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Such a serious time. Everything is different now.
Chapter Eighty Five Entering The Palace
The winds and rain were strong, but they stopped as dusk approached. The sun even came out from behind the clouds, covering all of Jing with a coat of gold. Qu Qing Ju stood on the only three-level tower in the wang fu. She narrowed her eyes to look at the shockingly beautiful sunset, a smile on her lips.
Suddenly, a heavy bell rang out from the direction of the Imperial Palace. Because Duan Wang Fu was very close to the Imperial Palace, she could clearly hear the ringing.
Mu Jin and the others behind Qu Qing Ju instantly changed their expressions, kneeling down and covering their eyes, trying their best to make themselves cry more sorrowfully. Huang Yuan even grievously moaned “Emperor” before using his sleeves to start wiping away his tears.
Qu Qing Ju’s head seemed to ring then blanked. She looked in disbelief at the Imperial Palace. Under the sunset, the Imperial Palace seemed to be coated in a layer of mysterious gold. If this kind of scene was exaggerated a bit, it would become a good omen. How was it that the Emperor had passed away?
She stilled before turning to order: “Quickly change everything in the fu that needs to be changed. Nothing bright should be seen.” After seeing Huang Yang leave the tower with reddened eyes, she looked down at her own clothing, “Let’s return to zhengyuan to change.”
Even though she wasn’t sure of the situation in the palace, Qu Qing Ju still used the fastest speed possible to wash away the makeup on her face and also took off the peach red corseted silk dress to change into a snow-white plain dress. The girdle she used was a neutral colored one. She took down all the pouches and pendants on the dress, put her hair in a simple style, using a few hairpins to secure it, and even took down her earrings.
The servants in the wang fu also took off the bright clothes they wore. White lanterns with black characters and white banners were hung up in the wang fu. Anything red in colour was stored away.
Jiang Yong Yu watched as the servants in her rooms hurriedly put everything away. She changed into a dark green cotton dress. She asked Ai Lu beside her, “Has wang fei given any orders?”
Ai Yu helped remove the adornments in her hair and changed her hairstyle to a simple one, securing it with two silver hairpins, “Wang fei didn’t have any orders. She just said for everyone to clean up what should be cleaned up and hang what is required.”
Jiang Yong Yu faintly frowned. She walked uncertainly to the gate of her yard and looked at the servants walking outside, sighing: “I don’t know what the palace is like now.”
Ai Lu knew that her mistress was worried about the new emperor. Right now, it was good if their wang ye succeeded the throne. If Rui Wang succeeded, their lives from now on wouldn’t be very peaceful.
“What, you can’t wait either,” Feng Zi Jin held Xia Yun’s hand and looked disdainfully at Jiang Yong Yu, “I had thought that you would endure longer, but aren’t you just the same?”
Jiang Yong Yu calmly looked at the sapphire in Feng Zi Jin’s hair and commented indifferently: “If you have the time to come over and fuss, why don’t you take down what you are wearing? If wang fei knew, I wonder if she would get angry?”
“You’re just a dog of wang fei, what do you have to be smug about?” Feng Zi Jin snorted and held Xia Yun’s hand to leave.
Ai Lu retorted in anger: “She’s a shiqie who’s unfavored by wang ye, there’s nothing to be proud of!”
“Her father is a third-grade assistant minister in the Ministry of Works. My father is under his command. It’s natural that she dares to show off in front of me,” Jiang Yong Yu gave an ambiguous smile, “There’s no need to argue with this kind of person.”
Ai Lu looked at the smile on her mistress’ face. Even though she didn’t understand why, her anger lessened.
The main gate to the palace opened, and a fourth grade imperial bodyguard rode a horse as he raced out of the palace. The guards saw that he was going in the direction of Duan Wang Fu and were envious. The people of Duan Wang Fu were going to rise on their master’s success.
Following him was a troop of bodyguards accompanying a carriage as it proceeded out of the palace. White flowers were hanging on the carriage but from the structure, it was the carriage that only the Empress had the status to ride.
They instantly understood. This carriage most likely was going to receive Duan Wang Fei.
Qu Qing Ju’s face was strict as she sat in the front hall of Duan Wang Fu. Behind her were four yahuan and four taijian. Everyone’s face was grave.
Looking at the doors to the hall pushed wide open, Qu Qing Ju took a sip of holly tea. The pale finger tapped gently on the table, releasing that small bit of anxiety inside.
“Wang fei, the Imperial Decree from the palace has arrived.” Huang Yang raced in, his face joyous yet sad, looking very comedic. But Qu Qing Ju didn’t have any mirth on her face. She slowly stood and watched as a person dressed in the dark uniform of the imperial bodyguards stride in and then kneel in front of her.
“The Emperor has decreed to especially welcome niangniang into the palace to manage the affairs of the hougong.”
Qing De Emperor was dead. The person that would be called Emperor now could only be the new Emperor, and the women of the new Emperor naturally could be called niangniang. Qu Qing Ju slightly nodded: “This da ren, please stand.” She examined the person, confirming that he really was an imperial bodyguard before responding, “Is the Emperor well?”
“The Emperor is fine, but due to his grief, he hasn’t drank or eaten,” The imperial bodyguard respectfully answered, “The Emperor especially let wei chen come here first to give the decree. The carriage and guards will arrive shortly. Niangniang, please wait for a moment.”
