Chapter 18: Change
The retainers once again pleaded for the emperor to pick an empress and crown prince, the emperor once again enraged, leaving court with a swing of his sleeves. The rumors this time came more viciously than the ones last. In less than one day, they had already spread across the capital. You couldn’t even suppress it. After all, the law does not punish the masses.
The imperial astronomers also reported their predictions to the emperor, only two words — big misfortune. Once this result came out, it was as if adding another ladle of water to a pot of oil. The entire court and inner palace were boiling.
Although the control in Bi’xiao Palace was strict, but it was also unavoidably affected by the matter. A small portion of people began feeling anxious and uneasy.
“Your Ladyship, let’s copy some sutras. This way, not only can we refine ourselves, we can also avoid disasters and reduce dangers. It would not be good to be affected by the airs of misfortune in the palace.” Nurse Feng cradled a stack of sutras in.
“It’s so cold that our hands are stiff. Why copy texts?” Meng Sangyu carefully unwrapped the bandages on A’Bao’s paws to check on the wound. A’Bao was strong, even when the bandages tugged painfully at his wound he didn’t make a sound. Instead Meng Sangyu was so afraid she hugged and kissed and blew on the wound. The two master and pet happily played the “you give me a kiss and I give you a lick” game.
“There’s were winter thunders and the ancient pine died, everyone is saying that it’s because the palace has been tainted with airs of misfortune. Whoever gets touched by it will be unlucky! Even His Majesty who has the aura of the dragon* protecting him has been severely wounded! Everyone has been copying the texts. If Your Ladyship won’t copy the texts that’s fine, this servant will copy them for you. But at least take one and put it under your pillow.” Nurse Feng took out the topmost text, the Lotus Sutra, and passed it to her master.
Meng Sangyu helplessly took the text. Nonchalantly flipped the pages saying, “There’s no need for all of you to be so scared. The so called thunder and lightning are just the sparks from a cold cloud and hot cloud bumping into each other. It’s the same as when two swords clash. The reason why there isn’t usually thunder in the winter is because the clouds in the winter are typically cold, so they mix. But if the weather is sometimes warmer and suddenly becomes colder after a few days, there will also be signs of thunder and lightning. Before yesterday, wasn’t the weather pretty warm for a few days? Last night’s thunder was caused by the warm clouds that haven’t dissipated. It has nothing to do with airs of misfortune or spirits and gods.”
Emperor Zhou’wu glanced up at her in surprise, fascinated by this novel logic. So thunder and lightning are caused by this? Thinking carefully, it does appear to explain it very well! How many mysterious and fascinating thoughts does she carry in that little head of hers?
“Your Ladyship knows so much!” Bi’Shui added some silver filaments to the fire pit, she joked, “but since Your Ladyship knows, why are you still so scared of it?”
Meng Sangyu paused. She tightly cradled A’Bao in her arms and said unembarrassed, “I’m scared cause I’m scared! What can I do about it? A’Bao’s also scared, he was even shivering last night. He was only able to go to sleep cause I was hugging him!”
When were we scared? When did we shiver? Are you bullying us cause we can’t speak? Emperor Zhou’wu furrowed his brows, but staring at the woman’s slightly pouting lips he suddenly laughed. Only at times like these Sangyu had an appearance of a 17 year old girl, cute with a tint of tricky, making his heart uncontrollably happy.
Seeing A’Bao whimper on their master’s lap, as if agreeing with their master, Yin’Cui, Bi’Shui, and Nurse Feng all laughed. This pair of master and pet have become even more in sync.
After she finished laughing, Bi’Shui curiously asked, “Then what’s the matter with the ancient pine of Tai’he Palace dying? I’ve heard that the ancient pine is able to predict the prosperity of the land.”
“The matter with the ancient pine is even more simple. What spirit, foresight, warning, misfortunes… it’s all just someone acting the part.” Meng Sangyu uncaringly waved her hand, making the everyone, including A’Bao, stare at her intently.
“If the tree has already lived thousands of years, its already had quite a long lifespan. Suddenly dying is normal, it’s just been used by someone as evidence that the previous imperial family angered the gods. Afterwards Founding Emperor took the throne and to make the Gu family’s rise seem to follow the wills of the gods, to appear more stately and heavenly, this ancient tree was again used. The so called revival is just the use of some secret method to lengthen the ancient tree’s lifespan. To be able to lengthen the lifespan by a hundred years is already not easy, it still will die eventually. Of course, for it to die at this exact time, there must be someone behind it. Just knowing is fine, this is something that should not be spoken of.” Meng Sangyu pressed her pointer finger on her lips.
How the ancient pine revived is an unpassed secret of the Gu family. The Founding Emperor had already known that the tree would not live long. After taking the throne, he buried a stone that had carved: ‘Forever existence’*. When this tree dies, this stone would be unearthed to support the imperial power of the Gu family. If he had not inherited the throne, Emperor Zhou’wu would not have known about this secret.
