New people in this chapter. Please excuse how badly I’m going to mangle Chinese poetry in this chapter and the chapters after this. FYI: Clicking on the number of the footnotes takes you back to the place in the text.
Chapter Twenty Four Zhouli
Qu Qing Ju toyed with the invitation sketched with a flower and had an underlying fragrance. She looked at Mu Jin with interest: “Let’s hear it, it’s winter, Rui wang fei is inviting people to some plum-blossom banquet, it is really due to interest or to torture people?” The Qin Family was a literary family so this Rui Wang Fei, Qin Bai Lu’s actions did fit the label of the refined person.
“The flowers did not fall due in the white dew, and dried in the cold wind. No one loves the desolate state, even more, they avoid it and look from far away,” Qu Qing Ju smiled as she put the invitation to one side, and exhaling a warm breath, “If there is much white dew, the autumn rice’s ears are full. I wonder after the frost, is there really a good harvest?”
Mu Jin smiled and placed the invitation to one side. She replied: “Nubi heard that if there is frost before and after the white dew, there will be a good harvest. Dew without frost, the harvest could only be bad.”
“Our Mu Jin knows so much,” Qu Qing Ju stood, “Since it is the first banquet since san dimei married into the Imperial Family, I, as her saosao, can’t be absent. Get somebody to send back a reply, just say that I will arrive on time.”
Yin Liu came in with a branch of red plum blossoms. Hearing Qu Qing Ju’s words, she remarked as she inserted the branch into a vase: “Yesterday night, it just coincidentally snowed. Even though it is a good time to look at the plum blossoms, but it is very cold.”
Qu Qing Ju gazed at that branch of red plum blossoms. She taunted: “So common, so common. Tomorrow, I’m not taking you to Rui Wang Fu.”
Yin Liu opened her mouth to speak but saw Yu Zan walking in followed by Jin Zhan. Both had smiles on their faces as though they had encountered something good.
“Wang fei,” The two bowed. Yu Zan, who had walked at the front notified in a quiet voice, “wang fei, just now news from the west corner came. Wang ye demoted Feng shi to yiniang. The Feng Family came again and was lectured by wang ye.
Hearing the news, Qu Qing Ju had the feeling that this was what was expected. She loosened her grasp on the hand warmer to hold a cup of hot tea, “Did Feng shi make any noise?”
Yu Zan curled her lip and continued: “Nubi heard the tantrum started early in the morning but nobody paid attention so some things were smashed. It managed to quiet down by noon but until now, she still hasn’t eaten.” This Feng shi still hadn’t given up. Last time after she had begged in front of wang fei, she had quieted for two days. Today, hearing that wang ye was demoting her, she once again started a senseless tantrum.
“Let the kitchen know to not slight Xi Jiao Yuan’s food,” Qu Qing Ju sipped on a cup of tea and intoned, “It doesn’t matter if Feng shi eats or not. Whatever her stipend is, it will all be given to her. As to the objects she smashes? Let her. Our wang fu might not be extravagant, but it’s possible to sacrifice a few vases. Don’t stop her.” That little suite in the western corner of wang fu, she wondered what it was like now.
Hearing wang fei’s words, Mu Jin assured from the side: “Don’t worry, wang fei. Nubi will tell Huang Yang to send your words over immediately. It’s such a pity that wang fei’s generosity and mercy hasn’t eased Feng shiqie’s hubris. Such a disappointment.”
“It can’t be helped. She’s a pampered and spoiled daughter of a government official, her hubris is a habit,” Qu Qing Ju put down the tea cup, “Just a little shiqie, there’s no need to take her seriously.”
Yin Liu heard this and raised her head. She saw wang fei and Mu Jin share the same smile. This smile seemed to have a hint of deviousness. The words were reasonable but why were wang fei and Mu Jin’s smiles so strange?
“Feng shi is still having a fit?” He Heng came back to his fu and heard Xiao Gan Zi’s report. He frowned, “What’s she throwing a tantrum about?”
