The door to zheng yuan was on the same line as the door to the wang fu itself. This was showing that the person living in zhen yuan was the owner of the fu. The other concubines, including tong fang, were spread out in two side yards between the second and the third door. The guardsmen, manservants and married servants resided outside the ermin.
The rules of the wang fu were strictly enforced. The area that a person could move in was clearly divided. For the servants, to be one that could walk inside the second door to serve, that made them a rank higher than the average servant as they were serving the inner courtyard. Even if it was just sweeping the ground, it was still a duty that many competed for.
So it could be seen that Qu Qing Ju, who lived in zhen yuan and had the power over houyuan, was an existence that could not be defied.
“Wang fei, Jiang ce fei, Luo yiniang and Han yiniang have arrived,” Yu Zan announced from the door.
Qu Qing Ju sat on the armchair where a thick blanket had been laid down. She laid down halfway on the back, her hands holding a pearl encrusted hand warmer. Hearing Yu Zan’s announcement, her eyebrow rose: “It’s cold outside in the outer hall, invite them in.”
Yu Zan bowed and silently retreated.
A short while later, three different beauties walked into the rooms. After they obediently greeted Qu Qing Ju, Qu Qing Ju allowed them to sit. She drawled: “Just now I had somebody organize my personal stores. I found some good cloth and called you here to let you pick and make some new clothes.” Finishing, she tilted her head to look at Mu Jin.
Mu Jin motioned for the yahuan to present the bolts. The cloth was actually of good quality. Even though it couldn’t rival Yun and Shu brocade, but it still was expensive.
Of the three sitting, Jiang Yong Yu held the highest rank. She looked at the large heap of cloth on the table and couldn’t help but stand to say: “Wang fei, we can’t do this. The fu has already sent over cloth for us, how can we take yours?”
“There’s so much even I can’t wear it all. If it stays, the color will fade,” Qu Qing Ju looked at the cloths. These had come from Chang De Gong Fu who had, to not shame themselves, used them as several chests of dowry. There was a lot of it, but even ten bolts of these cloths couldn’t compare to the price of one bolt of Shu brocade, “Seeing you wear it, it will brighten my eyes. If it was left at the bottom of the chest, wouldn’t it be a waste?”
Hearing this, Jiang Yong Yu smiled and bowed to Qu Qing Ju, “Nubi thanks wang fei for her genoursity.” Finishing, she pointed at two bolts of umber cloth, “Then I’ll take these two bolts first.”
Qu Qing Ju looked at the two bolts of brocade and commented, “Those two are very nice. Mu Jin, give those two bolts of sapphire blue to Jiang ce fei as well. Jiang ce fei’s skin is pale, the sapphire blue will show her off best.”
Jiang Yong Ju remarked that wang fei was teasing her but didn’t refuse. The other two shiqie picked a bolt each. Qu Qing Ju picked a bolt for each of them. The mood in the room started to become lively.
The three had the desire to ingratiate themselves and their implied compliments flowed. They weren’t debasing themselves but it was possible to detect their respect.
“I had wanted to make a girdled dress but the color wasn’t right. These lotus colored brocade that wang fei picked for nu, it will satisfy nu’s wishes,” Han Qing He caressed a bolt of lotus brocade with joy, “This color is also good for making pouches.”
“Hear that? It’s as though she got the best,” Jiang Yong Yu chuckled and looked at Qu Qing Ju who sat above her, “It is wang fei who has spoiled them to the point of no return.”
“Jiang ce fei is making fun of us. Nu saw that when you were picking, your face was happy too,” Han Qing He laughed, “And now you come to tease nu.”
“So that’s what is creating the fuss. Everybody is picking good things here.” Feng Zi Jin could hear from outside the door how these women were flattering Qu Qing Ju. When she came in, she saw the bolts that the yahuan behind each qieshi were holding. The table still had some as well. She came and bent slightly to Qu Qing Ju, “Nu is late, is there anything good left over?”
