Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 35)
Chapter 35: Returning Soul 1 (还魂1)
In Qian’qing Palace, Shen Hui’ru had long sent the Fake Emperor away to the Inner Palace to frolic with the other concubines. She sat alone behind the imperial desk, reading through a thick stack of memorials. 奏折 (zòuzhé) written reports to the Emperor folded like an accordion and bound with special paper. With her deep-set eyebrows, she gave forth a majestic aura that would take others by surprise.
Seeing his daughter like this, Grand Preceptor Shen was stunned for a while, before his face showed a look of relief. Since childhood, his son and daughter had been peerlessly clever with top-quality looks and the personalities to match. Such prominent talent only deserved the best the world had to offer. If his son’s future prospects hadn’t been ruined, he wouldn’t have been forced to choose this path. Still, recently it seemed that he had chosen correctly. Great Zhou would soon be wholly in the grasp of the Shen family. Even if the Emperor regained consciousness, he wouldn’t be able to do anything.
Relying on his small and nimble form and dark brown fur, Emperor Zhou’wu followed the two figures to Qian’qing Palace. Since they were scared of others discovering that Grand Preceptor Shen had entered the palace so late at night, Chang’xi had arranged for the guards to be sent away. This allowed Emperor Zhou’wu to follow them inside smoothly. He hid himself in a corner and turned towards a crack in the door, stealthily observing the situation in the hall. Seeing Shen Hui’ru occupy his imperial seat looking happy and pleased with herself, his gaze immediately turned icy.
“This official greets Your Ladyship.” Imperial Preceptor Shen bowed in salute.
“Father, you’ve come.” Catching sight of Imperial Preceptor Shen, Shen Hui’ru put down the imperial brush and walked to the entrance to welcome him.
Father and daughter sat facing each other while Chang’xi stood by the doorway to keep watch. Emperor Zhou’wu retreated into the shadows in the corner. He pricked up his ears to eavesdrop on the pair’s conversation.
“Father, is Meng Chang’xiong finally dead yet?” Shen Hui’ru’s tone was slightly anxious and impatient.
Emperor Zhou’wu’s ears moved slightly. Without noticing, he held his breath.
“According to An Zha’da’s news, Meng Chang’xiong isn’t in their hands. They pursued Meng Chang’xiong and Han Chang’ping to the Muddy Shore before retreating. It’s unknown whether those two are alive or dead.” Imperial Preceptor Shen swept a cup cover across the desk. The grating sound of the edge of the cup scraping against the surface made one even more restless.
An Zha’da was a top general under Yeluhan Wang. Both names are foreign-sounding, so I’m guessing they’re Chinese pronunciations of Mongol or Tibetan names. Imperial Preceptor Shen was even in contact with him! His actions clearly showed that the Shen family had long been colluding with the enemy and betraying the country. He definitely had a hand in Imperial Duke Meng’s disappearance! Just fine! Emperor Zhou’wu ground his teeth. Unconsciously, he arched his spine, his fur standing on end.
“Why did they stop their pursuit? If Meng Chang’xiong doesn’t die, how will they recover from their defeat? What a bunch of fools!” Shen Hui’ru fiercely slapped the table and her tone was even more impatient. Meng Chang’xiong was Meng Sangyu’s biggest source of support. Only once Meng Chang’xiong was dead could she relax and deal with Meng Sangyu. Meng Sangyu was a thorn in her side that she had to get rid of at all costs!
“Your Ladyship might not be aware, but the Muddy Shores are a famous place of death in the grasslands. They are a vast wetland 沼泽 (zhǎozé) translates as marsh, swamp, or bog – which are all different types of wetlands! – so I went with a more general translation. where miasma is pervasive. Putting aside people for the moment, even birds do not dare to approach. Having entered the wetlands, Meng Chang’xiong and Han Chang’ping will surely die.” Imperial Preceptor Shen sounded dead certain about this matter.
Emperor Zhou’wu restrained the howl gathering in his throat with all his might. His blood-red eyes stared fixedly at two people beyond the crack in the door. How could he have trusted these two wholeheartedly in the past? He was so blind!
