Chapter 177 - Scheme

Princess Consort Jing seemed to realize that she was being a bit too severe and lightly sighed, “I know that you haven’t had it easy. Your eldest brother is the heir of Prince Jing’s household and he had been personally taught by your father. Third son is the youngest at home and had a weak body after being born, so he received a bit more care from me and your father. You are the second son sandwiched between an older and younger brother, so it would be hard for Mother and Father to avoid somewhat neglecting you. However, Second Son, you must remember that you, Li’er, and Yang’er are all my flesh and blood. You are all are incredibly important to me!”

Everyone in the capital knew that Prince Jing and his wife were a couple that loved each other very much and that Prince Jing pampered his wife beyond expectation! The prince’s residence not only didn’t have any concubines living in it but he also got rid of any maidservants who had other ideas.

That’s right, you’re not crazy, it was Prince Jing himself! He managed to resist the alluring temptations and only loved his wife. It had been like this for the past ten years. There wasn’t a single married woman or noble maiden in the capital who didn’t envy Princess Consort Jing for having a good life.  

The princess consort had been married for twenty-five years and had given birth to three sons and one daughter. The eldest son, Zhu Junli, had been designated the heir since he was born. Prince Jing thought it would be too tiring for his wife to undertake his education, so once his eldest son just started to learn how to talk, he personally educated him himself. In addition, he imbued his son with the necessity of protecting and respecting his mother.

Second Son Zhu Junxi had a difficult birth and the princess consort had a lot of postpartum bleeding. She was nursed for a long time before she was out of danger. At that time, Prince Jing didn’t even go to court anymore. He personally served his wife at her bedside and refused to let other people take over. Although the princess consort was ultimately able to retain her life, her body was no longer the same as before. Whenever the wind blew on her, she would get a headache and pain in her heart. This made Prince Jing very worried. Naturally, he was not very happy with his second son for causing his wife’s problems and didn’t like him very much.

Their third child, Zhu Miaoke, was a daughter. She had two older brothers and was very adorable. It wasn’t surprising that both her mother and father doted upon her, especially Prince Jing. He pampered the little girl who resembled his wife to the skies.

When the princess consort was pregnant with her third son, Zhu Junyang, they had to use medications to hasten his birth prematurely due to her body’s condition. After he was born, the imperial physician said that this son might be too premature and may not survive to adulthood. Princess Consort Jing felt very remorseful and focused all of her energy towards raising her youngest son. In order to not let his wife fret too much, Prince Jing brought over all of the famous doctors to treat his son and was finally able to preserve his life. By the time their third son was around three to four years of age, he was no different than any other child in his age group.

Thus, Second Son Zhu Junxi was the one who got the short end of the stick. His father snubbed him while his mother was too busy to take care of him. When he was young, Zhu Junxi was clever and sensible, and he even knew how to help his mother take care of his brother, who was younger than him by five years.

However, as he slowly got older, a seed of jealousy started to grow within his heart. In addition, some unscrupulous people also deliberately tried to incite disharmony. Slowly, resentment accumulated inside him. The year when his younger brother, who was only fifteen years old, was personally give the title of royal prince by the emperor after he finished a seafaring trip, Zhu Junxi felt even more resentful. Why was eldest brother titled the heir as soon as he was born? Why did his youngest brother, who didn’t do much, get to be entitled? Why was he, who was also a legitimate son of Prince Jing, always neglected by everyone...

However, he naturally had a kind heart and couldn’t cruelly murder his own kin and blood. The most he could do was to occasionally try to say bad things about his brothers in front of their parents.

Although Princess Consort Jing had been pampered and protected for most of her life, she was clever and had a good understanding of people’s hearts. She was well aware of the inner struggle that often occurred both overtly and covertly within wealthy and prestigious families. She had previously believed that her household was simple. There weren’t any concubines vying for favor, and no concubine-born children around to cause trouble. Thus, her family shouldn’t have any shameful secrets or fighting. However, she never expected that her usually sensible and respectful second son, the one she never had to worry about, had an unsatisfied heart.

