Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 55)
Chapter 55: Carrying Out Filial Duties (尽孝)
Translators: Silverylazes & Nyamachi
Translation checker: Nyamachi
TL assistant: Saltnpepper
English proofreader: JimmyfromIT
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ* ♪♫♪ On the eleventh day of Christmas, Nyanovels gave to me~
an eleventh moon massacre, ten days of puppy hardship, nine imperial women, eight birth characters, seven lines of poem, six Confucian arts,
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four jealous consorts, three trusted servants, two phoenixes flying and
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Meng Sangyu continued to sleep until 1:45 pm before gradually waking up. Upon remembering her father and A’Bao, her heart ached again. She quickly took a deep breath and didn’t dare to think of it any further. Turning her head to look at the hourglass sitting in the corner of the hall, her expression changed in a flash. She threw off the heavy comforters and sat up on the bed.
“Nurse, why didn’t you wake me up? I’ve missed the time to nurse His Majesty!” She donned her outer robe and walked to the dressing table with her embroidered shoes dangling from one hand. Yin’cui and Bi’shui immediately came forward to clean her face and hands and fix her hair.
“This lowly maid acted of her own initiative and requested to take leave on your honoured self’s behalf. This servant begs for Your Ladyship’s forgiveness. My Lady, the Emperor came to see you and he held you in his arms while he slept for a while.” Nurse Feng hastily curtsied and apologized. When she said the last sentence, her face could not help but reveal a trace of happiness.
“His Majesty came by?” The hand applying the moisturizing cream paused for a moment as Meng Sangyu remembered the warm and safe embrace in her dream that she endlessly yearned for. What happened to the crazy Emperor? He couldn’t have gone through an ordeal only to discover that she was his true love, could he?
Thinking until here, she shrugged her shoulders and banished the ridiculous thought from her mind. It was probably just a man’s ego acting up. Whose fault was it that he lacked imperial concubines who had preserved their virtue? Once the newcomers entered the palace, he would find a new “true love” again and wouldn’t spare a thought for her.
With a mocking smile, Meng Sangyu opened her dressing case and instructed Yin’cui and Bi’shui, “Style my hair into a more elegant bun. I need to go pay my respects to the Empress Dowager.”
“Your Ladyship, your condition is already this poor. You might as well take a leave of absence. The Empress Dowager is merciful and would not blame your honoured self.” Bi’shui eyed her master’s ashen face through the mirror and expressed her concern.
“I’m fine. Taking advantage of the time the Empress Dowager is still in the palace, I want to win my way into her venerable self’s good graces as much as possible. Perhaps her venerable self will be our salvation one day. Furthermore, His Majesty cannot slight her. Tomorrow, I still have to attend to the Emperor. Having fallen ill after barely serving him for two days, it can’t be avoided that others would want to pick on my faults. Since the Meng family is in the middle of a great crisis, I can’t afford to expose any weakness.” Meng Sangyu talked as she disguised her pale complexion with gorgeous makeup.
In just a few moments, the incomparably gorgeous and imposing Virtuous Consort appeared. She donned her purple court dress, mink fur cloak, and luxurious Manchu nail guards inlaid with jade and pearls, and boarded the palanquin for the Ci’ning Palace. Nurse Feng and the others had no choice but to quickly follow with their umbrellas. Her Ladyship was too self-reliant and strong-willed. Even though this trait of hers was good, it couldn’t help but distress the people around her constantly!
A zen-like calming incense floated up and curled in the air in Ci’ning Palace. A group of imperial concubines waited in the side hall to pay their respects to the Empress Dowager. Having resided on Thousand Buddha Mountain for a long period of time, the Empress Dowager had become accustomed to the peace that came with not worrying about secular affairs. Except for the first day of her return, she never received the concubines who came to pay their respects. The imperial concubines could only wait until 4 pm, kowtow to the Empress Dowager outside the hall and leave.
Even so, no one dared to be absent. Whether or not she decided to see them was one matter; whether or not they came was another. The elder maids from Ci’ning Palace and the Emperor were watching their behaviour.
“Nurse Jin, these last few days have been rather cold. Is her venerable self, the Empress Dowager, in good health?” Imperial Consort strolled to the door of the side hall and started a conversation with Nurse Jin.
“The Empress Dowager is well. Thank you for your care and concern, Your Ladyship.” Nurse Jin’s reply was neither humble nor arrogant.
