Counter a Plot With a Plot?

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Noble Lady Yuan had entered the palace before Imperial Concubine Li. She was also a few years older. Although they were sisters, Imperial Concubine Li did not have many profound memories of her time in the Liu manor. With Noble Lady Yuan also having entered the palace early, she did not have too much of an impression of this elder sister.

While Imperial Concubine Li was unable to remember, Noble Lady Yuan had many things that she could recall. This included the fact that Imperial Concubine Li liked to watch plays. She said to Imperial Concubine Li: “I still remember right before I entered the palace, the family hosted a banquet and brought in a play troupe. Once the final play was concluded, the performers had received their pay and were about to leave; however, you caused a fuss over not wanting to let them leave. You wanted to watch their plays for a few more days. For this, you were even punished by father. Later on in the palace, there was also a theatre. I could see the joy in your eyes, but how could it possibly be that we would be able to watch a few plays when we wanted to, much less over the past two decades. Forget it, let’s not speak about this. The third gift that elder sister was speaking of was a small play troupe. The day before yesterday, I spoke about it to His Highness the eighth prince, and His Highness the eighth prince found a troupe from the south to be brought into the palace. Doesn’t Zhang Ning Palace have a small stage? Younger sister, during these few days, enjoy your fill in your own palace!”

Imperial Concubine Li did indeed enjoy watching plays, and she could recall the few times that the family had brought in performers. Each time, she would find that she had not enjoyed enough of their performances. Today, Noble Lady Yuan’s gift really had hit the spot. Not only was she given money, but there would also be a play to watch. No longer thinking about how His Highness the eighth prince had selected this troupe, she quickly told the servants to begin making arrangements. At the same time, she extended an invitation to Noble Lady Yuan: “I am preparing to host a small banquet on the day after tomorrow in this palace. Elder sister must come.”

Naturally, Noble Lady Yuan accepted. After sitting for a little while longer, she left after seeing that the stage had been set up. Imperial Concubine Li invited her to watch with her; however, she found an excuse and left, not staying no matter what was said. Right before leaving, she reminded Imperial Concubine Li: “Younger sister, it’s fine to invite some more of the sisters in the palace. The banquet will be the day after tomorrow, and things can get a little more lively over the next few days. Of course, don’t forget to invite Her Highness the Empress. After all, Zhang Ning Palace is so close to Jing Ci Palace. With a play being performed here, Her Highness the Empress will definitely be able to hear it from her palace. It would not be good to not invite her.”

Imperial Concubine Li also reached this conclusion, thus she sent a few palace servants to invite the other members of the imperial harem, while she personally went to invite the Empress.

The Empress initially did not have any intention of participating in Imperial Concubine Li’s matters, but after some more thought, she felt that the Emperor had shown initiative in promoting Imperial Concubine Li back to her position. Zhang Ning Palace had also been arranged by the Emperor. Although she had already analyzed that this was for the sake of angering Noble Lady Yuan, she was the Empress. Regardless of what was said, she needed to stand on the Emperor’s side. Since the Emperor wanted to put on a play, she would cooperate! Thus she accepted this invitation and just told Imperial Concubine Li to go ahead. She would head over a little later.

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As for Noble Lady Yuan, who had returned to Cun Shan Palace, palace maid Yue Xiu was asking her: “Master treats Her Highness Imperial Concubine Li too well. Even if it’s for His Highness the eighth prince, there’s no need to arrange for a performance troupe. It’s a little too thorough. It’s not that this servant does not want to see your sister do well, but I am worried that master will feel grief.”

Noble Lady Yuan heard this but began to laugh, “There’s no grief. Doesn’t she want for things to be lively. Then I’ll give her a hand. I need to have her understand that even if she moved into Zhang Ning Palace, even if she has the position of imperial concubine, things will not go as she wants in the Imperial Palace. Moreover, I need to have the Empress, that old thing, understand that someone might have climbed up; however, they might not be of the same mind as her.”