Hearing this, Xiao Gan Zi lowered his head and an awkward expression appeared on his face, “Feng shiqie hasn’t eaten or drank since this morning. She attempted to see you but was blocked by the guards so she just said a few words of complaint.”
“Complaining? Complaining about who?” He Heng stopped in his steps, his brow slightly furrowing, “Complaining of ben wang or is it wang fei?”
Xiao Gan Zi bent his body even lower, his voice smaller: “Feng shiqie holds such deep affection for wang ye¸ she wouldn’t complain about wang ye.”
“Then she is complaining about wang fei?” He Heng sneered, “Just favoured her for a few days and she forgets who she really is. Qian Chang Xin, go personally to Xi Jiao Yuan to tell Feng shi. The Feng Family came to the fu today, if she still isn’t satisfied and can’t keep calm, then pack up and return back to the Feng family. Ben wang’s place won’t accept a shiqie that’s nobler than wang fei.”
Qian Chang Xin received his orders and stared deeply at Xiao Gai Gi before leaving. This kid stated that Feng shi was full of love for wang ye but the underlying meaning was that she was discontent with wang fei. He seemed to be serving at wang fei’s side. The kid did have brains. No wonder he was a few years younger but already climbed to such a position.
How a servant answered a question, there were different ways. The same meaning, said in different ways, the impression would be different. Feng shi, she would spend the rest of her life in that cold and remote Xi Jiao Yuan.
When Qian Chang Xin reached Xi Jiao Yuan, he saw haphazardly planted banana trees, gathered in messy clumps. Weeds crowded in the corners. The scenery wasn’t as beautiful as the name had implied.
Qian Chang Xin’s brows creased and relaxed as he saw the rice and dishes that littered the ground of the doorway. A young taijian who had been following him quickly came forward and kicked aside the pieces of broken porcelain, “Qian yeye, be careful with your feet.”
Qian Chang Xin silently walked in. He scanned the room. The ground was full of broken pottery, and then he looked at Ping Zi Jin who had just raised a slender porcelain vase. He raised his voice to holler: “What is Feng zhuzi doing?”
Feng Zi Jin saw the person that came was Qian Chang Xin, who served by wang ye’s side and her eyes light up. She put down the vase and asked: “Qian gonggong, is it wang ye that sent you to see me?”
Qian Chang Xin snorted and picked a place to set down his feet: “Who else other than wang ye would send nucai?” When he finished, he saw happiness crawl onto Feng shiqie’s face. He slowly drawled, “Wang ye said, if you keep throwing a fit like you this, your family will be called to take you home. Today, the Feng Family had come to our fu. Looking at how concerned they were for you, they would love to do so.
The joy on Feng Zi Jin’s face retreated like the tide. She stared dazedly at Qian Chang Xin who left without a second look and powerlessly sat on a worn chair. A long while later, her eyes reddened and the tears came down. She knew she was finished, this was it for her entire life.
“Zhuzi,” A yahuan saw the paleness of Ping Zi Jin’s face and couldn’t resist comforting her, “Don’t take it so heavily. After wang ye’s anger cools, he will be good to you again.”
Feng Zi Jin gave a smile that was uglier than her crying. She stared with red-rimmed eyes at her yatou, “Bi Tao, don’t comfort me. Wang ye doesn’t want to see me again.” Stopping there, she suddenly laughed, “How could I forget, I’m just a qie. Why did I think that the only difference between ce fei and wang fei was only one word?”
Thinking back to when she purposefully organized for servants to give Qu Qing Ju incompatible foods to cause Qu Qing Ju to slowly fall ill. She muttered: “Karma, this is all karma.”
Bi Tao heard her mistress’s whispers, her face suddenly changing. The servants had passed around the rumor that wang fei was too angry over Ban Xia which caused her to become ill. But she knew, wang fei wasn’t ill because of her anger but due to having eaten incompatible foods. Those foods had caused her body to become weaker and weaker to the point of not being able to leave the bed.