“Without solid evidence, Bengong still doesn’t feel at ease. Father, write to Xie Zheng’hao and have him send people into the Muddy Shores to search for them. They must be found, dead or alive! The phrase here is “活要见人，死要见尸,” meaning, “If they’re alive, one must see them in person. If they’re dead, one must see their corpse.” I changed the phrase here to make it sound better in English. Do any translators out there have a better suggestion? Please share your thoughts in the comments! Shen Hui’ru’s voice was brimming with killing intent.
Xie Zheng’hao was the provincial commander of Gansu Province. He was one of the nineteen or so high-ranking provincial officials 封疆大吏 (fēngjiāng dàlì) – The general name for high provincial officials in the Ming and Qing dynasties (Ming in this case). and was also one of Emperor Zhou’wu’s trusted subordinates. He’d never expected that Xie Zheng’hao had already been won over by Imperial Preceptor Shen. Emperor Zhou’wu smiled bitterly. The monstrous killing intent in his gaze almost took physical form.
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“Alright, upon my return, Father The phrase used here is ‘为父.’ Ancient Chinese people like to talk in the third person to denote their relationship or status relative to whom they’re talking. Does it sound strange in English? I figured I would keep the same manner of speech. Please let me know! will write a letter to Xie Zheng’hao. Now that Meng Chang’xiong has disappeared, the army cannot go one day without a general. Tomorrow, Your Ladyship should issue an imperial edict promoting Xie Zheng’hao to the position of Great General. Upon receiving the general’s seal, he should launch an attack on the Barbarians’ imperial seat.
“Father has already negotiated appropriate conditions with Yeluhan Wang: Xie Zheng’hao will feign defeat. Yueluhan Wang will take advantage of the chaos of war to slaughter several senior generals under Meng Chang’xiong on Father’s behalf. Ten cities around Suzhou will be given to him as a reward for his efforts. Xie Zheng’hao will then push the blame for losing the battle entirely on the Meng family’s army. When the time comes, you will issue an imperial edict to behead them all. After that, we’ll replace them with our own people. This way, the great one million-man army will fall into our Shen family’s grasp.”
Imperial Preceptor Shen sounded very smug. Outside the door, Emperor Zhou’wu’s whole body shook from rage.
Shen Hui’ru nodded her head in agreement. She accepted the list of names her father handed over and examined it carefully. The people on the list were all lieutenant generals 将帅 (jiàngshuài). While the dictionary definition shows ‘commander-in-chief’ or just ‘general,’ my understanding is that a 将帅 is a relatively senior general position but lower than a 大将军 or 副将. Going by my post on Ancient Military Ranks, I’m translating this as ‘Lieutenant General.’ I have limited knowledge of military ranks and would appreciate clarification! in the army who would soon be won over by Imperial Preceptor Shen. They were the perfect replacements for Meng Chang’xiong’s trusted subordinates.
Imperial Preceptor Shen carefully examined his daughter’s expression in the lantern light and moved his gaze to her stomach several times. In a low voice, he asked, “It’s been over a month. Does Your Ladyship have any news yet?”
Shen Hui’ru stared back blankly for a moment before understanding his meaning. Her tone was stiff and cold as she replied, “It’s been three days since the expected date. Of her period. I am probably pregnant, but it will be a while before I know for certain.”
“Good, good, good!” Imperial Preceptor Shen exclaimed excitedly before carefully instructing, “This fetus is the key to our Shen family winning the throne. Your Ladyship must protect him well. When the baby is born, it will be most convenient if it’s a boy. If it’s a girl, Father will prepare a baby boy in advance and have people send him into the palace to replace her. In a moment, Your Ladyship should allow Wan’qing inside so that Father can give her detailed instructions on this matter. Your Ladyship need only concern yourself with safeguarding the pregnancy. Don’t worry about other things.”
“Understood.” Shen Hui’ru agreed in a heavy voice.
Emperor Zhou’wu didn’t want to listen anymore. He was scared that he wouldn’t be able to control himself from charging inside and biting this father-daughter pair to death if he continued. Humbledaisy, you almost got your wish! Colluding with the enemy, harming loyal subjects, throwing the imperial court into chaos, replacing royal offspring, plotting to usurp the throne… any one of these crimes was enough for the Shen family to die one thousand times, no, ten thousand times over!
