Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 44)
Chapter 44: Returning to the Palace 2 (回宫2)
Translators: Nyamachi & [redacted]
TL assistant: [redacted]
English proofreader: JimmyfromIT
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Warning: This chapter has depictions of torture.
Once Yan Jun’wei finished dealing with the Fake Emperor, he entered Qian’qing Palace through the secret passageway. Seeing Emperor Zhou’wu’s dark red blood-soaked shoulder, his eyebrows shot up in shock.
“What are you doing, Your Majesty!?” Why was he purposely torturing himself? He quickly walked over, grabbed the roll of bandages and jar of antiseptic off the table and helped him to wrap the wound with fresh bandages.
“Did Sangyu safely return to the palace?” Emperor Zhou’wu picked up a cloth beside his bed and calmly wiped the blood from his hands.
“This subject escorted Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort safely back to Bi’xiao Palace before immediately heading over here. Her Ladyship’s mind is extraordinary. She already guessed that this time’s assassination was faked.” Yan Jun’wei deeply sighed. Virtuous Consort’s perception was so sharp. It was a shame that she was a woman.
Emperor Zhou’wu smiled warmly. The pain in his shoulder had already subsided. Once his wound was bandaged up, he rose to his feet, donned an overcoat, and activated the secret mechanism in his bedroom to enter a concealed room accompanied by Yan Jun’wei.
In the hidden room, Chang’xi was bound to a chair Specifically, his upper body was bound with his arms tied behind his back with a rope looped around his neck. The idiom here is 五花大绑 (wǔ huā dà bǎng), which approximately translates as five flower binding method. and had a cloth stuffed in his mouth. Catching sight of Emperor Zhou’wu entering with an air of regality, he looked at him with a fierce anger in his eyes. Facing the Emperor’s eyes which were black as a bottomless abyss, his angry expression turned to one of fright, and then despair. He gave a pitiful whimper.
“Do you still recognize Zhen?” Emperor Zhou’wu sat down imposingly Sitting 大马金刀 (dà mǎ jīng dāo) style, literally ‘big horse gold knife’ style, is manspreading to assert dominance. in front of him. His hand rested on the teapoy, his slender forefinger rhythmically tapping the tabletop.
Chang’xi’s heart nearly shattered from the sound of the tapping, and his face turned a ghostly white. Cold sweat rolled down his forehead. Yan Jun’wei stepped forward to remove the cloth from his mouth.
“Your Majesty, this servant was deceived. This servant begs the Emperor to spare this lowly servant’s life.” Chang’xi’s body quivered and his voice trembled as he pleaded for mercy.
The emperor gave a spine-chilling chuckle. He casually leaned back into the chair and coldly watched Chang’xi struggle against his restraints. He fell at the Emperor’s feet looking like a dying mutt.
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“Your Majesty, this servant was threatened! Gracious Consort forced this servant to ingest the poison. This servant had no other choice! This servant knew a lot of Gracious Consort and Imperial Preceptor Shen’s secrets. This servant will tell Your Majesty everything. This servant begs Your Majesty to take into account that this servant’s contributions outweigh this servant’s misdeeds and spare this servant’s pathetic dog life.” Chang’xi snivelled and wept, snot and tears flowing from his face.
“Spare your pathetic dog life?” Emperor Zhou’wu pondered this plea. A thought seemed to cross his mind and he gave a low chuckle, but the sound of his laughter did not contain the least bit of joy. There was only a bone-chilling and icy coldness. This caused Chang’xi’s trembling to intensify.
“Tell me, what do you know?” After a while, he stopped smiling and rapped his fingers against the tabletop.
“Gracious Consort poisoned all the princes, ensuring they wouldn’t survive into adulthood so they wouldn’t be able to harm her own children. She also gave the abortion soup to all the Imperial Concubines who had performed nightly duties, causing them to be unable to give birth. Also, eighty to ninety percent of the servants in this palace are her spies. There are countless informants in the other palaces…….” Chang’xi withheld nothing and confessed everything, fearful that if he spoke too slowly, he would be bestowed death by imperial decree 赐死 (cì sǐ) To commit suicide by imperial decree as a mark of imperial favour, so that one is spared the indignity of execution and could die with their body intact. Usually the method is poisoned wine..
