On New Year's Eve, the Empress was unable to stand up for her poor health. Consort Xian arranged the imperial banquet wonderfully, but we were absent-minded. After the imperial banquet, we returned to Yihua Palace and I almost fell asleep. The Emperor suddenly rushed into the inner hall with a cold chill and grabbed me. He looked angry and held me for a long time without talking. After seeing that, I was cold and shocked. I didn't dare to move in his arms and could only see the fresh beard on his chin.
After a while, he backed to normal and said to me with a smile, "Jiaojiao, Brother Xiu will take you to see something good."
He personally changed me into a light cyan dress and put on the big red fox fur cape he brought me and took me to watch the fireworks by the lake in the Imperial Garden. The fireworks were beautiful and fabulous. He hugged me from the back and kissed my cheek. I heard him say softly, "Jiaojiao, this is a new year and we will have a new beginning."
I leaned in his arms and pretended not to hear him, "Emperor, the fireworks are so beautiful."
The fireworks are beautiful, but they are a flash in the pan.
The world is full of glory but a nine days' wonder.
That night I did not return to Yihua Palace and went to Yong'an Palace with the Emperor. The Emperor kept me until the Lantern Festival. He accompanied me to play chess, pick flowers and write poems. He told me stories and sang lullabies to coax me to sleep. I wrote poems in his arms again and again:
My forehead covered by my hair cut straight,
I played with flowers pluck’d before the gate.
On a hobby-horse you came on the scene,
Around the well we played with mumes still green.
We lived, close neighbors on Riverside lane.
Carefree and innocent, we children twain.
I was forteen when I became your young bride,
I’d often turn my bashful face aside,
Hanging my head, I’d look towards the wall,
A thousand times I’d not answer your call.
I was fifteen when I composed my brows,
To fix my dust with yours were my dear vows.
Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die.
Who knew I’d live alone in a tower high?
I really wanted to ask the Emperor, why didn’t you write the next part? But I said nothing.
I didn't say, "Emperor, I know that you came to me on New Year's Eve because you couldn't enter Weiyang Palace."
People in the palace said that I-- the favored consort was too unaware of convergence, but the Empress didn't care. She rewarded me with a lot of things and said that I worked hard for serving the Emperor.
Serving the Emperor is not hard, but missing the delicious food made by Consort Shu is really hard for me.
After the New Year, the Empress got sicker. In February, the Empress could not get up and was lying in bed in a coma. She spent less time awake every day. We stayed with her all day, fed her medicine and told her funny stories, but the Empress couldn't even smile at us.
The Emperor seemed to be particularly busy during this period of time and didn’t step into the harem once. I didn’t know how many memorials were in the Xuanzheng Hall and had no idea how could the medicine smell from Weiyang Palace float to Yong'an Palace?
Yunv Chen copied a lot of Buddhist scriptures for the Empress. Consort Shu and Zhaoyi Wen moved to live in Weiyang Palace and they took turns sleeping on the cot beside the Empress's bed. Both the Third Princess and I were scared. We cried secretly every day and then said something encourage in front of the Empress's bed. We did this day after day and just hoped that she could suddenly say, "Two little sparrows, come here, shall I tell you a story about a little sparrow?"
On the night of the Flower Fairy Festival, the imperial doctor said that the Empress was about to die. We sat around the Empress's bed and gritted our teeth and cried. When the firecracker exploded around 11pm, the Empress suddenly opened her eyes, grabbed Consort Shu and shouted, "Mum, Mum, Jiaojiao wants to go home. Dad makes kites for Jiaojiao..."
We didn't dare to move. The Empress forgot everything. She didn't remember us, didn't remember that she was in the palace and didn’t remember her disappointed husband and her dead children. She only remembered her old parents who were thousands of miles away and shouted again and again:
"Mum, Dad, Jiaoliao wants to go home..."
The Empress died before her 25th birthday. At the age of 14, she married the Emperor who was still Chu Wang and became the Princess Consort Chu. At the age of 16, she became the Crown Princess Consort and gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, but her son soon died. After the 20-year-old Emperor ascended to the throne, she became the Empress and lost her daughter six months later. She had her little son at the age of 21, but her little son was also gone when she was 23 years old. Her grandfather died suddenly and then his family left the capital. She had been sick since then and died before her 25th birthday.