Restraining the fury he felt, Emperor Zhou’wu let out a low howl and turned around to leave Qian’qing Palace.
“Ah, where did this mongrel come from?” A female voice broke the silence outside the chamber. It was unclear when Wan’qing appeared in the corner, but she just happened to bump into Emperor Zhou’wu as he was leaving.
Bi’xiao Palace’s A’Bao. The five big, glittering characters were especially eye-catching in the candlelight. Wan’qing’s facial expression turned cold, and she bent over to pick up Emperor Zhou’wu. Using her hands to restrain his mouth and four limbs firmly, she brought him inside Qian’qing Palace.
“Your Ladyship, Virtuous Consort’s pet ran inside.” Paying her respects to the Grand Preceptor and her master, Wan’qing adjusted her grasp around A’Bao, who was struggling in her arms.
“Give it to Chang’xi to deal with. Come over here. Father has instructions for you.” Shen Hui’ru took a sip of tea and spoke without a care. Having occupied a high position for a long time, she wouldn’t vent her anger on a small domestic animal. In her eyes, A’Bao’s life was worth less than trash.
“Yes.” Wan’qing handed A’Bao over to Chang’xi and knelt at Imperial Preceptor Shen’s feet to listen to her instructions.
Chang’xi took the fiercely struggling A’Bao from her hands. He brought him far away to the open space in front of Qian’qing Palace and threw him ruthlessly on the ground. He used his foot to step on his chest, slowly adding pressure. Chang’xi could have crushed A’Bao to death in one strike, but since Virtuous Consort had punished him because of A’Bao last time, he had long harboured a stomach full of resentment towards him and urgently needed to vent it properly. Watching A’Bao howl while attempting to struggle, his unwilling resentment and powerlessness greatly satisfied Chang’xi’s inner brute. He continued to slowly add more and more pressure.
A loud cracking noise sounded from A’Bao’s chest. It was the sound of his ribs breaking. A violent pain seemed to erupt from the depths of his soul, continuous and unending. Emperor Zhou’wu glared at Chang’xi with blood-red eyes, repeating Meng Sangyu’s name over and over in his mind. Those three characters were engraved in his bones. They gave him boundless strength, and would not let him die without a fight. If he died, what would happen to Sangyu?
“You’re pretty tenacious for a mutt!” Chang’xi sneered. He sharply increased the pressure with his foot.
A’Bao’s cracked ribs pierced his lungs, puncturing his heart. Droplets of blood gushed from the corners of his mouth. Emperor Zhou’wu met his end, howling in protest. His pitch-black eyes gradually misted over with blood. As he fell into a trance, the faintly discernable sound of a Buddhist chant could be heard in the air. A strand of gentle power pulled his soul out of A’Bao’s body and guided it towards the void. He was unwilling to close his eyes. His blood-covered mouth and nose let out his final breath.
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“Dead already? How boring!” Seeing that the little mutt beneath his feet wasn’t moving anymore, Chang’xi hatefully stomped on him twice more. Only then did he call over a younger eunuch to take A’Bao’s body and dump it carelessly in Qian’qing Palace’s garden as fertilizer.
-A quiet and secluded house somewhere in the capital-
The room was filled with countless eternal lamps 长明灯 (chángmíngdēng) Altar lamps that are kept burning day and night. that burned brightly along with the thick smell of sandalwood. A solemn and respectful white-eyebrowed, pale-faced, old Buddhist monk slowly stopped chanting. He told the man who stood at the doorway with a vicious aura that this patron’s 施主 (shīzhǔ) A monk or nun’s form of address for a layman. soul had already returned to its original body and that they would wake soon.
“Really?” The man raised his eyebrows, his tone skeptical. The miracle doctors who he had invited to come had all been at a loss of what to do, yet this old monk came and only took one look before saying one sentence, “Everyone has their own destiny. In a few days, his soul will return.” He then began to light lamps and recite scripture. His manner was so relaxed – how could the man believe him? However, thinking of that strange note, he could only put his trust in this old monk and let him do as he pleased.
