First Arc ー Chapter 2 (Part 4): Missing Fate
Zhao Luan’s eyes shone and turned around to say excitedly, “The Jiang Family’s Elder Sister is a magnificent beauty! I’m not making this up, she’s much more beautiful than that what Xihe or Donghe*. She’s also gentle, kind and also very talented, being able to play the zither proficiently……”
*T/n: Pun played on Xihe’s name. Xi means west while Dong means east.
The corners of Zhao Yin’s eyes were curved and he replied with a shadow of a smile, “That also means that she has both the talent of Ji Hu and the beauty of Xihe?”
Zhao Luan agreed, “Yes! You have to describe it like this! This is too accurate, that’s right, she is really such a great young lady!”
“Alright, I know already. You may take your leave.”
“Okay.” Zhao Luan turned around and walked out. The smile on Zhao Yin’s visage gradually became fainter and he bent his head to look towards the desk. Among the massive pile of memorials, a secret report was spread out. There was only one sentence written on it ー ‘The Right Prime Minister has the intention to marry his younger daughter, Chenyu, to Marquis Qi Ao as his wife.’
He gazed intently at that line of characters and muttered to himself for a long time before he suddenly called out, “Tian Jiu.”
Tian Jiu appeared in the study like a ghost.
“Any movements from the Empress recently?”
“Replying to Your Majesty, the Empress has only devoted herself to looking after Xue Cai every day. There has been nothing unusual and she didn’t correspond with her father via letters.”
“Then what about Xue Su?”
“General of the Imperial Guards has only been regaling himself with wine with other generals all day long and there has also been nothing unusual. However, from 9pm-11pm last night, the Left Prime Minister’s son-in-law, the Imperial Confidant, Tian Rong, had gone to his residence where the two of them spoke to each other and he left in less than the time needed to drink a cup of tea. As to what they talked about, we don’t know.”
Zhao Yin became silent before he finally stood up and said, “Prepare the palanquin, This Emperor is going to Bao Hua Palace.”
After Tian Jiu bowed and withdrew, Imperial Eunuch came forward to serve. The group of people departed from Jing Yang Hall in a grandiose manner and went to visit Bao Hua Palace. It was nightfall. Every palace lantern was lit and created a riot of the five colors when reflected on the glass.
The luxurious and splendid Bao Hua Palace appeared to be even more dazzling in the nightscape yet there was not even one figure to be seen.
Seeing this situation, Zhao Yin more or less knew in his heart. Thus, he waved his hand for the attendants behind him to withdraw and entered alone.
After traversing through a very long corridor, an aquamarine pond was presented before his eyes. There were steps by the water which assumed the shape of a circular arc. Furthermore, at the bottom of the three Chinese square foot* pond, there were heaps of fragmented porcelain that accumulated.
*T/n: 1 Chinese foot is about ⅓ of a metre
Beside the pond sat a person.
That person had long hair hanging down loosely and was wearing a pure white silk gown. The lower hem of the gown was lifted up highly, revealing two legs which were as bright and clean as jade soaking in the pond water. The open space beside her had many wine cups laid out. The cups were light, the colors and designs exquisitely carved and they were as gentle as jade to the touch. They were baked from Nation Bi’s illustrious ‘Bi Porcelain’.
As for her, she just casually picked up one of the wine cups, then tossed it into the pond wantonly like that. ‘Crash’, the chinaware landed in the water and collided with the glazed tiles, producing an indescribable clear and loud sound.
She raised her eyebrows, then took one again and threw it towards the pond. For some time, only the continuous sounds of chaotic splash could be heard in the main hall. It was clear and crisp, yet mournful with hidden bitterness.
As she listened to that kind of sound and looked at the remnants of the celadon were gradually getting thicker at the bottom of the pond, her white face had carried a wan expression since the start. When this scene entered Zhao Yin’s eyes, he suddenly just lost himself that little bit as his feelings stirred.
He walked over and pulled her hand. He then embraced her and called softly in a low voice, “Xihe……” When this word left his mouth, the voice was deep and actually had countless lingering affection which seeped into the bones.
Xihe didn’t turn her head back. Her gaze remained fixed on the fragmented porcelain at the bottom of the pond, apathetic and ice-cold.
Zhao Yin pressed his head against her neck and sighed softly, “You’re venting your anger on these dead objects again……”
Xihe’s lips curled upwards and she lazily said, “Isn’t this quite good? There was Moxi in the past who tore silk* while there’s now Xihe who throws cups; There was Daji in the past who had the pond filled with wine and meat hung like a forest** while there’s now Xihe who has the pond filled with porcelain and glazed tiles as a palace. Only by doing this can I live up to the two words ‘bewitching concubine’, aren’t I right?”
*T/n: Moxi was the queen of the last king of the Xia Dynasty. It is said that she had a strange hobby of tearing silk. This king was known to be a tyrant.
