Ten Thousand and One Million

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Noble Lady Yuan did not care what Imperial Concubine Li was thinking. she just looked around teh parlor then said: “Younger sister too, elder sister knows that you are not wealthy, but didn’t elder sister give you ten thousand taels of silver in banknotes the other day? Why not make use of that? It might be that younger sister has never hosted a palace banquet before and does not have much experience. Speaking of, palace banquets really are not hosted in such a manner.”

Imperial Concubine Li was rapidly losing face; however, Noble Lady Yuan continued to speak: “It shouldn’t be that you’re afraid of being left with no spending money after running out, right? Hah, oh you! If you spend it all, just tell elder sister. Even if elder sister needs to melt down pots and pans, I would need to help you! You must know that we are sisters.”

“Hmph!” Imperial Concubine Li finally spoke up in a mocking tone: “That’s right! This One will ask you if I run out of money because you have more money than this One. You have the support of the family, while this One does not. That’s why I never dare to spend large sums. You also know that we are sisters, but this One just cannot understand. We are both their children, yet why does the Liu family only focus on helping and supporting elder sister but does not even inquire about this daughter?”

Noble Lady Yuan laughed, “Listen to what you’re saying, younger sister. How is it that the family isn’t worried about younger sister? Every time that I write a letter to ask how they are, the family will inquire about younger sister in their return letter. Mother even said that ever since younger sister entered the palace, you have not communicated with them in the slightest. Not knowing what you’re thinking, they became worried that you would find the family a burden, thus they did not dare to come out and fawn on you.”

Once these words came out, Imperial Concubine Li had to admit it. It was indeed true that ever since she entered the palace, she had not communicated with anyone in the family. Even when her father and mother entered the palace to visit them, she deliberately avoided them. It was not as though she was doing this on purpose. It was just that she was lacking in courage and did not dare to interact with her family. Later on, she became even more of a loner and did not even want to see people. It was like this that she gradually became more distant. But regardless of how it was said, it was her mistakes that caused this result. To place the blame on her family now was truly indefensible.

Noble Lady Yuan’s words were heard by everyone in the parlor. In an instant, there were quite a few people who had begun to privately discuss Imperial Concubine Li. The majority of these accused her of not reciprocating kind intentions, and now she was also blaming others. Even Zhu Kongshan was able to understand the reason for Imperial Concubine Li treating her poorly today. The problem really did lie with Noble Lady Yuan.

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“A-Heng.” Xuan Tiange leaned close to Feng Yuheng and said: “Did you know? The day before yesterday, Noble Lady Yuan provided Imperial Concubine Li with the gift of a performance troupe and had Imperial Concubine Li invite the Empress to watch the play with her. Imperial Concubine Li foolishly believed that her elder sister was doing this with good intentions, thus she went and invited the Empress. What do you think the end result was? That troupe performed a play about a head wife fighting with a concubine, and it happened that the head wife lost. Say, don’t you think it’s funny?”

Ren Xifeng smirked from hearing this, “In the Imperial Palace, the Empress is naturally the head wife, and the other members of the imperial harem, while they are of noble status, are nothing more than concubines. To perform this sort of play in front of the Empress, the Empress must have been quite offended by Imperial Concubine Li.”

“That’s why Imperial Concubine Li has such an attitude towards the people on Noble Lady Yuan’s side today?” Feng Yuheng nodded, “To say it like this, she should have such an attitude towards them.” She reached into her sleeve and felt around. The banknotes that she had been preparing to give to Imperial Concubine Li were still there! “Although I do not like Imperial Concubine Li, compared to Noble Lady Yuan… I am still happy to make the eighth prince’s mother a bit unhappy.”

She curled up the corners of her lips and stood up, walking over to Imperial Concubine Li.

Xuan Tiange did not know how she would do this, but when had Feng Yuheng ever let her down? Among her imperial brothers, the one that Xuan Tiange disliked the most was old eighth. She liked him even less than the late old third. The reason was very simple. A little over two years earlier, old eighth had once brought up having her marry into Gu Shu in a political marriage. It had been rejected by the Emperor, but word of this still reached her ears. From that moment on, she began to hate her eighth brother. Even to this day, it continued to linger on her mind.

