Chapter 427: Cheap shots from cheap shots Original and most updated translations are from volare. If read elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
Whether it was Mu Liuyue or Chu Qingge, choosing to discuss Han Yunxi’s “dowry” in a place like this was simply sticking up their noses in the air to humiliate her. Everyone assumed that Han Yunxi would get into a fight with the other two members of the harem, but she remained unmoved from their provocations.
‘He is strong, let him be strong, I am the cool breeze that brushes away the small hill; He is rowdy, let him be rowdy, I am the bright moon that shines on the great river.’[1. He is strong...the great river (他强由他强，我自清风拂山冈。他横任他横，我自明月照大江) - taqiang you taqiang, wozi qingfeng pai shanfeng. Taheng you taheng, wozi mingyue dajiang, here Han Yunxi is quoting from a section of the Nine Yang Manual found in Jin Yong’s wuxia novel, The Heavenly Sword and Dragon Saber.] As light and airy as a breezy cloud, Han Yunxi sat there with a slight smile gracing her face. She liked it when things got wild, but she refused to be the target of such a ruckus.
Chu Qingge suddenly found herself in an awkward situation when Han Yunxi didn’t rise to the bait. She was preparing to answer her own question when Mu Liuyue immediately gave her a chance to step down gracefully.
With a smile, Mu Liuyue said, “Is there even a need to ask that? When the bride caravan was going through the city streets, everyone in the capital could see that she had no dowry!”
Mu Liuyue had been waiting a long time for this day. She was going to give it her all this time. Her days in the Eastern Palace were already unbearable beyond belief. The title of crown prince’s consort seemed strong and magnificent from the outside, but only she knew the trials and troubles she faced inside the palace. Even if the crown prince ascended the throne one day and she preserved her title with the strength of her clan behind her to be empress, so what? Her days would still be as miserable as ever!
Right now, my only goal in life is to ruin Han Yunxi in turn for ruining me! Joining hands with Chu Qingge was the best choice for her. As long as she helped Chu Qingge today and left a good impression, it would be that much easier cooperating with her in the future. Han Yunxi, so you won’t talk? I’ll force you until you have to speak.
Mu Liuyue purposely turned her head towards Han Yunxi and asked loudly, “Imperial Qin Aunt, are you too afraid to admit it in front of all those present?”
Chu Qingge had just married into the palace, after all, so she could act reserved. Mu Liuyue, on the other hand, took full advantage of her position to come straight to the point!
The noisy room descended into absolute silence. Everyone looked towards Han Yunxi as they grew inexplicably nervous. Han Yunxi slowly finished her tea then elegantly set down the teacup. Only then did she speak.
“What’s there to fear? It’s true, I had no dowry. It was already an honor for His Highness to marry me, so why would I have need of such a thing?”
The silence grew longer in the room, enough to hear a needle drop on the ground. Mu Liuyue was rendered tongue-tied, while Chu Qingge could only gape. Nobody knew what to say by way of a retort. Han Yunxi had no desire to stir the near boiling over pot of harem politics, but there was no choice. They were already knocking on her door, so she simply returned a cheap shot with a cheap shot!
Empress Dowager Li had been waiting for Han Yunxi to fight with Chu Qingge, meanwhile Chu Qingge was waiting for Han Yunxi to fight with Empress Dowager Li. But she chose neither of them and decided to use the Duke of Qin card instead. Whether or not the Duke of Qin got back at her for that was something between the two of them.
Chu Qingge was the first to react. Unable to hold back her anger any longer, she cried out, “Don’t assume that you’re so perfect!”
Han Yunxi smiled and looked towards the empress dowager. “Esteemed Empress Dowager, you were the one who conferred Yunxi to His Highness Duke of Qin. Isn’t your reward His Highness’s honor? There are some people who are saying Yunxi is not as perfect as she seems, what do you think?”
Han Yunxi was quite skilled! In the space of but a few sentences, she’d foisted the blame off to Empress Dowager Li. Not expecting the sudden spotlight, the old woman was temporarily rendered mute as her brain raced for a solution to the thorny issue Han Yunxi had left in her lap. If she refuted Han Yunxi’s claims, she’d be trampling on her own face and admitting she wasn’t as respectable as the Duke of Qin. If she supported Han Yunxi, then it’d be a blunt blow to Chu Qingge’s dignity.
