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This chapter has been brought to you by me, Adnana, and Vivie.

哀家 aijia: lit. "grieving one"; illeism for a widowed empress

[1]儿媳 erxi: wife of a son

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

氏 shi: clan/maiden name

[2]妃 fei: a higher-ranked imperial concubine

本宫 ben gong: lit. "this palace"; illeism for high-ranked denizens of the Imperial Palace

娘娘 niangniang: respectful term for an Emperor's wife and concubines

堂 tang: relatives with the same surname

府 fu: compound or estate

妾 qie: I, your servant; deprecatory self-reference used by a wife or concubine

Chapter Thirty-One: Provocation

Seeing the Empress kneel, the Crown Prince and the Crown Princess could not still and followed in kneeling. Hua Xi Wan turned her head and saw Yan Jin Qiu standing at the side as though nothing was happening, so she followed in standing. It really wasn't comfortable to kneel on such a hot day on the ground.

"Aijia is old and weak, and is someone to be disdained." The Empress Dowager did not seem to see the Empress kneeling in front of her. The rims of her eyes were red. She seemed like a lonely senior who had lost all hope in her life. "Right now, even the palace attendants dare to bully aijia. What face does aijia have to live? Aijia should have passed with the previous emperor and should not have to stay in these cold rooms and eat these hideous things."

儿媳 erxi: wife of a son

"Mother-Empress, do not be angry. Erxi[1] will definitely punish those daring evil servants. You are the pillar of strength for Emperor and erxi. What face does erxi have to live if you say such things?" Before the Empress finished speaking, her tears started to flow. "It is erxi's fault. Mother-Empress, please open your mind, do not be angry. Otherwise, erxi will not have the face to meet Emperor."

The Empress knew something about the Department of Household Affairs occasionally neglecting Fu Kang Palace, but she had only said a few words and did not keep it on her mind. She had originally felt that with the personality of the Empress Dowager, she wouldn't expose the matter to the public. Who knew that the Empress Dowager had exposed the matter so openly? If the knowledge of this matter spread, wouldn't she and the Emperor become unfilial people?

The Great Zhao Dynasty governed by filial piety, and always emphasized respecting the elders and loving the young. The Empress Dowager was not the birth mother of the Emperor, but from the day she was venerated as the Empress Dowager, she was the mother of the Emperor, the Empress Dowager whom all of the court had to respect. The honored Empress Dowager being slighted and neglected by servants in the palace—no one would believe that it was the palace attendants being daring; they would only think that she, the Empress, was purposely neglecting the Empress Dowager.

However, no matter how angry she was because of the Empress Dowager's actions, the Empress only showed worry and regret. Her tears flowed from red eyes as she comforted the Empress Dowager and looked extremely filial.

"All right, you are the Empress but the matters of the inner palace are many and it is normal that you occasionally do not catch something." With a dejected expression, the Empress Dowager had a servant help the Empress up. She wiped the tears on her cheeks as she said, "It is aijia thinking too much."

The words seemed like they were forgiving the Empress, but in reality, this was setting the crime of being inattentive on the Empress' head. Moreover, the place where the other was inattentive was the Fu Kang Palace, and not any other place.

As Hua Xi Wan looked at the back and forth between mother and daughter-in-law, her heart couldn't help but tremble. The Empress Dowager suddenly raised this issue and with such a crude method—it was definitely because something had happened in the inner palace. Out of a need for self-protection, the Empress Dowager had exposed this matter.

It might be good for the Empress Dowager to have the matter known widely. If something happened to the Empress Dowager, then the people who knew about this matter would subconsciously suspect the Emperor and Empress. Even if it had nothing to do with the Emperor and Empress, the two would not be able to clear themselves and explain to other people.

"Empress Dowager, His Highness Sheng Junwang and Sheng Junwang Fei ask to see you."

It seemed that there were more people who wanted to watch. The Empress had not expected that Sheng Junwang would involve himself at this time. She even suspected that the Empress Dowager had purposefully planned this and was not giving her face in front of the two junwang. But no matter how she thought inside, she did not show it on her face. When she examined the Empress Dowager's expression, she found the other showed surprise as though she had not expected Sheng Junwang and his wife to arrive.

"Have them come in." The Empress Dowager neatened her clothing and hair. Even though she had recovered her usual aura, the slightly red rims of her eyes made people know at first glance that she had cried.

