Chapter 11: Disclosure (1)
After another month, Emperor Zhou’wu’s body was already much sturdier. His hearing and smelling was more sensitive than before, and his ability to go about Bi’Xiao Palace alone was definitely not a problem. Recently, he has been pacing around the entrance of the palace anxiously because his body has already been in a coma for around two months. If he doesn’t wake up soon, internal turmoil in Zhou will soon escalate. Furthermore, Grand Preceptor Shen and Huiru have gradually become more daring and open with gathering power to the extent that he now sense a thread of threat from their actions. If he allows the situation to continue, they may soon try to steal his throne. He already cannot doubtlessly trust the Shen family.
But even more anxious than him is Nurse Feng. Seeing that since the day the emperor put the master under house arrest he has not even asked of her, as if he has completely forgot that such a person exists, the nurse couldn’t just sit around anymore.
“Your Ladyship, why don’t you make an embroidered purse for the emperor. Then he would know that you are always thinking of him. If not, when would this house arrest end?” Nurse Feng encouraged as she massaged Meng Sangyu’s shoulders.
Emperor Zhou’wu who just ran into the the bed chamber hearing so immediately dangerously glared at Head Nurse Feng. The Virtuous Consort is his woman. How dare this servant tell her to make a purse for that fake!
“Don’t worry, I’ll be able to go out soon. His Majesty has not visited the inner palace in two months. Recently, there have been rumored that His Majesty has harmed his stem and can no longer produce offspring. Minister Li’s party has recently been advising His Majesty to style an empress and heir. The best option for the title is naturally Noble Consort Li and the second prince. The gracious consort has long viewed the empress’s seat as her own. Not only so, but she is also very intelligent and sharp, well versed in how to use others to balance powers. She will definitely let me out to muddy the waters. But it really is too bad that I never cared for that seat. It’s not possible for me to fulfill her wish of fighting Noble Consort Li for it. I’d rather she not let me out, I can just relax then.” Meng Sangyu waved her hand, her voice full of powerlessness.
“The one who made His Majesty punish you is her, the one that wants to make His Majesty let you out is her as well, Since when has she had such a huge influence on His Majesty? It’s only been a blink of an eye and she has already gained such favor. It couldn’t be that she used some hex on His Majesty could it? With Noble Consort Li, Worthy Consort, and Your Ladyship, no matter what the person for the empress seat couldn’t be her!” Nurse Feng could not understand where the gracious consort came from in the line for empress.
“She doesn’t have any magical powers, you’re overthinking nanny.” Meng Sangyu laughed. Then in a barely audible mumble, “This empress seat has always been hers, who else would it before.”
“What? Your Ladyship what were you saying?” Nurse Meng hurriedly asked, not having heard clearly.
The hearing of the dog kind has always been better than that of humans. Emperor Zhou’wu heard Meng Sangyu’s mumble clearly. His body froze as his heart shook. Hearing this conversation, this woman couldn’t have already seen through our feelings for the gracious consort could she? How sharp is she?
He first became angry at being seen through, but then his heart was filled with a heavy guilt. Emperor Zhou’wu swung his tail and ran away. He didn’t know how to face this woman. She clearly knows much more than he had thought. So she never cared for the empress seat. All the guard he had put up against her has become a complete joke.
Not having noticed the little fur ball who came and left, Meng Sangyu waved her hand toward Head Nurse Feng, not wishing to continue this topic.
In the court, the Shen family and Li family’s battle has escalated more and more. Minister Li’s network was deeply rooted while Grand Preceptor Shen held the emperor’s favor. The two parties just barely even out in power. This deadlock is heard to break, one would have to come in from the side.
And at this time, Shen Huiru, as expected, wanted to leverage the forces, telling the fake emperor to release the virtuous consort and letting her join this battle. The virtuous consort had never viewed her as a threat, she definitely would not be considered an opponent. The virtuous consort would definitely scheme against Noble Consort Li. Then all she would have to do is watch on the side and wait to reap the profits.
As expected, in just a few days Meng Sangyu received her mother’s request to visit and the emperor allowed it. This was a sign that her house arrest was over.
Mother Meng was thirty-some nearing forty. About 60 – 70 percent similar to the virtuous consort, still considerably young and beautiful, except for the few deep wrinkles on her forehead. The wrinkles on her forehead appear as if they had formed over years of furrowing her brows, from which how much she worries is evident.
“Lin (TN: Meng Sanyu’s mother’s maiden (family) name) pays her respects to Your Ladyship…” seeing that her daughter entered the main hall, Mother Meng quickly got up to pay her respects but was was quickly stopped by Meng Sangyu before she could.
“Mother pay no heed to formalities, sit!” Meng Sangyu helped her mother to the guest seat, after which she sat in the head seat.
Head Nurse Feng picked up A’Bao intending to carry him out and leave the room for the mother and daughter, but A’Bao started whimpering. He pawed at Nurse Feng’s arms as he looked teary eyed at the virtuous consort, his unwillingness clear to see. After interacting with the virtuous consort for so long, he has long discovered that she could not resist this expression. As long as he pulls out this expression, the virtuous consort immediately abides his wishes.
