Why Harem Intrigue When You Can Just Raise A Dog Instead? (Chp 74)
Chapter 74: Summon for Service (召寝)
Translation assistant: 247Reader
English proofreaders: 247Reader & Nyamachi
The second branch of the Meng family still had three concubines, as well as one illegitimate son and two illegitimate daughters. Everyone was dragged away by the Embroidered Uniform Guard and detained in the Celestial Prison.
The sound of the group’s anguished wailing, pleas for forgiveness, and vehement curses completely swept away the jubilant atmosphere. Everyone in the Imperial Duke’s manor, from the masters to the servants, remained silent and maintained a solemn and respectful appearance.
What was the meaning of “Heaven’s wrath?” A bloodbath. Today, they had experienced this first-hand.
From the elders on down, every branch of the Meng clan had quickly heard the news. Not only did they not blame Imperial Duke Meng, they inwardly rejoiced at the decisive manner in which he had handled the matter and his ability to place righteousness before his kin. Otherwise, once the Emperor personally investigated the matter, no one within nine degrees of kin of the Meng clan would have had any hope of survival. Moreover, they shared a bone-deep hatred for the second branch of the family, who had insisted on making a big deal out of this. They did not feel the least bit of sympathy for them or any hesitation about their punishment.
Considering that Aunt Wen and her children didn’t have the qualifications to go to the main hall and pay their respects to the Emperor, as well as the fact that Meng Rui’zhu had caused a massive disaster, the concubine and her children had long since been sent back to their courtyard.
In the main hall, Imperial Duke Meng led his wife and son to formally pay their respects to the Emperor and Virtuous Consort. Afterwards, they invited the couple to participate in a family feast.
Piping hot dishes and strongly fragrant wines were arranged on the table one by one, but everyone sitting at the table still remembered the earlier farce that had occurred, so their behaviour was quite reserved.
“Since it’s a family gathering, everyone can dispense with formalities.” Emperor Zhou’wu picked up his chopsticks first and filled Sangyu’s bowl with various dishes. Only upon seeing this did Imperial Duke Meng and the rest show a somewhat more relaxed expression.
A plate of steamed bass was placed in front of the Emperor. He was just about to pick up his chopsticks and remove the bones for Sangyu when he was unexpectedly stopped by her hand. She said gently, “Let this concubine, Your Majesty.”
She smiled and picked up a piece of fish belly, one of the most succulent and tender parts of the fish, and carefully removed the bones. After that, she placed the piece of fish into the Emperor’s dish and said softly, “Eat up. It’ll have a fishy smell once it gets too cold.”
Emperor Zhou’wu’s brows raised as he squinted at her and ate the piece of fish. He couldn’t conceal the delighted curve of his lips, no matter how hard he tried.
Meng Sangyu also selected a few prawns soaked in tea leaves, peeled away their shells, and stacked them onto his plate. Her actions were solicitous to the extreme.
What a pragmatic little minx! Emperor Zhou’wu secretly snickered to himself as he ate. He simply loved this side of Sangyu to the depths of his heart.
In reality, Sangyu was quite simple. If you treated her well, she would be sure to treat you well in return. It made it effortless to get along with her.
After eating a few more bites, he took the moist handkerchief from a nearby maid and wiped Sangyu’s oily fingertips clean, chuckling, “Beloved Consort worked hard. Eat quickly yourself; there’s no need to take care of Zhen.” Saying this, he filled Sangyu’s bowl to the brim with all of her favourite dishes.
The couple’s exceedingly warm interactions, which carried a deep level of tacit understanding, repeatedly shocked the others sitting at the table.
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They unconsciously loosened their reserved attitudes, especially Lady Meng. Seeing the undisguised deep love [for her daughter] in the Emperor’s eyes, she felt rather astonished.
What were His Majesty’s true intentions? Could it be that he truly loved her daughter and intended to make her Empress?
Imperial Duke Meng, on the other hand, didn’t think too much into it. He picked up his winecup and made a toast to the Emperor. Seeing that the Emperor cheerfully emptied his cup, he immediately gave a bright, clear smile.
