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Speaking of banquets hosted by the members of the imperial harem, these were things that were quite well-received by everyone in the past, but this “past” was referring to a time over 20 years in the past. In fact, it was nearing 30 years. At that time, Imperial Concubine Yun still was not around, and the Emperor was still a normal emperor. With all of the beautiful women in the palace, even if he did not spread his love equally, he still took care of most people. It was such that the members of the imperial harem competing for favor had become quite severe. The battles in the palace were like a raging fire, as the ones that were favored would occasionally host small gatherings in their own palaces, gardens or at the theatre stage. Some madams and young misses from the noble and prestigious families of the capital would be invited. They would receive some gifts and listen to some flattery to brag in front of the women that did not receive any favor. This gained them a great deal of face.
As for the madams and young misses, they were happy to participate in these sorts of activities. Although they needed to prepare some gifts, these noble and prestigious families were not lacking in nice things; however, finding an opportunity to enter the palace was difficult. Finding a chance to interact with the members of the imperial harem also was not easy, and interacting with those that were favored would be even harder to come by. That was why they were all perfectly happy and willing to participate. It was such that every time a member of the imperial harem hosted one of these small banquets, they would all become very lively.
Because of Imperial Concubine Li’s personality, she did not have many friends on the outside. As for her family, the Liu family, because of the existence of Noble Lady Yuan, they did not pay too much attention to the other daughter of the first wife, Imperial Concubine Li. After all, looking at it from many perspectives, the eighth prince was better than the sixth prince, thus the Liu family favored Noble Lady Yuan rather than the second daughter, Imperial Concubine Li. It was such that Imperial Concubine Li was unable to receive any help from her family. In the palace, her relationship with her own elder sister was not very good, and she had a bit of a loner personality, thus she was a bit envious of her sisters, who could invite people into the palace for banquets; however, she never had that courage nor ability.
Of course, this was also related to the Emperor’s favor. The Emperor only treated her normally. She was not ranked among those that were favored, thus it was natural for her days to be relatively plain.
Now that a few decades had passed, she had experienced a great rise from the birth of the sixth prince, and she had experienced a great fall during that winter hunt. Now that she had returned to the position of imperial concubine, Imperial Concubine Li felt that she could not continue to live as awkwardly as she had in the past. Her status and bearing needed to be worthy of this majestic and grand Zhang Ning Palace.
Zhu Kongshan left the palace with Imperial Concubine Li’s plan to host a banquet in mind, but she was in no rush to report what had happened in the palace to the eighth prince. Instead, she used the entire afternoon to visit the families that had been affected by the fake medicine, and she delivered the reparation money to each of them. She also brought along quite a few gifts. Her gifting choices had always been cunning and especially good at catering to one’s desires. The gifts to the poor citizens were things that were commonly used. Not only did she include foods like chicken, duck, or fish, but she also distributed pots, pans, bowls, basins, and other living utensils to many people.
The citizens’ hearts were soft. Although they initially hated the eighth prince to the point of gnashing their teeth, even going so far as to throw heads of lettuce at his gate, seeing the Sheng Palace’s current stance and the reparations combined with Zhu Kongshan’s ability to say and do the right things, the opinions of those who hated the eighth prince began to change. Also, Zhu Kongshan was extremely smart. She knew that what was being done now could only act as a remedy, and it was very abrupt. It could not compare with the accumulated goodwill that Feng Yuheng had amassed over the years. That was why she did not do anything to pass judgment on the eighth prince or Feng Yuheng. She just very earnestly helped to apologize for the eighth prince and did not say a single bad thing about Feng Yuheng. It was natural that people would feel good about someone like this, and they would naturally want to accept someone like this. Like this, Zhu Kongshan’s plan to help the eighth prince improve his reputation had won another victory.
That night, when the eighth prince returned home, Zhu Kongshan finally told him about her conversation with Imperial Concubine Li. When she brought up the small banquet, the eighth prince was very supportive, telling Zhu Kongshan: “Go and contact the girls and madams who helped you hand out congee. Have them all go into the palace to help support Imperial Concubine Li and add to the atmosphere; otherwise, we would need to rely on her to arrange the guests. We need to have her understand that even if she returned to that position, fighting alone is completely pointless. She needs to find a pillar of support, and there is none more suited to this than her family. If she is smart, she will convince her son to support us. If she is stupid, even if she has that position, she will be nothing more than a decoration and a laughingstock.”
Zhu Kongshan understood this reasoning but said to the eighth prince: “Then cousin needs to help ease eldest aunt’s side. Second aunt has ascended to that position. Even if she is a laughingstock, her status is still there. I just worry that eldest aunt will not feel at ease.”
Xuan Tianmo nodded; however, he also felt a bit bitter. His mother really was the type to easily get riled up over something like this. He would need to console her a bit more.
Feng Yuheng’s side naturally heard about Imperial Concubine Li’s matter. Xuan Tianming had even brought it up to her. To give consideration to the sixth prince, the Yu Palace could not stay silent. She asked Huang Quan: “Say, what would be a good gift?”
