Things don’t end just because He Heng is Emperor.
This chapter has been brought to you by me, ororomunroe90, leecherleechleech and vivie.
Chapter Eighty Six Our Hougong
“What did you say, Duan Wang succeeded the throne?!” Liang shi stood in front of a black bricked farmhouse, face pale as she looked at her nephew. To her, the news was the worst possible. She muttered disbelievingly, “Why is it Duan Wang, what about Rui Wang? Rui Wang?”
Liang Hong looked at gumu’s state and sighed: “Rui Wang, due to making a fuss in xiandi’s mourning hall, caused everyone’s dissatisfaction. Thankfully, the Emperor was merciful and didn’t punish him heavily, just sentenced him to kneel in the morning hall to reflect.
“Wasn’t Rui Wang the most favored by xiandi, why is it like this?” Liang shi staggered, and a beat later, she started to cry, “Then what about Su’er, what should she do?” Now that Rui Wang couldn’t become the Emperor, Su’er was still a qie, what good life would she have in the future?
Liang Hong saw how violently gumu was crying and didn’t know how to comfort her. In the beginning, he hadn’t been in favor of biao mei becoming a qieshi. Now that Rui Wang Fu had lost power, biao mei as a qieshi, would she even have a comfortable life in the future?
He looked at the brick farmhouse behind gumu and couldn’t help but think of the three biao mei of Chang De Gong Fu. The eldest biao mei married Duan Wang. Now that Duan Wang succeeded the throne, eldest biao mei was certainly going to become the Empress. She had to wait for the immediate mourning period to pass before she could be formally titled. Er biao mei might have been a shu daughter, but after the Qu Family fell, there was a prosperous xui cai that married her. In the end, it was san biao mei who had been birthed and raised by gumu who became a shameful qie.
Was this all because gu fu disregarded everything in order to marry gu mu? Liang Hong took out a small pouch of silver: “Gumu, our entire family is planning on moving back to the old home in Xi Jun. Take this silver.” He saw Liang shi standing woodenly and pushed the silver into her hands, “Now that the new Emperor is ascending to the throne, he would pardon some people. I already got someone to find out, gufu will soon be released from the prison. When the time comes, you should try to live a good life. I will bid farewell to you here.”
He had lived in the fu of the Qu Family for a significant amount of time. Now that the entire family was leaving, the only thing he could leave behind was just this small pouch of silver.
“Biao ge is leaving?” Qu Wang Zhi walked out of the room. He was wearing a dusty sackcloth robe, his hair dishevelled. His overall appearance was very sorry.
Liang Hong looked at the state of his biao di and with some pity, he raised his hands to bid: “Good bye, take care.”
Qu Wang Zhi looked at the figure of biao ge as he left, the terror in his heart growing. By this time, even biao ge’s family was moving away, and the da jie who had been abused by his mother was going to become the Empress. Would his family even be able to make a living? He suddenly felt resentment towards his mother. If mother had treated da jie better, they wouldn’t have fallen this low.
Liang shi looked with discontent in the direction of the Imperial Palace. When she turned and saw the sorry figure of her son, she couldn’t breathe and fainted. Before entering the darkness, she saw her son’s panicked and helpless eyes.
By now, the hougong was a mess. The consorts of xiandi all had to move out of the places they had been living in. It was fine for those who had been favored and had children. They only had to move towards the place in the hougong for the taifei.[i] Those that didn’t have children and weren’t fei could only move to a makeshift palace in the Jing suburbs to live out the rest of their lives.
Qu Qing Ju looked at the list of xiandi’s taifei and took a count. There were twenty-something that held a position. Other than those of high position or had children, there were twelve who had to move to the outside palace. As to those who had been favored by xiandi but didn’t have a position, according to the traditions, they were going to be sent to a monastery in the Jing suburbs to become nuns with no hope of leaving for the rest of their lives.
Qu Qing Ju sighed and closed the list in her hand: “According to the traditions, do the favored women have to be sent to the monastery?”
Qian Chang Xin looked at the list that niangniang had folded up. He bowed as he replied: “Niangniang, that was the usual method. However, it isn’t required to send the women that had been favored into the monastery to become nuns.”
