Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 34)
Chapter 34: Sudden Changes 2 (变故2)
The Li family’s downfall raised Meng Sangyu’s suspicions that a plot was underfoot. Another seven or eight days passed. The Fifth Prince gave his last breath and passed away in the middle of the night around 1:45 am 丑时 (chǒushí) is between 1 am to 3 am; 三刻 – a 科 (kè) a unit of ~15 mins. In this case 3×15 mins = 45 mins. My post on ancient timekeeping instantly came in handy!. One could hear lamenting cries of grief from Jiang’zi palace. They took down numerous red lanterns in mourning In Chinese culture, red is a colour that represents good fortune, fertility, and happy events, e.g. traditional wedding outfits were red for both the bride and groom; the lunar new year features red lanterns and red decorations etc. On the other hand, white is a colour associated with death. In mourning, one is supposed to remove all bright decorations and instead wear white and dress plainly. You might see direct family members dress humbly in hemp/straw clothing as well. Learn more about colour symbolism in Chinese culture: [traditional] [modern]. The sound of Worthy Consort’s heart-rending cries and howling curses towards the Li clan could be heard far in the distance.
Amid the wailing cries, Meng Sangyu tossed and turned in her bed, unable to sleep. She hugged A’Bao close and stepped out into the ice-cold night. Standing under the boundless pitch-black sky, she gazed into the distance in the direction of Jiang’zi Palace. Emperor Zhou’wu let out a whimper. That was his son, and yet he died by the hands of his own woman. Everything was all his fault! It was his fault for being ignorant of the true natures of those around him! Even though they weren’t able to investigate the mastermind behind everything, but he knew that Shen Hui’ru had to have had a hand in it. She was the one who benefited the most from the Li family’s defeat and the Fifth Prince’s death. Furthermore, there was a high possibility that she wouldn’t give up here. All the other princes and princesses who posed an obstacle to the Shen family’s plans might be viciously attacked.
The whimpers turned into a low growl as Emperor Zhou’wu’s eyes released a monstrous killing intent.
“A’Bao, don’t be scared, it’s okay! That was the Fifth Prince passing away. He turned into a star in the sky.” Hearing A’Bao’s whimpers, Meng Sangyu thought that he was frightened by the sounds from Jiang’zi Palace. She quickly wrapped him tighter in her arms and comforted him in a soft voice.
He became a star in the sky? Does Sangyu think that Zhen is a child? However, this kind of comfort really warmed one’s heart. Emperor Zhou’wu stopped whimpering and buried his face in the woman’s sweet-smelling bosom. This was the only place that he truly felt secure. He urgently needed to acquire some strength to keep believing that it was worth it for him to continue living.
“Why doesn’t Your Ladyship head inside. The night is cold.” Nurse Feng brought out a large cloak and draped it over her master’s shoulders.
“Nurse, I have a bad feeling. Great Zhou will change rulers.” Meng Sangyu’s always indifferent voice was mixed with a sliver of uneasiness, “To defeat a large, established clan is actually quite easy. First, you must pull the carpet out from under them using drastic measures. Second, hit them where they’ll hurt the hardest, namely their weak points. The Shen family played a good hand. Using the Second Prince as an entry point, they were able to find the Li family’s weakest link and break through in one strike, leaving the family on the point of collapse. Last time they wanted to use the same strategy against the Meng family, but unfortunately for them, I have A’Bao and avoided disaster.”
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Meng Sangyu rubbed her cheek against A’Bao’s nose in exchange for his whines of comfort and his little tongue’s warm licks.
“Since they didn’t succeed in their plans last time, they definitely won’t let the matter go. I have a feeling that they’ll attack again, and this time they will use drastic measures to attack Father directly.” Meng Sangyu knit her eyebrows together and her expression showed deep worry.
Actually, Emperor Zhou’wu had also thought of this possibility. His heart tightened in a dead knot. Attacking Duke of Protection Meng during this crucial moment would worsen the military situation at the frontier! For the sake of power, the Shen family is selling out the country!
“Your Ladyship, the Duke of Protection is far away in the borderlands, and moreover, he’s within the army. The Shen family’s influence doesn’t extend that far.” Nurse Feng felt alarmed, but she comforted her master in a soft voice.
Meng Sangyu shook her head without speaking and remained standing in the cold wind for a long time before returning to the bedchamber. It was another night of tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep. A’Bao also kept his eyes open, keeping her company until daybreak.
