We couldn't stop the Empress. She walked to Yong'an Palace under the rain. Consort Shu and I wanted to follow her, but embroidery enthusiast Zhaoyi Wen disagreed with us, "Ah Rou, you are crazy, don't you know that the bastard Emperor doesn't like you? Forget it, you take Liu'er back and I'll go to have a look."
We went back to Yihua Palace first. I asked Consort Shu why the Emperor didn't like her, and she proudly shook her legs, "Because I exposed him when he was hypocritically acting in front of me, hahahaha. At that time, he just ascended the throne and the First Princess was just died, but he was still holding the imperial consort selection. He pretended to thank me for taking care of Yaoyao for him in tears. I said, bah, he overthought it, I take care of Yaoyao not because of him. I have a good relation with Yaoyao, what does it matter to him? He doesn't care about the life or death of the First Princess. I was so happy to say that, and he almost died of angry. Hahahaha."
Consort Shu laughed her head off, as if she was really happy and I asked her, how was she so brave? She said, "Six generations of my Zhou family are loyal to guard the west of Liaozhou for him. How many good guys of the family lost their lives for him? My father has four brothers, now only my third uncle and my father are alive, while two of my five brothers are dead... As long as I don't look for trouble, he shall not embarrass me. It was just a slip of the tongue because of anxiety, he punished me by stopping my bonus for three months-- he didn't like me at first, now he just ignores me, it's fine. He needs my father and brothers, so he gave me a high title to comfort them; but he also keeps an eye on my father and brothers, so he will not spoil me too much, and not to mention having a son with me, in case my father and brothers usurping the throne. I am now one of the Four Consorts but live like a shadow. He is very satisfied."
Consort Shu threw a piece of apricot kernel crisp into her mouth and stuffed another piece into my mouth, but the crisp was too big to chew. Consort Shu hugged me and laughed, "Liu'er, you really look like a little squirrel with your mouth stuffed."
I rolled my eyes, swallowed the apricot kernel crisp and asked, "What if the Empress gets wet from the rain? Will the Emperor bully her?"
Consort Shu rubbed my head, "Don't worry, she will be fine tonight. Yaoyao is too stupid and was exactly the same as you before. She is silly, likes to eat and play and is always smiling and laughing. I just married into the Eastern Palace from the weat of Liaozhou. When I first paid my visit to the Crown Princess, she gave me a handful of sunflower seeds. We also catched fish secretly together and Liangdi Xu reported us. The Empress (later was the Express Dowager Renhe) who died later is Liangdi Xu's aunt. The old woman was pretty bad! We were punished for copying books together, oops. At midnight, the Emperor (he was still the Crown Prince) came in through the window and apologized to Yaoyao. Yaoyao ignored him and he begged shamelessly, pulling her sleeves and dangling... Oops, I secretly envied them then! However later…"
Her voice weakened a little with a vague sob, "... Later Yaoyao gave birth to a boy and girl twins. The girl was named Changle and the boy was Changping. We were only happy for three days, and then Express Dowager Renhe and Langdi Xu snatched Changping from my arms! They took away her from my arms! I was good at fighting, but I, but I... I'm sorry to Yaoyao... I'm sorry to Yaoyao... I went to the Crown Prince and begged him. I knelt down on the ground for a long time and got the knee problem at that time. But the Xu family was dominating at that time... Three months later, Liangdi Xu was also pregnant and we thought we could take Changping back, but Changping was suddenly gone... They said that Princess Consort Zhao stifled her to death... Ah, ah, Liu'er, you have no idea, Yaoyao and I cried until no more tears to shed... We all know it's not Princess Consort Zhao, but we couldn’t do anything! The Crown Prince needed the Xu family at that time and also wanted to defeat Zhao Wang. In this way, Zhao Wang was demoted to guard the Emperor's Tomb. Liangdi Xu gave birth to a daughter, and Yaoyao's Changping was gone… If there wasn't Changle, she wouldn't get though it..."
She tilted her head up slightly and I leaned on her shoulders. Her body trembled slightly but her voice was hollow, "Xu Chanfang's daughter is the most favored in the Eastern Palace and she is very domineering at a young age. As a three-year-old child, she would be in a uproar when she saw the Crown Prince hug Changle... Jiale is two years younger than her. Her dad never remembered this daughter. That's good, I thought Jiale could grow up with Changle, the two of them also had a very good relation. They always sat down playing puppets quietly... Then Changle was gone... Xu Chanfang's daughter pushed her into the lake of the Imperial Garden... "
The cool wind blew in, the candle shadows swayed and the rain outside the window was incessant, as if a fragmented Phoenix Courtship.
On September 16th, the Lord Protector, his whole Chen family were exterminated. The Imperial Noble Consort Chen was degraded to Yunv and moved to Zaisi Palace.
