Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 60)
Chapter 60: The Cold Palace (冷宫)
TL assistant: Saltnpepper
English proofreader: Nyamachi
Warning: This chapter has depictions of cruelty.
Two hours later, the Imperial Court adjourned. Many people walked out of the hall like zombies. There were also many people who were so happy that they wanted to dance. In this time’s court session, the Emperor was bold and decisive, making swift decisions. This was in complete contrast to his prior weak incompetence and addiction to feminine charms. It was clearly something to celebrate. Only this kind of monarch could lead Great Zhou towards a glorious future.
Meng Yan’zhou broke away from the ministers who had surrounded him, trying to strike up a conversation, and caught up with Yan Jun’wei. He asked in a low voice, “That guy, Han Hai, is…”
“Ah, he is indeed your brother-in-law.” The author uses 姐夫 again here, instead of 妹夫. I’m guessing this is a typo… Does anyone know if ‘your sister’s husband [brother-in-law]’ (姐夫/妹夫) in Chinese is kind of like ‘mother’s younger brother [uncle]’ (舅舅) where there’s no distinct difference between older or younger brothers? By the way, this is different from the father’s side of the family — ‘father’s older brother [uncle]’ (伯伯) vs ‘father’s younger brother [uncle]’ (叔叔). Yan Jun’wei clapped him on the shoulder and joked, “Your brother-in-law already gave you a way out. You should work hard!”
Meng Yan’zhou was speechless and secretly pondered: This brother-in-law wasn’t as bad as Mother and Sister described him!
Having adjourned court, Emperor Zhou’wu hadn’t had the chance to change out of his formal court attire before he headed towards Ci’ning Palace and entered the main hall of the Buddhist temple. Smoke from the Buddha incense curled in the air. Hearing the muffled monotonous tapping sound of the wooden fish coming from inside the hall, his breathing suddenly became sluggish and he involuntarily parted the beaded curtain to look at the figure tapping the wooden fish from behind.
The woman wore a light blue Buddhist robe and monk cap on her head as she recited sutras. Her voice was dull, but it thoroughly expressed her piety. The scene was exactly the same as his nightmare from last night. With effort, the man suppressed the panic in his heart and walked over to the woman in two or three strides, firmly grabbing the woman’s shoulder.
“Your Majesty? This concubine greets your Majesty.” The woman exhaled in pain. She turned around and clearly saw the man’s ashen face before promptly greeting him with a bow.
“It’s you!” These two words were stiffly squeezed out from the man’s throat, sounding somewhat stunned and relieved.
“From today onwards, this concubine will begin to accompany the Empress Dowager to chant sutras. Just now, the Empress Dowager completed her morning service. She is in the inner hall teaching Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort how to manage palace affairs.” Zhao’yi Li respectfully replied.
“Is that so.” Emperor Zhou’wu quietly answered. He unobtrusively tucked his trembling hands into his cuffs.
“This concubine will send for someone to make tea for your Majesty. Please wait a moment.” Noticing that the man’s complexion was strange, Zhao’yi Li didn’t dare to linger. She quickly found an excuse to leave.
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Waiting until she had walked far away, only then did Emperor Zhou’wu slowly sit down on the chair behind him. His taut heartstrings that were stretched to the point of breaking relaxed somewhat. Ci’ning Palace’s faintly discernible, ever-present tranquil atmosphere and the lingering fragrance of Buddha incense made him feel tense and bitter. He hated that he couldn’t immediately take Sangyu back to Bi’xiao Palace.
One is a product of their environment. 近朱者赤，近墨者黑 (jìn zhū zhě chì, jìn mò zhě hēi) One is a product of their environment. Lit. Those who handle cinnabar are stained red; Those who work with ink are stained black. At the time, how could he have agreed to let Sangyu stay beside his mother, who wholeheartedly wanted to leave behind secular affairs? It was truly a blunder on his part!
Just as he was wallowing in regret, the Empress Dowager led Meng Sangyu out into the hall with slow steps.
“Your son greets Empress Mother.” Emperor Zhou’wu stood up and walked forward to support the Empress Dowager’s arm. His gaze rested on Sangyu’s cheek. Seeing her rosy complexion, relaxed eyebrows, and that the dark circles under her eyes had almost vanished, he was quite pleased.
“This concubine greets Your Majesty.” Meng Sangyu had a truly brilliant smile on her face. No matter what, the other party had rescued her father and clan. She would remember this favour.