Poisoning all the princes and Imperial Concubines – this was something that Emperor Zhou’wu had already anticipated and he wasn’t the least surprised. He slightly closed his eyes, waiting for Chang’xi to get to the main topic before opening his eyes to look at him. “These spies and informants, do you know their identities?”
“This servant knows almost all of the spies and informants, but the identities of the rest are only known by Gracious Consort and her head palace maid.” Chang’xi fervently nodded his head. A faint trace of hope showing on his despairing face.
“Write a list.” Emperor Zhou’wu waved his hand, and the Secret Guards beside him untied Chang’xi’s bindings. They passed him a sheet of paper and a pen. Chang’xi trembled and faltered as he took the proffered items. He was hunched over as he wracked his brain to write.
Emperor Zhou’wu rested his forehead against his arm with a blank face. His eyes were devoid of any emotion and it was impossible to know what he was thinking. Chang’xi had still not finished writing when a secret guard knocked and entered to hand over a stack of papers in front of him. This was a thick list of names that the captured Wang’qing had just finished confessing moments ago. Its contents were about identical to Chang’xi’s confession.
Emperor Zhou’wu finished closely examining the list of names and passed it to Yan Jun’wei who was standing beside him. Yan Jun’wei roughly counted all the names. In his head, he was speechless. It was for the best that they had secretly switched back. Otherwise, after storming the palace and regaining the throne, there would be so many spies hidden around him that he wouldn’t dare sleep with his eyes closed. If the inner palace was like this, then the situation in the Imperial Court was definitely dire.
After an hour, Chang’xi finally finished writing. He passed the sheet of paper to a secret guard who took it. Once more, the secret guard bowed and presented the list before Emperor Zhou’wu. Emperor Zhou’wu accepted the list and compared it to Wan’qing’s list.
Chang’xi trembled with fear and trepidation and opened his mouth to speak, “Your Majesty……”
“Seal him up.” 贴加官 (tiē jiā guān) A feudal version of waterboarding where sheets of mulberry paper are stuck to the prisoner’s face, making it harder and harder for the prisoner to breathe. While it was mainly used as a torture technique to extort confessions from prisoners, the method can also be used to kill someone without leaving behind scars and was suitable for maintaining the royal family’s reputation when punishing officials. Emperor Zhou’wu waved his hand. His manner of speaking was utterly indifferent. Chang’xi heard this and suddenly felt all strength leave his body. It felt like a lump of iron balls were stuck in his throat and he couldn’t make a sound.
The secret guard acknowledged the order. He pulled him to his feet and bound him to the chair once more. He soaked the remaining sheets of paper and stuck them to Chang’xi’s face one by one. Chang’xi initially flailed and struggled violently, but after five or six papers, his body slowly became rigid, until at last he fell silent.
Emperor Zhou’wu didn’t even spare him a glance. He only frowned as he carefully finished reading over the two lists. He then passed them to Yan Jun’wei and said in a heavy voice, “First, uproot the spies from Qian’qing Palace, Bi’xiao Palace, Ci’ning Palace, the Imperial Medical Academy, and the Imperial Household Department. You can deal with the rest later.”
Yan Jun’wei nodded. He inspected the list of names once and sighed, “In the span of a few months, Gracious Consort was able to firmly seize control of the Imperial Medical Academy and the Imperial Household Department. She is highly capable! However, she still can’t beat Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort. Bi’xiao Palace actually only had two or three spies, and even then they were all careless servants. As expected of Imperial Duke Meng’s Daughter! Her management skills are amazing!”
Emperor Zhou’wu raised his eyebrows and laughed. The thick malevolent aura around him instantly disappeared.
Yan Jun’wei put away the list and secretly thought to himself: A mention of Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort and [His Majesty’s] mood became as clear and boundless as the sky. It looked like he would definitely need to find ways to get closer to Meng Yan’zhou in the future!
