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太太 taitai: married woman, madam 府 fu: compound or estate; (jun)wang fu: prince’s estate/compound 氏 shi: clan/maiden name 郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang [1]堂妹 tang mei: father’s brother’s (younger) daughter 大嫂 dasao: eldest brother’s wife 嫡 di: child born of the official wife 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” [2]堂姐 tang jie: father’s brother’s (older) daughter 夫人 furen: mistress or madam/lady, referring to the legitimate wife [3]太医 taiyi: imperial physician. It is an official position. [4]舅舅 jiujiu: mother’s brother 庶 shu: child born of a concubine 王 wang: short for qinwang (亲王) or first-rank prince

Chapter Twenty-one: Illusion

As expected, when Yan Jin Qiu and Hua Xi Wan just walked in through the door, a servant came to report that the second taitai of Hua Fu had been waiting for almost four hours at the fu.

“I know.” Hua Xi Wan did not wait for Yan Jin Qiu to speak and said, “Jin Qiu is busy. I will go see to Second Aunt.” It would be much easier if only she came out about this matter. If Yan Jin Qiu was pulled in, it would not be so easy to rid themselves of this matter.

Yan Jin Qiu who usually did not bear to leave Hua Xi Wan at this time did not hesitate. He nodded and led Mu Tong and the others to another yard. This was akin to saying he gave Hua Xi Wan the full power to decide how to deal with this matter.

“I am going to the study. If there is anything, send someone to tell me.” It was almost as though Yan Jin Qiu said, don’t be afraid—even if there is a problem, he will take care of it.

Hua Xi Wan nodded, then she had the servant go to Zhang shi and invite her to the side hall to wait. She would go to the inner rooms to change her attire before meeting the guest.

“Junwang Fei, has Second Taitai come now for the matter of Master Zhang’s death?” Zi Shan picked out a gold butterfly hairpin to secure Hua Xi Wan’s hair. “Second Taitai has always thought herself to come from a scholarly family and looks down on our taitai for coming from a prestigious martial family. Why is she coming to beg us now?”

“A person in the world cannot avoid encountering matters that would f

orce them to bend down. So usually, do not look down at other people based on their identity. That is why the old people say that it will be thirty years in the west, thirty years in the east.” Hua Xi Wan did not criticize Zi Shan’s words for being ugly. Her second aunt’s usual conduct wasn’t something that was good to see. She only learned the high attitudes of the scholars, but did not have their talent or their style. What was there to be proud of?

After putting on her earrings, Hua Xi Wan rubbed the blood jade pendant and said nonchalantly, “Let’s go.”

She really was not a generous person. She had seen how Zhang shi had treated and slighted her mother in all these years. Such a “relative”—if she would repay a slight with a boon, that would be strange.

堂妹 tang mei: father’s brother’s (younger) daughter

In the side hall of the front hall of the junwang fu, Zhang shi looked at the decorations in the hall. Her hand trembled as she held the teacup. Her high posture had disappeared. When Hua Yi Liu saw her state, she held her mother’s hand and said, “Mother, do not panic. Tang Mei[1] will quickly come.”

“Yi Liu, you have to talk with Junwang Fei. She has always been good to you girls. If you speak, she will give more consideration.” Zhang shi knew very well that Hua Xi Wan had seen her conduct in treating her dasao these years. Even though the girl was not one to speak a lot, it could be seen from the other’s cold attitude towards her that she remembered these things.

Hua Yi Liu felt slightly bitter. Mother had come out with her today probably so she could beg her tang mei. Listening to her mother’s words, she felt slightly discomforted. They were all daughters of the Hua Family. Because her maternal family was the Zhang Family, there had been many who came to offer marriage. On the other hand, Hua Xi Wan, the di daughter of the marquis fu, had been disliked by the scholarly families because of the rumors and because her maternal family was a martial family. So no one had ever asked for her. She had felt that the rumors outside were exaggerating, but she had felt good in a deep part inside. Otherwise, at the Hundred Flowers Festival last year when Min Huai Junzhu had asked her about Hua Xi Wan, she would not have purposefully misled Min Huai Junzhu to believe the outside rumos.

She remembered the regret she had felt when she returned home. She had also felt discomforted at having such thoughts. It was only a few months later when the Emperor decreed marriage for Hua Xi Wan that she put down the regret she felt. At least, Tang Mei was not living poorly due to the rumors outside, and was able to marry Xian Junwang, someone many females liked. This was a matter that countless girls yearned for and could not obtain.

Originally, she had been happy, but when she saw her proud mother bowing and scraping in order to beg Hua Xi Wan to do something, and pulling her down as well, the happiness inside changed into mixed feelings and caused her pain.

Just as Hua Yi Liu was dazing, the sound of the servant girls voicing greetings passed through. She raised her head and saw several beautiful servant girls ushering Hua Xi Wan in. She seemed to be the center of attention and extremely noble.

Zhang shi saw Hua Xi Wan enter and stood up from the chair after tensing for a moment. Before she could curtsey, Bai Xia supported her.

堂姐 tang jie: father’s brother’s (older) daughter

“Second Aunt, Tang Jie.[2]” Hua Xi Wan smiled at the two and indicated for the servant girls to support them to their seats. “I went to Princess Rui He’s estate today and did not know of your arrival. I made you wait for a long time.”

“No, it is us who came without an invitation. That has nothing to do with Junwang Fei,” Zhang shi said, and forced a smile. “I heard my mother mention what happened today. It has shocked Junwang Fei.”

“This is a great criminal matter—no one wants it to occur. Second Aunt, please restrain your grief and accept fate,” Hua Xi Wan said. “How is Official Zhang and Zhang Furen?”

