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夫人 furen: mistress or madam/lady, referring to the legitimate wife 府 fu: compound or estate; junwang fu: prince’s estate/compound 郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang 氏 shi: clan/maiden name 王 wang: short for qinwang (亲王) or first-rank prince 世子 shizi: heir apparent to a qinwang (first-rank prince) 世子妃 shizi fei: the official wife of a shizi 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 [1]翁主 wengzhu: title given to a daughter of a princess [2]狀元 zhuangyuan, 榜眼 bangyan, 探花 tanhua: literally “top thesis author,” “eyes positioned alongside” and “flower snatcher”; they are respectively the graduate ranked first, second, and third overall in the triennial imperial examination 郡王 junwang: second-rank prince 太监 taijian: court or palace eunuch [3]大人 daren: general term of respect used to refer to those of status 本宫 ben gong: lit. “this palace”; illeism for females of the Imperial Family and imperial consorts [4]表 biao: relatives with a different surname. 表嫂 biao sao: mother’s sibling’s (older) son’s wife (here); or father’s sister’s (older) son’s wife [5]堂 tang: relatives with the same surname. 堂嫂 tang sao: father’s brother’s (older) son’s wife [6]堂伯 tang bo: elder male cousin on father’s side when referred to by a speaker who has married into the family (usually female). Here, Hua Xi Wan as Yan Jin Qiu’s wife is using tang bo to refer to Yan Jin Qiu’s elder male cousin on his paternal side, Yan Bo Yi.

Chapter Nineteen: King Xiang Has A Wife

Even though they were slightly far from the place that was surrounded by people from the Judicial Office, Hua Xi Wan could still hear the sobbing of Zhang Furen in the wind. Maybe it was that the loud sobs were so mournful that she couldn’t help but rub her arms. She said in a low voice, “Mu Tong, represent Xian Junwang Fu and go urge Zhang Fure

n. Tell her to not harm her body.”

“Yes.” Mu Tong knew very well that even if he went at this time to give comfort, it would be nothing in the face of grief at losing a child. Junwang Fei was a smart person and could not be ignorant of this. But since Junwang Fei had told him to do so, then she naturally had her own intentions.

“Xian Junwang Fei is very kind.” Sheng Junwang Fei put down the curtain and said ambiguously. “She had the servant go to pour tea and hold the medicine.”

“En.” Yan Bo Yi flipped through the book in his hand and spoke without raising his head. “The Hua Family’s Second Branch Furen comes from the famed family Zhang.”

“So that is how it is.” Hou shi smiled. Seeing Yan Bo Yi’s attention was on the book, she did not speak again. She only raised the curtain and looked outside. She saw the servants from Xian Junwang Fu comforting Zhang Furen, each of them having expressions of worry and sorrow on their faces as though Master Zhang had been a member of their family.

Seeing this, Hou shi tilted her face down. The smile in her eyes faded slightly. There were not many from Xian Junwang Fu who were simple.

After a long while, the road that had been blocked finally allowed access. Sheng Junwang Fu and Xian Junwang Fu’s carriages tried to give up the right of way for a while before Sheng Junwang Fu travelled ahead. After them were Ning Wang Shizi and Shizi Fei, and behind was Min Huai Junzhu.

Min Huai Junzhu usually followed Princess Rui He. It was extremely normal for her to come participate at this time.

>翁主 wengzhu: title given to a daughter of a princess

When Hua Xi Wan learned that Min Huai Junzhu’s carriage was behind them, she recalled what Princess Rui He had said on the wedding night. She said, “Min Huai Junzhu is the daughter of Princess Shun Yi. How did she receive the title of junzhu?” According to normal tradition, Min Huai Junzhu was the daughter of a princess and her title should be a wengzhu.[1]

“The empress likes Min Huai Junzhu very much, and last year, broke with tradition to decree her a junzhu and gave her the words Min Huai as the title. She said that she was going to raise Min Huai as her own daughter.” Yan Jin Qiu showed a complex smile. “This kind of high favor is not something the daughters of other princesses can have.”

The ranks of wengzhu and junzhu were the same, and their true status depended on whether or not their family held power. Otherwise, what was the use in an empty title? If the Empress really wanted to raise her as a daughter, she should have given the title of princess. There was no need to make her an awkward junzhu, as though the Empress was wary of her.

She looked at the sardonic smile on Yan Jin Qiu’s face and did not keep asking.