“If that’s the case, then arrange for these people to move to the auxiliary palace in the Jing suburbs. That palace might not be as comfortable as the Imperial Palace, but it would be better than a destitute monastery,” Qu Qing Ju furrowed her brow as she continued, “There will be more people, and even though it would mean more spending each year, with only these women, it wouldn’t be a big expenditure.” A monastery with only nuns had no sources of income. Going there, it’s the same as prison. As a woman, she didn’t have the habit of making things difficult for other women.
Qing De Emperor had ruled for several decades and only favored this number of women total. In this kind of era and dynasty, he really couldn’t be considered to be lustful.
“Niangniang is kind, nucai will order for it to be carried out,” Qian Chang Xin received the list and took out a blueprint, “Taihou niangniang has already moved from Kui Yuan Palace to Chang Ning [ii] Palace. This is the blueprint for the renovation of Kui Yuan Palace. Does niangniang require any place to be changed?” This Muhou Huang Taihou [iii] had moved out, the new owner was this person in front of him.
Qu Qing Ju took the blueprints to take a look and became dizzy looking at the straight and perpendicular lines. She responded: “I’ll look at the blueprints, it’s not likely that there would be any major problems.”
Qian Chang Xin didn’t say anything and announced that the Emperor was coming over for the evening meal before retreating.
Qu Qing Ju stood at the window of the back hall of Tian Qi Palace. She could see Kui Yuan Palace located in the same center meridian as Tian Qi Palace. These two palaces were the only palaces that were constructed in the center. The two palaces were also the closest to each other, but the previous owners of these two palaces were like strangers, full of mutual respect between them and until death there weren’t any feelings.
She had heard Jin Zhan narrate what had happened when xiandi had passed. Jin Zhan’s storytelling abilities were good and when she narrated, it was as though she was there. Because of that, Qu Qing Ju felt that it wasn’t easy being a person in the hougong.
The Empress’ calm intelligence, Shu guifei’s loss of composure and Jing guifei’s heartbreaking grief, as well as Wen guipin and An guipin who couldn’t even enter the gate of Tian Qi Palace.
Qing De Emperor held Jing guifei’s hand when he died. Some said that he was smiling when he left. Qu Qing Ju didn’t understand. Wasn’t Qing De Emperoro’s true love Shu guifei, but why, at the very end, he was only concerned with Jing guifei?
And that“Chan’er” or “Chan’er” ,[iv] who was it, Jing guifei or another woman?
The day that xiandi was buried, Qu Qing Ju and He Heng wore mourning clothes as they guarded Qing De Emperor’s corpse all the way to his tomb. And then it was kneeling west and kneeling east. When He Heng recited the lament, Qu Qing Ju knelt with the other people underneath as they sobbed. After the funeral finished, she felt that her legs weren’t legs anymore and her eyes were a line. The hemp mourning clothes so wet, water could be wrung out.
When she finally made it back to the palace, it was already deep in the night. Qu Qing Ju soaked in the bathtub until she felt herself be revitalized. When she just finished dressing, she saw He Heng walk in wearing a light-colored silk robe.
When He Heng entered the room, he saw Qu Qing Ju looked tired but wasn’t harmed by the scorching sun, and his heart was relieved. He took the towel from Mu Jin’s hand and started to dry Qu Qing Ju’s wet hair for her: “It was hard for you these days.” He sighed, “A few more days, and the people of the fu have to be received. Their positions, do you have any thoughts?”
According to protocol, other than the wife, the other women of the new emperor must wait at least twenty-seven days after xiandi’s passage before they could enter the palace. The official titles could only be bestowed after three months. But no matter what, what had to be arranged needed to be arranged. Even if they couldn’t be instantly titled, but the rank they would receive and where they would live had to all be finalized.
Qu Qing Ju snatched the cotton cloth from He Heng’s hands, slowly rubbing her hair herself, “They are Emperor’s feipin, I can’t decide.”
Seeing the other’s distant eyes, He Heng felt slightly bitter inside. He sighed, and pinned down the hand Qu Qing Ju was using to dry her hair, “They are just the feipin in the hougong, you are my Empress, the woman who is going to accompany me my entire life. Naturally, you are the one to decide such matters.”
