Pampered Into Being the Empress – Chapter 2
Translated by: Cozy Translations
Chapter 2 – Fourth Prince Mu Huai
The head office of the Bureau of Service was located in Ninghui Hall. To get there, one had to pass through the extravagant Xihua Gate. Xihua Gate was guarded by white jade stone pillars, carved exquisitely with dragons and phoenixes of different shapes and sizes flying agilely through the clouds.
In no time, Rong Xi arrived at Ninghui Hall.
The reason behind her early arrival was because the Emperor had his breakfast at three quarters past chenshi1. At this time, the Department of Royal Cuisine within the Bureau of Service would be busy preparing food for the Emperor, and the guards would be more stringent than usual, not letting any passerbys loiter around. But after the Emperor’s breakfast time, the outside courtyard full of coaches and carriages would be on beck and call to whichever master in the palace needed a coach or a carriage. Their servant would have to come here in advance so that the officials in the hall can record and assign a vehicle.
Ninghui Hall contains many different large and small bureaus and departments, so they are busy all the time. The person in charge of recording duties only has this bit of free time early in the morning to see Rong Xi. The people in the palace are always quick at passing on gossip, and Rong Xi has already heard some of it these past few days. There were two masters in the palace that wanted Rong Xi to go serve them.
A while ago, Noble Consort Li’s personal senior attendant, Qiu Ju, had even come to look for her. Carrying a brocade pouch full of golden melon seeds2, she stuffed it into her hands, saying that this was the reward Noble Consort Li bestowed on her.
At that time, the Bureau of Service had yet to assign her to a place, yet Noble Consort Li seemed to be almost certain that she would be assigned to serve Second Princess Mu Qian. She even dispatched her senior attendant to bribe her in advance and form good relations.
There were several reasons why Noble Consort Li was so domineering. One was because she had birthed a son and a daughter for Emperor Mu Zhen and was the one that received the most favor as well. The second was because her father was the military commissioner in charge of the Bureau of Military Affairs. Wielding the Great Qi’s military command tally, his influence was beyond that of even the Left and Right Prime Ministers.
But Rong Xi was very clear that no matter whether she followed Noble Consort Li or Second Princess Mu Qian, she could not accept this ‘reward’. Thus, she politely stuffed the pouch of golden melon seeds back into Qiu Ju’s hands.
Seeing Rong Xi arrive, a little eunuch guided her inside the hall. The stove inside the hall was emitting smoke, and the floors inside were laid with dark red old wood. The interior decor was simple but did not lose the dignity of the royal household.
The recording official wore a cap and an indigo-colored official uniform and was currently relaying important matters to the little eunuch in charge of transcribing. The eunuch that guided Rong Xi in raised his hand and spoke in a voice with a hint of childishness, “Recording Official, Rong gugu has arrived.”
Rong Xi bowed to the recording official and he nodded in acknowledgment, stopping the things he was currently working on. Regardless of what department you were in, everyone in Great Qi’s Bureau of Service was under the jurisdiction of the Chancellery. In the previous dynasty, the chancellor in charge of the chancellery was in the habit of adding officials and treated serving the Emperor as his most important daily duty; he could be counted as the Emperor’s close subject.
However, when Great Qi had its second emperor, which was also the current Emperor Mu Zhen, ascend the throne, the chancellor finally had real power. In recent years, the chancellor had done many things such as sealing3, review memorials, etc. As for the various personnel under the different bureaus and departments that needed to be transferred, as well as any trivial matters in Yongxi Palace that needed to be done, he handed it off to the lower-ranked Recording Official to take care of.
The matter of where Rong Xi was to be assigned was very tricky.
Both Mu Huai and Mu Qian were two masters that could not be offended. The recording official had a very difficult time making a decision these past few days. Naturally, the question of where to transfer a palace maid could not be brought up to the Emperor or Empress. The recording official had inquired with the chancellor about this previously, and the chancellor knew how difficult this matter was. With the excuse of being swamped with his own duties, the chancellor brushed off this responsibility and let the recording official bear this burden alone.
