The Girl Who Struggled Through Palace Intrigues to Become the Empress - C.8: In the Cold Eye

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Song Zhao turned around and saw the imposing arrival of a person.

A glamorous woman dressed as magnificently as the Empress herself, surrounded by a group of twenty to thirty palace maids.

Two attendants stood close by, holding ornate parasols to shade her from the sun, while another two fanned her with palm-leaf fans. In front of her, several palace maids held ice-filled trays emitting a white mist that appeared refreshingly cool.

Song Zhao quickly glanced at the woman. She had phoenix-shaped eyes with a slight upward tilt at the corners, sharp edges, and a crimson teardrop birthmark at the corner of her right eye. This mark softened her gaze, adding an indescribable allure.

Having encountered numerous concubines in the palace, Song Zhao could confidently say that this woman before her was the most outstanding among them all.

With her luxurious attire and a hint of arrogance in her eyes and brows, it was not difficult to guess that she was Consort Chen, who made the entire harem seethe with jealousy.

Song Zhao immediately bowed respectfully and spoke in a courteous tone, "This concubine, Song Zhao, greets Consort Chen. May you be blessed and secure."

Consort Chen briefly glanced at her and did not ask her to rise. Instead, she turned to a palace maid beside her and asked, "Is this Song Shicheng's daughter?"

The palace maid named Yingxiang replied, "Yes, Your Ladyship. She is the daughter of the Duke of Protector's household and entered the palace yesterday along with three other selected maidens."

Upon hearing this, Consort Chen said, "So, she is Song Shicheng's daughter. You may rise."

After expressing her gratitude, Song Zhao listened as Consort Chen continued, "Your father and my father had some personal connections. Although you are a commoner's daughter, there is no need for you to belittle yourself. In your free time, you can visit my palace frequently, and I will surely bestow some benefits upon you."

The harem detested factions forming among the concubines, and Consort Chen openly made such a statement near the Empress's palace gates, showing her audacity and disregard for the Empress.

Consort Chen extended an olive branch, but Song Zhao dared not accept it. With so many palace attendants passing through this area, any one of them could be close to the Empress. If she agreed to Consort Chen's proposal and the Empress found out, she would surely view Song Zhao unfavorably. On the other hand, if she declined, Consort Chen would stare at her with anticipation. Caught between a rock and a hard place, she couldn't afford to offend anyone.

Song Zhao's thoughts raced, and she quickly came up with an idea.

Yun Shan stood beside her, supporting her. Pretending to bow down again to pay her respects to Consort Chen, Song Zhao intentionally nudged Yun Shan's left hand, which held a box made of pearwood.

The pearwood box fell to the ground, and Yun Shan immediately stooped to pick it up.

Meanwhile, Song Zhao put on a delighted expression and spoke with utmost respect, "I am deeply grateful for Consort Chen's favor. This concubine..."

"What is this?" Consort Chen's gaze was drawn to the pearwood box on the ground, and she interrupted Song Zhao with a cold voice, moving closer to examine it carefully.

Every item that came out of the Empress's palace was adorned with phoenix patterns.

Consort Chen froze for a moment upon seeing the phoenix pattern and then sneered.

"Hmph, the Empress doesn't mind that you are just a lowly concubine, yet she regards you so highly."

Step by step, she approached Song Zhao and raised her chin with a hand covered in icy armor, almost piercing Song Zhao's skin. Hurriedly, Song Zhao explained:

"Empress and Consort Chen are both very considerate of the new palace maidens who have recently entered the palace. They are concerned about the eczema and sores on the maidens' faces, fearing that such a condition would frighten the emperor during their intimate moments. Therefore, they specially rewarded the palace maidens with a box of Purple Gold Healing Ointment."

Consort Chen snorted, "Hmph, since you have received such a grand gift from the Empress, then enjoy it."

With that, she waved her hand and lightly stroked her temple, "I still need to pay respects to the Empress, I have no time to chat with you. You may leave on your own."

Song Zhao bowed to Consort Chen once again and quickly left with Yun Shan.

