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Published at 10th of October 2020 05:35:19 PM
Chapter 70

“Your Majesty, Xianrong Zhao asks for an audience,” said Gao Dezhong softly after rushing into the room .   

At this moment, Feng Jin was in the middle of listening to a court musician playing a song: Xijiang River’s Moon . He raised his hand in passing . “Let her in . ”  

After Zhuang Laoyan had entered the room, she saw that the emperor was listening to a song . And she knew his mood shouldn’t be too poor . She approached and saluted him . Glanced at the beauty playing the pipa . “This song, Xijiang River’s Moon, is played very well . ”   

“Beloved Concubine also enjoys this song?” Feng Jin gave her a seat . After listening to her judge this song, he said with interest, “We actually had not been aware that you were familiar with this song . How about Beloved Concubine tell Us a bit about it?”    

“This concubine only listened to songs that are pleasant to hear . And only watches dances that are pleasant to watch . Also, this concubine likes to look at beautiful people, and is fond of beautiful flowers . It has nothing to do with elegance or poor taste . Could it be that Your Majesty doesn’t know what this concubine is like?” Zhuang Luoyan smiled . “The things one likes should have nothing to do with whether they are elegant or of poor taste in the first place . If one has to judge whether something is noble or vulgar before deciding if one likes it, then how could that be something one truly likes? If one only likes things that are elegant and hates things that are vulgar, then these likes are artificial . ” Following that, she revealed an honest expression .       

“You are a common person, and deliberately had to use such fallacious reasoning . We truly do not know what to say to you . ” Feng Jin smiled . However, Zhuang Laoyan had clearly spoken with poor logic in passing . For some reason, it made him think of Zhaorong Xu . Afterward, for some reason, he slightly approved of the logical fallacies of Zhuang Laoyan .  

The two talked about appreciating “Xijiang River’s Moon” to the song “Falling Flowers Coloring the Green . ” Then from appreciating “Falling Flowers Coloring the Green” to “Jackdaws Playing with Water . ” Feng Jin watched as Zhuang Laoyan’s eyes, which were originally wide, transformed into semicircles . And he finally waved to signal for the pipa musicians to stop . “Did Beloved Concubine come here for something?”  

 Zhuang Laoyan swept her gaze through the beautiful pipa musician standing in the side . “Your Majesty saw through this concubine’s thoughts . ”  

A smile spread across Feng Jin’s lips . “How could We not understand your thoughts? Speak . ” Even if he didn’t know 70% of it, at least he knew 30% .   

“This concubine is here to ask for grace for my elder sister . ” Zhuang Laoyan rose to her feet and saluted . Although his expression did not change, she could sense that the emperor’s mood changed a shade . “This concubine and Elder Sister’s relationship has never been good . And once we entered the palace, it grew even worse . ”    

Never had Feng Jin imagined Zhuang Laoyan to not mince her words like this . There was not a hint of tact .   

“This concubine is from the legitimate line . Elder Sister is from the illegitimate line, and her birth mother’s identity was very humble . However, she had many tricks . When this concubine was still young, there was a long period when I saw my mother cry in secret due to Elder Sister’s birth mother . It wasn’t until Father realized her birth mother was trying to scheme against Mother that he no longer favored that woman,” said Zhuang Laoyan, her tone carrying dissatisfaction and sorrow . “Now, that is all in the past . But this concubine and Elder Sister’s relationship didn’t ease up . Later on, this concubine entered the palace, and more unpleasant things happened between us . The two of us are sisters in name but only treat each other as strangers .     

 “Elder Sister blames me, and this concubine also doesn’t like her . Yet, although she has now passed away, this concubine is not at all happy . Perhaps it’s because this concubine has something to do with her outcome . Or maybe it’s because she also has the surname of Zhuang . This concubine does not request much from Your Majesty, and only asks Your Majesty to grant Elder Sister grace . Please give her an honorable burial . ” Then Zhuang Luoyan slowly fell to a kneel .  

Previously, it had crossed Feng Jin’s mind that Zhuang Laoyan might come to seek grace for Noble Lady Zhuang, putting on the act of sharing sisterly affection with her in front of him . He had never expected Zhuang Laoyan to sincerely seek grace for her sister . On the contrary, her reason for doing so had nothing to do with sisterly affection . Rather, it was because they shared the same last name . For the sake of the Zhuang family .  

Because of such sincere words from Zhuang Laoyan, Feng Jin momentarily did not know how to react . The imperial harem was full of women . But for someone to speak so bluntly like this was truly unique .   

“Did you know that We already decided to have your elder sister buried with the rites belonging to a noble lady?” Feng Jin looked at her, expression not changing . One could not discern happiness or anger from it .

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“This concubine knows . This concubine is troubling Your Majesty . ” Zhuang Laoyan kowtowed .   

