Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 54)
Chapter 54: Currying Favour (讨好)
Translators: Nyamachi & Silverylazes
Translation checker: Nyamachi
TL assistant: [redacted]
English proofreaders: Nyamachi, 247reader
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It was quiet inside Bi’xiao Palace. Nurse Feng, Yin’cui, and Bi’shui guarded Meng Sangyu’s bed. Her complexion was pale and her hands and feet were cold to the touch. She had eventually fallen asleep due to the effect of the medicine, but she trembled from time to time, appearing extremely disturbed within her deep slumber.
Nurse Feng’s heart ached. She covered Meng Sangyu in another thick cotton quilt and then lit a brazier in the bedchamber. Thinking of Jieyu Su’s death, her heart jumped in alarm, and she hurried to open the window a crack.
When she saw the gradually approaching bright yellow imperial carriage appear in the heavy snow through the window, she was momentarily stunned. Then, she beckoned Yin’cui and Bi’shui to follow her outside to receive His Majesty. Her Ladyship was ill. What had His Majesty come here for? He couldn’t be here to attend to her illness, could he? That would be utterly ridiculous!
“These servants greet Your Majesty.” The three of them walked quickly to the door and knelt down, deliberately lowering their voices. Due to Nurse Feng’s timely intervention, the eunuchs guarding the door were unable to loudly announce, ‘His Majesty has arrived.’ You probably know this from watching dramas, but every time the Emperor or Consorts go somewhere, servants by the door loudly announce their arrival.
Disembarking from the carriage with large strides, Emperor Zhou’wu saw their actions and knew that Sangyu must have already fallen asleep. He was extremely satisfied with these three loyal servants who were protecting their master.
“How is Sangyu?” He lowered his voice to a whisper as he strode towards the bedchamber.
Sangyu? What kind of address was that? All three of them stared blankly, but Bi’shui was the quickest to react and hurriedly responded, “Replying to Your Majesty, Her Ladyship drank medicine and is now sleeping. Please forgive Her Ladyship for not being able to get up to greet your honoured self.”
Emperor Zhou nodded noncommittally. His steps unconsciously quickened by a few degrees and Nurse Feng and the others had to follow behind at a trot.
The wide bed of carved rosewood was thickly covered with bedding, and the hall had underfloor heating and an additional brazier. One could feel the sudden rise in temperature as soon as one entered. Yet the woman curled up in the bed had a pale complexion. Her body shivered and her delicate brows were tightly knitted together. Her originally rosy lips were dry and chapped, and she looked unbearably cold.
With two layers of quilts covering her, her form had completely sunken into the mattress. This made her look so delicate and fragile that it seemed she could break at the slightest touch.
Emperor Zhou’wu suddenly stopped. For a moment, it felt like his heart had stopped, until he felt a sharp pain in his chest and realized that he hadn’t taken a breath for a long time. He had never seen Sangyu so fragile before. It seemed that his suspicion and exploitation had caused all her sorrows and misfortunes! Although he was a monarch, he seemed to be powerless before Sangyu. He wanted to make amends, but couldn’t even find a place to start!
The colour of his eyes gradually darkened, and endless resentment rose up in his heart – resentment towards himself.
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“Your Majesty, Her Ladyship is fine. After your honoured self has seen her, Your Majesty should return as soon as possible, lest your honoured self catches ill.” Nurse Feng spoke cautiously, sensing the deep melancholy emanating from the Emperor’s body. Her Ladyship was only absent from nursing duties. The Emperor wouldn’t go so far as to be angry with Her Ladyship, would he?
“Has Sangyu taken her medicine? How could she suddenly have received such a shock?” Emperor Zhou’wu listened to her words as if he had not heard them. He quietly walked over to the bed, his voice low.
“Replying to Your Majesty, she has taken it. A puppy that Her Ladyship used to raise died, and thinking of Lord Imperial Duke, of whom there has been no news, she was overly anxious.”
“So that’s what happened. Has she taken the nourishing medicine?” At the mention of A’Bao, his dark eyes flickered slightly. He wanted to reach out to touch Sangyu’s face, but stopped. He turned around and walked towards the brazier.
Nurse Feng followed behind. Forcibly suppressing the resentment in her heart, she said softly, “Replying to Your Majesty, Her Ladyship will drink the medicine once she wakes up.” It was best not to drink it!
“Well, don’t forget. Sangyu has a weak constitution and needs to nourish her body,” instructed Emperor Zhou’wu carefully. Once he felt that his body was warm enough, he turned back to the bed, rubbed his hands together, lifted the covers off Sangyu, and got in.
