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Filled with anger, Noble Lady Yuan rushed toward Jing Ci Palace with Yue Xiu; however, Jing Ci Palace’s gates were tightly shut, and she was told that Her Highness the Empress was not feeling well. An imperial physician was presently watching over her, and she would not be seeing anyone. The palace servant also said: “For some reason, Her Highness’ complexion was poor after returning from a trip to Heavenly Hall. It seems as though there was some conflict between her and His Majesty. Not long after returning, she collapsed.”
Noble Lady Yuan was unable to get in and could only return to her own palace. Seeing that her anger was not dissipating, Yue Xiu could only console her: “I fear that this matter might be a one-sided decision by His Majesty. If it was said that Her Highness the Empress had a conflict with His Majesty, it should be over this matter. Master should not be too angry. This servant thinks that Her Highness the Empress should have brought it up, but His Majesty did not accept it. In the very end, it all depends on His Majesty’s thoughts. This servant feels that Her Highness does not have much of an effect.”
Yue Xiu’s analysis was reasonable, and Noble Lady Yuan understood that. The reason that she went to look for the Empress was that there was nothing she could do. In this Imperial Palace, aside from the Empress, there was nobody that could help her. But now that the Empress had fallen in battle, it would have been fine if the Emperor had refused, yet there also happened to be the promotion of Noble Lady Li back to the position of imperial concubine, and it had been done in Zhu Kongshan’s name. What sort of situation was this? Could it be that the Sheng Palace providing money for her good deeds and contributions were attributed to Imperial Concubine Li? She was completely unable to understand it, but she also did not dare to go and demand a fair explanation from the Emperor. Everyone knew that there was no such thing as fairness with the Emperor. Everything just happened depending on his thoughts, desires, and mood. On this matter, the only conclusion that she could reach after much thought was: The Emperor’s feelings for Imperial Concubine Li were greater than his feelings for her.
“Send someone to pass the message along to the eighth prince. Have him come into the palace tomorrow to see me.” Noble Lady Yuan forcefully suppressed her anger and gave this order. The eunuch received this order and quickly went to handle it. She then went back inside the hall to pace around, unwilling to remain idle for even a single moment.
The next day, Xuan Tianmo immediately headed to Cun Shan Palace after court was dismissed. He had received news of Imperial Concubine Li’s matter and immediately knew that his mother would not be able to handle this sort of offense. He thought of coming in to console her, but it was too late in the day, and the palace’s gates had already closed, thus he could not get in.
Today, he saw Noble Lady Yuan. Although she had a night to recover, and she was no longer in much of a rash mood, she still appeared to be quite angry and resentful.
“Imperial Concubine Mother.” He was still accustomed to calling her this, “Things have already happened like this. Even if you continue to feel angry, there’s not much point. It would be better to think of a way to turn this bad thing into a good thing.”
“Don’t call me imperial concubine mother!” Noble Lady Yuan angrily said: “I am nothing more than a lowly noble lady and don’t have the right to have my own son call me imperial concubine mother! As for your aunt, she’s enjoying quite a great deal of glory now. Old sixth prince can come back and call her imperial concubine mother. Just thinking about it makes me angry!” She asked Xuan Tianmo in confusion: “Say, why exactly is this? It’s clear that the money spent was yours. Even if His Majesty was to reward someone, it should have been you. Why is it that there hasn’t been any movement on my side, yet her side is quite cheery in returning to her position as imperial concubine, and she was given Zhang Ning Palace? Do you know what sort of place Zhang Ning Palace is? That’s the one closest to the central palace. Thinking back, His Majesty had wanted to give it to Imperial Concubine Yun!”
“What of it?” Xuan Tianmo was not in a bad mood. He just held Noble Lady Yuan and had her sit back down before saying: “Whether you’re a noble lady or an imperial concubine, you are my mother. Right now, there are no outsiders. Me calling you imperial concubine mother is something that should be done. Sooner or later, there will come a day when I will call you empress mother.”
