Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 31)
Chapter 31: The Spy (内鬼)
English proofreaders: JimmyfromIT, 247reader
Meng Sangyu inwardly gritted her teeth and retreated two steps. She picked up A’Bao and collapsed on an embroidered stool 绣墩 (xiùdūn) are round drum-shaped ceramic or wooden stools with an embroidered cover. behind her. Her expression turned black one minute and white the next. It was gravely serious.
Emperor Zhou’wu stared anxiously at her expression, in case her fears escalated to the point where she might hurt herself. This attack was truly too malicious. It was seemingly directed at Virtuous Consort, but if one looked deeper, it was actually aimed at Imperial Duke Meng and the entire Meng family. If they were ever openly charged with this crime, the Meng family and their nine degrees of kin 九族 (jiǔzú) refers to one’s nine degrees of kin (construed as either the nine generations from one’s great-great-grandfather down to one’s great-great-grandson; or four generations of one’s paternal relations, three generations of one’s maternal relations, and two generations of one’s wife’s relations). would be put to death.
Nurse Feng picked up the cursed doll from the floor, her hands visibly shaking. In a quivering voice, she asked, “Your Ladyship, this… Calculating the Eight Birth Characters, 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. the cursed target could very well be the Emperor!”
“His Majesty is the cursed target,” confirmed Meng Sangyu in a cold voice, gritting her teeth. Nurse Feng didn’t know the Emperor’s Eight Birth Characters, but Meng Sangyu and her father did.
“If someone were to discover this object… We… We would..!” If looks could kill, Nurse Feng’s eyes could have cut someone in half. Consumed with hatred, she was unable to finish what she was saying. Bi’shui, Yin’cui, and even the two eunuchs had already started to clean up the spilt water on the floor. No matter what, they had to make sure that everything in the main hall, including the flower vase, was back to their original state. This was a dangerous situation. Fortunately, her Ladyship had discovered it early enough that there was still time to turn things around.
Meng Sangyu smiled sadly and spoke, her tone cold and grave, “To use black magic to plot against the throne… With Father’s achievements being so great, the charges against our Meng family will be even worse! Think about it: the daughter of a general who holds the power of a mighty army cursing the Emperor to death – for what purpose? To imitate the founder of the dynasty and stage a rebellion? If I was really accused of this, the charge of plotting against the Emperor to usurp the throne would be irrefutable! They can’t touch Father, so they targeted me instead. They plan on forcing me to plead guilty and puttong me under house arrest. When Father returns to Court to report his victory and thank the Emperor for his grace, they’ll seize the opportunity to use my crime as a cover, capture Father, and spread the word of these groundless, fabricated accusations. Afterwards, we will immediately be presented to the Court of Justice and executed. Afterwards, they will spare no time in slaughtering everyone related to the Duke of Protection’s mansion and the Meng family’s nine degrees of kin. We won’t even have a chance to protest the injustice being carried out against us! Once the news reaches the Meng family’s army, everyone will have already died and the army would settle down, unable to change history. This is truly a vicious strategy!”
After speaking, cold sweat dripped down her forehead and her face turned pale. She was chilled, down to her very soul. Only tightly hugging A’Bao could give her a modicum of warmth. Emperor Zhou’wu used his paws to securely hug her arms, focusing his entire being on trying to warm her up.
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If Sangyu could think of it, how could he not have thought of it too? Presently his eyes had long turned blood red and his killing aura surged. Killing loyal and upright subjects and throwing the Imperial Court into disorder! The Shen family has already fallen to this level! In the future when his soul returns to his body, the first thing he will do will be to sentence the Shen family and their entire clan to death! Let them taste the bitter consequences of their actions!
Meng Sangyu gently rubbed her cheeks against A’Bao’s back. She noticed that Yin’cui and the others had already cleaned up the chamber. All that remained was a bit of water from the vase. Some of the water was already evaporating from the inner heating, curling into white smoke. Soon it would disappear, leaving none the wiser. Seeing that everything would return to their original state, the fear in her heart slowly subsided. Now is not the time to continue being afraid!