Mother Meng must have brought news of Meng Changxiong with her. He must stay to listen on the side. Remembering that Meng Changxiong is the virtuous consort’s father, his feelings become incredibly complicated. But he already could not allow himself to take advantage of and hurt the virtuous consort as he had before. As long as Meng Changxiong is willing to give away his military power, he probably wouldn’t take back the favors he has given to the virtuous consort. Not only so, but he also would compensate even more for the past. In the back of his mind, he didn’t want to picture the virtuous consort living a desolate and cold lifestyle in the future. An exuberant smiling face suits her much better.
“Nanny, give A’Bao to me. You don’t have to leave either, stay and serve us.” As he expected, Meng Sangyu’s expression softened. She immediately took A’Bao into her arms and gave him a kiss.
Getting his way, A’Bao’s tail uncontrollably started wagging. He was getting better and better at pleasing his master now.
“Yes.” Nurse Feng gave a surprised expression, but inside she was quite happy. Usually when the duchess comes to the palace, master never lets her serve on the side. She had thought that master doesn’t trust her.
“So this little thing is the culprit of your house arrest?” Mother Meng asked, pointing at A’Bao. Seeing that her daughter was still all smiles, cheerful as before she married, Mother Meng’s serious face also softened.
“It doesn’t have to with A’Bao. The gracious consort has hated me for a long time, A’Bao was just an excuse. Even without A’Bao, she would still find another reason to find trouble.” Meng Sangyu stated with a careless attitude as she rubbed A’Bao’s little paws. Evidently, she wasn’t bothered at all by her house arrest.
Emperor Zhou’wu perked up his ears to listen to their conversation as he laid in Meng Sangyu’s arms. His heartbeat no longer quickens at the mention of ‘gracious consort,’ instead he felt warmed by the virtuous consort’s protectiveness.
“What right does she have to hate you?” Mother Meng’s voice was full of anger, “In these three years, how much danger have you shielded for her, how many enemies have you gotten rid of for her? All she has had to do is comfortably stay in Zhong’cui Palace and sit there waiting for the emperor’s love and care. What does she have to be unsatisfied about?”
A’Bao’s ears twitched and the paws on the virtuous consort’s arms stiffened.
Nurse Feng, on the other hand, had only a confused expression. She couldn’t understand what the masters’ words meant. What do they mean that Her Ladyship has been shielding danger for the gracious consort?
“It’s because she’s unsatisfied that she hates me! My position as the head of the four consorts was supposed to be hers, my right to manage the inner palace was supposed to be hers, my Bi’Xiao Palace my Lin’Yun Hall my private treasury, my everything was originally all supposed to be hers. Wouldn’t she hate me?” Meng Sangyu gave a scornful laugh. Her voice full of powerlessness and disdain made Emperor Zhou’wu’s heart tremble.
“Ridiculous! How come she doesn’t see how many times you’ve been fed poison, how many times you’ve tripped up by the others, how many times you’ve been fed birth control medication*? Let’s see how long she would live in this palace if she swapped with you! Members of the Shen family are all so lowly, yet they all make it seem as if they’re saints! The emperor must be blind!” Mother Meng’s face flushed red and her voice got angrier as she spoke.
Emperor’s Zhou’wu’s body stiffened a bit more at every word Mother Meng said. Fed poison, tripped up, birth control medication, he knew of all these things, but now hearing about it was as if a knife was carving away at his heart. A painful guilt and shame stuffed his chest.
“Mother! Watch your words!” Meng Sangyu quickly shook her hand to awaken her careless mother.
Mother Meng’s face stiffened and she immediately calmed her angry expression.
“Why must my poor daughter who should be living a pampered life be sent to this palace to be desecrated…” Mother Meng’s voice choked up. She shook her head unable to speak another word. Her haggard face face looked as if it just aged another ten years.
Emperor Zhou’wu used his paws to cover his ears, he didn’t dare to listen anymore. Desecrated. What he has done is worthy of this description. He didn’t have to right to be angry at Mother Meng’s words.
“Father maintains an army of a million men. Whoever marries me would basically have married a lifted knife. In this Zhou empire, who would dare marry me other than the emperor?” Meng Sangyu laughed with self disdain. Her voice relaxed, “Do not be upset for me mother, I’m well. Power, servants, riches, I already have what any woman could ever want, what is there to be unsatisfied about? Don’t you see that even Shen Huiru who is the sole love of His Majesty is jealous of me?”
Her voice was so casual and her expression so relaxed that even Mother Meng’s expression softened.
Emperor Zhou’wu laid in her arms. He didn’t even know how to describe this woman anymore. She seemed as if she viewed all the troubles around her as a sort of blessing, a sort of challenge she must overcome to grow. She didn’t have any hate nor dissatisfaction. Being by her side, every day is enriched and happy. Even the greatest frustrations could be forgotten. Without her company, he doesn’t know if he could have gotten through these sixty some days a becoming an animal.
If he had a pair of hands at this time, he would only wish to tightly hug this woman. At this moment, Emperor Zhou’wu’s hope to return to his human body was stronger than ever before. Unknowingly, the impression Shen Huiru had on his heart has faded, and in its place is Meng Sangyu’s lively smiling face.
