Pampered Into Being the Empress – Chapter 1
Translated by: Cozy Translations
Chapter 1 – Rong Xi
Before summer ended, Great Qi’s capital city, Bianjing, seemed to have entered into the beginning of autumn as the rainy season swiftly arrived. For several days, luxurious red bricks and green tiles on Yongxi Palace
1 in the Forbidden City were cleansed by the autumn rain. Early this morning, the rain seemed to finally have the intention of stopping.
In the belltower atop of the gate of Zirui Hall, the officer in the Bureau of Astrology in charge of checking the time ordered the watchman to strike the bell, ringing out a heavy and melodious sound. Right when it became maoshi2, Rong Xi woke up and looked at the bronze mirror in her room.
Rong Xi entered Yongxi Palace when she was thirteen. It’s already been three years since she entered the Forbidden City to work, and she just turned sixteen this year and was promoted to the rank of a female official. The court ladies lower than her in rank all had to call her gugu3
As the day slowly began, the warmth of the rising sun rays shone into Rong Xi’s single bedroom, lighting up half of her body. The beauty in the bronze mirror had good looks and fair skin and could be called a stunning beauty.
With a high nose and cherry lips so delicate they could’ve been crafted by a celestial sculptor, all of her features harmonized perfectly. She was clearly born with a pair of bewitching peach blossom eyes, yet the corners of her eyes were slightly slanted downward and her eyebrows were soft. What was originally a stunningly beautiful face became cute yet seductive with a hint of coquettishness due to those slightly innocent eyes.
After brushing her hair, Rong Xi took out a lacquer wooden box that was stuffed with various bottles and jars. They looked to be cosmetic products meant to beautify one’s face, but reality spoke otherwise. Rong Xi used these to conceal her appearance instead.
All the ladies in the world wished to be a stunning beauty, and Rong Xi was someone who possessed an enviable appearance. However, she is aware that for a woman like her that did not have a background, her looks would bring her disaster instead.
Holding up the brush, Rong Xi worked on her face. She used a special type of glue to change her double eyelids into monolids, and with some further adjustments, her pair of peach blossom eyes instantly became dull and common.
Finally, she put some freckles on her cheeks, and the person in the mirror wasn’t exactly ugly, but was extremely plain, a far cry from the word ‘beautiful’. Rong Xi finished off her makeup by concealing her age.
Even when she finished eating a simple breakfast, the lower ranked palace maids in the room next door were still sound asleep. Rong Xi was the gugu in charge of them, but did not wake them up like usual. Servants woke up early in order to serve their masters, but their master, Concubine Yu4 died three days ago from illness.
It was just a concubine that died, it wasn’t important enough for the people in the palace to don on hemp clothes5 and show their piety. But since Rong Xi recognized a master, she naturally had to pay her respects. These past few days, she had been mourning for her old master in secret and wore very plain and simple clothes.
Concubine Yu came from a good family and was very pretty. Her elder brother had also made military merits, and when she was alive, she was very much favored by Emperor Qi Zhuang, Mu Zhen6
Recalling Concubine Yu, Rong Xi felt some wisps of sadness within her heart. This master of hers was arrogant and a showoff, when she was alive she had offended many people within the palace. Emperor Mu Zhen had few children, and Concubine Yu had only entered the harem for two years when she became pregnant. As it had already been many years since a prince had been born in the palace, the emperor showered her with even more love.
When Concubine Yu became pregnant, Rong Xi felt happy for her and became even more careful in serving her. She always hoped that her master could safely give birth, regardless if it was a prince or a princess. As long as there was a royal offspring, then Concubine Yu’s position would become more stable. But in the end, Concubine Yu still lost the child.
After Concubine Yu miscarried, she often fell into a daze. Emperor Qi Zhuang felt very sorry for her and personally came to see Concubine Yu multiple times. But the pain of losing her child made Concubine Yu lose the heart to fight for favor. She always felt that someone was trying to harm her, and she was wracked with nightmares every night.
When Concubine Yu had her menstrual period, she would become irritable and would often vent her anger by beating her servants. At that time Rong Xi was afraid that Concubine Yu’s methods would cause the people in the palace to become unhappy and secretly went to console the eunuchs and palace maids that Concubine Yu had beaten. On the other hand, she also felt that since she was the senior palace maid by Concubine Yu’s side, she was also somewhat related to her losing her child.