The carriage was silent for a while before Yan Jin Qiu suddenly asked, “You are not concerned about Zhang’s murder case?”

“The Judicial Office will investigate this matter. What is the use in meddling in this?” Hua Xi Wan looked at Yan Jin Qiu with a burning gaze. Her lips curled as she smiled faintly. “There will be a result sooner or later. Am I not right?”

“Of course. The Judicial Office has always been serious and methodical in carrying out its cases.” Yan Jin Qiu smiled and raised the curtain to look outside. “We’re almost there.”

Hua Xi Wan raised her eyelids but did not speak.

Princess Rui He’s estate had just been finished, and it was the first time she had invited people for a visit. Yan Jin Qiu was so familiar with this place, it probably was not the first time he had come here.

Princess Rui He who had reached the estate ahead of time was not very happy when she heard the guests had encountered a fatal case on the way here. It really was inauspicious to have something like this occur when she had invited guests to her new manor.

狀元 zhuangyuan, 榜眼 bangyan, 探花 tanhua: literally “top thesis author,” “eyes positioned alongside” and “flower snatcher”; they are respectively the graduate ranked first, second, and third overall in the triennial imperial examination

“Is it that Zhang Family with the five zhuangyuan, four banyan and seven tanhua[2]?” Princess Rui He was not pleased inside, but she did not show it on her face. She looked at the furen sitting and accompanying her, and showed an expression of slight regret. “I hear that this Master Zhang is a very good scholar. I hadn’t imagined that he would encounter such horribleness. They have to capture the culprit. Such a person is too daring!”

This master Zhang had been missing for more than a month, and the Zhang Family had spent a lot of time and effort to search for him. The others had felt a long time ago that there would not be any good news. Now that the news had come, most people would sigh and say that it was to be expected.

There were many prestigious families in Jing. It was a prosperous place, but it was full of scheming. This Master Zhang had been famed from a young age, but he was arrogant. Relying on his birth from the Zhang Family, he looked down on the students from common families. In the last two years, he had become closer to the Crown Prince, his personality even more arrogant. Now, his tongue had been cut and one of his eyes gouged out. It must have been someone with a grudge who had delivered him such an outcome.

Those who were proud of their talents in history mostly did not have good endings. Those who were skilled but loyal to their country would leave behind a mark on history.

The people present heard the princess say this, and followed in sighing as though they had seen how outstanding Master Zhang had been.

After a wave of sighs, Princess Rui He asked, “Which families were delayed on the road?”

“Your Highness, this one heard that Sheng Junwang, Xian Junwang, Ning Wang Shizi and Min Huai Junzhu were delayed. This one also heard that the officials from the Judicial Office have come to personally investigate. The Emperor… must be very angry.” The taijian who responded was someone close to Princess Rui He, so he was more daring in his reply than other people.

“Did the womenfolk receive a fright?” Princess Rui He said worriedly. “The womenfolk are at such a young and blossoming age. How can they stand such a shock?”

大人 daren: general term of respect used to refer to those of status

“Please, Princess, do not worry. The people from the Judicial Office will stop the carriages at a distance from the scene of the crime. The noble people did not see anything. Their emotions are steady. But Xian Junwang Fei is related by marriage to the Zhang Family and sent someone to inquire.” The taijian hesitated and then said, “And left some people to comfort Zhang Furen and Zhang Daren.”[3]

Princes Rui He nodded upon hearing this and indicated for the taijian to retreat. She said to the furen sitting on the seats, “Xian Junwang Fei is an attentive person. Beautiful, of good birth, and cares for people. With her beside my cousin, ben gong does not feel worry.” Finishing, she sighed. “A fu needs a woman in charge of the household.”

The furen present naturally agreed. They were members of the Imperial Clan, but compared to these people, they were not worth a mention. They naturally had to flatter and prop Princess Rui He up. They also pretended not to hear how Princes Rui He’s words were complimenting Xian Junwang Fei on the surface but were implying that Xian Junwang Fei’s appearance was too outstanding.

“We are at the estate?” Min Huai Junzhu stepped out holding the hand of her personal servant girl. Raising her head, she saw the carriage from Xian Junwang Fu in front of her. Yan Jin Qiu stepped on a stool and out of the carriage as she was momentarily dazed.

Min Huai Junzhu stopped in her steps. Just as she was going to speed up and go forward, a white hand came out of the carriage. And Xian Junwang who was unparalleled in her eyes smiled and clasped that hand.