Qu Qing Ju nodded calmly. The peaceful state she expressed made the imperial bodyguard who had passed on the decree admire her. No wonder she was Duan Wang Fei. Even facing a major event such as Duan Wang succeeding the throne, she could be so peaceful and not lose her composure. She really was majestic and had the composure necessary to “mother the world”.
Mu Jin and the others behind Qu Qing Ju were bursting with joy, but due to the fact that an outsider was present, they managed to keep up the expression on their faces. Mu Jin came up to support Qu Qing Ju’s arm and asked in a small voice: “Niangniang, why don’t nubi go pack some things?”
Qu Qing Ju nodded and asked the imperial bodyguard: “Da ren, please sit. What should da ren be called by?”
“Wei chen doesn’t dare,” the imperial bodyguard raised his hands, “Wei chen is a fourth-grade imperial bodyguard Gao Jin, and had been a bodyguard before in the wang fu for a time.”
Qu Qing Ju nodded. She knew that this person was most likely one of He Heng’s people. She calmly sat down at the front of the hall, not speaking anymore.
A short while later, the carriage arrived. Mu Jin and the other yahuan had finished packing. Qu Qing Ju allowed some of her personal attendants to follow as she walked out of the main gate of the wang fu. When she saw the majestic carriage, she sighed, and paused in her steps before using Mu Jin’s hand as support to enter the carriage.
The common people on the side of the street had been already ordered back by the guards. Qu Qing Ju sat in the carriage and found it slightly boring. In the past, when she sat in a carriage, she could still hear the voices of some passer-bys. Now, other than the sound of the axles, the ground and the hoofs of the horses, she couldn’t hear anything. Was this the difference between a wang fei and the Empress?
The carriage didn’t stop after it entered the palace. She slightly lifted up the curtain and saw people all kneeling on the ground. All of them were trembling and cautious, as though if she frowned, they would lose their lives.
The carriage travelled a short distance past the palace doors before stopping. Qu Qing Ju got off the carriage and got on the phoenix carriage to sedately circle around to reach Tian Qi Palace. When she got off the phoenix carriage, she saw He Heng standing at the top of the jade stairs.
She stood at the bottom of the jade stairs, staring into his eyes. Step by step, she made her way up. Each step was especially steady and especially strong.
Just when there were three steps left between her and He Heng, he actually walked down the steps and firmly took hold of Qu Qing Ju’s hand. The two ascended to the top of the stairs together. He Heng lifted his head to look at the plaque of Tian Qi Palace: “Fuhuang’s mourning hall has been set up in Shou Kang[i] Palace. Later, you and I should go to pay our respects.”
Qu Qing Ju suddenly understood. So Qing De Emperor’s corpse was already not in Tian Qi Palace? She turned to look down the jade stairs and found that the scenery at the top was drastically different compared to the bottom.
She tilted her head to look at Tian Qi Palace’s sign. At this moment, she didn’t know whether to say to restrain grief or congratulations. She turned to look at the man beside her. He wasn’t as happy as she had thought, but had a kind of expected steadiness. After thinking for a bit, Qu Qing Ju decided to speak: “I heard that you haven’t eaten or drank. It’s so hot right now. You can’t harm your body.”
He Heng smiled. He looked at the dimming sunset at the horizon, “If you are worried about me, then eat together with me.”
Qu Qing Ju nodded, concern on her bare face.
The two walked together into Tian Qi Palace. Food was very quickly brought up. Even though there wasn’t any meat, the dishes were very finely made and didn’t diminish one’s appetite.
After eating and rinsing, He Heng wiped his mouth as he remarked: “These days, the palace would be busy. You should follow muhou to manage the affairs of the hougong. After everything is settled, that would make it easier for you to manage the hougong.”
Qu Qing Ju’s eyebrows twitched. Did he Heng mean that hougong was going to be under her management in the future?”
“There are two muhou in the palace, it doesn’t need me to do this,” Qu Qing Ju smiled as she responded, “Does Emperor not worry that it could exhaust me?”
“How would I not worry for you? But this is our hougong, you have to run it,” He Heng gave a warm smile, “If I give it to anyone else, I won’t feel at ease.”
Qu Qing Ju looked at his eyes and found that he looked extremely serious as he spoke, so serious that she almost believed it.
A silent beat later, Qu Qing Mu smiled and complied: “Alright.”
In Zhong Jing Palace, Jing guifei slowly waved the fan in her hand and remarked to Ding mama beside her: “The Emperor welcomed Qu Qing Ju into the palace?”
Ding mama answered: “Nubi heard that right now, niangniang is keeping the Emperor company for the evening meal.”
Jing guifei nodded: “That’s good, with her there, the Emperor knows to take care of his body.”
Ding mama hesitated before being unable to resist asking: “But if Qu niangniang entered the palace, this hougong… …”
“Ben gong’s son’s hougong should be handed to ben gong’s erxi to manage,” Jing guifei’s expression grew serious, “Do not mention this matter again.”
Ding mama’s face paled, her body sinking lower into a bow, “Nubi slipped, niangniang, please forgive me.”
Jing guifei’s expression relaxed and she continued to wave the plain circle fan in her hand, not speaking anymore.
[i] 寿 (shou) is long life, age 康(kang) is healthy, peaceful