The Crown Princess wanted to come forward and neaten the Empress' clothing for her, but she was silently stopped by the Empress. The Empress slowly wiped the corners of her eyes and said, "Sit down."

The Crown Princess sat down next to the Crown Prince with pressed lips. Her expression was slightly dark. At the side, the Crown Prince saw that the Empress Dowager and the Empress hadn't continued, and he wanted to stand up and leave. When he heard of Sheng Junwang's arrival, he furrowed his brow in slight irritation. However, he was aware of the surroundings and did not act too obviously.

When Yan Bo Yi and Hou shi came in, they detected the atmosphere was not right. After the bows, they silently sat down at the side. Yan Bo Yi was not the same as Yan Jin Qiu. He had been raised at the knees of his parents, and did not have much of a relationship with the Empress Dowager. Coming to visit the Empress Dowager was just carrying out his duties.

Because the Empress Dowager had been crying just now, her voice was slightly hoarse when she spoke. Hou shi couldn't help but ask, "Imperial Grandmother, is your body not feeling well?"

"There's nothing, only that something minor just happened." The Empress Dowager glanced at the Empress before continuing to speak to Hou shi. "I hadn't expected you three brothers to come to aijia's place at the same time. Did you make an appointment?"

The Crown Prince was at great odds with Sheng Junwang. Hearing the Empress Dowager's words, he glanced at Sheng Junwang disdainfully. Yan Jin Qiu smiled and said, "We did not agree, but everyone is just missing Imperial Grandmother."

The Empress Dowager gave a smile at his words, and then she said to the Empress, "You can go and take care of the matter of the swallow's nest that the Department of Household Affairs gave to aijia and which has changed color. Aijia will first chat with these children. You are busy, you do not have to accompany aijia."

Hearing this, the Empress stood and curtsied to the Empress Dowager. "Erxi bids farewell."

Empress Dowager, this old person who wouldn't die, kept on making trouble for her! The Empress' expression changed a few times when she left Fu Kang Palace before she resumed her normal dignified expression. Inside, she was extremely discontent over the Empress Dowager's actions. However, when she thought of the present state of the court, she could only grit her teeth and swallow it. She wanted to see how long this old woman could live!

夫人 furen: 妃 fei: a higher-ranked imperial concubine.

"Empress." A palace maid hurried over with a slightly pale face and lowered her voice to say at the Empress' ear, "The Grand Doctor Department has sent information. Min Fei[2] has been pregnant for two months."

"Two months?" The Empress' eyebrow rose, and then she said with a smile, "It is a great and joyous matter for an imperial consort to be pregnant. Ben gong will go visit Min Fei; you go and prepare gifts. You cannot slight Min Fei niangniang."

"Yes." The palace maid's expression gradually returned to normal when she heard this, and she silently moved to the side.

Inside Fu Kang Palace, the tang brothers who were rarely together and who were at odds were very polite in their words. But one had to ignore the flickering glances of the Crown Prince and the expressionless face of Sheng Junwang .

Because the day was hot, the palace maids carried over lotus cooling soup for them. Hua Xi Wan looked at the exquisite porcelain bowl in her hand. This did not look as though the Empress Dowager was being slighted by the Department of Household Affairs.

She took a sip of the tea. There was a faint fragrance of the lotus leaf. It was slightly sweet and fragrant, cooling yet not cold. This kind of soup seemed normal but would take great care to make. It seemed that even the Empress Dowager's chefs were not simple people.

"I heard that a few years ago Xian Junwang Fei's health was not well—how is it now?" the Crown Princess said. "I do not usually see you coming out to play. I have wanted to get close to you for a long time."

"Your Highness Crown Princess, many thanks for the concern. My health is much better, but I still have difficulty in the heat and fear the cold." Hua Xi Wan wiped the corner of her mouth and said with regret, "I also want to come out and play with everyone, but I am worried about adding trouble. After thinking over, I just ended up staying in my fu."

"There is no trouble to speak of between us, we are a family." The Crown Princess examined Hua Xi Wan. The other was wearing an autumn-colored palace attire, and her skin was almost transparent. She did seem slightly thin and fragile. "If there is an opportunity in the future, we'll definitely have a good talk."