With a flushed face, Meng Yan’zhou stood up and stammered a few words of loyalty and devotion towards the Emperor before drinking three cups in a row. The Emperor gave him face and toasted three cups to him in return. This immediately moved Meng Yan’zhou to speechlessness.
The atmosphere during the family feast gradually warmed. The three men’s clear and bright voices could be heard conversing and laughing as they exchanged toasts with each other. They didn’t seem like a ruler and his subjects, but more like family members.
Lady Meng and Meng Sangyu glanced at each other and couldn’t help but shake their heads and chuckle.
After three rounds of wine, Meng Sangyu noticed that the Emperor’s cheeks had become somewhat flushed. Recalling that they had to return to the palace by six pm, 酉时 (yóushí) 5-7pm in the 时-刻 system of Chinese Timekeeping. she tugged at his sleeve under the table, hinting to him that he should drink less. This little action, like that of an ordinary wife towards her husband, greatly pleased him, and he turned over to look at her.
His eyes, so unfathomably pitch-black in the past, looked especially clear today. He nibbled her ear and whispered, “Don’t worry. Zhen hasn’t gotten drunk. However, since you don’t like it, Zhen just won’t drink.”
Glimpsing her parents’ and brother’s amused gazes, Meng Sangyu sent a glance towards the man. Her swift glance implied she was coquettishly feigning anger, making him chuckle softly again and again.
The couple’s closeness and intimate actions were too warm and strong to be counterfeit. Lady Meng and Duke Meng clinked their cups together, both showing relieved smiles.
After the feast, Meng Sangyu guided the Emperor to tour the Imperial Duke’s Manor and they took a short nap in her boudoir.
Six pm quickly rolled around. As she sat in the imperial palanquin and earnestly waved goodbye to the relatives who had come to see her off, Meng Sangyu turned her head, her expression filled with reluctance to part.
“Look at your face. It’s not like you won’t ever see them again,” Emperor Zhou’wu joked as he drew her into his embrace and kissed the corner of her mouth.
The mellow, enriched smell of alcohol carried on the man’s breath spread along the tastebuds of their entangled tongues, beginning to intoxicate Sangyu with lust.
She cupped the man’s cheek and took the initiative to deepen the kiss. After a while, she separated from him with great difficulty and said softly, “Thank you very much for today, Your Majesty.”
“As long as you’re happy.” Rubbing his finger along her nose, the man gave a satisfied smile. This pure and simple smile made Meng Sangyu’s heart tremble.
The New Year celebrations would soon be over, and the end of this bitterly cold winter approached. The thick cover of snow would gradually melt from the sun’s rays, and the bare branches would sprout buds. The sight would bring joy to many.
However, the severe winter in the hearts of the imperial concubines had still not passed, because not only did the Emperor personally accompany Virtuous Consort to visit her relatives, he also rested at Bi’xiao Palace for a whole month, rarely returning to his own Qian’qing Palace. He was blind to all others. If this continued long-term, how would there still be a place for them in the palace?
With the Embroidered Uniform Guards posted everywhere, blocking schemes aimed towards His Majesty with an iron will, the Imperial Censors didn’t dare to criticize His Majesty’s management of the Inner Palace. However, a few high-ranking concubines couldn’t sit still anymore and ventured to Ci’ning Palace to complain.
After they had done so repeatedly, even the indifferent Empress Dowager couldn’t put up with it anymore, 不胜其扰 (bùshèngqírǎo) lit. does not surpass one’s annoyance and summoned His Majesty for a scolding.
Once her son was seated, the Empress Dowager frowned and said, “Your Majesty, Virtuous Consort was not the only imperial concubine able to preserve her purity. If you favour her in such a high-profile manner, it’s unclear whether she will regard it as a blessing or a curse. The Meng family is already in the limelight enough. Your continued behaviour will only cause her to become targeted from all sides.” 众矢之的 (zhòngshǐzhīdì) Lit. Being the target of a multitude of arrows.
