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[T/N: A bride is supposed to return home and greet their parents with their new husband.]
“Yan Ji* pays respects to Wang Fei. Wang Fei, please drink some tea.” Fourth Rank Concubine Liu greeted, full of respect. She gave Mu Hanzhang a kowtow, then offered up the small cup a servant girl passed to her. Her lovely face was lowered while her eyes did not have much expression.
[T/N: I think Yan is part of her name and Ji is the part that indicates her rank as fourth.]
Mu Hanzhang took a sip of tea and rewarded her with a string of pearls from the South China Sea; when she received it, he allowed her to rise.
“This servant kowtows to Wang Fei; congratulating Wang Fei on your new marriage and wishing you great happiness.” With a light and cheerful tone, hearing it, it was definitely one trying to curry favor. Concubine Li was a “Shi Qie”, a fifth rank concubine. She could not call herself by a title. It was only suitable to use “this servant”. However, she was originally born from a maid, so the words “this servant” flowed out extremely smoothly.
“Get up then.” Mu Hanzhang put down the tea cup and rewarded Concubine Li a pair of golden hairpins. Female accessories, naturally there were none in his “dowry”. The people at Marquis Bei Wei’s residence would also not buy them for him. This was all secretly given to him by his mother some night before he was married off; fearing that he would be belittled by the concubines.
Meng Xi saw that when the Wang Fei gave out rewards, he was quite liberal, so her original sentiment of “staying to watch a show” was repressed. In her heart, she thought about how other people said that taking in a bastard son was worth more than the daughter of an official wife. When the daughter of the official wife was married off, she would only get her share of dowry silver, but after bastards were married off, they would still be able to claim their share of family property.
Mu Hanzhang looked down and said slowly: “I am a man. In the future, when you are doing or saying anything you must abide by the proper etiquette. For the morning and evening visits, you only need to come and informally give your greetings, other times it is not necessary for you to stay and wait upon me.” His clear and smooth voice was extremely nice to listen to and the not too fast, not too slow speed carried authority that one would not be able to defy.
The two hurriedly lifted themselves up and Concubine Li also put away her amused expression.
“If there is nothing else, then just go back.” Mu Hanzhang said indifferently.
Concubine Liu Yan gave a look to Concubine Li. Concubine Li rolled her eyes, and smiling she said: “Thanking Wang Fei, it’s just that Fu Ren* has still not come, these servants will just wait outside the door to return the West Court together.” The good show was still not over, they couldn’t just go like this.
[T/N: A name for the Secondary Wife.]
Through Mu Hanzhang’s lowered eyes flashed a cold light, he was slightly intolerant towards women’s little tricks. As he was about to have them go wait in the reception hall, he heard a woman’s laughter coming from outside the door: “Qie* has never seen Wang Ye like this…”
[T/N: How concubines/wives address themselves to their husbands as a show of subserviency/deprecation]
The voices grew closer and closer, and soon they saw Jing Shao striding in. On his face was a faint smiling expression, but when he saw clearly the people in the room, his face immediately grew cold.
It was pardonable to have to walk with her after meeting her on his way, yet she was actually using him as a cover for being late to pay respects to the Wang Fei. The concubines were already here but she was not, who was she putting on airs for? The joyful and happy state of mind he was in after chatting freely with his brother for the whole afternoon was immediately annoyed away by Song Linxin.
Jing Shao’s change in expression naturally fell into the eyes of Mu Hanzhang. In his heart he thought, this Secondary Wife is sure enough rather favored, and he couldn’t help but purse his lips.
“Younger sisters are all here!” Song Lingxin, dressed in a vibrant water-pink dress pretended to say with surprise. She walked in front of Mu Hanzhang and went to pay her respects. “Because we were sending off elder prince and his wife I came late, hoping Brother will not blame.”
When Mu Hanzhang heard this form of address, he only felt that the veins on his forehead were suddenly pulsing. Normally the Secondary Wife is allowed to address the Official Wife as “Sister”, but he was a man, and should be called “Brother”, but after hearing it, why did it sound so awkward?
“From now on still address him as Wang Fei, you are not allowed to call him Brother.” Not waiting for the people involved to say anything, Jing Shao had already opened his mouth.
