Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 41)
Chapter 41: Visiting Relatives 1 (省亲1)
English proofreader: JimmyfromIT
After Marquis Yong’an manor’s request for visiting relatives was approved, numerous concubines’ maternal clans who were of the highest official rank submitted memorials one after another. Perhaps it was because His Majesty was in an excellent mood that he graciously granted all of them. In the Inner Palace, some jumped for joy, some were envious, and some were spurred on by ambition thinking that they could enjoy the honour of returning home in glory once they climbed to the rank of Consort. This was the dream of all the women who were locked in the depths of the palace.
After the date for visiting relatives was calculated by the Imperial Astronomer, it was decided that it would be on the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh moon, which would arrive in two days. Upon hearing the news, the Imperial Consorts weren’t able to celebrate before the Emperor’s second imperial edict gave them a rude awakening. The Emperor would personally accompany Gracious Consort to visit her relatives. Furthermore, while each Consort was originally supposed to depart at 6 am, 卯时 (mǎoshí) Between 5 to 7 a.m. Check out my post on Chinese Timekeeping~ they were informed that they were to move up the time by two hours 2 hours = 1 时辰 (shíchen); TL: OmO so early!!! earlier, that is to say at 4 am. 寅时 (yínshí) Between 3 to 5 a.m. They were presently in the middle of winter. At 4 am, the sun hadn’t risen yet and it was the most frigid time of day. No matter whether it was the Consorts returning home or their families who were waiting for them, both parties had to suffer extremely mentally and physically taxing conditions. Meanwhile, Gracious Consort was to depart four hours later than everyone else, that is to say at 8 am 辰时 (chénshí) Between 7 to 9 a.m. when the sun rose from the east and the temperature warmed up. The Imperial Astronomer said that on the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh moon at 7:45 am was when the phoenixes would fly through the sky, 凤凰于飞 (fènghuáng yúfēi) An idiom describing a pair of phoenixes flying together or marital happiness. a time of good luck and great prosperity.
To occupy the most auspicious time and moreover be personally accompanied by the Emperor – once the news was released, all of Great Zhou’s citizens knew that Gracious Consort was bound to be selected as the new Empress. The exact title here is 继后 (jìhòu) meaning ‘Replacement Empress’ or ‘Step-Empress.’ Moreover, she fainted while accepting the imperial edict and soon after that, news spread that she was one and a half months pregnant. The Emperor was very pleased. All kinds of imperially-bestowed gifts flowed into Zhong’cui Palace like water.
It was unclear just how much porcelain and chinaware was smashed amongst the various palaces. However, Meng Sangyu was indifferent to the news. She only earnestly looked forward to returning home to visit her brother and mother. Leaving earlier meant that she could spend more time with her family. All graces and honours meant nothing to her.
Two days passed quickly. The sky was still dark when the regal entourage departed to visit their relatives.
The icy, bone-chilling wind frequently seeped through the carriage curtain’s seam and scraped across their skin, causing them to shiver from the cold. Their breath turned to fog and evaporated into the air. Nurse Feng got up to pull the curtain tightly shut. They caught a glimpse of the Head Guard sitting atop the high-headed horse outside the curtain. A small smile appeared on his chilled face.
“My Lady, it’s Officer Wang escorting us.” She spoke in a low voice while helping her master cover her knees with a warm brocade blanket.
Meng Sangyu carried a small finely-crafted handheld brazier. When she heard what was said, she gave a gratified smile. This child has grown up and showed good promise. Sure enough, that time her eyes hadn’t been wrong.
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“I heard that he refused to offer his services to Grand Preceptor Shen and now he’s been pushed out of the inner circle within the Imperial Dragon Guards. He carried the burden himself which is very good. Despite the Shen family’s momentary glory, it is only an illusion, like how the moon is reflected in the water or how flowers are reflected in the mirror. 水中月镜中花 (shuǐzhōngyüè jìngzhōnghuā) was a phrase from 唐·裴休《唐故左街僧录内供奉三教谈论引驾大德安国寺上座赐紫方袍大达法师元秘塔碑铭》: “峥嵘栋梁，一旦而摧。水月镜像，无心去来。” It’s a metaphor for something illusionary or ethereal in a derogatory sense. The author might’ve made a typo or purposely switched it to 水中花镜中月 or ‘flowers reflected in the water and the moon reflected in the mirror’ but I used the original phrase here since it made more sense visually. Baidu has a cute video explaining the meaning. Sooner or later they will fall. Since he dared to harm my father, I’ll be certain to expose his schemes and cause his downfall. We’ll see who’s the last one standing.” Meng Sangyu straightened out the hair around her temples with her gold filigree nail guards and smiled coldly.