As the two spoke, the handsome man surrounded by lanterns groaned and gradually opened his eyes. He gazed at a snowy white ceiling. Dazed, he was immediately conscious of the fact that this was not the Imperial Palace. The palace’s domed ceilings are all painted with majestic frescos. How could they be so plain?
He inclined his head to scan his body and directly met with an astonished face. Its lines were cold and drawn, casting a baleful look around the room. Who else could it be but Yan Jun’wei?
“Jun’wei?” Emperor Zhou’wu was surprised to hear his hoarse voice. He froze for a moment and examined both of his hands in disbelief. These were human hands? His soul had actually returned to his body?
“The patron is already in good health. He only needs to drink some herbal medicine for several days to build up his strength. This humble monk will take his leave.” The old monk read a line of Buddhist scripture before strolling towards the entrance of the room. As he reached the doorway, he stopped again to put his palms to together 双手合十 (shuāngshǒuhéshí) A Buddhist greeting. and prudently reminded them, “This humble monk will not breathe a single word of this matter to anyone. Patron should not forget your original promise to construct a gilded Buddha in this monk’s temple.”
“This humble Yan [Lastname]某 (mǒu) is another way to refer to oneself. bows in thanks to Great Master! 大师 (dàshī) A courtesy title used to address a Buddhist monk. The construction of the gilded Buddha will definitely be completed within one month.” Yan Jun’wei hurriedly bowed and agreed. When this old monk had requested the construction of the Buddha, he had initially thought that it was a scam to cheat them out of their money. He didn’t expect that he would actually have any real skill. Buddha be praised! 阿弥陀佛 (amítuófó) A commonly heard Buddhist saying praising Buddha for his mercy. Luckily, he had noticed that the old monk seemed to have a saintly aura and let him stay.
The old monk recited another line of Buddhist scripture before leaving, satisfied.
Emperor Zhou’wu wasn’t in the mood to consider these two people’s dealings. He stared fixedly at Yan Jun’wei and opened his mouth to ask, “Did you send people to protect Sangyu?”
“Sangyu?” Yan Jun’wei was dumbfounded for a moment before asking hesitantly, “Virtuous Consort?”
“Did you see the note that Zhen left you?” Emperor Zhou’wu asked in a heavy voice.
“That note was really from Your Majesty? Wasn’t it just scribbles? Why is the writing all crooked, and what is this paw print all about?” Yan Jun’wei fished out the note from his chest, spread it out, and pointed at the small paw print.
Emperor Zhou’wu rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration. His tone of voice was rather helpless as he replied, “First, immediately go send people to enter the palace to protect Sangyu. Zhen will slowly explain the matter of this note to you.” Initially, he didn’t want to have to tell Yan Jun’wei about his soul possession, but he couldn’t help this man’s stubbornness. He always had to get to the bottom of things. If you didn’t give him a satisfactory answer, he would pester you to the ends of the earth about it. Emperor Zhou’wu couldn’t delay the matter of Sangyu’s safety by a second.
“Rest assured, Your Majesty. From the moment this subordinate received this note, this one already assigned people to Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort’s side. Apparently, Virtuous Consort has a beloved pet named A’Bao…” Yan Jun’wei paused in his speech and gave the paw print on the note a meaningful look. He was only throwing out a wild guess, but he still hesitated on whether or not to go and fetch this dog. However, the old monk said everything was going according to nature and that the patron would wake shortly. He asked him not to intervene at random lest he disturb the patron’s destiny.
All things considered, in this short time, His Majesty had a fortuitous encounter! He was most interested in meetings of fate! It wasn’t a waste to read all the mysterious and supernatural tales in the study!
RIP A’Bao [ZW in pupper form]. You were a very good boi and fren to MSY.
Welcome back, Emperor ZW [in human form]!
What are you most excited to see happen next? :3
It’s cool that Yan Jun’wei finally appeared! He seems to have a great relationship with ZW. I’m curious about where the story will go next. It’s refreshing to be outside the palace for once.
Sorry that the chapter is out a bit late! I came across a snag while translating military ranks, which prompted me to do a deep dive into all the ranks and titles in ancient China. I made a list of them, including both their Chinese and English translations. Do take a read if interested! Hopefully, it’ll help you through any Chinese drama/novel you encounter in the ancient setting.
Until next time,