“Wang Ye?” Madam Song heard these words, and aggrievedly looked towards Jing Shao. Calling him “Brother” was her privilege as the Secondary Wife, this kind of request from Wang Ye was slapping her face in front of the Wang Fei.
Jing Shao clearly did not pay attention to her grievances. In his heart, her utterance of “Brother” seemed like how one would address their boyfriend*. Hearing it somehow irritated his ears. With that said, ignoring the reaction of the guests, he leaned on the back of the divan and picked up the book that Mu Hanzhang had only read half of to take a look.
[T/N: Brother in Chinese is “Ge-ge” and is sometimes used to address boyfriends, sort of like how “oppa” is used in Korean.]
Song Lingxin thought this boring, and could only obediently kneel to perform her greetings, offering up tea. Mu Hanzhang gave her a pair of green jade bracelets; the purity and style were wholly top grade. When Madam Song saw it, in her heart she was astounded. This bastard son of Marquis Bei Wei, didn’t the rumors say that he received no favor in the Marquis’s household?
Mu Hanzhang did not care what these women were thinking, and after admonishing them with a couple sentences he let them return to the West Court. Although these concubines all look pretty good, besides all the cosmetics and jewels, these were all his husband’s women. Thinking about this, his heart felt extremely uncomfortable. No matter how beautiful the woman, he would still no longer be able to admire.
The room finally quieted down. Mu Hanzhang felt that confronting those women for a short while was even more tiring than reading books for an entire day. Seeing that his book was snatched by Jing Shao, he had Lan Xuan go and find another one.
“Young master, the “Jade Water Scriptures” are in the big cabinet of the storeroom, it is not easy to find now that it has gotten dark.” Lan Xuan said embarrassedly.
When building the residence, naturally there would not be a study room left for the “Wang Fei”. However Mu Hanzhang has many books, and he could only place a few that he frequently reads in the bedroom. The rest were all in the storeroom.
Mu Hanzhang sighed, waved his hand and said: “All right, just go get a random book from the small chest.” Lan Xuan really didn’t know how to respond to this; it seemed no matter what she straightforwardly said, it would seem like complaining in front of the Wang Ye.
Jing Hao looked up. Seeing that his brow was slightly furrowed, his heart couldn’t help but hurt: “You don’t have to go look for it, I was just randomly taking a look.” As he said that he reached out his hand to give the book back to him. Mu Hanzhang just had to walk over and receive it, yet unexpectedly he was pulled onto the soft divan by Jing Shao.
Mu Hanzhang who was not prepared, was pulled onto Jing Shao’s body, and his face immediately turned red. Then he busily began to struggle: “Wang Ye!”
Jing Hao sat up with a smile and embraced the waist of the other, not letting go: “Sit on the divan, let’s read it together.”
[T/N: SO CUTE >///<]
Zhi Xi seeing this, giggled as she took the servants girls to withdraw outside. Mu Hanzhang’s face blushed furiously, yet the person behind him seemed as if he was not in the least bit aware, even resting his chin on his shoulder: “Does your body still feel uncomfortable?”
The place where his chin was resting began to itch, and Mu Hanzhang moved uncomfortably: “It’s much better.”
“Don’t take those concubines to heart. Concubine Li was arranged for me in court when I was young, and Concubine Yan was gifted by Elder Imperial Prince last year. I haven’t touched her since the beginning.” Jing Shao hugged the person in his arms and moved him up a bit, so that Mu Hanzhang could lean on his body more and reduce the burden on his waist and butt.
Originally, he felt that there was nothing much to having three wives or four concubines, but now that he was in front of Jun Qing, whose dark eyes seemed to be able to see through everything, Jing Shao felt weak and automatically began to solemnly explain on his own accord.
Mu Hanzhang turned to look at him. Was this person helping him understand the real position of each of the women in the household, so that he could more easily supervise them? Although he really had not one bit of interest in managing this group of women, it was indeed useful for his survival here. He pondered for a moment then unhurriedly said: “Today, elder prince’s wife came, it was Chen*’s negligence, thankfully Second Wife was sharp-witted, and elder brother’s wife was not slighted.”