The Empress had a cold last night and could not breathe because of coughing. When we arrived at Weiyang Palace early in the morning, we saw that the Emperor was here holding the medicine bowl and standing aside with his head down, and he looked helpless. The Empress didn’t even look at him, nor was she as intimate as she always was to us, "The Emperor should deal with state affairs."
The Emperor didn't tell us to stand up, and we all kept kneeling down. It was really uncomfortable to keel on the ground. I really hoped that the Emperor hurried away, but I secretly raised my eyelid to look at him and saw that the Emperor didn't intend to leave. He stayed still and said, "Do you feel better after drinking this medicine?"
The Empress stayed still like a mountain, "National affairs are the most important thing and the imperial doctors will take care of me, so Your Majesty does not need to worry." Her voice was so pleasant and lonely while the Emperor lingered for a long time before he put the bowl down, "Then I will come at night."
The Emperor went out and didn't even look at us kneeling on the ground. We didn't care much. As soon as he left, Consort Shu rushed to shake the Empress angrily, "I heard that you protected Chen Cairong? Huh? I heard that you bowed down and begged the Emperor to protect Chen Cairong who bullied me for so long?!"
She grabbed the Empress's shoulders and shook it back and forth. The Empress was out of breath with laughter and I pulled Consort Shu and shouted, "Niangniang, take it easy! The Empress is not feeling good!"
The Empress smiled for a long time before she explained to Consort Shu, "Ah Rou, Chen Cairong is not a bad person. She is domineering and unreasonable, but she is not like this from the beginning." the Empress shook her head and she was so beautiful when frowning slightly, "She was pampered step by step, and she was deceived... It isn't Chen Cairong who bullied you, and it is... that person. She was like a fool as me. The fox mourns for the death of the hare, all things are sorry for their own kind, Ah Rou..."
Consort Shu hugged the Empress angrily and rumpled her clothes, "Alright, but you have to make sure you like me best! Wen Yuanyuan, Liu'er and I, we are your best friends! Chen Cairong is after us!"
This kind of competing for favor is really unique!
We lived very happily in the following days. The Empress was still ill, so everything in the harem was managed by Consort Xian. Consort Xian did not dare to affront, Every day, she reported the harem affairs to the Empress respectfully. We earnestly wished her to deal with these messy things for the Empress, so we praised her that she was capable, clever and selfless every day. Consort Shu even made her pastries. Consort Xian got dizzy with our praises and worked harder.
Noble Consort Chen, oh no. After all this, Yunv Chen completely became a loyal fan of the Empress. She was the earliest to arrive at Weiyang Palace and the latest to leave. She did everything for the Empress, such as combing hair for the Empress or helping her to stand up. The Aunt in charge of the Weiyang Palace lived in the shadow of being taken away jobs by Yunv Chen every day and her hair got gray because of this.
Consort Shu, "Emotion is quite subtle, we have come through bitterness together and it is not the same as some half-cuts."
Yunv Chen, "Niangniang, please drink the bird's nest soup."
Concubien Shu, "Well, speaking of the dishes, Yaoyao, last time you told Yuanyuan and me that you wanted to eat fresh crabs brewed in orange juice, don't you remember? The crab meat is cold and cool, you can't eat it this year, and I'll make it for you next year when you are healthy."
Yunv Chen, "Niangniang, do you want to put on clothes?"
Consort Shu was furious and joined hands with Zhaoyi Wen every day to fight for favor. Yunv Chen combed the Empress's hair and Zhaoyi Wen took out a new red and gold thread moiré cape wth rabbit fur to the Empress. Then Consort Shu would serve the Emperor Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, which was cooked for two hours and tried to show off their indestructible relationship in front of Yunv Chen. The Empress lay on the bed, pointed at them and said with a smile, "Look at yourself, you act like a child and Liu'er will laugh at you."
The Emperor didn't embarrass the Empress and went to see her several times, but he stopped coming to her without reason again. Consort Shu cursed, "Does he think Yaoyao is willing to be nice to him? If not for Chen Cairong... Does he really think Yaoyao is willing to see him? Bah!"
The Emperor began to call me frequently.
The Emperor asked me, "Jiaojiao, do you often go to Weiyang Palace?" I ate the crab shell cake in his hand, nodded and said vaguely, "The Empress teaches me to play the Chinese rope waving game, and I like the Empress."
The Emperor smiled and said that Jiaojiao loves to play.
Since the Chen family fell from power, the Emperor was naturally in a good mood. The Former Emperor was constrained by the minister and he couldn't take charge of anything, while the Emperor ascended the throne by killing a blood path among his brothers. Less than five years after he ascended the throne, he toppled the Xu family and the Chen family and forced the Shen family (the Empress's parents' family) to leave, so now he finally got all the power of the national affairs. He lazily held me in his arms, provoked my chin, kissed me gently and then said to me, "Jiaojiao, I promise you, you will be fine in this life, and our children will be also fine."
1.Buddha Jumps Over the Wall: Steamed Abalone with Shark's Fin and Fish Maw.