Chapter 97 : Imperial Cosort Chen (Part I)
When viewed from afar, with its vermillion walls and green roof tiles layered like drapery, the exterior of the magnificent palace appeared dazzlingly opulent and grandiose. Yet no one knew how many dead bones were buried deep within.
 金碧辉煌 (jīnbìhuīhuáng) – (idiom) gold and jade in glorious splendor; fig. a dazzling sight (e.g. royal palace).
Si Meng Palace was positioned in the southeast corner of the imperial palace. Its environment was secluded and peaceful, and along its border was a far reaching tree peony garden. These tree peonies were especially procured upon the Emperor’s order from Luoyang. Skilled landscapers were appointed to meticulously transplant, care, and tend to these peonies. Every time the peonies were in season and the flowers were in full bloom, the garden would burst forth with beautiful purple and brilliant red flowers; it was a magnificent sight to behold.
This palace was the residence of one of the four imperial consorts. She was the current most favored of the Emperor, Imperial Consort Chen, the biological mother of Eighth Prince.
 贵妃 (guìfēi) – senior concubine. This is a senior rank, higher than fēi (妃) – imperial concubine.
Initially, once the Emperor had ascended the throne, his foundation and power was unstable. At that time, Imperial Consort Chen’s father held military power and she entered the imperial harem as an affirmation that he was giving his support towards the Emperor. As for the Emperor, securing and stabilizing the imperial throne was of utmost importance. Thus, there was a certain degree of grace and benevolence between the Chen family and the Emperor. Moreover, Imperial Consort Chen had a gentle, subdued and graceful disposition. She was a beauty and known for her talents. She was not one to be petty and jealous, and it was this carefree and aloof att.i.tude towards the mundane that the Emperor most loved and intentionally cherished and protected. Later when Imperial Consort Chen had given birth to Eighth Prince Xuan Li, her status as a mother to the prince propelled her to her position as the lead consort amongst the four imperial consorts.
The Empress gave birth to the Crown Prince, while Imperial Consort Xian gave birth to Fourth Prince; Imperial Consort De, Fifth Prince and Imperial Consort Shu, Princess He Yi.
 These consorts have been given t.i.tles based on virtues. Xian (贤) means ‘worthy’ , De (德) means ‘virtue’, and Shu (淑) means ‘pure’. There are usually 4 consorts in this rank.
The court officials were all aware that Eighth Prince Xuan Li was intelligent and genteel, Fifth Prince Xuan Hua was honorable, brave and tenacious, but Fourth Prince Xuan Lang had only pa.s.sable talents. As for Princess He Yi, she was loveable, charming and beautiful. The Crown Prince was mediocre, lacking in all areas and did not amount to much, and Fourth Prince Xuan Lang’s character was too amiable and without any ambition or schemes. Thus within the court, their inclinations were trending primarily between Xuan Li and Xuan Hua. However, since the Emperor tended to favor Imperial Consort Chen, even though Xuan Hua had substantial influence and powers, his birth mother, Consort De, was not as favoured .
Even if the courts were stricken with waves of unrest and turmoils, Si Meng Palace was always a place that remained warm and welcoming. It was like a sanctuary that was far removed from the elaborate scheming, strife and power struggle of the courts, petty jealousies and squabbles. Within Si Meng Palace, there were only copious amounts of leisure time, a haven to contemplate and reminisce about the romance of misty rain and just indulge in a peaceful sweet dream.
Inside the building, on the white jade floorings laid thick extravagant Persian wool rugs with white pillowy soft fine silky piles. Merely looking at it was like beholding celestial gems in all their splendors and brilliance. Four delicate and beautiful attending maids were attired in diaphanous white garments and quietly standing in their positions with their heads hung low. A gentle wind blew across, sweeping up a corner of the curtain, and then it was like gazing at an immortal fairy who had descended from the palace of the Ninth Heaven.
Seated was a lady who was engrossed with tying a chinese knot. Her dainty hands were unadorned with even a hint of nail polish, but her nails glistened with a natural light pink l.u.s.tre, and at the moment, those very hands were dexterously and nimbly weaving. She was vastly different from the other ladies within the palace. By all appearance, she had never comported herself with an iota of haughtiness. When she bit down on a silk thread, she revealed a fair and charming face, her facial features were exquisite and beautiful, without the imperious and overbearing countenance, but instead a very soothing and calm water-like gentleness. It was almost like she wasn’t a highly regarded imperial consort of the palace, but rather like a young lady from one of Jiang Nan’s literary family- just and honest, sweet and pleasant, soft and genteel, graceful and temperate.
In fact, Jiang Su Su too was indeed exquisitely beautiful but somehow her charm carried a hint of attaining such demeanor intentionally. This was vastly different from this lady. Even though she seemed to be from the Ninth Heaven’s palace, there was an incomparable gentleness and grace in her. It was as though water was carved into her very bones- her whole demeanor was just that placid and soft.
