Held in the Lonely Castle (Chp 1 Part 0)
Chapter 1: Autumn Riverside, Esteemed Guests, A Pair of Geese Fly Overhead
Part 0 – Prologue (楔子)
English proofreader: JimmyfromIT
For her sake, I personally drove the carriage, riding quickly towards the Eastern Capital Even though the characters are the same as Tokyo, 东京 refers to Kaifeng City in the Henan Province of China. Here is a map of its location within the Song Dynasty. under the cover of rain and night.
“Have we arrived?” she asked from inside the carriage. The sound of her weeping continued throughout the journey. This was the only vague speech I could make out mixed in with her tears.
“Soon, soon….” I replied like this while driving the carriage’s only ox onwards with my whip. The normally peaceful domestic animal abandoned its usual rhythm in terror, charging forward in alarm and pulling the carriage with it. The axle and bright red wheels of the carriage rumbled along as the carriage passed through a deserted tunnel.
The ordinarily bustling shop fronts during the day suddenly faded into dark blue ruins. Wind blew past the corners of my eyes. We should have travelled a long way. The endless rain that perfectly matched her grief pelted my body, soaking through my clothes. The moisture spread through the layers accompanied by a bone-chilling cold.
As her crying continued, my worry gradually grew deeper, but I did not dare to turn back and look. I could only repeatedly bring down the whip, hoping that speed would help us to pass through our present difficulties in a flash.
When did such a familiar, well-travelled road become so long? It was almost as if I was passing through all the roads I had travelled over the course of my life.
She continued to cry.
“Have we still not arrived?” she sobbingly asked again.
I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. In a split second, I felt a sudden powerlessness, sadly discovering that, in fact, I was uncertain how bringing her through this dark night would end. After passing through several large markets, we sped along the main road leading to the West Glorious Gate. 西华门 (xīhuámén) is the western outer gate of the Forbidden City. Passing through layers of misty fog and rain, the sight of the towering and majestic Forbidden City gradually became clear. Numerous palace lanterns hung under the eaves covered by glazed tiles. Above the brick walls, there were engravings of ‘the dragon and phoenix flying through the clouds’. 龙凤飞云 (lóngfèngfēiyún) was a typical design motif used in architecture – structures, furniture, windows etc. It symbolized prosperity and childbirth. This was our destination.
The West Glorious Gate had long been closed. The imperial guards standing at the gate saw our carriage approaching fast from a distance and immediately scolded, “Who dares to be so disrespectful, even riding a carriage to enter the Forbidden Palace gates!”
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I hesitated for a moment before pulling the carriage to a stop. I turned back to ask her to wait a moment and allow me to go and announce ourselves when I saw that she had already lifted the curtain and exited the carriage by herself. She sprinted towards the Forbidden Palace gates.
Her extreme grief caused her to forget about her appearance. She was still in the same state as when we left the mansion. Her long hair hung loosely down her back, and her clothes were in disarray, not to mention the cape 霞帔 (xiápèi) an embroidered tasselled cape worn by noblewomen as part of their ceremonial dress wrapped around her shoulders. Even that unsuitable outer jacket was something I hurriedly draped over her shoulders at that time.
Just like this, she cried and ran towards West Glorious Gate. She hadn’t gotten far before two incoming guards stopped her. One grabbed her arm, yelling at her to get lost, but she only became more agitated. No one knew where she got such sudden strength, but she pulled herself free from the two guards’ grasp and quickened her pace, running towards the entrance of the West Glorious Gate.
She extended her two slender hands and banged on the closed gates with all her might. Sobbing, she cried, “Father, Mother, 孃孃 (niángniáng) This is the first time I’ve seen this form of address. The dictionary I’m using shows that it’s another form of 娘 (niáng) meaning ‘mother.’ It’s also a form of address for an elderly married woman. Paired with 爹爹 (diēdie) or father, I’m assuming she’s calling out for her parents. open the door! Let me come back…..”
Two imperial guards on either side angrily rushed over to drive her away. Two other tall guards dragged her away, but her hands remained outstretched, reaching as far as possible to try and touch the golden nails of the cold vermilion palace gates. She continued to call out for her parents. Overhead, a clap of thunder was drowned out by the sound of wind and rain. The sky appeared cloudy. The sound of her cries faintly mixed in with the rain, sounding incomparably mournful.
The imperial guards dragged her several feet away from the gates before violently tossing her on the ground. Seeing her prepare to stand up and rush at them again, one of the guards angrily scolded, “Where did this crazy woman come from? How dare she act so wildly?!” He flipped his halberd 戟 (jǐ) According to Wikipedia, a 戟 was a Chinese polearm that was a hybrid between a spear and a dagger-axe. upside down and lifted the pole high. It looked as if he was about to strike her with it.
The hit didn’t land because I gripped his wrist from behind.
The imperial guard looked back and irritatedly asked, “Who are you?!”
I didn’t reply. My gaze trailed past the guard’s shoulder towards her, who was sitting on the ground.
She was half-lying on the ground, weeping helplessly in silence. Her face was pale and her thin body hid under a light-coloured robe, like a moonbeam that could disappear at any moment.
The irritated guard grew more incensed stepped forward, turning to hit me, but this time he was stopped by his companion.
“Hold on! I recognize him,” said the other imperial guard. He looked me up and down a few times to confirm and told the halberd-wielding guard in a low voice, “He is Liang Huaiji, a high-ranked individual. He’s passed through here numerous times in the past to enter the Forbidden Palace.”
The halberd-wielding guard was stupefied for a moment before he turned to look at the woman they had just tossed on the ground. He falteringly asked, “T-then th-that young lady is…..”
I walked over and helped her to stand. After confirming that she wasn’t injured, I turned back to look at the imperial guard and answered his question.
“She is Princess Yan’guo,” 兖 (yǎn) means ‘to establish’ and 国 (guó) means ‘country or nation.’ Calling the FL ‘Princess Establishing Nation’ sounds weird so I kept it in pinyin. Another option would be to call her ‘The Founding Princess.’ What would you prefer? Please let me know in the comments! I replied.
Thank you for reading the first part of Chapter 1! This book naturally organizes each chapter into subsections so I will be releasing chapters accordingly.
I’m not sure why there are two prologues. Maybe the first one was meant to be the synopsis on the back cover of the printed book?
If you ever have any questions, feel free to leave a comment somewhere on my site. I get notifications for them and usually answer quickly. 🙂
I aim to release chapters for Held in the Lonely Castle biweekly on Thursdays. See note in the Chapter Index.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Even though the FL mainly cried, you can tell how much the ML cares for her. There’s also a lot more imagery. The style is completely different from Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Raise A Dog Instead. I had a bit of trouble adjusting ^^; I hope everything flows alright. As always, please let me know if you find any translation errors. I’ll happily correct them!
Until next time,