes handed over a piece of paper. “This woman was sent from Sheng Junwang Fu.”
Mu Tong waved his hand and did not take the confession. “Is she still alive?”
“This is unfortunate, she just stopped breathing, this…” The male was slightly panicked. Yesterday, Wang Ye had said if they could crack open this woman’s mouth, then life or death did not matter. Now Mu gonggong was asking if she was alive. Did Wang Ye change ideas? But now that the person was gone, what could he do?
“Nothing, I just came to ask.” Mu Tong threw the silver at the male. “Take the silver and find a thin coffin for the woman to have a burial. This is the grace of Wang Fei.” That little widow could not use the silver. It would be better to buy some incense and money, so that she would have money to spend underground, so that she could reincarnate as a person who had eyes.
“This small one will remember. Chief Steward Mu, do not worry. This small one will definitely accomplish this.” The male smiled as he took the silver. When he heard the words “Wang Fei,” his expression became even more serious.
Mu Tong waved his hand. He did not want to stay in this dim room. He sighed after coming out. This woman was really unfortunate to have used such a method to get close to Wang Ye. The concubines the old wang ye had in the past had also used these tricks. Could Wang Ye have good feelings towards women like this?
Not to mention just how suspicious Wang Ye was in personality. With an investigation, they found Sheng Junwang Fu. It would have been a wonder if the woman had made it out alive.
He knew that Sheng Junwang had ambitions, but he hadn’t thought the other would use tricks like this. There wasn’t any difference with the tricks the Crown Prince had used. However, the former was better concealed and the latter too obvious. If the two were compared, no one was more noble than the other. Even his own wang ye had done the same in the past.
It was because power was just so tempting. Who cared what methods they used? What was most important was who could get the fruit of victory.
The matter of the robe was lightly put down like this. After Yan Jin Qiu came from court, Hua Xi Wan did not mention this matter to him, and he did not ask about this. After the two used the noon meal, they changed into clothing for the palace banquet and then got onto the carriage of the wang fu.
When qinwang and qinwang fei went out, they had to have processions that were appropriate for their identity. So when the carriage the two of them sat in passed through, the people on the side of the street separated and moved to the side.
Picking up a corner of the window curtain, Hua Xi Wan looked at the scattering people. She thought that this was the seductiveness of power. Everyone else was respectfully retreating, and she was still sitting high up in the center.
On the road, there were carriages from other families, but after seeing them appear, they all moved aside and showed respect.
Hua Xi Wan suddenly recalled how she had avoided Princess Rui He’s carriage at this place. “I remember about a month before our marriage, I had stopped here to avoid and let Princess Rui He’s carriage pass. I heard that at the time, Princess Rui He and the other womenfolk were coming back from riding and sightseeing. It was a pity that I was sitting inside the carriage and could not see what it was like outside.”
“I will take you next year,” Yan Jin Qiu said. “There is a stable in the Jing suburbs, and the scenery is pretty good.”
Hua Xi Wan thought of how riding a horse would rub her legs, so she shook her head. “I’m just thinking—let’s not.” This bad habit of not wanting to move while the thoughts were far away had a common name called laziness. She guessed that she probably did not have any hope of rehabilitation in this life.
After the carriage entered the palace, the two got off and walked towards the Empress Dowager’s Fu Shou Palace. They gave to the Empress Dowager the gifts they had prepared and started to chat with her.
Because the Empress Dowager was someone who liked good looks, she was exceptionally happy whenever Yan Jin Qiu and Hua Xi Wan appeared. What she had to do each time was examine the two from top to bottom and check that their good looks had not slid down before she would contentedly have them drink tea and eat refreshments.
After the three chatted for a while, Sheng Junwang and his wife also came. After a round of courtesies, they also sat down.
It might have been Hua Xi Wan’s feeling, but she kept on feeling that Hou shi‘s complexion was not right. After hesitating for a while, she said, “Tangsao‘s complexion seems slightly pale—are you well?”
“Tang Dimei, thank you for your concern.” Hou shi‘s smile was exceptionally sweet. She covered her mouth with a handkerchief and said, “My appetite has not been good recently, so I have eaten less. The Grand Doctor has come today to take my pulse. He said for me to spend less effort and just take care of the child.”
“So you are pregnant. This is a very good matter—congratulations.” Hua Xi Wan’s smile grew and then she said, “Tang Sao, you are not kind. You actually did not tell us about such a good matter.”
“Originally, I wanted to send someone to tell you all, but when I thought that I was entering the palace in the afternoon, I waited to enter the palace and tell everyone personally. This is our sincerity.” Hou shi‘s eyes were filled with joy and softness.
When Hua Xi Wan saw her state, she knew the other was anticipating the arrival of the child. She put down the strangeness that she felt. Hou shiwas just a few months older than her, and just seventeen now, but she was already pregnant. She wondered if Hou shi would suffer when she gave birth.
“It is good to have a child.” The Empress Dowager smiled and gave a few words out of concern for Hou shi to keep a calm heart. However, because the Empress Dowager did not have a child, she was exceptionally careful when she spoke.
“Speaking of this, you two have been married for quite a few months. When will news of joy come from you?” After the Empress Dowager had a while to be happy, she threw the problem in front of Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu.
Hua Xi Wan did not know what to say to such a question. However, Yan Jin Qiu took up the topic. “Imperial Grandmother, Wang Fei is still young. I was thinking about waiting until she is eighteen before considering having a child. This is beneficial for her body.”
Hearing this, the Empress Dowager nodded. “You have considered well. Giving birth for a woman is like having a foot in Death’s door. It is good to take more care.” She calculated Hua Xi Wan’s present age and said with slight regret, “Even though waiting for two years is slightly long, it is better to be safer; this is good.”
Hua Xi Wan looked in slight speechlessness at Yan Jin Qiu and the Empress Dowager. Wasn’t it unkind to say such words when Sheng Junwang Fei had just gotten pregnant?
Thinking about this, she turned to glance at Yan Bo Yi. She found that his expression was as normal as though the one who was pregnant was not his wife.
Hua Xi Wan rubbed her nose. It would be so worrisome to marry such a man. This conduct was just asking for a beating.