While Yue Xiu did not understand what Noble Lady Yuan meant, the Empress, who was watching the play in Zhang Ning Palace in the afternoon, understood it. From the moment that the Empress was seated, a new play began on the stage, and it was a play about a concubine fighting for the head wife’s position. The head wife was not favored, and the husband favored a concubine. The virtues of the concubine were extolled to the heavens. The head wife felt unreconciled and wanted to do everything possible to bring ruin to that concubine. In the end, she failed and made the husband even more irritated.

There were quite a few other people who had come to watch this play. The members of the imperial harem all spent their days in extreme boredom. It might be that Imperial Concubine Li’s small banquet would not arouse their interest; however, having a play to watch did attract their attention. Thus with an invitation, many of the masters of various palaces came riding sedans.

At this time, the current play was making many of the guests feel awkward. Aside from Imperial Concubine Li, who was foolishly watching this play with great interest, the others snuck glances in the Empress’ direction. There, they saw that the Empress had an extremely poor complexion. Staring at the stage, it was as though her eyes were about to shoot fire. Her hands, which had been resting on the armrests, were now clamping down tightly. Even her palace maid, Fang Yi, who was standing behind her became sullen. She even glared in Imperial Concubine Li’s direction.

Head wife and concubine, when this setting was applied to the imperial palace, was it not just the Empress and the other members of the imperial harem. Had Imperial Concubine Li gone crazy?

One palace maid quietly reminded her own master: “Let’s go back. That will allow us to avoid suffering if the Empress gets angry.”

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These words acted as a reminder for many people. In front of the Empress, they were all concubines. Regardless of their status, they were not as powerful as the Empress. If they continued to remain here, that would mean supporting Imperial Concubine Li. In this case, supporting Imperial Concubine Li would clearly mean offending the Empress.

Although Imperial Concubine Li had been brought back to the position of imperial concubine and given Zhang Ning Palace, they did not believe that Imperial Concubine Li would be getting any favor given the improving relationship between the Emperor and Imperial Concubine Yun. None of them were fools. They all understood that this was a battle that the Emperor had wanted to instigate. Regardless of who was fighting whom, it was unrelated to them. They would just obediently remain in the inner palace, and there was no need for them to lay in these murky waters.

Thus someone stood up and had their servant quietly go and speak with the palace servants of Zhang Ning Palace, using some excuse to leave. With one leaving, a second followed. As this happened, most of the people watching the play had left. At this time, Imperial Concubine Li was completely oblivious to this and continued to be completely taken in by the play.

But the palace maid standing behind her, Zuo’er, had become alerted. At first, she was not paying attention to the play. After all, as a servant, she needed to pay attention to any requests that her master might have. She could not neglect her master’s needs because she herself had become enraptured by the play. That would be a horrible mistake. That was why she did not understand what the play had been about.

But seeing all of these members of the imperial harem leave one by one, she felt a bit flustered and that something was not quite right. When she went out to inquire, some of the servants that she was familiar with quietly told her about the content of the play. Only then did Zuo’er become panicked.

When she returned, she carefully paid attention to the next part of the play. The more she watched, the more shocked she became, and the more she watched, the more she felt a chill on her back. It was only when the Empress angrily stood up to leave that she realized that something big was about to happen. Thus she quickly tugged at Imperial Concubine Li’s sleeve to try and drag her out of her daze.

Unfortunately, Imperial Concubine Li was too entranced by the play and was completely incapable of understanding what Zuo’er meant. Without even turning around, she just said: “Don’t disrupt this One’s enjoyment of the play.”

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There was nothing that Zuo’er could do. Hastily rushing out to try and send off the Empress, she heard the Empress say: “Go back and tell your master that if she wants to steadily remain in Zhang Ning Palace, she should know what her status is and not to forget her roots.”

Zuo’er dropped to her knees in fear and repeatedly kowtowed. It was only after the Empress left that she collapsed. In her mind, however, a thought suddenly popped into her mind: “This is bad, we’ve been deceived by Noble Lady Yuan!”

