On this day, Official Situ came to Lizheng Palace to bid farewell. She had been awarded with Empress Zhangsun’s grace and was allowed to leave the palace to retire. To female officials, this was a blessing.
Empress Zhangsun could not bear to let her go and was slightly regretful. “In a blink of an eye, so many years have passed. When you first entered the palace by my side, you were only a young girl in your teens. Now, you even have white hair along your temples.”
Official Situ was slightly teary. “Your Majesty, thank you for your kindness and for looking after me all these years. I will never forget your benevolence.”
“We are all getting old. We should take a good rest.” Empress Zhangsun turned around and ordered a palace maid to present silver and gold brocades. “I am giving these to you. You have raised the Crown Prince and took charge of palace etiquette all these years. It has been tough on you.”
Official Situ was filled with gratitude as she gave her thanks.
At this moment, a palace maid announced that the Crown Princess was here. Official Situ could tell that Empress Zhangsun was unhappy and asked, “Your Majesty, did the Crown Princess do something wrong again?”
Empress Zhangsun sighed, “The Crown Princess always makes me worried. If only you weren’t leaving, you could help me teach her.”
Sun Lingshu entered. “Greetings, Imperial Mother.”
Empress Zhangsun became serious. “Crown Princess, do you know what is prenatal education?”
Sun Lingshu looked uncomfortable. “I…”
“It looks like you don’t.” Empress Zhangsun turned around. “Official Situ, tell her what prenatal education means.”
“Understood.” Official Situ complied. “In <<Shi Ji>> it was recorded that a mother has to take great responsibility for her behaviour as her foetus character will form in her womb. One must act with virtue when they are pregnant. One should not see evil, not hear evil nor speak any evil. The foetus can be influenced. When King Wen’s mother, from the Zhou Dynasty, was pregnant with him, she abided by various etiquette, paying great attention to prenatal education. Hence when she gave birth to King Wen, he was smart, kind and was able to gain great knowledge.”
“The Zhou Dynasty had another rule. When the Empress was pregnant, the Imperial tutor would play music and the Imperial officials would offer food. If she was unhappy during her pregnancy and she does not want to listen to appropriate music or want to eat spicy and cold food, the Imperial tutor and official would say that they did not dare to serve this to the prince.” Empress Zhangsun added as she sounded even colder, “Crown Princess, do you know what status your child will have when he is born?”
“He…” Sun Lingshu tried to be brave. “He will be the Crown Prince’s eldest son…”
Empress Zhangsun’s tone suddenly became sharp. “Since you know, how dare you behave so outrageously?”
Sun Lingshu kneeled down in fright.
“If you are pregnant and want to watch a show, you should watch a refined and cultured show. Your baby sees whatever you are seeing. Zhao Zilong’s Seven Charges into Changbanpo is a noisy and violent show. Do you think your child will grow up to be kind and refined if you watch these types of shows when you're pregnant?”
Sun Lingshu argued, “Imperial Mother, I did not know…”
“It is not that you did not know but your character is as such. It is not enough for you to watch it once but you even wanted to watch it a second time. Injuring an actor is a small matter. However, will you be able to bear the responsibility if you startle the Crown Prince’s child? The Sun family has a rigorous upbringing and is well-known for their literature knowledge over generations. How can they have such a reckless, arrogant and hot-tempered daughter like you?!” Every time the Empress witnessed Sun Lingshu making a mistake, she would be filled with regrets.
Sun Lingshu was extremely flustered as she crawled on her knees towards Empress Zhangsun. She hugged Empress Zhangsun’s legs and begged, “Imperial Mother, please don’t be angry. It's not that I was careless but there is something else going on. I have been wronged!”
Empress Zhangsun stared at her. “What have you been wronged for?”
“I have never enjoyed watching violent shows. The reason why I chose this was because I cannot take it any longer. The actor acting as Zhao Zilong has bewitched the Crown Prince and influenced him to do something unscrupulous. The Crown Prince brought him into the Eastern Palace everyday and even slept with him in the night. Their behaviour was unbearable to look at.”
At the side, Official Situ’s expression changed.
“What!” Empress Zhangsun slammed the table as she stood up. A wave of dizziness came across her. Luckily, Official Situ supported her in time.
“As I am from the Eastern Palace, I did not dare to say more. The rules in the Eastern Palace have always been managed by Official Situ. She should know about this too. I thought that Official Situ would report this to you. I never thought that she would allow His Highness to do as he wished.” She brought Official Situ down with her.
Empress Zhangsun turned sharply and glared at Official Situ. Official Situ immediately knelt down.
“Official Situ, I trusted you so much and let you take charge of enforcing palace rules and managing the Crown Prince. Is this how you repay me?” Empress Zhangsun was furious beyond belief. “Where is that actor that dares to seduce the Crown Prince? Bring him to me!”
“Your Majesty! This is my fault, I am willing to accept any punishment. Please resolve your anger and hear me out, Your Majesty. I have already investigated this matter. Before the Crown Prince left for Da An Palace to serve the Grand Emperor, he had already sent the actor away and cut off their relationship. This matter concerns the Crown Prince's reputation. Since they have already cut off their relationship, there is no need to bring this up anymore. If this matter spreads, it will ruin the Crown Prince’s reputation!”
“So you care about the Crown Prince’s reputation now? When the Crown Prince made the mistake and needed you to correct him, where were you? In order to get into his good books, you helped him to hide from me!” Empress Zhangsun yelled, “Guards! Official Situ has failed to do her duty and hid matters from her superiors. Bring her out and cane her one hundred times!”
Sun Lingshu sneered as she saw the internal attendants drag Official Situ out to punish her.
With such a big matter happening in the Eastern Palace, it was hard for it to not spread. Very soon, Concubine Yan found out about it. Prince Zhou happened to be having tea with her and she casually brought it up.
“I heard that the Crown Prince is very close to an actor. Did he anger the Crown Princess?”
Prince Zhou was not surprised. “Such a thing happened? Mother, have you been listening to rumours? The Crown Prince simply enjoys watching shows, it is no big deal.”
Concubine Yan looked at Prince Zhou and suddenly noticed the red flower embroidery on the robe that he was wearing. “Haven’t you worn this many times recently?”
Prince Zhou remained composed. “That’s right, I really like this robe and wore it many times.”
“You like the robe? Or the person who made it?” Concubine Yan saw through him immediately. “Have you managed to give the jade pendant?"
Prince Zhou raised his brows, “I haven’t found a good opportunity.”
“In terms of status, you are slightly lower than the Crown Prince but you are still of royal blood. She is simply a female official. If you really like her, you should just ask for her. It is not a big matter for a prince to want a female official. Isn’t it torturous to drag this on?” Concubine Yan felt bad for her son.
Prince Zhou was finally honest. “Not only is it not torturous, it is actually fun. Two parties have to be willing for a relationship to work. If she is not into me, it would be meaningless even if I force her to be with me.”
Concubine Yan laughed, “You are different from your Imperial father, you are infatuated.”
Prince Zhou was confident. “Mother, please do not worry. You gave birth to such a talented and outstanding son. I will definitely be able to make her like me and come to me out of her own will. With regard to Head Seamstress Fu, I hope that you will leave it to me and not interfere.”
Concubine Yan nodded. She had no intentions of interfering to begin with. After all, it was not easy to move her son’s heart. From the black and white lotus screen, she could tell that Fu Rou was someone that knew her place and that was enough for her.
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