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“Then that’s good to hear. This time, it was all thanks to the Empress Dowager – otherwise this concubine’s Hong’wen would have been…” As if overcome with sorrow, Imperial Consort hung her head and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.
After a while, she raised her head with a resolute smile. Her voice was slightly expectant as she continued, “Since that day, whenever he pays respects to the Empress Dowager, Hong’wen always remembers the Empress Dowager’s kindness. He always asks if he can come to Ci’ning Palace to pay his respects to his Imperial Grandmother, but his body is weak and the weather is too cold at the moment, so this concubine cannot bring him here.”
The Emperor’s eighth son, Gu Hong’wen, was now two years old, the most innocent and lovely age for a child. The concubines were all gnashing their teeth as Imperial Consort used her son to curry favour with the Empress Dowager.
Imperial Consort’s voice wasn’t particularly quiet. Inside the hall, the Empress Dowager, who had finished chanting sutras, heard her speaking. Thinking of her poor imperial grandchildren, she instructed the palace maids by her side, “Go and invite the imperial concubines in.”
Hearing the Empress Dowager’s announcement, the imperial concubines were overjoyed. Imperial Consort’s lips curved into a smile and her downcast eyes shone brightly.
“Rise, how are the imperial grandchildren?” The Empress Dowager stroked the prayer beads in her hand and spoke lightly.
Several of the mother consorts stepped forward to reply, “Replying to the Empress Dowager, they are doing much better than before. Thank you for your concern, Your Imperial Highness.”
“Mm, you all must look after them with care. One person should be responsible for their medicine and food every day so that nothing goes wrong. Before Aijia leaves the palace, bring them here so Aijia can see them.” The Empress Dowager’s face softened slightly. She glanced at a nearby seat and frowned, asking, “Why didn’t Virtuous Consort come?”
Nurse Jin, who had received His Majesty’s order earlier, was about to step forward to answer, but who knew that Imperial Imperial Consort would be one step ahead of her?
“Replying to the Empress Dowager, this concubine heard that Virtuous Consort’s dog died. She fell ill from grieving too much and collapsed on her divan.”
“How could Virtuous Consort be so emotional? She didn’t react like this when the Emperor was seriously wounded. How could she fall ill because of the death of a plaything? Younger sister Imperial Consort must have heard wrong!” Worthy Consort’s brow furrowed slightly. Her words seemed to defend Virtuous Consort, but she was only stirring the pot.
The Empress Dowager was disgusted by their behaviour, and her eyes gradually turned cold. However, the two women thought that she was angry and were secretly pleased with themselves.
“Imperial Duke Meng has encountered trouble at the borderlands. It is unknown whether he is alive or dead, and Virtuous Consort fell ill because of this. How come when the words come out of your mouths, it was because of a dog? Buddha has said that those who commit verbal offences should be punished by having their tongues removed!” A cold voice laced with anger rang out from the entrance of the hall, startling Imperial Consort and Worthy Consort to the point where their legs went weak and their faces paled.
“This concubine greets Your Majesty!” The crowd of concubines saluted in unison. Imperial Consort and Worthy Consort’s reactions were a step behind. Their faces turned blue and white with embarrassed expressions after belatedly kneeling down.
A tall, handsome man entered the palace with a chilly air, directly walking past the concubines. He sat beside the Empress Dowager and held her hand as he paid his respects.
Imperial Consort and Worthy Consort furtively gauged his dark expression and their hearts were thrown into a state of anxiousness. The rest of the concubines hung their heads to hide the glee in their eyes. Removing their tongues? Rather than waiting for the two to die, it would be more entertaining if the emperor personally carried out the sentence!
“This concubine has spoken out of turn and begs Your Majesty’s forgiveness!” All the other concubines stood up without exception. Only Imperial Consort and Worthy Consort remained on their knees, trembling with fear as they kowtowed and apologized.
Imperial Duke Meng was a minister who had performed outstanding service for the country and had even sacrificed his life for the nation. The Emperor naturally treated the Meng family and Virtuous Consort more generously. Since the disappearance of Imperial Duke Meng, Virtuous Consort had been quiet, not crying nor making a fuss. All day, she appeared fine as though nothing had happened. After some time had passed, they had unexpectedly forgotten about this detail and as a result, they directly faced the Emperor’s wrath. Now that the borderlands were left without Imperial Duke Meng to hold the line, it seemed that hostilities would remain unresolved for a long time. It was precisely during this time that the Emperor was troubled.