The corner of her lips carried a hint of a smile, and if someone were to pa.s.s by and chanced upon this scene, they would most certainly conclude that this setting was synonymous to the name of this palace. It was just like a beautiful dream of wind, flower, snow and moon.
 风花雪月 (feng hua xue yue) – an idiom used to describe frivolously, idyllic and a romantic air; to spend time in pleasures and debauchery.
The hanging screen curtain was suddenly lifted by someone and a figure walked in with a smile on his face, “Mother Consort.”
 母妃 (Mǔ fēi) – Mother Consort (Mu-Mother; Fei-Imperial consort). They cannot be simply referred to as mother because socially, the mother of the imperial sons is the Empress.
Imperial Consort Chen put down the chinese knot in her hand and looked up at the person who had entered. Immediately a smile arose, “Why didn’t you have someone announce your arrival.”
As Xuan Li gazed upon the lady in front of him, all the tumultuous precipitation of his heart from earlier, gradually quietened down. Indeed, Imperial Consort Chen had a very special kind of magical aura: when all the world’s chaotic and complicated matters were in her hands they would become like numerous and tightly compacted silk threads. Then they would be easily unravelled and transformed into a vibrant beautiful intricate chinese knot.
Xuan Li asked, “Mother Consort, are you aware of the matter regarding the Grand Councillor fu?”
Imperial Consort Chen’s expression momentarily paused before she responded, “I’m aware.”
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The imperial palace was only this big, and with officials coming and going daily, even if there was something one didn’t want to know, it would still find its way into her ears. While Imperial Consort Chen was aware of the situation with the Grand Councillor fu, she had no cause to worry about Xuan Li as she was aware that he was not dispirited about the situation.
 本宫(běn gong): illeism for imperial consorts. Lit. it means “this palace”.
Xuan Li’s gaze turned indolent, he was fully aware that his mother consort was always wise and astute. Otherwise there was no way she would sit securely as the head of the four imperial consorts in this exploitative and oppressive imperial harem. The Emperor was also aware that she was not totally without aspirations or scheming machinations, but was just happy to indulge and favor her. This was also testament to her ability to grasp hold of a person’s heart.
In reality, along his pathway to usurp the position of the Crown Prince, Imperial Consort Chen had given many suggestions and ideas. Even with the quiet disposal of Seventh Prince and Ninth Prince within the palace, Imperial Consort Chen most definitely had her hand in it.
But then again, what did that matter. Currently those people had long become fertilizers for the peony flowers, while Imperial Consort Chen continued to sit securely upon her position.
He pondered momentarily, “Eldest Jiang Miss isn’t an ordinary person. The collapse of the Grand Councillor fu was mostly due to her effort. Li An had previously alerted me that she was a wise and astute person, and if she could be roped in, she would undoubtedly be an invaluable a.s.set. Your son thought that since she is so insightful and has the ability to predict the heavens, it might be worth making use of it.
“Insightful and predictive abilities?” Imperial Consort Chen shook her head, “Li An is an obstinate and self opinionated person, he always thought himself above others so it’s not strange for him to fall into the schemes of others. Bengong had already expected that this day would come. However, for him to be taken down by a girl, now that is rather startling.”
Xuan Li responded, “Indeed, and that’s why I was thinking, if I can obtain a marriage alliance, then I will be able to use her for my benefit.”
Imperial Consort Chen laughed in spite of herself, “Your Highness is still young, and was overly reliant on Li An, and has trustingly put too much weight on his words. However, bengong feels that to say that this girl is insightful and can predict the heavens seems rather exaggerated. But since you’ve put it forth as such, it would appear that in your eyes, this girl is somewhat different from all other girls. Bengong and Your Highness are mother and son, so in a few days time during the palace feast, bengong will personally bring this matter up. Bengong will then grant her a year, and if she doesn’t perform to expectations of her predictive and insightful nature, then that will signify she is unworthy to be Your Highness’s fiancee. Fiancees can be changed but this Eldest Jiang Miss will have to disappear, and perish like a wisp of fragrant incense. What does Your Highness think about this?”
While she flippantly described the life and death of a person, her features remained as gentle and calm as a lotus, almost like a benevolent merciful immortal. Xuan Li mulled over the matter for a while before raising his head. That face that bore a strong resemblance to Imperial Consort Chen flashed a sliver of ruthlessness as he replied, “Alright, if it is no longer useful to me, then naturally it will be dealt with accordingly. It would definitely be better to be rid of it then to suffer a bigger loss or regret in the future.”
Imperial Consort Chen smiled satisfactorily, “Your Highness is indeed wise.”
She retrieved a basket at her side that contained a few completed chinese knots, “Yesterday, bengong made a few chinese knots. Come over and see if they are suitable.”
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