Second Arc ー Chapter 6 (Part 1): Ear Piercing
“The pear blossoms have withered…”
Wo Yu said this when she pushed open the windows to receive the early morning sunlight. Turning her head around, she saw that in the magnificently decorated Yao Guang(Yáo Guāng) Palace, the thick red candle had already burned until the end. Yesterday night, the eleventh day of the fourth month, it was the day Third Miss entered the palace to be conferred a title. Yet, His Majesty did not come.
She could not say that she was not anxious in her heart.
Although she knew that the person in Miss’ heart was that Marquis Qi Ao who smiled as warmly as the spring breeze yet always unfathomable, in the end, she had entered the palace and become the emperor’s imperial consort after all. Since she had become an imperial consort, whether she receives the emperor’s favor would become an extremely important matter. The emperor did not even come on the first night she entered the palace. In the future…she really could not imagine.
Compared to her personal maidservant who had a face full of worry, Jiang Chenyu seemed to have long expected this type of treatment. Hence, there was no grief, indignation and resentment on her face at all. She only indifferently instructed her to prepare her for dressing up and changing clothes. She still had to go pay her respects to the Empress Dowager a while later.
Huai Jin sized up the ear piercing on her left ear while combing her hair. She clicked her tongue and said in surprise, “Miss, this ear piercing is pierced really well. It hasn’t rotted in the least.”
“Then can I wear an earring?”
“Miss wants to wear an earring? But we didn’t bring earrings into the palace.”
Jiang Chenyu smiled and told Wo Yu, “Go bring that fragrant rosewood small box over.”
Wo Yu replied with an assent. She quickly rummaged through the chest and found a small and flat box. Huai Jin felt that it looked familiar and could not help but said, “Isn’t this that pearl Second Miss gifted to Miss?”
Jiang Chenyu opened the small box. The two maidservants cried out ‘ah’ in surprise. The reason was none other than seeing that the pearl placed in the small box was still that same pearl but it had already been altered to a completely different form. It was originally a gilded phoenix hairpin encrusted with jade but right now, it had turned into a long earring. When passed through the ear, the fine silver chain would dangle all the way until the pearl reached the shoulder.
The palace servants at the side had never seen such a strange method of wearing and could not help but widened their eyes.
As Jiang Chenyu shook her head, that pearl swayed to and fro beside her neck. Huai Jin’s eyes shone. “This earring accompanied with the ‘falling off the horse’ bun complement each other the best. However, we’ll have to see how Miss can account for this to Second Miss since the hairpin bestowed to Miss has been crafted into an earring without her permission.”
Mentioning about her Elder Sister, Jiang Chenyu’s felt dejected inside her heart. She sighed lowly. “Do you think that matters I need to account for to my Elder Sister is still little just with me entering this palace?”
Ever since the emperor’s imperial decree was issued, it seemed as if communication was cut off from her Elder Sister’s side. She did not express any position and also did not speak about anything. Her Elder Brother entered the palace to visit her once. After he returned home, he only said that she appeared tranquil and did not say anything strange at all. But if it is like this, Jiang Chenyu felt even more perturbed in her heart instead. Her Elder Sister had usually been the most competitive. How could she still appear tranquil after knowing that her younger sister was also going to enter the palace? Furthermore, just not long ago, she even discovered that she could not give birth. With the pressure of two gargantuan mountains crushing down together, if it were anyone else, they would also not be able to withstand it.
However, that did not matter. Jiang Chenyu thought, ‘Later when I go pay my respects to Empress Dowager, I’ll definitely meet Elder Sister. As long as I get to meet her and speak to her, then there is still room to save everything.’
She chose a light blue coat and held it against herself before the mirror. The clothes and pearl reflected against each other and made her skin appear more bright and clean. But, that was nothing more than just skin clothing for decoration purposes.”
Beauty is highly regarded by all under Heaven*.
*T/n: From a poem called ‘Ode to Xi Shi’ by a poet named Wang Wei from the Tang Dynasty.
There are quite a few versions of the English translation available. The link below is the one I used:
But if a woman’s visage could not win the favor of her beloved, no matter how much more beautiful she was, what use did it have?
Jiang Chenyu inhaled a deep breath then slowly exhaled. Regardless of how it was, things have already reached this point and everything was already a foregone conclusion. Thinking about these trivial matters would merely be futile and be a blow to her own state of mind.
It was if the rain from that day was still raining in her heart. She had not forgotten a single detail. She remembered that when she threw herself into Ji Ying’s arms, she was thinking, ‘How am I to go on living if I leave his embrace in this life?’
At that time, she only felt that that was already such a strong pain that could destroy heaven and earth while right now when she was facing the mirror, saw the reflected beautiful woman, bright eyes and white teeth, some self-mockery from experiencing great changes in life involuntarily surfaced. ‘So it turns out that I can actually still go on living. Moreover, I’ll also go on to live more beautifully, not letting sorrow have any chance at all to seep into my appearance.’
With the palace servants gathering around her, she left Yao Guang Palace and set off the Empress Dowager’s residence, Yi Qing(Yì Qīng) Palace. She had just walked only a few steps when she saw a woman who came from afar with two palace servants trailing behind her and was wearing green. It was her Elder Sister, Huayue.
The two sisters bumped into each other and exchanged gazes with each other. The atmosphere was delicate.
Jiang Chenyu took the initiative to move two steps forward and bowed. “Chenyu pays her respects to Elder Sister.”
