Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 30)

Chapter 30: Black Magic (巫蛊)

English proofreader: JimmyfromIT

In the Imperial Court, the Li family and Shen family were in constant conflict with each other. Emperor Zhou’wu’s trusted confidants were pushed out or replaced one by one. The situation became more and more chaotic. Many of the Emperor’s close ministers were whispering: The Emperor’s governance is becoming weaker and weaker. He even changed his habit of controlling everything. With his continued visits to the Inner Palace filled with beauties, the ministers realized that the Emperor had been bewitched by a woman! Since the Emperor ascended the throne at age 17, he has ruled for 10 years. All this time he has refrained from indulging in womanly charms. How could his personality have changed so much after being wounded only once? Could he have been provoked by the previous rumour?

Several frank and upright ministers directly submitted memorials [1]Memorials here is used in the historical sense of the word: a statement of facts, especially as the basis of a petition. I suppose I could replace it with “report” instead. Thoughts? admonishing the Emperor for wasting time on sensual pleasures while neglecting governmental affairs. Not only did the Emperor not listen, but he also severely punished several ministers to set an example for the rest, chilling the ministers’ hearts. The Emperor is heading down the path of an ineffective, self-indulgent ruler!

The vexing news flowed steadily into Bi’xiao Palace. Emperor Zhou’wu could only look on helplessly as the Fake Emperor ruined his reputation and destroyed his kingdom. As the state of affairs worsened, his mood plummeted.

Thankfully, Meng Sangyu always accompanied him. She made him delicious snacks and soup; they took strolls together around Bi’xiao Palace’s garden in the morning and evenings; in the morning, they would plant flowers; and in the afternoon, they would read books and practice calligraphy in the study. The leisurely and enriching days provided solace for him so he could keep his spirits up as he was continually assailed with bad news, one after another. Without Meng Sangyu, he knew that he wouldn’t have been able to endure such horrible circumstances for so long. Speaking seriously, Meng Sangyu was his hope for living. He already absolutely couldn’t bear to part from her.

That day, the low-spirited Emperor Zhou’wu finally received a piece of good news: Duke of Protection Meng obtained a resounding victory at the frontier. He repelled 100,000 Barbarian troops using only 60,000 soldiers and was even able to surround the Barbarians’ Imperial Court. In less than a month he was sure to capture the Barbarians’ political seat, ensuring a hundred years of peace for Great Zhou’s borderlands.

When the news arrived, the long quiet Bi’xiao Palace once again entered the crosshairs of the harem’s Imperial concubines. Although Virtuous Consort fell out of favour, her maiden family was undoubtedly valiant. When Duke of Protection Meng returns to Court victorious, she will definitely rise in favour once again. With this big of an achievement, the Emperor wouldn’t be able to explain himself if he didn’t reward her in some way. The ranks above a Consort are Noble Consort and Imperial Noble Consort, with the highest position being the Empress. With this kind of family background, who else could be a match for her? Perhaps even Noble Consort Li would have to yield to her strength.

Meng Sangyu didn’t pay any heed to the other palaces’ troublemaking. At this moment, she held the victory report in her hands and read it over and over, the corners of her mouth raised in a genuinely happy smile.

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“With the Barbarians’ political seat on the point of collapse, Father’s long-awaited wish can finally come true. On this point, he and the Emperor are actually rather like-minded as liege and subject, devoting themselves to defeating the Barbarians and solidifying the border’s defences. If not for his suspicious nature, the Emperor could be considered a rare wise ruler. If he hadn’t disregarded the Late Emperor’s policies that favoured civil officials over military personnel and concentrated on building up the nation’s military defences, I’m afraid that the borderlands of the present Great Zhou would still be engulfed in the flames of war and nowhere near the flourishing era that we see now.” Letting out a long sigh, Meng Sangyu passed the victory report to a smiling Nurse Feng.

Emperor Zhou’wu fixated on the woman’s serious expression. It was rare for her to compliment him. His mouth curved into a big smile as his little tail wagged back and forth.

“Your Ladyship’s words are correct. No matter how fierce those Barbarians are, as soon as they encounter our family’s Duke of Protection they will immediately turn into pewter spears [2]The original idiom was 银样镴枪头, meaning “silvery spear point actually made of pewter a.k.a. worthless despite an attractive exterior.”, attractive but useless! I heard that our family’s Duke of Protection’s reputation amongst the Barbarians is fearsome and terrifying, so much so that hearing his name can even stop small children from crying in the night!” Nurse Feng gave a thumbs up.

