Chapter 15: Calamity (2)
Shaking off the water and bearing with the extreme pain in his stomach, Emperor Zhou’wu slowly headed towards Bi’xiao Palace. As of now, it seems that Chang Xi also cannot be relied upon. Yan Junwei is the head of my secret guards, loyal to the imperial family for generations, his loyalty is undeniable. But he comes and goes like a ghost, wishing to find him is as hard as reaching the skies. What to do? Should we tell Sangyu our real identity?
Emperor Zhou’wu looked down at his wet and muddy front paws and temporarily forced down this thought. His image before Sangyu has originally been beyond horrid, if he were to appear in this form before her…. He shook his head and didn’t dare to think on. He couldn’t bear losing Sangyu’s bright smile, her warm embrace, and most of all her sweet kisses. If she finds out A’Bao is him, she would undoubtedly put up a heavy wall around her heart, and he would no longer be able to get close again.
Emperor Zhou’wu was devastated and didn’t even notice when he took the wrong path. He turned into the study area for the imperial princes and princesses. It was the time that the princes and princesses return to their palaces with their study mates*.
“Look, what is that ugly thing?” The study mate of the second prince exclaimed as he pointed at Emperor Zhou’wu at the corner.
A poodle’s body size is quite small in the first place, not to mention one with wet fur sticking tightly to his skin. Furthermore, so much dust and dirt collected on his fur en route that you couldn’t even tell what he originally looked like. He really was extremely ugly.
“Is this a dog or a giant rat?” The third princess tugged at the sleeves of her brother, asking curiously.
“Who cares what he is, quickly chase him away! He’s dirtying this prince’s eyes!” The second prince furrowed his brows and commanded his attendants and study mate.
At the moment, he was the strongest competitor for crown prince and of the most noble blood. There were tons of people who hoped to gain his favor. Hearing his command, several attendants hurried forward to chase away the ugly little thing. There was also a study mate who was quite clever and picked up several rocks and hurled them at the ugly thing.
Emperor Zhou’wu had already sustained heavy internal injuries from being kicked before, having no energy to dodge. He couldn’t even move a step before he was hit on the back with rocks. He immediately fell to the ground, whimpering in pain. His painful whimpering seemed to please the second prince. The second prince’s eyes brightened and he also picked up a rock. He called out to the attendants who surrounded the ugly thing, “No need to chase him away anymore! All of you get out of the way! Don’t block this prince’s view!”
A rock smashed into the walkway next to Emperor Zhou’wu’s feet with strong force, making return from shock from the pain. All he heard was the second prince coldly say, “Run you little thing! If you don’t run this prince will pelt you to death!” As he said so, the study mate by the second prince’s side already picked up a smooth round rock and passed it into the second prince’s hands.
If I don’t run I get pelted, if I run I still get pelted, let’s run! If we’re lucky we can still keep a life! Emperor Zhou’wu didn’t have time to think about anything else. He immediately rolled over and ran in the opposite direction.
Several study mates already enveloped over, using rocks to chase him towards the second prince. If the second prince wanted to play, they must ensure that the second prince enjoys it. Emperor Zhou’wu had no choice but to turn around and run toward the second prince. The second prince laughed out loud, throwing rocks at him nonstop. Numerous rocks swiped by him, but even more coldly fell on his body.
The nonstop sounds of dull thuds with the laughter of the prince’s study mates mixed in it. The third princess and seventh princess’s cold shoulder and clapping and cheering. Emperor Zhou’wu felt as if his body was falling apart, and his heart even more. His heart fell to the depths of the abyss. Were these the children that he has loved and pampered? He couldn’t see a shred of cleverness nor respect. Those young faces with eyes full of ill intent made him shiver.
Just dying like this for no reason in the hands of his own children, how sad and laughable would he be? After he goes down to Styx** he would be ashamed to face the ancestors of the Gu family! Emperor Zhou’wu grinded his teeth, trying as hard as he could to maintain consciousness. His four paws were already numb from running with all his might, left and right. He escaped from the second prince’s heavy encirclement.
