Chapter 21: Serving 3
The fake emperor lifted the brush and dipped it in the ink, his wrist hovering for several seconds above the snowy white paper until he put down the first brush of ink. The thick and heavy black mark on the paper spread out, the five words ‘Bi’Xiao Palace A’Bao’ ran across the paper, no different from Emperor Zhou’wu’s handwriting.
Putting down the brush and looking at his work, the fake emperor let out an almost undetectable breath of air. He had copied the emperor’s characters for three months, practicing tens of thousands of times every day, enough to appear real. Even the Gracious Consort and Grand Preceptor Shen could not differentiate, how could the Virtuous Consort who understands nothing of the sort? He probably passed this challenge smoothly.
Thinking of this, he put down the brush and took the chance to give a questioning glance to Chang’Xi while the Virtuous Consort picked up the paper to appreciate his work.
Chang’Xi slightly nodded, expressing that he did well.
The two thought that their interaction left no mark and was perfectly hidden, but actually, Meng Sangyu left a line of sight in the corner of her eyes to watch the two’s movement and expression as she was holding and appreciating the paper. Naturally, she didn’t miss the eye interaction of the two.
The thought in her heart became clearer, Meng Sangyu slightly furrowed brow and carefully looked at the five words, not speaking for several moments.
The hall was surprisingly quiet, the atmosphere gradually strange. The fake emperor’s heart slightly tightened. He finally couldn’t stop himself from opening his mouth, “Does our beloved consort think these five words were written poorly?”
Chang’Xi slightly lifted his head, his eyes intently staring at the Virtuous Consort’s face.
“How could that be? It’s just His Majesty has written it so well, this concubine was in awe looking at it!” Meng Sangyu put down the paper, her smile unexplainably toady, and her flattering was even more barefaced. Meng Sangyu acted out an illiterate, simple-minded and thoughtless girl with great skill*.
The fake emperor let out a relaxed smile, the Virtuous Consort really is as Chang’Xi Gonggong said, not very intelligent nor calculating. But it is exactly this type of woman that is easy to interact with. He couldn’t help feeling that he was lucky: if he really is to die, to be able to be close to such a cute person before he dies wouldn’t be bad.
Thinking of this, he walked up to hug the Gracious Consort’s shoulder, pulling her into his embrace, the doting look on his face apparent.
Ni ma*! [TN: = “your mom”] This is 100% a fake product! Meng Sangyu was hollering in her heart, but showed nothing on the surface. She naturally got out of the fake emperor’s arms and pushed him down to sit on the couch, daintily saying, “Your Majesty, now it’s this concubine’s turn to display her talent. This concubine just learned a method of brewing tea a while back, shall this concubine perform it for Your Majesty today?”
Boiling the water, the entire tea brewing process, appreciating the tea, then talk about some poems and songs and life goals, this entire process should take at least an hour. Should be able to drag it out until he leaves. Meng Sangyu silently thought to herself as she herself went to the tea room to pick tea leaves.
Searching amongst the bottles and cans, she finally picked Emperor Zhou’wu’s favorite Junshan Yinzhen*. Then on second thought, she took out another container of Linyun Baihao*, took out a small bit of it and mixed it in with the Junshan Yinzhen.
White smoke gradually rose from the small kettle, just moments later there was sound of boiling water. Through the puffs of water vapor, the Virtuous Consort could be seen focused on brewing tea. Her face had a gentle smile and her graceful movements once again attracted the fake emperor’s line of sight. He had originally been hidden guard, never to see the light, fated to be alone. Whence has he ever approached any woman? Not to mention such a beautiful yet simple-minded woman. To say his heart is not moved, that would be fake.
“Your Majesty, please drink this tea.” Meng Sangyu cradled a cup of hot tea to the side of his hand, interrupting the wandering thoughts in his heart.
The fake emperor quickly retracted the unfocused look in his eyes, took the cup of tea to his lips and blew on it to drink. The skill of appreciating tea he also learned three months. Although not as masterful as the emperor in this talent, he could still list out a few points.
“A pale yellow color with a refreshing fragrance and taste, every leaf standing straight up at the bottom of the cup. Beloved consort brewed a good cup of tea!” He took a sip and complimented. He took another two sips, after the third, he put the cup down with no further movement. His movement royal and cultured, appearing really knowledgeable.
