First Arc ー Chapter 1 (Part 3): Chenyu
It just so happened that there was that matter of an imperial edict falling into the water which really allowed her to grab the strongest opportunity.
Looking at the Empress again, her complexion was even more ashen pale. Finally, she smiled mournfully and also went down on her knees to kneel. The surrounding court ladies all cried out in alarm one by one while Zhao Luan promptly extended her hand to support her. She asked anxiously, “Imperial Elder Sister-in-law, what are you doing?”
Empress Xue kept her eyes on Xihe and said in a heavy voice, “It is actually this concubine’s failure in upbring that resulted in my little nephew to be obstreperous and offend the imperial edict. If Your Majesty wishes to sentence a punishment, please punish this concubine. Xiao Cai* is still young and……” At this junction, her voice was already nearly choked with sobs and she could not even continue to say the word “ignorant”.
*T/n: Referring to Xue Cai.
After Zhao Luan heard it, she was even more furious and glared at Xihe ruthlessly while Xihe continued to look straight ahead. Her beautiful face which was beyond this world was full of derision and actually even made little of the Empress.
Jiang Chenyu was secretly astonished. She couldn’t help but think, what was it that made her dare to be so unbridled?
She heard that Consort Xihe’s was born from the marketplace. Her father, Ye Ran(Yè Rǎn), was a scholar who could not pass the imperial examinations no matter how many times he tried while her mother, née Fang(Fāng), sold noodles to make a living and her reputation was known far and wide due to her quality noodles. Elder Yan Rui was enticed by her noodles and thus accepted a good-for-nothing student like Ye Ran. After that, even though Ye Ran somehow became Marquis Qi Ao(Qí Ào)’s hanger-on, he still accomplished nothing and was fond of the bottle and lackadaisical all day long. Her mother found it unbearable and hence committed suicide. Ye Ran did not exercise restraint but instead went from bad to worse. In order to pay money for his wine, he even mortgage his own daughter to human traffickers. Xihe was therefore sold into the palace due to this. After she entered the palace, Ye Ran drowned to death when he drank too much wine one night. With that, she really became forlorn with no kin to turn to.
Even if such a woman with firstly, no status, secondly, no background, were to win the imperial favor based on her outstanding looks, a monarch’s favor has all along been fleeting. Why does she dare to be this brash and wanton, and so imperious? Why does she not even leave any leeway for herself?
In the eyes of Jiang Chenyu who had been educated since young to be elegant, virtuous, modest and polite, and to have a sense of propriety, this was simply something she found incredible. Right now as she gazed at this woman who was just 10 steps apart, she only felt her heart thumping wildly and palpitating abnormally in fear.
Inside Jing Yang Palace, it was still solemn with silence.
Outside Jing Yang Palace, everyone’s expression were all disparate.
The sky was becoming more overcast and there was now continuous wisps of white flakes in the frosty wind. Some court lady shouted, “Ah, it’s snowing!”
Jiang Chenyu raised her head to look and saw snowflakes fluttering down profusely.
In such a weather, even standing was a form of torture with the hands and feet frozen ice-cold, let alone kneeling. On the other hand, that Consort Xihe’s hair had fragments of ice frozen. It can’t be that she came over directly after she got out of the lake without even wiping her wet hair dry?
That Eunuch Luo turned to enjoin a few words and there was a little eunuch who immediately sent an umbrella over. He opened the umbrella over Xihe’s head and entreated, “Consort, you can see that it has already started to snow here and it’s also going to be night soon. You have already knelt for two hours, you won’t be able to endure it even if you’re made from iron. This old servant beseeches you, please just get up……”
Xihe remained unswayed.
At this side, Zhao Luan also exhorted the Empress, “Imperial Elder Sister-in-law, this matter isn’t even your fault, why are you kneeling? Since she had an imperial edict with her back then, why didn’t she say earlier? One who does not know is not guilty. Furthermore, according to our dynasty’s laws, a consort is supposed to give way to the Empress. Imperial Elder Sister-in-law, both you and Xue Cai are not at wrong!”
Empress Xue laughed bitterly was also unwilling to get up.
With this, both parties reached an impasse once again.
The Emperor was also unwilling to express his stand for a long time. As soon as they thought that this matter was not going to have a conclusion, a voice could be heard from far away. “Xue Cai offended the imperial authority. Come forward to receive your punishmentー”
Everyone raised their heads, only to see a seven-year-old child dashing madly towards this direction. When he arrived before the palace hall, he glanced at Xihe coldly and knelt down with a thump. He actually knelt next to her, shoulder to shoulder.
This time, the situation became even more chaotic. Zhao Luan instantly came over and pulled him, “Little Xue Cai, what are you doing? Get up quickly.”
Xue Cai shook his head. His powdery white face carved from jade was filled with perseverance and he gazed at the palace hall door with his pair of black beady eyes. He spoke aloud, “One should bear the consequences of his own actions. I was the one who hit the horse and I was also the one who harmed the person, so it does not concern Aunt. On the account that the Xue Clan at least have credit for their efforts even if there has been no meritorious deeds performed, may Your Majesty not pursue the faults of others but only punish me alone. Xue Cai gives thanks to Your Majesty’s favor.” Upon finishing, he kowtowed until his head knocked the ground with a resounding thud sound.
It was steps made from white jade, cold until it penetrated the bone, yet that child kept kowtowing with his head again and again. The skin on his forehead had already been wounded and blood slowly flowed down, blurring that handsome and refined face. Words could not describe how pitiful he looked.