He took a deep look at Meng Sangyu. He already won’t be surprised by her intelligence. As for Noble Consort Li and Minister Li, the gentleness in his eyes immediately faded, replaced by bone-chilling frost. Touching even the imperial family’s symbol, the thirst of the Li family is getting bigger and bigger!
Nurse Feng and the others nodded their heads with enlightened expressions. A moment later, Nurse Feng, as if remembering something, asked in a lowered voice, “Your Ladyship, do you think the His Majesty really hurt… there?”
“Probably!” Meng Sangyu pouted her lips, “When His Majesty just returned to the palace didn’t he call for many renowned physician*? Those renowned physician all disappeared, it must be to cover up. His Majesty also has not stepped into the inner palace in two months, not touching even his beloved Gracious Consort, from which we can see that he must have the heart but no longer the ability.” When she finished, she began laughing, her expression showing clearly that she was enjoying his misfortune.
Without an offspring, Shen Huiru won’t be able to become Empress in this lifetime, and Grand Preceptor Shen’s dreams will have a difficult time becoming reality. As for herself, she already conveyed where she stands to Noble Consort Li. As a concubine without a son nor favor, Noble Consort Li wouldn’t do anything to her. Shen Huiru already has trouble dealing with Noble Consort Li, so it would be even harder for her to do anything. This is what allows for Meng Sangyu to live comfortably in the palace.
Hearing this, Emperor Zhou’wu’s face went dark. But seeing her bright eyes and slightly curling lips, his annoyance was swept away. Oh well, she can laugh if she wants! Just wait until we get back to our body. We will let you know whether we have the ability! It seems that we need to quickly find Junwei. It’s no use looking for a physician, we need a high monk to call our spirit back!
In the main hall of Qian’qing Palace, the fake emperor sat behind the imperial desk with a memorial in his hand. He took a brief glance and threw it off to the side, then picked up another and threw that one away too. His brows were deeply furrowed, as if he had endless worries.
“The Gracious Consort requests for an audience!” an eunuch reported from outside the hall. The fake emperor’s eyes brightened, immediately waving his hand, “Announce her in!”
Chang’xi led the Gracious consort into the palace and swung his fochen* to wave down the extra people in the hall.
The school* of servants retreated out, with their heads bowed deeply, not daring for their eyes to wander. Recently His Majesty’s mood has not been good, Qian’qing Palace has had numerous people die for curious reasons. The people with closest relations with His Majesty have died the quickest. They have all been fearful and careful, wishing they didn’t have eyes or ears.
When all the people had left, Chang’xi didn’t greet the emperor, but instead directly walked to the hall doors to guard. Shen Huiru straightened her slightly bent knees and naturally walked up and sat in the head seat that the emperor had stood up from.
“This servant greets Your Ladyship the Gracious Consort!” the fake emperor put away the atmosphere he had up as a front and respectfully kneeled down to greet her.
“You may rise!” Shen Huiru gave him a glance, her eyes complicated. Seeing this person with the same face that had always been so high and mighty bow in servitude to her, her heart felt both uncomfortable and a secret, unspeakable satisfaction. Finally she didn’t need to rely on his favor to live, finally she didn’t have to be anxious to lose what she had, finally she didn’t have to anticipate everyday…
“Your Ladyship, all of the memorials requesting for the crowning of an empress and heir are here. This servant has already held all of them back.” The fake emperor was alarmed by the stare of Shen Huiru, he pointed at the stack of memorials on the imperial desk to change the subject.
Shen Huiru shifted her eyes to the memorials, the emotion in her eyes slowly going from complicated to ice cold. She carelessly flipped through them, remembering in her heart each of the names on the . Inside the hall it was quiet enough to hear the drop of a needle, a heavy atmosphere shadowed over.
The fake emperor remained knelt to the side, not daring to lift his head.
Moments later, Shen Huiru finally opened her mouth and broke the silence in the hall, “Just holding them is not a solution!”
The fake emperor slightly lifted his head, cupping his hands, “If Your Ladyship would please enlighten us.”
“You will go to visit the Virtuous Consort tonight, and continue to favor only her for one month, until she becomes pregnant!” Shen Huiru curled her lips, her eyes emitting a deep and hidden light.
“Your Ladyship!?” The fake emperor immediately lifted his head in disbelief at this order. To taint the inner palace? This would taking his life!
“The Virtuous Consort has taken medicine for so many years, I’m afraid she won’t get pregnant that easily. All you have to do is visit her for a month, then secretly have her take this pill, making her show false signs of a pregnancy is all. Doesn’t she want to sit and watch us fight? But we want to drag her down in the water too! Once she has a child, she has to fight even if she doesn’t want to! Then we can just naturally retreat to behind the scenes, slowly attack the network of Minister Li and grow the power of the Shen family. When she finds that her pregnancy is fake, no matter what reaction she has, we have the ability to throw her down to the pits, making her wish she were dead!” As if she hadn’t seen the fake emperor’s expressions of fear and alarm, Shen Huiru passed her orders down.