Meng Sangyu also laughed, her glittering phoenix eyes filled with pride. Emperor Zhou’wu chimed in with two barks of his own to celebrate. Speaking of Imperial Duke Meng nowadays, he had long lost his earlier wariness and suspicion towards him. On the contrary, he felt that Great Zhou was fortunate to have such a valiant general guarding the borderlands. Being able to have such a competent and virtuous minister to assist him in governing the country was Heaven’s blessing towards Great Zhou.

“With the war at the frontier coming to a close, Father will arrive soon to rescue the Emperor and we will be safe.” Putting away her smile, Meng Sangyu let out a sigh.

Never expecting himself to fall to this state, Emperor Zhou’wu was surprised to find that the minister who managed to stay by his side and wholeheartedly assist him was, in fact, the one he had initially feared and mistrusted the most. Thinking about the past, Emperor Zhou’wu couldn’t help but sigh with feeling. Nothing is permanent in life. He was even more grateful that Heaven allowed him to meet Sangyu, allowed him to understand himself anew, as well as recognize the true natures of those beside him.

………

After news of the victory spread, the Meng family’s reputation among the military and Great Zhou’s populace was momentarily unmatched. Speaking of the Meng family, even the town’s children could hum a few lines of a folk ballad singing their praises. The tale of the Meng family’s victory became the most popular story in the capital, especially the scene where the Meng family’s troops broke through the Barbarian defences. Storytellers spread the story far and wide in packed theatres filled to capacity. It couldn’t be helped. Great Zhou has always emphasized civil affairs over their military. Over the years, Great Zhou’s citizens had been bullied and oppressed by the Barbarians. Today, they could finally raise their heads with pride. Directly saying that “the Barbarians were eliminated in one fell swoop,” caused one to become tongue-tied. It sounded too imposing and domineering! Instead, if anyone spoke ill of the Meng family, they were bound to be viciously reprimanded by a crowd.

In the Imperial Palace, anyone speaking of Bi’xiao Palace’s unluckiness was immediately discredited. How could an unlucky person’s family win a victory? They could even eliminate 100,000 troops? Who started this groundless rumour? They went too far! Naturally, Virtuous Consort was released from house arrest. The Emperor even went to personally console her. He awarded her with many precious items. If it wasn’t for the fact that Virtuous Consort’s health hadn’t recovered, presumably she would have monopolized the Emperor’s favour for several months in a row.

All the Imperial concubines in the Inner Palace eyed Meng Sangyu with bloodshot eyes, especially Shen Hui’ru. If Meng Chang’xiong really returned to the capital victorious with one million troops, it would be difficult for the Shen family to continue their schemes for the throne! Haven’t you seen how quiet Left Chancellor Li has been these past few days? Even he has been suppressed by Meng Changxiong’s fighting spirit! This can’t be allowed! We must find a way to get rid of Meng Chang’xiong and Virtuous Consort!

Meng Sangyu also felt the brewing undercurrent in the palace. She immediately strengthened Bi’xiao Palace’s patrols. Unnecessary personnel were not allowed to enter the main hall and the study. Anyone coming or going also had to be screened one by one. Before her father returned to the capital, they had to ensure that Bi’xiao Palace’s defences were watertight.

That day, Meng Sangyu took A’Bao for a stroll around the garden as usual. The master and pet pair played the embroidered ball game [3]The embroidered ball here refers to a traditional sport as well as a love token~ The sport is similar to basketball where two teams of boys and girls toss embroidered balls into a goal post. As a love token, it could be given as a gift or used in a variation of the custom where an unmarried girl would toss an embroidered ball into a crowd of eligible men (leaving it to fate etc.). Whoever caught the ball would become her future husband. Originally a custom of the Zhuang People in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, this custom has been popularized in many Chinese dramas. A scene from 还珠格格 (My Fair Princess) instantly comes to mind. Read more here! for a while before picking a few plum blossom branches. One following after the other, they happily returned to the bedchamber.

Striding into the chamber, A’Bao eagerly ran to the foot of the divan and picked up the usual pair of embroidered shoes his master loved to wear indoors. His tail waved back and forth as he trotted back to his master’s side and placed the shoes at her feet. Then he raised his head and looked up at her with his glittering little eyes.

“A’Bao is so smart! I only taught you once and you already learned it! Kisses~!” Meng Sangyu’s heart quivered from A’Bao’s cuteness. Holding him close, she planted several loud kisses on his little snout.