表 biao: relatives with a different surname. 表嫂 biao sao: mother’s sibling’s (older) son’s wife (here); or father’s sister’s (older) son’s wife

Her steps slowed. In a trance, a perfectly appropriate smile came onto her face, and she curtsied slightly to this Xian Junwang Fei. “Biao Sao,[4] greetings.”

“Min Huai Junzhu, greetings.” Hua Xi Wan took her hand out of Yan Jin Qiu’s palm, and returned a curtsey with a smile. Then she walked side by side with Min Huai. “I have heard long ago that Min Huai Junzhu has both appearance and talent. Today, I know that the rumors are an underestimation.”

“Biao Sao is too complimentary. It is just everyone raising me up.” Min Huai Junzhu used this opportunity to examine Hua Xi Wan. “In front of you, how many females dare to call themselves beautiful?”

When Hua Xi Wan heard this, she smiled and shook her head. She said, half-sincerely and half-politely, “Even the most beautiful skin has a day when it will become old. Beauty is not everlasting.”

Min Huai Junzhu did not believe it, but she smiled and responded. She turned her head and found Yan Jin Qiu silently following behind them, looking like a young master of jade with great mannerisms.

“Min Huai Junzhu.” Hua Xi Wan suddenly put her hand on the other and said with a smile, “I heard before that Junzhu is skilled in poetry. I wonder if I will have the good fortune to hear Junzhu’s poetic work.”

“It is just some random writing—it cannot be called a work of poetry.” Min Huai Junzhu turned around in surprise. Maybe it was because she felt guilty inside that she felt the hand on the back of her hand was scorching hot.

“It is really rare to see two beauties on the same day.” The arrival of Sheng Junwang Fei caused the restlessness in Min Huai Junzhu’s heart to decrease greatly. She smiled and curtsied to the other but felt bitter inside. Even though their ranks appeared the same, she knew very well that she could not compare to these two females. Her mother was honored as a princess, but because her grandmother was of a low birth and their Yuan Family was a ducal fu in decline, if she was not favored by the Empress, she would have even less to bolster her than she did now.

堂 tang: relatives with the same surname. 堂嫂 tang sao: father’s brother’s (older) son’s wife

“Tang Sao[5]  is so beautiful and dares to laugh at us.” Hua Xi Wan and Sheng Junwang Fei curtsied at the same time to each other. It was unknown who first grasped the other’s hand, but in a flash, the two appeared to be close sisters. “I think you are purposefully saying this and waiting for us to praise you.”

“You have found me out—what to do?” Hou shi laughed, covering her mouth.

Hua Xi Wan blinked her eyes. “If Tang Sao gives me a thousand taels of gold, ten thousand taels of silver, I can consider sealing my mouth.”

“I do not have so much money. Why don’t I pay you with myself, and be your attendant.” Hou shi lowered her head and sighed. “I hope you will take pity on me then.”

tang bo: elder male cousin on father’s side when referred to by a speaker who has married into the family (usually female). Here, Hua Xi Wan as Yan Jin Qiu’s wife is using tang bo to refer to Yan Jin Qiu’s elder male cousin on his paternal side, Yan Bo Yi.

“Such a beauty—how can I not pity you,” Hua Xi Wan said with a smile. “But Tang Bo[6] would not bear it if the time comes, and I will become a criminal.”

Hou shi heard this. Her face flushed, and her smile became more sincere.

Min Huai Junzhu watched as the two people who had not conversed greatly before casually joked in front of her as though they were good sisters of many years. She smirked coldly inside. Who were they acting for? If there wasn’t His Highness the Crown Prince, these two would probably be fighting like cats and dogs.

She raised her head to imperceptibly look at Xian Junwang and Sheng Junwang. Xian Junwang was silent with a smile, Sheng Junwang was silent with an indifferent expression. The two walked side-by-side, but there was a distance of a pace between them.

Min Huai Junzhu moved her gaze away. She jerked the corner of her lips and wanted to smile, but in the end, she wasn’t able to.

If she married Xian Junwang, not just taking care of his household, she would be willing to scheme on his behalf.

But it was a pity that Xiang Wang[i] had a wife, and she was just having a delusion.

[i] There is a famous poem called the “Shen Nv Fu.” It is a story describing how Xiang Wang encountered a goddess in his dreams, and how she looked. The goddess rejected Xiang Wang’s approach and then left at the end. But in this case, it is a reversal. Xiang Wang has a wife, and the “goddess” (Min Huai) is alone.

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