Qu Qing Ju placed the hand warmer to one side and grasped the tea Mu Jin presented for a drink. With good humor, she looked at Feng Zi Jin: “I had thought that Feng ce fei wouldn’t come. Take what you like.”
Feng Zi Jin casually swept the pile, “Nu likes that bolt, is wang fei willing to part with it?”
Everybody looked and found the Feng Zi Jin was pointed at a pomegranate red bolt. Instantly, their expressions differed. Pomegranate red wasn’t true red, but it was already a vibrant shade of red. Feng shi was a ce shi, she wasn’t allowed to wear red. Was she challenging wang fei?
The smile on Qu Qing Ju’s face grew warmer: “I had thought that, based on Feng ce fei’s looks, the blue colors suits you better. But since you like it, then take it. I have too much red brocade already. It hurts my eyes to look at it.” Finishing, she said to Mu Jin, “Mu Jin, send the remainders to Feng ce fei’s rooms.”
“Don’t worry, wang fei. Nubi will certainly send somebody to deliver it,” Mu Jin bent in a bow and started directing for the cloth to be gathered and delivered to Feng ce fei’s rooms.
Jiang Yong Yu held a smile in the corner of her lips. She kept her head down as she drank fine “Snow Falling on the Pool” tea. Upon hearing wang fei’s words, her thin fingers slightly curled. She placed down the cup, and out of the corner of her mouth, she said to Feng Ji Zin, “Meimei is too brash. You might like the pomegranate, but I don’t think it matches you.”
Han Qing He heard Jiang Yong Yu clearly stating her side and narrowed her eyes at Jiang Yong Yu. She added: “Nu thinks Feng ce fei isn’t fit for the pomegranate at all.” A ce shi who wanted to wear red, what sort of daydream was that? Did she think wang ye was an imbecile who would disregard protocol?
Feng Zi Jin’s face turned ugly. When Jiang Yong Yu spoke, she already felt annoyed. Seeing Han Qing He, a shiqie, dare speak to her, she lectured: “You are a shiqie, is there a place for you to speak here?”
“Feng ce fei assumes too much. Whether nu can speak or not, that’s wang fei’s decision, not yours,” Han Qing He mocked, “Unless Feng ce fei thinks she is capable of making wang fei’s decisions for her?”
“Shut up, what nonsense are you speaking?” Feng Zi Jin’s family was somewhat well off. She didn’t really care about the cloth. She was annoyed at how Qu Qing Ju had treated her. Seeing that Han Qing He, a shiqie from a lousy family, dare mock her, she shouted furiously, “Who let you remark on my affairs?”
In her anger, Feng Zi Jin had forgotten that Qu Qing Ju’s personality wasn’t like before. What she had done, it was disregarding her superiors, disregarding protocol.
Han Qing He heard the distain in Feng Ji Zin’s speech for her birth and anger rose. Her expression became more respectful, her smile even warmer: “Feng ce fei, don’t be angry. Nu is just stating the truth.”
“You!” Feng Zi Jin stepped forward in anger. Somehow, she stepped on the hem of her dress and with a high shriek, she fell down. The instant she fell to the floor, she seemed to hear the clear sound of something breaing. Before she could see what she had bumped into, she heard a multitude of inhales and then there was a room full of silence.
She grabbed the hand of a yahuan to lever herself up and saw a glass lamp smashed on the floor. The little pearls that had been encrusted rolled away to the side. The jewels and pearls that had been on the corners had fallen off. As to whether the body of the lamp had cracked, nobody knew.
“Heavens, this is the Ashtamangala glass lamp that wang ye specially found the craftsman to make for wang fei!” Han Qing He exclaimed before closing her mouth, her face flustered.
By this time, no matter how dumb Feng Zi Jin was, she knew that something was astray. Her body froze and she knelt with a bang, “Wang fei, nu didn’t mean to. Please investigate clearly.”