"Your Highness's invitation is one that I will definitely attend if my body is up to it." Hua Xi Wan smiled weakly and gave people the feeling of being soft and pitiful.

Even the Crown Princess who was jealous of her beauty could not find any dislike when she saw Hua Xi Wan so. She felt some joy. "That's good. But if your body is not up to it, do not force yourself."

Hou shi heard this and looked in surprise at the Crown Princess. This did not seem like something the Crown Princess would say. She had finally managed to force out Hua Xi Wan's promise, but then she actually moved a step back. When was the Crown Princess ever so easygoing?

However, Xian Junwang  really had a good personality. He had married a junwang fei who did not manage other matters—there would be enough for him to agonize over in the future. Hou shi glanced at Yan Jin Qiu who had a smile at the corner of his lips. She felt scornful inside. Was he pretending to look deeply in love for Hua Xi Wan, or for the people of Yi'an Marquis Fu?

"Aijia is just an old woman and likes seeing you young girls sit together." The Empress Dowager spoke. "Just how precious is all this beauty." After she said this, she looked at Yan Jin Qiu and Hua Xi Wan. She liked this little couple for no other reason than the Imperial House did not have any other couple that was better looking.

The Crown Prince heard this and took the chance to look at Hua Xi Wan. Then he said with a laugh, "Imperial Grandmother’s words are right."

Yan Jin Qiu's glance flew to the Crown Prince as he said with an insincere smile, "Your Highness Crown Prince has married such a virtuous wife, no wonder you agree with Imperial Grandmother's words."

Hua Xi Wan shot a look at him in irritation. "Junwang Ye, are you disdainful of qie?"

The Crown Prince saw Hua Xi Wan's angry state and almost spoke for Yan Jin Qiu. But the beauty already had a husband, and he could only stare a few times.

"You naturally are the best in my heart." With a warm smile, Yan Jin Qiu reached out to touch Hua Xi Wan's palm in front of everyone.

The Crown Prince looked with admiration at Yan Jin Qiu. If this beauty was his woman, that would be wonderful. He wouldn't bear for her to be slighted at all. He would give her anything she asked for, and even bear to give his heart.

The Crown Princess who was rinsing her mouth with tea saw the Crown Prince's state. Her hand shook and the exquisite teacup fell to the ground, producing a crisp sound. It shocked the Crown Prince into taking back his impolite gaze.

"Grandson-wife has shocked Imperial Grandmother. Please, Imperial Grandmother, punish me." The Crown Princess stood and curtsied to the Empress Dowager.

"It is just a teacup, there is nothing to give punishment about." The Empress Dowager had a servant change a cup for the Crown Princess and said with a smile to the Crown Prince and Yan Bo Yi, "You need to learn from Jin Qiu and love your wives more."

"Bo Yi will follow Imperial Grandmother's teachings." Yan Bo Yi made a proper bow. He was respectful, but it was slightly bland andcourteous.

The Empress Dowager smiled and did not speak. She raised a teacup and said, "The day is not early, you young people have many matters. Return early."

The juniors heard this and stood to bid farewell.

When they came out of Fu Kang Palace, the Crown Prince came over to Yan Jin Qiu's side and said some meaningless things. Hower, Yan Jin Qiu blocked him off each time. So after a few tries, he finally gave up.

Yan Bo Yi watched coldly as Yan Jin Qiu's eyes became hard, and moved his gaze aside. He disguised his dislike of the Crown Prince. Just because of his birth, such a ridiculous person had become the Crown Prince, someone above the millions and under just one person. If the world was given into the hand of such a person, what would the forefathers of the Yan Clan think?

After they walked apart from the Crown Prince, the smile on Yan Jin Qiu's face disappeared. He reached out to touch the vermillion hairpin in Hua Xi Wan's hair and suddenly smiled. "A precious treasure cannot be peeked at by others."

Hua Xi Wan had a warm smile as though she did not know the deeper meaning in Yan Jin Qiu's words.

Translator Ramblings: Mother and wife problems … … made awkward even more so in this kind of time period when the wife of the son really has to take everything the mother dishes out in public … … or be called unfilial. Also, Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu really know how to showoff in public.

Translator Ramblings: Mother and wife problems … … made awkward even more so in this kind of time period when the wife of the son really has to take everything the mother dishes out in public … … or be called unfilial. Also, Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu really know how to showoff in public.

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