Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 37)
Chapter 37: Brother-In-Law 1 (大舅子1)
Emperor Zhou’wu had disguised his appearance. His peerlessly handsome face seemed completely normal at the moment save for his pair of absolutely stunning, deep pitch-black eyes. He wore a lake blue shirt of fine craftsmanship and a well-oiled jade pendant hung at his waist. With a white-jade framed fan held in his hands, he gave off the air of a son from a wealthy family. After several days of rest, while he still couldn’t be compared to his state of health in the past, his body was not as frail.
At present, he stood by the door with his hands clasped behind his back as he listened to the shrill voice of a woman shouting in the courtyard.
“This girl Tao Hong is your subordinate? With such a sharp mouth and tough demeanour, you really can’t tell that she’s a hidden guard.” Emperor Zhou’wu raised his eyebrows.
“It’s better that way. If it was so obvious, this subject would be out of a job and your mortal body would have been sent away and burned to ashes long ago by the Shen family father-daughter pair.” Yan Jun’wei washed his face while he gave a muffled reply.
Emperor Zhou’wu chuckled. Outside the courtyard, the woman’s shouting had already gone on for an hour without any sign of stopping. On the contrary, it seemed to be getting more intense. A woman’s fighting strength within the household was really quite astonishing.
The cost of this residence was not cheap and it covered a great area. It had been in the dowry of the first wife of Imperial Duke Qi. After the lady died of illness, this residence had become the property of Duke Qi’s legitimate son, Qi Dong’lei. Qi Dong’lei was originally the Third Prince’s, that is to say, the current Emperor’s study mate. 伴读 (bàndú) Noble children who were brought into the palace as companions for the princes and princesses. When they were children, he accompanied the Third Prince from morning until night. His future was supposed to have been bright, but unexpectedly, when he was twelve years old, he got into a fight with the other study mates and injured his right hand during the struggle. After returning home, as there was no way to treat the injury, he became a cripple. Thereafter, he was despised by the Third Prince, who expelled him from the palace. His position as heir had also been taken away and given to his concubine-born younger brother. Qi Dong’lei hadn’t been able to take the shock and had fallen from being an elegant young man to being the Capital’s famous playboy. He spent his days in brothels and disregarded his duties. Encouraged by his concubine and her son, Duke Qi found him more and more of an eyesore. He had expelled him to this residence to make a living on his own.
Nowadays, Duke Qi’s mansion had long come under the control of that concubine and her son, but that concubine still remembered how extraordinarily talented Qi Dong’lei was, once admired by all. Adept with both the pen and sword, he was an outstanding figure. If one day he came to his senses and regained his spirit, just based on the fact that he and His Majesty were once friends, it wouldn’t be difficult for him to lower his pride and beg the Emperor to help him to stage a comeback. Due to this worry, that concubine spent a lot of effort looking for gorgeous women who were also talented in scheming and sent them to this residence. No matter what, they must lure Qi Dong’lei into indulging himself in the five worldly desires and three evil paths! 五迷三道 (wǔmísāndào) Buddhist concepts. The five desires are: wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep. The three evil paths refer to the path of fire (the realm of hell), the path of swords (the realm of hungry spirits), and the path of blood (the realm of animals), respectively. They are called paths because one leads to the other, resulting in evil karma which manifests as suffering. Beings are born into these states of suffering due to misdeeds in their previous lifetime. Read more about the five worldly desires [The Free Dictionary | Buddhism Text Translation Society (scroll to ‘Five Desires’)] and three evil paths [Nichiren Buddhism Library: six paths; three evil paths | Chinese Buddhism Encyclopedia: three paths, evil path]. The more dissolute the better!
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That girl Tao Hong was among those that the concubine had sent over. Not only was she beautiful, with a bewitching figure, but her seduction skills were even more captivating. After several attempts, she became the sole recipient of Qi Dong’lei’s love and became a dominating power in his residence. If any of the other women wanted to take even a glimpse at Qi Dong’lei, they had to verbally spar with her for three hundred rounds. They were so noisy that Qi Dong’lei couldn’t stand it anymore and he made an appearance to mediate between them.
To possess one beautiful woman was a man’s good fortune. To possess two beautiful women was to experience the joy of having several partners. To possess a group of beautiful women was to suffer disaster. There was a constant racket in the residence all day long, creating a foul atmosphere. It had practically become the Capital’s best melodrama, and untold numbers of people secretly mocked Qi Dong’lei. Because this residence was so well-known, the imperial guards sent by the Shen family to look for Emperor Zhou’wu’s mortal body didn’t even knock on the door. Hearing the jealous clamour inside, they promptly took a detour instead.
