The next few days, the Emperor did not ask me to serve him, but when he occasionally remembered something, he would send me gifts, sometimes they were jewelries and sometimes they were decorations. The most painful thing was that he gave me a pair of white rabbits. Consort Shu told the Third Princess and me a story before: There was a famous restaurant outside the palace called Best Luck Restaurant, which had a dish called Taro Rabbit. They braised taros and rabbit meat in brown sauce. It was spicy and fragrant and especially delicious…
Looking at the rabbits sent from the Emperor, it was like the living Taro rabbit, but Consort Shu's mind was still sober. Even though she cursed the Emperor every day inside her palace, but she did not dare to say or do anything against him in public. So she would not make the rabbits into a dish. The Third Princess and I were in great pain, and every day we devoted ourselves to creating accidents to cause the rabbit to die unexpectedly.
In the past few days, the Emperor once went to Noble Consort Chen's place, once to Shuyi Zheng and once to Consort Chun. He also called Beauty Qing to accompany him and promoted her to Jieyu Qing. In short, he avoided leaning to either side and treated every consort the same.
Consort Shu expressed disdain for it and scolded, "The Emperor is the dirtiest man in the world."
When she said this, I was looking at the rabbits. Maybe she was afraid that I would be sad, so she quickly said, "Liu'er, don't be sad and don't be stupid. The Emperor just treats us like that. Since he wants you, you have to accompany him anytime. As long as he sends you gifts, you just accept all of them. But if he says he likes you, never believe that! Liu'er... you won't really miss him by those gifts, will you?"
I: ... Niangniang, do you think the rabbits will die if I throw them out of the window? Can you make Taro Rabbit if they die? Will it affect the taste?
Consort Shu: ... Go to copy the "Tao Te Ching" ten times, and you can't have a meal before you finish it.
On the morning of May 16th, the sky was still dark and I was sleeping deeply. Consort Shu suddenly uncovered my quilt and put a finger on my mouth, "Liu'er, get up quickly, the Emperor is crazy again."
I rubbed my eyes and hugged the quilt while making a snorting sound. Consort Shu slapped on the back of my head angrily. "Stop it! Something happened to Yaoyao!"
I immediately uncovered my quilt and straightened my back.
Consort Shu said that yesterday was May 15th.The Emperor should go to Weiyang Palace to meet the Empress, but she didn't know what happened. The Emperor came out of Weiyang Palace soon and slammed the door angrily. He also punished two eunuchs by flogging in front of the Weiyang Palace. However, the eunuch of the Empress delivered some words to him and the Emperor pointed at the door of Weiyang Palace for a long time without saying anything. Consort Chen from Jingming Palace "rushed to" invite him to go to her palace.
I was so scared to grab Consort Shu's sleeves, "Will the Emperor come back to Weiyang Palace to hit the Empress?" Consort Shu shrugged her shoulders and yelled in a whisper, “She asked for it! Pooh!"
We sat there for a long time. First, we received the verbal instructions that we don't need to go to Weiyang Palace today, and then the Emperor issued the imperial edict that he promoted Consort Chen as Imperial Noble Consort with the power of substitute empress to co-manage the Six Palaces. The Empress is not in good health, so the Imperial Noble Consort is temporarily in charge of the Phoenix Stamp and the palace affairs, while Consort Xian and Consort Chun should assist her.
I was so worried and asked to go to Weiyang Palace with the Third Princess to accompany the Empress. While Consort Shu was taking us to go out, the Imperial Noble Consort came here with a great fanfare. People are in high spirits when they are involved in happy events… She wore vermilion clothes and jewelries with her nose in air, her overbearing swagger did not seem to become the Imperial Noble Consort, but rather she became the Empress Dowager as if her son ascended the throne.
We knelt on the rough blue stone and the Imperial Noble Consort looked like "I'm here to stir up trouble and take revenge". She played her fingers coated with nail polish and said that Consort Shu and I showed no respect for her before, so she punished us to kneel and copy the scriptures. Then she said that the Third Princess was fat and unruly in Yihua Palace, and the Empress did not discipline her for her bad health, so she could not bear it and only forced herself to help discipline her.
As soon as she finished her words, a group of mammies and maids came up to grab the Third Princess. In chaos, the grand maid of Imperial Noble Consort smashed two little rabbits on the rockery of Yihua Palace in public.
