A Gift Must Conform to One’s Desires
Da Shun had a rule for the first day of every year. Every official in the capital of standard fourth rank and higher had to bring his family to pay respects to the Emperor and the Empress. The officials went to greet the Emperor, while the women went to greet the Empress. If the family had a son of the first wife under the age of eight, they could also go with the women and greet the Empress.
The reason for entering the palace was to give gifts. Especially when celebrating the new year, no family’s gift could be too shabby. Of course, the gifts were brought by the men to be presented to the Emperor, and on the Empress’ side, if there is someone interested, they can also send a gift to her. If an appropriate gift truly could not be found, it was not considered too improper. It could be summarized as, it depended on each person’s feelings.
Feng Jin Yuan did not say what sort of gift was prepared, and his children did not ask. The Feng family had prepared another gift to be presented to the Empress, with the daughter of the first wife, Feng Yu Heng, to present it.
That gift was a jade pillow. The jade was of exceptional quality, and apparently, the matriarch had kept it in the warehouse for many years and was unwilling to use it.
Feng Yu Heng had also prepared some gifts. One was for the Empress and one was for imperial concubine Yun. From facial cleansers to anti-aging cream to pressed powder, it was a full set of cosmetics. This was completely a gift given based on her feelings. They were unrelated to the Feng family, so there was naturally no need to tell the people of the Feng family.
Of course, there were many madams and young misses who had similar thoughts. Aside from the gifts for their masters, they also prepared some smaller gifts for the palace servants. These were all things that needed to be done.
The Feng family also gave the children some of these small gifts. They were, after all, from a standard first rank official’s family. They definitely could not be shabby when they went out.
On the first day of the new year, Feng Jin Yuan headed out with his four daughters and only son, each getting in their own carriage.
Zi Rui sat with Feng Yu Heng in the same carriage. It was the carriage gifted by the Emperor to Feng Yu Heng. This was the first time the young child had sat in this cariage, so he felt that everything was very fresh, as he continuously asked Huang Quan about all kinds of things.
Feng Yu Heng watched Zi Rui then said: “Do you really not need a maidservant to take care of you?” She had originally sent a servant over with him, but she was sent back after just a few days.
Zi Rui told her: “The academy does not even allow for page boys, so how could I have a maidservant. Headteacher said that we had to do everything ourselves. We cannot rely on anyone else to help. Elder sister, don’t worry. I have become accustomed to it already. Also, I feel like it’s very good to do things myself.”
Hearing Zi Rui say this, Feng Yu Heng relaxed, as she began to feel a bit more certainty and respect towards imperial tutor Ye Rong.
The group very quickly arrived at the palace’s entrance. Feng Jin Yuan went straight to the front entrance, while the girls went to a side entrance to enter straight into the back half of the palace. But before Feng Yu Heng’s carriage could turn around, it was stopped.
The person who stopped the carriage was a eunuch that Feng Yu Heng had seen before. It was someone who took care of the Emperor with Zhang Yuan. The driver lifted the curtain, and the eunuch politely saluted her then said: “County princess, his Majesty has an order. He invites the Feng family’s young master to enter the palace with Prime minister Feng. His Majesty wishes to see his junior disciple.”
“Oh?” Feng Yu Heng blinked a few times. The Emperor wanted to see Zi Rui? Thinking about it, that should be the case. He was Ye Rong’s personal disciple, but the Emperor had not met him yet. “Alright, then would eunuch please wait a moment. I will give a few words of advice to my younger brother then have him follow you over.”
“Please go ahead, princess.”
Putting down the curtain, Feng Yu Heng grabbed Zi Rui’s hand and said to him in a serious tone: “Meeting the Emperor is not some sort of joke. You absolutely must be careful. When saluting, take a look at how others are doing it. Only speak when the Emperor asks you a question. Absolutely do not speak too much when he did not ask a question. Do you understand?”
Zi Rui nodded: “Elder sister, don’t worry. Zi Rui understands all of this. In a while, Zi Rui will follow the eunuch outside to look for father. I trust that father absolutely will not allow Zi Rui to make any mistakes in front of the Emperor. After all, this is related to the favor of the Feng family.”
Feng Yu Heng could only sigh. This child had indeed been taught well by Yun Lu Academy. Not only was he understanding, he was clever with his words and he could analyze situations on his own. This allowed her to feel at ease.
Thus she did not say anything else and personally sent Zi Rui over to the eunuch’s side. At this time, Feng Jin Yuan also rushed over. Seeing Zi Rui, he immediately grabbed his hand and said: “Follow father. You absolutely must not get separated from father’s side, do you understand?”
Zi Rui replied: “Father, don’t worry. Zi Rui understands.”
Only then did Feng Jin Yuan nod to Feng Yu Heng. He then turned and left with Zi Rui. The eunuch also saluted to her then quickly followed them.
In truth, Feng Yu Heng could see Feng Jin Yuan’s love for his son, but this love was filled with impurities. It was not the love of a father for a son. It was nothing more than him seeing hope in this hope. He also analyzed how much glory Zi Rui would bring to the Feng family as the son of the first wife. Everyone said that there was no father-son relationship in the imperial palace, but what people did not know, was that father-son and father-daughter relationships in the manors outside of the palace were also sorely lacking. Between people, there was only scheming. Where was there any relationship to speak of.
She got back in the carriage, and the driver raised his horsewhip, steering the carriage towards the side entrance of the palace.
The amount of people entering the palace was something she did not see during the previous banquets. The line of people waiting to enter the palace extended 2 li from the entrance. Feng Yu Heng’s carriage went and stopped where the queue ended. Huang Quan lifted the curtain and took a look. She could not help but frown: “It snowed a little this morning, and it’s extremely cold outside. To line up like this, how long will we need to wait before we can get in!”