But the Empress did not care who arranged for this troupe or who arranged for this play to be performed, she just knew that it was Imperial Concubine Li who had invited her, and the contents of this play made her very unhappy. Fang Yi knew what the Empress was angry over, and she was also angry; however, she felt that this was not something that someone like Imperial Concubine Li would deliberately do. She could not help but remind her: “As Your Highness sees it, is there something fishy about this?”

The Empress coldly snorted, “It would be strange if there wasn’t. Did you not hear about it? Today before noon, Noble Lady Yuan went over to Zhang Ning Palace. Over the many years, Imperial Concubine Li interacted with very few people, and she just came out of Jing Si Palace. Where would she have the ability to bring in a performing troupe? On the day before yesterday, it was servants Cun Shan Palace that had come to inquire with this One about bringing in a performing troupe. It was Noble Lady Yuan who wished to bring them in to perform this play. Thinking about it, this play had been specially arranged by Noble Lady Yuan for this One to watch.”

“She is threatening Your Highness with this.” Fang Yi sighed, “This time, His Majesty promoted Imperial Concubine Li to this position. It’s possible that Noble Lady Yuan is so disgusted that she can’t sleep at night.”

“Don’t think of Imperial Concubine Li too simply.” The Empress was clearly adding Imperial Concubine Li to this debt, “Only an idiot could be used like this. Imperial Concubine Li may have a weak personality, but she is not stupid. She also has her own plans. For today’s play, it was definitely arranged by Noble Lady Yuan, but it’s possible that Imperial Concubine Li is just taking advantage of this situation for her own benefit. Pretending to be clueless, they will work together to carry out this performance.”

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Fang Yi was slightly shocked. Thinking a bit more about Imperial Concubine Li, she recalled the making of the voodoo doll, and she could not help but place a little more faith in the Empress’ words.

At this time in Zhang Ning Palace, after the Empress’ quick departure, those that remained were those who had initially not understood. Later on, those who were too embarrassed to leave were also unable to sit still, as they all got up to leave. It was only after there was no one else left that Imperial Concubine Li raised her hand and called for the actors to stop.

Zuo’er returned to her side. Seeing her like this, how could she not understand what was happening. She could not help but sigh with regret: “Your Highness, why bother with this? Noble Lady Yuan used this sort of play to harm you. You could have just told them not to perform this play. Why insist on having them perform this despite knowing that something would happen?”

At this time, Imperial Concubine Li’s facial expression was a bit twisted. She stared fixedly at the stage. Nearly shattering her teeth from gritting them so hard, she was only able to speak after a long period of time had passed, as she said: “What sisters? Even if we are connected by blood, she’s all too eager to see me die! But I want to live on happily. I want to live on for her to see and for everyone else to see! I want them to know that I don’t even think anything of the Empress! There will come a day when my Feng’er will inherit the throne. When that time comes, the entire world will belong to the two of us, mother and son! The Empress, that hag, don’t think that I don’t know who she favors. Zuo’er, wasn’t there a report that said that the Empress went to ask His Majesty to give credit to the eighth prince? However, who knew that His Majesty would attribute the contributions to me! Zuo’er, say, why do you think that is?”

How could Zuo’er know why that was? She just wanted to advise Imperial Concubine Li that she must not act against her judgment in this time of urgency, but Imperial Concubine Li said: “That’s because my Feng’er helped imperial daughter! My Feng’er made contributions. That’s why His Majesty promoted me. It’s not the slightest bit related to that Zhu Kongshan!”

Word of the Empress angrily leaving Zhang Ning Palace quickly spread to Cun Shan Palace, and Noble Lady Yuan curled up the corners of her lips into a smile, saying: “She’s offended the Empress. Even if she is an imperial concubine, it will be difficult to stabilize. In this Imperial Palace, only by relying on this elder sister can she enjoy a good life.”

In the inner palace, everyone had their own ideas. Everyone had their own careful calculations. At this time in the Yu Palace, a certain person had been laying in bed for the entire day. Even when it was nearing time for dinner, they could not get up…

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