Published at 26th of April 2019 08:16:08 AM

Chapter 77

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Chapter 77: The Tranquility After the Mutiny (1)

Translator: Flying-Lines

The snow that had been accumulated for the whole winter melted in the early spring of April. Though the buds on the branch had nudged their heads out, the tripod inlaid with two golden characters "Shou" (longevity patterns) was still burning with silver charcoal, making the room warm. On the pearwood table before the bed placed several bowls of herbal concoction held in palace porcelains painted with beauties. Besides the bed placed a wooden armchair covered by fur with leopard print, on which sat a middle-aged man in extravagant clothes who looked genial and grew short beads.

"Heng'er has been in the exam for a whole day. I wonder how he is doing?" A soft voice of woman came from the bed.

Lord Qi replied, "Heng'er has been studying hard for months on end without rest, he is sure to earn a degree. Don't worry about him, your top priority is to tone your body. You've been on medicine since the beginning of winter. On account of your sickness we didn't even celebrate the Spring Festival."

Junzhu Pingning leaned against a brocade cushion inlaid with golden peonies, her face yellow, her cheekbone protruding. She looked gaunt with not the slightest of her previous high spirit to be seen. Sickly she said, “Heng’er is blaming me.”

“Don’t overthink. Mother and son would never bear grudge overnight,” Lord Qi comforted. “The coup before the Spring Festival has caused much loss for all departments. Nearly half of the officials in Imperial Academy and Cabinet were killed as their offices were quite near to the imperial palace. Therefore, His Majesty granted a new session of exams early this year. Heng’er has been working hard to try and earn a degree this time.”

Junzhu Pingning signed heavily, “Don’t try to cheer me up. Heng’er has been praised for his decorous appearance and erudition. Now he is not only widowed but also laughed at by all. It is all my fault.”

Lord Qi went silent while in heart he thought that her wife was not wrong. She took the right bet but just lacked a bit of luck.

Eyes reddening with tears, Junzhu Pingning choked with sobs, “I sensed something wrong when learning what happened to the girl of Rong family. Yet that time…we had no choice. I don’t like Xianzhu either. Her arrogance and disregard for life were by no means blessing to the family. Yet I still forced Heng’er to intimate with her. However, even so, I never expected her to die so miserably.”

With that, Junzhu Pingning couldn’t help sobbing while Lord Qi, unable to manage any comforting words, only patted lightly on his wife’s hand and wiped her tears gently with handkerchief.

Junzhu Pingning said in a low voice, “The scene that Rong Xian forced into the palace would frequently come into my dreams these months. The ferocious-looking rebels, the blood-dripping swords, the palace maids crying and struggling, and Sixth Princess and Xianzhu being pulled away right in front of me…” Her eyes were filled with undisguised fright… “It was at that very moment I finally realized that several lives were costed behind this marriage.”

With that, she could no longer contain herself and cried in her husband’s arms.

Lord Qi and Junzhu were couple from young. Though they would bicker in life, his heart couldn’t help softening a bit when seeing her wife crying her heart out. So he consoled in a gentle tone, “The recklessness of Sixth Princess and her daughter well indicated the villainy of Sixth Prince in his conferred land. His Majesty was infuriated and stripped him of the noble title, making him only a powerless royal member. If not for pitying that the third imperial consort has only this son, even the heir would be deprived of the title. Little Consort Rong and Consort Shu committed suicide while Fourth Prince was sentenced to death with all his children degraded as plebeians. Ay! Ten years of power struggles yet ended in vain overnight. The implicated nobles and aristocrats couldn’t even be numbered. Thanks for His Majesty’s mercy and wisdom that father-in-law and our house are much favored. We…should take it easy.”

Speaking of this, Lord Qi couldn’t help but sign, “Man proposes, God disposes. Who’d ever thought that Eighth Prince would become the crown prince.”

“Is it settled?” Junzhu Pingning asked with doubt as she was no longer certain about anything.

Lord Qi helped his wife down to the cushion and forced a smile, “His Majesty has conferred Shuyi (a title of an imperial concubine) Li as the Queen, Consort De the Imperial Noble Consort for her loss of a son. However, Shuyi Li was merely a maid from the Clothes-washing Palace and was only given a tile after she gave birth to a son. His Majesty never favored her and just placed her in a palace beside the Cold Palace (where guilty imperial concubines live after they are deprived of the titles) for her late years. What His Majesty truly means by naming her as the Queen is clear to all. In addition, His Majesty has already summoned Eighth Prince to the imperial city.”

