Chapter 294: Trouble in the inner palace

After returning to the Forbidden City, Song Qingshu felt a deep sense of powerlessness. Due to his hasty actions this time, he wasn’t able to establish his own forces within the Qing imperial court.

Previously, Song Qingshu had planned to gradually develop the Pole Arms into his own personal force. As the Pole Arms grew, his personal power would naturally become more and more abundant.

Of course Song Qingshu didn’t actually regret his actions in this instance. He knew that if he had proceeded according to the established plan, his fate would have actually fallen under Kangxi’s control. There was no such thing as the best of both worlds, and one had to lose something in order to gain something. Not to mention the things he had gained this time could only be described as astonishing.

Sitting in the imperial study room, he felt that the entire Empire was under his control. That inexplicable feeling of excitement made it difficult for Song Qingshu to calm down.

“Your Majesty, it’s time for you to visit the Empress Dowager.” A young eunuch hesitated for a long time, and finally stepped forward to remind him.

This little eunuch was called Xiao Lizi. The Wen Youdao and Wen Youfang brothers who used to serve in the Imperial Study Room were transferred to other places by Song Qingshu in the form of promotion. After all, Wen Youdao and Wen Youfang had served Kangxi for many years and were constantly by his side. It would’ve been very hard for him to hide any flaws from them.

“The Empress Dowager?” Song Qingshu didn’t really want to visit her, after all, he was not the real Kangxi. However, it’s a pity that this was another etiquette in the imperial palace. When he come back from Shengjing, he had to go to pay his respects to the Empress Dowager.

Thinking that he had to go to the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility to pay respects to the Empress Dowager every day, Song Qingshu felt a headache and casually waved his hand, “Let’s go.”

“Let’s go!”

Following Xiao Lizi’s high-pitched and thin voice, a group of people surrounded Song Qingshu and walked towards the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility. Looking at the eunuchs and maids, Song Qingshu secretly rejoiced, ‘Fortunately, I managed to change things in Shengjing. If it was in the Forbidden City, it would be troublesome just to deal with these eunuchs and maids.’

Song Qingshu soon had a headache again. No matter where he went, there would be droves of people following him, and it made it really inconvenient for him to snoop around. While he was lost in his thoughts, he suddenly heard a pleasant womanly voice, “This Concubine greets the Emperor.”

Song Qingshu was taken aback for a moment, and looked ahead, only then did he realize that a beauty in palace dress, who was also surrounded by a group of maids was greeting him. The beauty had skin as fair as snow and a beautiful face.

“Your Majesty~” Seeing Song Qingshu staring blankly at her, Concubine Tong felt sweet in her heart. A blush appeared on her face, which made her flower-like face look even more beautiful.

“Oh…” Song Qingshu finally came to his senses, and quickly motioned her to be at ease, and thought, ‘In the past, I had to greet her respectfully, and now I suddenly became her husband… life is truly unpredictable.’

“Is the Emperor going to pay his respects to the Empress Dowager?” Looking at her husband who had been away for many days, Concubine Tong was overjoyed. They had just married not too long ago, and the two were still in their honeymoon phase, so her words were naturally full of affection.

“Yes…” Song Qingshu subconsciously nodded, and worried that if he showed too much indifference, it might make people feel that he was acting abnormal, he quickly asked, “Are you also going to the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility?”

“This Concubine has already greeted the Empress Dowager…” A slight blush suddenly appeared on Concubine Tong’s face, “This Concubine is just relaxing in the palace at the moment.”

Seeing the appearance of Concubine Tong, Song Qingshu quickly realized that she might have guessed that Kangxi would be visiting the Empress Dowager soon, so she had been deliberately walking around the only path to the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility, waiting for him.

“We… We must go to the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility to greet the Empress Dowager first, and you can continue with your walk.” Facing Kangxi’s concubine, Song Qingshu felt very uncomfortable, and prepared to leave after some casual words. However, he couldn’t bear to hurt her, so he added, “It’s cold outside, don’t walk around for too long.”