Empress Dowager Li found herself at a deadlock before she finally decided to kill the topic by playing the peacemaker. “Alright, that is enough already. Let’s not talk about such pointless things.”
So speaking, she took Chu Qingge’s hand again with a warm smile. “No matter whether a woman marries into a royal family or a common one, she only needs to think of gaining favor! Noble Consort Chu, His Majesty dotes on you the most now. The jewelry, silks, and satins he’s awarded you are all twice as much as the others in the imperial harem. Even your servants get double the rewards.” Empress Dowager Li laughed out loud. “There have been plenty of people who’ve come to pay respects to this dowager, but you were the only one who looked the part of a Noble Consort!”
Though it looked like a compliment at first glance, the empress dowager’s words were meant to put her at a disadvantage!
A flash of rage flitted past Chu Qingge’s eyes. Big brother was right! That old dowager has the most poisonous tongue in the harem! She’s a honey-coated sword with words as soft as tofu and a heart made out of razor sharp knives!
Naturally, the old dowager had the most grounds to be on guard against Chu Qingge. If it wasn’t for her older brother’s many reminders and the knowledge of her conflicting position at court, she would’ve been tricked by the woman for sure. Chu Qingge was about to reply when Mu Liuyue spoke up yet again.
“Imperial grandmother is right! Noble Consorts should look like Noble Consorts, just as wangfeis should look like wangfeis! Especially those coming to pay you respects. Those who dress willy-nilly and bring along a little child are simply disrespecting you, Esteemed Empress Dowager!”
Once again, everyone’s eyes rested on Han Yunxi upon hearing those words. Everyone present were dressed in formal court robes and covered in jewelry as befitting the occasion. Accompanying them were their head mamas as servants. Han Yunxi was the only one who wore no extra jewelry at all despite being dressed in beautiful clothing. Moreover, all she brought with her was a tiny brat! There were plenty of palace servants around the same age as Su Xiaoyu, but none of them had any right to show up at a gathering like this.
Without a choice, Han Yunxi resorted to drinking more tea to divert herself from the situation. She realized that Mu Liuyue bore a deeper grudge against her than she had imagined. Meanwhile, Chu Qingge glanced at Mu Liuyue as her gaze turned complicated. The empress dowager had been doing nothing but ridiculing and antagonizing her, yet Mu Liuyue was constantly drawing the topic to Han Yunxi instead to find the woman’s faults. Although Mu Liuyue was the crown prince’s consort and by all rights her enemy in court, today’s incidents showed that it was possible to associate with her privately.
Since her own troubles had shifted to Han Yunxi instead, Chu Qingge took the chance to smile and say, “Aiya, if the crown prince’s consort hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t even have noticed. Qin Wangfei, why don’t you keep any respectable servants at your side?”
“Aiya,” Han Yunxi copied back, “Noble Consort Chu, a person of your eminence certainly has a short memory!”
Chu Qingge was lost. “What are you talking about?”
Han Yunxi purposely pulled Su Xiaoyu over in front of her. “Noble Consort Chu, this little girl used to be a beggar who asked you for alms at an inn. You found her distasteful and gave her a slap, did you forget?”
Han Yunxi had brought Su Xiaoyu here just so the girl could see her former abuser and remember her. There was nothing more to it. But since Chu Qingge had completely forgotten what she’d done, a good reminder was necessary, Han Yunxi thought.
“Today I brought her here on a special trip to give you thanks. If you hadn’t slapped her back then, I wouldn’t have relented and took her in as a servant girl,” Han Yunxi smiled beatifically.
Su Xiaoyu hadn’t expected Han Yunxi to play this card! Although she was Chu Tianyin’s subordinate, she had never once like that cold and arrogant little sister of his. She enjoyed the fact that Han Yunxi was putting on a show! Quickly, she went forward and fell to her knees before kowtowing.
“Su Xiaoyu gives many thanks for the grace of Noble Consort Chu’s slap! May Noble Consort Chu live for thousands and thousands of years!” Her sincere expression and reverent actions caused many of the people present to burst out into laughter.