A light flashed in Meng Sangyu’s eyes, she covered her mouth and laughed, “What a compliment Your Majesty!”
Seeing her phoenix eyes move, her smile as if a blooming flower, the fake emperor’s heart moved. Seeing the darkening skies outside the window, he said, “It’s getting late, beloved consort let’s rest.”
“Yes, this concubine will help Your Majesty wash and change.” Meng Sangyu was about to get up, then sat down again as if she thought of something, carefully looking at the fake emperor.
The fake emperor gently said, “Beloved consort can speak as you like. Do not worry.”
“Your Majesty, this concubine’s mother wishes for brother to wed the vice minister of the Ministry of Ceremonies, Fu Guang Da’s eldest daughter born to his first wife. She begs Your Majesty to bestow a decree of marriage. Could Your Majesty grant this wish?” Her eyes were full of expectation as she looked over.
“This…” Having to do with the Meng family, he couldn’t decide on his own. The fake emperor looked unnoticeably towards Chang’Xi. Chang’Xi moved his pinky. He immediately followed, “Let us consider it.”
Emperor Zhou’wu is a decisive person. You could even consider him a little forceful. For a small matter like this, if he agreed he would agree, if he didn’t agree, he would immediately reject it on site. Never had he said anything like, ‘considering.’ Meng Sangyu heeded on the surface, but in her heart she was even more sure of her guess. Although this guess was a little too unheard of, an unimaginable thought for the common person, but having gone through two lives, Meng Sangyu was not a common person. She had seen a lot, so naturally she thinks of a lot. Anything is possible, this is a phrase she had always believed in.
Keeping down her furiously beating heart, she stood up. She ordered Bi’Shui and Nurse Feng to prepare hot water as she hugged the fake emperor’s arm.
“Ah!” Bi’Shui, who was just about to leave, suddenly shouted in surprise, making everyone look toward her.
“You dumb servant, what are you yelling for?” Chang’Xi immediately scolded angrily.
“This servant has been disrespectful, this servant begs Your Majesty for forgiveness! But, it’s just that…” Bi’Shui hesitantly stuttered, just looking terrified at the cushion the Virtuous Consort was sitting on.
Nurse Feng followed her line of sight and looked over, immediately painfully shouting, “Oh no, Your Ladyship’s period has come!” Now, the cushion that has been painted with a few spots of blood was undeniably exposed to everyone’s eyes.
Meng Sangyu’s face immediately turned red. She quickly let go of the emperor and kneeled down with a thud, “This concubine has tainted Your Majesty’s eyes and ruined Your Majesty’s mood. This concubine begs Your Majesty for forgiveness.” At the end of her words, she bit her red lips, sneaking a peak at the emperor with watery eyes. Her expression was embarrassed and shy, her little look unspeakably pitiful and cute.
The fake emperor’s heart itched from her little look. Along with the blood on the cushion, his chest filled with a tender love. Hiding the slight disappointment in his heart, he hurriedly reached out his hand to lift the Virtuous Consort, gently answering, “For your period to arrive suddenly is a natural occurrence, what fault does my beloved consort have? Hurry and get up, it’s cold on the ground.”
“This consort won’t rise!” Meng Sangyu wouldn’t get up no matter what, seeing the fake emperor furrow his brow, she hurriedly shyly explained, “How could this concubine get up in this embarrassing condition? This concubine can only get up after Your Majesty leaves.” At the end of her words, she even hastily put her handkerchief on top of the tainted cushion.
“Hahahaha…” the fake emperor started laughing loudly, laughing until he couldn’t stand straight. It was his first time seeing a straightforward and adorable woman like this. One really couldn’t avoid falling for her! Why couldn’t his Majesty just fall fall the Virtuous Consort? One really couldn’t come to understand!
“Alright then, we will leave now. Beloved consort doesn’t need to see us off, do get up quickly.” See the Virtuous Consort furrow her brows and pout her lips, her expression very adamant, the fake emperor could only wave his hand and walk away laughing.
When he walked far, Meng Sangyu immediately got up, the pampered look on her face slowly replaced by a solemn one.
“Other than Bi’Shui and Nurse Feng, everyone else leave.” She heavily ordered. She washed off a bit with the already prepared hot water, changed into clean clothes, then walked next to the square table and sat down. She picked up the paper and took another careful look. After, she called Bi’Shui again to take out the previous ink treasures* of the emperor, putting the two works together on the table to compare.