But who knew that wang fei had suddenly recovered and punished the kitchen servants. After that, she personally ordered her food. Perhaps it was from the day that wang fei had recovered, this day was fated to happen.
She looked around at the dilapidated Xi Jiao Yuan. Bi Tao scrunched up a handkerchief to wipe her mistress’ face as she gave a bitter smile. Maybe it was karma, or fate.
Due to the fact snow had fallen for the last two nights, so even though there were people who swept the streets, there was still a thick layer remaining. The people who made a living on the street bore the attack of the snowflakes as they saw, from far away, a carriage with an ebony roof drawn by four horses slowly proceed. Each time the horses stepped forward, a ringing would come from the carriage. Preceding and succeeding the carriage were guardmen, taijian and Imperial bodyguards. Everybody on the street understood when they saw the procession. This was another procession of an Imperial family member. The rumor was that the third Wang Fei was holding a plum blossom viewing banquet. That would be the most likely destination for these people.
“This carriage isn’t as luxurious as the last few,” A passerby commented in a quiet voice, “Wonder which family is it.”
“Just shut up and don’t be so ignorant. The carriages before were two-horse carriages, that one was a four-horse carriage. Unless it’s a jun wang or above, who else dare to use four horses for a carriage?” A person beside him who had heard the comment explained, “That person is most likely a wang fei. See how the carriage is made out of ebony,” Stopping, he pointed in the direction of the Imperial Palace, “Only the Emperor and the Emperor’s children can use a sandalwood carriage.”
The person who had spoken before instantly paled. He feared that his words would pass into the ears of the noble personages. That would be very unfortunate for him.
Qu Qing Ju didn’t think that the carriage she was riding would become another’s topic of discussion. When she reached Rui Wang Fu, she coincidentally arrived at the same time as the procession of Ning Wang Fei, the wife of laoda. After allowing Ning Wang Fei to enter first, she sat down on the sedan to enter er men.
Passing through the Gate of Drooping Flowers, the sedan stopped. After she held Mu Jin’s hand to exit out the sedan’s door, she saw a few women dressed grandly standing at the threshold of the gate. She looked over and bowed to Ning Wang Fei: “Greetings to da huang sao.”
“Er dimei doesn’t have to be so courteous,” Ning Wang Fei reached out to support Qu Qing Ju, a warm and gentle smile on her face.
Qu Qing Ju smiled at Ning Wang Fei and looked towards Rui Wang Fei who had been standing a step behind Ning Wang Fei. The two bowed one after the other which passed for a greeting.
At this time, many others came over to greet Qu Qing Ju. When the disturbance calmed, the three zhouli chatted among themselves as they walked at the very front. They seemed so intimate that even blood sisters couldn’t compare.
“Er huang sao was late today, she has to drink later.” Qin Bai Lu held Qu Qing Ju’s hand. Her voice was thin and soft. She teased, “You can’t refuse.”
Ning Wang Fei knew that Qu Qing Ju arrived at almost the exact same time as her but she let her enter first so she interjected: “San dimei, you may not know, your er sao arrived at the same time as me. But it was just I came in first, you can’t punish her for that.”
The two had arrived one after the other. How could Qin Bai Lu not know? But finding out that the two hadn’t agreed to arrive together, she didn’t raise the issue again and turned to converse on the plum blossoms in the garden.
Qu Qing Ju listened cheerfully and her gaze seemed to accidentally pass over Ning Wang Fei. The rumour was that Ning Wang Fei Wei Qing E was very virtuous as she ran Ning Wang Fu very successfully and the concubines lived in harmony with her. Today, as she met the real person, the rumors didn’t live up. She couldn’t help but sigh, no wonder she was a wife of the Imperial Family!
妯娌: referring to the relation of wives of brothers
 弟妹: younger brother’s wife
 嫂嫂: older brother’s wife
 爷爷: grandfather, gramps, term used to refer to a taijian