Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 64)
Chapter 64: Green Nameplates (绿头牌)
Translators: Nyamachi & Tygris
TL assistant: 247Reader
English proofreaders: 247Reader & JimmyfromIT
Morning Court had just begun in the Hall of Great Harmony, but the Empress Dowager’s morning lessons had already concluded. Meng Sangyu and Zhao’yi Li walked on both sides of the Empress Dowager, slowly accompanying her towards Ci’ning Palace. Today’s atmosphere was different from usual. It was 6 am, 卯时 (mǎoshí) 5-7 am. Learn more about ancient Chinese timekeeping~ yet the imperial concubines who were waiting in front of the palace refused to leave. Each one knelt at the front door, seemingly unwilling to give up until they were granted an audience with the Empress Dowager.
“Let them in.” The Empress Dowager faintly ordered as she sat steadily on the main seat.
Meng Sangyu considered the motives of these women who came, feeling somewhat annoyed in her heart. Zhao’yi Li sat below her, wholly concentrating on her task as though she were a meditating monk.
“This concubine greets the Empress Dowager.” The group of concubines kowtowed respectfully. Zhao’yi Li tilted her body sideways to avoid the bows, but Meng Sangyu calmly accepted them. Other than the Empress Dowager, her rank was the highest in the group, so she had no qualms against accepting their greetings.
“For what reason did you come here today?” the Empress Dowager asked unhurriedly, as she shifted the Buddhist prayer beads in her hand.
“Begging the Empress Dowager to show mercy and spare Gracious Consort from death!” Worthy Consort walked forward on her knees and knocked her head heavily on the ground. The other concubines followed suit. Even the pallid and grey-faced Imperial Consort – no, she was Imperial Concubine now Sorry if it sounds strange here. Imperial Consort’s rank (妃) was lowered to Imperial Concubine (嫔). Her title (宸) also means ‘Imperial’. So her new title is Imperial Concubine or 宸嫔. – also had a visible glimmer in her eyes, a glimmer of hatred.
The Embroidered Uniform Guards’ investigation of Grand Preceptor Shen’s party yesterday was nearing completion. The concubines who were closely associated with Shen Hui’ru were demoted to lowly palace maids and sent to work in the Imperial Laundry Service. Even their families were implicated. Certain that the Shen Clan would soon have all nine degrees of kin exterminated, the concubines who hated Shen Hui’ru to the bone were almost no longer able to sit still.
It was indeed for this matter! Meng Sangyu mentally nodded to herself. Seeing that the Empress Dowager’s eyelids were indifferently drifting closed, she also stood up to kneel with the crowd. Meng Sangyu didn’t believe that these women who were treated so cruelly by Shen Hui’ru, yet were still pleading on her behalf, had purely good intentions. Most likely, their purpose was to let Shen Hui’ru live a bit longer to live a life worse than death in order to repay the harm and hurt that she had inflicted upon them.
Meng Sangyu was also a victim. Even though Shen Hui’ru’s vicious plan was unsuccessful, as long as she remembered her father’s close shave with death, she would regret not having the ability to peel off all of Shen Hui’ru’s skin and break all of her bones. However, Meng Sangyu had her own style of doing things: as long as there was someone else to do the hard work for her and she herself did not need to dirty her hands, then not only would she bestow many precious medicines every day, but she would even chant sutras for Shen Hui’ru’s health and longevity.
The meditating Zhao’yi Li opened her eyes. She placed the Buddist prayer beads in her hands on the table, slowly knelt down next to Meng Sangyu, and harshly banged her head onto the ground as she kowtowed. The more forcefully one kowtows, the more earnest and sincere they are. Heavily dropping one’s knees to the ground or banging one’s forehead on the ground while kowtowing is a way of showing one’s sincerity and resolve. She didn’t say anything, but the frightening, bottomless hatred contained in her eyes could give others a great fright. If it wasn’t for Shen Hui’ru, her son could have grown up to be such a heroic and peerless man. But now…
The Empress Dowager heaved a deep sigh and swept her gaze across the hatred-filled eyes below her, feeling impressed by Gracious Consort. One woman who, with such venomous methods, was able to generate bloody hatred to this degree could also be considered a talent! Towards this type of person, the Empress Dowager personally felt that it would be simpler to just kill her. However, long ago, the Emperor had already expected this request from the concubines and ordered her to agree, so she had no choice but to comply.