Mother Meng quietly adjusted her feelings for a moment. She wiped away the tears in the corner of her eyes and slowly began talking about the actual business, “This time I’m here for your brother’s marriage.”
“Oh? Who’s daughter is brother interested in this time?” Meng Sangyu lightly squeezed A’Bao’s ears and asked curiously.
“It’s not him, it’s me. It’s the vice minister of the Ministry of Ceremonies, Fu Guangda’s eldest daughter born to his first wife*. Although her appearance is a bit plain, but she has a strong personality and a bright mind. She began managing household matters and taking care of her baby brother at a young age. She’s been able to live quite comfortably under the oppression and cruelty of her step-mother. We need this kind of girl to watch after your brother, to make him cause less trouble!” Mother Meng laughed, clearly very pleased with this lady Fu.
“It’s going to be hard to deal with if she has a plain appearance, brother loves beauties most, how could he possibly be interested? If it wasn’t for this personality of his, he wouldn’t have caused such enormous trouble half a year ago.” Meng Sangyu rubbed her temples. Speaking of her older brother gives her headaches.
Emperor Zhou’wu habitually put one of her fingers in his mouth and nibbled on it, wanting to make her happier. Meng Sangyu gave him a gentle smile.
“How can he be blamed for that? If Shen Xiyan didn’t steal Liu Qisi’s virginity yet refused to buy her out leading to her suicide, your brother wouldn’t have beat him and made him scar his face. You just weren’t there to see it. Liu Qisi’s servant even brought out all those love letters with Shen Xiyan’s promises of saving her from that place. But then what happened? He took her virginity and then just disappeared! That Liu Qisi sowed the seeds to her own demise. Your brother wanted to buy her out back then but she adamantly refused. Don’t know if she’s regretting it now!” Mother Meng waved her handkerchief, reflecting on the event.
“She had also been the daughter of an official and had received a few years of education. How could she be interested in our unaccomplished brother? This is why they say that being too prideful is no good. If a person wants to live comfortably, they have to adjust to the times and be able to clearly recognize their situation,” Meng Sangyu reflected.
Emperor Zhou’wu again was stabbed by needles of regret and guilt. It’s because of his trust for Grand Preceptor Shen and the gracious consort that he didn’t deeply investigate this matter. He didn’t even know that there was such a disgraceful secret to the event. Remembering how the gracious consort often complimented her brother, he felt even more disgusted. The virtuous consort’s poor brother was rewarded by him with a birching, leaving him unable to get out of bed for three whole months.
Seeing A’Bao squirm into her arms as if he was cold, Meng Sangyu quickly loosened her outer garment and snuggled him inside. The light flowery scent and warmth from her body healed Emperor Zhou’wu’s restless heart.
Mother Meng also moved over to rub A’Bao’s head. She spoke with a hopeful expression, “Your brother being unwilling is exactly what I’m afraid of. That’s why I’m asking you to get a decree of marriage. I can’t force him, only you and your dad can make him do anything. Your dad is far away at the border, mother can only rely on you now.”
At this note, Meng Sangyu immediately nodded her head. “Don’t worry mother, I’ll take care of it. Right now I haven’t entirely lost favor yet. Getting a decree of marriage from His Majesty is still possible. Official Fu’s family is only of scholars without any actual power. His Majesty should agree.”
Hearing this Emperor Zhou’wu’s chest got stuffy again. Just thinking of this woman using that passionate and affectionate attitude to please that fake is unbearable, even if she’s just faking it.
Notes and Blurbs
*TN: Didn’t know quite how to translate this. The original phrase was 避子汤 (Bi Zi Tang) which basically means “birth control soup.” In ancient China, women who did not wish to have children often took lead, mercury, and arsenic for birth control, but many historical fiction novels claim that there are different herbal medications that can prevent pregnancy. So basically storyline-wise, Meng Sangyu can’t have a child (and thus is unable to bear a heir to the throne) because of this.
*TN: The actual phrase used is 嫡长女 (Di Zhang Nv) 嫡 meaning of formal lineage (the children born by the first/official wife) 长 meaning eldest and 女 meaning female (child). All other children (children of concubines) are considered 庶子 (Shu Zi), they are all considered children of the first wife. In a sense concubines are not considered wives, yet there is a recognition of the intimate relationship. Most concubines are considered servants of a sort at least to the first wife and the master of the household (husband). Things work kinda differently in the imperial family though since all offspring are of royal blood. Normally 庶子 are kinda like half children, half servant to the children of the first wife. Marriage-wise, the ideal would be for the children of the formal line to marry in two families that have similar societal positions and for the children of concubines to marry in two families that have similar societal positions. In this case, even though Lady Fu has a step-mother (99% chance because of the death of her mother and not a divorce), her birth mother who was the first wife is still considered the formal wife. In social formality, the first wife (unless in a divorce which is like less than 0.001% chance) still stands above the step-wife. But in actuality the first wife is dead so… all she can do for her kids now is having existed before the step-wife.