“My wine.” the Empress ordered with annoyance.
Her eyes rolled as her maids rushed to fix her a cup of wine. The women began to work together, scanning each wine vessel with their fearful eyes. As the Empress held the cup, she looked down at her lady-in-waiting from her seat with thought.
“I thought I could count on you,” the Empress sighed before popping a grape in her mouth.
She knew she was a dominant figure. Her lady-in-waiting was just a peasant girl who had nothing to live for. Her purpose was to serve the Empress. That was it. The Empress was allowed to disrespect her lady-in-waiting, and practically treat her like a slave.
As many concubines were quite fond of their ladies-in-waiting, the Empress didn’t like the idea of having companions. Her role as an Empress is already a gift to her and could benefit her more than any friends could. The Empress tries her best to distance from her lady-in-waiting, while still tending to her at times.
Her lady-in-waiting quickly bowed to her. “Please forgive me for my incompetence, Your Majesty! I have no clue on-”
“It’s fine. I forgive you,” she rose from her throne-like chair, casually scanning her maids with a frown. “I am in a private conversation with my lady-in-waiting. You may all be dismissed.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” the maids replied in unison as they rushed out of the hall.
The Empress, Nian Shu, walked around the room. Her jewellery from her headpiece dangled elegantly. Nian Shu was beautiful, there was no doubt about it. Her flawless, pale white skin, her rosy lips and high bridge of the nose attracted many. Whether or not the people of China liked her or not, the Empress was still a dominant figure.
Nian Shu has always been spoiled. Living in the palace almost her whole life, she was destined to be the Empress. Although the Emperor didn’t love her as much as he did before, she enjoyed her free time by picking on the lowly servants and concubines.
“Your Majesty, I’ve been thinking...” her lady-in-waiting spoke, getting up with a mischievous smirk on her face.
“What if Ying Yue was blamed for something?”
The Empress took a deep breath and turned to face her lady-in-waiting. Cocking an eyebrow, she brought the cup to her lips. “Keep on talking.”
“What if Lady Ying Yue wanted to poison His Majesty?” her companion whispered.
The Empress froze. Her lady-in-waiting raised her eyebrows, smirking as she poured more wine to her superior’s cup. The thought of creating conflict around the consort the Emperor doted was inevitable. If she played her cards right, Ying Yue would be executed. The Empress released a heinous laugh before downing her wine.
“Good,” Empress Liu threw her head back and let out another laugh. “Han...Ying Yue, you have so much to learn in this harem.”
While she glanced off in the distance, a short eunuch entered her chamber.
“Greetings to the Empress,” the eunuch held a small, nervous grin on his face. “The-”
“Can you see that I am in the middle of-” the Empress flared her nostrils. She studied the eunuch’s facial expression. Her eyes slowly travelled down to the bolt of silk in the hands of the man in front of her. “What is it?”
The Empress’s lady-in-waiting caught on quickly. The eunuch was holding the finest silk bolts that only the Empress and the two Imperial Noble Consorts could use. Her eyes darted from the eunuch to the Empress. “Seems like the two wenches are back...”
“Y-Yes, Your Majesty, Madame Dong Mei and Madame Chang Ying have returned from their trip,” the frightened eunuch fidgeted with the bolt of silk. “The Emperor requires you at-”
“Understood.” Nian Shu said grimly.
She turned her head to her lady-in-waiting, which was standing patiently next to her. Nian Shu bit her bottom lip roughly, waiting for the sound of the eunuch’s footsteps to die out.
“I thought His Majesty forgot about those... pigs.” her lady-in-waiting began.
“Well, you thought wrong,” she retorted. “They’re nothing but trouble. I thought Noble Consort Han would be my only worry, but now I have three little problems I have to fix.”
“Where are they?” Hua Er and Su Yin asked in unison, extending their neck out to look around.
It was the return of the Emperor’s two Imperial Noble Consorts. It was rumoured that the Emperor spent time with them more than the Empress. Although they were just rumours, I still felt as if it was true. What kind of man would spend time with Empress Zhang?
“You two have been looking for them for five minutes now!” I laughed as I rested my hand on Su Yin’s shoulder.
Su Yin grinned as she faced me. “I haven’t seen Madame Chang Ying for months now!”
“You and Madame Chang Ying are close?”
“No, but she’s the only authoritative figure I respect in this palace.” Su Yin replied quickly as her eyes still wandered off to look for her friend.
The hall was filled with buzz. Not only was Su Yin waiting to see the consorts, but many others were as well. Some of the maids had their eyes glued to the main seats.
Pathetic. Even living here for a week and a half, I still didn’t fully understand the hype. It was like the peasants were supposed to treat these figures like they’re some kind of god or goddess. I bit my bottom lip nervously as I scanned for Jaxon. Once I found him, he gave me a smirk.
“There! There she is!” Su Yin whispered to me.
As I looked up, my body was tense. I widened my eyes.
Chang Ying and the other consort stood tall together. Chang Ying was remarkably beautiful. Her features were captivating. In the era where I was from, I was more than sure she would be a well-known supermodel. The Empress, of course, had a sour look on her face throughout the entire time the Emperor spoke. I sympathize for the Empress, she had competition.
Although beauty isn’t everything, Su Yin had previously said Chang Ying was someone she respected... and Su Yin hates almost all the concubines in the harem.
Hua Er leaned in close to me as the second consort made her speech. “That’s Madame Dong Mei, Imperial Noble Consort Yang... Rumour has it that she lays with the Emperor the most. She also has a terrible attitude, so don’t get on her bad side.”
“Good to know.” I softly breathed out.
My eyes were glued to the face of Chang Ying. Her eyes gleamed when she held the cup to her lips while smiling whenever the Emperor spoke. Something about her was so... thrilling, alluring. Maybe it was the way her eyes widened in interest when she spoke to a consort, rather than the Empress who stared with disgust. Or the way the features on her face look soft and gentle, like an innocent child when you scold them.
“H-Huh?” my top eyelashes crashed into my bottom lashes as I snapped back to reality.
I was fully aware of my surroundings. Everyone turned their heads, and I was welcomed by an array of eyes ogling at me.
“I- Forgive me... I spaced out,” I looked up. “Your Majesty.”
“Since the two are back, I want them to teach you etiquette and mannerism,” the Emperor instructed monotonously. He slowly smiled. “I think you may need it.”
My uncomfortable and nervousness seeped into my body due to the Emperor’s unenthusiastic expression on his face. I hate when he does this, his tough-guy act is provoking me at this point. I silently nodded my head.
When everyone began to stand up and leave the hall, a firm grasp on my arm alarmed me. I turned my head hastily and ended up flustered over Jaxon’s stare.
“We need to talk,” he whispered.