“No need for formalities. Sit.” Emperor Zhou’wu patted the seat next to him. His heart rose in inexplicable happiness. Meng Sangyu’s smile was as bright and beautiful as sunshine as it shined brilliantly. Other than his time as A’Bao, he finally received it with his identity as the Emperor. As expected, Sangyu was really softhearted. As long as you treated her well, she would pay back your friendship in kind.
“Empress Mother, how is Virtuous Consort’s studies for managing the palace going?” Intimately squeezing Sangyu’s hand, Emperor Zhou’wu turned his head to look at the Empress Dowager. Even though Sangyu had assisted in managing palace affairs in the past, due to his misgivings towards the Meng family, he had never given her any major responsibilities. If she was to manage the Six Palaces, 六宫 (liùgōng) This referred to the six eastern and six western palaces in the forbidden palace which housed the Imperial Harem. she would still need Empress Mother’s supervision for a while.
“Virtuous Consort is quick-witted and bright. She has outstanding intelligence. In a few days’ time, she will be able to wield the phoenix seal on her own.” The Empress is given a special seal in the shape of a phoenix (to match the dragon for the Emperor) which she uses to stamp official documents. Basically the Empress Dowager is saying that she’ll be able to manage on her own soon~ The Empress Dowager wore a calm expression, but her eyes were full of admiration. Having experienced a dire catastrophe, her son’s way of thinking finally showed improvement. Without a doubt, Virtuous Consort was the best candidate for Empress. Even if all the palaces’ imperial concubines hadn’t been defiled, she only had her sights set on this person.
“Presently, the Empress’ seat is empty and the Six Palaces of the East and West are in chaos. Your son urgently needs a good wife to help him tidy up affairs. That being the case, Virtuous Consort’s abilities are outstanding, enough to permit her to assume the position today. There is Zhao’yi Li to accompany your honoured self in chanting and copying sutras. Empress Mother wouldn’t mind letting go of Sangyu, right?” Emperor Zhou’wu lightly smiled and his words carried a teasing tone.
Well, well! After all, this child was waiting for Aijia! It’s only been half a day, but he’s going back on his word! He’s too indecisive!
The Empress Dowager pursed her lips and waved a hand, saying, “No need to hurry. Virtuous Consort’s body is still weak. Let her recover for a few more days. Aijia will help you manage palace affairs for now. Allowing Virtuous Consort to observe by Aijia’s side will help her learn and save her from making mistakes down the road.”
Emperor Zhou’wu’s eyes darkened. He looked like he wanted to say more, but the Empress Dowager beat him to the chase. “What do you think, Virtuous Consort?”
“Ah?” Meng Sangyu, who was leisurely drinking tea without a worry, was dragged into the fray by the Empress Dowager. After staring blankly for an instant, she immediately put down her teacup and resolutely said, “Naturally, this concubine will accompany the Empress Dowager to learn for a while longer!”
“When handling matters, one ought to be careful and follow the proper order of doing things. Good child, you’re a clever one. Aijia didn’t spend effort to teach you in vain.” The Empress Dowager counted her prayer beads and smiled. On one hand, she was full of admiration for Virtuous Consort, and on the other hand, she delighted in obstructing her son’s plans. Read: c**kblocking
Emperor Zhou’wu’s lips curved as he smiled at his mother. “In that case, thank you for your trouble, Empress Mother.” He returned his gaze to Sangyu beside him and absentmindedly said, “Speaking of which, Zhen saw Our beloved Consort’s elder brother in court today.”
Meng Sangyu clasped the embroidered handkerchief in her hands tightly. Her phoenix eyes sparkled as she looked towards him.
Emperor Zhou’wu secretly sniggered to himself as his thick brows slightly knitted together. “Previously, Zhen heard someone say that Imperial Duke Meng’s legitimate son was impulsive and reckless. As expected, these words were not false. Today in court, no one dared to reply to Zhen. Only Deputy Commander Meng stepped forward to boldly speak his mind, causing all the ministers to raise their eyebrows in surprise, one after another.”
The light in Meng Sangyu’s eyes flickered and a flattering smile bloomed on her face. She said coquettishly, “Elder Brother’s personality is indeed quite frank. He doesn’t understand the subtleties of officialdom. Would Your Majesty please watch over Elder Brother? This concubine will definitely study hard and take over palace affairs within five days. Please rest assured, Your Majesty!”
Just now, she said that she would learn slowly, and in a blink of an eye, it’s become “within five days”– what skill in adapting to the situation! The Empress Dowager’s hand paused in counting prayer beads.