Just like that, a month passed. The Inner Palace’s power structure was turned entirely on its head. Although Virtuous Consort wasn’t defeated, her body was already considerably weakened. Even if she regained the Emperor’s favour in the future, she had no way to advance forward (TL: read: become pregnant). Gracious Consort rose into power as the most favoured consort in the harem. The Emperor visited her every day and even promised to immediately promote her to the position of Empress if she ever became pregnant. This kind of glory far surpassed the treatment Virtuous Consort had received. Besides, Gracious Consort was sweet-tempered and it was easy to get along with her. Many concubines depended on her support to earn favour. Having momentarily attracted so many dependents, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she dominated the Inner Palace.
While Meng Sangyu was thinking about how her father should have received her secret letter, news from the frontier arrived first. It said that both Duke of Protection Meng and Han Changping [The youngster that ZW promoted to take over General Meng’s position] Read about him in chapter 12 or check out the character list for Why Harem Intrigue had disappeared in Yu Long City.
When Meng Sangyu received the letter with a feather attached 鸡毛信 (jīmáoxìn) is a message with a feather attached as a sign of urgency, her hand slipped and she dropped a teacup, smashing it to pieces. She stared blankly for quite a while before opening the letter with trembling hands. A’Bao swiftly jumped onto her lap and snuggled close to her chest to look at the message together with her.
The letter simply reported Duke of Protection Meng’s disappearance.
Han Changping had been reinstated to his position of Right General, but during the siege against the Barbarians, Duke of Protection Meng didn’t let him take the vanguard position but assigned him to escort the army’s provisions instead. Han Changping felt that this was unfair and slacked off on his duties. When they lodged for the night at Yulong City, they were ambushed and surrounded by the Barbarian calvary in a sneak attack. The army provisions were in imminent danger. At that time, Duke of Protection Meng was bringing up the rear and was the closest to Yulong City. He quickly led his troops to counter the attack and the provisions were saved. However, based on Han Changping’s youthful and aggressive nature, how could he just let the Barbarian army make a fool of him like that? Heedless of the darkness, he led a band of troops in pursuit to wipe them out. Duke of Protection Meng feared that he would be ambushed and rode out after him. After that, the two of them didn’t return to the group. They disappeared for no reason and no one knows if they met with an accident or if the Barbarians ambushed them.
After she finished reading, Meng Sangyu’s face turned deathly pale. Emperor Zhou’wu clenched his teeth. He felt that it was too late to regret his decision to send Han Changping to Duke of Protection Meng’s side. If something bad really happened to Duke of Protection Meng, how could he bring himself to face Sangyu? How could he win back Sangyu’s heart? He feared this matter might become an insurmountable obstacle that would come between them for a lifetime.
He stood up and placed his front paws over Meng Sangyu’s shoulders. Whining, he licked Sangyu’s pale cheeks and pursed lips, trying to use everything he had to give her a little bit of comfort. Presently, Duke of Protection Meng had only disappeared. As someone who had galloped across the battlefield for half a lifetime, Duke of Protection Meng wouldn’t easily come to harm!
Meng Sangyu held his face in both hands and lightly massaged him for a bit before gradually coming back to her senses. As a matter of fact, she had long prepared for any unexpected accidents. This news was unable to defeat her.
“Immediately send people outside the palace to inform Mother. Tell her to wait patiently. Father has only disappeared. No news is good news. Tell her not to let her imagination run wild. Also, you must make sure to hide this news from Elder Brother. If he found out, he’d definitely cause a ruckus and run away from home to the borderlands to look for Father. There are already enough disturbances to deal with at home without him making more trouble.” She methodically gave her orders to Bi’shui.
Bi’shui hurriedly agreed and immediately sent people to the Duke of Protection’s Mansion to pass on the message.
Having settled matters at home, she took up her brush, dipped it in ink and wrote a short letter. Emperor Zhou’wu didn’t have the chance to hop on the table and look before she placed the letter in an envelope and gave it to Nurse Feng. She carefully instructed, “If something really happens to Father, I will think of a way to send the three of you, as well as A’Bao, out of the palace. I have set aside a trousseau for Bi’shui and Yin’cui, respectively, in that pear wood casket. When the time comes, don’t forget to help the two of them pack it. After leaving the palace, take this letter and find Wang Huashan. Tell him, Mother and Elder Brother will depend on his care in the future. Sangyu will repay this favour in the next life!”
This… Doesn’t this sound like leaving instructions for after one passes away? Nurse Feng’s legs immediately went soft. Yin’cui had long kneeled down and crawled towards her master’s feet, crying loudly. The pit of Emperor Zhou’wu’s stomach churned violently. His little mouth sent out a heart-rending howl. He used his paws to tightly grab onto Meng Sangyu’s shoulders, alternating between crying out and licking her lips, lower jaw, and neck, almost as if he were begging her not to leave him.
“Be good, A’Bao be good! Nothing will happen to me.” Meng Sangyu tightly hugged A’Bao, who wouldn’t stop moving, and comforted him in a soft voice.