Right at this moment, the sound of someone knocking on the door came from outside the secret room. The secret guard by the door operated the mechanism. Astoundingly, it was Chang’xi who had just taken his last breath. He held a horsetail whisk 佛尘 (fóchén) looked similar to feather dusters with strands of horsetail, or other animal hair, attached to the end. In Chinese Buddhism, it’s a holy tool that symbolizes sweeping away one’s troubles. and bowed. In a shrill voice that was identical to Chang’xi’s, he said, “Your Majesty, Gracious Consort has brought the other masters of the palace to kneel in front of Qian’qing Palace to beg for an audience. The Empress Dowager has already gone to stop them.”
Having allowed the Fake Emperor to come into contact with the Empress Dowager, Shen Hui’ru couldn’t stop worrying. She quickly downed a bowl of medicine to prevent a miscarriage and led the Imperial Consorts to come over and ‘express their sympathy’.
“Did Virtuous Consort come as well?” Emperor Zhou’wu suddenly stood up but his movements were too quick and knocked over the large ornately carved chair behind him. The loud crash startled Yan Jun’wei, causing him to furrow his brows, yet the person in question seemed as though he hadn’t noticed.
“Replying to Your Majesty, today the Imperial Consorts who had gone to visit their relatives have all returned. They are kneeling outside of the palace.” The fake Chang’xi reported back in a soft voice. His manner was exactly like a real eunuch.
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“Go quickly. Inform the Empress Dowager and let them come in so that Shen Hui’ru does not become suspicious.” Emperor Zhou’wu swiftly tore off his overcoat, laid down on the bed and fixed his clothes. He asked Yan Jun’wei, who hadn’t left his side, “How does Zhen look?”
“Although [Your Majesty’s] face is a bit pale, it is still as handsome as ever.” Yan Jing’wei fought against his urge to smile and replied seriously.
Emperor Zhou’wu’s expression darkened and he raised a hand, signalling him to withdraw, before leaning against the headboard. His eyes were pinned to the bedroom door and his reclined posture appeared nonchalant when in fact it was tense. Only a few days had passed since he had last seen Sangyu but it felt like several lifetimes. Every minute and every second was torture.
Outside Qian’qing Palace, the Empress Dowager rushed over after she heard the news and was in the middle of angrily rebuking Shen Hui’ru in a stern voice, “Gracious Consort, what do you think you’re doing? The Emperor is seriously injured. And just as he finally fell asleep, you brought over so many people to disturb him. Is this how you care for His Majesty!?”
“This concubine doesn’t dare. It is just that this consort cannot be at ease without seeing for herself that His Majesty is safe and sound. This consort beseeches the Empress Dowager to let someone enter and announce her arrival. If His Majesty agrees, this concubine will just take a quick glimpse and leave. If His Majesty refuses, this concubine will immediately depart.” Tears formed in the corners of Shen Hui’ru’s eyes. One hand supported her waist while the other covered her not yet bulging stomach. Her appearance really inspired others to take pity on her.
Meng Sangyu kneeled beside her and discreetly observed the Empress Dowager. But the Empress Dowager was still the same as always: either stern or expressionless. It was truly difficult to read her thoughts.
“You’re pregnant with an imperial offspring. You can’t be willful. Quickly rise. Once the Emperor awakens, he will naturally summon you all.” The Empress Dowager’s line of sight scanned Shen Hui’ru’s stomach and her tone of voice promptly softened. She beckoned Nian’ci over and ordered her to quickly support Gracious Consort to rise.
Seeing the Empress Dowager’s gentle eyes, Shen Hui’ru’s heart settled as she took the opportunity to stand. A crowd of Imperial Concubines were still kneeling on the ground. The Empress Dowager had not yet permitted them to stand. Who dared to act out of line? Many of them glared daggers at Gracious Consort’s stomach with malice.
