Chapter 5: The Sneak-away
Despite guessing the truth, the worry in Emperor Zhou’wu’s heart did not lessen a bit. Even if his body has not been invaded by a monster, and his imperial power was not in threat of being stolen, if he did not wake up soon, Zhou will still fall into chaos eventually.
But since he is now stuck in a newborn puppy, he is not even able to protect himself, much less take back his body. He clearly understood that he needed help.
When he first awoke, he had speculated that perhaps if this body died, he would be able to return. But in the end, it was still just a speculation. If he couldn’t return, then everything would end. He was used to being in control of his fate, never partaking in matters he was not certain about. Thus, after refusing to eat for two days, he gave up on taking his life.
At the moment, he needs to quickly find the people he trust the most and gain access to communication with them, telling them to find a way to switch his body back.
In this forbidden palace, the people he can trust are only the Head Manager Euniche Chang Xi, head of the hidden guards Yan Junwei, and the only woman he loves – Gracious Consort Shen Huiru. Out of these three people, with his current position, the easiest to have access to would naturally be Huiru – if he was sent to Huiru’s Zhong’cui Palace back then. If he was, he would not have to be as stressed as he was at the moment. Although he is unable to speak, but he could still write with some ink on his paws. Huiru is braver than most and would definitely not be scared.
Thinking of needing to quickly head to Qian’qing Palace to search for the truth, Emperor Zhou’wu strolled around the garden, putting up a façade of being focused on playing in an attempt to numb the servants’ attention to him and take the chance to sneak off.
However, as expected as an offspring of generals, Meng Sangyu’s strategy of rule was incredible. Since she had already ordered for everyone to watch after A’Bao, the servants waiting on him would definitely not let A’Bao out of their sight.
After trying for a whole afternoon, Emperor Zhou’wu who couldn’t find an thread of space to run out had to give up and was carried back inside.
An endless sky of flaming clouds appeared outside the window, bringing out the beauty in the sunset of autumn.
Meng Sangyu dazed off into the distance at the clouds hanging in the sky with A’Bao in her lap. Her expression was calm, and her line of sight reaching afar. Although she was standing here, to Emperor Zhou’wu it felt as if the person embracing him has already become a soulless shell. The intense desolation emitted from her body made his heart tremble.
His chest again felt heavy. Emperor Zhou’wu called back Meng Sangyu’s mind with a whimper.
“A’Bao you’re hungry now aren’t you? Let’s call for our meal now. Tonight we’ll have steamed egg for a change.” Feeling the warmth in her arms, Meng Sangyu met A’Bao’s clear eyes with hers and gently smiled.
(TN: yummmm, fave! <3)
The unreachable feeling immediately subsided, this soft smile reflected into Emperor Zhou’wu’s eyes, leaving him to daze momentarily. He uncontrollably wagged his tail, then quickly froze, hiding from the woman’s line of sight with his head down.
Dinner was very bountiful. Other than the steamed egg, Meng Sangyu also requested a bowl of warm goat milk. Emperor Zhou’wu had been spent and hungry for a while, voraciously devouring his meal. He even finished half a bowl of goat milk, which he would’ve never touched before as emperor.
By the end of the meal, his caved in stomach had swelled into a ball. The adorable waddle in his walk made Meng Sangyu unable to control her laughter, picking him and petting him all over.
Emperor Zhou’wu quickly struggled out of her grasp and fled into his basket with her laughter in the background. He pulled up his little blanket and began pretending to sleep. His human-like actions again roused another round of light laughter in the hall.
Emperor Zhou’wu was infuriated. He grinded his baby teeth and swore that when he switched back his body he would get this woman back. But what he didn’t notice was that at this moment, in the face of Meng Sangyu, his heart has already become soft. If he had been treated like this in the past, it would not just be a matter as simple as getting the other person back.
Seeing that A’Bao was going to sleep, Meng Sangyu took the bookkeeping journal that Head Nurse handed over and started to attend to the matters of her palace.
Noble Consort Li’s status was the highest and had additionally given birth to a son and daughter, the primary candidate for the empress position. However, the emperor was feared the power of her relatives and guards against Minister Li. Under this condition, how could he possibly allow the power of the inner palace fall into the hands of Noble Consort Li? Thus, Meng Sangyu, who had a similar family background to Noble Consort Li got to receive the spotlight. Under the purposeful negligence of Emperor Zhou’wu, she obtained a portion of power of the inner palace. Although living as a chess piece is woeful, but it is exactly because she had a value to be exploited that she has been able to survive in this forbidden palace. To this, she had no complaints. The only thing she could do was to grasp every opportunity she could to create a more comfortable future for herself.
As Meng Sangyu concentrated on her palace matters, she did not notice that the A’Bao, who was supposed to be sleeping in his basket, had already disappeared. His dark brown fur and petite body became the perfect disguise. The servants that start to relax their minds as night approaches all did not notice that there was a little ball flipping over the threshold at their feet and running into the night.
When he ran out of the area lit by the red lanterns of Bi’xiao Palace, Emperor Zhou’wu realized that he made a dire mistake. He had originally thought, dogs were the same as wolves, able to see the surroundings clearly even in the dark. After all, they were part of the same family. But reality has told him that it wasn’t the case.
Dogs do not have the ability to see in the dark, relying completely on their hypersensitive sense of smell and hearing. Very unfortunately, the Emperor Zhou’wu at the moment is still just a small puppy, with his hearing and smell not yet completely developed. Even if they were completely developed, he wouldn’t know how to use them all of a sudden.