“Enough . We understand how you feel . ” He was also a son from the legitimate line . Before he ascended the throne, he had been treated unfairly by the previous emperor due to his illegitimate brother . But on the day Prince Gou had actually died, Feng Jin did not feel much happiness . “Since you are determined to seek grace for her, We understand your emotions . We will confer her a posthumous title of jieyu and have her buried with the rites of a fourth-rank righteous imperial concubine . ”    

“This concubine thanks Your Majesty for the grace . ” Zhuang Laoyan lifted her head . And kowtowed once more .   

A sigh left Feng Jin’s lips . He reached out to support her to her feet . “Is the floor very comfortable? Once you knelt, you don’t want to stand back up?”  

“It’s just that this concubine feels as if this concubine is giving Your Majesty trouble…” She appeared moved and guilty . She even seemed too afraid to look at the emperor .   

On the contrary, Feng Jin laughed . He pulled her into his arms .   Occasionally, this woman was really on par with his tastes .  

Come noon on that day, most of the imperial concubines learned of this turn of events . After Xianrong Zhao went to Qianzheng Palace, Zhuang Wanqing, who originally would not be given a posthumous title, was conferred the position of jieyu . And she would even be buried with the rites of a righteous imperial concubine .     

This kind of unforeseen event caused everyone in the imperial harem to once again sigh; Xianrong Zhao was truly favored . At the same time, they also found this event such a joke . One would fear that even in death, Zhuang Wanqing would never imagine that the one who allowed her to leave in such an honorable and glorious way was the sister she hated the most .   

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But there was something the empress did not understand . Did Zhuang Laoyan run to the emperor’s side to beg for whatever grace in order to act like she shared a close bond with her sister? To cause the emperor to think she was someone who really cared about her family and friends? This kind of act was rather clumsy . The emperor wasn’t a kind person .   

“Heyu, have someone summon Noble Consort Xian,” said the empress . The situation in the harem was growing more and more complicated . Very soon, there would be new people entering the palace . Who knew how messy the harem would grow by then?  

Actually, it wasn’t only the empress who did not understand . Even the servants who waited on Zhuang Laoyan were confused .    

After Yunxi and Tingzhu saw their master head for Qianzheng Palace and ask the emperor to grant Jieyu Zhuang grace, they helped her change into a set of clothes of a lighter shade . Zhuang Laoyan removed her gorgeous hairpins and jewelry, before making her way to Duanben House . And Yunxi and Tingzhu grew even more puzzled .   

Because the emperor had sent out another imperial decree about conferring a posthumous title, the mourning hall originally prepared for Zhuang Wanqing seemed shameful . But the people of the Department of the Palace were nimble . In a flash, they fixed up the whole mourning hall to the standard fit for a righteous imperial concubine . And they added many grieving palace maids and eunuchs . Even the somewhat shabby Duanben House seemed a bit neater .  

Once Zhuang Laoyan arrived at Duanben House, there were some low-ranked imperial concubines burning incense . When they noticed Zhuang Laoyan, they approached her in succession to pay respects . They did not have a bit of courage to slight her .   

 Zhuang Laoyan took in the whole mourning hall . Her face was expressionless . She held bills of ritual money for the dead and threw them into a copper basin . Watched as the fire rose . She did not purposely put on a grieving expression . Standing for a moment, she glanced at the coffin at the center of the hall . Then she turned around and left Duanben House .

Afterward, Tingzhu couldn’t help but ask with doubt, “Your Highness, what was your intention?”  

“Since we were sisters, I ought to do something,” replied Zhuang Laoyan without much thought . However, only she herself knew that this was a very dangerous move . If she succeeded, then the emperor would think he and Zhuang Laoyan were in similar situations . If she failed, then the emperor would spurn her . Fortunately, she had succeeded .   

“Isn’t that Her Highness Xianrong Zhao?” said Xiuyi Su sitting on a sedan . At first she looked down at Zhuang Laoyan from above, before slowly disembarking from her sedan . She saluted to Zhuang Laoyan . Glanced behind the other party . “Your Highness is returning from Duanben House?”

“Xiuyi Su has exceptional eyesight . ” A smile spread across Zhuang Laoyan’s lips, completely ignoring Xiuyi Su’s slighting of her .   

“Your Highness and Jieyu Zhuang truly are good sisters . ” In Xiuyi Su’s tone existed a trace of mockery . “Not only did you seek grace for Jieyu Zhuang, you also personally came to burn incense for her . ” This woman truly knew how to act . DId Zhuang Laoyan really have nothing to do with how quickly Zhuang Wanqing died?  

“Aren’t Xiuyi Su and Noble Consort Shu also good sisters?” Zhuang Laoyan smiled gently, as if she did not pick up on the hidden meaning of those words .

