This chapter has been brought to you by me, Adnana, and Vivie.
侧妃 cefei: ce means “side,” therefore cefei is literally a wang‘s “side fei,” akin to a secondary wife. Among a wang‘s consorts, cefei is the highest rank below the wangfei (the principal wife). A wang can have two cefei.
Chapter Fifty-Four: Pity
After Hua Xi Wan changed her clothing, she hurried with her servant girls to the guest hall. When she saw Hou shi's appearance, she couldn't help but feel shocked. After exchanging greetings with Hou shi, Hua Xi Wan sat down.
In the past, Hou shi had always been full-cheeked and of a healthy appearance, but meeting her now, Hua Xi Wan found that the other was extremely thin and her cheeks were sunken in. Her cheekbones were extremely evident and her lips slightly pale. Only that pair of black eyes was bright, and caused Hua Xi Wan's heart to shudder.
"Saozi, are you all right? How come you are so thin?" Hua Xi Wan sighed. "You are still so young—you have to take care of your body. If your health deteriorates, it is not good."
Hou shi laughed softly. "I'm not afraid, and I feel that my health has been very good recently. A figure like wang fei is one that the women of Jing admire." In reality, Hua Xi Wan was not a slender person, but her figure looked beautiful and many young females in Jing copied her.
However, Xian Wang Fu was noble, and Hua shi was from a prestigious family. The things in her dowry were not those that normal people could rival. The hair adornments, the jewelry, grand clothing and gourmet food—many women wanted to copy Hua Xi Wan's style, but they only copied the insignificant details and were a joke.
Hou shi felt scorn towards the females of some prestigious families. When the rumor had been that Hua Xi Wan was a woman without beauty, those people had one face. Now that Hua Xi Wan was a wang fei and deeply favored by Xian Wang, and had Yi'an Marquis Fu at her back, Hua Xi Wan became the object of admiration. These were really people who blew with the wind. There were also some women who acted as though they were virtuous, criticizing Hua Xi Wan for being wasteful, unable to manage a household and ruining the good reputations of women.
Those people acted as though they felt pity and pain, but they forgot that this was a matter of someone else. It was just a group of women who only had respectful relationships with their husbands and could not bear to see other people living better than they did.
What was the use in being virtuous? So what if one was good at managing a household and being frugal? When a man did not like you, being virtuous was called being old-fashioned, being frugal was called being ungenerous. If they liked you, wearing gold was called being noble, being spoiled was called an act of flirtation. In reality, there were not many things that one should not do—what mattered was only whether one liked the other or not.
In the past, Hou shi could not see this, and did not dare to think about these things. Now that her body was damaged due to her miscarriage and she would never be able to have a child, as her husband took a cefei, what she received was only a "you will be the most noble mistress in the wang fu."
Her husband was in bed with other women, and in the future, his children would not be hers. She was like a rare object placed on a shelf. She looked valuable, but in reality, she was useless. What was the use in being the most noble mistress?
A few decades ago, there had been a wang ye of the Yan Clan whose body was injured and unable to make a woman pregnant. Consequently, he only ever had the wang fei as the only woman until he died. Countless people had admired this wang fei and praised this wang ye for being deeply in love and righteous in his conduct.
Now that she was unable to become pregnant, even as Junwang Ye took a cefei, many people sympathized with him for being unable to have a legitimate di son. It was as though he was undergoing a great slight.
Then what was she worth? She who had schemed for Junwang Ye, and finally lost the ability to have children because of Junwang Ye's enemies—what was she worth?
How unfair were the Heavens towards women?! The world was so laughable. Her love for Junwang Ye became the best joke.
Hua Xi Wan saw that Hou shi's mood was not quite right and pushed a plate of refreshments. "Saozi, taste this lotus leaf cake. The Food Room made this recently; I think it is acceptable."
Hou shi picked up a small piece and nibbled. She said with a smile, "The fu's chefs have very good skills: sweet but not nauseating, the lotus fragrance is faint. It is not just acceptable, I think it is delicious."
"Bai Xia, remember to reward this chef well. It is his good fortune to be praised by Saozi," Hua Xi Wan said with a smile. "Saozi, it is rare for you to come to this poor home. How about we walk around the yard?"
"That is good." Hou shi clapped and said with a smile, "I see that the scenery inside the wang fu is elegant and was just thinking of a reason to take a tour. Now that Wang Fei has invited me, it is a great matter."
The two walked out of the guest hall hand in hand and then walked towards the garden. The further she walked, the more Hou shi felt that the Xian Couple were really people who enjoyed life. There was a new thing to see with every step in the garden, all kinds of flowers blooming, red and purple. No wonder Hua shi was so confident in inviting her to the garden.
In the end, the two sat down in the pavilion at the center of the lake. The pavilion was surrounded on all sides by water. All the lotus flowers had bloomed and fallen, but the lake had been cleaned up well. There was no rotting matter to be seen. Some water flowers floated on the surface and it was extremely poetic to see.
"An immortal's home would just be so," Hou shi exclaimed emotionally. "Compared to Wang Fei, my life has been nothing."
The true matter had come now.
Hua Xi Wan scattered some fish feed in the water. Looking at the goldfish competing for food in the water, she said with a smile, "Saozi, where do these words come from?"
"I just feel slightly emotional." Hou shi put down the teacup and looked at the goldfish swimming freely in the water. There was a sad and bitter expression on her face. "I am unable to have a child, and unable to live idly like you, so what is the meaning in life?"