“You can all rise. Aijia will urge the Emperor to spare Gracious Consort’s life.” Waving her hand, the Empress Dowager helplessly spoke.
The imperial concubines shed tears of gratitude and repeatedly kowtowed three times. It was truly quite rare to see such an organized effort [among them].
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“Get up, you don’t need to greet Aijia tomorrow. Aijia has transferred the management of palace affairs to Virtuous Consort. If there are any problems, you can go find her.” Saying this, the Empress Dowager glanced at Meng Sangyu, and cautioned, “This is the phoenix seal; take care of it well and do not disappoint Us!”
“Thank you for your confidence, Your Ladyship. This concubine will definitely do her best!” Meng Sangyu knelt on the ground and reverently accepted the phoenix seal that Nurse Jin handed to her.
The smiling expressions of the imperial concubines immediately became gloomy. Their feigned indifference seemed to look incomparably stiff. Right now, all of them were utterly filled with regret. They hated themselves for having not insisted on staying in Ci’ning Palace to accompany the Empress Dowager that day. Virtuous Consort was indeed Virtuous Consort! Her skills were outstanding. She was actually able to coax the Empress Dowager into passing on the phoenix seal! If they had known that they would be able to move the Empress Dowager using filial piety, even if they had to face the risk of becoming a nun, they would have wanted to compete!
“All right, you can all withdraw. Aijia is tired.” Displeased by the envy emanating from the imperial concubines, the Empress Dowager listlessly waved her hand. Before she left her seat, she patted Meng Sangyu on the shoulder and said softly, “Good child, if you have any questions come to Ci’ning Palace to find Us. ‘No flower can bloom for a hundred days and no one is good for a thousand days.’ Phrase from Chapter 57 referring to impermanence. If any misfortune were to befall you in the future, you can always write a letter to Us. Aijia will send people to come get you.”
“Thank you, Empress Dowager!” Meng Sangyu curtsied and lowered her head to hide her red eyes. Since entering the palace three years ago, she never thought that she would be able to feel as relieved as she was at this moment. Having the Empress Dowager’s guarantee, what was she scared of? Even if she lost favour, power, and status, if worst comes to worst she could just leave!
Sensing the intention to become closer from the bottom of her heart, the Empress Dowager faintly smiled and took Zhao’yi Li in the direction of the prayer hall. The remaining servants had long received the Emperor’s command. They rapidly helped Virtuous Consort pack her luggage and move back to Bi’xiao Palace.
The underfloor heating system of the main hall of Bi’xiao Palace had long since been fired up to welcome the master’s return. Since she had last seen the palace, many bonsai plants had been added to the interior of the hall. Without exception, they were all extremely precious and uncommon varieties.
“Where did these bonsai plants come from?” Meng Sangyu picked up a pot of tree peony ‘Yao Huang’ 姚黄 (Yáohuáng) Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Yao Huang’. and admired it to the point where she couldn’t bear to part with it.
“Replying to your Ladyship, these were all sent over by His Majesty.” Bi’xiao Palace’s head eunuch hastily stepped forward to reply.
He gifted flowers and even a dog. The more you looked at his actions, the more it seemed like he was courting her. Meng Sangyu felt slightly touched and yet promptly dismissed this preposterous thought to the back of her mind. If he had fallen in love with her, he would have fallen in love earlier. Why wait for three years? He was merely appeasing her due to her father’s meritorious service.
Thinking until here, she shook her head and sneered. Setting down the bonsai, she picked up Er’Bao, who was by her feet, and took a tour of the palace. “Er’Bao, this is your new home. Do you see this copper pan full of sand? This is your toilet. This little bowl is for you to drink water from and this one is your food dish. This basket is where you’ll sleep…”
She explained while observing Er’Bao’s expression. Seeing Er’Bao’s watery eyes with a confused look on his face, even though he was cute to look at, he somewhat lacked cleverness and was a far cry from A’Bao’s intelligence. Her elegant eyebrows couldn’t refrain from slightly furrowing, showing a slightly sorrowful expression.