She shook herself alert and petted A’Bao’s little ears. She whispered, “Darling, I know that you can understand. Listen, help me search the entirety of Bi’xiao Palace. There might be other suspicious things. After that, help me find the person who is playing tricks. When you find them, I’ll make some ‘Buddha Jumps Over the Wall’ Stew 佛跳墙 (fótiàoqiáng) Literally, “Buddha jumps over the wall” Stew – the name of a Chinese dish that uses many non-vegetarian ingredients. It’s so famous that it even has a Wikipedia page! Check out the recipe if you like! You can also find cooking videos about it on YouTube. for you to drink, how does that sound?”
Even if you didn’t say it, Zhen 朕 (zhèn) Literally “subtle” – an illeism Emperors used to refer to themselves. It changed depending on the dynasty. I’m trying out Gumi Vocaloid’s suggestion and using pinyin romanizations. Let me know what you think!! :D would still help you! Even as a dog, Zhen can still protect you! Emperor Zhou’wu barked twice and raised his nose to sniff every corner of the chamber. As expected, if there’s a first, then there will be a second. As insurance, the culprit had not only hidden a cursed doll in the flower vase, they had also stuck a human-shaped cursed paper talisman Like the Japanese Ofuda except used for curses. Click here to read more about it! under Meng Sangyu’s bed. The cursed talisman had Emperor Zhou’wu’s Eight Birth Characters written on it as well as many drawings of vicious and graphic curse incantations.
Meng Sangyu tampered with the cooked dishes in the side hall to give the appearance of having eaten and quietly brought A’Bao to search her bedroom. Presently, she was in no mood to eat anything, but to mislead the spy lurking outside, she had to act like she was unaware that anything was amiss.
Emperor Zhou’wu also wasn’t in the mood to eat anything. Meng Sangyu tried to feed him a bowl of congee, but he shook his head and refused. How could he stomach any food when they needed to root out the spy and search the entirety of Bi’xiao Palace as soon as possible so that Sangyu could escape danger? This was his first time rejoicing about his dog form. If he wasn’t a dog, Sangyu would have been harmed by someone!
After finishing his search of the bedchamber, he headed back towards the side and main halls. He searched the study, the side rooms, the garden… He searched every nook and cranny of Bi’xiao Palace, not daring to miss a single spot. Meng Sangyu followed after him, puffing for breath. To onlookers, it seemed like the master and pet pair were playing. Bi’xiao Palace’s servants were long used to this kind of scene. One after another, they would pay their respects while looking on with a smile on their face.
Passing by a side room where servants lived, Emperor Zhou’wu stopped in his tracks and directly entered through the crack in the door, bounding into the room. Inside, three fifteen- to sixteen-year-old palace maids were sitting in a circle around a brazier chatting. Seeing A’Bao enter the room, they were momentarily dazed before their eyes lit up.
“A’Bao, come here!” A palace maid amongst the group beckoned over A’Bao with her hand, smiling.
Emperor Zhou’wu walked over and sniffed the maid’s hand. When he finished, he moved on to sniffing the next one and then the last one. After sniffing them all, he was baffled. This was because the three palace maids in this room used the same rouge, the same kind of incense, In ancient times, Chinese people carried incense pouches on their person with different scents. Think of it as the ancient version of perfume. and the same hair oil. When sniffed, these three emitted the same smell. There really wasn’t much difference. He was sure that the person playing tricks was amongst the three, but he really couldn’t figure out who it was! If he were a real dog, he could probably tell the difference based on instinct and choose correctly. Unfortunately, he had only inherited the dog’s sense of smell and didn’t know how to apply this kind of intuition. Emperor Zhou’wu humphed twice, feeling extremely frustrated.
“A’Bao! Here you are!” Meng Sangyu appeared in the doorway at just the right moment, acting like she had been searching for him. She reached out her hands towards A’Bao. The three palace maids hurriedly stood up and paid respects to their master.
