Chapter 197 – The Wang Fei’s Intention (1)
The much loved Lantern Festival was just around the corner. Young and old, rich and poor alike celebrated it with great zeal. In every street and courtyard, the lit lanterns painted a joyous scene. The Imperial Palace too was shrouded in festive air. With its every nook and cranny illuminated, it made for a stellar setting. Indeed, it was a sight to behold.
The eyes of the figure standing on the stone steps leading to the Palace of Earthly Tranquility mirrored the festive mood.
People in the palace were looking at the road ahead, in anticipation of a tall figure. Tonight, it seems they would be disappointed yet again. For even after the long wait, they caught nary a glimpse of the person they longed to see.
The palace maid who had been sent to inquire returned with news, she respectfully kowtowed. “Your Highness, the emperor just left the Imperial Study and is heading to the Little Prince’s residence.”
Lu Wushuang’s taut face eased ever so slightly. A glint seemed to appear in those disappointed eyes. If I do not pay close attention, those lowly maidservants will not know their place.
Life in the palace was indeed a bed of roses. While the men were besieged by power and intrigue, the women were enslaved by splendor and insecurity. Only time would tell how they would end, in disgrace or glory.
There were no other concubines in the palace as of the moment, but that did not mean there were no other women. After all, what palace maid did not fancy the emperor’s attention? And what emperor did not have a fickle heart?
“Your Highness, the Little Prince is seriously ill. It is normal for the emperor to visit him,” Dai Ping said in a low voice. She was aware of her mistress’ train of thought.
Lu Wushuang smiled faintly. “I know. Should I go visit the Little Prince? After all, he is my brother-in-law.”
In response, Dai Ping simply looked at her mistress in silence. She wanted to remind her that no matter how noble her current position, she was only a concubine, not the Empress, hence she was less privileged than the Empress Dowager. Even if a Wang fei was favored, there was no denying that she was still a mere concubine.
There was a decorum that she had to adhere to. And that very decorum dictated that she did not have the status to visit the Little Prince.
If these words were to spread, she would be a laughingstock. But how was she to tell her this? She was but a servant.
Upon receiving no answer, Lu Wushuang turned to look at her. “Dai Ping, what do you say?”
Dai Ping bowed her head and said, “The Empress Dowager cares about the Little Prince. If Her Highness and the emperor know of your concern, they will surely understand. However, it is not appropriate to go to the prince’s chambers directly. This servant thinks it would be better to visit the Cining Palace first.”
“You have a point.” Lu Wushuang replied.
Continuing with ‘decorum’, a prince’s residence, crown prince or not, was no place for a concubine to waltz in. A concubine belonged to the harem. The harem was the empress’ and in her absence the empress dowager’s turf. Having said that, a concubine had no freedom to entertain her whims and fancies. Her every move, desire, and need, whether favored or not, was bestowed by the mistress of the palace. Even the emperor did not deign to interfere in the matters of the inner palace.
Lu Wushuang quickly tidied herself. Looking bright and beautiful, she decided to go to the Cining Palace. She had not seen Mo Rongzhan for several days now. Today, she was determined to bring him to the Palace of Earthly Tranquility.
Mo Rongzhan was in his prime, with coital desires demanding to be fulfilled. There was no way he could be without the company of a woman and for so long, unless… there was another woman who had caught his attention. However, this was certainly impossible. With a personage such as Lu Wushuang’ lurking in the palace, the maids dare not be unbridled.
And yet, things were so. Neither had he visited her nor had he sent a word. Puzzled as she was over his behavior, she refused to admit there could be other reasons fueling this current mood. Instead, she chose to believe that if Mo Rongzhan were to see her, he would not be able to resist her–after all, he had chosen her willingly.
And in order for that to happen, it was imperative that she visit the Little Prince. Moreover, she had the pretext and the means.
Having arrived at the Cining Palace, she found out that the Empress Dowager had only just woken up from a nap. These days, because of the illness of the Little Prince, his mother was also deprived of peaceful slumber. It was only today that she was able to relax. Hence, after returning from his residence, she decided to take a short rest.
Lu Wushuang curtsied and stated her purpose of visit before the Empress Dowager. She said that she got word that the Little Prince was seriously ill and hence wished to visit him and express her concern.
The Empress Dowager raised her head and acknowledged Lu Wushuang’s presence. The girl before her was indeed enchanting and charming. Her elegance, demeanor enthralled women to say nothing of men. However, she could see right through her. After all, how many such beauties had she not seen? Was not she herself one such in her heydays? One look and the demure facade would be undone.
Does she really care about the Little Prince? Ah, I suppose this wine-lover’s heart1[T/N: wine-lover’s heart is not in the cup, an idiom meaning having an ulterior motive.] is not in the cup.
“The Wang fei must be concerned. The Little Prince had a hard time taking a rest these few days. For the time being, let no one disturb him.”