The Emperor remained expressionless, and his unfathomable eyes prevented others from guessing his thoughts.
Seeing him like this, the Empress Dowager slowed down and continued, “How about Aijia promote a few imperial concubines in order to dispel everyone’s evil intentions? The positions of Empress, Imperial Noble Consort, and Noble Consort are all empty. Only two Consorts among the four remain. It is indeed somewhat shameful.”
“Empress Mother can do as you see fit.” Emperor Zhou’wu fiddled with the teacup in his hand, and his manner of speaking was extremely apathetic, as if the matter did not concern himself.
His cold, stern expression suddenly turned gentle as he thought of something. He turned towards the Empress Dowager and cautiously began to speak, “Once Sangyu is pregnant, your son would like to confer her as Empress. Since Empress Mother would also like to support a few others, why not first promote Sangyu to Imperial Noble Consort?”
“That’s fine. Aijia will issue the decree before We leave, but We won’t attend the conferment ceremony. It’s too bothersome.” The Empress Dowager nodded, but her brows furrowed again as her voice turned rather helpless. “Take a rest in another palace to shut up those women. Aijia will set out for Thousand Buddha Mountain towards the middle of the month, so let Aijia have some peace and quiet for a few days.”
“Please rest assured. Soon they won’t come and bother Empress Mother anymore.” Emperor Zhou’wu patted the back of the Empress Dowager’s hand, his eyes flashing.
Stepping out of Ci’ning Palace, he began walking towards Bi’xiao Palace, as was his habit, and had walked about halfway before he remembered the Empress Dowager’s instructions.
He hesitated a moment before turning towards the closest palace, Yu’fu Palace.
When Beautiful Consort heard the news in Yu’fu Palace, she promptly led a group of servants to the gates to welcome the Emperor. Her flushed face revealed her excitement.
Emperor Zhou’wu said indifferently, “Rise,” and directly passed her to head into the inner chambers. After sitting by the bedside for a while, watching over the Sixth Prince, who was fast asleep, he inquired after the Prince’s illness before leaving for the side hall where Cai’ren Wu resided.
Beautiful Consort removed her luxurious and refined makeup and ferociously swept her dressing case to the ground. Recalling that Cai’ren Wu hadn’t drunk the abortion soup, she gave a bitter smile.
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Cai’ren Wu heard the eunuch’s announcement and rushed outside of the palace hall to welcome the Emperor.
Seeing the peerlessly handsome Emperor, whose every action commanded awe, she blushed, and her large, sparkling round eyes gleamed.
She curtsied in salute, exposing her snowy white neck. “This concubine greets Your Majesty.”
However, Emperor Zhou’wu reacted as if he hadn’t even seen the beautiful sight before him. He waved a hand and said, “Dispense with the formalities,” before walking into the palace hall. As he walked through the doorway, the strong smell of incense assaulted his senses, making him sneeze loudly.
“Did Your Majesty catch a cold? Quickly go near the brazier to warm yourself up.” Cai’ren Wu took two steps closer, wanting to support him with her arm, but withdrew again due to shyness. Every action was filled with the moving, charming attitude of a young girl.
If this were Sangyu, she would either not approach him at all or be extremely solicitous. There was absolutely no way that she would resort to using this kind of catch-and-release tactic, letting down her guard to lure him in. 欲擒故纵 (yùqíngùzòng) To loosen the reins only to trap someone better.
Emperor Zhou’wu looked askance at Cai’ren Wu, feeling increasingly annoyed.
His glance sent Cai’ren Wu’s heart racing, and she personally poured a cup of tea before very carefully placing it before him.
Emperor Zhou’wu took the proffered cup, but only took one sip before pushing it aside. The tea tasted good, but it wasn’t brewed with one ten-thousandth of Sangyu’s skill, making it difficult to swallow.
Cai’ren Wu sensed the Emperor’s impatience and lowered her head to ponder before finding a topic of conversation. “Your Majesty, the other day this concubine drafted a calligraphy piece and felt that it lacked a certain appeal, but this concubine is unable to describe what is lacking. Can your honoured self help this concubine take a look?”