Even if they wanted to scheme against Virtuous Consort, they shouldn’t have used this method to rob her of her chance to attend to the Emperor. They had miscalculated! The two’s hearts were filled with remorse.
Emperor Zhou’wu took a sip of the tea that Nurse Jin had handed him and continued to chat with the Empress Dowager about trivial family affairs. Unexpectedly, he ignored the two that were kneeling on the ground near his feet without the least bit of interest. This was even more embarrassing than if he had severely reprimanded them. Imperial Consort and Worthy Consort’s expressions turned paler and paler as they crouched even lower to the ground. The other concubines’ eyes flickered with varying degrees of pleasure.
The Empress Dowager also ignored the two and listened to her son’s words as they came to her, her expression light. Having lived on Thousand Buddha Mountain for a long time, she was most intolerant of the harem intrigue between the women in the palace.
When Imperial Consort and Worthy Consort’s knees had stiffened and chilled with the cold, on the verge of collapse, a eunuch’s announcement rang from outside the hall – Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort seeks an audience!
Emperor Zhou’wu strong brows wrinkled and he immediately stopped speaking. The Empress Dowager stroked the Buddhist prayer beads in her hand and said in a warm voice, “Grant her entry.”
“Why are you here?” Without waiting for Meng Sangyu to salute and give her greetings, Emperor Zhou’wu spoke in a deep voice. His eyes were glued to her radiant and gorgeous face, unwilling to look away for a second. Her makeup was exquisite. At first glance she seemed to be glowing with vitality, but a closer look revealed that her face was too thickly powdered and her lips too dry, exposing her sickly appearance in the smallest details.
Is this an interrogation? What did I do wrong? Meng Sangyu frowned slightly.
“Haa… Zhen has already given you leave. It’s freezing outside and you’re not feeling well, so you ought to stay in your palace and recuperate. It won’t be too late to come and pay your respects once you’re fully recovered. The Empress Dowager won’t blame you.” When he saw her slightly knit brows, Emperor Zhou’wu’s heart ached and he immediately opened his mouth to explain, his low voice unable to hide his tenderness.
The concubines’ eyes were bloodshot as they stared at Meng Sangyu while the Empress Dowager looked surprised and gave her son a meaningful sideways glance. She had heard from Imperial Physician Du that her son seemed to be particularly attached to Virtuous Consort.
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“This concubine has mostly recovered. It wasn’t easy for Her Imperial Highness to return to the palace, so how can this concubine not come to Ci’ning Palace to do my filial duty?” Meng Sangyu’s brows curved as she smiled slightly.
“Good child, come here quickly. Come and sit beside Aijia.” Catching sight of Meng Sangyu’s sickly appearance hidden beneath her exquisite makeup, the Empress Dowager’s heart was particularly saddened. This child’s personality was similar to herself in her younger years, very strong-willed. Even their backgrounds were almost the same, almost as if she was a reincarnation of herself. With just one look, she couldn’t help herself from taking a great liking to this child. However, she was also afraid that Meng Sangyu would repeat her own mistakes.
Meng Sangyu shot a glance at Imperial Consort and Worthy Consort who were kneeling on the ground. She slowly stepped forward, preparing to take a seat on the Empress Dowager’s other side, when Emperor Zhou’wu put down his teacup and patted the seat beside him.
The other concubines’ eyes grew even redder and even Imperial Consort and Worthy Consort raised their heads with slightly grim expressions. In just a few short moments, they had seen how the Emperor treated Virtuous Consort differently. It wasn’t mere fondness; it was true affection. When the Emperor cared for someone, it meant that this person had already entered his heart.
Meng Sangyu felt reluctant, but showed no sign of it on her face. She smiled gently and took a seat beside the man in a surefooted manner. He nonchalantly took her hand and squeezed it. Then he wrapped it tightly into his palm and said with satisfaction, “Well, it’s not as cold as it was at noon.”
Meng Sangyu’s eyes were downcast as if she were overcome with shyness, but the little person in her heart elegantly raised a middle finger: You bastard! You’re fueling their hate for me again!