Nurse Feng and the others were frozen. What was going on here? Wasn’t he going to leave after questioning them? Why had he fallen asleep? And before sleeping, he didn’t forget to dispel the cold – when did His Majesty become so considerate?
While Nurse Feng and the others were dumbfounded, Chang’xi, who was already immune to strangeness, stepped forward to remove the Emperor’s boots and tuck in the corners of the blanket.
Emperor Zhou’wu cupped the woman’s pale, cold face and pressed it against his own cheek, trying to bring her a touch of warmth. His fingertips brushed over the dark circles under her eyes in a gesture of indescribable tenderness. With a low sigh, he planted a kiss on the woman’s forehead and took her lovingly into his arms, his heart aching at the feel of the woman’s much thinner body.
Nurse Feng and the others lowered their heads in unison to hide the shocked expressions on their faces. This was His Majesty, right? How could he be so gentle with Her Ladyship? He gave her affectionate eyes and caring gestures as a man might his greatest treasure. They all wondered if they had been mistaken!
After he relaxed his breathing and saw that Sangyu was sleeping soundly, not waking at his touch but instead fondly curling towards his chest, Emperor Zhou’wu’s eyes perked up with laughter. He ordered in a low voice, “You can all leave. I will accompany Sangyu to sleep for a while!”
“Yes.” Nurse Feng and the others left in a trance while Chang’xi, holding his horsetail whisk, guarded the entrance of the hall.
“Sangyu, Zhen will never let you be left alone again. You can try to rely on Zhen and trust Zhen,” he whispered in the woman’s ear while cupping her cheek, then delicately kissed the crown of her soft head.
The man’s body temperature was warm and his rich voice carried the power to soothe the heart. Without realizing it, Meng Sanyu stopped trembling and whimpered, curling into his arms. Her small hands reflexively clutched at his lapel, as if she was afraid he would run away. It was only when she was unconscious that she would reveal her inner vulnerability and seek out a warm embrace.
“Yes, that’s it. Just like that.” He patted her small, too-tense hand and softly kissed the back of it. Emperor Zhou’wu hugged her against his chest and sighed as he faced the vivid purple bed curtain. He knew that when Sangyu woke up, she would become the strong, independent, and distant Virtuous Consort again. He could only get a moment of her warmth in his dreams.
The man’s troubled mind calmed as he held his most precious person, and he gradually fell into a daze. Just then, the sound of footsteps came from outside the hall. He frowned, immediately snapping to alertness. His pitch-black eyes glanced towards the door.
“Your Majesty, Commander Yan requests an audience outside the hall.” Chang’xi stopped five metres from the bed, reporting back in a quiet voice.
“Understood. Zhen will be right there.” Emperor Zhou’wu waved Chang’xi away, kissed Meng Sangyu on the cheek, and stared in awe at her sleeping face for a moment before quietly leaving.
“Take good care of your master and send someone to inform Zhen immediately if there are any problems,” he prudently instructed Nurse Feng and the others, before walking towards Yan Jun’wei, who was waiting outside the hall. After taking two steps, he turned back. Enunciating each word, he added, “No matter when. Are we clear?”
“Understood!” Sensing how important this matter was to the Emperor, Nurse Feng and the others hastened to answer. Staring after the bright yellow imperial carriage as it gradually became obscured by the wind and snow, the three looked at each other with puzzled expressions. What was wrong with His Majesty? Why was his attitude so different from before?
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In Qian’qing Palace, Emperor Zhou’wu held a secret missive, reading it over. Yan Jun’wei stood slightly bowed by the side of the imperial desk wearing a stern expression.
“Shen Zhong’liang planned to fight to the death. 鱼死网破 (yúsǐ wǎngpò) A Chinese idiom meaning a life and death struggle or fighting at the risk of mutual destruction. Its literal meaning is: either the fish dies or the net splits. He actually went so as far as to want to ally with Huai’nan Wang and raise troops in rebellion – hmph!” As he set the letters down, a derisive smile spread across the man’s peerlessly handsome face.
The Imperial Preceptor’s manor was being heavily monitored by the secret guards and Shen Zhong’liang’s every move was regularly sent to the Emperor’s desk, yet he was still risking everything on this current venture. One could only say that when someone sought death, even ten horses couldn’t pull them back. The two were indeed father and daughter: seemingly smart, but actually stupid to the extreme.