“Your Ladyship, this old servant won’t go! This old servant will accompany you!” Nurse Feng also kneeled at her master’s feet. Her face was covered in tears.
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“I’m not going to die, what are you all crying about?” Meng Sangyu bitterly smiled and slowly spoke, “I’ve long planned to send you all out of the palace. If it weren’t this year, then it would be next year. The plans have just moved to an earlier date, that’s all. Only after sending you off can I properly concentrate on dealing with Shen Hui’ru and the Shen family. Our Great Zhou won’t fall into their hands. Things have already reached this stage. Presumably, the Empress Dowager has already heard the news from the secret guards. She’s bound to return to the palace and control the situation. What kind of person is the Empress Dowager? Ten Grand Preceptor Shens and Shen Hui’rus wouldn’t be a match for her. At that time, I will definitely go and offer my support to the Dowager Empress, and together we’ll expose the Shen family’s conspiracy to gain the throne. One is the Emperor’s foster mother while the other is the Emperor’s beloved consort. Who in the world would dare not believe what we have to say? The legions of brave soldiers in the Meng family’s army will stand with me! The Empress Dowager also has a personal army at her disposal, which is more than enough to control the capital. When the situation stabilizes, Huainan Wang and Xiangbei Wang won’t be able to kick up a fuss or carry out any wicked schemes. At best, the Emperor will be forced to abdicate the throne and Great Zhou will select another ruler. I will beg the Empress Dowager to let me go and take care of the Emperor. If the Emperor doesn’t wake up, I’ll just take care of him for the rest of my life. There’s nothing bad about that! After all, it’s much better than staying in this palace where everyone is always plotting against one another!”
“The, The Empress Dowager, that venerable elder, will return?” Nurse Feng’s heart calmed down and A’Bao stopped whining.
Speaking of the Empress Dowager Jiang, she was an incredible woman who’s ability was on par with a man’s. The Empress Dowager’s family background was supposedly precisely the same as Meng Sangyu’s. Duke of Protection Meng held the position of Jian’wei Great General while the Empress Dowager’s older brother was the previous Jian’wei Great General. Once the Empress Dowager entered the palace, she was immediately promoted to the position of Empress. After three years passed without her bearing a child, the previous Emperor decided to let her adopt the Third Prince whose Imperial mother The term used here is 母妃 (mǔfēi) or ‘mother-consort.’ There are different ways to call one’s parents, depending on social status. If one were the child of the Empress, for instance, they would address her as 母后 (mǔhòu) or ‘mother-empress.’ 妃 and 后 denote the mother’s rank. It was the same in large civilian families where all children had to call the legal wife 母亲 (mǔqīng) and would call their birth mother (if born from a concubine) 娘 (niáng) which is more like mom or even 姨娘 (yíniáng) or auntie if the family insisted on it. A good example of the latter would be in the Chinese drama ‘知否？知否？应是绿肥红瘦’ or ‘The Story of Ming Lan’ where Ming Lan was forced to call her mom auntie so that she could survive in the family. had died an early death. That was the present Emperor. Soon after adopting him, the Empress Dowager became pregnant. She gave birth to the Ninth Prince. The Empress Dowager was a magnanimous person and treated her adopted son and her own child equally without discrimination. The two princes’ brotherly relationship 兄友弟恭 (xiōngyóu dìgōng) meaning the elder brother was a friend and the younger brother respected him was quite harmonious.
But this relationship dissolved into nothing starting from when the Late Emperor became seriously ill and appointed the Third Prince as Crown Prince. The Ninth Prince thought the position of Crown Prince would surely fall to him based on his legitimacy as the Empress’ blood-related son The term used here is 嫡子 (dízǐ) or son of the legitimate wife, who in this case is the Empress.. It never occurred to him that the position would go to an adopted son instead. Naturally, he felt worried and angry and was unable to accept it. Furthermore, the Empress Dowager’s maiden family followed suit and split into two factions. One faction supported the Third Prince while the other faction supported the Ninth Prince. The Ninth Prince’s faction was too radical and actually took advantage of the time the Late Emperor was ill to stage an armed rebellion to force the Emperor to abdicate. Fortunately, the Late Emperor had predicted that this would happen so they were able to prevent a disastrous bloodbath. In order to protect the four thousand lives of the Jiang clan, the Empress Dowager personally fed poisoned wine to the Ninth Prince.