Although the face of the recording official within the hall was full of respect, he gnashed his teeth together silently when he retreated to the back.
Wasn’t this forcing him to be a sinner?
There was only one Rong shi4, and it’s not like he could split her in half to give to each master.
Before Rong Xi arrived at Ninghui Hall, the recording official came up with a devious plan. That was, he would let Rong Xi pick her master herself. That way, if one master wanted to settle accounts, they wouldn’t be able to fault him. If they wanted to settle accounts, then let them settle it with this palace maid with the surname Rong. The recording official had a glib tongue and talked to Rong Xi about letting her choose her own master. He put it very beautifully, saying that he appreciated Rong Xi and letting her choose her own future was his way of acknowledging her.
Hearing this, Rong Xi slightly raised her eyebrow, but she was very clear inside her heart, seeing through the bad intentions of the recording official. Her expression was the same as before, as amicable as the spring breeze. The natural order of the palace was the strong oppressing the weak; the one who was made out to be a scapegoat was always those at the bottom of the barrel. She had already entered the palace for a long time and thus was very clear on the ways people in the palace would cover up for themselves.
Rong Xi’s voice was calm and spoke neither slowly nor quickly to the recording official, “Daren5, please let this slave think about it for a day. After all, this slave can only choose one master from the two.”
Actually, what Rong Xi really meant was: After all, no matter who she chooses, she will inevitably end up offending the other party. The recording official had been working in the palace for so many years, so naturally he understood Rong Xi’s words held another layer of meaning.
Great Qi’s capital city Bianliang was located more south. Rong Xi spoke in the soft and tender Wu dialect6. The recording official secretly felt that even though this Rong shi only looked so-so, her voice was soft and beautiful to listen to. That type of coquettishness in her tone can’t be faked and didn’t seem pretentious at all, instead giving the listener a sweet feeling.
The recording official collected himself. No matter which path she chose, this Rong shi girl would only be gnawing on hard bones7, so he agreed to her request. At the same time, he reminded Rong Xi, “Be quick in making your decision, this matter cannot be dragged on for too much longer.”
Today’s weather was extremely pleasant. The geese that were left behind from the migration season glided through the clear blue skies, quacking as they comfortably rolled through the clouds.
Walking along the path leading towards Fuyu Palace, Rong Xi looked up towards the lone geese flying by. The sun pierced her eyes, and she furrowed her eyebrows slightly. Going back this time, it would be a lie to say that her heart felt heavy.
Rong Xi once secretly suspected that she was made use of by the other concubines to cause Concubine Yu’s miscarriage. Before Concubine Yu died, there too many people she had offended, Noble Consort Li was among them. There was a chance that Noble Consort Li was the person who harmed Concubine Yu. To have her serve someone who caused the death of her old master, Rong Xi felt both guilty and repulsed.
As for Fourth Prince Mu Huai…
The road not too far behind her was full of activity. Just when Rong Xi thought of Mu Huai, she saw the princes and princesses returning from Hanlin Academy8 and walking on the path. She hurriedly walked over to one side. The previous Emperor Mu You had set down a law when he was still alive. Qi dynasty’s princes and princesses must study diligently. Before Zirui Hall’s bell rang to signify ruanshi9, they had already sat down in their seats in Hanlin Academy, quietly waiting for the instructor to begin class.
Rong Xi secretly thought that it was such a coincidence that in the group of princes and princesses that walked by, she seemed to have seen the person she was thinking of–Fourth Prince Mu Huai. Because Mu Huai’s legs were crippled, he did not step out of his palace or attend any banquets very often. Even though Rong Xi had seen him before, she had only glanced at him from a distance.
Today was the first time Rong Xi had seen clearly what Mu Huai looked like.
Mu Huai’s facial features were very sharp and clear. His eyes were calm like still water, and hiding traces of coldness and loneliness. Sitting in a wheelchair, he wore a moon white lanshan10 paired with a dark blue pendant on his waist. Resting on top of his ink black hair was a lone white jade crown. Returning from his studies, Mu Huai’s clothes were not extravagant, but he emitted the sort of arrogant and domineering aura that was unique to those born from the royal family.