In his direction came a calm and collected, handsome youth. Seeing the youth, Emperor Zhou’wu’s eyes lit up as he sped towards his side. This was his first prince. His personality is the most gentle, he probably wouldn’t harm him. The first prince is the son of passed Pure Consort. The Pure Consort was the first woman he ever had, naturally his feelings for her were the most special. But because he was young and naïve then and didn’t know to hide his feelings, she was envied by the women of the inner palace and ended up passing away. Ever since then, he had hidden his emotions to the depths of his heart, never easily letting anyone see them. As for the first prince, although he loves him, he did not show it on the surface. As such, the first prince has been able to successfully grow up without the protection of his mother consort.
Seeing the little thing running towards him, the first prince dazed in surprise. Then when he saw the second prince and his entourage chasing after it, he pursed his lips and immediately turned onto another path. Emperor Zhou’wu still wanted to follow, but he was brushed away by the feet of the first prince’s study mate. The force was light, it was only meant to ward him off.
“Let’s go. Going up against the second prince for just a dog, it’s not worth it.” The first prince’s saw that his study mate showed an expression of pity and he couldn’t help but furrow his brows deeply. His voice was monotone, lacking the energy of a youth.
“Yes!” His study mate heeded and again, lightly touched Emperor Zhou’wu with the heels of his feet, as if hurrying him to run faster.
Emperor Zhou’wu’s wandering mind returned from the first prince’s coldness. The second prince was already here and he was again encircled by a bunch of people. Rocks fell as if rain drops, showering on him until he bled and bruised. Not a part of his body was undamaged.
Another rock hit his forehead. Emperor Zhou’wu whimpered and fell down, panting, no longer having any energy to get back up. The second prince walked forward with a twisted laugh as he used the tip of his feet to crush his tail. The crackling of his bones breaking sounded. Emperor Zhou’wu’s paws twitched, and he was close to becoming unconscious.
“Stop!” A cold and clear voice sounded, stopping the cruel actions of the second prince.
“Fourth sister, we’re just playing around amongst ourselves, what’s it got to do with you?” The second prince hadn’t even opened his mouth when the third princess already walked forward to question loudly.
The newcomer was a seven or eight year old little girl. Although young, she was already incredibly beautiful and with an elaborate palace attire, she seemed even more noble and authoritative. The girl was the fourth princess, born by the late empress. She was Emperor Zhou’wu’s only daughter of formal lineage, with even higher status than the second prince. Due to his guilt towards the empress and because she was a daughter, Emperor Zhou’wu tended not to hide his love and affection for her. In this palace, there were few who dare to go against her.
“Killing even a small and weak animal, and in such a cruel and inhuman way, do you not think that this kind of action is too shameful? How does second imperial brother’s actions have any of the qualities that should be present in an heir apparent? Not to mention, this dog isn’t just any dog, he’s the Virtuous Consort’s beloved pet. If this matter were to pass into father’s ears by the Virtuous Consort, I fear that it may be disadvantageous for second imperial brother. If second imperial brother would please reconsider his actions.” The fourth princess stepped forward, stating coldly.
The second prince’s face turned white, then red, then white again. Finally, he picked up his foot and quelled down the idea of abusing A’Bao for entertainment, bringing away a crowd with him.
“Carry him, let’s go.” The fourth princess lowered her eyes and painted at the little puppy that barely had a breath left.
Emperor Zhou’wu opened his eyes with great difficulty and stared at the young little face of his fourth daughter. His emotions ran high and low, complex and difficult to put into words. This daughter did not let down his careful teaching. With such a presence at such a young age, such that she even had some similarity with Sangyu. But the third princess and the second prince… thinking of the inhumane beating he had just received moments before, Emperor Zhou’wu’s heart filled with disgust. Even if they are his children, having been treated in such a way, he could not bring himself to feel any love and affection for them again. Also, the second prince was already twelve, he should already understand what to do and what not to do, but still finds enjoyment in the torture of weak and small animals. For this, it can be seen how weak and cruel his heart and mind are. Zhou could not be left in the hands of such a person. When he returned to his body, he must make the Li family rest this idea once and for all.