Not long after, the Late Emperor passed away and the Jiang clan was sent into exile. The Empress Dowager also became disheartened and never concerned herself with worldly affairs again. Speaking of this matter, everything was actually due to the Late Emperor’s schemes. This plot began brewing since the Late Emperor decided to let the Empress Dowager adopt the Third Prince. He counted on the fact that a blood-related son and an adopted son would develop a rift in their relationship and divide the Empress Dowager’s clan. He also counted on the fact that appointing the crown prince would thoroughly destroy the Empress Dowager’s clan. Their downfall would suppress the hidden danger of outside relatives Relatives of an Emperor on his mother’s side. Chinese people trace lineage through patrilineal descent, making the mother’s family ‘outsiders.’ monopolizing power for themselves.
For this reason, to this day Emperor Zhou’wu felt remorseful and uneasy towards the Empress Dowager. He sent a group of private troops to accompany her to Thousand Buddha Mountain. These private troops mostly consisted of the former subordinates of the Empress Dowager’s maternal clan. They were brave and experienced in battle, with one soldier being worth a hundred. If the Empress Dowager had led troops and returned to the capital, she would have tormented the Shen family long ago. A disorganized group of imperial guards and forbidden city guards weren’t a match for her in the first place, much less with the added support of Virtuous Consort and the Meng family’s loyal subordinates.
Thinking until here, Nurse Feng and Yin’cui had affirmed their resolve. They continued to hug their master’s legs, crying and begging her to let them stay. On the other hand, Emperor Zhou’wu was burning with anxiety. He knew that matters wouldn’t be as simple as Sangyu had explained. If the Empress Dowager returned to the capital, both the capital and the imperial palace would most certainly turn into a bloody battlefield. On the battlefield, a sword doesn’t discriminate between friend or foe. If something happened to Sangyu…
He didn’t dare continue that train of thought. He vehemently resented the fact that the heavens hadn’t let his soul return to his body. Thinking of his soul returning, he automatically thought of that note. He promptly took advantage of the dark night and ran towards the Imperial Gardens. He wanted to try his luck and see if he could bump into Yan Jun’wei, who was investigating matters in the palace.
Turning onto a small path, the Imperial Gardens was right in front of his eyes. He had just taken a step to head over when he saw a small flickering candle flame in the distance at the end of the path. Looking at it closely, Chang’xi’s face [ZW’s head eunuch] Check out the character list for Why Harem Intrigue for more info was faintly discernable in the candle flame. The person standing behind him was covered in shadow but based on his appearance, he bore an 80-90% likeness to Imperial Preceptor Shen.
To enter the palace so late at night, what is the Shen family plotting now? Emperor Zhou’wu frowned and, without thinking, secretly followed after the two of them as they quietly snuck into Qian’qing Palace.
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Translator Notes [ + ]
|1.||⇧||丑时 (chǒushí) is between 1 am to 3 am; 三刻 – a 科 (kè) a unit of ~15 mins. In this case 3×15 mins = 45 mins. My post on ancient timekeeping instantly came in handy!|
|2.||⇧||In Chinese culture, red is a colour that represents good fortune, fertility, and happy events, e.g. traditional wedding outfits were red for both the bride and groom; the lunar new year features red lanterns and red decorations etc. On the other hand, white is a colour associated with death. In mourning, one is supposed to remove all bright decorations and instead wear white and dress plainly. You might see direct family members dress humbly in hemp/straw clothing as well. Learn more about colour symbolism in Chinese culture: [traditional] [modern]|
|3.||⇧||Read about him in chapter 12 or check out the character list for Why Harem Intrigue|
|4.||⇧||鸡毛信 (jīmáoxìn) is a message with a feather attached as a sign of urgency|
|5.||⇧||The term used here is 母妃 (mǔfēi) or ‘mother-consort.’ There are different ways to call one’s parents, depending on social status. If one were the child of the Empress, for instance, they would address her as 母后 (mǔhòu) or ‘mother-empress.’ 妃 and 后 denote the mother’s rank. It was the same in large civilian families where all children had to call the legal wife 母亲 (mǔqīng) and would call their birth mother (if born from a concubine) 娘 (niáng) which is more like mom or even 姨娘 (yíniáng) or auntie if the family insisted on it. A good example of the latter would be in the Chinese drama ‘知否？知否？应是绿肥红瘦’ or ‘The Story of Ming Lan’ where Ming Lan was forced to call her mom auntie so that she could survive in the family.|
|6.||⇧||兄友弟恭 (xiōngyóu dìgōng) meaning the elder brother was a friend and the younger brother respected him|
|7.||⇧||The term used here is 嫡子 (dízǐ) or son of the legitimate wife, who in this case is the Empress.|
|8.||⇧||Relatives of an Emperor on his mother’s side. Chinese people trace lineage through patrilineal descent, making the mother’s family ‘outsiders.’|
|9.||⇧||Check out the character list for Why Harem Intrigue for more info|