A’Bao’s eyes glazed over as he swiftly began to lick his master’s face, especially her tender and beautiful lips. His doggy face showed a satisfied expression. As time went on, the possibility of returning to his body seemed more and more uncertain. His soul was firmly enshrined in A’Bao’s body, unable to separate. Sometimes he would even go so far as to think that it wouldn’t be so bad to permanently stay by Sangyu’s side like this. Now that Imperial Duke Meng was on his way back, even if he never woke up from his coma, Imperial Duke Meng would be able to thoroughly protect Sangyu. With this, Emperor Zhou’wu had no other worries and could be at ease being A’Bao.

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The master and pet duo frolicked around for a while, sticking together like two peas in a pod. The sticky, sweet atmosphere dissipated when Nurse Feng walked in carrying a heavy basin of hot water. At her urging, they reluctantly separated.

“Come, let’s clean your paws. That way they’ll be clean so you can go on the bed later.” Meng Sangyu held A’Bao close while Nurse Feng washed his paws before placing him on top of the divan.

Emperor Zhou’wu ran to the side of the low table [4]炕桌 (kàng zhuō) are low tables that could be placed on top of divans or other large couches or beds. I imagine their original use was to be placed on top of a 炕 (kàng) a.k.a. a heated bed stove. I think I instinctively knew what this was in my head but couldn’t find the words to describe it for a long time. The word 炕 (kàng) really threw me off. I kept thinking, “Oh no! The bed is going to catch fire!” or was confused by how they would be able to move the divan to the window if it was a heated bed that was built into the building… on the divan and picked up the plum blossom branch that Meng Sangyu had casually set aside. He waited for her to finish washing her face and rinsing her mouth before immediately dashing to her side to place the flowers in her hand, happy and diligent in his actions.

As Meng Sangyu took the flowers offered to her, she somehow thought of a handsome tango dancer with a rose in his mouth as he played the field. Changing the handsome man’s face into A’Bao’s dog face, this image…..

Hehehe….. She hugged A’Bao as she fell on top of the divan giggling. The smiling Emperor Zhou’wu was baffled by her laughter.

Aiya [5]For those who aren’t familiar, 哎呀 (āiyā) is an extremely common used exclamation of surprise, amazement, shock, complaint and impatience in Chinese., My A’Bao is cuter and cuter! A’Bao is my precious darling, as precious as my spleen, lung, and kidneys [6]心肝宝贝脾肺肾 (xīnggānbǎobèi pí fèi shèn) – An expression of being loved and important! Precious darling! Literally, you’re as precious to me as my heart, spleen, lung, and kidneys.. I can’t leave you for even one day!” She rubbed A’Bao’s soft and fluffy belly, smiling as she spoke.

We also won’t leave you! Emperor Zhou’wu barked in reply. His face under his dog fur was blushing bright red.

“Your Ladyship, it is time to eat!” Nurse Feng directed a group of maids to set the table in the side chamber. She felt helpless towards this master and pet pair who didn’t notice as they spent the entire day glued together.

“Ah, coming!” Meng Sangyu planted more kisses on A’Bao’s little head again before heading towards the side chamber together. Passing by a huge vertical flower vase in the corner of the chamber, A’Bao’s nose suddenly stirred and he stopped walking.

He slowly approached the vase, sniffing carefully. He discovered a whiff of something he had never smelled before. He had committed Sangyu, Nurse Feng, and the rests’ scents to heart long ago. Without Sangyu’s permission, no one else besides her trusted aids was allowed to enter her bedroom. According to logic, there shouldn’t be any new scents. Therefore, there was only one explanation: When Sangyu and himself left earlier, an outsider must have snuck in!

Without having received permission and secretly sneaking in, this person couldn’t possibly have had any good intentions! The fact that this scent carried the faint smell of rouge meant that the person who snuck in had to be a palace maid. Analyzing until here, Emperor Zhou’wu had already considered millions of conspiracy theories. His heart tightening, he loudly barked at Meng Sangyu while circling around the vase.

“A’Bao, what are you doing? Stop barking, your throat hasn’t recovered yet!” Meng Sangyu walked over and reached out to cover his mouth.

Emperor Zhou’wu escaped her hands. He used his little paws to point at the vase while continuing to bark loudly.

“There is a problem with this vase?” Meng Sangyu’s expression turned serious.