Looking at Song Qingshu’s disappearing figure, Concubine Tong’s beautiful eyes began to shine brightly, and the maid at the side also took the opportunity to flatter her, “The Emperor really loves the Mistress a lot…”

*****

Song Qingshu naturally didn’t know what was happening behind him, all his attention was focused on how to deal with the Empress Dowager later. 

Standing in front of the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility, Song Qingshu could not stop himself from cursing, ‘In almost all the films and television series, the Empress Dowager is always portrayed as a cunning old woman. I never thought that I would have to face such a terrifying figure one day.’

“This son pays respects to the Empress Dowager.” Although he was extremely reluctant, Song Qingshu had no choice but to respectfully salute the Empress Dowager.

“Emperor, get up.” The Empress Dowager raised her left hand, and with the support of the maid, she walked down from the couch, then looked at Song Qingshu with a look of relief on her face, “Sure enough, the former Emperor chose the right person. In just a few years, you united the whole empire. You defeated the powerful minister Oboi, pacified Shandong’s Golden Serpent Camp, and now subdued the power of Shengjing. Having you as the Emperor is really a blessing for my Qing Dynasty.”

Hearing the Empress Dowager’s praise for Kangxi, Song Qingshu had no choice but to remain silent and just respectfully stand still.

“It’s very good to not be arrogant in victory and not be discouraged in defeat.” Seeing Song Qingshu’s calm expression, the Empress Dowager nodded approvingly, “At first, I was worried that the Emperor would be dazzled by the victory after you removed Prince Bao. But now I am relieved.” (G: She is referring to herself as ‘Aijia’ 哀家, which is used by a widowed Empress. Doesn’t really have an equivalent in English.)

“How does the Emperor plan to announce the cause of Hongli’s death?” The Empress Dowager motioned the maid to go out first, and then suddenly asked.

“Naturally, We can only declare to the outside world that he was sick and died, then We shall bury him with the most solemn etiquette, and then We will let Hongli’s son Yongyan inherit his post, and promote him to the position of a hereditary king. Granting the title of Iron Hat King.” 

Song Qingshu had already thought about this matter for a long time, and quickly answered.

“Well, no matter how much the outside world speculates, as long as they see you treating Prince Bao’s descendants so favorably, most people probably won’t believe that you did something to Hongli. I can see that the Emperor is now becoming more and more proficient in handling state affairs, it’s just…” The Empress Dowager suddenly fell silent.

Song Qingshu was startled, and worried that she might have found some flaws, he respectfully asked,  “I hope the Empress Dowager will make it clear.”

“It’s just that the way you have handled the women’s affairs is a mess.” The Empress Dowager seemed to be angry and she coldly snorted, “What are you going to do with the two women you brought back from Shengjing?”

“We have already made a decree in Shengjing. After returning to Yanjing, they will be named Concubine Hui and Concubine Ping.” Thinking of Xia Qingqing in his mind, Song Qingshu thought about going to see her as soon as possible to make sure she wouldn’t cause any troubles again.

“Hmph! A broken flower and a woman from the Wulin, how can they be the imperial concubines of my Qing Dynasty!” The Empress Dowager snorted in dissatisfaction.

‘Why do women like make things difficult for women!’ 

Looking at the Empress Dowager’s gloomy face, Song Qingshu complained in his mind. He wanted to laugh, but he had to give an explanation to make the situation clear, “This time, the plan to get rid of Prince Bao without bloodshed depended entirely on Lady Ma’s determination.” 

Ma Chunhua actually didn’t hesitate to sacrifice her chastity, and used her charm to approach Hongli through Fukang’an, then succeeded in the end! Song Qingshu really admired her very much.

“I know that she has made a lot of contributions, but if this matter is leaked, what will people think of you, the Emperor?” The Empress Dowager sighed, “As the saying goes, kindness does not make soldiers, let alone Emperors.”

Song Qingshu was shocked, “Empress Dowager, you mean…”

“If you can’t bear to do it, I will send someone to take care of it.” The Empress Dowager’s face full of drooping loose skin remained the same, without any particular expressions.

Song Qingshu remained silent for a moment, and finally shook his head and said, “I have my own plans and I will handle it well.” 