The fourth princess slowly walked towards Bi’xiao Palace. Seeing the palace doors not far off, she stopped her steps and pointed towards a flower bush by the path and said, “Throw him in there.”
“Princess, you aren’t going to send the puppy back? He so hurt, if we just throw him by the side of the path he will die.” A palace maid just a few years older than the fourth princess hesitantly opened her mouth.
“Throw it!” A harsh look flashed across the fourth princess’s calm face. Emperor Zhou’wu widened his eyes, shocked at her sudden change.
The little palace maid didn’t dare hesitate any longer. She softly set the puppy down in the pot in a hurry. The thick leaves of the bush immediately covered his little body. Even if one were to look carefully it would be difficult to discover him.
“Princess…” The little palace maid looked at the flower bush with pity in her eyes.
“Let’s go! He’s the dog of the Virtuous Consort. The Virtuous Consort killed my mother, it’s already kind enough for this princess not to strangle him! Speak no more!” The fourth princess’s voice was freezing, and she walked away with no hesitation.
The one who forced your mother to death is us! It has nothing to do with Sangyu! Yutong, you should hate us, not her! Emperor Zhou’wu’s heart was being stabbed. He felt pain for his daughter losing her mother, but also felt pain for Sanyu being wrongly hated. It’s all our fault! Could it be that having us take over A’Bao’s body is the heaven’s punishment for us? (Author: You’ve found the truth! That’s right! It’s the creator god, my punishment!)
His heart twisted in pain and full of regret, Emperor Zhou’wu could not stop himself from letting out sorrowful whimpers.
Hearing a puppy’s whimpering, the fourth princess paused momentarily in her steps. Then she again took a few steps, grinded her teeth, and coldly ordered the little palace maid beside her, “Pull out all the leaves around him and make it more noticeable. Whether he can live will depend on whether the Virtuous Consort can find him in time.”
“Yes!” The little palace maid happily heeded, she quickly cleared out the leaves and grass around A’Bao. As such, if the passing servants just slightly look a bit more carefully they’ll be able to find him.
Emperor Zhou’wu gave a sigh of relief. He slowly closed his eyes as he listened to the footsteps of his daughter gradually walking away. One drop, two drop, numerous drop of rainwater fell on his body and brought with them a freezing cold that bit into his bones. It made his wandering mind momentarily clear up. He resisted the pain and curled into a ball, shivering as he drew out Meng Sangyu’s bright smile in his mind. The smile is bright like the sunshine, just recollecting it warmed his heart. His cold and frozen heart also started beating again to this warmth.
Sangyu, Sangyu… he called this name again and again in his heart. Other than the woman’s face, smile, kisses and hugs, Emperor Zhou’wu could no longer think of anything else.
When a person is nearing death, what he thinks of is often times the people and events closest to his heart. But it’s too bad that this realization came to him a bit too late! Emperor Zhou’wu sighed, his mind and memories blurring. In this daze, he heard a woman anxiously calling his name by his ear over and over. Because of this hallucination, he smiled, satisfied.
*Study Mate (no, not the site)
Original: 伴读 [Ban Du]
Direct Translation: Partner + Read/Study
Explanation: I could not find an English equivalent of this. A study mate was basically a child of similar age to a prince or princess, often of prestigious background, who would “receive the honor” of becoming attendant to imperial offspring. It’s mainly for the purpose of building connections and networks rather than actually being for actual studying purposes….
**Acheron (Updated to: Styx)
Original: 黄泉 [Huang Quan]
Direct Translation: Yellow River (But not the physical Yellow River of us mortals)
Explanation: It’s basically the Chinese River of Woe, so I translated it to Acheron from Greek mythology which is probably better recognized by English speakers.
! Update ! : I have definitely mistook Styx for Acheron! I have edited this chapter accordingly. Thanks to @tofutofu for pointing it out!
Sorry, to be honest I don’t think my translation for this chapter is even close to being good nor all that understandable, so I’ll try my best to explain or make changes if anyone doesn’t understand anything.
The maybe-a-spoiler-but-not-so-spoiler-spoiler: It’s not over. There’s moar.