When Feng Yuheng arrived in front of Imperial Concubine Li, she happened to hear Noble Lady Yuan raise her voice once more to say: “I brought over banknotes worth ten thousand taels the other day and was thinking that younger sister would use it to host the banquet. That’s not all, as another ten thousand taels were brought today, as I feared that younger sister would use up all of that money from before on this banquet and would be strapped for money.” While she spoke, she brought out another banknote for Imperial Concubine Li. Staring at Imperial Concubine Li, her eyes clearly contained “bad intentions.”

Someone present felt a bit outraged: “Why is noble lady giving more money? How could today’s banquet have seen ten thousand taels spent? I fear that not even ten taels could have been spent. Since the money from before has not even been used, there’s no need for noble lady to give more today, right!” Imperial Concubine Li’s unpresentable banquet had cost her all of the respect from the madams and young misses below. Even with her position of imperial concubine, they felt that Imperial Concubine Li truly could not compare with Noble Lady Yuan.

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“Cease this rudeness!” Noble Lady Yuan’s feigned anger, “How could nonsense be tolerated before Her Highness Imperial Concubine Li? Quickly apologize for your transgressions!”

Having been scolded by Noble Lady Yuan, the young miss very reluctantly stood up and bowed toward Imperial Concubine Li: “Would Your Highness please forgive me. This humble girl spoke out of turn and will not do it again.”

Imperial Concubine Li, however, snorted coldly and said to Noble Lady Yuan: “What she said is true. What you gave before was said to be a celebratory gift. Since the celebratory gift has already been given, there’s no need to give me the money today.”

“How could that do. I came for your sake today. Younger sister, you…”

Before Noble Lady Yuan could finish speaking, Feng Yuheng could not wait any longer. Clearing her throat, she said: “A-Heng will interrupt for a moment. Today is Your Highness Imperial Concubine Li’s palace banquet. Regardless of whether or not the banquet is befitting one’s position, it’s just providing everyone with an opportunity to gather. Just having an approximation is fine. There’s no need to cling onto an ideal.” While she spoke, she looked at the young miss who was still waiting for Imperial Concubine Li’s forgiveness. The words had clearly been said for her. “Looking at this young miss, it looks like you should not have been to any palace banquets before, right? That would mean you are the daughter of a fourth-rank official or lower. The daughter of a lowly fourth-ranked official actually dares to act so impudently in Zhang Ning Palace. This princess really wants to know, which lord is your father? When there is some time in the future, I must ask how exactly he is educating his daughters.”

The girl was not afraid of Imperial Concubine Li because her family had told her that Imperial Concubine Li was easy to bully, and her family had said that they were in favor of the eighth prince and Noble Lady Yuan. The reason that she could not stop herself from speaking was also because Noble Lady Yuan was sitting there. She felt that she had someone to lean on for support; however, who knew that Feng Yuheng would also get involved.

She was not afraid of Imperial Concubine Li, but this did not mean that she was not afraid of Feng Yuheng. Hearing Feng Yuheng say this, she could not stop her legs from trembling. She had been in a slightly bowed position but ended up dropping to her knees, saying with a trembling voice: “Princess, this humble girl knows she was wrong. This humble girl knows she was wrong.”

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Feng Yuheng, however, stopped paying her any heed, only saying to Imperial Concubine Li: “Coming here earlier, I had only been focused on chatting idly with Your Highness and forgot about something important.” While speaking, she pulled out the banknote worth one million taels, “Your Highness has returned to the imperial concubine position, and A-Heng did not know what to get as a congratulatory gift, thus I simply chose something casual. Your Highness, take care of this one million taels. This little gift is a token of His Highness the ninth prince and my regard.”

One million taels! This was not a small sum. Princess Yu was so magnanimous that it was difficult to fathom. There were even some who speculated about why Princess Yu would give such a grand gift. But thinking about how the sixth prince was currently living in Ji An Prefecture and acting as a teacher there, the relationship with Princess Yu was quite good. This sum of silver was probably given with consideration to the sixth prince.