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“Cousin and I naturally share sisterly affection,” replied Xiuyi Su . Then she noticed that Zhuang Laoyan’s words had been strange . She wanted to say something but did not know what to say . She wanted to leave in anger, but her status compared to Zhuang Laoyan’s would not allow for that . For now, she could only stand there stiffly .   

As Zhuang Laoyan took in the appearance of her, she wondered why Noble Consort Shu let this cousin of hers remain . Maybe she wanted to use her as a foil to look better? To seem more intelligent?    

“The sisterly affection between Xiuyi Su and Noble Consort Shu naturally does not need to be called into question by others . ” Zhuang Laoyan’s smile grew even more gentle . “Surely Noble Consort Shu takes care of you greatly every day . ” Without Noble Consort Shu covering for her, she would have offended many people with that brain of hers .

How could Xiuyi Su not understand the meaning concealed beneath what Zhuang Laoyan had said? However, she could not retort . In this imperial harem, she could not be considered a high-ranking concubine . And she was also not especially favored . Didn’t the other women fear and avoid her due to her relationship with her cousin? Although this was the case, she was still very unwilling to resign herself .    

“This palace still has matters to attend to, and will return first . Xiuyi Su is free to go . ” Zhuang Laoyan nodded and smiled at her, before using Yunxi’s hand for support as she slowly left the area .   

Xiuyi Su glared hatefully at her retreating figure . She itched to tear away her smile . Because such a smile made her feel worthless at everything .     

At this moment, a palace maid rushed over . Saluted as she said, “Master Su, Her Highness asks for you to quickly make for Anqing Palace . Her Highness requires your attendance . ” 

“Understood,” replied Xiuyi Su in a tone that wasn’t very good .   

That palace maid had quickly retreated to a side . However, she still heard the unwillingness and indignance in her tone .   

Not too far away, behind the flowering shrubs, Noble Consort Xian used a palace maid’s hand for support as she watched the scene that had just unfolded, an insincere smile on her face . After Zhuang Laoyan and Xiuyi Su had left, she slowly said, “That Xianrong Zhao was right . Aren’t the Su family cousins good sisters?”    

“Your Highness, why did Xianrong Zhao try to incite disharmony between those two?”  

“Because Xiuyi Su’s words earlier had been too impolite,” said Noble Consort Shu, raising her brows . “What’s more, Xianrong Zhao did not try to incite disharmony between them . There wasn’t anything wrong with what she said just a while ago . Even if there was, it would only become the listener mishearing, their way of thinking too improper and causing them to overthink . ”   

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At once, the palace maid no longer spoke too much . After some thought, she said, “Right . Your Highness, just now Her Majesty the empress sent some people to pass on a message . They said that if your honored self has some time, go to Jinyang Palace . ”

Noble Consort Xian said with a normal tone, “Since that’s the case, have someone tell the messenger of Jingyang Palace this: this palace does not feel very well today, and will go over early tomorrow morning . ”  

The empress was always like this . Always treating her as if she was her dog . When she summoned her, she had to come . When she dismissed her, she had to leave . After so many years, shoudn’t she give her a break?    

Moreover, who would be willing to always be a dog?  

In Jingyang Palace, after the empress received Noble Consort Xian’s response, she looked at the palace maid before her . It wasn’t until the palace maid appeared restless that she slowly said, “Since your master is unwell, then she should recover properly . ” Then, she beckoned for Heyu . “Heyu, send some of the medicinal treasures from this palace’s storeroom to Noble Consort Xian . ”

After Heyu had left, the empress said to the kneeling palace maid, “Also, tell your master to rest a lot . Tomorrow, she does not need to pay respects to this palace . It’s more important to recover her body . ”  

The empress’ tone was gentle and she seemed full of deep concern . However, the kneeling palace maid felt an unspeakable fear . She did know why she felt this way .   

After Heyu returned from delivering the medicinal ingredients, the empress lazily leaned against the back of the chaise lounge . She ordered two palace maids to massage her legs . “Is Noble Consort Xian very ill?”

“Responding to Your Majesty, Noble Consort Xian told this slave to report that her illness isn’t serious . That she has worried Your Majesty, and that paying respects is part of palace protocol . If Your Majesty deeply cares about her, then Your Majesty must not relieve her from paying respects,” replied Heyu in a calm tone .   

“She is very rule-abiding,” said the empress dully . At once, a slight smile of ridicule .   

Heyu glanced at her in hesitation . “But this slave thinks Noble Consort Xian seems to have just recently returned to her palace from the outside . Because there were some traces of dirt on her shoes . ”  

“Oh, maybe on the road she felt unwell . We’d never know . ” The empress closed her eyes . The smile on her face grew stronger . However, it also carried a chill .   

Now, she had spread her wings . If Noble Consort Xian wants to meet her head-on, would it be that easy?

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