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   Chapter 80 A Lesson For Lady Shu

Eight-year-old Princess: Phoenix Reborn By Lan You Ruo Characters: 22919

Updated: 2018-08-27 17:05

Ever since she had made up her mind to teach Lady Shu a lesson, Yun Shang sought the perfect opportunity. One day, she ran into Lord Zheng and heard from him about the Winter Solstice* Sacrificial Ceremony. According to Lord Zheng, the Winter Solstice Sacrificial Ceremony was supposed to be hosted by the Empress, but as Her Majesty was pregnant, the Emperor considered Lady Shu as an alternative to avoid exhausting Her Majesty. The Emperor even mentioned the idea to Lady Shu who then began preparations for an appropriate dress for the Winter Solstice Sacrificial Ceremony*. Since then, Yun Shang had become a frequent visitor to Lady Shu's Palace.

(*TN: Winter Solstice is an astronomical event that indicates the arrival of mid-winter. It marks the day with the least amount of daylight and the longest night in the year. It is called the December Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and referred to as the June Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.)

Whenever she was free, Yun Shang would pay her respects to Lady Shu and chat with her. This surprised Lady Shu a little. However, since Lady Shu had started running the imperial household, more and more people had come to visit her. She didn't think much of Yun Shang's irregular behavior. As a result of Yun Shang's frequent visits, Lady Shu even got more opportunities to see Emperor Ning in her Palace.

Before long, Emperor Ning became curious. One day, the Emperor smiled at Yun Shang and asked her, "You come here so often. Why?"

Yun Shang grinned and glanced at Lady Shu, who was busy supervising the servants as they prepared lunch. Lady Shu also glanced at Yun Shang after hearing the Emperor's question. Yun Shang said in a soft voice, "I have spent many years at Ning'guo Temple, so I am not familiar with the ladies in the imperial household. As a result, I am hesitant to share intimate problems with them. I have heard many things from Your Majesty about the good qualities and virtuousness of Lady Shu. I feel comfortable in her company. Now, as Lady Shu is running the imperial household, I am very eager to learn from her. It would not reflect well on His Majesty if I'm ignorant about issues in the imperial household."

Lady Shu turned toward Yun Shang and smiled at her, "You flatter me too much, Your Highness. In terms of feminine virtues, I'm no match for the Empress. As you were brought up by Her Majesty, there is no denying that you must have learned a lot by watching and listening to Her Majesty's virtuous conduct and instructions."

Emperor Ning shook his head. "Shang'er, you don't tell us the whole truth. I believe you told us part of your reasons, but not all the facts. If what you said is true, why didn't you come here before? I have noticed that you've only started coming here recently."

Yun Shang was happy that Emperor Ning had taken the bait after hearing her unconvincing story. She giggled and said with girlish shyness, "Alas, I'm a bad liar in Your Majesty's presence. I come here so often because..."

Yun Shang raised the cup in her hand and said with a smile, "Because of the sophora flower honey. The imperial cooks are very good at making delicious sophora flower honey. I once drank it at Qiwu Palace. The Empress knows it's my favorite. So Her Majesty has sent me some honey for several times. But I cannot drink the honey at Qiwu Palace now. I dare not bother the Empress with such a trivial matter. So I asked the imperial cook for some honey. The imperial cook told me the sophora flower honey is brewed from the sophora flower powder, and is a tribute from the Lu Family in the Sanmen Gorges. But we only get a few jars of sophora flower honey from the Lu Family each year. Her Majesty had such honey at Qiwu Palace before, but now, it is solely supplied to Lady Shu. I just come here to enjoy my favorite drink."

Lady Shu was startled at Yun Shang's explanation. She had not expected the Princess would say such words. What would the Emperor think of Lady Shu after hearing that explanation? His Majesty would probably think that she, Lady Shu, had taken advantage of her position as in charge of the imperial household. He would think that she supplied herself with luxuries to such an extent that even Princess Hui Guo had to pay Lady Shu a visit to get a drink of her desired honey. Lady Shu was frightened at the thought. She cast a hasty glance at Emperor Ning and saw him watching her coldly.

"Really? Is the sophora flower honey so tasty?" Emperor Ning moved his gaze away from Lady Shu in a casual matter. Though he was a little suspicious that this was Yun Shang's ploy to uncover Lady Shu's misconduct, he let go of the thought as soon as he saw her innocent face. Although the women in the imperial household were often found scheming against each other, Yun Shang was indeed an exception. After all, she was Lady Jin's daughter, and had spent most of her life at Ning'guo Temple. At any rate, Master Wu Na was a respectable person deserving of his trust, and there would be no intrigues and trickery at the Temple. So Yun Shang was simply a naive girl who dared to speak the first thing that came to her mind.

Yun Shang nodded and flashed her most innocent smile, "The sophora flower honey is especially delicious in Lady Shu's Palace."