If she was just a little more careful, then her master might not have lost the child.
That day Concubine Yu burst into a fit of temper because she didn’t like the tea being served by the maid. Rong Xi knelt in front of Concubine Yu, earnestly begging for her to extinguish her anger. If she had to hate someone, then punish her alone, it was her who had failed in her duty of protecting her master’s child. Although Concubine Yu had a terrible temper, she never beat her.
Hearing Rong Xi’s words, Concubine Yu gave a miserable smile, “Each one of them wants to harm me, but they are unable to protect themselves…what does it have to do with a small palace maid like you?”
Recalling these words from her old master, Rong Xi felt ashamed.
Everyone in the palace believed that Concubine Yu was spoiled and arrogant and was difficult to get along with. When Rong Xi first began to serve her, she also thought the same away, but she was never one to run away from hardships. Two years ago, she started as a rough servant7 under Concubine Yu. Because she was diligent in her work and made the master feel reassured, she slowly climbed up to become a senior palace maid, receiving Concubine Yu’s deep trust.
Before Concubine Yu passed away, she even left behind a great deal of money for Rong Xi that she had brought from her maternal home. She even told her to find a new master and lead a good life, there was no need to miss her. On the road to the Yellow Springs8, she would still be the beauty walking most carefree.
Rong Xi was ill at ease in accept the money and instead asked an errand boy to go to Daxiangguo Temple9 and purchase some spiritual artifacts. Taking the chance before the eunuchs lifted the casket, they were placed in Concubine Yu’s casket. Hopefully, Concubine Yu’s journey on the Yellow Springs road will be smoother.
“Squeak-” With a sound, the door was pushed open.
Stepping across the threshold, she stood in front of the window of the maids’ room, quietly staring at the eight sleeping palace maids.
Fuyu Palace had a unique scenery in that purple wisteria creeped along the red walls in the courtyard. Rong Xi was currently thinking about other matters when one of the young eunuchs of Fuyu Palace came over to greet her, interrupting her train of thought.
“Rong gugu woke up as early as always. Where are you going so early in the morning?”
Hearing a voice, she turned around to see two of Fuyu Palace’s eunuchs sweeping the courtyard. She replied lightly, “Yesterday night, one of the errand people from the Palace Department came to notify me to go to the Department of Service in the morning. Most likely, they will probably assign me some things to do.”
When Rong Xi’s words just fell, several small, brightly colored hummingbirds chirped and landed on the teal stone floor near Rong Xi. They weren’t frightened of humans either, taking turns to peck the seeds on the ground.
The hummingbirds in Yongxi Palace were much more precious than the ones outside the palace. Their sounds were quite pleasant.
Before Rong Xi left Fuyu Palace, she told the eunuch to wake those palace maids. The eunuch respectfully assented and told Rong Xi to have a pleasant outing, but he felt that her voice was even more melodious than then sounds of these precious birds.
Even though Fuyu Palace’s young Rong gugu was not very pretty and was in fact, quite plain, her cold voice was like the sound of a clear stream hitting a stone. It truly was a beautiful voice.
When Concubine Yu was still alive, she always teased Rong Xi, saying that with such a voice, she might as well learn how to sing, so that she could sing for her and the Emperor to add some flavor and excitement.
Watching Rong Xi’s slender back, the eunuch couldn’t help but sigh. If Rong Xi was just slightly more prettier, then with her beautiful voice and elegant figure, she might even be lucky enough to receive favor and become a Lady10 Although this Rong gugu was not pretty, she had an extraordinary temperament and did things very diligently and treated people very kindly. Don’t even mention Rong Xi’s relationship with the other servants in Yongxi Palace, even the eight young maids in Fuyu Palace respected and admired her.
Rong Xi looked very gentle but she had some tricks up her sleeve as well to be able to keep the eight maids under her in control. When doing things, she was gentle and amicable but also was able to elicit some fear in those maids towards her. Many of the senior palace maids in their twenties or even the mama‘s11 in their thirties can’t compete with Rong Xi in terms of capability.
When her master passed away, the officials in the Department of Service hadn’t had the time to arrange where the servants in Fuyu Palace would go. One of the other eunuchs felt bored and set down the broom in his hand and began to gossip with an older eunuch.
