Pampered Into Being the Empress – Chapter 3
Translated by: Cozy Translations
Chapter 3 – Life or Death, It’s Up to Him
The palace Mu Huai lived in was called Quyun Palace. This area was very close to the eastern gate. Walk a few steps out the door and you would arrive at the main hall where hundreds of scholars, soldiers, and officials have audience with the emperor.
Rong Xi didn’t have many personal belongings to pack up. Before long, she followed Mu Huai’s senior eunuch, Shun Fu, and entered Quyun Palace. Shun Fu was close to sixty years old. His hair was peppered with flecks of white hair. Although he did not seem to be very healthy, his back was ramrod straight when he walked.
Shun Fu took Rong Xi on a simple tour around Quyun Palace and its surroundings. Although the Fuqu Palace that Concubine Yu lived in had quiet and exquisite landscapes, it was a far cry from Mu Huai’s residence. Quyun Palace had a double-eave roof and grandly carved walls. Borrowing the colors of twilight, the colored caisson drawings1 inside were even more beautiful and vivid.
Rong Xi remembered that Concubine Yu’s sleeping hall had five guardian beasts on the roof2, but Quyun Palace had seven. It was only two less than the Emperor’s palace’s roof. However, within the palace, other than Quyun Palace, only the Empress’ palace had seven guardian beasts. From these small details, it was clear as day that Mu Zhen extremely favored his fourth son, Mu Huai.
Rong Xi quietly followed behind Shun Fu as they crossed the courtyard’s pond walking on the white jade stone bridge. The colorful scales of the koi fish inside the pond shimmered under the light. The trees in the surroundings were flourishing as a light fragrance seemed to be in the air.
The scenery in front of her was definitely extremely luxurious.
Quyun Palace even contained a side tower. Rong Xi seemed to have seen a glimpse of Mu Huai sitting at the top. He watched as the sun slowly set behind the walls of the Forbidden City, and Rong Xi quietly stared at him.
Behind Mu Huai were a couple of bodyguards standing at a distance. His lone figure sat at the top of the side tower, arousing feelings of enviousness for how outstanding he was. Rong Xi just came here; Mu Huai had not yet allowed her to serve him.
The old eunuch Shun Fu had a kind attitude. When he finished taking Rong Xi on a tour of Quyun Palace, he spoke in a warm voice, “Miss Rong should rest well tonight. Tomorrow morning I will assign you some duties to serve His Highness. Your salary will be twice what you earned when you were serving Concubine Yu. As for where you will live…I heard that Miss Rong lived alone at Fuqu Palace. I especially prepared a room for you, so that Miss Rong can have some more peace and quiet.”
Hearing this, Rong Xi blinked and answered, “Many thanks gong gong3.”
She didn’t think that coming here to serve Mu Huai would not only result in her salary being doubled but also her living quarters had been upgraded. When she was walking with Shun Fu just now, he allowed her to ask questions she had and he would patiently answer them one by one in detail.
Rong Xi asked Shun Fu some questions from the side and found out that when he started following Mu Huai’s mother, Worthy Consort Yin, he was already not young. Shun Fu’s body was not healthy at that time either. But Worthy Consort Yin was virtuous and kept Shun Fu in the palace. Because of this, Shun Fu also became very loyal to the mother and son duo. The incident where Worthy Consort Yin and her palace servants burnt to death made many people sigh with regret.
Afterward, Emperor Mu Zhen ordered people to rebuild the destroyed palace. Every year on Worthy Consort Yin’s death anniversary, he would personally go there alone and pay tribute to the perished beauty. After that incident, Mu Huai only trusted Shun Fu alone.
Shun Fu wanted to serve Mu Huai until his last breath, but his body was beginning to break down. A while ago, the physician took his pulse and told him in a somber voice that he would not have much longer to live. Right now, he’s relying on medicine to stay alert and forcing himself to muster up his strength. A day passed is a day lived.
Under such circumstances, Mu Huai naturally was unwilling for Shun Fu to continue serving him in the palace. He ordered people to build a residence outside the palace, wanting Shun Fu to recuperate in peace there. But if Shun Fu couldn’t find someone to replace him to serve Mu Huai, he couldn’t be at ease. Therefore, Shun Fu went around the palace in search of a suitable person and finally settled on Rong Xi.
After Concubine Yu died, hearing the recording official’s remarks, Shun Fu wanted to transfer her to Quyun Palace. Rong Xi originally thought that Mu Huai wanted her to serve him just like Mu Qian. But after listening to Shun Fu’s words, she realized that the reason Mu Huai fought with Mu Qian for her was because he trusted Shun Fu’s judgment.
Returning to her room, seeing how Rong Xi stopped talking, Shun Fu warmly asked her, “Does Miss Rong have any other questions?”