Emperor Ning's eyes darkened a little. Spotting the change on the Emperor's face, Lady Shu walked toward him in haste and said earnestly, "That is quite surprising. The honey was sent by an eunuch from the Shangshan Bureau. He said it's a tribute. It helps women maintain their beauty and stay young. I thought every lady in the Imperial Palace would have a portion. After all, no woman would refuse a gift that would help her grow more beautiful. It is also my wish that Your Majesty would look at me more often once I have taken the honey and become prettier. So, I didn't refuse the honey."

Emperor Ning nodded while hearing Lady Shu's explanation. It was clear that since it was a gift from the eunuch of the Shangshan Bureau, Lady Shu might not be involved in this matter. It must be a personal gift from some eunuchs who wanted to please her after hearing that she was in charge of running the imperial household.

However, Yun Shang frowned at Lady Shu's words and spoke, "Why? I thought Lady Shu would also be in charge of Shangshan Bureau, Shangyi Bureau, and other bureaus once she had taken over the whole imperial household. Is that untrue?"

Emperor Ning smiled and said, "Of course she is. To manage the imperial household is to manage all matters such as eating, clothing, spending, and alike. Although trivial, it is quite exhausting to efficiently manage all these matters."

"Aha? So the eunuchs from Shangshan Bureau didn't submit the account book to Lady Shu? I remember that when the Empress was in charge of the imperial household, she would keep a

g smiled and said, "Both of you talk about ideal husbands every day. Do you want to get married now?"

Both the maids shook their heads and replied, "No. What we want is to keep Your Highness company forever."

Yun Shang smiled at them and said, "It doesn't matter who you marry. What matters is whether you are capable enough to tame him. If he is obedient to you in every way, he wouldn't dare invite romantic affairs even if he wants to in his heart of hearts. But don't worry. As both of you are my maids, I will definitely find for each of you an ideal husband who will make you very satisfied. Besides, they must be in sheer obedience to you and dare not sneak a look at another woman."

Both Qin Yi and Qian Yin were teenage girls. They were so young that they had seldom heard about relations between a man and woman. They flushed at Yun Shang's words and begged for her mercy.

Yun Shang smiled and dried her feet with a towel. She lay on the couch for a while and continued speaking, "I will try my best to help mother deliver the baby. I will also find a chance to talk with her. I have been observing His Majesty since I have returned to court. His Majesty is a good Emperor, but not a good husband. Although His Majesty is still in love with mother, His Majesty is also fond of the Empress and Lady Shu. If it is mother's desire to live somewhere rather than at the Imperial Palace, I will take her out no matter what the cost might be."

Both Qin Yi and Qian Yin were silent after Yun Shang had finished speaking.

The silence lasted for a while before Qin Yi spoke, "Your Highness, I have readied everything for the Winter Solstice Sacrificial Ceremony. The person Qian Yin arranged for at the Shangyi Bureau made my task easy."

Yun Shang nodded, "Just three days left. This time, I will present the Empress with a nice gift in the presence of all courtiers."

Three days went by quickly, and the Day of the Winter Solstice Sacrificial Ceremony arrived. The onset of the Winter Solstice was heralded with incessant snowfall. Yun Shang awoke before dawn. She dressed for the Ceremony and was carried to the Temple of Heaven in a palanquin.

The bell tolled from the Bell Tower at quarter past four in the morning. Yun Shang saw Emperor Ning and the Empress enter the Temple of Heaven from the gate on the left. Then they walked toward the Heavenly Alter. They stopped halfway to kowtow before the Heavenly Alter. At this moment, the stoves on each side were lit and the music began playing. Then, Emperor Ning rose to his feet and walked with the Empress to the top of the Heavenly Alter. They knelt before the Holy Shrine in the middle of the Heavenly Alter and presented the incense. Yun Shang watched as they moved aside to present incense before the memorial tablet* of each ancestor, and kowtowed before them. After a moment, they returned to the middle of the Heavenly Alter and conducted the three-kowtow-and-nine-prostration etiquette, the most solemn and most grand rite in ancient China when people prayed to the Heavenly God and ancestors.

(*TN: In China, the memorial tablet is a wooden tablet on which the name of the ancestor is written. It is used as a means to memorize the ancestors and to show respect toward the ancestors from their offspring.)

Yun Shang stared at the Empress who had dressed in the black ceremonial garment. She hadn't forgotten to wear her beloved Phoenix-shaped gold hairpin. Walking closely behind the Emperor, she looked quite grave and solemn and behaved particularly proper in her kneeling and kowtowing. However, upon careful observation, one would notice that the Empress had to straighten her body as much as possible in a rigid posture while walking and kowtowing. She was slow in her movements and seemed quite exhausted.

An eunuch waiting outside walked onto the Heavenly Alter with a tray in his hands. There was a jade and a roll of silk on the tray. Emperor Ning and the Empress picked up the jade and the silk respectively and presented them before the Holy Shrine. As they stepped aside, eunuchs carried forward the sacrificial vessels filled with meats of livestock. And Emperor Ning and the Empress presented them before the Holy Shrine, one by one.

The Empress had put the sacrificial vessel on the table and was about to straighten her body, but she paused for a little while before she could stand straight again. Emperor Ning was so impatient that he turned to check on her. Yun Shang was watching them. She could not help smiling heartily as a good show was about to begin.

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