If he handed this matter over to the Empress Dowager, Ma Chunhua would either hang herself to death or fall into the lake and drown. Her death won’t really make any big waves. But, Song Qingshu really didn’t want to do things in such a way.

The Empress Dowager looked at him suspiciously, but when she thought that the other party was the Emperor, she concluded that it would not be proper to push him too much, so she nodded, “Ma Chunhua has indeed made great contributions, but the other girl is from Wulin. How can she enter the palace?”

Song Qingshu quickly explained Xia Qingqing’s role in the whole incident, and finally added, “The imperial court’s control over Shandong has always been weak because of the Golden Serpent Camp, and the Red Coat Army under Yang Miaozhen is also in Shandong. It is a faction that cannot be underestimated! If We can make her Our concubine, We can use their power for Our own use. It will be of great benefit to the imperial court.”

“Okay.” The Empress Dowager nodded, obviously agreeing with his statement, but soon hesitated, “But, she is a Han after all, and it is our ancestral rule that Manchu and Han cannot marry.”

Song Qingshu hurriedly told her the countermeasures that he had thought up before, and when she heard that Cheng Engong has accepted Yang Miaozhen as his adopted daughter, the Empress Dowager finally nodded with satisfaction.

*****

Coming out of the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility, Song Qingshu finally breathed a sigh of relief, and though, ‘There is no way I will come to this place every day…’

Back at the Qianqing Palace, Song Qingshu ordered Xiao Lizi to bring over the memorials that had piled up recently, and it took him a whole day to review them all. After a few days of experience, Song Qingshu had gradually learned how to review the memorials.

However, he read the memorial more to find out the power balance of the imperial court, rather than really intending to govern this huge Empire. Song Qingshu thought bitterly as he looked at the thick pile of memorials in front of him, ‘I have to find a few secretaries to share my worries, or I will be exhausted to death when I finally became the Emperor!’

In fact, with the existence of the officials, the Emperor didn’t really need to personally handle the memorials. It’s just that Song Qingshu was quite eager to get the power in his hands as soon as possible, so he directly bypassed all the officials.

Song Qingshu threw the memorial on the table and stretched, only to realize that it was getting late, and thought that it was time to go see Xia Qingqing. As soon as he walked out of the door, he was suddenly stopped by an old eunuch.

“May I ask who the Emperor wants to visit” the old eunuch respectfully asked.

“I’m going to visit the Concubine Ping.” Song Qingshu frowned. He recognized this old eunuch from when he used to work as a bodyguard in the palace. His name was Liang Jiugong, and he was the chief eunuch of the inner palace.

“Could it be that the Emperor has forgotten the rules set by the ancestors? In order to prevent the Emperor from favoring only one person, you can’t decide which concubine to spend the night with.” Seeing Song Qingshu’s face turn gloomy, Liang Jiugong secretly sweated bullets, but as the Empress Dowager herself had ordered him to properly see through this matter, he had no choice but to bite the bullet and explain the situation, while beckoning the little eunuch to bring up a tray.

Seeing the wooden tiles neatly placed on the tray, Song Qingshu was dumbfounded. He had watched those historical dramas in his previous life, so he naturally knew what it meant. Each of these tiles had the name of a concubine written on it. He would have to sleep with the concubine depending on which tile he picked up at random.

Although Song Qingshu’s disguise was nearly flawless, enough to deceive the eunuchs and ministers, but how could he deceive the people Kangxi regularly slept with? 

“I’m not going anywhere tonight.” With a cold snort, Song Qingshu turned around and left.

“Your Majesty, the Empress Dowager has a decree, saying that the Emperor has been away from Yanjing for a long time, and he should spend time with this Concubines in the imperial harem now that he has returned.” Liang Jiugong stopped Song Qingshu and said with a bitter face.

Song Qingshu felt miserable. He knew that it was not an option to hide like this all the time, and it would inevitably arouse the suspicion of the people, so he bit the bullet and randomly picked up a tile, while praying that it would be an unfavored concubine, so that the possibility of being seen through would be greatly reduced.

After reading the words on the tile, Song Qingshu couldn’t help himself from crying out in his head, ‘Why does it have to be Concubine Tong!’


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