Even if you were about to beat them to death, they would never have guessed that the disabled good-for-nothing, Qi Dong’lei, was actually the renowned Commander of the Hidden Guards, Previously translated as ‘Leader of the Hidden Guards.’ ‘Commander’ sounds more fitting here. I’ll go back and edit my translations to keep things consistent. Yan Jun’wei. Furthermore, Tao Hong wasn’t some sentimental woman but rather a hidden guard who excelled in martial arts. “Yan” was a surname bestowed upon generations of Commanders of the Hidden Guard by the Emperor. Every generation’s Commander had two identities: one in the light and one in the shadows. Moreover, the public identity’s standing wouldn’t be too low; above them ranked the civil ministers, and below them were the commoners. Their status allowed them to considerably broaden the scope of people they associated with, first for the convenience of carrying out their duties and second, to comply with the saying “To hide within plain sight.” The crippling of his right hand and his rejection by the Emperor were all a cover to mislead others.
The clamour outside the courtyard concluded with Tao Hong’s complete victory. Soon after that, a group of women’s sobbing cries could be heard briefly but soon quieted in the face of Tao Hong’s biting sarcasm.
Emperor Zhou’wu’s lips curved into a smile. He said with interest, “Sangyu is also like this. She acts threateningly on the outside, like she’s baring her fangs to attack, but inside… ” He shook his head, chuckling lightly. His pitch-black eyes were brimming with fondness.
His Majesty’s lovesickness has returned! The corners of Yan Jun’wei’s mouth drew upwards as he sat in front of the dressing table and applied makeup. Opening a crowd of bottles and jars, he slowly dabbed at his face. His bronze skin turned pale white. Deep shadows appeared under his eyes and on the sides of his cheeks, making him appear utterly dispirited. He had shaved a section of his thick black eyebrows earlier on. Painting them so that they were handsomely slanting upwards would make him seem exceedingly heroic whereas if he painted them sloping downwards, he would seem downright boorish.
Presently, Yan Jun’wei was in the process of painting gently sloping eyebrows. Once he completed his look, his crystal clear eyes became cloudy and his unbearably sharp gaze considerably lightened. His straight waist drooped weakly. With the addition of clothes two sizes larger, his sturdy figure immediately appeared thinner. It was the iconic image of a rich boy’s body hollowed out by the Four Cardinal Vices. 酒色财气 (jiǔ sè cái qì) The four cardinal vices: wine, sex, greed and anger.
This was Emperor Zhou’wu’s first time seeing him transform. He had no way of reconciling the boorish man standing before him with his impression of Yan Jun’wei. Looking closely for a while, he sighed with emotion, “You just painted your face. Obviously you still have the same facial features, but you look like a completely different person. How mysterious. Sangyu also used makeup this way. Without makeup, her appearance was mesmerizing and cute but when she heavily applied makeup, it became willful and flamboyant. Hehe~”
He shook his head, smiling. His expression was unbelievably gentle.
Smoothing a wrinkle in his jacket, Yan Jun’wei joked, “Your Majesty, Did you notice that in the past few days, for every three sentences you say, one sentence is surely related to Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort?”
“Really?” Emperor Zhou’wu cast a sidelong glance at him and asked heavily, “Have you finished preparing everything? When can Zhen return to the palace?”
“This sentence is still related to Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort.” Yan Jun’wei’s lips curved into a smile. Seeing His Majesty coldly looking askance at him, he hastily added, “Everything will be ready within two days. Let’s go, this subject will take you to see the situation outside.”
The two of them walked leisurely until they arrived at the Capital’s most bustling street and entered a rather luxuriously decorated restaurant. Catching sight of Yan Jun’wei, the restaurant’s manager promptly broke into a fawning smile and came around the counter to personally welcome them. “Aiyo 哎哟 (āiyō) A common interjection expressing astonishment or pain. Master Qi, I decided to use ‘Master’ instead of ‘Sir’ here to follow the English form of address for men of rank in the past. your honoured self 您 (nín) The polite form of ‘you.’ has arrived. Please head upstairs! Waiter, 小二 (xiǎo’èr) The form of address for a young waiter in a bar, inn or restaurant. go serve tea, good quality tea!”
“If it’s not genuine good quality tea, this lord won’t drink!” Jun’wei gave the waiter a fussy expression and called out loudly. Afterwards, guided by the manager, they entered a private room. Once the manager closed the door, his fawning expression immediately disappeared. It was replaced by a roundish face with a somewhat dark expression. He kowtowed before the two and said, “This subordinate gives his greetings to Master and Commander.”
“Get up.” Emperor Zhou’wu nodded.
“Call people to guard this place from all sides,” said Yan Jun’wei in a low voice. Finally, he fished out a silver ingot and tossed it into the shopkeeper’s hands.
The shopkeeper agilely caught it and nodded in compliance. Once he left the private room, he deliberately weighed the silver ingot in his hand. Where was his dark expression now? His appearance strikingly resembled a money-grubber. One could only say that most important qualification of a hidden guard was the skill of rapidly changing one’s expression.
The waiter soon brought over a freshly-brewed pot of Lu’an green tea. 六安 (Lù’ān) is the name of both a mountain and county in the Anhui Province of China. 瓜片 (guāpiàn) is a kind of green tea produced there. The faint scent of tea floated in the air.