But regardless of who it was for, the money had been handed to Imperial Concubine Li. Imperial Concubine li was so happy that her smile bloomed. In the instant that she received it, she mocked Noble Lady Yuan: “She’s not even family, yet she is so generous.”

Noble Lady Yuan had a bit of an awkward expression, but she managed to squeeze out: “How is she not family? Princess Yu is His Highness the ninth prince’s official princess. His Highness the ninth prince and His Highness the sixth prince are brothers.” Though this was what she said, she had already internally cursed out Feng Yuheng hundreds and thousands of times.

Her original intention for coming today was not simply to mock Imperial Concubine Li. Instead, it was to have Imperial Concubine Li see some truths. Even if she returned to the position of imperial concubine, she did not have any connections, and she did not have any money. In order to establish a foothold in the palace, only relying on one’s position was not possible. She wanted Imperial Concubine Li to realize that regardless of whether it was inside the palace or outside the palace, and regardless of whether it was her or the eighth prince, Imperial Concubine Li was incapable of being compared. She also wanted Imperial Concubine Li to understand the disparity between the sixth prince and the eighth prince. Wanting to help prop her own son on the throne, Imperial Concubine Li had already fallen too far behind and could never catch up.

But who knew that Feng Yuheng would actually support Imperial Concubine Li. This had disrupted her plan, and the situation was a bit hard to suppress. On the contrary, she ended up becoming part of the lowest-ranked group in the parlor.

Noble Lady Yuan had no face to stay, and the madams and young misses below were in an even more awkward situation. Seeing Imperial Concubine Li grab a hold of Feng Yuheng for another round of intimacy. Noble Lady Yuan truly felt that she could not continue to remain here, thus she quickly found an excuse and left.

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With her leaving, Feng Yuheng had no desire to continue dealing with Imperial Concubine Li, thus she also returned to her seat. Many people wanted to copy Noble Lady Yuan and just leave, yet Imperial Concubine Li had become excited. She even arranged for everyone to drink tea, as she smiled and chatted with some young misses. This made people feel a little reluctant to leave and felt embarrassed to leave.

In truth, the young misses who had come today also had their own intentions. There were even quite a few who had not come for the sake of Zhu Kongshan. Instead, they were already a little familiar with the sixth prince. They came into the palace and prepared grand gifts for Imperial Concubine Li in hopes of getting into her good graces, but they were helpless against the fact that their families sided with the eighth prince. This caused trouble for both sides. Now that they saw Noble Lady Yuan had already left, their thoughts began to take hold, thus someone took the initiative to speak up and turn the tides: “In truth, this sort of palace banquet is better. It does not feel as restrained, and we can speak so intimately with Her Highness Imperial Concubine Li. It’s just like speaking with the adults in our families. It’s very intimate!”

“That’s right, that’s right!” These words were met with quite a bit of approval, as someone quickly added on: “I heard that the usual palace banquets have everyone seated far apart, with a bit of space in the middle for dances and performances. Not to mention the noise, but it’s especially restrained. It’s different today in Zhang Ning Palace. Thinking about it, Her Highness Imperial Concubine Li really put in a great deal of thought.”

Once this thread had begun, Imperial Concubine Li’s heart also felt at ease. That’s right! Although there were some unhappy moments, with Feng Yuheng and Xuan Tiange supporting the atmosphere, and she had the one million taels to flaunt in front of Noble Lady Yuan. Just thinking about the image of Noble Lady Yuan slinking off, she felt extremely happy!

She could not help but begin to sigh over how good Feng Yuheng was. Looking over, she saw Feng Yuheng talking with her friends about something. With a smile on her face, she had a charming look that was quite beautiful. Where was there any appearance of a young wife. The more she looked at her, the more she felt that this girl was suited to her son, and she could not help but sigh: “If Feng’er and A-Heng got married, how great would that be!”

Zuo’er quickly tugged at her sleeve and lowered her voice: “Your Highness must not say this sort of thing today!”

Imperial Concubine Li also knew that she had misspoken and lowered her voice. Looking all around, there was nobody who had noticed. Only then did she relax; however, while looking around, she saw Feng Fendai, who had been seated nearest the door, stand up and head towards her with a smile…

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