Inner Residence arc ー Chapter 12 (Part 1): Spring Banquet (First Half)
As expected, although Xie Zhao Ying was not in the house, Madam Xie had also become inured to his antics. However, others may not necessarily let him be so comfortable.
I heard Yun Xiang say, “The city has imposed martial law, saying that there’s a traitor to the nation in the city. The Supreme Court is arresting people everywhere. Regardless of gender, if there is a wound on the waist, all will be captured to be interrogated under torture. I heard that many of them have been beaten to death and dragged to the unmarked mass grave outside the city.”
I was currently fiddling with a balance scale (DIY) in a house full of medical herbs while beside me, there was a decoction boiling above the fire. I lifted my head blankly. “Even the Supreme Court is siding with the Zhao family?”
“Oh, there’s more. The Empress invited our family to enter the palace for tea.”
“Enter the palace to drink tea? What type of tea? Guangdong tea* or British afternoon tea?”
*T/n: She’s kind of referring to Chinese tea where hot water is added to tea leaves
Yun Xiang plastered a stern face. “Miss, you have already been messing around with herbs for eight hours that you are starting to talk nonsense!”
I stretched my waist. “Seriously, why enter the palace for tea for no apparent reason?”
“In the past, the Empress also frequently invited womenfolk from ministers’ families to enter the palace to drink tea and watch plays. This time she has invited a lot of families, saying that she wants the young people to gather together.”
I scratched my head. “Young people? Including your Second Master Xie?”
Yun Xiang nodded her head.
Excluding the few of us, the remaining one who knows that Xie Zhaoying was injured should be the one who stabbed a hole in his waist. Did the Empress intend to hoodwink all the suspects into the palace to examine their bodies one by one?
Or maybe, the middle aged and bored aunt Empress planned to organize the grandest blind date gathering in Dong Qi’s history……
I went to look for Song Zijing while bringing the medicine which has been prescribed properly.
Mister Song – or maybe Master* Song , was currently having lessons with the children. Immature children voices recited in unison. “The pelican cries and resides according to the water. A graceful and beautiful woman is what gentlemen hope for*.”
*T/n: It’s the same as the term used for swordsmen and chivalrous heroes
**T/n: Supposed to be poetry-like
The broth is changed but not the herbs*. The birds sing softly and lands on the continent with water. Some family’s pretty young lady, is a suitable partner of a young man**.
*T/n: The name and outer appearance has changed, but the inherent content remains the same
**T/n: These two sentences came a drama called ‘Wulin Waichuan’
The children recited again, “Eloquent and fawning XX, is unique to women….”
I cursed, “Overthrow feudalism, capitalism and revisionism!”
When Song San saw me, he appeared to be very nervous as if he was involved in some underground society activity. “Fourth Miss has come?”
I also asked very nervously, “Third Elder Sister is not around right?”
“She came before in the morning. However, she has been especially diligent in coming recently. She came three times yesterday.”
“Be more careful. To handle a rooting out policy, you need to be steady, prudent and strict.”
“Don’t worry. Teacher has his own ways.”
I stuffed the medicine to him. “Boil four bowls of water until it becomes one bowl. To be taken orally while still hot.”
Song San rolled his eyes. “Of course, do I still need you to remind me?”
He went to boil the medicine while I went to visit Xie Zhaoying.
Second Young Master Xie was currently reclining on the bed and enjoying himself while chewing a piece of five-spiced* beef jerky. There were melon seeds, groundnuts, candied fruits and maltose sugar as well as a big bunch of novel and ingenious pastries arranged on the low tea table beside the bed. These were obviously sent by Xie Zhaoke to convey her greetings to Song Zijing but all of them entered Xie Zhaoying’s stomach instead.
*T/n: The five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, salty
I plopped down next to the bed and grabbed Xie Zhaoying’s hand over to feel his pulse. It was very steady. After that, I lifted his eyelids up then pinched his chin to pull his mouth mouth open and took a look. I satisfyingly nodded. “Your teeth’s condition is not bad.”
Xie Zhaoying spittled while talking, “What are you saying?”
