Chapter 150 : Xiao Shao Made A Move
The flowers in the palace gardens seemed to bloom more luxuriantly as early autumn progressed, especially the large chrysanthemums with their brilliant purple and scarlet colours. Layers upon layers of petals curved gracefully and were placed in a stunning display. There was a fragrant scent everywhere. These days, the eunuchs and maids’ hands were engaged in welcoming a batch of newly enlisted young women into the palace. Every year, as new people were added, conversely countless nameless souls of beautiful ladies would fertilize the soil of the ostensibly abundant flowers. As terrifying as this might sound, fresh fertilizer was never scarce because there were always plenty of ladies who wished to be phoenixes who ascended the upper branch.
Imperial Consort Shu reclined leisurely on her couch. Under the candlelight halo, the silhouette of her exotic charm looked especially lovely. She was very much aware of her own advantages. She wore a silk upper garment woven with gold threads, a delicate piece of gem in the middle of her brow, and her toes under the long sapphire blue skirt were as delicate and fair as if carved out of jade.
Her entire body oozed a beauty’s elegance and seductive allure. It was no surprise that she still remained in first place after all these years, despite the presence of many beautiful young women constantly entering the palace.
Imperial Consort Shu studied her fingernails as she was served peeled purple grapes from the crystal bowl beside her. The grapes were round and lovely, her cherry lips were exquisite, and her pink tongue was nimble; it was almost as though eating one grape at a time allowed one to taste and savor its distinct flavor.
The Crane beak-shaped copper burner was slowly emitting a scent from an incense that was unique to the Western Regions (Xinjiang and Central Asia kingdoms). Its bold and warm fragrance, combined with the cosy candlelight, made people feel as if they were in a foreign land.
Imperial Consort Shu’s life had become increasingly prosperous since Imperial Consort Chen was banished to the Cold Palace. Imperial Consort De and Imperial Consort Chen had fought for a lifetime. Even though Imperial Consort Chen had lost power, Fourth Prince and Fifth Prince were still fighting tooth and nail for the highest position.
Imperial Consort Shu had only one child, Princess He Yi. Obviously, she had no aspirations she shouldn’t have had and competing for the t.i.tle of the di wife was a remote matter for her. Instead, Imperial Consort Shu placed a lot more attention on winning the Emperor’s heart in the harem.
When Imperial Consort Chen was around, the Emperor focused his attention almost entirely on her. Imperial Consort Shu’s numerous ruses and flirtations paled in comparison to Imperial Consort Chen’s gentle smile and her simple multicoloured embroidered pouches. Therefore, Imperial Consort Shu hated Imperial Consort Chen the most in this palace and everybody knew that Imperial Consort Shu and Imperial Consort Chen were natural enemies. However, now that Imperial Consort Chen had no chance of being released, Imperial Consort Shu had no strong opponents. Naturally, she was in her element like a fish in water.
It’s just that it’s normal for a beauty to lose her prime in the palace. Although Imperial Consort Chen had lost her position of power, it was inevitable that a second and third Imperial Consort Chen would emerge from the group of beautiful women chosen for the Emperor’s harem. The young women were all at the stage in their lives when they were most beautiful, just like flowers. Imperial Consort Shu might be fortunate enough to defeat the middle-aged Imperial Consort Chen, but she could never defeat a young Imperial Consort Chen.
Even so, Imperial Consort Shu’s life was much more comfortable these days.
A dainty figure rushed in angrily and went straight to the imperial consort’s couch without even looking. The person’s tone conveyed her rage. “Mother Consort!”
A gold skirt adorned with opulent jewels. Who else could it be but Princess He Yi?
With a slight frown on her face, Imperial Consort Shu waved her hand. The palace maid who was playing the music abruptly stopped her guqin and stood to the side.
Princess He Yi jumped onto the couch without paying attention. When she took a glimpse at the palace maid who had been playing the guqin and saw that the girl was dressed in red, she suddenly felt that the red dress was offending her eyes. She said, “Kneel.”
The palace maid had no idea what was going on. She abruptly knelt. Princess He Yi raised her chin. “I find the maid repulsive. Drag her away and kill her.”
“Princess, I implore you to spare my life!” The palace maid was frightened. She didn’t know what she had done wrong, but she was aware that she couldn’t reason with the domineering princess. She could only kowtow and beg for mercy.
Princess He Yi felt a slight thrill in her heart as she saw the girl in red kowtowing endlessly in front of her. She suddenly revealed a cruel smile. “I, this Princess, am always benevolent. Because you beg for mercy and are a maid at my mother’s palace, I will treat you with kindness. I can spare your life… Guards, drag her away and chop off her hands.”
The maid rejoiced at hearing the first part but nearly fainted upon hearing the final sentence. She looked at her hands. For a maid who earned her living playing musical instruments in the palace, losing her hands would be the end of her life. And so, she might as well just die.
