DRAGON STUDY QUARTERS
When they walked towards the Dragon Study Quarters they were welcomed by disapproving stares from the emperor's entourage. Noticing their arrival, Eunuch Nam silently left where he was stationed by the doors.
Consort Wang wondered whether who she sought for was inside. Yesterday she did not bother to try coming for she heard that he was practicing all night with Luo Meng.
"Your Highness." He bowed towards her and then the little princess who stood beside her.
"Eunuch Nam, announce to his majesty that we are here."
"Your Highness knows no consort or concubine can appear before his majesty unless summoned." He indirectly said no.
"It's the princess who asked me to accompany her to see Fuhuang." She motioned towards her daughter who held a painting in one of her hands. Her little five year old hands still had painting marks that had refused to come off.
The eunuch scrutinised the little princess before reluctantly letting the matter prevail. "Very well then." He then padded to the enclosed doors.
"Your majesty, Princess Cai Wenjin and Consort Wang ask for your admittance."
No response returned.
"Your majesty! Princess―"
"Granted." The emperor said from the inside.
Eunuch Nam looked back at the two visitors with a slight nod. They were led inside while their own entourage parked beside the emperor's.
The emperor set behind a huge desk that was swamped with various scrolls. He looked like the whole world was on his shoulders with the pending work that had accumulated on his leave for the camp.
He looked up at the princess and gladly smiled. "Princess."
However, the two had to first honour decorum before him, so they enclasped their hands above their heads and lowered to their knees, falling down with their hands flat on the floor while foreheads kissed the floor. Courteously standing up again, they enclasped their hands at chest level and stuck their right foot to the back as they lowered their bodies slightly.
"You may rise." The emperor stood up and walked them to his study lounge, where he often entertained visitors that came for him privately in his working hours. He wore a neat grey changpao with no embroidery, something plain as he probably had not planned to entertain anyone but keep himself to his impending work all day.
The study lounging room was normally sunlit with yellow rays but since it was night the pearl white and yellow was merged with the brown dull color of shelves that kept the dozen piles of books.
"His Majesty must see what I made." The princess rushed over to her father and held up the painting for him.
The emperor reclined on a gold zabuton floor cushion while observing the painting. Consort Wang sat across from them, a small table separating them. From where she was, she couldn't help noticing the dark swelling on his neck.
Consort Wang's sharp nails dug into her palm. She couldn't contain the jealousy seething through as she was fully aware that it was a love bite. It was huge, staring back at her and outrightly mocking her. Which other woman had he been with? She had sent her palace maids to ask for time with him and they told her that, he was busy with work. Looks like work included a serpent coiling around his neck.
What about her? He never let her touch him in bed, only he did the touching and she thought that applied to everyone else, but the love bite on his neck was saying otherwise.
"Do you like it?" the princess smiled excitedly, bringing her back to earth. "It is his Majesty, mother and I."
"Princess must not speak informally to His Majesty." The consort chastised her daughter softly though she was a burning fire inside.
"It is beautiful. Princess has done well." The emperor patted her head. "Her Highness' paintings are improving within a small amount of time than expected. Don't I have a clever daughter?" He snuck his arm around her and embraced her small body.
Princess Cai Wenjin giggled loudly, proud of her own work. "Your beloved daughter intends to work hard so that she won't be a disgraceful empress in future."
Consort Wang fixated her eyes to the floor wishing the world would swallow her at that moment. Her anger cooled down because of shame. The Dowager Empress Wang always told the princess how she must work hard to aspire to be empress since there was no heir to the throne. At that time she had seen nothing wrong with it but to her worst luck the princess had no knowledge what to filter before other people. She nervously twiddled with the ring on her finger feeling the emperor's cold gaze penetrating her like a sharp blade.
He wouldn't dare throw a ruckus before his daughter would he?
"I heard that our princess was not feeling well, when I left for the camp. Is her Highness feeling better?" The emperor cupped her little face with his huge hands. It looked like he was going to let the issue pass.
Princess Cai Wenjin beamed. "His majesty does not have worry for Cai Wenjin will be healthy to live on after you and watch over your throne." She raised her hand as a sworn promise.
"Bai Cai Wenjin." The consort admonished.
"Listen," the emperor took the princess onto his crossed legs and sat her, "the throne is for your little brother and not our princess."
"But why? For what little brother Fuhuang?"
"Because… Princess is too precious to spend all her life stressing about state affairs and going to war. Or does Cai Wenjin like to fight?"
She adorably shook her head. "Fuhuang, Princess does not have a little brother." The little girl puzzly looked at her father.
"He is not there yet but you will meet him someday."
She bobbed her head though uncertainty clouded her eyes.
"Now who is the good girl?" He tickled her playfully and she broke into a ghast of laughter.
"Fuhuang!..." She laughed harder.
Then they spent about an hour playing around and chatting about. It was when Princess Cai Weinjin finished munching some fresh snacks that Court Lady Nam brought in for her that she yawned tiredly. It was late in the night since it was already the hour of the dog. 
"Looks like it's someone's bed time?" Her father lovingly carried her off his lap and helped her stand.
"Will mother read me something to help me sleep?" She asked tiredly, her eyes twinkling with expectancy.
The consort struggled for words to excuse herself. She longed to stay behind and give the emperor company.
"Mother has to stay with His Majesty, Princess." She looked over at him, hoping he would let her stay. The last time he visited her was when she was pregnant and now to get his private attention she had to depend on the princess, although this never allowed for intimacy. His lack of affection towards her was making her lose face among other concubines, which made it harder to enforce the case of her becoming empress.
"Zhen has to tend to his affairs, thus you may leave." He excused her and disappointment struck her. Even though she bore him his only child, he was still impervious to her attempts of trying to cultivate their relationship.
"Chenqie will help His Highness by making ink for his seal." And afterwards she would ask to help him get ready for bed since it was at the right time of the month for her to conceive. One more chance in having an heir was what she desperately needed.
"Eunuch Nam!" he called with a sardonic edge.
'Eunuch Nam?' Consort Wang looked around hysterically, feeling helpless. 'No, no, no… I need to stay here tonight.'
"Ready to serve His Majesty." The eunuch trekked in from nowhere.
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"Your Majesty," she went on her knees, "Chenqie begs for your―"
"Eunuch Nam, have Consort Wang and the princess escorted to their chambers." He wouldn't hear her out. For the past five years he repudiated any chance to spend the night with her. It was at that moment that she had to face reality. The cold truth was that he wouldn't bed her even if she bet her life on it. In other words, he desired not to have her as his empress.
She resigned herself by shifting to the nether end. "Your Majesty has been most gracious to grant your valuable time to Consort Wang and Princess Cai Wenjin in the past hour."
'Bai Sheng Hong! Whoever she is that is secretly warming your bed, I will find her,' she pledged from within.
Fuhuang = emperor father, what an emperor's child can call him.
 Hour of the dog = 7pm to 9pm
 Zhen = I, used by the emperor to refer to himself. It is the symbol of an emperor and other people cannot call themselves this. It stands for the status and rights that others can't own. Sometimes it can express that the words the emperor is saying are irrefutable.
 Chenqie = I, used by the emperor's wife to refer to herself. When someone calls themselves 'Chen' he or she wants to express the meaning of 'I would like to devote myself heart and soul to the emperor unconditionally.' While 'qie' is the wife of someone. It also expresses the person's respect for the emperor.
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