This chapter has been brought to you by me, Adnana, and Vivie.
府 fu: compound or estate; (jun)wang fu: prince's estate/compound
郡王妃 junwang fei: the official wife of a junwang
嬷嬷 mama: old female servant
郡王爷 junwang ye, 王爷 wang ye: His [Your] Royal Highness
表姐 biaojie: father's sister's (older) daughter; or mother's sibling's (older) daughter
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Pass Away
Watching as Lu Zhu stopped beseeching Mistress and really turned to leave, Bai Xia felt as though her legs would go soft. If Mistress had sentenced Lu Zhu to a beating or sent her to the outer compound to do heavy work, it would have still been more benevolent that having her leave the junwang fu. If Lu Zhu stepped out of the junwang fu today, another corpse would end up in the mass grave tomorrow.
"Junwang Fei." Bai Xia knelt down again. She wanted to plead, but she didn't know what to say. Ask Mistress to spare Lu Zhu once? But Mistress did not beat or scold the other, and she even let Lu Zhu leave the fu. Ask Mistress to let Lu Zhu stay? But which female mistress could tolerate a servant girl around them who had intentions towards the male master?
Her lips trembled. A moment later, she said, "Mistress is kind."
Hua Xi Wan looked hard at her. A moment later, she moved her gaze away and said, "If any of you have someone you like, remember to tell me. We are mistress and servant, I will not let you have a marriage that slights you."
"Mistress, this servant and the others do not have any disloyalty. If we break our oath, we will…" Zi Shan, Bai Xia and Hong Ying knelt in fright. They wanted to express their intentions. As long as Mistress believed them, it would be well.
"All right." Hua Xi Wan's gaze moved past them towards the yard that was illuminated in the sun. "Stand up, do what you are supposed to be doing." Finishing, she pointed at the second-rank servant girl who had told her Lu Zhu's actions of yesterday. "Starting today, you take over Lu Zhu's empty position. Change the name as well—you will be Cheng Qiu."
"This servant thanks Junwang Fei for the name." Cheng Qiu was overjoyed, but she was proper when she went forward and curtsied. After bowing to Hua Xi Wan, she then made bows towards Bai Xia and the others before silently retreating to the side.
Hua Xi Wan did not care what they thought. She leaned against the chaise and started to rest.
"Pah! You blind slut, is such a noble room one you can stay in? Quick, get out, do not dirty our eyes." A heavy labor mama pointed at the crow on the branch that was cawing. There were two old women beside her who were cheering her on.
Lu Zhu had a bag on her back as she listened to these words that were actually for her. She felt both sad and humiliated. She looked at the crow that was cawing on top of the branch and felt very sorrowful.
She had served Mistress for so many years. Even if she did not have merit, she had worked hard, yet this was her outcome. Such a cold and emotionless woman remaining at the side of Junwang Ye, wouldn't it cause him harm?
Suddenly, she saw a procession far away in the corridor. The man at the front was wearing white robes, with a feather fan and a jade coronet. Who was that if not Junwang Ye?
Before she could finish, someone covered her mouth. Then another person pressed her to the ground. Smelling the dirt, she wanted to turn and see who dared to grab her, but the person pressed her face into the ground. The mud went into her nose and mouth.
"Shameless lowly servant, you dare to run and shout in the junwang fu. Why don't you look in the mirror and see who you are? You dare to have thoughts. Do you think you are still a personal servant girl of Junwang Fei?" A brawny woman pulled her hair and slapped her face. "Our junwang fu does not have someone this shameless. Get out!"
The other women who had been watching started to pull Lu Zhu outside when they heard this. Maybe it was intentional or not, but the bag that was tightly tied slipped open. The clothing, jewelry and silver that had been inside spilled to the ground. Lu Zhu wanted to pick them up, but the women didn't just stomp on her hands—one of them pulled her by her clothing and started to walk.
"You betray your mistress and you have the face to take the things your mistress has given you? Us rough women have never been educated and don't know how to read, but we know what loyalty is." The old female servant who was pulling her out scolded, "You dare to do this just because you know that Junwang Fei is a gentle person!"