“Bring it here.” Emperor Zhou’wu replied indifferently, narrowing his eyes at her.
Cai’ren Wu’s heart filled with joy, and she hurriedly called a maid to bring over her most accomplished piece of calligraphy for the Emperor to appreciate. She came from a family skilled in the literary arts, so although she said she was dissatisfied with her work, in reality, she was considerably confident in her mastery of calligraphy.
Taking the piece, Emperor Zhou’wu only glanced at it before losing all interest. The display of fundamental skills was lacking, and the emphasis on artistry was too heavy. It didn’t have an iota of soul compared to Sangyu’s calligraphy.
Looking at the woman’s charming posture as she sat sideways and the pride revealed in her eyes despite her insistent pretensions of modesty, suddenly Emperor Zhou’wu felt like [she was] completely dull. 索然无味 (suǒránwúwèi) Disinteresting, vapid, tasteless.
“Its shape lacks soul. Practice for a few more years.” Placing the piece aside, he stood up and threw out these words with an apathetic expression before turning away and leaving in a hurry.
Chang’xi ran to catch up with him. He turned his head back to glance at Cai’ren Wu, whose expression was filled with astonishment and hurt, and shook his head, pondering:
She’s truly a talented and good-looking beauty. 才貌双全 (cáimàoshuāngquán) Used to describe someone with both talent and beauty. Similar phrasing to 文武双全 describing someone talented in both scholarly and military arts. However, before Her Ladyship Virtuous Consort’s genius 珠玉 (zhūyù) Lit. pearl and jade. Used to describe someone’s talent or genius; “gems of wisdom”. no matter how beautiful the woman is, I’m afraid that she will only be considered ordinary and boring in His Majesty’s heart.
In Bi’xiao Palace, Meng Sangyu put down the nearly-completed embroidered pouch in her hand and said lovingly, “It’s almost six pm. His Majesty ought to have returned. Send someone to the Imperial Kitchen and tell them to serve the food.”
Nurse Feng hesitated a moment before saying quietly, “Replying to Your Ladyship, His Majesty went to Yu’fu Palace. This one heard that he decided to summon Cai’ren Wu tonight. This servant is afraid that he will not be coming back today.”
Meng Sangyu stared blankly, and as she absorbed the news, she inadvertently let slip, “Coming back?” before laughing at herself.
When did this start? For her to actually believe that it was a matter of course for the Emperor to come to Bi’xiao Palace? This way of thinking was no good!
After calmly tidying up her needlework, she turned to face Nurse Feng’s worried gaze and said indifferently, “If he doesn’t come, does that mean that I don’t need to eat? Call someone to serve the dishes and bring Er’Bao over. It’s the same if he accompanies me for dinner.”
“Understood.” Nurse Feng felt relieved and rushed to send someone to the kitchen. She also instructed Bi’shui to bring Er’Bao.
With Emperor Zhou’wu around, Er’Bao was obliged to put up with staying in Bi’shui and Yin’cui’s room. Even if he wanted to go out and play in the imperial gardens, he still had to take care not to meet the Emperor by accident. Otherwise, he would be immediately driven away by a nearby eunuch with a horsetail whisk.
As he was being hugged by his master intimately, he happily whimpered and his little tail wagged frantically. His cute little face made Meng Sangyu completely forget the peculiar feeling from a moment ago.
Thank you very much for the Ko-Fi, Suong Doan! Us cats are grateful!
Hello dear readers,
Hope you enjoyed Chapter 74! There were a lot of warm fuzzies in this chapter. It was nice to see Sangyu’s interactions with her family. What was your favourite part?
Sorry for any inconvenience to your reading experience earlier this month. We posted some team updates in our monthly TL post for May. Please check it out!
If anyone has time to spare, we are looking for two people to take on the role of discord moderators. We have a very smol readership, but more channels of communication would be better, especially in light of the technical issues earlier this month. Read the monthly tl post for more details!
Chapter 75 is coming soon!
Until next time,
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