I said, “Do you know that Empress Zhao invited us to enter the palace to attend a Hongmen banquet*?
*T/n: A banquet or some feast that is set up with the aim of murdering the invited guest. This term is rather common in historical Chinese novels. It originated from a famous episode where Xiang Yu attempted to kill the future Han Emperor Liu Bang by setting a trap with the ‘banquet’ at the place ‘Hongmen’.
Xie Zhaoying said, “Although I don’t understand what a Hongmen Banquet is, the taste of the Cumin Sirloin and Eight-Treasure Fish with Egg White* in the palace are really not bad.”
*T/n: Name of a dish. The fish may come in slices. A picture just for reference:
I laughed sarcastically. “Speaking about food and drinks, do you know that there is a type of persecution that first kill the enemy then cooks and process them into a dish?”
Xie Zhaoying vomited out the half-eaten beef. “I think it’s still better to talk about that ship fully loaded with tourists which collided with an iceberg on its first voyage again.”
I smacked him. “Be more serious! Don’t you know what kind of situation it is now?”
Xie Zhaoying grinned. “When the enemy troops come, have generals to resist them, when the flood come have an earthen dam to to block it. No matter what kind of problem it is, there will always a different solution for it.”
“You really want to enter the palace?”
“Am I able to not go?”
I got up and headed outside.
Xie Zhaoying grabbed me. “Where are you going?”
“Escaping before the Xie family’s house is searched and property is confiscated.”
“Calm down! Calm down! This isn’t some big problem.” Xie Zhaoying pulled me back inside. “They also don’t have any evidence.”
I pointed at his injured waist. “Isn’t it easy for them to find evidence? Won’t it be obvious at a glance after they have everyone strip naked and stand in a row?”
Xie Zhaoying knocked my head. “What kinds of stuff do you have kept in here? What they want exactly is to settle the matter in the dark. Otherwise, why would they need pretend to invite us into the palace?”
I cast a sidelong glance at him. “You went to meet that person you have always wanted to meet that day right? I’m not referring to Elder Sister Fei Hua.”
This was the first time I had asked about Xie Zhaoying’s private affair. He unexpectedly didn’t mind and said in an unperturbed manner, “Yes.”
“Have you met him already?”
“Still haven’t yet.”
“You’re really useless.” I headed outside.
Xie Zhaoying shouted at me from behind, “Where are you going?”
I said, “Going to plan an escape route.”
Actually, I knew that preserving oneself* when there is internal political strife was simply even harder than transmigration. Maybe I could become a nun. I thought of it without giving in to despair. Nine lifetimes as a nun. Ultimately returning to the square one after going round and round. It was such an auspicious number. Perhaps I could instantly ascent to heaven to become an immortal after passing away as a nun this lifetime.
*T/n: The original text used the term ‘an intact egg’ which is likely to have been derived from the saying where ‘no egg remains intact when the nest overturns’, meaning that its hard for a family member to not be implicated when the family is doomed
My revisionism ideology was actually quite serious.
“Fourth Miss,” Song Zijing shouted to stop me.
I stopped. “Teacher has finished classes already?”
He came over and asked me, “You already know about the matter of having to enter the palace tomorrow right?”
I knitted my eyebrows in distress. “I came over today to discuss about this matter with Second Elder Brother but he was totally unconcerned.”
“His injury is not serious, it’s just that the poison….”
I asked, “Have you managed to receive any news regarding the whereabouts of Zhang Qiu Yang disciples?”
Song Zijing shook his head.
I was despondent. “Second Elder Brother usually appears to be rather frivolous but once he sets his mind on a matter, he will absolutely persevere all the way. As for me, I can only risk my life to accompany the gentleman.”
Song Zijing smiled and leaned closer to comfort me softly, “Don’t worry……” He suddenly stopped speaking and looked in another direction.
In the courtyard full of emerald, stood the slim and graceful Xie Zhaoke in a bright pink yarn gown as if it was hazy in the moonlight. Her pure white arm carried a small wicker basket and her peerless visage was frosty as she coldly looked at the Song Zijing who was leaning very close to me.