Qu Qing Ju suddenly smiled. She threw the towel to one side, looking at He Heng with a smile, asking: “Emperor, is that a promise?”
Even though Qu Qing Ju’s tone was joking as she said the words, but He Heng felt that the other was especially serious when she asked it.
His heart shook. Gazing at her as he solemnly nodded his head, he leaned over to kiss her forehead, “What I say is true.”
Qu Qing Ju silently lowered her face. Following that, her eyes changed and she smiled as she replied: “Since Emperor has said it, then I will decide the ranks of the women in the hougong in the future.” Since she had already decided to live each day like it was her last, she wouldn’t change anything now.
How long He Heng could tolerate her, that was how long she would run rampant. When it came to the day that He Heng couldn’t tolerate her, the worst was just death.
Who never died since the beginning of time, it was just dying in pleasure or in hardship.
Detecting that the other had strangely become energetic, He Heng didn’t understand why she would change so fast, but that bit of dejection in his heart instantly disappeared. He smiled as he took up the towel to start drying Qu Qing Ju’s hair again.
“Jiang shi’s birth might not compare to Feng shi, but she is a very steady person and understands her bounds. Why don’t we promote her to fei and let her reside in Yu Ping Palace? Luo shi is of few words but a docile person. She would be perfect for a third-grade guipin. The first person to serve you was Han shi. But since she was of low birth, how about she gets granted a fifth-grade liangdi?[v] As to Feng shi, she has a good birth, but she was demoted to shiqie from ce fei. I don’t have any good feelings towards her. So Emperor, you can decide her rank.” Qu Qing Ju straightforwardly expressed her likes and dislikes. As to what He Heng thought, she was too lazy to care so much.
He Heng truly didn’t think Qu Qing Ju would blankly tell him that she didn’t like a certain shiqie. Seeing her look as though she didn’t care what he thought, his mood was light as he responded: “The others, we’ll do according to you. As to Feng shi, since you don’t like her and I don’t like her, she’ll be a seventh-grade cairen. No matter what, she has been in the fu for a significant amount of time, it wouldn’t be appropriate if it was lower than seventh.
As to He Heng’s last sentence which seemed like an explanation, Qu Qing Ju glanced at him from the corner of her eye: “This is what Emperor decided, it has nothing to do with me.”
“Didn’t I say I didn’t like her, it has nothing to do with you,” He Heng touched her hair and found it was almost dry. He reluctantly stood, “It’s late, and you were out the whole day, have an early rest.”
Because it was the hot mourning period, they couldn’t even spend much time together, even in private, much less have any relations. Qu Qing Ju smiled as she watched him leave the back hall. She reached to pluck at her hair, the smile on her lips becoming more evident.
The thirty-fourth year of Qing De, Qing De Emperor of Da Long Dynasty passed away. The second imperial son succeeded the throne. Because of xiandi’s death due to illness, the new emperor was struck with grief, indicating that for the year, the era name would still be kept as Qing De, and he would observe mourning for three years. His officials were moved by the Emperor’s filial piety, but due to the Emperor’s position being a busy yet honorable one, observing mourning for three years would damage the dragon’s body and not beneficial to the country. So after the entire Royal Court pleaded numerous times, the new Emperor finally agreed to substitute years with months and observe mourning for three months.
Due to this matter, the new Emperor spoke of his unfilial conduct and made atonements many times in the mourning hall of xiandi and visited to light incense every day. His actions received the praises of the scholars in the world, and many wrote stories and told tales to express the filial piety of the new emperor.
Regardless of what happened at Royal Court, one month after the passing of xiandi, Qu Qing Ju finally sent the order to receive the shiqie of Duan Wang Fu into the palace.
Of course, other than He Heng and some of the personal servants, no one else knew that the positions of the shiqie weren’t decided by the Emperor, but decided by the Empress.
[i]太妃: consorts of a deceased emperor
[ii]长宁: 长 is long, forever 宁 is peaceful
[iii]母后皇太后 literally means Mother Empress Grand Dowager Empress
[iv] The first “chan” means beautiful, the second means cicada
[v]良娣: imperial consort, middle rank