The Girl Who Struggled Through Palace Intrigues to Become the Empress - C.4: First entry into the Imperial Chambers

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The second day early in the morning, the imperial carriage came to the Song mansion to pick up Song Zhao to enter the palace. 𝗳r𝐞ew𝚎bn𝚘ve𝚕.c𝗼𝗺

At the moment of parting, Song Shicheng saw her off at the gate of the mansion.

He cried with tears streaming down his face, and kept urging Song Zhao to take good care of herself after entering the palace.

As a family-born maid, Yun Shan could accompany Song Zhao into the palace.

After the imperial carriage left the Song mansion for a while, Yun Shan lamented, "In fact, when all is said and done, the old master still cares about Second Miss. This servant has worked in the mansion for so many years, and has never seen the old master cry like this."

Song Zhao smiled and looked at the scenery outside the window without saying a word.

Was he crying for himself?

He was just crying for the people in front of the emperor, trying to cry out an image of a kind father for himself.

All the way into the palace through the Meridian Gate, the imperial carriage stopped outside the Crimson Snow Pavilion.

Just as it stopped steadily, a shrill voice was heard outside the carriage,

"This humble servant is Little Shun Zi from the Palace Affairs Department. I humbly greet the young miss."

The carriage door opened from the outside, and Song Zhao took a look at the eunuch standing at the front of the carriage and nodded to him with a smile.

Little Shun Zi was all smiles originally, but his expression changed instantly when he saw Song Zhao's swollen face.

The palace servants were most adept at discerning the situation, flattering the powerful and looking down on the weak.

Especially those who worked in Palace Affairs Department, they were best at sensing the emperor's preferences, knowing which kind of people could please the emperor and which would be unwelcome.

From Little Shun Zi's attitude, it could be seen that he felt Song Zhao's appearance was surely unattractive and not favored, so he was too lazy to even pretend to be polite.

After getting off the carriage, Little Shun Zi led Song Zhao and Yun Shan into the Crimson Snow Pavilion.

Yun Shan asked him, "Excuse me for asking, will His Majesty come here later?"

But Little Shun Zi ignored her as if he didn't hear, and kept leading the way ahead, too lazy to even turn his head.

Yun Shan thought he didn't hear, so she cleared her throat and wanted to ask again in a louder voice.

At this time, Song Zhao pulled her and shook her head, signalling her not to ask any more.

After arriving at the inner hall of Crimson Snow Pavilion, Song Zhao saw that the other three chosen beauties who entered with her were already there.

Little Shun Zi was rude to her, but fawned over these new beauties with smiles,

"Noble Consort Li, Concubine Xiao, Concubine Liu, this is Song Zhao. Young ladies, please wait here for a moment. After the emperor finishes the morning court session, he will summon you to meet him."

Among them, Song Zhao had the lowest status. She saluted these three first.

And when they saw Song Zhao, they just nodded lightly, which counted as returning the courtesy.

Standing at the front was Noble Consort Li. She wore a grape purple embroidered cloud brocade robe, with lots of gold and silver hair ornaments and earrings, obviously her family background was much better than Concubine Xiao and Concubine Liu beside her.

She was savvy and got her personal maid to take some silver to give to Little Shun Zi,

"I just entered the palace and am ignorant of many rules. I hope Manager Shun can give me more guidance in the future."

Little Shun Zi took the silver with a smile stretching to his ears, "The young miss is clever and beautiful, and will naturally gain the favor of His Majesty."

Concubine Xiao and Concubine Liu also gave some benefits.

Only Song Zhao kept fiddling with her handkerchief, looking very nervous.

"Manager Shun, I didn't bring much money into the palace. Let's do this..."

She took off a silver earring and handed it to Little Shun Zi, "Please take this. I hope you can..."

"No need, no need." Little Shun Zi waved his hand and declined Song Zhao's goodwill without even touching the earring.

"How can this servant accept the young miss's personal ornament? This is a valuable item, you should keep it yourself."

After speaking sarcastically, he left, making Noble Consort Li and the others laugh awkwardly.

Song Zhao was so ashamed that her face turned red. She lowered her head and went to sit in a corner.

Noble Consort Li and Concubine Xiao looked towards Song Zhao's direction, and their voices were loud enough, as if afraid Song Zhao couldn't hear them.

Concubine Xiao said, "Oh my, the Duke of Protector is still an important minister of the second rank. She is from the Duke's mansion after all, how can she be so poor?"

Concubine Liu said, "Sister Li is different. Her father is the Minister of Transportation, also an official of the second rank. But Sister entered the palace as a noble consort, with a large dowry from her family. She must be much better than an insignificant concubine like her!"

Concubine Xiao picked up the conversation and laughed, "Silly girl, have you forgotten? Sister Li is a daughter of the legal wife while that Song woman is just a concubine's daughter. Letting her start from the status of an imperial daughter-in-law is already giving face to the Duke's family. Just look at her ugly appearance, who knows if she has some hidden illness? We'd better stay away from her."

Hearing their flattery, Noble Consort Li was delighted.

So she smiled and waved her hand pretending to be graceful, "Alright, alright. We are all sisters after entering the palace. You shouldn't say such things."

These words were hurtful like daggers, even making Yun Shan feel sour.

But she saw Song Zhao looking indifferent, even leisurely picking at the rouge on her fingernails.

Yun Shan whispered, "Young miss, before entering the palace, the old master clearly gave us two hundred taels of silver, for us to bribe the palace servants. Everyone else gave money, why didn't you give that manager something, just go along with them?"

Song Zhao looked up at Yun Shan and mouthed:

'He is doomed.'

Yun Shan seemed to understand, but didn't know what it meant.

Just as she was about to ask more, Little Shun Zi's miserable screams were heard from outside:

"This servant knows his wrongs! Spare my life!"

Everyone looked towards the sound and saw Little Shun Zi being seized and kneeling on the ground. The benefits he had just received fell out from his bosom as he kowtowed too hard, scattering all over the floor.

Standing in front of him was a tall and graceful woman, wearing a crimson gold-threaded satin robe, draped in a silver yarn coat, with clouds styled hair, and phoenix gold hairpin and jade stepsway.

She gently stroked her coiffure, glanced coldly at Little Shun Zi, and sternly said:

"His Majesty has been purging corrupt officials, yet you still dare stretch your claws into the harem? Which hand did you use to take the bribe?"

Little Shun Zi did not dare to answer stammering. A palace maid beside said:

"Replying to Consort Yin, it was his right hand."

Consort Yin raised her kerchief to below her nose, patted the powder on her face, and casually said:

"Then chop off his right hand and send him to Xinze Prison for hard labor."

Severing a hand was an extreme punishment, but it sounded as casual as killing a chicken when said by Consort Yin.

Killing a chicken to warn the monkeys, Little Shun Zi was gagged and dragged away. Consort Yin then turned and entered the inner hall.

Like Song Zhao, Noble Consort Li and the others were just sixteen-year-old girls who had been pampered at home. They had never seen such bloody affairs before.

Plus the bribes were indeed given by them, so before Consort Yin even approached them, they were already trembling with fear and could barely stand steadily.

When saluting Consort Yin, Noble Consort Li's knee went soft and she almost fell to the ground.

"This concubine pays respect to Consort Yin, may Consort have good fortune and health."

Consort Yin's sharp eyes glanced over them swiftly, then she smiled,

"Look at you, just now still chatting and laughing. What's the matter now? Could it be you were frightened by this consort punishing the criminal?"

As she spoke, her gaze naturally fell on Song Zhao standing in the corner.

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