The color moon white was originally a very pale sky blue. This color brought out the sickly paleness of Mu Huai’s skin while also contrasting sharply against his ink black eyebrows and hair. When Mu Huai passed by Rong Xi, she respectfully knelt on the ground, following the palace rules by bowing her head so as to not inadvertently bump into the precious masters.
Two words phrases unconsciously flowed into her brain–
Before she could only see him from afar and felt that the princes in the palace all looked good, but he actually turned out to be the most handsome of them all. He looked like a refined gentleman but didn’t have that feminine quality that many of the aristocratic heirs in Great Qi had. Rong Xi knew a little about physiognomy; when she saw Mu Huai just now, she felt that he regarded his surroundings with disdain. If it weren’t for his crippled legs, perhaps he would be Yongxi Palace’s most unruly prince.
Although Rong Xi felt that it was regretful for his legs to be crippled, she had heard long ago that this two-faced prince was most adept at being cold and grumpy. A couple of palace maids in his palace had already died.
Emperor Mu Zhen was a generous and benevolent. When the third dead palace maid’s corpse was carried out of Mu Huai’s palace, he finally told Mu Huai to restrain himself and not take anymore of the palace servants’ lives.
Concubine Yu had a nasty temper, but her way of torturing the palace servants was simply berating them. If she wasn’t satisfied, then she’d slap a couple of mouths or beat them with a rod. But in front of the fourth prince, her methods were just child’s play.
As she continued to be lost in her thoughts, the soft autumn breeze brushed past Rong Xi’s face. A subtle cold fragrance entered her nostrils. Rong Xi’s heart jumped. She knew a couple of the people in the perfume department and was familiar with the way some fragrances smelled. This particular scent was most likely made with the rare and precious pine needles that cold winter plums grew from. It was a very unique scent.
She kept her eyes on an ant that was crawling in the distance, but that cold fragrance kept coming closer and closer. Rong Xi held her breath, the sounds of wooden wheels rolling across the stone floors ringing through her ears.
Mu Huai’s wheelchair stopped in front of her.
Rong Xi evened her breathing. Just as she was at a loss on what to do, she heard him command, “Raise your head.”
Rong Xi originally thought that Mu Huai’s voice would sound very crisp with the characteristics of a youth. After all, he had just turned twenty, so he just became of age. It was wholly unexpected that he would have a low and deep voice that was fully of manly charisma.
Rong Xi didn’t show any signs of being flustered. Although she had no idea what Mu Huai was thinking, she obeyed him and greeted him, “This slave greets Your Highness. Wishing Your Highness eternal peace.”
Mu Huai’s ink black eyes were deep and without emotion as he looked over Rong Xi’s plain appearance. He asked, “Rong Xi, right?”
“Replying to Your Highness, this slave’s name is Rong Xi.”
Hearing Rong Xi’s soft and tender voice, Mu Huai pursed his thin lips. He was secretly suspicious whether this palace maid was as Shun Fu said, a loyal and skilled servant.
At this time, the cold ringing of the bells resounded through the corridor.
Hearing this, Mu Huai hooked up the corners of his lips, but there was no smile on his face. He told Rong Xi in a plain tone, “Pack your things when you go back. Tonight you will come to my palace to serve me.”
His tone was commanding without any room for disobedience. Before Rong Xi could reply to him, she saw Second Princess Mu Qian arriving on her palanquin.
Just now, Mu Qian seemed to have heard Mu Huai conversing with Rong Xi. These past few days, she heard her concubine mother, Noble Consort Li, speak frequently about how this palace name with the surname Rong, will be transferred to their palace. Her concubine mother said that she was an intelligent and thorough person and would be serving her closely in the future.
Originally, Mu Qian didn’t care much for this matter, but today when she saw that Mu Huai was trying fight her for this palace maid, she wanted to determine a winner and loser between them.