Zhu Junxi, who had just received a scolding, had a stubborn expression his face. Seeing that, Princess Consort Jing stopped trying to feign an illness and sat up straight in her seat. She lovingly caressed her son’s handsome face and gently said, “Second Son, I and your father have neglected you all these years. I deeply apologize for hurting you. However, this cannot be the reason why you hate your brothers. If you want to hate, hate me, your mother, instead! If it weren’t for my body disappointing me at the time, how could I neglect you…”  

Zhu Junxi’s eyes dimmed as he quietly replied, “Mother, I don’t hate anyone. I just feel that it’s somewhat unfair. Eldest Brother and Younger Brother can all make you proud, only I...Mother, I want to enlist in the army!”

“Enlist?” Princess Consort Jing stared at her second son with an obvious look of surprise on her face. She quietly commented, “Although our current emperor is a wise ruler, your father has a high rank with many responsibilities. If you enlist and gain military power, I’m afraid the imperial family might become afraid…”

“Mother, I’ve already thought of everything you just mentioned! I want to conceal my identity and start from the lowest ranks to see how far I can climb using my own abilities. Mother, I want to prove to myself that I’m not mediocre. That way, I can also be like Eldest and Youngest Brother and make you proud…” Zhu Junxi also knew that his current attitude wasn’t good. If he continued to stay at home, he was afraid that the feeling of injustice in his heart would evolve into true hate and cause a conflict at home.

Princess Consort Jing tightly held onto her second son’s hand and remarked reluctantly, “You want to start from the lowest ranks? Swords have no eyes and the battlefield is cruel and merciless. If you end up in an accident, how could I, your mother, live anymore?”

Zhu Junxi squeezed his mother’s hand and comforted her, “Mother, father has hired a famous master since we were young. The master taught us both literary arts and martial arts. Although I am not as good at literary arts as eldest and youngest brother, my martial arts are no joke. I’m not boasting, but neither of my brothers would be able to win against me, even if they worked together. Don’t worry about me, Mother!”

When the princess consort saw her second son’s steady gaze and decisive expression, she knew that he spent a lot of time thinking about this. If she tried to force him to stay at home, then her son would truly become worthless in the future! She weakly leaned back on the cushions in the carriage and somewhat resentfully complained, “All of you have ideas and plans! One has to go out to sea despite all our attempts to stop him, while another wants to rush into the battlefield to prove himself. Have any of thought about my feelings about this?” 

”Mother, please forgive your son for being unfilial! If I had to stay at home any longer, I...I don’t know what I might turn into! I don’t want to do something that hurts you, so please allow me to be selfish for once!” Zhu Junxi fell to his knees and forcefully kowtowed to his mother three times.  

Princess Consort Jing hurriedly raised her second son back up. Her eyes filled with tears as she slowly nodded her suddenly heavy head. She gently replied, “Second Son! You must achieve your goals and prove to yourself. Mother will not block you. However, you must remember that every strand of hair and piece of flesh on your body came from your parents, so you must take very good care of yourself…”

“Mother…” Zhu Junxi noticed that his mother’s eyes were full of tears, so he could only choke out one word before his emotions overwhelmed him. He solemnly nodded his head, “I...I’m going to buy some watermelon…”

If he didn’t step off the carriage now, he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to hold back his own tears. He didn’t want his mother to see such a weak side of him.

“Young Master Zhu, my aunt wants to ask, does the princess consort know where she wants to lodge tonight?” Right after Zhu Junxi came down from the carriage, he saw a pretty young maiden dressed in pink clothes who was looking at him bashfully.

Prince Jing had a noble rank and was trusted by the emperor. Many of the high-ranking officials at court wanted to use marriage with his family as a way to consolidate their own positions at court. In addition, Prince Jing’s three legitimate sons all had good reputations and handsome looks. Thus, many young ladies in the capital silently admired them. A marriage with one of Prince Jing’s sons was their secret desire...

A similar shy and retiring expression of the young girl in front of him had been seen by Zhu Junxi too many times in the past. The amiable and kind manner he had in front of the princess consort disappeared when he confronted outside people. He frowned and a hint of impatience entered his eyes, “Such a question could have easily been asked by a maidservant. Is there a point in having you, Miss Xia, personally coming over?”