Meng Sangyu wasn’t so easily deceived. Although the Empress Dowager’s eyes appeared gentle, the muscles on her face were strained. The smile lines at the corner of her mouth were faintly discernible. This was a subtle sign of an elderly person struggling to conceal their fury. It appeared as though the Empress Dowager was aware of the truth. There was a 90% chance that the Emperor inside was the real Emperor Zhou’wu. Thinking up to here, Meng Sangyu’s heart felt a bit more at ease.
Just at this moment, Chang’xi hurriedly came out of the chamber. The horsetail whisk in his hand swished back and forth as he bowed and said, “Your Highness the Empress Dowager, Your Ladyships, the Emperor invites you all to enter.”
“The Emperor has awoken?” questioned the Empress Dowager in a grave voice.
“Yes.” Chang’xi held his arm out in a welcoming gesture.
“Then let’s go in. Don’t stay for too long.” The Empress Dowager frowned as she gave the order and led the crowd of Imperial Concubines inside.
Other than the Empress Dowager, the crowd of Imperial Concubines uniformly knelt down to pay respects to Emperor Zhou’wu, who was lying on the bed.
“You may rise,” said Emperor Zhou’wu indifferently. He glanced at the faces of the crowd of concubines before fixing his gaze on Shen Hui’ru. Heaven knows he exerted all his self-control to avoid focusing his attention on Sangyu’s face. He was conscious of Sangyu’s discreet examination. He secretly clenched his fist and his heartbeat quickened.
“Your Majesty, how does your honoured self feel?” Shen Hui’ru walked to his bedside and sat down. She clasped his hands.
Emperor Zhou’wu’s rapidly beating heart ceased. The corners of Emperor Zhou’wu’s lips drew upwards. He turned over his hand to gently pat the back of her fair hands. He said in a soft voice, “Zhen is fine. How is Beloved Consort doing? Was the child harmed? Zhen already knows about what happened to your elder brother and will definitely send people to bring the assassins to justice! Beloved Consort must not dwell too deeply on this!”
“Beloved Consort and the child are both fine. Your Majesty……” Shen Hui’ru’s brows knit as tears trickled down her face. She was truly a weeping beauty, beautiful beyond comprehension Two idioms here~ 梨花带雨 (líhuā dài yǔ) A pear blossom bathed in the rain = the tear-stained face of a beauty; 美不胜收 (měi bú shèngshōu) More beauty than one can take in..
Emperor Zhou’wu’s eyes dimmed as he held her close to comfort her. He didn’t dare to look in Sangyu’s direction.
“Alright, don’t cry. Be careful not to harm the baby. The emperor is seriously injured, so don’t disturb him.” The Empress Dowager spoke at just the right moment, saving the Emperor from extreme misery.
Shen Hui’ru achieved her goal and she hurriedly led the other Imperial Concubines to withdraw. Before leaving Meng Sangyu secretly glanced at Emperor Zhou’wu. The corners of her lips curved up slightly. His acting skills were good, but it would be better if his eyes were not so deep and unfathomable.
Emperor Zhou’wu bowed his head and firmly shut his eyes to prevent himself from looking over.
Waiting until everyone approached the entrance, the Empress Dowager seemed to remember something and decreed, “Virtuous Consort, from tomorrow on you are responsible for attending to His Majesty while he is bedridden. Come earlier, and be sure not to be late.”
Sangyu paused and promptly curtsied This is more like bending her knees slightly with her feet together. It’s not the same as a western-style curtsey where one bends the knees with one foot behind the other. See any ancient Palace drama for an example~ and agreed. She withdrew calmly under the envious stares of all the concubines.
Tomorrow? There were still fourteen hours! Emperor Zhou’wu frowned as he estimated the time. He absentmindedly dismissed the Empress Dowager and was in a daze for a long time before unclenching his fist and looking at the slip of paper that Shen Hui’ru had discreetly passed to him. The expression in his eyes became icy.
Not as huge a shock as A’Bao’s death but Chang’xi’s death was surprising! The Emperor was so indifferent too. His primping upon hearing that Sangyu had also come was cute~ I wonder what SHR’s note says…
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