“Mm.” Emperor Zhou’wu agreed and his eyebrows relaxed. Before, he was smiling inwardly, but now he was smiling brightly, and finally, he laughed heartily as his body rocked back and forth. Previously, he hadn’t realized that Sangyu was an opportunist who would always adjust according to the moods of others. It was truly…… truly unimaginably cute!
Thinking up to this point, Emperor Zhou’wu started to laugh again. Even the calm-faced Empress Dowager’s eyes crinkled with amusement.
Damn…did this great lady say some kind of earth-shattering joke? How bad is his sense of humour?
Meng Sangyu took a sip of tea to hide the twitching corner of her mouth as she inwardly pondered.
After chatting with his mother and wife for a while in Ci’ning Palace, seeing that it was getting late and that he ought to return to manage governmental affairs, Emperor Zhou’wu couldn’t bear to leave. Turning his head to look towards the curling Buddha incense and hearing the unrelenting sound of chanting sutras and hitting the wooden fish, his eyes darkened slightly. He didn’t feel safe leaving Sangyu in this place, even if it was for a short five days.
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The falling snow had stopped and the path had already been swept clean. Emperor Zhou’wu waved away the imperial palanquin and slowly made his way towards Qian’qing Palace. “Has that dog’s illness been properly treated yet?”
Chang’xi blanked and it was a while before he reacted, hurriedly replying, “Reporting to Your Majesty, it has just about recovered.”
“When it’s cured, send it to Qian’qing Palace.” He commanded solemnly. To prevent Sangyu from truly abandoning the secular world to become a nun, it was still better to find some things for her to form attachments to. He would give her everything she liked. Let’s see if she could bear to part with them.
“Understood.” acknowledged Chang’xi. He secretly made a note of this matter in his heart.
After the procession travelled about five to six hundred metres, it encountered several groups of imperial concubines. Beside each concubine were either young, pretty palace maids or low-ranked but comely first-class and second-class female attendants. I was originally going to leave all lower ranks in pinyin, but it made more sense to use the English translation here. The ranks mentioned here are 答应 (dāying) Second-class Female Attendant and 常在 (chángzài) First-class Female Attendant. This was a typo since the position of 常在 wasn’t used until the Qing Dynasty. As this novel was set in the Ming Dynasty, it should actually be 选侍 (xuǎnshì). Take a look at the Character Page for Why Harem Intrigue for more info on the novel’s harem hierarchy!
“This concubine (This servant) greets Your Majesty.” Seeing the handsome man clad in splendour, all of the concubines curtsied in greeting. In a split second, the Imperial Garden was filled with the sound of orioles and sparrows twittering. It was a very charming and gentle scene.
“Rise.” The man’s expression was indifferent as he maintained his dignified attitude. Not making eye contact with any of the women, he ignored them as he walked through the group without any intention of pausing.
The cool wind picked the withered leaves off the ground, causing the leaves to swirl in a circle. The imperial concubines quivered and woodenly straightened themselves as they looked towards Qian’qing Palace. The back of the tall, bright yellow figure had already completely disappeared from view. The Emperor who had accompanied them to drink warm wine in the pavilion, to view the flowers by the pond, and who had passionately accompanied them every night seemed like he had changed.
Imperial Consort’s expression changed several times before finally morphing into a sinister smile. She waved her hand and said, “Let’s go to the Cold Palace to see Her Ladyship Gracious Consort.” If it wasn’t for Gracious Consort, she wouldn’t have fallen to her present state.
Many high-ranked concubines heard what was said and their expressions instantly distorted. They dismissed the low-ranked concubines and maids at their sides who were unaware of the situation. The concubines brought along their close confidants and headed towards the Cold Palace.
Having been repeatedly exposed to the ravaging snow, the Cold Palace looked even more dilapidated, but it appeared to be fairly clean. All of the filth was concealed under the vast expanse of snow. The Emperor had still not formally acted against the Shen family. He had merely banished Gracious Consort to the Cold Palace without stripping her of her Consort rank, yet seeing the Emperor’s decisive actions in court today, it was clear that the Shen family had no hope of making a comeback. The only thing that anyone could do was to vent their rage on others and plan their revenge.
Since the masters would often come by to “visit”, Gracious Consort’s residence had already been swept clean and all the furniture had been wiped until they shone. It was clean and tidy and there were specially appointed servants to help her thoroughly enjoy the Cold Palace’s special treatment.