After they had walked far away, Yun Shan released the breath she had been holding in her chest, "I was so scared. Consort Chen looked like she wanted to devour our little mistress alive."

Song Zhao remained indifferent, "She doesn't have time to devour me. She only devours those who receive her favor. Today, Li Noble Consort has taken all the attention during the greetings. How long do you think it will be until we hear the good news of her being favored by the emperor?"

Yun Shan said, "Tonight, the Palace Eunuch Office will present the green head plaques of our little mistress and Noble Consort Li to the emperor. New maidens entering the palace are usually favored by the emperor within a month. Since Li Noble Consort has pleased the Empress today, I believe the Empress will also speak favorably of her in front of the emperor."

Song Zhao smiled, "Yes, we should congratulate her."

"Our little mistress should also heal her facial wounds quickly. She looks better than any of them, and I believe the emperor will be delighted to see her when the time comes!" Yun Shan shook the sandalwood box in her hand and continued,

"Although this Purple Gold Healing Ointment is excellent, Master said that people in the palace are unpredictable. Any internal or external use of substances must be tested by the imperial physicians first. The imperial physician, Liu, is one of our people. I will go to the Imperial Medical Bureau later and ask..."

"No need to go." Song Zhao took the sandalwood box and played with it in her hand, "Whether it's tested or not, I won't use this thing anyway. Don't bother."

*

In the blink of an eye, it had been nearly a month since Song Zhao entered the palace.

Her facial redness and swelling should have healed by now, but when she went to pay respects every day, everyone saw no difference between her and when she first entered the palace.

When the Empress asked, she explained, "I couldn't resist my cravings that day and ate a few pieces of fresh flower cake. Only later did I realize that there was peach blossom pollen in it. It was my own carelessness..."

The Empress shook her head helplessly, "Oh, you should have been more careful knowing your own condition. Look, a month has passed, and several others who entered the palace with you have already served the emperor, but you haven't even met him yet. This won't do."

Yes.

In this month, Noble Consort Li, Concubine Xiao, and Concubine Liu each received the emperor's favor once.

Only Song Zhao hadn't even seen Xiao Jingheng.

Without the emperor's favor, her days in the palace were difficult.

Not to mention that the Internal Affairs Office neglected her duties in the palace, even Concubine Xiao and Concubine Liu, who entered the palace with her, often mocked Song Zhao, not to mention Noble Consort Li, who was currently in the spotlight.

On this day, Song Zhao was leisurely flipping through a book in the palace, while Zhi Hua was sweeping the flowers, scattering them in the hall. Xi Ying had found a shady spot outside the door to relax.

Just as the palace attendants came to discuss matters, they happened to catch Xi Ying slacking off at the entrance. One of them said, "The monthly allowances have arrived. Come with me to collect them."

Upon hearing this, Xi Ying was unwilling. "I can see clearly that you just delivered the allowances for Noble Consort Li and Noble Consort Yao. It should be a matter of course for you to bring ours along as well. But instead, you make us go and fetch it ourselves?"

The attendant didn't indulge her. "Oh, so you have quite an attitude? What's the status of Noble Consort Li and Noble Consort Yao? It's up to you whether you want these allowances or not!"

The argument between the two outside the door was heard loud and clear by Song Zhao and Zhi Hua in the sleeping chamber.

Song Zhao's expression remained calm, but the speed of flipping through the book noticeably slowed down.

Zhi Hua saw it and whispered, "Young mistress... don't take it to heart. The servants of the palace attendants are always like this. When you start attending to the court in the future, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to fawn over you."

Song Zhao raised her eyebrows and smiled, nodding at Zhi Hua.

Outside the door, the voices of Xi Ying and the attendant arguing grew louder.

Unable to bear it any longer, Zhi Hua rushed out and handed the cloth to Xi Ying, saying, "Forget it, forget it. If you don't want to go, then don't. I'll go with the attendant. There are still two flower vases in the sleeping chamber that haven't been wiped clean. You go in and finish the task."

Only then did Xi Ying snort at the attendant and take the cloth from Zhi Hua's hand, reluctantly entering the sleeping chamber.

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