[T/N: Subservient address of oneself in front of royalty]
“Haha, I also forgot about Sao-zi, I only remembered when I was at dinner.” Jing Shao thought about how he and his brother had spoken openly to each other today, and on his face again appeared that smiling expression.
It seemed that Madam Song was acting on her own accord; Mu Hanzhang understood clearly now.
Jing Shao looked down at the person in his arms and seeing him still thinking deeply, he finally realized that Mu Hanzhang had just praised Song Linxin. The smile on his face immediately disappeared; what was so good about that woman, that Jun Qing even praised her astuteness! “Song Linxin, her father is the Assistant Minister of War, it was because when I went to war I was afraid that he would make trouble, so I just had her cross the threshold.”
As he spoke, his tone could not help but get colder and colder. In his last life, he was framed by everyone. Song An, who had already risen to the high rank of Minister of War, had always just shrunk back his head, refusing to refute the charges on his behalf with a sentence or two. Finally, he even used some tricks to mess with the records of marriage to protect his daughter, and that woman just fled the prince’s manor for her life. Cats and dogs still knew to protect their lord to death, yet that woman, as if she was not at blame, actually exposed her own husband and sent him to prison. Surely she had already long ago taken the evidence of crime to his Imperial Father to show off her accomplishments.
Mu Hanzhang quietly listened to him and actually heard about him not favoring Madam Song. Within those two pretty eyes of his revealed a loneliness that he himself was not able to detect. Mu Hanzhang couldn’t help but reach out his hand as if to stroke the outer corner of his eye, but also did not know what he was trying to do.
Jing Hao was surprised by the movements of the person in his arms, but he did not dare to move. He watched him try to touch his face like a cat, and he held his breath, fearing that he would alarm him. The man just put his fingertips by the outer corner of his eyes and didn’t move. Jing Shao couldn’t help but slightly tilt his head and land a kiss on the soft palm.
“En…” Mu Hanzhang’s mind returned and he exhaled lightly. As if he had been scalded, he quickly withdrew his hand. He also jumped down the divan. “Tomorrow we still have to go visit my parents, it… it’s better to rest earlier. He feigned calmness to finish saying this and then turned around to go back to the bedroom.
Jing Shao watched his figure fleeing in defeat, and couldn’t help but suppress the sound of his laughter as he got up and followed him in.
“Your Highness, today this one really didn’t have any intentions.” On the carriage back to the prince’s manor, Consort Xiao looked at her own husband.
Jing Chen glanced at her and said in a deep voice, “Having intentions is all right, not having intentions is also all right, just remember, Jing Shao is my younger brother. I won’t allow anyone using any methods to harm him” Even if it was their Imperial Father, it was not allowed! The last sentence he did not say out loud, but Consort Xiao could hear it in his tone, and she quickly agreed, but in her heart she couldn’t help but worry; you are treating someone else like your younger brother, but that person may not necessarily feel grateful.
Jing Chen thought what his brother had said in the study, and could not help but happily smile. His family’s little Shao-er finally grew up.
On the third morning they were to visit Mu Hanzhang’s parents. Cheng Wang’s family of husband and husband rose early to freshen up.
“Wang Ye…” Sitting in the carriage, Mu Hanzhang hesitated to open his mouth, pursed his lips, and swallowed his words.
“En?” Jing Shao turned his head. Seeing that he had an expression that was like he wanted to say something but was hesitating, he reached out and tightly held his hands in his palms. “Jun Qing, do you remember what I said yesterday?”
Mu Hanzhang raised his head and directly looked into Jing Shao’s dark eyes that were full of tenderness, and suddenly his heart felt lighter: “If my father mentions the Jiangnan salt extraction matter, Wang Ye… you don’t need to respond.”
Salt extraction? After this reminder, Jing Shao just remembered that this year, Marquis Bei Wei really did want to borrow his hand to create a salt route business. Salt has always been controlled by local authorities since ancient times. To be exact, the control was in the hands of several high provincial officials. Jiangnan is the source of the salt, and the general of Jiangnan is also on good terms with him, so the people who wanted borrow him to help establish a salt trade are not little. It was just that… on that year it was also one of the crimes he was charged with.
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