When Imperial Consort’s party arrived, Shen Hui’ru was in the middle of being held down on her bed by a strong elderly maid who was forcing her to drink medicine. She desperately shook her head and struggled. Streams of brown medicinal liquid flowed down her cheeks onto the bed. A large portion of the bedding was soaked. This sort of situation seemed to have occurred often because her bedding and clothes were already deeply stained with various medicines to the point where the original colour of the fabric was indiscernible. Drawing closer, one’s nose would also be assailed with a pungent odour.
The entire palace was very clean except for Gracious Consort herself and her bed. It made others feel disgusted even if this was not their first time witnessing it. That pure, proud and arrogant white lotus from the past had long since rotted into a lump of mud.
Nian’ci ??? I thought that Nian’ci had already died in Chapter 49, but she’s still alive? lent a hand to restrain Gracious Consort’s legs. Catching sight of the group of concubines, she promptly walked forward to salute them. Having obtained freedom, Shen Hui’ru’s legs ruthlessly kicked out at the elderly maid, but unexpectedly the maid blocked the kicks with a hand. She slammed the lip of the bowl between Shen Hui’ru’s teeth so hard that one of her front teeth was pried out, causing blood to flow.
Shen Hui’ru couldn’t endure the pain and covered her mouth with a hand as she curled up on the bed. The elderly maid set down the bowl and greeted the group of imperial concubines.
“Stand, you’re very dedicated. Bengong is quite satisfied. You must make her drink the medicine on time, but don’t let her die.” Imperial Consort leaned to one side as she sat on a chair decorated with flower carvings. She languidly tossed the embroidered handkerchief in her hand. Seeing the blood seeping between Shen Hui’ru’s fingers and the lone tooth on the floor, she smiled with interest.
Worthy Consort held her nose between her fingers and eyed the red scar on Shen Hui’ru’s neck. She coldly said, “You want to hang yourself? It won’t be so easy! When it’s time for bed, if you don’t feel like keeping watch over her, you can tie her up and stuff cotton in her mouth. Let’s see if she’ll still try to attempt suicide!”
The elderly maid and Nian’ci acknowledged the order and delightedly took the rewards bestowed on them by the concubines.
Worthy Consort originally wanted to properly teach Gracious Consort a lesson, but upon smelling the foul stench from her body and seeing the dull expression in her eyes like that of a dying dog’s, she hesitated. A few days prior, she had tortured her too much and nearly killed this sl*t. This time, she would let her properly recover for a while. If she didn’t let her stay alive without suffering endless torture, her hatred wouldn’t be abated!
The elderly maid received the reward money. Once more, she warmed up a bowl of medicine to force down Shen Hui’ru’s throat. Once everyone else had finished amusing themselves over Shen Hui’ru’s incomparably miserable situation and confirming that her body could still endure for a long time, only then did they depart, feeling perfectly content.
Once everyone left, Shen Hui’ru’s unfocused eyes slowly regained their clarity. She tightly hugged her knees and curled up on the soiled and untidy bed. Two lines of tears slowly trickled down her face and silently fell onto the foul-smelling bedding.
Thank you for the kind donations, Mons & Becca~ We appreciate you!!
We’ve reached Chapter 60! Only 1/3 of the novel left! Sorry if there are any typos – I’m editing half asleep.
Emperor Zhou’wu is getting to know our Sangyu a bit better :3 As expected, her attitude did a quick 180 when it came to her brother. I love how the Empress Dowager is enjoying herself and can clearly see the dynamic between the couple.
I feel pretty sad for the concubines. Their whole life revolves around one man who they thought finally gave them attention and love, only for that to be suddenly taken away from them when the real Emperor came back. 🙁
The chapter also shows a darker side of Ancient Harem life. I went back and added content warnings to certain chapters. For some reason, the writing in the darker scenes are so specific. Please let me know if you’d prefer if I keep adding them and if I missed any!
Any thoughts on Shen Hui’ru? The last scene mirrored chapter 27 when she gave it up to the Fake Emperor. Not a fan of the torture but it’s true that she’s paying for her wrongs.
Also, Nian’ci resurrected?! I thought she died from being flung against the wall in chapter 49, but she’s alive!
Two more weeks of school for me and then graduation~ Looking forward to TLing more going forward <3
For any Lonely Castle fans here, I haven’t forgotten about you! I’m hoping to focus more on HLC after things calm down a bit.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, please take a look at our other project, Held in the Lonely Castle! It has a more serious tone compared to Why Harem Intrigue, but the author’s writing is so good!! It’s like I’m translating a work of art with each chapter owo ~
Until next time,