Hua Xi Wan showed a shocked expression and did not even notice when the fish food in her hand dropped into the water. "Saozi, you…"
"A few days ago, the grand doctor came and said that it will be very difficult for me to get pregnant in the future." Hou shi's expression became even more sorrowful, the rims of her eyes red as she said, "Tell me, what do I have to look forward to in this life?"
Hua Xi Wan had never seen Hou shi look like this. In her mind, Hou shi had always been dignified and magnanimous, and would never show such a weak expression in front of other people. She was very surprised at the other's actions today.
Also, her relationship with Hou shi could only be considered average. Even if Hou shi had something on her mind, it was strange that Hou shi was telling her.
"Saozi, you cannot think like this. Maybe it is just that your body is weak now. When your body recovers, you will have a child." Even though she did not know Hou shi's intentions, but she could not feel any joy at seeing Hou shi unable to have a child. Why would a woman make things more difficult for other women? "What you need to do now is rest your body, and not think of anything else."
"Right now, I really do not want to think of anything else." After Hou shi said this, she suddenly grabbed Hua Xi Wan's wrist. "Wang Fei, I will help you step onto the noblest position if you can help me have my revenge!"
Hua Xi Wan's expression changed. Fortunately, the servants in the surroundings were close to her. Otherwise, it would be worth an execution if Hou shi's words spread. For a woman in this world, what was the noblest position other than the phoenix throne?
"Saozi, you have not been in a good mindset recently. Do not think nonsense." Hua Xi Wan's expression was stern as she said, "I did not hear what you said. Please, do not say such things in the future."
Hou shi saw Hua Xi Wan's complexion that was pale from fright and felt puzzled. She had once heard Junwang Ye say that Xian Wang was someone with great ambitions but a nonchalant appearance. Looking at Hua Xi Wan's expression now, she didn't even seem to dare to think about such a thing. Otherwise, she would not be so frightened.
Was it that Junwang was wrong, or that… Xian Wang was not truly in love with Xian Wang Fei?
Thinking about Hua Xi Wan's paternal and maternal families, Hou shi instantly understood. She felt some sympathy for Hua Xi Wan. So Xian Wang was also the same?
With Hua shi's beauty, if she married into an average noble family, she would be someone who would be cared for greatly. Now that she was married to Xian Wang, regardless of whether she was truly loved or not, she was probably going to be used by Xian Wang. When she saw Hua Xi Wan acting as though she didn't know how to move from fright, she did not want to make things difficult for the other. She rubbed the corner of her eye and said, "Dimei, do not pay any attention. My mind is slightly muddled."
Hua Xi Wan said hesitantly, "Saozi, I should not be the one saying this, but as women, I really do not bear to see you going on like this." She sighed and held Hou shi's hand. "Listen to me—do not waste your mind on other matters. Take care of your body, be better to yourself; this is better than anything else."
Hou shi knew that Hua Xi Wan's words were sincere, but since she had walked to where she was now, there was no way for her to turn back. Her husband only had respect for her, but no love. She could not even have a child as a comfort. There was nothing in her life to think about, nothing to hope for.
"The time is late; I should return home." Hou shi stood and smiled at Hua Xi Wan. She said, "Thank you, but now that it is like this, there is nothing that I can think of. Dimei, you have more luck than I do…" I hope that you will not end up like me—Hou shi could not say the words. She might sympathize with Hua Xi Wan, but Xian Wang Fu and her Sheng Junwang Fu were people on different sides.
When Hou shi sat on the sedan and came out of Xian Wang Fu, she coincided with Yan Jin Qiu coming back to the fu on the carriage. She observed through the curtain, sighed and moved her gaze away.
Yan Jin Qiu felt slightly surprised when he heard that Sheng Junwang Fei had come to the fu. Today, Yan Bo Yi had taken two cefei. Even though it was not a major matter, it really did not seem like Sheng Junwang Fei to not be present in the fu for such an event.
Everyone in Jing knew that Sheng Junwang Fei was intelligent and virtuous. It really was unbelievable that she would act like this today.
Originally, Hua Xi Wan did not know why Hou shi would come out of the blue and then leave. When she learned from Yan Jin Qiu that Sheng Junwang was taking cefei, she finally knew what happened. No wonder Hou shi lost her composure.
It was a fatal blow when Hou shi learned that she was unable to become pregnant after her miscarriage. Yan Bo Yi taking two cefei was cutting off the last of Hou shi's hopes. A woman without any hope would only walk two paths. One was madness, the other was silence.
Hou shi hated the Crown Prince and his side for causing her infertility, and naturally would not become silent. Therefore, her only choice was going mad.
"Don't they say that Sheng Junwang is unaffected by beauty? Why is he in such a hurry to take concubines?" Hua Xi Wan asked with a furrowed brow. "How can Tansao endure this?"
Yan Jin Qiu said sarcastically, "He wants to have a son before the Crown Prince. Now that Tangsao is unable to have a child, he is naturally in a hurry to take concubines." Otherwise, why would he take two cefei at once?
Hua Xi Wan thought of Hou shi's red-rimmed eyes and thin appearance as well as the black and glittering eyes. She sighed. "It really is a pity."
It was a pity for this woman who dug out her heart for her man.
Yan Bo Yi's heart was too large and held too many things. Even if a woman like Hou shi sacrificed everything for him, in his mind, she was just a woman.
Translator ramblings:Yan Bo Yi is a typical product of his society, he just doesn't know how to make it look good. However, as said in the chapter, this is a terrible act only in our (the reader's) point of view and other people may feel sorry for him for being childless and blame his wife.