Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 58)
Chapter 58: Safe and Sound (平安)
TL assistant: [redacted]
English proofreaders: JimmyfromIT & Nyamachi
Smoke curled and the knocking sound of the wooden fish echoed in the dimly lit prayer hall. They’re referring to the sound of the wooden bell/wooden fish, a wooden percussion instrument used by monks when chanting sutras. Read more about it, learn about it from a monk, or listen to the sound. The repetitive, dull and monotonous sound caused others to feel even more depressed. The man still hadn’t figured out why he was in this large, empty hall when he was attracted by the view of a slender figure from behind, encircled by smoke.
He couldn’t bear simply watching the figure striking the wooden fish from behind and walked over. His heart began to throb quickly.
“Your Majesty, your honoured self came.” Noticing that someone was approaching, the figure’s hands stopped moving and they slowly turned their head. She wore a blue monk robe and cap, and her expression was indifferent as if she had already distanced herself from worldly affairs. All of this caused the man to feel flustered.
“Sangyu? What kind of strange outfit are you wearing?” Looking at the woman’s face clearly, the man’s eyes widened in surprise. He quickly stepped forward, wanting to hold her tightly in his arms, but ended up grasping thin air. Before him, there was no figure to be seen. Only the repeated drawn-out chants of ‘Amituofo’ could be heard in the emptiness, almost as if it were a curse, causing him heartrending sorrow.
“Sangyu!” Emperor Zhou’wu woke up with a start. He passed a hand over his face and head that were covered in cold sweat. The suffocating anguish in his chest had yet to subside, and deep misery weighed heavily on his mind. It felt as though he would fall apart.
“Your Majesty, is something the matter?” Hearing sounds from the room, Chang’xi immediately ran into the bedchamber, knelt before the man’s bed, and anxiously scanned his pale face. Chang’xi thought he heard the Emperor call out Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort’s name. What kind of dream could make such a majestic monarch so frightened like this?
“Pour Zhen a cup of water.” Composing himself, Emperor Zhou’wu spoke in a hoarse voice. He clearly knew that it was impossible for the circumstances in the dream to occur, but right now he was full of regret.
He shouldn’t have compromised with Empress Mother and allowed Sangyu to accompany her in chanting sutras. On the off chance that Sangyu becomes influenced by her and really wanted to renounce the world for an ascetic life, seek to become indifferent to worldly temptations, 四大皆空 (sìdàjiēkōng) “The Four Great Elements are all empty.” This is a Buddhist saying that helps one understand the steps to detach oneself from the material world. The four elements – earth, water, fire, air – each represent stages towards achieving a supreme state of pure emptiness or Nirvana. Read more about it or listen to a podcast. Also, here’s an article about the Buddhist Concept of Nature by the Dalai Lama. Sources: The links above and Wikipedia. and purify the Six Root Afflictions, 六根清净 (liùgēn qīngjìng) This is another Buddhist term that refers to six unwholesome mental factors or states of mind that are the main drive for all other negative mental states which are otherwise known as Kleshas. They are attachment/desire, aversion/anger, ignorance, pride/conceit, afflicted view/opinionatedness, and afflicted indecision/doubt. Sources: NewBuddhist.com | Wikipedia | Chinese Site – in English. what would he do? No! He would absolutely not allow it!!
“Drink some water, Your Majesty.” Chang’xi poured a cup of hot water and presented it. He gripped it tightly until his knuckles were white.
Emperor Zhou’wu took the cup and drank it down in one shot. Only then did he feel a bit better.
Chang’xi put the teacup aside and supported the Emperor to lie down once more. Just as he thought about withdrawing to the main hall, a guard outside suddenly ran in and quietly reported, “Reporting to Your Majesty, Commander Yan is outside and seeks an audience.” Yan Jun’wei wore a coiled dragon token at his waist. It was Imperial Palace’s 大内 = Imperial Palace! Thank you, lazilily! highest level travel token. No matter where he went, so long as he sought an audience, the imperial guards could not obstruct him.
“Let him in.” Emperor Zhou’wu promptly got up, hurriedly donned an outer robe, and went out to greet him. He had previously instructed that Yan Jun’wei must immediately notify him so long as there was news of Imperial Duke Meng and Han Chang’ping. It was already after midnight 子时 (zǐshí) 11pm-1am. One of the two-hour time blocks using the 时刻-system for timekeeping. Read my post about Ancient Chinese timekeeping to learn more! and the palace had long since locked its doors. If he was seeking an audience now, there was a 90% chance it was because of this matter.
Yan Jun’wei was waiting in a side hall holding an intelligence report. He had a grave expression on his face as if he were a sharp-eyed eagle, but it was visibly more relaxed compared to the past.
Emperor Zhou’wu scrutinized Yan Jun’wei’s expression immediately after entering the hall and a half the weight was lifted from his high-strung heart. He briskly waved his hand to exempt Yan Jun’wei from paying respects and took the intelligence report, rapidly reading it through.
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“How is Imperial Duke Meng’s physical condition?” He leaned against the back of his chair and his hoarse voice betrayed his inner anxiety and exhaustion.