Casting away his frustration, A’Bao leaped into Meng Sangyu’s embrace. His little tail cheerfully waved back and forth. Meng Sangyu picked him up and hugged him, giving him a kiss on his mouth. Taking advantage of the fact that the maids were paying their respects, she murmured, “Which one is it? Point them out for me.”
“You may all rise.” Putting A’Bao down, Meng Sangyu called out towards the maids and subtly measured them with her gaze without attracting any notice.
Not only did she recognize these three palace maids, but she was very familiar with them. The youngest of the three was named Xia’dong. She was a new maid who had entered the palace this year. Her background was clean and her character was sincere and adorable. Meng Sangyu had immediately taken a liking to her and personally promoted her to work in Bi’xiao Palace. When servants first enter the palace, they are general helpers with various duties until they are assigned to a department like the Imperial Kitchens or promoted to work in a specific palace under a consort. Out of the two remaining maids, the taller one was named Lan’xin and the shorter one was named Hui’xin. They were both servants that Meng Chang’xiong [MSY’s father] had painstakingly selected from the Meng family servants and put in a lot of effort to send into the palace. When Yin’cui and Bi’shui were older, Meng Sangyu planned on sending them out of the palace to marry so they needn’t accompany her until death within the confines of the palace. Therefore, Lan’xin and Hui’xin were the best choices to succeed Bi’shui and Yin’cui’s positions as head palace maids. Normally, Meng Sangyu heavily relied on them and trusted them deeply.
Meng Sangyu’s heart would be hurt no matter which of these three maids had betrayed her. However, she also couldn’t help but respect the extent of the mastermind’s power. Their influence even reached into the Meng family, and their spy had been buried this deeply. If it wasn’t for A’Bao’s cleverness, she would definitely have been unable to escape disaster this time.
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After thinking this far, she gazed at A’Bao with a gentle expression. The little guy circled around the three, turning left and right and sniffing left and right. By each person’s side, he barked twice, impartially and without exception. Then he diligently returned to her side, his little moist black eyes filled with guilt. Seeing him like this, Meng Sangyu tacitly understood. She briefly asked the three maids something trivial before picking up A’Bao and leaving without arousing any suspicion.
Once their master had walked a good distance away, the three maids returned to sit around the fire, smiling and laughing. It was difficult to tell who was innocent and who was the spy.
“Your Ladyship, you’ve returned.” From a distance, Yin’cui and Bi’shui quickly walked up to welcome the master and pet pair. The sky had wholly darkened as night fell, and the palace had already lit the lanterns. Under the light of a bright red lantern, their expressions took on a slight red shade, appearing very warm.
A faint smile broke through Meng Sangyu’s cold expression and she gave them a slight nod. Hugging A’Bao, she returned to the bedchamber. On the table laid the cursed doll and two cursed paper talismans. In addition to under the bed, the culprit had also stuck a cursed talisman in between the layers of the screen in the main hall. Placed in such a well-hidden spot, without A’Bao’s sensitive nose, who would have discovered it?
“Your Ladyship, did you find anything strange in the other rooms?” Yin’cui asked in a low voice.
Meng Sangyu shook her head. “No, only these three places. Today’s success was all due to A’Bao!”
Bi’shui reported the results of her investigation to her master. “Your Ladyship, this servant inquired in secret: when the eunuch responsible for guarding the bedchamber left his post for a while, it’s unclear who entered the chamber unauthorized. Of course, it’s also possible that he might have taken advantage of his position and embezzled goods.”
“No, A’Bao already found the person responsible. It’s someone amongst Xia’dong, Lan’xin, and Hui’xin. It could also be two out of the three or all of them together. In any case, it’ll be fine if you keep an eye on the three of them. Before this matter is resolved, it’s of utmost importance to not startle the snake in the grass.” 打草惊蛇 (dǎchǎojīngshé) Literally “to beat the grass and startle the snake” – A Chinese idiom meaning to act rashly and alert an enemy.
