Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
Qiao Jinniang arrived at the Duchess’ courtyard, only to find out that the duke had gone to the barracks last night and hadn’t returned.
At the news of that, she could only follow her mother to her grandmother’s courtyard.
In the courtyard of the Duchess Dowager, there was a faint scent of sandalwood. Qiao Jinniang guessed that the Duchess Dowager must be a Buddhist.
Qiao Jinniang, supported by a maid, knelt down to the Duchess Dowager and greeted, “Grandmother, I’m Jinniang.”
The Duchess Dowager hurriedly helped Qiao Jinniang up. “My girl, come sit next to me. You look exactly like your mother. That damned vicious woman made you suffer!”
Qiao Jinniang said, “Grandma, that person is already dead. Don’t be angry. My life was not bad in Lin’an.”
The Duchess Dowager said to the Duchess, “Since Jinniang is back, the ranking of the girls needs to be changed. From now on, Jinniang will be called Second Miss, and the other girls’ ranking will move down one place.
“And we shall hold more banquets to introduce Jinniang. We must not let the noble girls in Chang’an look down on my eldest granddaughter.
“As for Ruoyun, visit her more. She’s a good girl. Don’t let her be wronged for this. ”
“Yes, Mother, I know,” the Duchess replied respectfully.
The Duchess Dowager waved her hand, motioning the servants and maids to leave before she asked the Duchess, “Last night, when I was chatting with the Duchess Dowager of Duke Anning’s Mansion, I heard that the little imperial grandson mistook Little Third…, oh, no, Little Fourth, as his mother?”
“Alas, he’s just a child who doesn’t know anything and can’t even speak clearly. According to the Crown Prince, Little Fourth looks a bit like his mother.”
The Duchess Dowager was turning the Buddha beads in her hand as she said, “Don’t blame me for being biased. If Ruofeng or Ruowan marries into the East Palace, I won’t be worried at all, but if it’s Ruoshui, it’s not a good thing for our family.”
The Duchess nodded. “Ruoshui is not fit to marry the Crown Prince, but if the Crown Prince asks to marry her because of the little imperial grandson…”
The Duchess Dowager was still turning the Buddhist beads. “The Crown Prince went missing for three years in the South and suddenly came back with a child.
“But he didn’t say whether the child’s mother was dead or alive. A woman who gave birth to the eldest son of the Crown Prince, whether she becomes the first concubine or the second concubine, even the Crown Princess will have to take her seriously.
“If she’s dead, it’ll be even more troublesome. His Majesty and Her Majesty love the little imperial grandson very much. If Ruoshui marries into the East Palace and the Crown Prince wants Ruoshui to raise this child up… You know, it’s always difficult to be a stepmother…”
Qiao Jinniang suddenly said, “The Crown Prince was missing for three years in the South? When did he return to Chang’an?”
“Around early February.” The Duchess Dowager asked, “What’s the matter?”
Qiao Jinniang shook her head. “Nothing.”
This was probably a coincidence. How could the dignified Crown Prince agree to marry into a merchant family?
However, being missing for three years and the age of the little imperial grandson… Was it really a coincidence?
Qiao Jinniang felt that she must be missing Tuan’er too much, so she came up with such a delusion.
The Duchess Dowager pondered for a while and said, “Our family doesn’t need to have an imperial concubine to add glory to our family. Choose a good young man for Ruoshui as soon as possible and make her give up the thought of marrying the Crown Prince.”
After that, the Duchess Dowager began to ask Qiao Jinniang about her life in Lin’an.
Qiao Jinniang didn’t mention her former marriage and her son as her mother told her not to tell anyone about it.
She only talked about how happy her life was in Lin’an.
Seeing that Qiao Jinniang had no complaints at all, the Duchess Dowager liked her even more and endowed her with a lot of her personal jewelry.
Qiao Jinniang bowed and accepted her gifts. “Thank you for your generosity, Grandmother.”
It was time for the Duchess Dowager to chant Buddhist scriptures, so Qiao Jinniang left with the Duchess. Qiao Jinniang tentatively asked the Duchess, “Mother, does the little imperial grandson look like His Royal Highness?”
“Yes, they look very much alike, especially their phoenix eyes, which are exactly like the Queen’s eyes. No wonder His Majesty loves him so much.”
Qiao Jinniang’s heart trembled. Tuan’er also had a pair of phoenix eyes, making him look a lot like that b*stard…
The Duchess asked gently, “It’s normal that children look like their parents. Why are you asking about this?”
