This chapter has been brought to you by me, and Adnana.
妃 fei: a higher-ranked imperial concubine 娘娘 niangniang: respectful title used for the Empress and/or imperial consorts 妾 qie: a self-deprecatory appellation used by women 本宫 ben gong: lit. “this palace”; illeism for members of the Imperial Family and imperial consorts
Chapter Ninety-Eight: Sides
The atmosphere in Shu Fei's palace was slightly tense. Other than Hou shi and Shu Fei, there was also De Fei, Rong Fei and the other qinwang fei of the Imperial House.
A junwang abusing his junwang fei—this would be an ugly stain on the Imperial House if it was publicized. While Qilong Emperor was displeased with Sheng Junwang in many ways, he was still extremely displeased that Hou shi had done this. In his view, it was the glory of the entire Hou Clan that Hou shi had been able to marry into the Imperial Family. For her to do such a thing was to disrespect the Imperial House.
Also, that Yan Bo Yi was useless. He wasn't even able to keep an eye on his own woman and caused this entire matter to be known by everyone. Even though he was displeased, the Emperor still had people take care of Hou shi. He could not have her slighted even more, otherwise, the Imperial House would be even more humiliated.
The Imperial House was discontent, and the prestigious families did not feel comfortable as well. While the Hou Family was not the most famous, it was still a major family. Yet after their daughter had married into the Imperial Family, she hadn't just lost her child, but also her husband was rumored to have had an affair with another woman, and she was abused to such a sorry state. This was disrespecting the prestigious families.
While the prestigious families muttered inside, they did not move and waited for the Imperial House's response. As for Sheng Junwang who had abused his wife—his reputation among the prestigious families and the common people fell greatly.
Shu Fei fet conflicted as she watched Hou shi cry. She was also from a prestigious family and naturally biased inside towards Hou shi. But she also knew that the Emperor was displeased with this matter. It really was hard for her to decide how to manage this.
The saying was that one would rather demolish ten temples than destroy a marriage. But facing Hou shi's skeletal appearance and disheveled state, Shu Fei was unable to speak. Yet she did not dare to let these two divorce. It had been the Emperor who had decreed this marriage. If she now said that the two were not suited, wasn't that akin to saying the Emperor had been wrong?
They all said that a marriage was a relationship between two families. Hou shi and Yan Bo Yi being like this was really a sin. When Hou shi had just married, she had been a beautiful person. Yet just the span of a few years had been enough to change a beautiful woman into a lifeless and withered person. Shu Fei didn't know how much the other had suffered.
Those seated were all women. While some people were watching for the spectacle and to mock, most were filled with pity. They were all women—how could they not know the hardship of being a woman?
Seeing Hou shi thin and withered, and unable to even cry, Shu Fei sighed and said, "Relax, the Imperial Family will give you justice."
When Hou shi had entered the palace, her clothing had been shabby and her hair messy. While she had been through a round of cleaning up, a feeling of looseness came from her grand robe on her body, and caused people's hearts to hurt.
Hou shi's unfocused gaze stilled for a moment before she stood and curtsied to Shu Fei. "Many thanks, Shu Fei."
"Sit down. There is no need for such courtesy." Shu Fei couldn't help but sigh inwardly again. She had been such a bright person before, and now she was so pitifully slow.
De Fei and Rong Fei exchanged a look, and then they both shook their heads helplessly. They were the same as Shu Fei, consorts in the palace who had titles but no favor. Because they had no children, they were fated to die in the palace, so they did not want to cause trouble.
Right now, Sheng Junwang had numerous supporters. If he really became the emperor in the future, if they offended him in this matter, how would they live the rest of their days?
The high-ranking consorts in the palace did not speak, so Ning Wang Fei and Xu Wang Fei naturally would not express their opinions. They all looked at each other and then, in the end, all looked at Shu Fei.
Shu Fei did not show her dislike. She looked with a gentle expression at Hou shi. "Stay in my palace for now. This matter is not minor. Why don't we invite all women above junwang fei rank into the palace to discuss what to do?"
"Many thanks, niangniang." Hou shi walked into the middle of the hall and knelt. "Qie wishes nothing else except peace for the rest of this life and to never see Sheng Junwang again."
Shu Fei's brow furrowed before her gentle expression came back. "Your words…"
"Qie only requests to divorce Sheng Junwang. Qie is willing to go to the monastery to pray for the Emperor and the Yan Clan, and to never come out of the monastery again." Hou shi kowtowed to Shu Fei as though she had made a great decision. "Qie's heart is dead. Niangniang, please fulfill this request."
"It is not that ben gong is not willing to agree but…" Shu Fei realized that her words were inappropriate and hurriedly corrected, "This matter is not minor. Ben gong needs to report to the Emperor."
"Thanks, niangniang." Hou shi gave a heavy kowtow again. Shu Fei felt pain on her behalf just looking at Hou shi, but Hou shi was expressionless, as though the person with a swollen forehead was not her but someone else.
At this time, a taijian came to report that Xian Wang Fei was asking for an audience.
Shu Fei had a servant help Hou shi to sit down on a chair before summoning Xian Wang Fei.
When Hua Xi Wan walked into Shu Fei's palace, she detected the unusualness of the atmosphere. She walked into the hall, her eyes looking straight ahead. After giving curtseys to everyone present, she sat down on a chair near Hou shi.
"Jiejie, are you all right?" Hua Xi Wan lightly patted the back of Hou shi's hand. She touched the green and black marks on the surface, sighing.
"All right." Hou shi looked up at Hua Xi Wan and then moved her gaze away quickly, as though there was nothing for her to live for. "I have troubled Meimei to make the trip for me."