Lu Zhu stilled. Even when she was pushed out of the little door to the junwang fu, she did not recover. Had she dared to throw a temper tantrum at Mistress because her mistress had treated them well usually?
The little door slammed shut. She was dirty and disheveled and did not have the glory she had when she had been serving Junwang Fei. Watching the passersby walk past on the road, she instantly felt terrified and regretful. The world was so large—where could she go?
A short while later, a wagon pulled by a donkey passed the little door to the inner compound, and then there was no figure any longer.
"Junwang Ye, the matter has been done." A middle-aged man wearing blue robes bowed in front of Yan Jin Qiu. "The corpse has been cleaned away."
"En." Yan Jin Qiu looked expressionlessly at the ordinary middle-aged man. "You are sure that someone saw you when you acted?"
"Yes." The middle-aged man lowered his head and said, "The ones who saw were the procurer stewards of Sheng Junwang Fu and Xu Wang Fu. Someone has reported to the authorities already."
Yan Jin Qiu silently nodded and waved for him to leave. He then turned and said to Mu Tong who standing in the corner. "You need not conceal this from Junwang Fei. However, mention this only after the case is resolved."
Mu Tong was first puzzled and then he understood Junwang Ye's intentions. If Junwang Ye knew right after the event occurred, wouldn't that cause Junwang Fei to suspect they cared greatly about this servant girl? If they told Junwang Fei after the fact, however, it would cause Junwang Fei to feel that Junwang Ye did not care about Lu Zhu, but out of his care and respect to Junwang Fei, he instantly informed Junwang Fei when he learned about the matter.
What Yan Jin Qiu was most satisfied about Mu Tong was that he had brains, was reliable and perceptive. He felt it was easy to use a person like this, and there were no worries he needed to have.
A not-so-insignificant matter happened recently in Jing. That was, a servant girl of Xian Junwang Fu had been thrown out of the fu for having unclean hands and was killed by several ruffians. If it wasn't for the stewards from Xu Wang Fu and Sheng Junwang Fu who coincidentally caught the people and reported it, this little servant girl would have lost her life for nothing. Yet the result of the investigation was shocking because these ruffians were actually manservants in the Crown Prince's fu.
While a matter of ruffians killing a woman by the roadside was a terrible one, if it wasn't that it was related to the Crown Prince and Xian Junwang, the entire city would not know.
Everyone knew that the people of the Crown Prince's fu were arrogant and domineering, but it really was too daring to kill women right in the middle of the day. It was unknown who suddenly mentioned that the Crown Prince was related to the case of Master Zhang and caused many people who were educated to discuss how the Crown Prince Fu did not care about the people. There were even people who said that the Crown Prince was tyrannical and did not have the capability to be the crown prince. If the future king of the Great Zhao Dynasty would be a person like this, then wouldn't all the people have terrible days in the future?
The Zhang Family was a literary family. Even though they did not hold any power, they were very famous and well-respected by the scholars. When this matter came out, all the scholars in the world stood up. The rumors about the absurd conduct of the Crown Prince quickly spread through all of the Great Zhao. It almost seemed as though if the Emperor did not give a resolution and punish the Crown Prince, these scholars would keep on making a fuss.
As the master of the Great Zhao Dynasty, Qi Long Emperor heard the reports from these scholars and was so angry he summoned the Crown Prince into the palace to scold him. But when the matter reached this level, it was not something that could be resolved by a scolding of the Crown Prince.
In the end, this case ended with the execution of the manservants from the Crown Prince's Fu. The Crown Prince also wrote an essay of self-reflection, apologizing on the surface but in reality pushing all the faults onto the manservants. His greatest wrong was not managing them strictly enough.
As to the case of Master Zhang, in the end, they managed to find some bandits outside of Jing who came out of somewhere. Later, they confessed that, because they saw that Master Zhang was dressed well, they kidnapped him. But this Master Zhang was too impulsive in speech and caused them to kill him in anger.