Seeing their master with a heavy expression and without a word, as if facing the biggest difficulty in the world, Bi’Shui and Nurse Feng all became a bit nervous. Just at this time, Yin’Cui walked in with a troubled and depressed face. In her arms was a quietly barking A’Bao who seemed extremely weak.
“What happened?” Meng Sangyu immediately came back to herself, carrying over A’Bao who barely had a breath left, pointing to a thread of blood at the corner of his mouth, shocked. It’s just been an hour, how is there blood?
“Your Ladyship, A’Bao for some reason started barking nonstop since you left, as if he’s gone mad. This servant was afraid that he would disturb you and His Majesty and brought him to the most east room, not expecting that he only barked even more viciously. He wouldn’t stop even after there was blood in his throat. This servant wanted to comfort him but even got bit!” Yin’Cui raised her wrist and showed the bloody teeth mark on it.
Emperor Zhou’wu stopped shouting, only using his nose to whimper weakly. He used his paws to desperately grasp onto Meng Sangyu’s arm and refused to let go. God knows how terrified and despaired his heart was after Sangyu left. It was like being burriedly deeply into the ground alive. His heartbeat and breath all stopped, only wishing for his barking to lead Meng Sangyu to save him from that dying pain.
He definitely did not see wrongly the appreciation and adoration in that fake’s eyes. If that person stole Sangyu from his side, he wouldn’t have anything left, not even the will to live! Sangyu has been his mental pillar that supported him down this road, the only color of his black and white world, his everything at the moment! He can’t lose Sangyu! Not even if he died!
A warm moisture suddenly overflowed in his eyes. Emperor Zhou’wu quickly burried his face in Meng Sangyu’s embrace to take a deep breath of the scent that gave him incomparably comfort.
“Good A’Bao, don’t cry. I’m here! I will always be with you, don’t be scared!” Meng Sangyu lifted his chin, her heart hurt seeing his eyes filled with tears. She quickly said to Yin’Cui, “We haven’t been apart since he’s been hurt. Once he leaves my side he would fall into the memories of when he was hurt and become frightened again. Quickly go to the imperial clinic to find Imperial Physician Wen to come take a look.”
Yin’Cui quickly heeded and left in a hurry. Meng Sangyu lost her interest in comparing the handwriting and carried A’Bao to the couch. She rubbed and kissed until she finally cooed the shaking A’Bao out from her arms. A’Bao whimpered as he used his little paws to hold on to her neck, just focused on licking her lips, his movement desperate like never before.
On the other end, the fake emperor and Chang’Xi walked far away when Chang’Xi suddenly furrowed his brows and stopped. He said in a low voice, “*Sigh~* I remember that the Virtuous Consort’s period shouldn’t be at this time, it should be at the end of the month! There still should be seventeen, eighteen days until then!”
“Gongong, did she see through something?” The fake emperor’s expression tightened.
“Just with her brains, she shouldn’t be able to see through anything. But, we should still find an imperial physician to take a look just in case.” Chang’Xi said deeply and sent a little eunuch to the imperial clinic to call for Imperial Physician Lin who often served the Gracious Consort as he continued to bring the fake emperor back to Qian’qing palace to report.
*with great skill
Original: 入木三分 (Ru Mu San Fen)
Exact Translation: Three parts into the wood
Explanation: Wang Xizhi is a famous calligrapher/poet of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. He practiced calligraphy diligently since young. It is said that when he once wrote on wood for an engraver to carve, the engraver found that the ink had entered three chi (Chinese foot) into the wood. It’s used to describe that a person has well researched and really understood a concept or how to perform a process/action.
Original: 尼玛 (Ni2 Ma3) [internet slang form] = 你妈 (Ni3 Ma1)
Explanation: Means “your mom,” a slang/swear in Chinese. Considering people don’t just use “your mom” as an exclamation, I just put the pinyin.
Explanation: It’s a famous tea from Junshan island in the province of Hunan.
Explanation: Another famous tea from the province of Guangxi.
Original: 墨宝 (Mo Bao)
Explanation: Ink treasures refer to calligraphy and paintings typically. In this case, the emperor’s ink treasures would be his works.