This chapter has been brought to you by me, Adnana, and Vivie.
Chapter Sixty-Eight: Conduct and Appearance
Listening to the sound of words and laughter from Wang Ye and Wang Fei in the carriage, Mu Tong who was sitting at the front narrowed his eyes. He looked at the carriage that was slowly moving towards them. Was that the procession of a junzhu?
A short while later, the carriage in front stopped. A well-dressed servant came forward and bowed. She said, "This old servant greets Wang Ye and Wang Fei on behalf of Junzhu."
Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu were at an exciting part of their conversation. When they had detected the carriage slowing down, they were curious. When they heard the voice of the old matron, their brows creased slightly. Which junzhu conducted themselves like this? It was as though they were purposefully creating an encounter.
"Wang Ye, Wang Fei, it is the procession of Min Huai Junzhu." Mu Tong announced in a low voice.
"Min Huai Junzhu?" Hua Xi Wan smiled sarcastically as she glanced at Yan Jin Qiu. Wasn't that the junzhu with both virtue and talent who had come to the marriage chambers on their wedding night? She reached out with her index finger to trail it down Yan Jin Qiu's Adam's apple. "Wang Ye really has a fated connection with Min Huai Junzhu."
Yan Jin Qiu smiled as he grabbed her hand and bent his head to kiss the back of her hand. "The old woman who sells tea eggs will set up her stall every morning at the corner. I will pass by her everyday—doesn't that mean I have more of a fated connection with her?"
"Silver-tongued." Hua Xi Wan lightly bit at his wrist and then she lifted a corner of the curtain, saying lightly, "Min Huai Junzhu, there is no need to be so polite. We are siblings; there is no need for such courtesy."
The old servant woman did not dare to raise her head and gave a proper bow. Along with the procession of the junzhu, they moved to the side. She only released a breath after the procession of Xian Wang Fu had passed by. Just now, Xian Wang Fei had a smile on her face, but she felt an unspeakable kind of authority. This was probably the presence of a superior.
After the old servant woman returned, Min Huai Junzhu called her into the carriage and asked in a light voice, "He has been very busy lately. Does Xian Wang look well?"
The old servant woman's body tensed slightly, and then she immediately knelt in front of Min Huai Junzhu. "Junzhu, please forgive. When this old servant went to give the greeting, this one did not see Xian Wang Ye."
Min Huai Junzhu's brow creased slightly. This servant woman was her wet nurse. In the past, when she went to see Xian Wang, Xian Wang had always been very courteous. How could he not even show his face this time?
Detecting that Min Huai Junzhu's thoughts had gone far away, the servant woman hurriedly explained, "Junzhu, this old servant only saw Xian Wang Fei. She also said that you were siblings, and there was no need for courtesy."
"Xian Wang Fei?" Min Huai Junzhu sighed inwardly. "I know." Right now, Xian Wang Fei was even able to speak for Xian Wang. It was possible to see her status in Xian Wang's heart—what was there for her to hope for?
He had a wife, and she was fated to marry someone else. There was no use in thinking anymore. Right now, she just did not want to end that last bit of wishing.
"Junzhu, do not waste more thought on this matter." The servant woman had watched her grow up and did not have a child of her own, so she always couldn't help but think more on behalf of Min Huai Junzhu. "Do not forget what the Empress has said."
"Mama, I know." Min Huai Junzhu forced a smile. She thought about the deep love with which Xian Wang treated Xian Wang Fei, and then of her heavily ill mother before she finally made the decision.
"So cold." When Hua Xi Wan stepped out of the carriage, she shuddered. Fortunately, Yan Jin Qiu had quick eyes and hands in handing her a thick cape which made her feel slightly better. "Thanks."
Yan Jin Qiu smiled and brushed aside a lock of hair from the side of her face. He smiled as he pulled her into his embrace and strode forward through the main gates of the wang fu. The servants in the surroundings lowered their heads and hurriedly followed.
For noble families and prestigious families, the cold was just slightly more wind and snow, and less vegetables than normal. There also was a decrease in the time spent outside. But for the common people, it was drastically different. Fortunately, the previous two generations of emperors of the Great Zhao Dynasty were not bad rulers. The present Holy One was not one to listen to others, but he had been hard-working and wise in the first decade after he succeeded the throne. Consequently, it was not a great hardship for the people once winter came. Even if there were some villages that had winter disasters, there would be aid that arrived in time so that the people would not freeze to death.
However, the Kasi people in the north did not have such good days. Whenever the time came, they would send envoys to the Great Zhao Dynasty to borrow food, and then repay in cows and sheep. However, the people of the Zhao Dynasty looked down on the Kasi people because the Kasi and the Zhao Dynasty had fought multiple times in the past. Fortunately, the Zhao's generals were strong and brave, and could defeat the enemy to the point that they were fearful. Then they would docilely send envoys to the city of Jing to pay respects and borrow food rather than steal it.
But even so, there were some Kasi wanderers at the borders who would attack the border villages in order to take food. In recent years, Qilong Emperor had built a Northern Safety Protection Fort for the stability of the border and to halt the raids of the Kasi wanderers.
Therefore, when people heard that the Kasi had come again without shame to beg from the Great Zhao Dynasty, the speakers in the tea houses started to talk once again about the glory days when the Zhao Dynasty had defeated the Kasi people. The performers' spit flew as they spoke, and the listeners cheered them on. They even paid half more than they usually did. It could be seen how the people of Jing were patriotic… and gossipy.
Gossip was the right of all people. Therefore, even in the inner compound, Hua Xi Wan would find a female speaker to narrate the interesting matters of the city or the strange and wondrous rumors. Her days could be considered free and idle.