Jiang Huayue stood there not saying anything. On the contrary, a palace servant behind her said, “May this servant be forgiven for being offensive. This ‘elder sister and younger sister’ method of address should be changed already. We’re in the palace right now. Don’t spoil the customs.”
Jiang Chenyu’s eyelashes trembled. She raised her eyes to look at her Elder Sister but saw her immediately walking past her without saying anything with a face full of apathy. She soon disappeared behind the arched door with those two palace servants.
Wo Yu was stunned with her eyes widened and her mouth agape. She anxiously said, “How could Second Miss treat Miss like this…”
Jiang Chenyu chided her lightly, “Stop talking.”
“I said to stop talking.” She put on a grave expression. Wo Yu instantly did not dare to make a sound. Huai Jin spoke instead, “Although that person’s ears weren’t pleasant, they were facts. It’s different from being in the Prime Minister Residence right now. Wo Yu, you should also change this ‘Miss’ appellation. Call ‘Your Highness’ in the future.”
Seeing Huai Jin’s forbearance and Wo Yu’s grievances, Jiang Chenyu did not reveal anything on her countenance but in her heart, she felt even more terrible than them. Elder Sister ignored her. Not only did she ignore her, she even tacitly consented to a servant bullying her…
Ever since she had memories of them being sisters, they had never been this estranged before. Those past matters of combing hair, talking cheerfully together, sharing food and fruits in the boudoir had ultimately become memories.
She silently drooped her head and silently walked into Yi Qing Palace but saw that there were already more than ten beauties sat inside the room, all with their respective strengths. With just one glance, the whole room emitted light. Jiang Huayue was sitting on the second position at the west. When she saw her, it was equivalent to not seeing her. On the contrary, other imperial consorts with ranks lower than her rose to bow to her one after another. She surveyed the room one round but did not see Xihe and also did not see Ji Hu.
The Empress Dowager had yet to arrive. All the imperial consorts had nothing to do while sitting and chatted idly. An imperial consort smiled as she said, “I have long heard that Right Prime Minister’s younger daughter has outstanding beauty and possesses both integrity and talent. Now that I have seen her today, she indeed well deserves the reputation. Such a wonderful appearance like an immortal really makes us feel ashamed about our own inferiority.”
“That’s right. I haven’t congratulated Pure Consort yet. His Majesty really favors the Jiang Family that even both the daughters have entered the palace. It really is like the Nvying sisters who married the emperor and makes people envious.”
Jiang Chenyu’s heart tightened. She looked towards Jiang Huayue worriedly but saw her Elder Sister who constantly treated her as non-existent raised the corner of her lips and said with a trace of a smile, “I heard that although Lady of Cultivated Deportment Liu doesn’t have a younger sister, you have a niece with outstanding appearance. Why don’t you also send her into the palace? An aunt and niece serving the same husband would also be an interesting story that would spread far and wide, isn’t that right?”
*T/n: Her rank is around a junior second rank. The rank is below the four imperial concubines who are of the senior second rank. They are the lowest rank that can still own a palace.
Lady of Cultivated Deportment Liu face flushed red then turned white. She instantly no longer said anything.
Just when she was feeling awkward, a palace servant shouted, “Empress Dowager has arrivedー” All the imperial concubines hastily deferentially welcomed her together.
Jiang Chenyu had once seen the Empress Dowager a few years ago. She could still remember that she had a dignified disposition and graceful bearing. Now that she saw her again, did she only realize that time spares no one. Especially when she was supported by a huge circle of young and beautiful palace servants, she appeared even more aged and had a sickly look as if she was already approaching the state of the oil giving out when the lamp expires and dying from old age soon.
The Empress Dowager sat at the highest seat. She waved her hands and said, “It’s okay already, everyone may sit.” She changed the topic and asked, “Which is the newly conferred Pure Consort?”
Jiang Chenyu stepped out to kowtow to pay her greetings. The Empress Dowager sized her up detailedly and had a rather profound meaning in her gaze. She had yet to express any views when another announcement could be heard from outside the door, “Consort Xihe has arrivedー”
Although it was still as silent in the chamber, Jiang Chenyu was sensitive to notice that a strange restless atmosphere started to emerge from the water’s surface and surrounded all the imperial consorts.
The curtain to the room was gently opened. Jiang Chenyu raised her eyes and happened to meet Xihe’s gaze who was walking in. Xihe beamed at her.
Although she did not have any favorable impression of her at all, she had to admit that this woman was really beautiful. As soon as she entered, she instantly outshone the whole room of beauties who were attractive in their own ways.
It was still the wide and long plain white robes. Her jet black hair was not rolled into a bun but only lightly bundled behind her head. But how could a heaven-made charm, peerless beauty and deportment be matched with appearances of the secular world?
Gazing at this beauty who proudly overlooked the four nations, Jiang Chenyu could not help but think, ‘Does she actually have any relation to the matter regarding me entering the palace? If I were to say she has no relation to it, why did she summon me into the palace to teach the zither and intentionally let His Majesty see my appearance? If I were to say that she has a relation to it, it makes it unfathomable. Wasn’t she afraid of creating a second Noble Lady Jiang who competes with her for the imperial favor? However, there was also nothing this woman doesn’t dare to do right?’
At that side, Xihe had already walked to the front of the Empress Dowager. She bowed to pay her greetings. “Xihe kneels to pay Empress Dowager respects.”
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