What could be more humiliating than this?
Noble Consort Chu was not only narrow-minded and intolerant enough to show no mercy to a beggar, but Noble Consort Chu had actually moved to beat her up! An upright and dignified young Miss of the Chu Clan, now one of Tianning’s upper class elite, couldn’t even get over the slight of a simple beggar girl. It really was both pitiful and hilarious all at the same time! Most likely, news of it would spread quickly throughout the harem and then into the capital beyond.
Chu Qingge’s face had turned completely black. Although she remembered the incident at the inn, she only recalled how Han Yunxi had left her and Mu Linger in dire straits. If big brother hadn’t saved her in time, Mu Linger would’ve stripped her bare long ago. Meanwhile, she’d forgotten all about that little beggar girl, much less what she looked like or if she even had a name!
She had no way to either accept or refuse Su Xiaoyu’s earnest thanks. Nor was it possible for her to apologize or explain. As soon as she denied everything, Han Yunxi would definitely use that chance to tell everyone exactly what had happened that day, and how she’d been soundly defeated. Moreover, apologizing was beyond her anyways. Han Yunxi’s move was many times more lethal than Empress Dowager Li’s previous comments.
Despite all the grievances bubbling up in her heart, Chu Qingge still told Su Xiaoyu, “Please rise!”
Both the empress dowager and Noble Consort Xue exchanged satisfied looks upon seeing Chu Qingge’s complexion turn so ghastly. This was all they hoped for. However, the next thing they knew, Han Yunxi suddenly rose to her feet with a serious expression on her face.
“Esteemed Empress Dowager, chenqie feels that Noble Consort Chu most looks the part as well. However, there is someone here who hasn’t respected her position at all. As chenqie sees it, that person deserves to be punished!”
Since Han Yunxi had already fought with Chu Qingge, why should she spare the empress dowager’s side? She really was a true neutral party, either ignoring both sides or insulting everyone present utterly! No one could expect to be spared and play the bystander!
“Ridiculous. Who has the gall to do such a thing?” Noble Consort Xue refuted immediately. She didn’t want Han Yunxi to change the topic.
“You!” Han Yunxi pointed at her.
Noble Consort Xue was stunned. “Qin Wangfei, we can eat rubbish, but we can’t speak rubbish! The empress dowager is present, so you had better have proof for those words. Don’t go cooking up wild tales!”
“If Yunxi remembers correctly, the rules of the imperial harem state that double rewards are only awarded to the empress as well as the head of the four Noble Consorts. Esteemed empress dowager just stated that His Majesty has awarded Noble Consort Chu twice as many gifts as everyone else, making her qualified to be the head Noble Consort. Without the empress present, the only one with a right to sit by the empress dowager’s side is the true head Noble Consort. But Noble Consort Xue, you’ve taken that seat for yourself. What nerve you have!”
Noble Consort Xue’s breathing hitched at the words. For a moment, she lost her temper and cried out, “His Majesty has only made her a Noble Consort, not the head of all four!”
She regretted it as soon as she spoke, alas, it was too late. Empress Dowager Li’s hands stiffened in response. We’re supposed to be working against Chu Qingge in the shadows, not confronting her outright! But Han Yunxi had shattered their masquerade with that single careless slip.
“Aiya!” Han Yunxi exclaimed in mock surprise. “She hasn’t been made the head of the four Noble Consorts? I had thought that was a given already. Still, seeing how His Majesty favors Noble Consort Chu, it won’t be long before it’s fact. Noble Consort Xue, don’t become so agitated!”
“I…. I’m...I’m not agitated, I’m only… I’m only…” Noble Consort Xue stammered. Everyone had seen her response just then, so even she felt than any explanation would be beyond useless.
Han Yunxi smiled. “Noble Consort Xue, there’s no need to explain. It was all my misunderstanding. For now, you’re fully qualified to sit in that seat.”
How dare she say such things?! Noble Consort Xue clenched her fists inside her sleeves, dearly wishing to go over and slap Han Yunxi right then and there. This woman, I’ve had enough of her! She glanced over at Chu Qingge, only to see the woman staring back at her with eyes full of disdain.
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