Qu Qing Ju is returning in glory. And they aren’t used to her position.
Chapter Ten Displays of Affection
The dark screen of the sedan was lifted and a pale hand reached out to land on the hand of Mu Jin, who had bent down beside the door of the sedan. After that, a foot that was wearing a slipper inlaid with precious stones and gold embroidery stepped out. Then there was a flash of a dress that moved like waves of water.
Liang shi looked at the woman who walked out of the sedan. The smile on her face didn't get smaller but the curve of her mouth froze. The Qu Qing Ju that stood in front of the her eyes, compared with the one that had returned home three days after the marriage was drastically different.
Following behind her was Qu Yue Su who saw that her mother's actions were not proper. She smiled and walked towards Qu Qing Ju. She bowed slightly and cordially said: "Jiejie finally came. Taitai and I have been eagerly waiting."
Qu Qing Ju heard those words as she walked towards Liang shi and said: "Originally, the preparations had started early, but wang ye wanted to come with me, so it took a bit longer." As she spoke, her person had walked in front of Liang shi, she slightly bent her body, "To let taitai wait so long, it is my fault."
It didn't matter how much Liang shi didn't like Qu Qing Ju, but in front of so many people, she couldn't accept that slight bend of the body. She quickly grasped Qu Qing Ju's hand and bowed in return before saying: "Wang fei is busy with matters in the fu, and to be able to come so early, it is the filial love you hold for lao ye. [i] Don't say such things."
Everybody had been waiting to greet wang fei had come close and heard those words. They quickly followed in complimenting Qu Qing Ju. Not taking into account whether Duan Wang Fei was favoured or not, but just the importance that the entire family of the Marquis of Xiang Qing put on was enough to let them put importance on Duan Wang Fei. Moreover, looking at Duan Wang Fei's attire and the fact that Duan Wang had personally accompanied her, it was enough to declare Duang Wang Fei's place in Duang Wang's heart.
After Qu Qing Ju rejected the invitation to sit at the front,[ii] Liang shi didn't persist. No matter how honourable and high ranked Duan Wang Fei was, according to their social relationship, she was her mother. If she sat at the front, it was not wrong.
The bystanders saw what Liang shi had done and laughed inside at her stupidity. Technically, Duan Wang Fei did have to call her "mother" but right now she was one of the Imperial Family. You're putting on the act of being the mistress of the household but did you ever think that this would enrage wang ye, and disadvantage her husband and children? Duan Wang Fei might respect you for being her mother in name, did you expect an imperial son to give you that respect?
Whoever you were, you were always a fraction lower in front of members of the imperial family. Not to mention she was only the stepmother.
No wonder that the declining Liang Family had been so happy when their di daughter became the second wife of the Duke of Change De. With this kind of brains and upraising, she had made a match above her station.
Qu Qing Ju sat down at the highest place on the left side. She took a drink of tea before setting down the cup and turning to exchange chatter with the other furen.
"Wang fei's appearance looks much better," The one speaking was the wife of the Minister of Defense, Luo furen. She was also Qu Qing Ju's jiumu's mother. This old furen had paid attention to Qu Qing Ju and so nobody was surprised by the intimate tone, "This old one had remembered when it was time to add to wang fei's dowry, wang fei had been small and thin. It's just been a few months, but this old one almost couldn't recognize. You can see that Duan Wang Fu takes good care of people."
"That is so true, not just Luo taitai, I almost couldn't recognize her too," Tian shi took over speaking. She was Qu Qing Ju's mother's younger shu sister. Even if she hadn't been considered close with Qu Qing Ju's mother, but emotionally, she still leaned towards Qu Qing Ju. Additionally, Qu Qing Ju was now Duan Wang Fei so her following words wasn't very polite, "I had seen the other two girls of this fu are as beautiful as a flower and had been worried for a long time for this niece. All the daughters of Chang De Gong Fu are beautiful."
Everybody present knew that this was criticizing Liang shi for harshly treating the original wife's di daughter. The words were nasty but honest. They saw that Duan Wang Fei was still smiling but not speaking and instantly understood this Duan Wang Fei's attitude towards Liang shi.
That year, Liang shi used schemes to seduce the Duke of Chang De to the point of insanity, and caused the pregnant Tian shi to give birth to a daughter before passing away due to illness. And not just two months after Tian shi had died, Liang shi had married in. After that, when Xiang Qing Hou Fu wanted da guniang to stay at the hou fu for short periods of time, it was frequently blocked by Liang shi. In the end, Xiang Qing Hou Fu was in constant conflict over everything with Chang De Gong Fu. The most pitiful was da guniang. If it wasn't that she had the protection of Xiang Qing Hou Fu, she probably couldn't have anything left of her mother's dowry.
When she did such a terrible thing, it became hard to blame Duan Wang Fei for making things difficult. It was only the Duke of Change De that considered such a poisonous woman a treasure. If it was a respectable family, they would be embarrassed to have her, even as a qie.
Qu Qing Ju apathetically watched as everyone laughed at Liang shi using their words and actions. She pretended to not understand, smiled and didn't speak. The state of Chang De Gong Fu at present, it was an empty scaffold. It was possible to see it from the attitudes of these furen towards Liang shi. The fact that she would be picked by the Emperor to marry Duan Wang, it was a trick that she didn't know which consort in the imperial palace had thought up.
Qu Qing Ju was pitiful as she was alone and became a sacrifice to the political machinations of others. If she didn't have a good jiujiu, before she could appear here, her corpse would have already disappeared.