“Yes.” Bi’shui and Yin’cui bowed as they agreed.
“Today was all thanks to A’Bao! Without A’Bao, our Meng family would be finished!” Meng Sangyu hugged A’Bao close and continuously kissed his face.
Emperor Zhou’wu huffed. On the one hand, he narrowed his eyes, enjoying the woman’s enthusiasm and initiative. On the other hand, he extended his tongue to lick her back. Today he was extremely pleased. Thus far, Meng Sangyu had always been protecting him. He never thought that he would also be able to protect Sangyu in return. Feeling this kind of fulfillment and success was unparalleled, even compared to when he ascended the throne.
The kissing continued before something terrible happened! A’Bao’s empty stomach suddenly let out a pitiful growl. In the quiet hall, it sounded even more grating to the ears. Emperor Zhou’wu used his paws to cover his face as he blushed furiously. Never before in his life had he been so embarrassed! Thinking back, it made sense. He was the Emperor and even before ascending the throne, he was still a respected and high-ranking prince. Who would dare to let him go hungry?
Meng Sangyu giggled and pulled his paws down. She rubbed his little tummy comfortingly and said, “I’m also hungry! Let’s go to the small kitchen and see if the Nurse prepared anything delicious to eat. I’ll make A’Bao some ‘Buddha Jumps Over The Wall’ Stew.”
Dinnertime had long passed but the lights in the small kitchen were still bright. Nurse Feng and two other maids were hard at work. Catching sight of their master entering the room, they quickly paid their respects.
“Is the food ready yet?” inquired Meng Sangyu, rolling up her sleeves, after placing A’Bao on a nearby table and telling him to stay away from the fire.
“Everything that needed soaking is ready to be simmered,” said Nurse Feng as she pointed to a pile of ingredients.
Meng Sangyu nodded as she layered slices of ginger, winter bamboo shoots, fragrant mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, tripe, salted fish, shark fin, and other such ingredients in a clay pot, added the soup base and placed it into a steamer basket to stew over a low fire.
Emperor Zhou’wu stared at her bustling figure from behind. She had changed into the simplest of gowns and tied up her hair using a strip of blue cloth. She had no other adornments, but he felt that this version of Sangyu was the most beautiful, even compared with all the beautiful women he’d seen in the past. Her appearance was like an ordinary commoner’s wife, busily preparing a meal for her husband so that upon his return home, he could have a mouthful of hot soup. Due to this fantasy, Emperor Zhou’wu’s heart couldn’t stop trembling.
In the warm and cozy kitchen, the aroma of the food gradually spread. After extinguishing the fire, the master and pet pair didn’t return to the bedroom to eat. Instead, they sat down on the bench in the kitchen to drink soup. There were no majestic furnishings, nor were there crowds of servants, but Emperor Zhou’wu only had to see the smiling face of the person in front of him to feel completely satisfied. The flavour of the soup in his mouth became the rarest, most delicious taste in the world.
Although the day started off rough with piercing winds and endless problems, it ended in warm and sweet tranquillity.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I finished translating sooner than I thought. It had both mystery and fluffy sweetness <3 I liked the bit about cooking and food at the end. Has anyone tried ‘Buddha Jumping Over the Wall’ stew before? What does it taste like?
Let me know if you’d like me to continue using pinyin versions of illeisms, i.e. Zhen, Bengong etc. 🙂 Thank you Gumi Vocaloid for suggesting it!
As always, please let me know if you find any mistakes (grammatical or otherwise)!
Sending you all love and light while we go through this pandemic. I hope you’re staying as safe and as well as you can.
If anyone is looking for emotional support or finds themselves with some free time, I recently stumbled upon a game called ‘Kind Words.’ It’s a game about writing kind letters to people and receiving them in return. Messages are completely anonymous with a chill lo-fi soundtrack playing as you write. It’s a nice low-key way to help people and receive support if you need it.
Until next time,