“Your Ladyship, would your honoured self like to meet with Officer Wang privately to enlist his help? If the capital sinks into chaos, swords have no eyes.” Nurse Feng worriedly asked.
“Even if I don’t say a word, the minute there is unrest in the capital, the first thing he’ll think of is protecting me. I believe in him.” Meng Sangyu smiled gently. “Exchanging royal offspring, the licentious imperial harem… The less he knows of these outrageous scandals, the better off he’ll be. The Empress Dowager isn’t easy to deal with. 善茬 (shànchá) is a phrase meaning ‘easy to deal with’ but literally means ‘good crop.’ Once the situation in the capital stabilizes, there will surely be a great purge to protect the truth known only to the royal family. Nurse, once you all leave the palace, you must completely forget about these sordid things, do you understand?”
Meng Sangyu looked at Nurse Feng with an utterly serious expression.
“This servant understands. My lady, this servant doesn’t want to leave your honoured self.” Nurse Feng implored, but then her face turned ghastly pale. “Then Your Ladyship, will your honoured self also be…….”
“The Empress Dowager can be merciless but she is also the most soft-hearted. If I take the initiative and offer my services to her, tens of thousands of Meng family soldiers are my bargaining chip. Considering that I have value as a pawn, she won’t touch me. Besides, my background is no different from the Empress Dowager in the past. Do you remember that on the day I was first conferred the title of Virtuous Consort, the Empress Dowager sent people from Thousand Buddha Mountain to gift me that ink and wash painted screen? 水墨画 (shuǐmòhuà) is a style of traditional Chinese brush painting. Read more about it or check out Held in the Lonely Castle~ It had a tall mountain ridge with overhanging cliffs covering half of it. On top of the cliff, there was a towering pine tree. The Empress Dowager was using the painting to explain human nature. She wanted me to understand my unfavourable position. My existence triggered her memories of the past. She didn’t want me to repeat her mistakes. This shows that the Empress Dowager still holds goodwill towards me. With this sliver of goodwill, I have the confidence to make it so that she is unable to kill me. The worst outcome would just be accompanying the Empress Dowager long-term in the temple as a nun. 常伴青灯 (chángbàn qīngdēng) Lit. To accompany a green lamp. It means to become a monk/nun. In the temple, lamps used to be covered with blue cloth resulting in a green lantern. It might seem like a lonely, unbearable life to others, but for me, it’s all I could wish for.” Meng Sangyu sighed deeply. There was no wavering helplessness in her eyes, just indifference. Having lived and struggled for two lifetimes, she has been long worn out.
“Your Ladyship, this servant will accompany you in becoming a nun. This servant is old and would like to live a quiet life like this in the latter half of this one’s life.” Nurse Feng’s eyes were red.
“No need. After Nurse leaves the palace, just go to my mother’s side. Take care of her well in my place.” Meng Sangyu closed her eyes and leaned back. It was obvious that she did not want to chat anymore.
Nurse Feng had exhausted her methods. She secretly wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes and stared blankly at the gold-plated copper stove on the table.
Before they knew it, they had arrived at the Imperial Duke’s manor. On the other side of the curtain, a man’s deep voice rang, “We have arrived at the Imperial Duke’s manor. May Her Ladyship debark from the carriage.”
Meng Sangyu opened her eyes and carefully arranged the hair around her temples and her clothes. With Nurse Feng’s support, she slowly descended from the carriage.
Meeting the excited eyes of the young man waiting beside the carriage, she was stunned and the corners of her lips imperceptibly curved upwards. Their gazes met briefly before brushing past one another, too fast for people to recall.
The man watched as the young woman dressed in magnificent robes walked along the red carpet leading to the Imperial Duke’s manor with dignified, graceful steps. She accepted the kowtows of everyone in the manor with a complicated expression that was hard to decipher. In his disappointment, he sensed that someone was watching them. He looked all around but didn’t spot anyone. He couldn’t help but frown. He had ordered the guards that had accompanied them to encircle the manor. Security was airtight. It was impossible for anyone to approach. Thinking along these lines, he let go of his worries and quietly watched the young woman’s back disappear behind the vermilion front gate.