I only had time to cover the eyes of the Third Princess and Consort Shu held us tightly in her arms. She knelt on the ground and watched the Imperial Noble Consort with a word, "Imperial Noble Consort, I sincerely wish you longevity and happy."
The mammy came with the Imperial Noble Consort pushed Consort Shu away violently. However, Jiale was as fat as a ball, so it was very difficult to take her away. The mammy almost had a sprain in her lumbar region, before she returned to herself, Jiale bit her. I couldn't bear it, so I hugged Jiale tightly and let them hit on my arms with a stick. Later... Zhaoyi Wen came with the Empress. The Empress had a very bad cough and her face was very pale. She guarded us behind and then told the Imperial Noble Consort not to harm the consorts privately and never to scare the Third Princess. I looked at the Empress gasping slightly. For the first time, I found that her back was so emaciated and thin, but she stood so straight as if a big tree prevented us from difficulties and dangers.
However, this time the Imperial Noble Consort was not afraid of her and was extremely arrogant to yell at, "Now I am in charge of the affairs in the palace! Shen Yunyao, who do you think you can protect?” As she said this, she walked a few steps towards the Empress. Consort Shu, kneeling on the ground was so scared that she crawled up and stopped in front of the Empress. The Imperial Noble Consort did not take it seriously and whispered in an indescribable proud tone, "Shen Yunyao, don't pretend to be innocent, I'm deliberately making troubles for you. Just wait and see!"
What an arrogant consort! It was really unprecedented and no one would come after her. She was really a freak.
In chaos, the Emperor came late.
While no one was paying attention, Consort Shu pulled out my hairpin. My long hair was long enough to touch my waist and I hugged with the Third Princess. There were still tears on my face.
The Imperial Noble Consort turned around, pulled the Emperor and acted in pettish with him. She said to him how disrespectful we were, how badly the Third Princesses was raised and how the Empress oppressed her.
She was usually arrogant and full of vitality. Now as she was holding her throat to be acting like a spoiled child, I was shocked by her magic show.
Then I took a glance at the Empress. The Empress knelt straight while watching the Emperor in silence.
Oh! For a human! If she refuses to bow her head, she has to suffer hardships. This is the life.
The Emperor looked at the Empress. They looked at each other for a long time. I saw that the Emperor had a ghastly expression on his face. He began to blame the Empress for her poor management of the harem. But the Third Princess and I couldn't accept it. We knelt down before the Emperor. I raised my swollen arm to show him and said that my hand would be broken if the Empress didn’t rescue me!
The final result to this matter was that Consort Shu who failed to discipline the combines was punished to stop her bonus for half a year, and the Empress who failed to restrain the harem was punished to stop her bonus for half a year and be grounded in Weiyang palace. As for the Third Princess... The Emperor glanced at me when he talked about the Third Princess. I had no time to care about my image and tried to hug Jiale into my arms. The Emperor's tone calmed down and he said the Third Princess could be still raised in Yihua Palace. If she is still lack of discipline, then she must be raised in another place. Xiuyi Wan was innocently affected and was rewarded some gold and silver jewelries.
The Imperial Noble Consort who came to provoke was not punished at all.
What an eccentric treatment! No wonder that Zhaoyi Wen, Consort Shu and the Empress do not like the Emperor.
Neither do I.
After they all went away, Consort Shu hugged us and said that we deserved her love. We were good children and knew to protect the Empress.
Her forehead was swollen, but she didn't care. She was busy to ask the imperial doctor to check my arm. The imperial doctor applied some medicated oil on my arms and I cried with pain.
I didn't cry at the previous terrible scene, now I cry at the top of my lungs. Consort Shu took me as the Third Princess, patted on my back and coaxed me with a voice of "ooh, ooh, ooh" as if I was a baby. I wanted to tell her, "Niangniang, I am not crying with pain, but because, because—— "
Because a few days ago, I thought the Emperor is pretty good.
I was so stupid! How could I be so stupid? I was crying because of my foolish thoughts!
That night, the Emperor stayed at the Imperial Noble Consort's place. After Consort Shu coaxed the Third Princess to fall asleep, she came to sleep with me. Consort Shu said with a joyful voice:
"Liu'er, I tell you. Chen Cairong is about going to die, and doesn't have much time. Liu'er, in fact, Chen Cairong is not bad. Looking at the things she did today, she is too stupid. She is the daughter of the Lord Protector, but that is how ridiculous, she is not smart and still sent to the palace. Her entire family deserves to be exterminated. Chen Cairong, she didn't understand anything even if she has been in the palace for four years. When hearing her stupid words to Yaoyao today, I almost laughed out loud, bah! She is so credulous that is easy to be used by others, but she still thought she was enforcing justice on behalf of heaven!"