“Your Ladyship, not every dog will be as clever and impressive as A’Bao. However, in any case, Er’Bao is A’Bao’s younger brother. He’ll improve with more training.” Noticing that her master’s expression was amiss, Bi’shui promptly opened her mouth to comfort her.
“I know, every dog is different. Er’Bao also has his own cute points. If I were to always compare him to A’Bao, it wouldn’t be fair to him. Since I decided to raise him, I will muster all of my patience.” After saying this, Meng Sangyu kissed Er’Bao’s forehead.
Er’Bao could feel his master’s care and whined in a lovable manner, causing Meng Sangyu to chuckle. The heavy atmosphere was swept clean. Nurse Feng brought over a small wooden box and entered with a beaming expression.
“Your Ladyship, this is the dog tag sent over by the Imperial Household Department. Your honoured self should put it on Er’Bao.”
Opening the wooden box, a carved, cloud-shaped red sandalwood nameplate made into a jade ornament rested on black flannel. “Bi’xiao Palace’s Er’Bao. [碧霄宫二宝]” These five pure gold characters were extremely eye-catching. What was even more eye-catching was the gold imperial seal on the bottom corner of the dog tag.
“How could they make it so fast?” Meng Sangyu picked up the dog tag and traced a finger along the indentation of the gold characters. Her eyebrows raised inquisitively.
“Eunuch Chang’xi instructed the artisans to work around the clock and rush to make it.” Nurse Feng gave her a beaming smile. “Your Ladyship just recently received the phoenix seal. Among everyone in the palace, who doesn’t have to give Bi’xiao palace some degree of face?”
“Mm. Yin’cui, bring over the clothes that A’Bao used to wear and help him put them on. After fastening the nameplate, you can take him out to play later.”
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Taking a strip of leather, Meng Sangyu threaded it through the nametag and then estimated the width of Er’Bao’s neck. Bi’shui lowered her head to closely inspect the nametag and sighed with envy. “This dog tag is indeed quite precious. Even if there weren’t five calligraphic characters personally written by the Emperor, just this fingernail-sized golden seal would be enough for Er’Bao to roam around freely in the palace. If A’Bao also had such a nametag, he wouldn’t have…”
The tail end of her sentence was drowned out by the sound of Nurse Feng’s cough.
Meng Sangyu’s smile was somewhat pained as she grinned. “No matter how real the imitation might appear, it’ll never replace the genuine goods! Disparity will appear. Fate didn’t smile upon A’Bao, and he wasn’t given the same chance.”
Bi’shui and Nurse Feng lowered their heads and remained silent. Yin’cui brought over a small cotton-padded jacket, and the master and servants cooperated to put it on Er’Bao. It was at this moment that a eunuch stood outside the palace hall requesting an audience.
“Come in, did you find out anything?” Meng Sangyu beckoned him in and inquired softly.
“Replying to Your Ladyship, once again there were many people impeaching His Grace, the Imperial Duke, in the Imperial Court, but they were all restrained by His Majesty. Beheading the prisoners of war was originally incited by the Emperor and had nothing to do with His Grace. The Young Master also didn’t make a fuss in court.” The eunuch bowed as he gave his report.
“Very good, go collect your reward.” Commanding the eunuch to withdraw, Meng Sangyu’s expression became thoughtful.
So beheading the prisoners of war was actually incited by His Majesty. If he wanted to harm the Meng family, just by means of using this time’s impeachment incident, he could have totally forced Father into handing over his military authority as well as making the Meng family army bear the mark of shame throughout the ages. Father only received a verbal order, but there isn’t any material evidence nor any witness testimony. He would have no choice but to bite his tongue 打落牙齿和血吞 (dǎluò yáchǐ huó xiětūn) Lit. Knocking out one’s teeth and swallowing blood. This is a Chinese proverb to express suffering a loss and not being able to let others know about it. and be driven out from court in such a humiliating manner. However, His Majesty didn’t do that at all. On the contrary, he assumed full responsibility for the matter. Just what is he up to? Moreover, yesterday, why did he try to sound out my thoughts? Did he see through something?