Princess He Yi was unsympathetic to the palace maid, who appeared to be completely distraught. With a wave of her hand, several palace guards dragged away the palace maid who had suddenly suffered a catastrophic disaster.
When the other palace maids and eunuchs saw this, they all bowed their heads and pretended not to notice the scene in front of them, hoping to avoid becoming the next plaything of the capricious princess.
Imperial Consort Shu leaned on her couch from start to finish, not making a sound to stop the scene in front of her. Her lips curved slightly into a smile. Rather, she seemed to enjoy it and even found this cruel game fascinating. It was terrifying to see such a fearful expression on such a beautiful woman.
“What’s the matter with you?” She opened her mouth to ask Princess He Yi, “Who provoked you this time?”
She appeared fine before being asked this question, but her countenance suddenly changed upon hearing it. She bit her lips with hatred. “Would you please kill Jiang Ruan for me, Mother Consort?”
That was a shocking thing to say, but Imperial Consort Shu just raised an eyebrow. “Hong’an Junzhu? What, did she make you unhappy?”
“Not simply unhappy.” Princess He Yi answered. “Not to mention that last time she threatened me for that bas**rd Xuan Pei, this time, I heard someone in the imperial study say that Jinying w.a.n.g asked the Emperor to confer marriage on him! He wants to marry that s.l.u.t! The young eunuchs outside heard it. Mother Consort, how am I supposed to stand for this!”
Princess He Yi’s grudge against Jiang Ruan had been building for a long time, dating back to the first time she saw her. Jiang Ruan’s beauty had placed a pall over her heart. Through a strange turn of events, she had become a ‘whatshername’ Hong’an Junzhu. From Princess He Yi’s point of view, Jiang Ruan was only an unfavoured daughter of an official’s fu. How could a blue-blooded royal family descendant like her be compared to Jiang Ruan? She did not make a fuss over Xuan Pei’s matter last time since Imperial Consort Shu told her not to cause trouble for the time being. That was tolerable, but the matter of Xiao Shao asking the Emperor to marry Jiang Ruan was Princess He Yi’s bottom line! Whenever this thought crossed her mind, Princess He Yi was itching to hack Jiang Ruan into pieces so she would never be reincarnated!
“Xiao Shao asked to marry Hong’an Junzhu?” Imperial Consort Shu’s expression froze. “Is this true?”
“It’s absolutely true.” Princess He Yi replied in a distressed tone “Mother Consort, how is such a s.l.u.t worthy of Jinying w.a.n.g? Why is he so eager to marry her? Why don’t you kill her for He Yi, Mother Consort?”
Imperial Consort Shu examined Princess He Yi, who bore a striking resemblance to her own facial features. Princess He Yi’s lovely face, with exotic characteristics, was contorted, destroying her beauty. Although a daughter couldn’t be used as a bargaining tool to become the master of the harem, Princess He Yi grew up pampered by her. n.o.body was more aware of Princess He Yi’s thoughts on Xiao Shao than Imperial Consort Shu.
Imperial Consort Shu knew how much the Emperor valued Xiao Shao. While the Emperor doted on Princess He Yi, Imperial Consort Shu was fully aware that the Emperor would never marry Princess He Yi to Xiao Shao. Perhaps Princess He Yi’s wish would never come true.
Xiao Shao had finally found his true love, and sure enough, Princess He Yi became agitated. Imperial Consort Shu’s beautiful red lips curved up, Xiao Shao’s beloved turned out to be Hong’an Junzhu. She sighed inwardly as she looked at her daughter. It was best to steer her away from the whole thing. But she couldn’t advise her at the moment after seeing Princess He Yi’s current reaction.
It was because she once felt the same way as Princess He Yi did: helpless while the person she loved and his beloved were like a pair of birds flying and nestling together. It wasn’t her he held in his arms. Jealousy, loss, madness, hatred, and the thought of perishing together swelled her heart to the point where she felt she might burst.
But she endured. Would she like for her daughter to follow in her footsteps?
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“There will be others even if Hong’an Junzhu does not exist.” Imperial Consort Shu reminded Princess He Yi. “He’ll have to marry someone, but it won’t be you.” As a mother, Imperial Consort Shu was more eager to speak the truth than to make up a fantasy that would never come true.
“This…” His advisor hesitated. “If there is no problem, it is advisable to avoid conflict with Jinying w.a.n.g.”
Although Xiao Shao was called a rebel and thief and was not involved in many imperial court affairs, many civil and military officials were aware that Xiao Shao was the Emperor’s confidant. Otherwise, why did the Emperor spend so many years defending him in every manner possible? The Jinyi Guard in Xiao Shao’s hands was also terrifying. Because Xiao Shao had not stated which faction he supported, it was best to remain neutral. If he offended Xiao Shao, the faction Xiao Shao chose would have a significant impact on the pattern of the dynasty.