Everybody carefully peeked at wang fei’s expression. They found her face was frozen, almost as though she still hadn’t recovered. Instantly, the hearts of those present started to tremble. Everybody in the fu knew how much wang fei liked this lamp. Wang ye had been flush with joy. Now that the lamp was damaged, nobody knew how furious wang fei would get. If wang fei was unhappy, wang ye would naturally be angry.
“Wang fei… …” Cold sweat started to form on Feng Zi Jin’s palm. She didn’t understand. How was it that she just couldn’t control herself, that she would fall directly onto the lamp?
“You can all leave,” Qu Qing Ju stood and looked tiredly at Feng Zi Jin, “I knew before that you had been unhappy with me. In the past, I thought you were proud but you were not cruel. I didn’t think you would be like this.”
Yes, it was too much of a coincidence. She didn’t hit anything else, but she managed to directly bump into the token of love that wang ye gave to wang fei? It was jealousy. A little ce fei could be arrogant and demanding, but she had to disregard wang fei. It was a major overstep. Wasn’t she just riding on the fact that wang fei had never punished her before?
The people inside watched at wang fei dazedly return to her inner rooms. They all paused for a beat before carefully picking up the Ashtamangala glass lamp and found that the lamp had already cracked.
“Such an exquisite work of art, a pity,” Jiang Yong Yu sighed, “Let us leave. Wang fei is probably not in a good mood now. We shouldn’t disturb her.” Finishing, she took the two shiqie with her.
Feng Zi Jin dazedly stood and dizzily leaned on the yahuan’s hand to walk back to her rooms. The terror in her heart grew larger and larger. She didn’t know what to do. Everybody had seen her bump into the lamp. She didn’t even have any leeway to explain.
In another set of rooms, Jiang Yong Yu heard that Feng Zi Jin had already returned to her own rooms. She instantly sneered; “She’s a moron!” Anybody with brains would be kneeling in front of the zhen yuan to beg for forgiveness. At least, when wang ye knew of the incident, his rage would lessen slightly. Now that she had retreated into her own rooms, wasn’t that provoking wang ye even more?
Han Qing He sat opposite her and smiled upon hearing this, “In the past, she depended on the fact she had the highest birth of the entire houyuan and was favoured by wang ye. She harassed everybody, she didn’t even treat you, who has the same status, as an equal. It isn’t strange that she is a simpleton.”
“You weren’t very polite today to her,” Jiang Yong Yu eyes Han Qing He, “Han shiqie has this side, I was fooled in the past.”
“Jiang ce fei is nimble-minded and has never just wrong before.” Han Qing He smiled and rose to bow to Jiang Yong Yu, “Nu is just going with the flow. I learned this from ce fei, so nu has to thank you.”
Jiang Yong Yu jerked her lips and said flatly: “Han shiqie doesn’t have to be so polite. I just want to have an easy life. You and I are water of the well and water of the river. There’s no need for pleasantries.”
Han Qing He snorted and bowed again, “If that is so, nu will bid farewell.”
“I won’t bother seeing you out,” Jiang Yong Yu tilted her head and watched the figure of Han Qing He disappear outside the door.
A beat later, Ai Lu opened: “Mistress, what did Han shiqie mean?”
“She is just displaying her loyalty to wang fei and feeling me out,” Jiang Yong Yu snorted, “Just wait, tomorrow there will be something for that Feng ce fei to worry about.”
“If the heavens wish for one’s death, it will first allow for one’s madness,” Jiang Yong Yu stood, “She’s been mad for too long. She forgot her own identity. It isn’t undeserved that wang fei is going to sort her out.”
Ai Lu wanted to ask that if it was clearly Feng ce fei who kept on provoking which created the disaster, but why would it turn out to be wang fei sorting out Feng ce fei? But seeing her mistress remain silent, she docilely closed her mouth.
 碧潭飘雪茶: it is a type of flower tea originating from E Mei Mountain