Meng Sangyu’s temples throbbed in pain. She felt like she wouldn’t be able to make out that man’s thoughts no matter how she tried. In any case, since her father would take the initiative to hand over his military power and hand in his resignation letter to retire from his government post, there was no need to be afraid of that man’s schemes. It was enough for her to just pay attention to any developments that may occur.
Perceiving the hidden danger within this incident, Meng Sangyu clenched her fist. Even though she had just lowered her guard against the man, she increased her vigilance against him once again.
In Qian’qing Palace, Emperor Zhou’wu was still going through a mountain of memorials. Chang’xi was guarding the palace entrance. Noticing a eunuch holding a tray while slowly walking over, he rushed to block the eunuch’s way, asking, “What are you doing?”
“Replying to Eunuch Chang’xi. The Emperor has long healed from his wounds and can select nameplates once again.” The eunuch replied quietly. The Emperor had not selected a nameplate in a long time and he did not dare bring it up without permission, but after receiving benefits from several concubines and considering that there was no inherent life-threatening danger, he decided to try his luck.
Choosing a nameplate? A eunuch from the Respect Room! 敬事房 (jìngshìfáng) The eunuchs that worked here were in charge of recording the Emperor’s nightly activities. If one of the concubines became pregnant, they would check the records to verify that it was indeed the Emperor’s child. Chang’xi immediately reacted and lifted his arm to allow the eunuch entrance.
Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort’s body has fully recovered and she ought to be able to serve His Majesty. If they were to wait any longer, the dark circles under His Majesty’s eyes may remain forever. He inwardly speculated.
“This servant greets Your Majesty.” The eunuch walked inside the hall and knelt down.
“What is it?” Emperor Zhou’wu asked without lifting his head.
“Replying to Your Majesty, this servant came to deliver the green nameplates. May your honoured self please select one.” The eunuch walked forward a few steps and presented the tray with the nameplates in front of the Emperor.
Green nameplates? Emperor Zhou’wu raised his gaze and looked towards the tray. Seeing Sangyu’s nameplate mixed with the rest of the imperial concubines’ resembling an object that any person could select on a whim, he suddenly felt abnormally aggravated. How could his Sangyu be so lowly, to be picked and toyed with by others? Remembering how the Fake Emperor had also once chosen Sangyu’s nameplate and had held unclean thoughts regarding her, Emperor Zhou’wu’s pitch-black eyes turned red in a flash.
“Chang’xi, drag this eunuch out to be punished with fifty strikes!” He put down his imperial brush and shouted with killing intent.
Chang’xi was startled and hastily called over two guards to drag away the shell-shocked eunuch. The tray fell to the ground with a clang, and the green nameplates scattered across the ground.
“Burn all these nameplates! Starting from today, they are not permitted to appear before Zhen!” He turned his head away with loathing. After all the nameplates were cleaned up, only then did his vicious expression somewhat abate. He asked heavily, “Did Virtuous Consort move back yet?”
“Replying to Your Majesty, she has already moved back.” Chang’xi quickly bowed and replied.
“Okay, you may leave.” The man’s dark expression softened. He picked up his brush and continued to review the memorials; however, his speed was much faster than before and the corners of his pursed lips were slightly raised.
Chang’xi secretly evaluated the Emperor’s expression and mentally repeated to himself that ‘the Emperor’s whims are hard to fathom’ while retreating.
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Here is Chapter 64~ I hope you liked it! If anyone has a better suggestion for how to translate 敬事房, please let me know in the comments!
We have another new team member, Petrified! He is our new Translation Assistant for our other project, Held in the Lonely Castle! Please consider checking it out~ It’s about a doomed love affair between a eunuch MC and a Song dynasty princess! It definitely has a more realistic vibe. There’s a new chapter out!
Until next time,