His voice carried the high pitch that was unique to eunuchs as he spoke, “Ay, for ordinary servants like us, we should just quietly wait for the officials to assign us to any open spots in the palace. But I really hope that I won’t be assigned to Plum Garden or Ye Ting12 to do any rough work, I definitely can’t handle that. Rong gugu‘s future is probably bright though, see, those officials from the Department of Service only invited her. It must be a good position.”
The older eunuch’s voice carried some hints of roughness characteristic of normal men and sneered, his tone somewhat resigned, “Good my ass, I’m afraid that the position she gets assigned will be even lower than ours.”
The young eunuch was confused upon hearing this, “What do you mean? I vaguely heard a while ago that Department of Tailor was in need of a head maid. That royal tailor official wanted Rong gugu to take over that position.”
The older eunuch was silent for a while and then waved his hand. The Department of Tailor naturally was good. Rong Xi was intelligent and quick at learning, and she had some skill in embroidering clothes, much better than the other female tailors. Earning a living in the Department of Tailor was wholly reliant on one’s one skills. With Rong Xi’s talents, if she worked as a head maid for a few years, plus with the royal tailor official’s intent to groom her as a successor, she could very well become the head of the Department of Tailor when she turned twenty. At that time, she’d be in charge of dozens of people, and she’d be a ranked female official, naturally she’d receive a nice stipend.
It was just unfortunate that Rong Xi would no longer be able to become the head maid in the Department of Tailor.
Seeing how the older eunuch stayed silent and only let out a couple of sighs, the younger eunuch became slightly anxious and asked again, “Aiya, what news did you hear, don’t leave me hanging, hurry and tell me.”
The older eunuch glanced at him.
In the end, he lowered his voice and whispered into his ear, “I don’t know which master Rong gugu will end up with, but I can tell you this, the one she’ll be following will definitely be even more difficult to deal with than our old master Concubine Yu.”
Even more difficult than Concubine Yu?
The young eunuch sucked in his breath, already having an inkling in mind of who that person is.
Other than Concubine Yu, there were two more masters who had terrible tempers.
One was the daughter of Yongxi Palace’s most favored Noble Consort Li, Second Princess Mu Qian. This Second Princess had just turned thirteen, and was extremely pampered since young. Due to Noble Consort Li being the most favored as well as having a powerful family backing her, she didn’t even pay attention to the other consorts or princes. The only person she slightly showed respect to was the Empress.
Although she was young, if the maids serving her failed to satisfy her demands, Mu Qian would slap them and pull out their finger nails. If the maid assigned to her was slightly prettier than her or was slightly more outstanding than her, Mu Qian would smear hot chili paste on their face, destroying their looks.
Coincidentally, as he was thinking of Mu Qian’s methods of torturing people, an autumn breeze blew by, the young eunuch couldn’t help but shiver.
Although Mu Qian’s was cruel and tortured her servants, she was still not as frightful as Yongxi Palace’s other master.
After all, no one in Mu Qian’s palace ever died.
Plus, rumors had it that the other master’s palace had killed off several palace maids. Other than Mu Qian, the person Rong Xi would most likely end up serving would probably be that eccentric Fourth Prince, Mu Zhun.
Hello, it’s Cozy here! Thank you for reading my translation *bows* I will do my best to post regularly twice a week (currently thinking Wednesdays & Saturdays), but things might change depending on how busy real life commitments are. Any suggestions and feedback is welcome, so please comment below 😀 (P.S. This wasn’t proofread by an editor, so please forgive me for any grammar/spelling mistakes. I’ll try to fix them ASAP if you point them out!)
- This is not an actual palace in the Forbidden City, FYI
- In modern times, it would be the time period between 5AM – 7AM
- Means “Aunt”. In this case, it’s used as a sign of respect.
- Her official title is zhaorong which means “Lady of Beautiful Countenance”, but I shortened it to just Concubine for ease.
- In ancient China, people wore hemp clothes for mourning.
- Emperors usually had both an era name they took on when they ascended the throne and a personal name they were given when they were born. In this case, his era name is Qi Zhuang while his personal name is Mu Zhen.
- Meaning she did the chores that required rough work (ie sweeping, etc.)
- Chinese equivalent of the River Hades, which serves as the path for souls to go to in the afterlife.
- One of China’s most famous Buddhist temples
- The official title here is cairen, which means ‘Talented Lady’. It’s different from Concubine Yu’s title in that Concubine Yu is a titled concubine and of higher ranking, while cairen is a more general term and doesn’t refer to any person specifically.
- Senior ranking palace maids that are usually older