"It's all old stories, you don't need to know. Think about it, how silly she is, hasn't she been sleeping with the Emperor enough in the past four years? But she doesn't have a child until now, and still wants to take away my Jiale today. Does she ever think about why she has no children?"
"The reason is so clear. The Emperor does not want to have a child with her."
"My father is the Emperor's General, so I can only have one daughter with him. If I gave birth to a son then, he would not be able to survive. Fortunately, Jiale is a girl. Heaven bless us."
"You are a clever girl, but I am still surprised that you can come up with this question."
"Of course, she does not dare to take away the Third Prince. Consort Chun is the cousin of the Emperor! The Emperor likes her more than me and of course she is not as easily being bullied as me. Besides, everyone knows that Yaoyao and I are good friends in the Palace. She has long dreamed to be the Empress, but she dare not go to Weiyang Palace to stir up trouble, so she came here. Pooh! You don't know, there are no good people in Chen's family!"
"Zhaoyi Wen? She is allowed to have a son. Her father is in charge of the Ministry of Revenue and also the Emperor's confidant. But Wen Yuanyuan turns her nose up at the Emperor. Not exactly, Wen Yuanyuan doesn't like anyone else and only likes embroidery. She aims at becoming the first famous embroidery master in the history, and is not interested in marriage and children. The Emperor can't appreciate her works and is promiscuous in sex relations, so Wen Yuanyuan even wants to spit saliva on his face."
"The Empress? Liu'er, do you know why Consort Chun has the Third Prince and I have the Third Princess, but there are no other children in this palace? The Empress had three children before, but they are all dead."
"Another child? The Second Princess and her mother Liangdi Xu (later she was titled as Consort De) were banished to the Cold Palace together. They died for a cold disease."
"Consort De... Liu'er, thankfully, you don't meet her, and she was a ruthless and greedy bitch. You don't know, we had a really hard time in those two years. We didn't even save the Empress's younger son... Two-year-old Chang'an got smallpox. I also had this before, so I threw Jiale to Wen Yuanyuan and took care of him day after night. Poor Chang'an was so unconscious by the fever. Before dying, he reached out to wipe tears for me and said, 'Mom, do not cry'. Alas, alas, the Empress cried to faint. But there was no use! Anyway, he can't come alive again! After just a year, the Emperor had the imperial consort selection again. Liu'er, it was the hardest time. Chen Cairong could only make chaos at most while Consort De wanted us to die... The Emperor did not care about our life!"
I was confused, and then Consort Shu cried. I reached out to pat her on the back just like she did to me and said, "Niangniang, don't cry. Let's sleep."
1. Taro Rabbit: a cuisine made with the rabbit’s leg, carrots and taro.
2.Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing: it was written around the 6th century BC by the sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu, "Old Master"), a record-keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court, by whose name the text is known in China. The text's true authorship and date of composition or compilation are still debated. Dào/Tao 道 literally means "way", or one of its synonyms, but was extended to mean "the Way". This term, which was variously used by other Chinese philosophers (including Confucius, Mencius, Mozi, and Hanfeizi), has special meaning within the context of Taoism, where it implies the essential, unnamable process of the universe. Dé/Te 德 basically means "virtue" in the sense of "personal character", "inner strength" (virtuosity), or "integrity." The semantics of this Chinese word resemble English virtue, which developed from a (now archaic) sense of "inner potency" or "divine power" (as in "healing virtue of a drug") to the modern meaning of "moral excellence" or "goodness". The Tao Te Ching is fundamental to the Philosophical Taoism (Dàojiā 道家) and strongly influenced other schools, such as Legalism and Neo-Confucianism. This ancient book is also central in Chinese religion, not only for Religious Taoism (Dàojiào 道教) but Chinese Buddhism, which when first introduced into China was largely interpreted through the use of Taoist words and concepts. Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and even gardeners have used the Tao Te Ching as a source of inspiration. Its influence has also spread widely outside East Asia, aided by hundreds of translations into Western languages.
3. Phoenix Stamp: It is a status symbol as the Empress.