“Imperial Duke Meng already received medical treatment. He had frostbite on his limbs but will recover within the next few days. On the contrary, Han Chang’ping’s body is not as good as the Imperial Duke’s, who is approaching 50 years of age. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to get out of bed for the next little while. It was unexpected that the Meng family’s army also had internal spies. They used a trick on the Imperial Duke’s warhorse, causing it to go wild and run directly into the Muddy Shores. If not for this, how could Imperial Duke Meng have fallen for such an amateur trick?” As Yan Jun’wei spoke, his irate tone of voice turned into one of regret. “It’s a shame that two or three days had passed since the two horse carcasses were found – much of the evidence can no longer be investigated.”
“Protect Imperial Duke Meng well, and send some more people to investigate this matter. Zhen will not feel at ease until the spy is found.” Emperor Zhou’wu slammed the table and his handsome face clearly displayed a murderous expression.
“Yes.” Yan Jun’wei cupped his hands in obeisance. Thinking about the situation at the border, he spoke with deep reverence. “After the Imperial Duke returned to the camp, the soldiers’ cheers and howls resounded to the heavens. It travelled all the way to the barbarians’ imperial seat and caused them to lose all reason from fear. It was hard for them to sleep the whole night. After An Zha’da verified the news, he withdrew his troops and fled from the vanguard. One man’s power rivalled ten thousand troops. It’s not wrong to say Imperial Duke Meng is the most famous general of our time!”
Emperor Zhou’wu chuckled and slowly said, “Imperial Duke Meng has returned and my troops’ morale has skyrocketed. Presumably, this skirmish will conclude very soon. The soldiers will also be able to return to the court and celebrate a good New Year. Having spoken, his cold and stern murderous expression vanished. He raised a hand and loudly commanded Chang’xi, “Prepare the imperial palanquin to head towards Ci’ning Palace! Quickly!”
“Your Majesty, your honoured self should wear more layers.” Chang’xi moved forward to obstruct him. He was only wearing a thin outer robe, but the Emperor didn’t even feel cold!
“What are you waiting for? Help Zhen dress!” Noticing that he wasn’t properly dressed, Emperor Zhou’wu felt somewhat annoyed. He ordered the servants on night duty, saying, “Zhen can’t go see Sangyu like this!”
“What is His Majesty going to Ci’ning Palace for at this time of night?” Yan Jun’wei quietly asked Chang’xi while he waited for the Emperor to return to his bedchamber to change clothes.
“Presently, Her Ladyship Virtual Consort is staying at Ci’ning Palace.” Chang’xi’s reply was simple and concise. Yan Jun’wei nodded with an expression of sudden realization. Apart from Virtuous Consort, who else could cause the Emperor to act so absurdly? He should have realized sooner.
“Commander, when will your honoured self let Chang’xi die?” asked Chang’xi in a lowered voice. His face was full of hope. I struggled with the description of Chang’xi’s face here, so I kept it simple. If anyone knows how to translate this phrase, please let me know: 面白无须的脸庞满是希冀
“What? Isn’t it good to be a eunuch? Moreover, you’re also the Head Manager Eunuch of the Imperial Palace which is equivalent to a principal fourth-ranked official. Ancient Chinese officials were classified into nine ranks via the Nine-Rank System [九品中正制 (jiǔpǐn zhōngzhèngzhì) or 九品官人法 (jiǔpǐn guānrénfǎ)] where those directly under the Emperor were of the first rank while county judicial officers or other low-level officials were of the ninth rank. Some ranks were further divided into principal [正 (zhèng)], deputy [從 (cóng)], upper [上 (shàng)], and lower [下 (xià)] grades. Others covet the position but could never hope to attain it.” Yan Jun’wei chuckled. He seemed amused, in stark contrast to his prior grave and stern expression. Only after seeing his subordinate’s brow wrinkle to the point it looked like a chrysanthemum and his mask made out of skin was almost peeling off did he answer seriously. “Presumably another fortnight. Your replacement hasn’t been trained yet.”
Chang’xi was ecstatic and was just about to bow to the commander when Emperor Zhou’wu quickly walked out of the bedchamber. He wore a bright yellow dragon robe and a genuine black mink cloak. Coupled with his peerlessly handsome face and extraordinarily dignified bearing, this caused others to not dare to stare at him intently.
Everyone said that a woman took care of her appearance, but it was unexpected that this phrase could be applied to a man. For him to be so well-groomed in the middle of the night, wasn’t it a bother?! Yan Jun’wei had a solemn expression, but inwardly he was poking fun at him.
“You can leave now,” instructed Emperor Zhou’wu with a wave of his hand. Then, he hurriedly alighted his Imperial Palanquin and proceeded towards Ci’ning Palace.
“As you command.” Yan Jun’wei stood in the corridor to see him off. When he turned to leave, he resolved himself once more to properly curry favour with Meng Yan’zhou. This person was the Emperor’s undisputed brother-in-law. There was no doubt about it.
The gates of Ci’ning Palace had long since closed, the eunuch standing guard inside recognized Head Manager Chang’xi’s voice and didn’t dare to dilly-dally. He rushed to open the gate to welcome them. Nurse Jin heard movement and hurried outside. Upon seeing the figure clad in bright yellow, she strode over and immediately prostrated herself on the ground.