(TN: DISCLAIMER: Dogs DO have night vision – at least much better than human night vision. Thought I should make this clear. There is NO evidence of dog eyesight being poorer than wolf eyesight. The retina is made up of two types of photoreceptor cells – rods and cones. Rods are responsible for detecting light and thus night vision. Canines have more rods than humans do and less cones than humans do – that is all that has been found so far. While it has been suggested that dogs’ abilities to see details are approximately six times less than humans’ and that the spectrum of color a dog can see is so limited compared to a human’s that they’re basically colorblind, I have not seen any evidence that their eyesight is in anyway different from other canines.)
Looking at the endless darkness, Emperor Zhou’wu hesitated. But a second later, He still continued towards the unknown darkness before him. He never backs away from hardship.
Walking on the path paved with little rocks was rough on his feet. The thresholds and door steps that he used to be able to just lift his leg over became one mountain after another, requiring all the strength he could muster to climb over. The low shrubs and flowers became towering trees of a forest. His eyes that are unable to distinguish color could only see a landscape of dark and light shades of gray…
Emperor Zhou’wu thought that he already walked really far and for really long, but using his body size, that was basically just as big as a hand, all he walked was just a few hundred meters. It’s good that his memory is better than most. He had already memorized the path to the back side door in his mind from his search during the day. After struggling forward for about two hours, he finally came within sight of the already locked side door.
Emperor Zhou’wu was ecstatic, quickly running towards the door and quickly squeezed through the crack below the door. A cold breeze blew in his face with the scent of burning candles mixed within. The footsteps of the imperial army’s guards making their night rounds could be heard just a distance away.
He arrived at the imperial garden. After passing the imperial garden and heading north for another 500 meters would be Qian’qing Palace. Emperor Zhou’wu’s footsteps quickened, showing his hidden excitement. But he quite obviously forgot, past the side door was some tens of steps. While these steps weren’t actually steep, but to a tiny puppy, they were no different from cliffs.
Suddenly, Emperor Zhou’wu stepped empty. His body began descending into a roll down when he finally remembered this with much regret. He used all his might to wave his paws in an attempt to steady his body, but was unsuccessful. Instead, it changed the direction of his fall towards the bush of hollies next to the stairs.
The fall wasn’t heavy with some cushioning from the branches of the bush. But the skies did not bless Emperor Zhou’wu, his neck got caught between a splitting branch. The more he struggled, the tighter he was caught. His consciousness was fading with the steadily thinning air.
His chest pulsated, something was being sucked out of this little body thread by thread, slowly and painfully. Emperor Zhou’wu continued to fruitlessly struggle. Suddenly a small flickering hazy light appeared in the darkness before him. He knew, he was about to suffocate. It’s an indescribable feeling.
Will the virtuous consort have found that he disappeared? Will she comes save him? The emergence of this thought obtained Emperor Zhou’wu’s own hopeless scorn. The palace doors have already been locked and he already ran out of Bi’xiao Palace. Even if she were to look, why would she spend so much effort?
How laughable it is that the Emperor Zhou’wu of Zhou would soundlessly die undiscovered in a corner of his own palace!
But at this time, the sound of footsteps came out from behind the side door. A palace maid could just barely be heard saying, “Your ladyship, A’Bao has a love for running to the side door during the day, this servant would not remember wrongly.”
“Search, quickly search!” The woman’s worried and desperate voice had a slight choke in it. What followed was the clamor of the messy search.
“Wu wu~“ hearing this heavenly familiar voice, the feeling of having his soul pulled out from his body suddenly stopped. The consciousness that was gradually flowing away seemed as if it was returning and Emperor Zhou’wu started calling with all his might.
“Stop, I think I heard A’Bao’s voice!” The woman sternly exclaimed, and the servants quieted.
The choking sound again clearly came out, but was becoming weaker and weaker.
“He’s behind the side door!” Meng Sangyu’s solemn eyes lit up, hurriedly ordering, “Quick, open the side door for me!”
“But Your ladyship, the palace rules state that after the palace doors have been locked, they cannot be opened at will.” A euniche hurriedly tried to dissuade her.
“What are you nagging about! Do you not hear that A’Bao’s voice is incredibly painful? If he could come in he would’ve came in by himself long ago. He must have met some danger. Open the door for us quickly, I will take all responsibility!” The woman recovered her domineering performance.
This style of talking that he abhorred hearing usually now sounded so incredibly lovable at this moment. He tried as much as he could to maintain his breath and consciousness. He knew, that overbearing woman was going to save him.
The sound of rubbing metal followed by the heavy sound of the lock dropping carried over. The side door was pushed open and the sound of messy, hurried footsteps got closer and closer, following the sound of his choked whimpering.
The gallow-like branch was broken in half. A pair of warm hands carefully picked him up into a gentle embrace. Emperor Zhou’wu’s nose sniffled, his closed eyes were slightly moist. The moment was so reassuring and gentle, he allowed himself to fall unconscious.
Seeing A’Bao laying in her arms motionless, Meng Sangyu did not dare to touch him. She cradled his petite body in her arms with a tremble just barely noticeable.
“Hurry, get the imperial physician!” Her voice felt extremely dry.
To others, this was just a dog, a plaything to pass time. To her, this was her playmate, friend, even family. One of those existences that she cannot give up on even in the face of life-and-death. She could get close to him without fear or hesitation. She didn’t have to worry about whether her disregard for hierarchy would pull him down. She could tell him everything that was on her mind, without being scared that one day he would suddenly betray her.
She didn’t want to lose the important room in her heart that was set aside for A’Bao.