**T/n: Originated from the story where King Zhou indulged Daji and led an extremely extravagant and dissolute life
Zhao Yin turned her body around and smiled as he looked straight at her. “You compared yourself to Moxi and Daji. Don’t tell me that you want This Emperor to be Xia Jie and Shang Zhou*?”
*T/n: Referring to the last ruler of the Xia Dynasty and King Zhou respectively
Xihe steadily returned his gaze and turned her head away after a long while. She insipidly said, “Even if Your Majesty wishes to be Xia Jie and Shang Zhou, that’s provided that you have that ability. Right now, you have no real power in your hands and under the control of the subjects in all aspects. Where is the impressive power to speak about?”
Despite being taunted by her like this, not only was Zhao Yin not enraged, on the contrary, he even laughed and embraced her even tighter. “Xihe, oh Xihe, the people in the world only know that This Emperor likes your appearance but do not know that what This Emperor really likes is this fierce temper of yours. You don’t leave a way out for others and also don’t leave a way out for yourself. If this were to spread out, even if you have ten heads, you’ll have to lose all of them.”
Xihe’s face still remained expressionless. “If I lose them, so be it. In any case, it’s not the first time Your Majesty has sacrificed This Concubine.”
Zhao Yin gave a low sigh. “Xihe, the time is not right yet. This Emperor guarantees that very soon, very soon, This Emperor can let you vent your hatred of the incident of falling into the water the other day.”
After Xihe heard that, she suddenly smiled. Her facial features originally had a solemn beauty to them, but when she smiled, it changed into an indescribable seductive look. She bore a delicate and graceful bearing and a sluggish charm to it, causing people to be dazed when they see her.
“Your Majesty has really calculated such a good scheme and is going to push this matter onto This Concubine again. If the Xue Family Clan were to be exterminated next time, when the common people bring up this matter, they will definitely say that it was harmed by This Concubine. It seems that This Concubine really has no choice but to continue taking on the role of this ‘bewitching concubine’ title.”
Zhao Yin stared at her fixedly, his gaze revealing some melancholy. “This Emperor knows that This Emperor owes you a lot……”
Xihe’s response was only a scornful laugh.
Zhao Yin ignored her sneer and continued speaking, “That’s why, This Emperor will make it up to you in other aspects. For some matters, as long as you’re happy, This Emperor will yield to you as much as possible.”
“For example, this glazed tile palace, this fragmented jade pond?”
“There’s also……” Zhao Yin paused for a while and enunciated every word very slowly, “Jiang Chenyu.”
Xihe was stumped for a while and turned her head to look at him. Their inverted reflections swayed in each other’s pupils and became ripples as they became obscure.
The next day, the palace sent a message for Jiang Chenyu to enter the palace to teach Consort Xihe to play the zither.
The whole Jiang Family remained perplex even after repeatedly mulling over it for multiple times. They could not understand why this task had been assigned to Chenyu. According to common practice, if an imperial consort wanted to learn the zither, she could invite the master from Heaven Music Bureau to teach. If it was still of no use, she could find a palace maid in the palace who was versed in the zither. No matter what it was, the Right Prime Minister’s daughter should not have a chance. This Xihe was notorious was being arrogant and rude. If she taught her the zither, one careless move could possibly incur trouble to herself.
Mamam Jiang thought over and over again. “Chenyu, why don’t you pretend that you’re sick?”
Elder Sister-in-law said, “That’s right, we should find a reason to decline. You absolutely cannot accept this task.”
Even Jiang Zhong also said, “I’m afraid that this trip will be fraught with perils so it’s a more clever move that you don’t go.”
But in the end, Jiang Chenyu faintly smiled instead and said, “Father, Mother, Elder Sister-in-law, when Consort Xihe summoned me, she definitely must have already made a decision in her heart. Even if I use illness as a reason to decline this time, she will still find another excuse to find me. If it’s a fortune, then you don’t have to worry that it’s a misfortune, but if it’s a misfortune, you can’t evade it even if you want to.* What must be, must be. Hence, I have decided that, I will go, because I also really like to know what, she, actually wants to do.”
*T/n: An old saying that means to just resign to one own’s fate. I have placed an English proverb which has a similar meaning beside it.
Just like this, Jiang Chenyu entered the imperial palace the next day. The palanquin stopped in front of Bao Hua Palace and she was assisted by the palace servants to walk into the parlor. Among the zephyr curtain, Xihe leaned against the front of a window and was silently lost in thought. The sunlight outlined the contours of her side profile which was near perfection and her eyebrows and eyelashes appeared to be densely long.
For some reason, she actually looked that laden with grief.
So it turned out that this arrogant and despotic beauty could also be laden with grief.
Jiang Chenyu bent her knees in greeting.
Did any of you notice the new book cover? Which do you all think looks nicer haha 😀