太医 taiyi: imperial physician. It is an official position.

Zhang shi used her handkerchief to wipe her red eyes. Her voice was slightly hoarse but did not tremble. “My mother has fallen ill immediately after returning to the fu. The taiyi[3] who was requested came and said it was an illness of the heart. My brother is the only son of the family, and my parents love him greatly. Now that they have encountered this matter, the two old people are unable to accept it. I have come today to ask Junwang Fei to say a few words for my paternal family to Junwang Ye. We are not asking for anything else, just that my brother’s killer is found.”

“We are one family—we should not say such courteous things. I heard that the Emperor has already sent out a decree for Sheng Junwang to help the Judicial Office carry out the investigation. Our family’s junwang is not in charge of this matter, but it is fine for him to help ask a few things,” Hua Xi Wan said with a slight crease of the bow. “Sheng Junwang is usually just and fair. I believe he will get to the bottom of this matter.”

Zhang shi knew that the Emperor had sent a decree for Sheng Junwang to take charge of this matter. It would not be very good for Xian Junwang to pay too much attention. But their Zhang Clan had never been close to the members of the Imperial Family, and Sheng Junwang had a cold personality, so they had no one to come to for help. They could only turn and go to Xian Junwang.

She had originally wanted to ask Hua Xi Wan to agree to help them learn the process of the investigation, but she knew that even if Hua Xi Wan agreed, Xian Junwang would not do this, and could not do this. So after wavering for a while, she could only voice her gratefulness a few times.

“The day is dark. Second Aunt, Tang Mei, stay and have a meal.” Hua Xi Wan looked at the sky outside. “This crude house does not have many rare items, but there are seasonal fruits and vegetables.”

Zhang shi wanted to agree immediately, but she understood if she really did this, regardless of whether Xian Junwang helped or not, he would have a low opinion of them.

“We should not refuse Junwang Fei’s good intentions,” Zhang shi said with a smile on her pale face, “but our fu has already prepared food for us. We will not disturb Junwang Fei and Junwang Ye.”

“Since that is the case, I will not force Second Aunt and Tang Jie to stay.” Hua Xi Wan used Bai Xia’s hand as help to stand up. “The day is late. I will not send you off.”

“Junwang Fei, please stay.” Zhang shi stood as well. She curtsied towards Hua Xi Wan. “I will trouble you for this matter.”

Hua Xi Wan returned half a curtsey and sent Zhang shi and Hua Yi Liu out of the side hall. She stopped and watched as the two walked off before she said coolly, “Return to the main yard.”

On the carriage after leaving the junwang fu, Zhang shi finally showed a grimace. Hua Xi Wan’s attitude had been polite, and she had said beautiful words, but in reality, she had not agreed to anything. But Zhang shi could not find a reason to speak again, and she did not have the face to continue. In the beginning, she had looked down on Dasao’s birth, and now she was begging the other’s daughter—this was a joke.

Hua Xi Wan really had a great upbringing to not have left her outside the door. She would not be able to do such a thing.

舅舅 jiujiu: mother’s brother

“Mother, Xi Wan has agreed to help. Do not worry,” Hua Yi Liu comforted her in a warm voice. “It is hard to accept Jiujiu’s[4] death, but you need to take care of your body.

Zhang shi patted her hand and looked at her uncomprehending eyes. She could not openly say that while Hua Xi Wan’s words were good to hear on the surface, in reality, they were of no help at all. In the end, she only sighed.

In the past, she had felt that while her daughter’s beauty was not as good as Hua Xi Wan’s, and her talents not as good as Hua Chu Yu’s, she was at least a warm and considerate person. Now when she compared her daughter to Hua Xi Wan, she found that she had raised her daughter to be too naïve. She didn’t know what to do when her daughter married.

In the main yard, after Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu used the evening meal, they sat at the stone table outside to admire the moon as they chatted.

Hua Xi Wan did not like how uncomfortable it was to sit on the stone bench, so she had Bai Xia add a soft cushion. She propped her chin up on one hand as she looked at the clean moon. She lazily listened and did not speak.

“In my childhood, I fought with my younger shu brother and almost fell into the pool in the fu.” Yan Jin Qiu poured a cup of tea for himself. After blowing, he took a light sip. “After Father-Wang passed, and the shu brother and I split our households, I had them fill up the pool.”

In other fu, while the shu sons did not quail in front of the di sons, it was almost that. It really was interesting that the di and shu sons of Xian Wang Fu had managed to fight.

As though he knew what Hua Xi Wan was thinking, Yan Jin Qiu idly rubbed the teacup in his hand. “My mother passed away early, and I was raised at Imperial Grandmother’s place, so I am not close to my sister. After I returned to the fu, because I was the only di son, the servants liked to flatter me. This caused my shu brother and my sister to feel discontent, and after a while, there was a ruckus.”

“And then?” Hua Xi Wan looked at the smile hanging on Yan Jin Qiu’s lips and asked, “Did Father-in-law know this?”

“He did not attend to the matters of the inner compound, but he knew of this matter.” When he mentioned Xian Wang, Yan Jin Qiu’s tone was very calm. “Later, my shu brother and my sister were scolded. Father-Wang also started to dislike the shu brother’s birth mother. In order to prevent a state where di and shu are mixed up, Father-Wang started to distance himself from the shu brother. Before death, he only said to give the shu brother one-tenth of the property.”

This matter seemed easy to say, as though it had nothing to do with Yan Jin Qiu, but Hua Xi Wan looked at this man who was smiling warmly and felt an indescribable wave of cold.

Translator Ramblings: The irony … … and Yan Jin Qiu is a very bad storyteller.

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