Noble Lady Yuan was moved, but her gloomy mood quickly returned: “Will such a day really come? Look at the current situation. His Majesty is making it clear that he wants to suppress you. You must be careful with your movements. Don’t let it be that you end up getting plotted against by your father emperor, that old fox, rather than that wicked ninth prince. The gains would not be worth the cost in that case.”
“Imperial Concubine Mother, don’t worry.” He continued to console her, “The one to obtain glory first is not much. How long one can retain their glory is what truly matters. The current matter has already occurred. We absolutely must remain stable, especially Imperial Concubine Mother. You’re in the inner palace, and you’re Imperial Concubine Li’s older sister. You must not let Father Emperor feel that you are a jealous woman who would try to steal her own younger sister’s grace. Son will say it once more. It has already happened, and it’s better for us to think about how to change this bad thing into a good thing.”
“Can it still be changed? I am a noble lady, and she is an imperial concubine. There are many levels between the two of us.” Noble Lady Yuan felt a little powerless.
Xuan Tianmo, however, told her: “The most important thing is that you must not be the one to go and cause a scene. If you truly can’t hold it in, just think a bit more about the reputation that had been regained with great difficulty. Regardless of the situation in the palace, at the very least, the people in the capital are speaking about how son is doing well. Son also has no plans of giving up on the hard work outside because of this. It’s because of this that they say the one with the love of the people controls the world. This is difficult and must not fall flat because of a small matter.”
Noble Lady Yuan let out a long sigh and nodded, saying: “If you say it like that, I feel much more at peace. I just feel sad for you and Kongshan. You put in so much work, but the reward was given to someone else. When you get back, you need to speak with her and make sure that she is at peace. She must not feel discouraged. Do you understand?”
Xuan Tianmo smiled and said: “That girl is much calmer than Imperial Concubine Mother. This news reached the Sheng Palace last night, and son did not deliberately hide it, allowing the servants to bring this information to her. The servants returned and reported that she just listened to it and nodded before continuing with her work. It sounded like she was going to visit the families that had been affected by the fake medicine to make amends.”
Noble Lady Yuan knew that the so-called fake medicine was related to the matter with the Persian doctor that old eighth had brought in the previous time, thus she nodded: “She really is a caring child. Then how do you think this matter should be handled? Should we just treat it as though nothing happened?”
“That definitely will not do.” Xuan Tianmo shook his head, “You are both members of the imperial harem, and you are sisters. Where would such a thing happen, where the elder sister ignores the younger sister being promoted? Imperial Concubine Mother must know that reputation is not just limited to son’s reputation in the capital. There’s also Imperial Concubine Mother’s reputation in the palace. The Empress’ side is what it is, but at the very least, you need to make it so others have something nice to say about you. Like this, it will be easier for son to speak among the officials.”
He was naturally speaking about the officials that were part of his faction. Noble Lady Yuan also understood, “Don’t worry, I am pulling in those people. Not only do I often visit them, but I have also been sharing the nice things that you have been bringing into the palace.”
“Just those people will not be enough.” Xuan Tianmo came up with an idea for her, “Father Emperor is getting old and is attaching more importance on family ties. These family ties are not just limited to those of the imperial family. There are also the family ties between sisters. You and Imperial Concubine Li are sisters. At a time like this, if there isn’t any statement, it will make Father Emperor feel as though you are heartless, and he will be biased against son.” At the end, he brought it back to himself, poking at Noble Lady Yuan’s soft spot. Even if she was extremely unhappy, she could not choose to not think about her own son!
Noble Lady Yuan nodded her head unhappily, “Forget it, then how do you think this matter should be handled?”
“Go and congratulate her!” Xuan Tianmo came up with an idea for her, “You are her elder sister. You need to have the bearing of an older sister. Of course, you need to pay the proper respects that are due to her. After all, she is now an imperial concubine, while you are a noble lady. Regardless of what you are thinking, you absolutely need to do this on the surface. Also, she is son’s aunt. In truth, this is not a bad thing. Does imperial concubine mother still remember about the Feng family’s fourth young miss visiting Jing Si Palace? Do you still remember her idea that son told you about?”