“Idiot. Start with Hong’an Junzhu,” Xuan Li directed. His gaze was drawn to the floating tea leaves in the teacup in front of him, and a dark light flashed in his eyes: “Jiang Xin Zhi has been defeated, Jiang Ruan is in an awkward position, and the slightest mistake can kill her.” He appeared to be thinking about something, and his face gradually relaxed. “If she is charged with a crime, marrying Jinying w.a.n.g is wishful thinking because Imperial Father has a stubborn temper and has no room for violation.”
* * *
Empress Dowager Yi De was very pleased to hear that Jiang Ruan was highly respected among the servants of the Jinying w.a.n.gfu. She mentioned that during a conversation with Yang gugu. “Ah Shao has always erred on the side of caution. Aijia is a.s.suming he’s shown affection in the past; otherwise, how can the servants see the situation clearly?”
Yang gugu sighed in response. She shook her head as she suddenly thought of something. “I’m just not sure what His Majesty thinks. I heard that His Majesty is still unhappy with Junzhu.”
“I’m not sure what went wrong in the past.” Empress Dowager Yi De stated, “Aijia is also aware of his viewpoint. However, because Ah Shao has asked aijia, even if the Emperor objects, aijia will grant him the marriage. With Ah Shao’s temper, he is bound to handle the situation properly. Even before aijia consults with the Emperor, Ah Shao will have already devised a solution.”
Empress Dowager Yi De was correct in his a.s.sumption. When the Emperor invited Governor Yao to come for a “chat” the next day, Governor Yao’s expression immediately changed. Governor Yao was still beaming after the Emperor hinted at the marriage of Miss Yao and Jinying w.a.n.g a few days ago. On this particular day, however, he shook his head repeatedly, claiming that his daughter lacked talent and learning and was therefore unworthy of Jinying w.a.n.g’s outstanding figure. Miss Yao was also sick in bed. Even all of the excuses for her health not improving in a year or two were made up.
The Emperor couldn’t help but notice this outright refusal and fear. He muttered angrily in his heart that Xiao Shao must have been at it again. Only Xiao Shao, Great Jin’s most daring official, could scare the Governor of Binhai into such a state. His actions were always quick and precise, and he never made a mistake. Governor Yao was unlikely to change his mind in the future given his current att.i.tude.
The Emperor was glum. Miss Yao was the best choice, but Xiao Shao ruined it. Xiao Shao would undoubtedly follow the same pattern if he had other ideas in the future. As for what method Xiao Shao used to make the Yao family change their minds, the Yao family would definitely not say.
Yao Daren, Governor of Binhai, wiped the sweat from his brow. As he observed the Emperor’s visage change, his heart became similarly tense. Being close to the sovereign was believed to be as dangerous as lying with a tiger. He should have stroked the tiger’s mane, but today, he contradicted the tiger’s intent. But, there was nothing he could do. Indeed, his daughter was the apple of his eye and a source of pride for him. He believed that no man on earth was deserving of his daughter. After the Emperor proposed to unite the Yao family with Jinying w.a.n.gfu in marriage, Governor Yao was immediately tempted.
Firstly, the Yao family, like Jinying w.a.n.gfu, remained loyal to the Emperor and did not join any faction. Now, if they were united with Jinying w.a.n.gfu in marriage, even if Fifth Prince or Eighth Prince succeeded to the throne in the future, those people would not dare to attack the two families rashly. Secondly, Governor Yao was a visionary. Naturally, he recognised Xiao Shao’s rare quality. Despite the fact that everything he did now was in the shadows, he would one day rise to prominence. And he possessed a talent for military strategy rare in the imperial court of the Great Jin dynasty. He and his beloved daughter were a perfect match.
Governor Yao was secretly pleased when the Emperor proposed such a good marriage. However, two nights ago, an unknown person left a letter in the study. It contained nothing but a list of secret actions taken by Governor Yao since taking office. Which official’s family didn’t have a secret? However, the letter’s ingenuity was that the events described above were hazy and sporadic, putting only the most imaginative part. It wasn’t a big deal, but the arrangement on the letter made it seem lethal. Governor Yao believed that if the letter was delivered to the Emperor’s study, even if the Emperor wanted to protect his life on the account that he had been following for many years, from then on, the Yao family would never have a foothold in the imperial court.
It was a masterful work of false allegation, however, it had been stating only the facts and accurately capturing the Yao family’s unique characteristics. Governor Yao was left with no option but to be slaughtered before he possessed the strength to rectify the situation.
However, the letter contained just one demand: that the Governor of Binhai abandon his intention of marrying his daughter into the Jinying w.a.n.gfu.
Governor Yao was no fool, and he had a good idea who had done it. On the one hand, he was infuriated, and on the other, he felt helpless.
Forget it, since the prospective husband disliked his daughter, Miss Yao wasn’t obligated to enter the w.a.n.gfu and be wronged there. Governor Yao had no choice but to inform the Emperor that he had no intention of marrying Miss Yao off to Jinying w.a.n.g. After all, he could find other in-laws, but everything would be gone if his fu suffered a calamity.
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