The Emperor was seriously ill and almost coughed to death. Consort Shu was also seriously ill and had a bad cough. I was running between Yihua Palace and Yong'an Palace. One day, when I was at a loss, I covered my mouth and silently cried in a low cough. My makeup was massed up and my hair was in a mess, at this time, I looked like a ghost.
Yunv Chen asked to be a nun at the Fulong Temple to pray for the Empress. When Zhaoyi Wen and I went to send her, she was pale and said to us, "I beg your pardon for the past things. Now... there is nothing to say now. I will pray for you at Fulong Temple and I hope you will be safe in the palace."
After the Emperor was recovered, he titled the dead Empress as "Empress Minhui", Consort Shu and Zhaoyi Wen felt that the posthumous title was too vulgar and scolded him for several days.
I also wanted to scold him, but I was not free. I had to accompany the Emperor in Yong'an Palace and listened him call me "Jiaojiao" to beg me to play the Phoenix Courtship for him.
After the Empress died, the atmosphere in the palace was very bad, because the Emperor was not happy. Consort Xian, Consort Shu, Zhaoyi Wen and I were also not happy. Consort Chun didn't talk much. Consort Zheng stayed indoors for her pregnancy and Jieyu Qing also stayed in the bed for nourishing her fetus. Since a little Yunv and her close maid talked and joked in the Imperial Garden and then the Emperor directly punished them to the cold palace, there was no laughter in the palace. In spring, full of flowers, it was sorrowful in the palace and everyone was immersed in the grief of the Empress's early death.
To a great extent, this grief is sincere. The Empress is really good. She is fair and loving and treats every consort very well. Those consorts that the Emperor could not remember were sliced up by anyone in the former, but the Empress never forgot anyone of them and never shortchanged their materials. There were also unjust cases, but the Empress never listened to only one side and ignored anyone's life. Many low-rank consorts lived a peaceful life not because of the emperor, but the Empress.
Until May, Consort Zheng and Jieyu Qing gave birth to prince one after one.
After ascending to the throne for five years, the Emperor had few children. There were only the Third Prince and Third Princess alive. Now there were two more princes. The Emperor was very happy, and he finally remembered that Consort Zheng was his favorite consort before I entered the palace. Then he went to accompany her every day and also promoted her to Consort De.
Jieyu Qing... Jieyu Qing was promoted to Zhaoyi, but everyone knew that she was not in good condition. When she was pregnant, she was in a state of anxiety in Jingming Palace and thought too much. Her health was not good before and the people around Noble Consort Chen only cared about the baby in her belly, so they only gave her food supplements every day and did not allow her to stretch her legs. After that, the fetus was physically big but the mother was weak and it took three days to give birth, so she was going to die when the baby was born safely.
In view of entering the palace together, I went to see her and she was surrounded by Beauty Song and Baolin Wang-- both of them entered the palace together with me, and they were favored earlier than me! But after one year, I almost forgot their appearances.
The three of them apparently had good relationships like sisters. Beauty Song and Baolin Wang both had swollen eyes. They knelt down and begged me, "Xiuyi Wan, please tell the Emperor to let him come to see Sister Yang. After all, Sister Yang gave birth to a prince!"
I talked to Consort Shu about it, and she said, "You are really like Yaoyao! Love meddling in other people's affairs! Forget it, and you can talk to the Emperor when he comes. You ask me how to say? Well, just act like a puppy when you are begging me to make you the Yan Du Xian soup."
Pooh! I am not a puppy!
The Emperor called me the next day. I pulled his sleeves and smiled at him. When he fed me with lotus cake, I laughed. I also kept smiling when he played chess with me. He was curious, so he hugged me in the arms and touched my face by his new stubble, "What does my little bad girl want?"
I muttered and mumbled, so it took a long time for me to tell him about Qing Zhaoyi. The Emperor got angry when he heard it and dropped the cups on the table,
"You asked me to see other women?! Huh? You asked me to see others?!"
You selected those women into the palace, but now I asked you to see them, you got mad at me. You were really a crazy guy!
I really wanted to point at his nose and scolded him, but I didn't dare, I was so aggrieved and couldn't help crying, "If you don't want to go, just don't go, why do you scold me?!" I was bad at quarreling, and if I cry, I was even messier to say, and just said in a sore, "You have been to see Consort De for the past seven days! I just feel that Zhaoyi Qing is very pitiful. You don't even visit her once after she gave birth to your baby with an unhealthy body. She is so pitiful! Pitiful! If I am like her, I will be scared..."