Mu Huai’s concubine mother, Virtuous Consort Yin13, was the most favored one by the Emperor when she was still alive. When Mu Huai was thirteen, rumors were swirling in the palace about how Emperor Mu Zhen wanted to instate him as the crown prince. Before this gossip could be determined to be true or not, the palace Virtuous Consort Yin resided in went up in flames.
The fire raged on unceasingly. Virtuous Consort Yin along with tens of palace servants perished in the sea of fire.
Thankfully, Mu Huai was rescued by Shun Fu. However, later he caught a strange illness that rendered him unable to walk normally. A fine young gentleman became a cripple. Seeing how Mu Huai lost his mother at a young age and was crippled, Emperor Mu Zhen doted on him even more.
Mu Qian secretly cursed Mu Huai for being lame in her heart. He was clearly a crippled person yet he just had to fight with her brother14 Mu Ji for Imperial Father’s love.
Getting down from her palanquin, Mu Qian held onto the hand of a palace maid as she walked towards Rong Xi. She spoke in an unkind voice, “Royal Brother sure is sneaky. This palace maid is supposed to come to my palace, how can Royal Brother just steal her away?”
These words held absolutely no respect. It was not at all like how a younger sister should speak to her older brother.
Finished, Mu Qian reached out and pointed towards Rong Xi, gesturing for her eunuchs to steal the person. When the two eunuchs received their order, they held down Rong Xi’s shoulders and lifted her up, preparing to drag her towards Mu Qian’s palace.
Rong Xi couldn’t react in time. She did not expect Mu Qian to treat her as an object, stealing her just because she said so. Mu Huai’s eyebrow twitched. His long and slender index finger lightly tapped against the wheelchair’s wooden handle. He didn’t say anything.
Because his legs were crippled, Mu Zhen granted Mu Huai special permission to bring along personal bodyguards whenever he was in the palace. The bodyguard behind Mu Huai immediately understood and pulled out his sword to block Mu Qian’s eunuch.
When the two eunuchs saw the sharp glint of the blade, they were so frightened they turned pale, immediately releasing Rong Xi. Seeing this, Mu Qian banished her teeth in anger. She secretly cursed Mu Huai countless times for being a damn cripple.
Sparks of killing intent seemed to fly between them. Mu Huai glanced at Rong Xi from the corner of his eyes. It was a look that was originally difficult for people to detect, but Rong Xi immediately understood his meaning. Rong Xi didn’t think any further and as if she was possessed, she walked behind Mu Huai’s wheelchair.
Sitting in the sun, Mu Huai’s gaze followed Rong Xi’s steps, pausing for a moment on her figure.
This palace maid seemed to be intelligent after all.
Thinking this, Mu Huai saw Mu Qian angrily glaring at him and he put away his slight smile. His voice was as cold as ice as he spoke to Mu Qian, “She’s mine.”
Mu Qian was in disbelief and she found it difficult to say anything due to her anger, “You…”
“In the future, if someone causes trouble for her, then they will be going against me.”
Translator’s Comments: We’ve finally finished introducing our two MCs so time for the romance to start! And our author has also finished the main story, so we officially have 101 chapters + extras
P.S. I’m also still trying out different themes, so please bear with me as I find one that’s suitable, pleasing, and easy to navigate in. Sorry for the inconvenience!
- In modern time, this would be around 7:45 AM
- Gold molded to look like melon seeds, often bestowed by the Emperor as rewards for his subjects.
- This usually means to shut down a residence, business, etc.
- Shi is used to denote the family/clan that someone came from. In this case, Rong shi means that she is “of family Rong”
- Literally means big person, but in context is used to address an official
- 吴侬软语 (Wu Nong Ruan Yu) is a Chinese idiom that literally means “tender speech of Wu Nong” as people who speak this dialect tend to sound more soft and light.
- Idiom that means that she’ll be suffering or that there’s hard days ahead
- Essentially a private school for both royals and elites
- The time between 7 AM – 9 PM
- It’s a traditional attire for male scholars/students. Example
- To mean the good conduct of men
- To mean something more beautiful than the tranquility of the moon
- Same rank as Noble Consort Li, just different title
- In this case, she means brother from the same mother