Emperor Zhou’wu nodded his head. This was his first time revealing to Meng Sangyu that he could understand human speech. However, Meng Sangyu had long realized this and wasn’t surprised in the least. She merely circled the vase, observing. After, she went to the side chamber to call Nurse Feng who was laying out the dishes, Yin’cui, and Bi’shui, and dismissed all unnecessary personnel.

“Set the flower vase on the ground. Let me see what’s inside. A’Bao just kept barking at the vase. I’m afraid someone has tampered with it,” said Meng Sangyu in a heavy voice.

The vase was about as tall as a person. It contained a few stalks of lucky bamboo. They had to remove about half a person’s height worth of water. Needless to say, it was extremely difficult to move. Meng Sangyu chose two absolutely loyal eunuchs who had been placed in the Palace through her father’s arrangements and allowed them to help.

The vase was overturned on the ground. Water that had turned slightly yellow from being in the vase for so long slowly flowed out onto the chamber’s floor. Following the water, out flowed a tiny cloth doll. Its head was completely covered with gleaming, glittering silver needles.

Hugging A’Bao, Meng Sangyu stepped through the water to the vase, now seemingly a small lake, and bent down to examine the cloth doll. One person and one dog’s pupils contracted simultaneously in a flash; their faces couldn’t hide their utter surprise. This was because someone used cinnabar to write a row of characters on the cloth doll’s head. Shockingly, they were the reigning Emperor, his Majesty Emperor Zhou’wu’s Eight Birth Characters [7]The Eight Birth Characters or 生辰八字 (shēngchénbāzì) are eight Chinese characters in four pairs indicating the year, month, day, and hour of a person’s birth combined with their heavenly trunk and earthly branch. This was used for astrological purposes..

Cinnabar was waterproof. The characters shined as brightly as ever, stinging the eyes of the master and pet pair.


TL Notes:

1
A low table (炕桌) that you might see in ancient times on couches
A low table on top of a traditional heated bed
A low table (炕桌) on top of a traditional heated bed (炕)

 


TL Thoughts:

We got some voodoo here, y’all!!! *Shivers* That would be so creepy to find, oh my goodness! > . < The plot thickens with intrigue… fufu~ :3

Thank you for your patience everyone! If you saw the updates section on the sidebar of my site, you might have seen my message about going through heartbreak 🙁 </3 Things are better now! Sorry for the delay.

On a more positive note, I hope the updates section is working out for everyone! I did my best to keep you informed when I could. If you ever have a question, the fastest way to reach me is to leave a comment. I get notifications for them on my phone. ^ ^

Heads up!! The next chapter will not be released until mid-April at the earliest. I have a lot of assignments and such coming up for school. #hellmonth Pray for me T _ T

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Translator Notes   [ + ]

1. Memorials here is used in the historical sense of the word: a statement of facts, especially as the basis of a petition. I suppose I could replace it with “report” instead. Thoughts?
2. The original idiom was 银样镴枪头, meaning “silvery spear point actually made of pewter a.k.a. worthless despite an attractive exterior.”
3. The embroidered ball here refers to a traditional sport as well as a love token~ The sport is similar to basketball where two teams of boys and girls toss embroidered balls into a goal post. As a love token, it could be given as a gift or used in a variation of the custom where an unmarried girl would toss an embroidered ball into a crowd of eligible men (leaving it to fate etc.). Whoever caught the ball would become her future husband. Originally a custom of the Zhuang People in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, this custom has been popularized in many Chinese dramas. A scene from 还珠格格 (My Fair Princess) instantly comes to mind. Read more here!
4. 炕桌 (kàng zhuō) are low tables that could be placed on top of divans or other large couches or beds. I imagine their original use was to be placed on top of a 炕 (kàng) a.k.a. a heated bed stove. I think I instinctively knew what this was in my head but couldn’t find the words to describe it for a long time. The word 炕 (kàng) really threw me off. I kept thinking, “Oh no! The bed is going to catch fire!” or was confused by how they would be able to move the divan to the window if it was a heated bed that was built into the building…
5. For those who aren’t familiar, 哎呀 (āiyā) is an extremely common used exclamation of surprise, amazement, shock, complaint and impatience in Chinese.
6. 心肝宝贝脾肺肾 (xīnggānbǎobèi pí fèi shèn) – An expression of being loved and important! Precious darling! Literally, you’re as precious to me as my heart, spleen, lung, and kidneys.
7. The Eight Birth Characters or 生辰八字 (shēngchénbāzì) are eight Chinese characters in four pairs indicating the year, month, day, and hour of a person’s birth combined with their heavenly trunk and earthly branch. This was used for astrological purposes.

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