“Try it. It’s Lu’an green tea boiled with dew from Thousand Buddha Mountain’s Pudu Temple. Its taste is exquisite.“ Yan Jun’wei poured Emperor Zhou’wu a full cup. White steam rose from the cup.
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Emperor Zhou’wu lifted the teacup to his nose and carefully took a sniff. Finally, he took a small sip before shaking his head saying, “The water is good, the tea is good, however, the skill used to brew the tea leaves much to be desired. It can’t compare to…”
“It can’t compare to one ten-thousandth of Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort’s skill.” Yan Jun’wei automatically finished the sentence for him.
“Well said.” Emperor Zhou’wu smiled faintly.
Yan Jun’wei facepalmed and thought to himself: His Majesty didn’t just fall in love. He’s beyond saving!
“Has the Shen family made any moves recently?” Emperor Zhou’wu narrowed his eyes and his gentle expression became stern.
“That family has been busy. Shen Zhong’liang has been bribing officials left and right and colluding with foreign enemies. You already know about their plan to take over control of the military. Recently he’s been markedly more strict in educating his sons, especially Shen Xi’yan. Based on the report from the scout in their mansion, it seems as though they have already started studying an Emperor’s art of politics.”
Emperor Zhou’wu raised his eyebrows and his slender fingertips continued to repeatedly tap the table. “He’s trying to groom a Crown Prince? Ha! What idiotic nonsense!” The killing intent coming from his tone was almost palpable.
“If you remained asleep any longer, the Shen family’s plans might not necessarily have been a pipe dream. Shen Zhong’liang is in charge of this year’s autumn examinations. 秋闱 (qiūwéi) One of the three annual imperial examinations at the provincial level in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Many candidates have already become his retainers 门生 (ménshēng) In ancient times, scholars, warriors, and students seeking to take the imperial exam would offer their services to a noble/wealthy person or train under them (in the case of a general). They became part of that person’s faction and received their protection and patronage in return. ‘Retainer’ seemed to be the best translation in this case. Other translations might be follower, student, scholar, or disciple. Thank you to the helpful souls on NU: Little Potato, Nightow1, and Nonononononono!. He has recently arranged the post of Deputy Imperial Censor for Shen Xi’yan, where he’ll be responsible for hosting next year’s spring examinations.” Yan Jun’wei swirled the teacup in his hand, speaking in a low voice.
“That’s a good scheme.” Emperor Zhou’wu’s lips curved upwards as he offered praise, but his tone sent chills down one’s spine. “By drawing these candidates and talents to his side and arranging inconspicuous posts for them that hold real power, after three to five years, seventy to eighty percent of the Imperial Court’s officials would be Shen Zhongliang’s retainers. How could they still be considered the Emperor’s handpicked retainers?” 天子门生 (tiānzǐ ménshēng) refers to candidates that have been handpicked by the Emperor through the imperial examination. Thank you for explaining, Little Potato!
He crushed the teacup in his hands. As he slowly dusted the powder from his palms, he said lightly, “Once Zhen wipes out the Shen family, this year’s autumn examinations will be cancelled until next year. How could Zhen be willing to use officials who are only loyal to Imperial Preceptor Shen but not Zhen?”
Yan Jun’wei put down his teacup and smiled. “Not every candidate is so fixated on advancement. There are a few good ones in the group that can be of use.”
“In the future, give Zhen the name list. Next year when we reopen the fall examinations, if they pass, Zhen will use them,” said Emperor Zhou’wu as he walked over to the window and leaned over to take a look down below.
On the street beneath them, two elegantly dressed, brocade-clad youths stood facing each other. One stood alone; he appeared to be brimming with health and had a tall and imposing build. The other had a frail figure and the air of an aristocrat; seven or eight family servants stood behind him.
“Oh, it’s Shen Xi’yan and your brother-in-law!” remarked Yan Jun’wei thoughtfully as he followed him to the windowsill.
“Brother-in-law? Meng Yan’zhou?” muttered Emperor Zhou’wu who immediately raised his hand, saying, “Follow Zhen down to go take a look.”
To think of Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort’s elder brother at the mention of ‘brother-in-law’ – This substitution was too quick! Too conscious! Yan Jun’wei was shocked speechless as he followed Emperor Zhou’wu downstairs. The hidden guards nearby immediately followed.
On the street, Shen Xi’yan extended an arm to bar Meng Yan’zhou’s path. “You think you can just leave after bumping into someone like that?” he asked coldly. He had a deep scar in the corner of his left eye. Although it didn’t affect his eyesight, the scar caused his eyelid to droop slightly, which severely affected his appearance. The once fine-looking pretty boy now seemed to give off a somewhat dark and creepy vibe.
MSY’s older brother enters the scene~ I loved the interactions between Yan Jun’wei and ZW in this chapter :3 Should we make a ship for them? fufu~ But ZW is clearly devoted to MSY…
Until next time,