“Your Ladyship, please forgive this servant’s disobedience!” the fake emperor grit his teeth, his forehead already covered in cold sweat.
“Even if you don’t want to you will do it. Did you really think the poison Yan Junwei fed you is already cleared?” Shen Huiru purposely paused here, seeing the fake emperor expression suddenly turn white as a sheet, she continued, “The cure we gave you has another poison, you can only live if you get medicine from us every month. His Majesty has already been unconscious for two months, almost three months now. We have asked the imperial physician, under these circumstances, the chances of waking up is nearly zero. If you help us, we can not only protect you, but also grant you a life of prosperity and honor. When the Shen family succeeds in the future, we will even allow you to leave, think carefully!”
The breath of the fake emperor became heavy. Several moments later he finally responded, “This servant will serve Your Ladyship.” He doesn’t believe a word of the Gracious Consort’s promises, but he had no choice. Although he will die sooner or later, but dying even a minute later is still better!
“Very good. You are a wise person, follow Chang’xi to the side hall. He will tell you some of the Virtuous Consort’s likes and dislikes. Think carefully and don’t get found out. When you’re done with the Virtuous Consort, if you see any other woman in the palace you like, just tell Chang’xi to take you. Even if you want Noble Consort Li it’s not impossible, but be careful not to show her too much favor!” Shen Huiru waved her hand, waving down the already noodle-legged fake emperor.
Seeing this back that appears no different from Gu Shaoze’s, a hint of hatred and satisfaction flowed from her eyes. Meng Sangyu, Li Shujing, if later you guys find out you had lowered yourselves to a measly servant, how would you feel?
“Your Ladyship, dragging it out like this is not a solution. Without an offspring, even if you defeat Noble Consort Li and the Virtuous Consort to the seat of the empress, it still would be pointless. The offspring is the most essential part of the Grand Preceptor’s plans, Your Ladyship you must quickly decide.” Her head maid Wan’qing couldn’t help interrupted her thoughts.
“We know, but for us and a servant to… we can’t do it! Does father have no other ways?” Shen Huiru’s fist were clenched until they were white.
“To fake a pregnancy and secretly transport an infant into the palace would use a huge amount of labor and resources, not to mention it would be difficult to not have any mistakes made during a period of ten months. Minister Li and Noble Consort Li are all carefully watching us. A slight mistake would endanger the entire Shen family. The plan made by the Grand Preceptor is still the safest. For the Shen family, Your Ladyship must quickly get past that hurdle in your heart.” Wan’qing pleadingly convinced.
“We know, let’s wait for another month! Meng Sangyu is a good knife, we have used this knife six years already, to carelessly throw it away is too much of a waste.” Shen Huiru’s face was a little white.
How could Wan’qing not know that she was just making excuses, she could only continue to try to convince her, “Even in another month His Majesty still wouldn’t wake up, even if he woke up, once he knows what the Grand Preceptor and Your Ladyship have done, how could he be willing to forgive you? Your Ladyship should listen to the Grand Preceptor and quickly…” Wan’qing made a choking motion.
Shen Huiru suddenly stood up and slapped her, her expression twisted, “Imbecile! Do not mention such words again! Since His Majesty is already dead asleep, just let him continue to sleep. No one is allowed to touch even his finger! However disobeys our orders, we will grant death to his entire family! Do you hear?!”
Wan’qing hugged her face and kneeled down, heeding. The life of her entire family were in the grasps of the Gracious Consort. She dared not speak more.
In the secret passageway of Qian’qing Palace, a hidden guard laid on the air passage listening to their conversation while quickly writing down a ‘His Majesty is temporarily safe, search for physician may continue; the Gracious Consort has moved, requesting the head’s immediate return for decision’ message that was secretly sent out of the palace.
*the Lotus Sutra
Original: 《妙法莲华经》(Miao Fa Lian Hua Jing)
Explanation: Also known as Saddharmapundarika-sutra. People copied text and burned them as offerings to Buddhas for various reasons including self-reflection, to have their wish granted, in gratitude for their wish being granted, calligraphy practice, etc.
Original: 佛尘 (Fo Chen)
Explanation: It’s a hand-held daoist accessory of a sort. It has a handle with a brush (?) like feature at one end made with horse hair. In Chinese RPG games sometimes it’s used as a weapon – typically by priest characters.
* Reknowned physician
Original: 神医 (Shen Yi)
Direct Translation: Godly Doctor/Physician
Original: 鱼贯 (Yu Guan)
Explanation: Used “school” as in school of fish since the author is trying to describe that a crowd of attendants/servants left.