Therefore, when she heard that the Kasi people had had a conflict with some of the citizens in the tea houses, she said with a creased brow, "What happened to the people afterwards?"
"They were taken away by the Guard Office. Supposedly, each of them was given five strikes, but when they walked out, their complexions were not bad." The storyteller saw Xian Wang Fei's expression ease greatly, and instantly understood—this wang fei was probably feeling on behalf of the people of Jing—and couldn't help but sigh emotionally. The people said that Xian Wang Fei had a devastating beauty, and if she had to give her opinion, she would say that this wang fei didn't just have a great beauty—even her heart was good. There were not many wives in the prestigious families who would think of the common people.
"Good, good, it seems that the people of the Guard Office understand the significance of matters." Hua Xi Wan shook her head and sighed. She said, "In such cold months, wounds are slow to heal. It would not be good if they were heavily wounded."
She did not discuss the right and wrongs of this matter, but she was protecting the people of the Great Zhao. So not long after the storyteller left, Xian Wang Fei's reputation as a kind person gradually spread. Two days later, there were people who saw some servants from the wang fu arrive at the doors of the wounded with medicine. Immediately, some people said that Xian Wang was a kind and generous person, and Xian Wang Fei was also the same. These two, no matter if it was in appearance or in conduct, were a match made in heaven.
Bai Xia worriedly reported to Hua Xi Wan after hearing the rumors outside. She knew that Wang Fei was someone who did not like to concern herself with matters. Otherwise, she would not have used the excuse of being weak of health to stay in the fu and not go out for so many years. Now, many people outside were praising Wang Fei for being kind. At such a dangerous time, this was making trouble for Wang Fei.
But when she reported this, Hua Xi Wan was not surprised at all. She held a hand warmer as she looked at the window and said, "This little bit of reputation is nothing. Aren't there people outside who say that Sheng Junwang Fei is virtuous and magnanimous, that Sheng Junwang is just and incorruptible?" She did not have the virtuous reputation of Sheng Junwang Fei, but she could not just have the reputation of beauty. That would not be good for her.
The Zhao Dynasty was not a place that did not tolerate females having a reputation of beauty, but they respected females with talent and virtue. If a family had a talented daughter, or one who was said to be intelligent and virtuous, when they came of age, matchmakers would burst through their doors.
She rejoiced slightly about this. It was fortunate that she had come to the Zhao Dynasty that did not exist in history rather than to the Qing Dynasty of history. The days of women were ones that were difficult.
When Bai Xia heard this, she stilled slightly and then realized why Wang Fei was acting so. In the past, Lin Ping Junzhu had come to the fu and said that Wang Fei was a calamity. Even though Wang Ye did not care, the mouths of people were a powerful force. If people passed along those rumors, it would not be a good matter.
Now, Wang Fei was concerned about the people of the Zhao Dynasty, and her reputation of being kind was being spread. If people wanted to accuse her of being a calamity, they would have to judge and consider. Otherwise, they would be said to be slandering Wang Fei.
Thinking about this, Bai Xia felt a kind of discontent. The people were really stupid. When the rumor was that Wang Fei had no beauty, these people would frequently speak and mock her. When they learned that Wang Fei was really beautiful, they would say that Wang Fei was a calamity. In reality, what was wrong with how a person's appearance was? Their skin, body, and hair came from their parents—how was that a crime?
If an emperor was deposed, they would blame a woman as though it was a woman who was in charge of the world. When she thought of this, Bai Xia who was usually composed couldn't help but say, "These gossiping people are horrid."
"There are many horrid people in the world, and also many people who talk about me behind my back. If I became angry because of this, I probably would not be able to do anything else in this life and just be angry all the time." Hua Xi Wan smiled faintly and said, "My good Bai Xia, help me take a look—which set of palace robes is appropriate for me to attend the New Year's Eve Banquet?"
"Wang Fei is right." Bai Xia knew Wang Fei's personality and did not speak further. She walked next to Hua Xi Wan and looked closely at the variety of robes that the servant girls held out. "The somber color is not suitable for that kind of situation. Wang Fei, you have pale skin; you will look good in any color."
"Even if Wang Fei was wearing a rag, she would look better than other people." Hong Ying came in with ginseng tea. "This servant thinks that red fox fur trimmed robe in purple silk is good. It can contrast and make Wang Fei's skin appear even more beautiful."
Hua Xi Wan shook her head. "Wang Ye is not an imperial son, and the case of the Crown Prince's poisoning has not been solved yet. That color is not appropriate."
She took a look and pointed at a light red robe embroidered with red flowers. "This style, have them change the lower part. This cannot disgrace the nobility of the wang fu, but it cannot seem overly sumptuous."
The more important the event, the more she had to pay attention to what she wore. If she wanted to wear something light and clean, she could just play in her own home. If she did so at an important occasion, the one she shamed wasn't just her—it would also cause other people to feel distaste. This was like someone wearing casual wear to attend a wine party. If you were the only person wearing a t-shirt and jeans, that was not called individuality but disrespect.
If this was in the past, she would definitely pick the crimson robe, but after the Crown Prince was poisoned, the two biggest personages in the palace would not be in a good mood. There were already a dozen palace attendants who had been beaten to death. She did not want to draw hatred onto herself at this time.
Someone who did not do so would not die. She was a pink flower that wasn't even eighteen. She didn't want to be killed without any real cause.
As for the Crown Prince's poisoning—what did it have to do with her?
In any case… the position of this Crown Prince wasn't very stable.
Translator Ramblings: I always picture these gossipers being recruited for intelligence based on their ability to spread information rather than gather it.