What Wang Hua’shan didn’t know was that besides the numerous guards he had dispatched, there were also countless secret guards concealed around the Imperial Duke’s manor. Meanwhile, Emperor Zhou’wu and Yan Jun’wei had long hidden themselves on the roof of the main hall of the Imperial Duke’s manor. Under the cover of darkness, they watched Sangyu closely as she walked below.
The darkness of night was still dense. Even if countless lanterns shone brightly, the woman’s facial features were still somewhat blurry and hard to distinguish. However, her peacock-patterned magenta first-ranked court dress outlined with gold silk thread was especially eye-catching. The woman slowly debarked from the carriage. Emperor Zhou’wu’s breaths followed her pace and gradually became heavy. With effort, he forcibly himself held back from smashing the [roof tiles] 瓦砾 (wǎlì) means rubble or debris but the way the word is used makes it seem like roof titles is what the author is actually referring to. under his palms. They were making slight clattering sounds and seemed like they were about to break.
“Your Majesty, please keep calm. In a few hours, you’ll be able to justly and honourably see Her Ladyship,” soothed Yan Jun’wei in a low voice.
Emperor Zhou’wu’s eyes darkened as he glanced at him. Countless turbulent emotions were hidden in his pitch-black eyes to the point where it gave off a violent feeling, but in the end, he relaxed. Yan Jun’wei was forced into submission by his abyss-like gaze. He secretly gulped a mouthful of saliva. After waiting for half the night, they suffered under the chilling wind to just catch this glimpse. The Emperor didn’t have it easy either!
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Meng Sangyu had already stepped through the main gates into the main hall with everyone clustered around her. She accepted her family’s kowtows. Emperor Zhou’wu pressed his ear closely to the rooftop, listening carefully to the movement inside. Even if he couldn’t see her in person, listening to her voice was also good.
In the main hall, everyone in the Meng family paid their respects before Virtuous Consort in turn. Meng Sangyu made herself up to look beautiful and majestic. Her hand, adorned with nail guards with gold filigree, reached towards the teapoy 案几 (ànjī) A small three-legged table that usually holds a tea caddy. while her lower jaw lifted ever so slightly upwards. That awe-inspiring noble aura caused one’s scalp to tingle.
Aunt Wen led her two children to kneel earnestly by her feet. No matter how much they envied and loathed her, they couldn’t conceal their fear towards the former legitimate young miss of the Meng family.
“Mother, please quickly rise.” Meng Sangyu personally helped the Meng family’s first wife, Madame Lin, to her feet and raised her hand to excuse her elder brother’s kowtow. Then, neither familiar nor distant, she turned to Aunt Wen and her children and said, “You may also rise.”
On the rooftop, hearing her cool yet agreeable voice, Emperor Zhou’wu was instantly entranced. Then the corners of his mouth curved into a smile.
“Thank you, Your Ladyship.” Everyone bowed in thanks before standing up to take their seats.
After casually chatting about some trivial family matters, Meng Sangyu dismissed everyone and guided Lady Meng towards a side room so they could speak in private. On the rooftop, Emperor Zhou’wu and Yan Jun’wei followed suit and shifted their positions.
“Mother, Father’s disappearance is not as it seems.” Meng Sangyu went straight into the main topic, immediately capturing Lady Meng’s attention.
“Think about it, what kind of place is Jade Dragon City? It faces the Yalong River The Yalong River of Tibet and Sichuan. For reference, here is a map of Ming Dynasty China as well as a zoomed-in view of the Yalong River. and Coiling Dragon Mountain is at its back. In terms of topography, it’s a very strategic location. Launching a surprise attack from the rear by bypassing Coiling Dragon Mountain without being discovered [would be extremely difficult], unless the Barbarians were exceptionally skilled.” Meng Sangyu paused to see Lady Meng nod her head before continuing.
On the rooftop, Yan Jun’wei was already drawn in by her statement and copied Emperor Zhou’wu’s position of putting his ear to the [roof tiles]. He listened closely to her analysis.