Noble Lady Yuan’s mind went to work, “You are talking about His Highness the sixth prince’s 30 thousand troops?”
“That’s right.” Xuan Tianmo nodded, “Originally, a measly 30 thousand troops did not catch son’s eye, but you also know about the unexpected situation in the South. A full 300 thousand troops were taken by old ninth and that girl, which could be considered as having severed son’s lifeline. Right now, I need to fight to obtain them. Moreover, his 30 thousand troops have been brought to the capital in secret and were handed over to old seventh; however, the tiger tally and military rights are still with old sixth. If Imperial Concubine Mother and aunt are able to build up a relationship once more, say, would she rather help her family or an outsider?”
Noble Lady Yuan said: “Of course, one’s own family is more reliable.” With this, she completely understood what Xuan Tianmo meant. The resentment that had been in her heart began to dissipate, as she began to calculate: “I understand. Don’t worry and go tend to your matters. Leave everything in the inner palace to me.”
Xuan Tianmo nodded and let out a sigh internally. He really was worried that Noble Lady Yuan would cause a scene. That would affect him even more negatively and have an outcome that would be even harder to rebound from. “After son gets back, I will speak with Kongshan to have her come into the palace and visit Zhang Ning Palace to offer congratulations when she has a chance. After all, she had used her contributions to obtain the position. When that aunt sees Kongshan, she cannot choose to not express anything. Kongshan will also speak with her a bit. Our relationship will also be able to recover a little. Imperial Concubine Mother should go and visit Zhang Ning Palace to offer congratulations! Remember to bring along a gift. Right, son will remember to send in another set to replace the white-jade tea set that you smashed yesterday. Imperial Concubine Mother, please be at ease.”
Xuan Tianmo provided Noble Lady Yuan with assurance and consolation, which finally managed to stabilize Noble Lady Yuan’s mood. Only then did he quickly leave the palace and return home.
At this moment in the Sheng Palace, Zhu Kongshan had not yet gone out. She was currently going over a list of people who had been victims of the fake medicine. This list of names was one that she had worked hard to put together over the past few days. The silver had also been prepared, and she was waiting for the names to be verified before going to distribute the money over the next couple days.
When Xuan Tianmo returned, he saw Zhu Kongshan personally calculating on an abacus with a very capable appearance. He felt even more satisfied with this cousin.
Seeing him return, Zhu Kongshan did not get up. The two were no longer as distant as when they had first met, as they had gotten more familiar. Zhu Kongshan said to him: “Cousin, I took 3000 taels of silver from the treasury to be used to make amends with the people who had been victimized by the medicine. I don’t know if it’s enough. I’ll calculate it a bit more, and it should not be too far off.”
Xuan Tianmo nodded: “I already said that you can go ahead and take what you need from the treasury. There’s no need to report it to me. You can do whatever you want to do without reservation. I will support you from behind.”
Zhu Kongshan smiled and said: “At the very least, it needs to be said. After all, it’s not a small amount of money. Right, last night, I heard that while we were doing good deeds in the capital, the imperial palace promoted second aunt to the position of imperial concubine. Is this the truth?”
“It’s true.” Xuan Tianmo sat down across from her, asking: “What do you think of this matter?”
Zhu Kongshan said: “It’s not a bad thing. They’re both my aunts. Promoting her is better than promoting someone else. We should celebrate and rejoice for second aunt.”
“You must not forget that second aunt also has a son.” Xuan Tianmo stared at Zhu Kongshan, “She is the mother of a prince. I don’t believe that she does not have the slightest inclination of supporting her son to the throne.” Xuan Tianmo did not bring this up in front of Noble Lady Yuan; however, he began to discuss it with Zhu Kongshan…
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