Just as she said this, a granny came over with a smile. Bowing towards the carriage, she asked: “Has county princess arrived?”
Feng Yu Heng stood up and walked out of the carriage, saying with a smile: “Indeed I have.”
The granny’s smile widened: “County princess’ carriage can continue forward a bit. You can get out of the carriage at the second gate. The family of a standard first rank official would already be able to enter first, and you are also the county princess. There is even less of a need for you to queue up.”
Thank goodness, Feng Yu Heng thought to herself. She truly did not want to wait in such a long line, thus she thanked the granny and led the three carriages behind her towards the second gate.
Going into the palace for the new year was nothing more than a visit. The Empress sat on the Empress’ throne in Zheng Yang Hall. The hall was filled with people who kneeled towards her in unison. Extremely nice words were said endlessly, but it was quite pleasant to hear.
The four sisters from the Feng family kneeled along with everyone else in the group to pay respects. The Empress sat quite far away and did not pay too much attention.
After the visit was completed, a palace servant informed the madams and young misses to head towards Fei Cui Hall. After four hours, the new year’s banquet would begin.
Feng Yu Heng did a quick calculation. Four hours was enough for her to make a trip over to Winter Moon Palace where imperial concubine Yun was. Of course, she still had to visit the Empress before that to give her gift.
Thus, as everyone was walking out, she found one of the Empress’ female officers and asked her: “I wonder, would it be possible for me to see her Highness the Empress?”
Although she did not say it directly, the female officer naturally understood. The people who wanted to meet the Empress at this sort of time were those who wanted to privately give gifts. Aside from Feng Yu Heng, there were plenty of people waiting at the side. But Feng Yu Heng did not need to queue up. The female officer nodded to her with a smile then said: “County princess came with a gift! We wish county princess a happy new year and for your desires to come true.”
Feng Yu Heng smiled gratefully then handed her a small box, “Thank you, aunty, for the kind blessings.” The box contained some chocolates that she had prepared back at the manor.
The female officer had heard that county princess Ji An always had some new things. Seeing that she was rewarded with something uncommon, she became even happier. “County princess, please come with me. Her Highness the Empress had already said that county princess would definitely come request a meeting. She already informed us that there was no need for you to wait in the line.”
Following the female officer, she entered a small hall behind Zheng Yang Hall. There, the Empress was seated in the main seat, and many things were placed at her side. Thinking about it, they should be the gifts presented by the various madams and young misses.
After Feng Yu Heng entered the room, she first saluted then said: “Ever since A-Heng returned to the capital, I have been indebted to your Highness, and I am very grateful. Unfortunately, A-Heng could not find anything valuable or rare like the other madams and young misses. I do not know if this small gift will be of interest to your Highness.” As she said this, she brought the gift forward, and a granny received it.
The Empress was very warm to her and quickly said: “Quickly get up. No need to keep kneeling. Come and sit.”
“Thank you, your Highness.” Feng Yu Heng stood up and sat in a guest chair.
The Empress personally opened up the box, and a hard-to-hide look of surprise appeared on her face. After the box had been opened, the box full of cosmetics had dazed her “What is this?”
Feng Yu Heng stood up and walked over in large strides, personally explaining them: “This is a full set of skin-care products. Your Highness, please look. This bottle has facial cleanser. It’s used to make your face feel comfortably clean. Smell it, it’s very fragrant.” She said this and opened up the lid to allow the Empress to smell it.
The Empress was surprised by the smell, “This can be used to wash my face?”
Feng Yu Heng nodded then pointed to another thing in the box and said: “This is anti-aging cream. After you have washed your face, apply a thin layer to your face. It’s very good for your skin. This is facial cream…” She explained each part of the gift to the Empress and would occasionally show the Empress how it was used on the back of her hand. The Empress’ initial surprise had turned into amazement then into delight. By the end, it had become infatuation.
“These were all given by your Persian master?”
Feng Yu Heng nodded then added after thinking a little: “There are also some that were made by A-Heng according to master’s instructions after some experimentation. Your Highness, please don’t worry and use them. If you feel that they are good, A-Heng will give you more after you have finished using them up.”
Hearing that there would be more after she exhausted her current supply, she heaped endless amounts of praise on Feng Yu Heng. She wished that she could praise her to the high heavens.
The palace servants at her side were also envious and also thought that it was no wonder that county princess Ji An was so favored. Sure enough, there was a reason! Compared to her gift, the pearls and jade gifted by the other madams and young misses were not worth mentioning. They were too normal that they were not even worth looking at.
The palace servants were very good at speculating the thoughts of their masters. Before the Empress even gave the order, they began carrying out the gifts that had been brought earlier, leaving only the cosmetics gifted by Feng Yu Heng on the table.
The Empress did not want to part with the cosmetics, so she simply said: “A-Heng, this one knows that, since you have come to the palace, you will definitely need to visit imperial concubine Yun. You may go. This one will be returning to my bedchambers first. Your reward will be sent to your manor. You may go! Go!”
She was practically chasing her out, and Feng Yu Heng did not argue. She knew what the Empress meant, thus she took a couple steps back, saluted then politely left.
Sure enough, just as she left the hall, the Empress immediately stood up and personally carried the box of cosmetics then left. The palace servants quickly followed and heard the Empress say: “Quickly, come and help this one wash once more. This one must use these nice things to redo my make up!”
Just as Feng Yu Heng left the small hall, Huang Quan came over. She pulled Huang Quan and quickly walked forward. At the same time, she said: “Quickly, we must go to Winter Moon Palace.” Just after she said this, she suddenly remembered something and stopped in place.