After the case was resolved, no matter how many people believed it, the Emperor gave Old Master Zhang a second-rank marquis title. Then he had the Zhang Family adopt an orphan under the name of the two elders before this matter was smoothed over. However, the image of the Crown Prince fell greatly in the minds of the people of the Great Zhao.
No one had imagined that the case of a little servant girl being killed would cause such a great conflict. No one paid much attention to what she was even called. The matter became even more intense later on, and when it spread to areas further away than Jing, it became the Crown Prince killing a servant girl in a junwang fu.
The people of remote areas did not know how many wang ye there were in the Great Zhao Dynasty, but they still knew the one Crown Prince. In these rumors, the Crown Prince appeared as vicious, of ugly appearance, lowly conduct, and uncaring of the people.
So no matter how the Emperor helped disguise the Crown Prince, the reputation of the Crown Prince was a terrible one in the hearts of the common people. Even the Emperor became a bad emperor who did not know right from wrong.
When the matter of Lu Zhu passed into the inner compound, it was after the ruffians had been identified.
After Hua Xi Wan listened to Mu Tong tell the events, she stared at Mu Tong silently for a moment before saying, "I know."
When such a light sentence landed in Mu Tong's ears, he felt it wasn't right. It might have been a wrong impression, but he had a feeling that Junwang Fei seemed to know something. But when he raised his head to look at Junwang Fei, he only saw the calm on her face, as though Lu Zhu who had passed away was just a stranger, and not her personal servant girl.
"You can go." Hua Xi Wan glanced at Mu Tong who was still standing in front of her. "Tell Junwang Ye that I am not feeling well these days. Please ask him to reside elsewhere."
Mu Tong gave a deep bow. "This small one will leave."
The room gradually quieted. Hua Xi Wan walked to the window to stand. After a long time of silence, she said, "Lu Zhu does not have parents, but she has a biaojie who has a position in Sheng Junwang Fu. I heard that she married a steward of the fu. Send someone with thirty taels of silver, and ask her to restrain her grief."
Bai Xie was shocked. How come she had never heard Lu Zhu mention this?
As though she saw the wrongness in Bai Xia's expression, Hua Xi Wan lowered her eyes and said, "She probably only met this biaojie after I married into the junwang fu."
Lu Zhu's old home had a natural disaster and her parents had passed away a long time ago. She had been sold into the marquis fu. Because she had a good appearance and she was smart, when Hua Xi Wan had been ten, she had come into the yard to serve her. Later on, Lu Zhu was promoted to a first-rank servant girl. After these seven or so years, she had never expected the other to have such an ending.
When she heard that Lu Zhu had interactions with the people from Sheng Junwang Fu after Mistress married into the junwang fu, Bai Xia couldn't help but think of many things. The more she thought, the more afraid she was. It was fortunate that Mistress was still well, otherwise… Zi Shan and Hong Ying also reacted. They hadn't imagined that Lu Zhu had such daring to work together with the people from other fu. If Junwang Ye discovered this, he would be wary of Mistress. Wouldn't that push Mistress into a pit of fire?
"No wonder her recent actions had been so strange. She even switched the night guard with me of her own accord, and that is a poor duty." Zi Shang couldn't help but think back to Lu Zhu's conduct these past days. Then she recalled how the other had switched for the night guard with her a few times. The more she thought, the less happy she was. She was furious and also felt pity. If Lu Zhu had not had thoughts she should not have, how would she have such an ending? Mistress had found out her actions a long time ago but did not expose her due to the years of history between them. Mistress had hoped that she would awaken and regret it. Who knew that she would become even more daring and have such thoughts that were not allowed… The senior servant girls who had originally felt that Mistress was too vicious now felt that Mistress was extremely good to Lu Zhu. It was Lu Zhu who didn't treasure her good fortune and brought her death upon herself.
If she was still a first-rank personal servant girl of Mistress, who in the fu would not respect her and give her some face? How would she have encountered the manservants from the Crown Prince and died such an ignoble death?
Translator Ramblings: Hua Xi Wan's servant girls are named according to colors. White(bai), purple(zi), red(hong), green(lu) and now orange(cheng).
Hua Xi Wan is so quick to catch on and respond.