The apathy of men, the resulting pain would be multiplied on the women. The weakness of women, the resulting pain would be multiplied on the children. But this kind of era, it couldn't accept too strong of a woman.
"Everything about da guniang is good, but she's just too dull. Now that wang ye treats her well, I, as her mother, has no more worries."
Hearing this, Qu Qing Ju raised her head to look at Liang shi. This wasn't a simple woman. So many people laughing at her, but the expression on her face never changed.
Touching the golden phoenix and agate buyao as though nothing had occurred, Qu Qing Ju jerked the corners of her lips: "Taitai doesn't have to worry for this daughter. In Duan Wang Fu, I am living very very well. The care that taitai has given this daughter over the years, I am clear in my heart." Finishing, she acted as she just remembered something, "Speaking of that, didi and san mei's ages aren't so young anymore. I've brought some presents today. It isn't anything valuable, so I'll leave it for everybody to play with."
She didn't know why Qu Qing Ju specifically mentioned Wang Zhi and Yue Su but Liang shi understood she hadn't treated Qu Qing Ju well in the past. Saying such things today, it wasn't out of goodwill.
"We don't deserve wang fei spending the money." Liang shi forced a smile. Looking at the agate earrings on Qu Qing Ju's ears, she clearly realized for the first time, that whore Tian shi's daughter had become a wang fei.
"Taitai doesn't have to be so courteous, we are all one family." Qu Qing Ju lowered her head, raising the teacup and blowing slowly but there was no interest in taking another sip.
Everybody looked upon this motion and suddenly felt that even though Duan Wang Fei's words were all polite and courteous, but what people could sense was an aura that was imposing, as though Liang shi was nothing but a joke in her eyes. As though it was only due to her compassion and generosity, that she didn't argue with her.
Qu Yue Su looked at the Qu Qing Ju in front of her. Her brows furrowed. The person was still the person, just that the makeup was finer, the motions more elegant, and that was enough to make others felt as though they were below here. Was this still the silent, introverted da jie?
Just when Liang shi couldn't manage anymore, she saw a few yahuan help support lao taitai walk in. Her expression relaxed and she hurriedly stood and walked over. In the past, she didn't like lao taitai, but since lao taitai was here right now, most people would give lao taitai a few fractions of respect and so she wouldn't be surrounded from all sides.
Lao taitai held Liang shi's hand and went to bow towards Qu Qing Ju. She was held up by Mu Jin but still politely said: "The fact that wang fei could come today, it is our good honor."
"Grandmother speaks too seriously, today is father's birthday, granddaughter will of course come," Qu Qing Ju gazed upon the smiling lao taitai. She smiled and said, "If grandmother talks like this, you have made granddaughter an outsider." This lao taitai wasn't some benevolent person. When Qu Qing Ju had been living in difficulty in the fu, she hadn't seen this lao taitai say a word.
In a woman's eyes, nobody could outcompete her son. Qu Qing Ju had expected she would show up at this time because she would know that Liang shi would be in a bind. She didn't like Liang shi, but she would let her daughter-in-law get shamed by others because that meant her son was being shamed.
Even though this was a reality, but that didn't mean Qu Qing Ju would accept it.
Everybody once again exchanged pleasantries before sitting. Qu Qing Ju sat on the carved wooden chair and didn't make any noise anymore. If somebody talked to her, she would return a few sentences. Slowly, the atmosphere cooled.
Qu lao tai tai saw that the mood was getting cold and understood that this was Qu Qing Ju purposefully making things difficult. But the other's position was high and noble now so she could only flatter her: "The time is late, why don't everybody follow this old body to the West Hall for the banquet."
Everybody's gaze swept towards Duan Wang Fei. Seeing her smilingly hold up a teacup, they knew that she didn't disagree and so they all stood.
Qu Qing Ju stood and smiled friendly at everybody. She went forward to hold Qu lao taitai's hand, "Grandmother first."
Qu lao taitai smiled and patted the back of her hand. She said in an intimate tone: "Such a yatou, you are now Duan Wang Fei, you can't be doing such things. Others would laugh."
The other furen immediately complimented Duan Wang Fei's filial love. Even though Duan Wang Fei just slightly held for only a few steps before letting go, but who would say she didn't do well?
Just when they reached the garden's exit, everybody saw a yahuan walk over with a cape in her hands. She didn't seem to be wearing the yahuan uniform of Chang De Gong Fu and tried to guess whose family she belonged to.
At one look, Mu Jin recognized that this was Lian Qiao, who served at wang ye's side, and slowed her steps.
Lian Qiao saw Qu Qing Ju and quickly walked in front and bowed. Then she said: "Wang fei, wang ye saw that the sun was covered and was worried that you would get cold so nubi was sent to bring you a cloak. He also ordered that you shouldn't eat too much spicy food as it is fall and the wind is dry and cold, it will harm the throat and stomach."
"I'm not a child, there's no need to be so careful," Qu Qing Ju smiled as she lightly snorted. She looked to Mu Jin to receive the cape, "I've received the cloak. You tell Qian Chang Xin to be vigilant, don't let wang ye drink too much."
Lian Qiao noted it down and hurriedly retreated.
Those present saw the cloak in Mu Jin's hands with the underlying grain of Shu brocade. They felt moved inside. Who said that Duan Wang didn't like Duan Wang Fei? It was just that the day got cloudy and he would anxiously send somebody over with a cloak and didn't even forget to warn about the food.
Everybody present was a di wife in their family. Looking at that cloak, an indefinable feeling of admiration rose.
[i] 老爷: the lord, master, referring to the Duke in this case.
[ii] See notes for a picture.