Qiao Jinniang smiled and replied, “I’m just curious about the Crown Prince’s appearance. Yesterday, I heard on the street that the Crown Prince was very favored by His Majesty, and I’ve never seen a royal family member, so I got a bit curious.”
Qiao Jinniang was self-aware, so she wouldn’t be so cheeky as to fantasize that she was the little imperial grandson’s mother.
Even with so many coincidences, she didn’t think it was likely.
After all, he was the Crown Prince!
How could she possibly make the Crown Prince marry into her family?
Besides, that unfaithful b*stard could never be the Crown Prince!
The Duchess patted her daughter’s hand and said, “His Majesty met the Queen not long after he ascended the throne. Although he was much older than the Queen, he was very affectionate to her. His harem exists only in name over the past two decades, so you can tell how much His Majesty likes the Crown Prince.”
Qiao Jinniang said, “His Majesty is really a good husband.”
The Duchess sneered. “It’s true for the Queen, but for other imperial concubines…
“I know I may get myself killed for saying this, but the imperial palace is not such a good place to go. Your sister is obsessed with becoming the crown princess and refuses to listen to me. Now she is already fifteen but hasn’t gotten a fiancé yet.”
Surprised at the Duchess’s bold words and her insight, Qiao Jinniang comforted her. “Don’t worry, Mother. Nowadays, many girls don’t get married until they’re seventeen or eighteen. All my friends in Lin’an haven’t got married yet.”
If it hadn’t been for the sudden illness of her foster parents, Qiao Jinniang wouldn’t have married someone so early.
Nowadays, in Chang’an, girls wouldn’t be laughed at even if they got married at the age of seventeen or eighteen.
The Duchess said, “This is true. You are only 18 years old now. Nowadays, women are not treated as harshly as before. Many women can even get divorced and remarried.
“I’ll definitely find you a good husband.”
Qiao Jinniang was slightly taken aback. “Mother, I just want Tuan’er.”
The Duchess said, “We’ll find Tuan’er, but his father is really a bad guy! Just bring Tuan’er back. We’ll take good care of him!”
Qiao Jinniang never thought that her mother had already planned her future.
But she didn’t want to fall in love again.
The b*stard had vowed that he would love her forever, but in the end, their marriage ended up like this.
Qiao Jinniang followed the Duchess back to her courtyard and saw Qiao Ruoshui and Qiao Ruoyi.
Qiao Ruoshui looked up and down at the woman in front of her who was wearing a thin spring dress with a slender figure and a prettier face than hers. She sympathized with her when she learned that she had a sister raised up by servants a few months ago.
But when she learned that her parents wanted to take her back, she threw a tantrum. How could they let a slave-raised girl who grew up in the countryside come to Chang’an? This would definitely disgrace her.
Yesterday, many noble girls congratulated her ironically that she was going to have one more sister.
Qiao Ruoshui thought that she would see a vulgar, shabbily-clothed woman, but it turned out that her temperament was very good.
Qiao Ruoyi took the lead in saluting. “Mother, is this Eldest Sister?”
Qiao Jinniang inferred from her appearance that this should be the Fifth Miss, so she saluted back. “Hi, Fifth Sister, this is a small gift I bought in Lin’an for you.”
Behind her, Nuomi took out an exquisitely carved wooden box and handed it to Qiao Ruoyi.
Qiao Ruoyi smelled the scent and asked, “Is this an ink stick?”
Qiao Jinniang nodded. “This is Gold Thread Ink, a specialty of Huizhou. I heard that you like painting and calligraphy, so I prepared this for you.”
Qiao Ruoyi was overjoyed and saluted. “Thank you, Sister. I like it very much.”
Gold Thread Ink was even more expensive than gold. Only fifty pieces could be produced every year, and they were almost all bought by officials as gifts for their superiors. It could be seen how expensive the ink was and how carefully Qiao Jinniang prepared the gift for her.
Qiao Ruoshui snorted, “What is the big deal of a small piece of ink?”
The Duchess glared at Qiao Ruoshui. “Why haven’t you saluted your sister yet?”
“My sister is Qiao Ruoyun, the future Duchess of Duke Qin’s Mansion, not a wild girl from the countryside!” Qiao Ruoshui said with her head high.
The Duchess was very annoyed, and she slammed the table. “Humph, if you don’t respect Jinniang, don’t call me Mother anymore!”
Qiao Jinniang had never seen the Duchess be so angry, so she hurriedly said, “Mother, Fourth Sister is still a child. Don’t be angry at her. This is the pearl head ornament I prepared for her.”
When Nuomi handed the gift to her, Qiao Ruoshui unexpectedly slammed the box to the ground, causing the pearl head ornament to fall to the ground and shatter.