The Emperor held me tightly in his arms, bowed his head and kissed my tears, my horns and my forehead. He said in my ear over and over again, " Jiaojiao, stop crying, it' my fault, it' my fault, and I am supposed to see you earlier. It' my fault, you can rest assured that you and our children will be good, you will be good..."
He looked like that he was swearing to me word by word.
That night, he was very gentle on the bed and whispered besides my ear, "Jiaojiao, you have to born a child with Brother Xiu-- no, three children, two sons and a daughter, I will teach our son riding and archery and make a kite for our daughter!"
In the end, he took a glance at Zhaoyi Qing. Beauty Song and Baolin Wang were grateful to me for this and they looked at me as if I was the Chinese Goddess of Mercy.
In June, Zhaoyi Qing died and the Emperor had no response. Consort Xian made her funeral affairs in a good manner, but as Consort Shu said, it was no use.
After Zhaoyi Qing died, the whereabouts of the Fifth Prince became a problem. Among the high-level consorts, Consort Shu had the Third Princess, Consort Chun had the Third Prince and Consort De had the Fourth Prince. Consort Xian, Zhaoyi Wen and I had no children, so Consort Shu was gloating, "Just wait and see, Wen Yuanyuan is going to raise a child for the Emperor, hahahahaha!"
I asked why, Consort Shu said, "Consort Xian is the daughter of General Lin. The Lin family built up a fortune by Imperial Tutor at first... there were the Xu Family, the Chen Family and the Shen Family before, three Families have higher level than them. But Now, the Lin Family has the strongest power in the imperial court, so the Emperor will not let her have children. As for you, the Emperor may want you to have your own baby. Wen Yuanyuan's father is the Emperor's loyal official, so the Emperor is willing to have a child with her, but Wen Yuanyuan can't have children! So he can only give her a child and the Ministry of Revenue will be moved to tears of gratitude for the Emperor and will desperately save money for him!"
Sure enough, on the next day, the Emperor issued an imperial edit that Zhaoyi Wen was promoted to Consort Wen, moved to Jinxia Palace and adopted the Fifth Prince. Consort Wen was so angry that she smashed the decorations of Yihua Palace.
Consort Shu was so distressed that she couldn't say a word while pointing at Consort Wen. I shouted to Consort Wen as I comforted Consort Shu, "Niangniang! That red coral tree was given by the Empress!"
Consort Wen put the red coral tree back and reached out to touch it for comfort.
"I don't want to raise a child! Raising a child is terrible! I can't continue to embroider if I raise a child! I just got a new flower design the day before yesterday! I also want to embroider twelve tapestry portraits of sister Yaoyao! I don't want to raise a child for the Emperor. He raises his own children! "
Consort Wen cried hardly, others would assume that the Emperor died if they didn't know the truth. After comforting her for a long time, Consort Wen still refused to return to Jinxia Palace and cursed the Emperor from the body to the soul with Consort Shu. In the end, I came up with an idea, "Oh, yes, Beauty Song and Baolin Wang have quite a intimidate relation with Zhaoyi Qing, why not ask one of them to live in Jinxia Palace to help you raise the child?"
Consort Wen was overjoyed and praised me for my wisdom. Consort Shu rolled up her sleeves to make me char-grilled pork neck and mushroom and shrimp soup with mushrooms and bamboo shoots to encourage me.
Beauty Song and Baolin Wang both lived in Jinxia Palace. Both of them came to Yihua Palace to kowtow at my feet sincerely. They both loved the Fifth Prince and took good care of him. Consort Wen did not look after him for a day but got a promotion. She was very embarrassed for this, so she had to make a suit for Beauty Song and Baolin Lin, which made them shocked.
We looked at it aside, and found that Beauty Song and Baolin Wang were both very dutiful and righteous. Therefore, when we visited each other, we took them together and slowly became familiar.
3.Flower Fairy Festival: Birthday of all flowers celebrated on the 12th February of lunar calendar.
4.Yan Du Xian Soup: Young bamboo shoots, chunks of pork belly, cured pork slices, firm tofu sheets and premium yellow rice wine, are put together in one clay pot for hours of simmering.