The other people looked with surprise at the two. From their tone, it seemed that those two had a good relationship?
Theoretically, with Sheng Junwang and Xian Wang being on opposite sides, Xian Wang Fei and Sheng Junwang Fei should not have such a good relationship.
"Hearing that Jiejie has suffered so, how can I sit still?" Hua Xi Wan watched as Hou shi's index finger unconsciously drew a circle on the table, and her tone became slightly angry and grave. "Jiejie, what do you plan to do?"
Xian Wang Fei, do you remember your identity?
The people present all felt this scene was slightly strange. As the leader, Shu Fei spoke. "Xian Wang Fei and Sheng Junwang Fei seem to be close."
"Qie has been impolite." Hua Xi Wan stood and curtsied to Shu Fei. Then she said, "Hearing that Jiejie has suffered so, qie cannot still the anger inside. Please, niangniang, forgive me."
Hearing this, Shu Fei understood. It seemed that Xian Wang Fei was on Hou shi's side. Was this the meaning of Xian Wang or just of Xian Wang Fei herself?
Hua Xi Wan did not care what Shu Fei said. She was standing out to speak for Hou shi in order to create a way for Hou shi to survive, because Sheng Junwang was fated to not be able to ascend the throne. If Hou shi could divorce Sheng Junwang now, she would not be affected by him in the future.
Thinking about how Yan Jin Qiu had the thought of having children because of the incident between Hou shi and Yan Bo Yi, she felt a headache. It was not good for mother and child if the mother had the child at a young age. How could she scientifically prove this serious problem to the other?
"Ben gong can understand that you are close and have great concern for each other." Shu Fei looked at Hou shi, and the meaning in her words changed. "You are really sincere in your decision just now?"
Hou shi nodded. "Qie has decided."
Shu Fei sighed and said, "Ben gong understands. Soon, ben gong will request an audience with His Majesty. However, ben gong cannot guarantee that this will succeed but will try."
At the last step, she still chose Xian Wang's side. Sheng Junwang was a man who could even be vicious to his wife. If he ascended the throne, they, the old people of the previous emperor, would not have any status. It would be better to throw their lot in with Xian Wang early. At the least, it would guarantee that they would live their days out in peace.
De Fei and Rong Fei also spoke and comforted Hou shi upon seeing this. They also expressed they were willing to ask the Emperor for Hou shi.
"Many thanks, niangniang." Hua Xi Wan stood and bowed towards the three consorts with a double meaning in her words. She watched as one of Shu Fei's palace attendants helped Hou shi go into the back hall to rest before she stood and said, "The time is late; it is not good for qie to disturb you. Qie bids farewell."
Shu Fei tried to keep her upon hearing this. Seeing Hua Xi Wan determined to leave, she sent her most trusted servant to send Hua Xi Wan out of the palace to express her high opinion of Hua Xi Wan.
"Xian Wang Fei, take care." The servant saw Hua Xi Wan to the palace gates. Seeing Xian Wang standing next to the carriage, she marveled inside. She hadn't thought that Xian Wang placed such importance on Xian Wang Fei that he would wait for her at the gates to return to the fu together.
The servant watched the two get on the carriage together before returning to Shu Fei's palace. She reported what she had seen and then said, "Niangniang, this servant thinks in the future… having a good relationship with Xian Wang Fei is beneficial for us."
"Ben gong also knows this." Shu Fei took a sip of tea. In another few days, the new empress would enter the palace. It seemed to be a great honor, but His Majesty was old, and he most likely did not have the strength to accomplish many matters that he wanted to. Zhang shi entering the palace was just to deflect the previous rumors.
As to whether there was something between the Crown Princess and His Majesty…
Shu Fei sneered. In this world, the grandest was the Imperial Family, and the dirtiest was also the Imperial Family. She had lived in the palace for more than a decade. What hadn't she seen? What hadn't she experienced? The Zhang Family was being so ostentatious right now, and even dared to use Xian Wang Fei as a stepping stone to elevate Zhang shi's name. In the future, Zhang shi would suffer for this.
"Get them to take care of Hou shi." Shu Fei put down the teacup. "Regarding this matter of today, there probably is more to it than meets the eye."
In the carriage, Yan Jin Qiu and Hua Xi Wan sat next to each other. Yan Jin Qiu carefully looked at the expression on Hua Xi Wan's face and then said, "What do you think of what I talked to you about before?"
Hua Xi Wan's eyebrow rose as she said slowly, "Of course I will ponder this when lying down."
Yan Jin Qiu was silent for a moment. "I… I just do not feel reassured."
The carriage swayed as it moved forward. Hua Xi Wan lifted up a corner of the curtain and looked at the passerby who had moved aside respectfully for the carriage. She put down the curtain and said, "I thought that you would be more reassured now."
Yan Jin Qiu looked at her in puzzlement.
Hua Xi Wan turned her head to smile slightly at Yan Jin Qiu. "I know your ambition, and you understand my personality—is there anyone more suited to the other than the two of us?"
Yan Jin Qiu was still for a moment before he smiled and said, "You are right. I was overthinking."
Hua Xi Wan shook her head. "It is not good for the body to think too much."
Yan Jin Qiu held his forehead. "That is my fault."
Hua Xi Wan smiled seeing Yan Jin Qiu like this. She lifted the window curtain again and saw an old couple support each other as they slowly walked forward. The smile at the corner of her mouth became even more evident. "Don't worry, we will have a child."
Only a child who was anticipated by their parents will possess the most perfect love in the world.
Translator Ramblings: I just find it funny imagining Hua Xi Wan saying "Of course I will ponder this when lying down" sarcastically while Yan Jin Qiu wanting to have a "serious" talk.