Rong Xi hesitated for a moment and then decided to just voice out the suspicion in her heart.
“This slave wants to know, in the past…how did the the maid serving His Highness pass away?”
Hearing this, Shun Fu fell silent for a while and his face did not look as amicable as before. The golden-tailed fish jumped out of the water and sank back down to the bottom of the pond.
Rong Xi felt uncomfortable inside. But this was a question she had to ask. Only by knowing why those maids were put to death would she be able to know Mu Huai’s bottom line and avoid angering him.
Shun Fu’s voice was calm when he finally opened his mouth, “Rest assured Miss Rong, His Highness would not take your life on a whim. But there is one thing that Miss Rong should be clear on. Since you have entered Quyun Palace, whether you live or die is all up for His Highness to decide.”
“Life or death, it’s up to him.”
Shun Fu paused before he added on the last sentence.
Eunuch Shun Fu did not tell her the reason why those palace maids died, and instead left her with these words. Rong Xi understood. How could such a good thing like doubled salary come so easily? It seems like from today onwards, she must carefully protect her head.
Rong Xi calmed down her racing heart and schooled her expression into one of calmness as she respectfully replied, “This slave understands. Thanks gong gong for the notice.”
The new moon was a thin crescent shape; the clouds were strange and forboding; the night was dark and ominous.
Before Shun Fu left, he resumed his warm and gentle manner from before. After coughing heavily a few times, he let Rong Xi return to rest. Before sleeping, Rong Xi would survey her surroundings. Seeing how there weren’t any people, she finally relaxed and removed the makeup from her face, restoring her beautiful appearance. She quietly laid on the bed and shut her eyes.
The notion of serving Mu Huai made her heart quiver in fear. The underlying meaning of Shun Fu’s words were: he would stay in this palace for this month to observe whether she would be able to serve Mu Huai to his satisfaction. Since she has become Mu Huai’s palace maid, she will do her best to serve him.
But if Mu Huai felt dissatisfied with her, would she have the same ending as those other maids, carried out of this extravagant Quyun Palace as a cold and stiff corpse?
After releasing a heavy sigh, Rong Xi flipped over. As fatigue slowly washed over her, she covered the quilt over her face while she comforted herself inside. Life or death, poor or rich, it’s all up to fate. Since she has already came here, what’s the point of thinking so much?
Because she has encountered so many twists and turns ever since she was a child, Rong Xi’s rule of surviving was that no matter what happens, she must have a good night’s sleep. If she wanted to pass the days by slightly better with this identity and secure her little life, then she must be fully awake and alert during the day. She definitely cannot be tired.
It was a night of good dreams. Although she was worried that Mu Huai wanted her life, Rong Xi had a wonderful time sleeping last night. She quickly concealed her appearance before the skies even brightened. After sitting in her room for about half an hour, Shun Fu finally brought along a young eunuch with him as well as a slice of lotus leaf red bean cake for her to eat as breakfast.
Eating the chewy red bean cake, Rong Xi saw Shun Fu’s face was quite pale. He looked even more sickly than yesterday, but she did not dare to ask. She always kept in mind that to survive in the palace, it was best to not ask too many questions.
After she quickly finished the red bean cake, Shun Fu led her towards the hall Mu Huai lived. On the way there, Shun Fu asked Rong Xi, “Does Miss Rong know how to style a man’s hair?”
Rong Xi nodded her head, “I do.”
When Concubine Yu was still alive, she took care of all of her clothing, hair, and makeup. Even though she was more adept at women’s hairstyles, she had once learned how to style men’s hair as well.
Shun Fu nodded his head in approval, “En, this morning you will serve His Highness by styling his hair.”
Rong Xi assented.
When Shun Fu saw that Rong Xi was still young in age and on the verge of blossoming into a woman, yet spoke in a sophisticated and mature way, he couldn’t help but feel emotional. After Mu Huai turned thirteen, he was the only one by his side serving him. He didn’t know if this palace maid in front of him would be able to satisfy His Highness.
In the middle of the bedroom was a smoker currently burning incense. Rong Xi followed Shun Fu and entered the inner room that Mu Huai lived in.
In a little while, Mu Huai would be going to Hanlin Academy for lessons, but he was currently sitting in front of the copper mirror. Through the mirror, Rong Xi saw his slightly frowning eyebrows, the ink-black hair spread out behind him, his facial features proud and handsome.
Seeing Rong Xi, Mu Huai lifted his eyes and took a glance at her through the mirror. Immediately afterwards, he shut his eyes and didn’t say anything. Rong Xi finally personally experienced what it’s like to feel pressure from someone despite them not being angry. She stood still at her original spot, looking over at Shun Fu.
Shun Fu saw that Rong Xi was slightly confused and spoke in a warm voice into her ear, “Go on in, go style His Highness’ hair.”