The Girl Who Struggled Through Palace Intrigues to Become the Empress - C.5: Great Wisdom as a Fool

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The moment their eyes met, the air seemed to congeal like glue.

This was the first time Song Zhao felt the imposing aura of a woman. Consort Yin’s sharp gaze seemed able to see right through her at a glance.

It was different from her past dealings with Jiang, Song Yue and the others back at the Song manor. Song Zhao knew very clearly that none of the women who had made it to the rank of consort in the palace were simple characters.

She bent her knees and bowed deeply, performing the full ritual of paying respects, “This concubine answers to Lady Song’s summons, and has come to pay my respects to Noble Consort Yin. I wish Noble Consort Yin a thousand years, ten thousand years of blessings and good fortune.”

When paying respects, low ranked concubines were not allowed to look directly at highly ranked ones. Although Song Zhao had kept her head lowered throughout without meeting Consort Yin’s eyes, she could still sense Consort Yin swiftly scrutinizing her with piercing eyes.

After a long pause, she finally heard Consort Yin say, “Disregard formalities, rise.”

After everyone had gotten up, Consort Yin sat down in the chief position. Her posture was upright and her voice steady as she said,

“His Majesty should have summoned you himself, but the Empress suddenly suffered a bout of heart problems. After court adjourned, His Majesty went straight to Fenghuang Palace. The Empress then told Us to receive you in his stead.”

She paused briefly, then let out a cold laugh. Her eyes flashed sharply as she continued, “But We did not expect to witness such an amusing scene!”

With that, she slammed her palm onto the tabletop, startling everyone.

“His Majesty has been investigating corrupt officials strictly since ascension. Yet you new consorts are already bribing eunuchs in the rear palace? Looking at your distinguished families, where did you learn such rotten tricks?”

Seeing her anger flare, including Song Zhao, all four women knelt down together.

“Please calm yourself Consort Yin. This concubine knows her wrongs...”

Consort Yin glanced at them from the corner of her eyes. Her tone softened slightly,

“We know that you have no connections after entering the palace, and only wanted to build your foundations and gain helpers. We will not overly fault you for something only human. But if you use the wrong methods and go down the wrong path, it will implicate your paternal families.”

Li Noble Consort kowtowed noisily as she pleaded repeatedly, “Mother is absolutely right. This foolish concubine has ignorantly committed a grave mistake. I beg Mother show leniency and give this concubine a chance to repent and reform.”

Xiao Concubine and Liu Concubine also pleaded, “Please give this concubine a chance to repent and reform.”

Naturally, Song Zhao chimed in with whatever the others were saying.

Consort Yin found it strange that Song Zhao was admitting wrongdoing together with them, even though she hadn’t bribed Eunuch Shun.

“Song Attendant, you did not bribe him, so why are you admitting wrong with them?”

Song Zhao respectfully replied, “This concubine did not bribe Eunuch Shun, not because I did not want to, but...this concubine does not have anything decent to offer. 𝚏ree𝚠𝚎𝐛nove𝚕.com

Although Eunuch Shun did not accept this concubine’s bribe, I did have that improper intention. Consort Mother is right to scold me. Wrong is wrong, I dare not conceal it, that would only compound my errors.”

Consort Yin seemed quite satisfied with her reply, nodding and smiling as she gestured for everyone to rise.

“Considering this is your first offense, We shall forgive you all this once, and will not inform His Majesty or Her Majesty the Empress of this matter. Do take care to act properly in the future, and refrain from such improper thoughts.”

The women were overjoyed, as if granted amnesty. They repeatedly thanked Consort Yin for her magnanimity.

Consort Yin lectured them perfunctorily for a bit more, before having the palace maids lead them back to their own palaces.

Song Zhao was assigned to Yaohua Palace, where Noble Consort Li also resided.

Noble Consort Li was talkative. On their way back, she chattered incessantly to Song Zhao,

“Let me tell you, you’re really muddleheaded. Consort Yin didn’t even know about you giving gifts earlier. Yet you took the initiative to admit to it yourself. With how honest you are, I doubt you can even survive in the palace.”