I tactfully took a step back. “I…… will be taking my leave first.”
After I finished speaking, I retreated in a panic under Xie Zhao Ke gaze which was as sharp as a needle.
When it was only the first glimmer of dawn the next day, I was already dragged out from under the blanket by Yun Xiang and made to freshen up and dress up.
I said to Yun Xiang, “I’ll just wear that plain-colored one. It looks refreshing.”
“What are you talking about? It’s inappropriate to enter the palace while dressed in dull-colored clothes.” Xie Zhaoke’s voice suddenly sounded and scared me until my whole body broke out in cold sweat.
“Third Elder Sister?”
Xie Zhaoke’s smile was beautiful and radiant and even more dazzling than the sun. Her maidservant, Bao Ling followed inside and held a set of dress in her hands. When Xie Zhaoke shook it open, my eyes shone.
Images of twining vines were elaborately embroidered onto the lilac material with silver threads. The azure silk threads outlined the tender shoots of the ivy while smooth and bright pearls and diamonds were studded in between, making it bright and dazzling. The whole skirt was like water cutting through clouds and lustrous. It was elegant yet not plain and looked expensive yet not gaudy as though it was made by heaven.
Yun Xiang had exclaimed in admiration before I could do so, “What a beautiful dress.”
Xie Zhaoke smiled at me genially. “This was gifted to me by our maternal grandmother, Princess Dong Wan, for my sixteenth birthday. This elder sister has always been reluctant to wear it. Now that I have brought it here to gift to younger sister, I hope that younger sister will wear it. Giving a good impression to the Empress also helps to bring glory to our family.”
Bring glory? Ever since I joined the 100m race to bring glory to my class when I was 14 years old, I no longer brought glory for someone.
I declined, “Third Elder Sister, with this appearance and body figure of mine, wearing these clothes will be too wasteful.”
Xie Zhaoke covered her mouth. “How can that be? Younger sister is looking more and more like concubine mother. After a few years, you’ll definitely be a great beauty who doesn’t lose out to me.”
Yun Xiang was simple and also urged excitedly, “Miss, just quickly wear it. It’s so beautiful!”
Xie Zhaoke’s gaze was already going to start murdering people again, how could I still refuse?
Hence, not only did I wear that high-class robes handmade by an Italian master, I also let Xie Zhaoke personally put on some trending ‘autumn red makeup’ on me with utmost care. Then, she inserted gold and silver jewelleries all over my head.
Yun Xiang stood in front of me while holding a mirror. She stammered with great excitement, “Miss…… Miss is……so, so, so…. So pretty!!”
I said that it was all thanks to Third Elder Sister transforming something from rotten into magical.
Xie Zhaoke’s profound smile contained satisfaction and jealousy. I glanced at her and suddenly felt that she was actually living in a very exhausting manner and also very pitifully. She was busy all the time for the sake of a very small happiness which actually currently appears to have no hope. She was really pitiful.
When we walked to the main hall to gather, everyone else was already there.
Xie Zhaoying was deferentially listening to Madam Xie’s lecture. when he lifted his head and saw me, he was stupefied for a moment.
I glared at him fiercely.
Instead, he grinned. “So beautiful!”
My face blushed.
He then moved closer. “How do you feel?”
I told the truth, “My hair is so heavy!”
Xie Zhaoying laughed heartily.
The carriages took approximately an hour to reach the palace. All of us alighted from the carriages and switched to the palanquins in the palace. Then, after meandering and taking multiple bends for so long, did we finally arrive at the venue for the Empress’ banquet.
Translated and Edited by: HaruOngy and LalaKurouds
Great news everyone! Luxe has kindly offered to help edit! 🙂 Let’s welcome Luxe! ^_^ Hope that an extra pair of eyes will reduce the errors drastically haha
Luxe has already been working on a few chapters and I will be updating Chapter 1 to revise the errors. For now, Luxe will mainly be focusing on the upcoming chapters and maybe only edit the older chapters when there’s time.