“The Barbarian army isn’t exceptionally skilled but they have the ability to collude with the enemy. Without collaborating with a spy, how could they have safely bypassed so many sentry posts and directly launched such a big operation to steal our side’s stored provisions? Jade Dragon City is under the jurisdiction of Gansu’s Provincial Commander. This matter is definitely connected to Xie Zheng’hao. As soon as Father disappeared, the Emperor had appointed him as Great General. Using the Commander-in-Chief’s seal, he launched an attack against the Barbarians’ imperial seat. I’m afraid that there might be an even bigger conspiracy afoot. If Xie Zheng’hao and the Barbarian army really scratched each other’s backs, it’s extremely likely that he would have feigned defeat and taken advantage of the chaos to get rid of Father’s influence in the army to seize military power for himself.”
Meng Sangyu finished speaking in a low voice and her mother drew in a breath of cold air. On the rooftop, Yan Jun’wei’s face was full of astonishment. What a brilliantly intelligent woman! Despite being confined to the depths of the palace, she could see things so thoroughly with just a few vague points. No wonder the Emperor was so obsessed with her.
Emperor Zhou’wu narrowed his eyes slightly. He concentrated wholeheartedly on listening to this refreshing voice that he hadn’t heard for a long time.
“Then, what will happen to us?” asked Lady Meng. Her voice was choked up with fright.
“Don’t worry, Mother. Immediately write a letter to Uncle Meng Liang. It must reach his hands before the eve of the battle. Ask him to find a way to kill Xie Zheng’hao and obtain the Commander-in-Chief’s seal. Uncle Meng Liang will presumably have his reservations but he definitely has his own grievances [with Xie Zheng’hao]. Receiving your honoured self’s letter will aptly dispel his concerns. Although Father’s disappearance greatly shook the soldiers’ morale, we definitely won’t lose this battle. The Barbarian army has depleted their energy and are guarding their imperial seat with their last breath. It’s currently midwinter during the twelfth moon 腊月 (là yuè) The twelfth lunar month of the Chinese calendar. when clothing and provisions are scarce. Once this breath is exhausted, they’ll suffer from hunger and cold. Without fighting, they’ll be defeated by their own hand. After destroying the Barbarians’ imperial seat and earning the meritorious service of a lifetime, who would care how Xie Zheng’hao died? Just blame it on the Barbarians. The history books are written by the victors. The losers can only be forgotten.” Meng Sangyu patted Lady Meng’s hand consolingly. Her calm and collected voice was very soothing and her words were even more inspiring. “Though Father has met with a mishap, the Meng family still has the tens of thousands of brave soldiers in the Meng family army as well as all the Uncles. Her father’s older and younger brothers. The Meng family will not fall!”
On the rooftop, Yan Jun’wei was stunned. What a broad-minded, insightful woman! As a married woman cloistered in the boudoir, her way of thinking was unexpectedly exactly the same as the Emperor. She was truly remarkable! Imperial Duke Meng really raised his son and daughter well! While sighing with feeling, he glanced at the Emperor and gave him a thumbs up.
Emperor Zhou’wu looked askance at him. Although his face looked calm, his eyes held a muted smile. He thought of a phrase that made him feel even more cheerful: Little by little, a pair of phoenixes fly side by side, their hearts linked as one.
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Sending hugs <3
Yay, we get to see Sangyu again! It’s been a while! The chapter ended on such a sweet note too <3 Looks like the next one will be exciting!! (o v o) I wonder how SHR’s visit will go… fufu~
- School is starting up again for me in September. Please refer to the translation goals section of the sidebar for the new monthly goal (I’ll be sending out an email as well!). I’m proud of finishing my August goal for WHI~ I generally struggle with consistency and sticking to a schedule bc of rl things so it felt great to actually follow through properly this time. It was really nice translating as much as I wanted this month. I immensely appreciate everyone’s reactions, comments and encouragement! Thank you for your support <3
- I’ve added a font resizer so you can enlarge the text. It’s the first item on the right sidebar (laptop view). Please let me know if it’s too big or too small. Right now I have it set to 100% (12 pt), 120% (14pt) and 130% (16pt).
While I was looking up the meaning of “水中月镜中花,” I stumbled upon the Tang dynasty poem, ‘春江花月夜“ or “Spring Blossoms on a Moonlit River” by 张若虚. This website has a good analysis of the poem and seems like a good resource in general for learning Chinese. It was also made into a song [Youtube]. Does anyone play pipa (琵琶)? How do you like the instrument?
Until next time,