Song Zhao looked at her blankly, “Didn’t Consort Yin already forgive us? It should be fine now, right?”

“You understand nothing,” Li Noble Consort lowered her voice and whispered in her ear. “Consort Yin only outwardly let the matter go. In truth, she now has blackmail material over us. In the future when we gain imperial favor, she will likely bring this up to threaten us.”

With that, she glanced at Song Zhao and shook her head with a frown. “Tsk tsk, looking at you, there’s no chance of you gaining favor. Naturally you don’t have such worries.”

Song Zhao gently nodded her head, “I’m not as beautiful or well-connected as sister, nor as clever as sister. Since we’ll be living together, I hope sister will take good care of me.”

With just two sentences, she made Li Noble Consort bloom with pride and satisfaction, lifting her chin arrogantly, “Of course I’m different from you. If you’re willing to follow me as an attendant in the future, when I become a Consort or Imperial Noble Consort, I may be able to protect you.”

Song Zhao smiled. “Then I will have to thank sister deeply.”

The head mistress of Yaohua Palace was Consort Yao, but she had gone with the other consorts to Fenghuang Palace to attend to the suddenly ill Empress today. So when Song Zhao arrived, Consort Yao was not present.

Li Noble Consort lived in the east wing, while Song Zhao lived in the west wing. After entering Yaohua Palace, they split up and went their separate ways to their own quarters.

As soon as she entered the west wing, Yun Shan immediately shut the palace doors tightly. After greeting her mistress, she pulled Song Zhao mysteriously to the side and asked in a hushed voice,

“Young Mistress, although Li Noble Consort’s words were unpleasant, she was not entirely wrong. Earlier, Consort Yin clearly had no suspicions about you, so why did you take the initiative to admit to bribing Eunuch Shun? Also, this servant asked you earlier why you didn’t give Eunuch Shun a gift. Why did you say...he didn’t have the fortune to receive it?”

Song Zhao leisurely tidied her sleeves as she casually explained,

“Father often mentioned in the manor that His Majesty had started investigating corrupt officials since his accession. Now that the previous reign’s administration is being rectified, naturally the rear palace will also need to clean up this sort of unhealthy custom.

When Li Noble Consort gave silver to Eunuch Shun earlier, I noticed a palace maid sneakily peering in through the window. We’re all new consorts and concubines, what was there worth her looking at?

So I guessed that she was probably sent by His Majesty or some other master or mistress to monitor us.”

Yun Shan propped up her chin with both hands and asked with a tilted head, “Young Mistress clearly saw it, so why did you still take out your silver pendant to give to Eunuch Shun?”

Song Zhao slowly explained, “Think about it. If everyone else gave gifts but I was the only one who didn’t, what would Consort Yin say about me?”

Yun Shan said, “She would certainly praise Young Mistress in front of everyone.”

Song Zhao nodded with a smile, “She praises me, and Li Noble Consort will feel I’m sly and crafty, and stop letting down her guard against me.

When Li Noble Consort said those things to me earlier, she completely took me for a fool. This is exactly the effect I wanted.

Everyone will think I’m stupid, so everyone will stop being wary of me, and stop staring at me like I’m a thorn in their side.

Even if Consort Yin reports this matter to His Majesty and Her Majesty, when a group makes the same mistake, they would be punished together. They all have influential backgrounds, for such a trivial matter, His Majesty wouldn’t risk offending their families over it. That is what the principle of collective responsibility means.”

Only then did Yun Shan suddenly understand. As it turned out, everything was part of her young mistress’ calculations.

Her cat-like eyes shone as she gazed at Song Zhao worshipfully and exclaimed, “Wow! Young Mistress, you’re so amazing! Isn’t this what the old master calls...um...hiding one’s abilities and biding one’s time?”

Song Zhao scoffed disdainfully and shook her head, “If father knew what that phrase meant, he wouldn’t have sent me to the palace.”

Yun Shan looked puzzled. “Young Mistress speaks in riddles again...”

Song Zhao stroked her hair indulgently, her smile gentle, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand. Just remember, the good show has only just begun.”

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