Emperor Zhou’wu could imagine how she was cursing him in her heart. He found this kind of Sangyu particularly cute, so he couldn’t help but smile dotingly. In the past, he thought that if he loved someone, then he should hide her far away from any danger; but after experiencing these five months of light and darkness, he suddenly understood that loving someone meant that he ought to let her stand beside him openly and give her everything she desired! Only by having her occupy the closest position to himself could he better protect the other party. Therefore, he decided to carry on with pampering Sangyu to the very end.
After stroking the woman’s fingers affectionately, Emperor Zhou’wu reluctantly withdrew his hand and turned his head to chat with the Empress Dowager, “Empress Mother, have you gotten used to living here over the last few days? Is there anything you need?”
“It’s fine, except that with Nian’ci gone, there’s no one to copy scriptures and chant sutras for Us, so it’s a bit inconvenient. Aijia is old and Our eyes are not as sharp as they were when We were young.” The Empress Dowager gestured to the corners of her wrinkled eyes with a look of helplessness.
“Empress Dowager, this concubine is willing to copy scriptures and chant sutras for your honoured self to atone for today’s slip of the tongue.” Imperial Consort was quick-witted and immediately kowtowed. Seeing this, Worthy Consort hastily echoed her request.
Accompanying the Empress Dowager in copying scriptures and chanting sutras would not only increase the Empress Dowager’s goodwill, but also enable her to see the Emperor who came to pay his respects to the Empress Dowager everyday. The Empress Dowager had immense influence over the Emperor and this opportunity was no worse than nursing his recovery!
Many concubines were inspired to show their most sincere expressions and knelt before the Empress Dowager to recommend themselves.
This was what happened when you didn’t have a single master to manage the six palaces. The concubines were difficult to control, caused disorder and their egos grew!
The Empress Dowager was sick of their behaviour and closed her eyes. She leaned back in her chair and spoke slowly, “Fine, if anyone catches Aijia’s eye by copying scriptures and chanting sutras, Aijia will promote her rank and bring her to Thousand Buddha Mountain. Aijia is old and feels that the days are unbearably lonesome when Aijia is by Ourselves. Aijia is precisely in need of someone to accompany Us and carry out their filial duties.”
The jostling concubines were overjoyed to hear the first half of the sentence but went silent when they heard the second half. For a moment, the room was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Being taken to Thousand Buddha Mountain to basically become a nun? This was mentioned several chapters ago, but the idiom used here is: 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. That would be worse than being sent to the Cold Palace! What use would it be to rise in rank?
Emperor Zhou’wu picked up his cup of tea and took a sip to conceal the sarcastic curve of his mouth. The hypocrisy of these women was truly disgusting.
Meng Sangyu’s hand resting on her knee suddenly tightened. Before coming here, she had thought: Wouldn’t it be a thousand times better if she could win the Empress Dowager’s favour and be taken to Thousand Buddha Mountain to dedicate herself Buddha rather than staying in this utterly vile palace? She wouldn’t have to compete for favour, fight ruthlessly, or wait upon that scumbag. Her daily life would just be chanting sutras, abstaining from meat and wine, cultivating her mind and spirit, and even going down the mountain to explore in her spare time. On account of her earnest sincerity to accompany the Empress Dowager, the Emperor wouldn’t treat her or the Meng family badly either. Why, how simple and carefree her daily life would be!
Thinking until here, she stood up and knelt down at the Empress Dowager’s feet. She resolutely said, “This concubine wishes to carry out her filial duties on the Emperor’s behalf and accompany the Empress Dowager back to Thousand Buddha Mountain to worship Buddha. Begging Your Imperial Highness to consent to this concubine’s request.”
The Empress Dowager’s eyebrows rose in surprise. The teacup in Emperor Zhou’wu’s hand fell to the ground with a thud and shattered into pieces.
Thank you for your generosity, Loretta!
Part 11/12 of our winter holiday chapters~ Aha.. posting this feels like I’m in Rise of the Guardians where Christmas and Easter are in the same movie. Happy Easter, dear readers~ I hope the Easter Bunny grants you lots of chocolate~
I’m super happy to announce that the Nyanovels TL team has a new member!!! Please welcome Saltnpepper as a TL Assistant! Their bio will be coming soon~
Sorry again for the delay last month. I referenced it briefly in the April TL Goals post, but migraines have been added to the list of health issues. It’s been difficult to look at screens. ^^; Thank you so much for your infinite patience between chapters! Slowly but steadily we will reach the end!
Until next time,
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