Seeing that Qu Qing Ju was ridiculing at her, Feng Side Consort was struggling to keep the smile on her face as anger raised within her. “You Highness , please do not jest. This lowly one does not deserve such compliments. What us lowly ones admire about Your Highness is your open-mindedness and innocent heart.”
“What this Prince Consort is like has already been stated very clearly by His Majesty when this marriage was being bestowed”, Qu Qing Ju smiling gazed at Feng Side Consort, as if in surprise that this little concubine dared to discuss the behavior and etiquette of the main wife. She continued, “ His Majesty’s words are set in god and his eyes are sharp as that of a dragon’s, naturally His Majesty sees things more clearer than anyone in this world.”
With those words, Feng Side Consort’s words were stuck in her throat unable to come out. Bringing put the emperor, what else could she say? The Prince Consort was personally handpicked by His Majesty. She was but a insignificant Side Consort who had not position against the highly esteemed Emperor. Even His Highness, the prince, could not say anything about that.
There were only 4 imperial sons that had survived to adulthood and the Emperor was already reaching his sixth decade on the throne. Although the struggle of for the throne was not obvious, behind the scenes a storm was already brewing; making all of the imperial sons cautious in their actions.
Her Highness, the Prince Consort, had dared to say something this audacious, using the words of the Emperor to her advantage and twisting its meaning, clearly aware the even His Highness could not repudiate her status and position as his wife.
Recalling the imperial decrees mentioned the words like ‘naturally outstanding’, ‘virtuous’ and ‘of good standing’ etc… If the Emperor had declared the Prince Consort as virtuous and of good fortune, who could refute? Having a bitter smile on her dace, Feng Side Consort curtsied a full bow and clarified, “Have mercy Your Highness, this lowly one has spoken wrongly.”
Sighing Qu Qing Ju said, “Whatever that is said in front of me is fine and within the confines of this prince residence, however if word of this were to get outside and rumors spread that I am unable to maintain the discipline with int the prince’s residence, it might be a minor matter but it would be a different matter if the Prince of Duan’s Residence is shamed.” She added, “As someone who has the most seniority in this household, I should not need to waste my words any further.”
Seeing an opportunity, Jiang Side Consort come forward with a bow and interrupted, “It is our honor as Your Highness is showing your concern for us lowly servants.” She continued, “We may have spent more time in the prince’s residence but as lowly concubines are certainly not as respected and knowledgeable as Your Highness. We have certainly learned a valuable lesson.”
The other 3 present did not think that Jiang Side Consort would actually lower herself to such a degree of respect to the Prince Consort. Although their hearts held disdain and disrespect for the Prince Consort, outwardly they showed looks of agreement.
Fend Side Consort looked at Jiang Side Consort in displeasure, inwardly thinking to herself that Jiang Side Consort was a cunning one trying to gain favor with the Prince Consort as her background was not that of nobility nor of high standing.
Observing the colourful expressions on each of the concubines faces, Qu Qing Ju used her hand to prop her chin on the armrest as she tapped her right index finger on the chair. Out of the 4 women who were in front of her, Feng Side Consort, whose name was Feng Zi Jin , had the noblest background: her father was a third ranking minister in the Ministry of Works. Jiang Side Consort, known by her name Jiang Yong Yu, on the other hand was the daughter of an official who held a sixth-rank position.
As for the other two concubines, they were even lowly down in the ranks. Han Qing He, Madam Han’s father was only an eight-ranked official and she was only promoted to a concubine as she was the one who had taught Prince Duan on matters of adulthood. Madam Lou, Luo Yin Xiu, was fatherless and was dependent on her uncle who held the position of a seventh-ranking official in the Department of Transportation.
By appearances, Feng Zi Jin could be consider the most beautiful, Jiang Yong Yu was be second. Just like her name, Han Qing He was clean looking. On the other hand, Luo Yin Xiu was just as unremarkable as her personality. These 4 women, together with those few unmentionable lower concubines that warmed the Prince’s bed were enough to cause the original owner of this body to be critically ill. They were not simple creatures at all.
“Of course, it would be good to remember”, Qu Qing Ju said as she stood up, holding on to Mu Jin’s hand for support as she started to walk outside. Seeing her leave, the concubines followed her out to the courtyard. The courtyard had been cleaned of any aftermath of the punishment that took place earlier.
Squinting her eyes as she took a quick look towards the sky, Qu Qing Ju turned her gaze to the four concubines and commented, “ The weather today is not too bad. Accompany me for a walk. After so many days being sick and cooped up in the palace, there wasn't any time to bond with you, my sisters. Let us remedy that from today onward, step by step.”
In other residences, when the main wife was sick, would any concubine lower than the main wife not pay their respects and show their concern? Only in the Prince of Duan’s residence existed concubines that only sent presents but never personally made the effort in to pay their respects. While the original Qu Qing Ju had endure the disrespect, this Qu Qing Ju would not tolerate it.
After hearing the Prince Consort’s words, Luo Yin Xiu, being the most timid, shuddered at the undertone that Her Highness was implying. She had wanted to pay her respects daily but seeing that Feng Side Consort did not so so. She could only follow her example. She was but a lowly concubine who was also not favored, making her standing in the prince’s residence weak. Everything she did had to be cautiously thought out and she could not afford to stand out. Now the Prince Consort wanted to settle old scores, Feng Side Consort had the favor of His Highness, so she was save from the Prince Consort’s disgruntlement. But what could she, a lowly concubine, who was even lower than the Side Consorts and have no favor with His Highness do?
Jiang Yong Yu, also stopped after hearing the Prince Consort’s words and looked at Feng Side Consort. While she did not have the favor of His Highness, her position in the prince’s residence could be considered to be neither horrible nor fantastic. Seeing the Prince Consort of today who had an aura of authority about her, she felt that something was about to change. She was not as weak as the rumors made her out to be. Testament was in the kitchen servants who were beaten for the mistake as an example of her flexing her authority in the household.
Noblemen who were normal would always give the main wife a certain degree of respect, and someone as intelligent as His Highness surely understood this unwritten rule. However, in the past the Prince Consort was soft-spoken and did not take up any issues with being slighted over Feng Side Consort. But not that Her Highness wanted to settle the scores, things were not going to be so tranquil as previously no matter who was more favored.
Although the Prince Consort did not have the attention and love of there father and step-mother, she had an influential maternal family and His Highness was not a person without any ambition. He naturally knew how to respect his main wife because he would need the support.
Jiang Yong Yu looked at Feng Side Consort sympathetically before shifting her gaze away. She notice that there was an entourage that was making their ways towards their direction and who else would it be but the master of the household - His Highness, Prince Duan.