“I…” Xia Furong opened her eyes widely, and her lip slightly trembled as she slightly sobbed. She looked pitifully at Zhu Junxi.

Zhu Junxi became even more impatient and lightly waved his arm. He decidedly said, “If you have any other questions, then just ask my mother! I have other things to do!”

Xia Furong watched as Zhu Junxi ruthlessly left and then wiped the pitiful expression from her face. Her eyes glinted with shrewdness. Her father was only a fifth-ranked minor official at court. In the capital, one could hit dozens of fifth-ranked officials just by randomly throwing a stick.

She had many sisters at home and also had a stepmother suppressing her. She had no option but to try to scheme on her own. Her paternal aunt was childless and was also a third-ranked noblewoman. Although her uncle was a bit uncouth, he was still a third-ranked official who was regarded highly by the emperor. She had also asked about her aunt’s personality and deliberately changed her own behavior to fit the woman’s tastes. In front of her, she pretended to be innocent and sweet as well a bit silly and delicate. Thus, she was able to win her paternal aunt’s affections.

After inquiring around, she discovered that her uncle had an old injury and would have difficulty fathering a child in the future. Thus, an idea sprouted. She needed to curry their favor by being obedient and see if they might adopt her as her paternal aunt’s daughter. In the future, that would mean she had become a major third-ranked official’s legitimate daughter. With her uncle’s network, how could she not find an ideal husband in the future?

However, she never would have expected, never would have thought, that her uncle would adopt a little farmgirl when he was sent as an imperial envoy to the insignificant town of Tanggu. Every time he talked about that lowly farmgirl, he praised her to the skies. A lowly peasant girl, who knew how to cook a few dishes, had been raised so high in a second. In addition, that little brat even took away what should have been hers? Dream on!!

Therefore, when her paternal aunt packed her luggage a few days ago in preparation for travelling to Tanggu Town to give her uncle a nice surprise, Xia Furong managed to persuade her aunt with great difficulty to let her come too. She wanted to see just what sort of base person wanted to seize what was hers!

However, she never would have expected that, on the way there, they would encounter the prestigious Princess Consort Jing and the lofty and handsome second son of Prince Jing. Although it was rumored that the second son wasn’t very favored at home, he was still a son of an imperial prince. Today, she could tell from a glance that the rumors were true: he had an attractive appearance and elegant bearing. Every movement he made spoke of his noble birth. He was absolutely someone who was hard to find, a man who would be an ideal husband!

Once the two families figured out the identities of the people within the carriages, they decided to travel as a group. For the rest of the journey, Xia Furong would always inadvertently appear in front of Zhu Junxi and try to become closer to him. She always used what she considered to be her best angle, act shy and timid, and sweetly gaze at Prince Jing’s second son.

Xia Furong believed that, among her numerous sisters, she had the best appearance. She was convinced that, with her good looks and clever plans, she would be able to make Prince Jing’s second son look favorably upon her.

Unfortunately, the situation was the opposite to what she had wanted. Zhu Junxi always turned a blind eye to her coquettish actions. Because of society’s expectations of what men and women should do, she couldn’t be too forward in fear that she might make the second young master and the princess consort disgusted with her. Thus, despite trying for three days straight, she could never find the chance to privately speak with him.

Xia Furong wasn’t discouraged and always silently observed Zhu Junxi’s every movement. At last, just earlier, she found her opportunity to talk to Second Young Master Zhu. However, he didn’t even treat her politely. Was it because her charm wasn’t strong enough? Or was it because he wasn’t in a good mood today?  

Xia Furong twisted her handkerchief into knots as she bit her lip in frustration. She watched silently as his imposing figure disappeared into the watermelon store. Her eyes became dark and it was obvious that she was still scheming inside...

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Myst's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: I think it’s interesting that Princess Consort Jing thought that just because there were no concubines around in her family that there wouldn’t be fighting or vying for favor. As we all probably know, siblings born from the same parents often fight and may feel resentment. Historically, many royal families had plenty of in-fighting between full-blooded siblings too. What do you think?

Translator: Sanguine