Xue Cai had always been someone likable. Now that he was going through such suffering, it made everyone’s heart ache dearly for him. Hence, they resented Xihe even further. Why was she unwilling to let even a child off. Whereas Xihe who was kneeling extremely near to where he was looked at him kowtowing with a glint in her eyes. She was actually looking on with keen pleasure. Finally, she curled her lips and smiled faintly. She seemed to be ridiculing him, seemed to be delighted and even seemed to be keeping herself out of the affair.
When Xue Cai heard her laughter, his gaze changed as if it had been all in vain. He turned his head and looked at her with a complicated expression. He then stood up and said slowly, “Xue Cai has understood. Xue Cai is willing to die in return for the family clan’s innocence.” He finished speaking and knocked into the stone railing panels at the side.
Shrieks immediately echoed across the masses.
Fortunately, although Eunuch Luo was old, he was unexpectedly very agile and clung on to him at the last juncture. Hence, even though Xue Cai had knocked onto the slabstone, he only fainted.
Empress Xue almost fainted from the fright while a group of court ladies were consoling her one by one. Usually if the situation has already evolved to a fray like this, the Emperor also could not possibly just stand on the sidelines. Yet, the interior of the palace hall was still extremely quiet with no signs of activity at all.
Why was it like this? Some misgivings involuntarily emerged from within Jiang Chenyu. At this moment, a palace servant anxiously ran up the flight of stone steps and reported loudly, “Reporting to Your Majesty, Marquis Qi Ao has already arrived and is currently waiting outside the entrance.
A voice was heard from within the palace hall. “Summon.” The timbre of the voice was immeasurably magnificent and was just like silver sand wandering on silk, languid and titillating.
The group of people then understood. So it turned out that the reason the Emperor did not clarify his position for a long time was to wait for the Gentleman. As long as the Gentleman has arrived, there is nothing that he cannot solve in this world. Everyone could not help but reveal happy looks on their faces. Especially Jiang Chenyu, she momentarily became loss like a small deer and did not know what do do with her hands and legs.
Marquis Qi Ao, Ji Ying(Jī Yīng).
He was Imperial Concubine Ji’s biological brother and succeeded a first rank Marquis position. He was competent in his work and the Confucian Six Arts* as well as equipped with multifarious skills. Making a name for himself as a young man, he was praised by the late emperor and thus conferred the title “Qi Ao”.
*T/n: The six are rites or etiquette, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy or literacy and mathematics or reckoning.
The two words “Qi Ao” originated from the “Book of Songs・Song of Wei”: ‘Gazing at the river bends and banks, the dark green bamboo forest is verdant and lush. An elegant man is a gentleman, exchanging knowledge from each other results in greater exquisiteness, mulling over one’s moral character results in greater kindness.’* Everyone in this world all felt that these two words were the most suitable for him.
*T/n: Please forgive my totally unpoetic translation.
Jiang Chenyu had once saw him at her father’s birthday banquet from far away. From then on, it was etched in her mind. When she heard that had had come at that moment, she was both shy and in anticipation. She immediately focused her attention towards that direction and saw a man in white following the palace servant and arrived outside Yu Hua Gate.
The surroundings instantly eclipsed and gradually vanished until it was no longer in existence.
It was only left with that one person. Slowly, step by step, in an extremely unruffled manner, as if he was walking over from that end of fate, evanescent and cursory.
There was no language that could depict his intoxicating charm, not even one. There was no phrase that could describe his aloof disposition, not even a fraction……If you had seen before the vast and boundless grasslands and the scenery bathed by the flood of moonlight, you would definitely think of his long black hair that reaches his waist which is brilliant enough to reflect one’s image; If you had seen before the mountain peak in dead silence and the scenery of the pure white snow which stretches continuously with no boundaries, you would definitely think of his white long gown that was as light as wings and without a speck of dust.
Black like ink and white like jade. Besides these, there were no other colors.
So simple, so plain, yet so soul-stirring.
Gentleman Ji Ying.
It was him, it was really him. She had seen him again……
Chenyu’s fist slowly clenched tight within her sleeves. It had been yesterday when her mother was still smiling while she said, “With a character and looks like our Chenyu, thinking back and forth, there is currently only the Ji Family’s Gentleman Ying in this world that can match you. Our Jiang Family, along with both the Xue Family and Ji Family, are the three large aristocratic families of Nation Bi. This is exactly what they call well-matched in social and economic status. Chenyu, what is your opinion?”
Elder Sister-in-law was also speaking in support of her mother at her side. “Think about that Marquis Qi Ao, such a great and outstanding men. Is there any woman of marriageable age in the imperial capital who doesn’t look on at him with eager eyes? Chenyu, this is a really good marriage. You just need to nod and we will go propose. If we want to do it, we have to do it while it’s still early. Otherwise, if you wait a few more years when Princess Zhao Luan has grown up, I’m afraid that you’ll have no chance.”
While right now, as she gazed at this man who had a high probability of becoming her own husband, she only felt as if her heart was immersed in a water of pigment and floating about as she dissolves……
Ji Ying walked up the flight of stairs, past Xihe’s side and followed the palace servant to enter Jing Yang Palace. Xihe kept lowering her head and only raised her head after the palace hall door was shut. Her black pupils which were as deep as gems turned from light to dense. It was hard to distinguish if her expression was misery or joyfulness because it was too complicated.
After Ji Ying had entered for around the duration needed to drink a cup of tea, Eunuch Luo came out to summon, “His Majesty summons the Empress for an audience.”
If you all are wondering how this novel is going to turn out, I would recommend that you all give the next few chapters a try first since right now the novel is only setting the context. All the big plots are going to happen slightly later on.
If you all are interested in the names of the arcs, it’ll be slowly posted on the contents page. 🙂