“Where is Virtuous Consort sleeping?” The man’s imperial steps didn’t stop; he asked as he walked.
“This servant will guide Your Majesty there.” Noticing the Emperor had an anxious expression and walked with hurried steps, Nurse Jin knew something was the matter and promptly stood up to lead the way.
Snow swirled in the ice-cold air, and breathing in felt like knives cutting into one’s lungs, yet the man didn’t even have an umbrella. He let the snow fall freely onto his handsome face, where it melted into droplets.
Chang’xi rushed forward with an umbrella several times, but the man seriously walked too quickly! Even the secret guards at his side weren’t able to keep up with him and had no choice but to angrily give up. Nurse Jin had just brought a small hand warmer over when she discovered that the Emperor had already taken off, heading directly towards the side hall where Virtuous Consort was staying. It was almost as if he already knew where to go.
Since Emperor Zhou’wu’s soul returned to his body, his five senses were much more sensitive compared to before. Relying on his intuition and the intermittent scents flowing in the air, he quickly found Sangyu’s residence. It was almost like there was a string connecting them that was drawing him in. This feeling was wonderful and caused him to feel lighter than air.
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Without needing to ask, he listened to the gentle sound of breathing and he knew that he had found the right place. Pushing open the doors and crossing the threshold, he passed Nurse Feng who woke with a start, and walked to the front of the bed. He silently gazed at the woman’s sleeping face and wanted to smooth her slightly knit brows. He extended a hand, but stopped again. His fingertips were too cold.
Just as he was hesitating, Meng Sangyu slowly opened her eyes. Seeing that there was a tall man standing by her bed for a long time, she jumped and nearly fell off the bed. Luckily, Chang’xi had lit a lantern, and she was able to clearly see the man’s face. Only then was she able to quickly regain her composure.
“Your Majesty?! What are you doing here?” She supported her upper body and quietly called out in astonishment. She even forgot to pay her respects.
Emperor Zhou’wu removed his cloak and smiled while leaning over. He enunciated every word slowly, “Sangyu, Imperial Duke Meng has been found. He’s fine and will be able to return in a few days’ time.”
“Ah?” Meng Sangyu maintained her stupefied expression. It took quite a while for her to process the news. She quickly threw off the covers and jumped out of the bed.
“Is what you’re saying really true? Is he really fine?” She grasped the man’s lapel and asked over and over, a tremble concealed in her voice.
“It’s true.” The man’s smile deepened as he looked down at her treacherous hands. This kind of frankness was the Sangyu he knew.
“That’s great, that’s really great!” Meng Sangyu let go of the man and brushed aside a lock of hair instead, obviously wanting to laugh heartily. Her frowning face wrinkled and she almost cried. Her chest was overflowing with ecstasy, almost like it was about to explode! She bounced hard barefoot on the ground, venting out all the joy in her heart and days of accumulated stress.
With his arms crossed on his chest, the smile on Emperor Zhou’wu’s face grew stronger and stronger, and the deep love and doting in his eyes had reached a point where he couldn’t hide it. As long as this woman was brimming with joy, she’ll flick her hair to the side, then jump up and down, and then …… then she’ll pick up A’bao and rain kisses on him. It was obviously a wild look, but he thought it was so cute and candid that he would never tire of seeing it.
Emperor Zhou’wu was immersed in the fond memories of the past when unexpectedly, the woman threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him over and over. She smiled and repeated, “Thank you, Your Majesty! Thank you, Your Majesty! I’m so grateful!” She was over the moon with happiness!
“Haha~” The man’s overjoyed laughter echoed in the hall. He picked the woman up and let her bare feet step on his own dragon boots. Although the palace used an inner heating system and he wouldn’t chill the other party, he really enjoyed being so close to each other and the feeling of intimacy from it. His eyes were half-closed as he indulged in the woman’s passionate kiss. He shared in her ecstasy.
When you really love someone, even happiness and sadness will be shared. This feeling is very subtle, to the point that his already soft heart immediately melted into the waters of spring.
The Empress Dowager stood by the door with a cloak, quietly looking at the pair of young lovers in the hall. Her usual indifferent expression was replaced by a smile.
“It seems that Imperial Duke Meng has been found, let’s go.” She waved her hand, dismissing the crowd of servants. Seeming to remember something, she looked at Nurse Jin and cautiously instructed, “It is quite late. When it’s just about over, you will enter and remind the Emperor to head back to his palace soon. Aijia’s Palace isn’t a place where he can stay overnight.”
Nurse Jin softly agreed. She saw a hint of the Empress Dowager’s mischievousness and expressed her deepest sympathy for the Emperor. He had someone who was warm and soft in his arms yet he could not recklessly get close to her. The Empress Dowager must have moved Sangyu to Ci’ning Palace on purpose!
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Yayy!! MSY’s dad is alive and well!! Excited for their family reunion~~ Sangyu is just bursting with happiness too <3 Finally, something good happens to our FL!! Also, lol at the Empress Dowager… The Emperor got pwned~
Until next time,