Yan Jun’wei curled his lips in disdain and coldly said, “Your Majesty, he even wanted to release the rumour that your honoured self is a double to lure Huai’nan Wang and Xiang’bei Wang to attack the Capital. This scourge can’t be left alive! Would your honoured self like this subordinate to…” He raised his hand and made a slicing motion.
“No need. The scholars taking the imperial examination are already up in arms. It won’t be long before he falls from grace. Killing him at this time would calm things down again. When the secret guards bring back evidence of his collusion with foreign enemies on the frontier, Zhen will settle all the scores together. Even if he dies, Zhen will make sure that he leaves behind an infamous legacy for all time, so that the Shen clan will never recover!” Emperor Zhou’wu waved his hand and laughed lightly. His voice was seemingly casual, but it carried a ghastly and terrifying murderous aura.
“Yes.” Yan Jun’wei nodded. Death wasn’t frightful, but waiting for death was. It was fine to let Shen Zhong’liang put up a last-ditch struggle for a little longer.
“By the way, your identity has already been made public. How did Imperial Duke Qi’s Manor react?” The man raised his thick eyebrows, his face full of interest.
“Ah, they want to welcome this subject back with great fanfare, but unfortunately, the family is already divided. The dispute over the title has also been settled. Everyone in the Capital knows that Imperial Duke Qi’s Manor has offended this subject to death. If this subject returns, wouldn’t it invite ridicule? In the future, Imperial Duke Qi’s Manor and this subject have nothing to do with each other. Please feel free to take care of them as Your Majesty sees fit. This subject can also help, if necessary!”
Yan Jun’wei’s wore a brilliant smile. They had killed his mother and tried to turn him into a cripple – he had long since lost every ounce of affection for that family. They were supposed to be the noble and dignified Imperial Duke’s Manor, yet they had actually sent an illegitimate daughter to the Imperial Preceptor’s Manor to be a concubine for Shen Xi’yan! What would be the best way to describe them? Ah! It was the same old saying: if someone sought death, even ten horses couldn’t pull them back!
Thinking about this, Yan Jun’wei felt ashamed of his own meagre education. Why was it always this saying? It was certainly a bad year. There were too many people seeking death!
“This servant greets Your Majesty and Commander. This servant has just been to the Taming Enclosure. There is a foreign dog that looks exactly the same and is around the same size as A’Bao. However, the dog recently caught a cold and is still being treated, so this servant could not bring it over.” Chang’xi appeared at the entrance of the hall, holding his horsetail whisk. He bowed respectfully to the two men.
“What does Your Majesty intend to do with the foreign dog?” Yan Jun’wei was full of doubt. The Emperor hated furry pets the most and went to great lengths to avoid them.
“Give it to Virtuous Consort. She knows that A’Bao has died, so sending her an identical one might cheer her up.” Emperor Zhou’wu’s expression turned serious and he awkwardly waved his hand, “You can go now.”
Yan Jun’wei grinned, saluted, and withdrew. When had His Majesty learned to curry favour too? Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort was amazing!
Once he was out of earshot, Emperor Zhou’wu asked intently, “Caught a cold? Is it serious? Are there any more dogs like it?”
“Replying to Your Majesty, of the two foreign dogs that Gaul sent over, the male dog died of illness from improper care and the female dog also died of illness after giving birth to four puppies. Only two pups survived. One was Virtuous Consort’s A’Bao and the other was adopted by Cai’ren An. 才人 (cáirén) is a low-ranked imperial concubine acknowledged for their talent. It literally translates to Talented Lady. As noted in the list of characters and place names, this title will be left in pinyin like for Jie’yu Su. It was abandoned at the Taming Enclosure after it got sick, and this servant heard that it was seriously ill.”
“Send Imperial Physician Wen over to take a look. Tell him to cure the dog, no matter what, and report to Zhen as soon as it has recovered.” Emperor Zhou’wu appointed the Imperial Physician who had looked after him during his time as A’Bao.
“Understood.” Chang’xi bowed and assented.
Thank you for your continued support, Loretta!
Part 10/12 of our holiday chapters~
U ~ U This cat apologizes. This is the only other release for February. Schedules haven’t been syncing up and the TL process is significantly slowed down by my tendonitis 🙁 (E.g. There are times I want to translate but my wrists are hurting and no one is available to help out.) I’ve tried using voice-to-text software with some success but I’m still getting used to it.
If anyone has free time and would like to help, please take a look at my recruitment post for Translation Assistants!
Until next time,