Huang Quan did not particularly like Imperial Concubine Li. With a look of resentment, she said: “As this servant sees it, nothing should be gifted. It’s not like Young Miss doesn’t know what Imperial Concubine Li is doing this for. If she has those sorts of ideas, it would be best if we stayed further away from her. This servant really doesn’t understand. Are all of the members of the imperial harem suffering from delusions? Noble Lady Yuan is deluded into thinking her son can be the emperor. This is a bit more reasonable, after all, he is an emperor’s son, and they are all equal. But that Imperial Concubine Li, Young Miss, you and His Highness the ninth prince have already gotten married. What is she thinking? Are there really mothers that do this sort of thing? If the ninth prince heard about this, who knows what sort of commotion would be caused. If things went poorly, His Highness the sixth prince will end up being implicated.”
Feng Yuheng felt that what Huang Quan had said was correct. She had nearly instantly guessed Imperial Concubine Li’s intentions, and she was also feeling unhappy. She thought for a bit then said: “I will write a letter to His Highness the sixth prince. In any case, we can have him communicate a bit with Imperial Concubine Li, but on our end, we still need to give a gift. Even if it’s not for Imperial Concubine Li, consideration should be given to His Highness the sixth prince. After all, he and I are benefactors, and he is currently managing Ji An Prefecture for me. In terms of both sentiment and reason, we cannot just ignore the matter with Imperial Concubine Li.”
Huang Quan sighed. When she thought of the sixth prince, her annoyance with Imperial Concubine Li dissipated a little. It was just that she felt a bit of pity for the sixth prince. He was such a good person, yet why did he end up with this sort of a birth mother?
“Just give her some banknotes and be done with it.” Feng Yuheng said: “Sixth brother is honest and upright and cannot compare with the other princes in terms of wealth. Over the years, Imperial Concubine Li has been unable to rely on her family for support in the palace, and she is unable to receive too much support from the sixth prince. The Emperor and the Empress can be relied upon even less. Thinking about it, her days could not be considered plentiful. Now that she has returned to the position of imperial concubine, there should be some expenses with all of the people visiting her to give gifts. Between members of the imperial harem, they will mostly give things like jewelry and ornaments. They look nice, but they cannot be spent. That’s why there’s no need for us to put too much thought into it. Just give her money.”
Just as they were speaking about this, a maidservant came to report to Feng Yuheng: “Princess, someone came from Hundred Herb Hall saying that the fourth son of the Yao family has invited you to immediately go over. There is something urgent.”
The fourth son of the Yao family was Yao An, and he was currently acting as a substitute for Wang Lin in the capital’s Hundred Herb Hall. Hearing that Feng Yuheng had been invited over and to go immediately, it was clear that there was definitely something happening at Hundred Herb Hall, and it was urgent.
She did not delay, hastily leaving the manor and climbing into the carriage. Huang Quan asked: “Would it be the eighth prince’s people coming to cause trouble?”
She shook her head, “It shouldn’t be. What he’s looking for right now is reputation. At this time, he will do everything possible to avoid conflict with me. At a time like this, he should not be looking for conflict.”
But if it was not this, what else could there be that Yao An could not resolve and insist on bringing her over? Feng Yuheng was also extremely confounded.
The carriage traveled hastily, and when they finally arrived in front of Hundred Herb Hall, they saw that there was a large crowd gathered around the entrance. There were some that had come for an examination, some that had come to fetch medicine, and some that had come to check out the action. The clerks wanted to close the doors to block the view inside; however, someone came out from the inside to stop them, as a girl’s voice loudly said: “If you have the ability, don’t close the doors. Do it openly and let the people judge to see how this matter should be decided!”
She furrowed her brow. This was Feng Fendai’s voice. What sort of madness was that girl getting involved in this time? With a bit of anger in her heart, she lifted the curtain and descended from the carriage. Huang Quan quickly followed behind her and quietly muttered: “The people of the Feng family really are a handful.”
The people saw that Feng Yuheng had arrived and opened up a path to allow her entrance to Hundred Herb Hall, as a citizen could faintly be heard saying: “What child does the Feng family’s fourth young miss want to take away? She said that it’s her younger brother, and he was taken away by Hundred Herb Hall.”
She understood the situation but did not understand why Feng Fendai had begun to think of that child.
Just as she set foot in Hundred Herb Hall, she heard Feng Fendai speak up in her typical acrimonious tone: “He’s my younger brother. Of course, he must live with me. Your Hundred Herb Hall does not have any blood relations to him. Why are you refusing to let him out? If I reported this matter, reason would stand on my side!” After saying this, she coldly snorted, “I know what sort of plans you have. That’s right, Feng Yuheng is both an imperial daughter and a princess, and the capital is her world. The governor also won’t speak up for me, thus reporting it would be pointless. But I must ask you, do you have any conscience? Do you have any siblings? Do you have any children? If your family members were raised by someone else, and you were unable to get them back, what difference is there between this and kidnapping them into slavery?”
Once these words reached Feng Yuheng’s ears, she felt that Feng Fendai really was becoming more and more like the late Chen shi. She had failed to learn any of Han shi’s softness. Instead, she perfected Chen shi’s bitter meanness and unreasonable attitude. With a hand on her hip and looking combative, where was there any resemblance to a 13-year-old girl?
She shook her head and took a couple steps inside before saying: “Do you think that we want to raise the child for you? Expenses for food, for clothes and for someone to take care of it. If you want to take it back, it’s naturally a good thing. For that child to be able to be with his older sister is better than being with strangers. But I am just unable to understand it. Back then, you hated that you couldn’t strangle it to death, so why is it that you’ve changed your mind and want to accept that younger brother?”
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