Junzhu Pingning signed after a long silence, “His Majesty never favors the two yet now…Man can never bend the will of fate. The prosperity of an empire lies in a great emperor. Now all other princes are all too young, only Eighth Prince is appropriate for the throne. I remember that Eighth Prince’s conferred land is in Shu (ancient name for Sichuan Province), when will he arrive at the capital?”

“Road in and out of Shu is a tough one, it will take at least a month,” Lord Qi said and moved closer to his wife, persuading in a gentle voice, “So it’s best that you pay more attention to tone your health condition. If Heng’er can earn a degree this time, you’ll have a lot to deal with.”

Reminded of her son’s great career, Junzhu immediately braced herself up from the cushion with hope gleaming in her eyes which then was replaced by a sign, “I don’t know who Heng’er takes after. He’s indeed a stubborn kid.”

“What’s wrong with our son?” smiled Lord Qi.

Junzhu Pingning stared at the top of the bed carved with pomegranate patterns that meant fertile with descendants and replied in a quite discouraged tone, “His Majesty granted the new session of court exam before the Spring Festival, so I let him  compare note with and ask Changbai for some advice about the articles since they are on friendly terms. Guess what? Your dear son would rather wait outside the Imperial Academy than visit Sheng Mansion!”

“Em? Why?” Lord Qi was quite confused.

Junzhu Pingning shot a displeased glance at her husband, “Remember the maidservant that Xianzhu killed with flogging? Don’t you think her eyes look quite familiar?”

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Lord Qi pondered for a while then it suddenly dawned on him! He said with hand covering forehead, “Ah! That’s why Heng’er kept such a foolish, vulgar and flattery girl! So he still loves Sheng Hong’s little daughter?”

Junzhu Pingning nodded in approval, “Luckily the girl doesn’t socialize often or Xianzhu would have long suspected. Hey, what are you thinking about?” With that, she pulled the corner of her husband’s robe.

Lord Qi was then staring at the copper stove of violet gold with his head lowered and only came to himself when pulled by the sleeve. He immediately explained, “I was thinking that Sheng Hong was indeed a blessed one. Minister Lu always behaved like an ignorant one with deaf ears and clouded mind, yet in the time of emergency, he was quite alert and resourceful to not only lead his family safely through the danger but also protect all the documents in Ministry of Works. After the coup was quelled, His Majesty rewarded all officials in Ministry of Works for ‘Calmness in the Hour of Peril’. Old Minister Lu was then granted to enter the Cabinet while Sheng Hong was promoted to be the fourth-ranked Left Intermediate Censor (Qianduyushi) of Court of Censors.”

Junzhu Pingning grumbled with unconcealable jealousy, “Not only so! Sister Wang is in high spirits for these happy events. Her son is promoted as Librarian of Imperial Academy (Dianji, an eighth-ranked official responsible for the management of departmental memorials to the throne, documents and books), her nephew Bazong (a seventh-ranked military officer) and her son-in-law vice commander…See, over there are the red eggs from Sheng family! Double portions of it! Her first daughter gave birth to a fatty son last month and this month her daughter-in-law delivered a son too!”

T/N: Red eggs are gifts sent to relatives and friends as a token of jubilance and celebration when young ladies get married or when newborns turn one-month old.

On the pearwood round table inlaid with marble flowers placed a plate of bright red eggs. Upon seeing them, Lord Qi was reminded of something so he turned to his wife, “Old Marquis Ningyuan’s death-day is at the end of the next month, will you go?”

Junzhu Pingning was still overwhelmed by the jealousy from seeing the red eggs, so she said, “No, we’re long ago distant relatives out of Wufu (five costumes for mourning of the dead). Sending a portion of sacrificial rites would suffice. Speaking of that, Tingye's wife has passed away for over a year.” With that, she heaved a heavy sign and harrumphed, “My poor uncle has been cautious for his whole life, yet he is so unfortunate that his son would be involved in the coup after his death. Tingyu is in poor health and now involved in the coup, leaving the whole family in fear of being reported and deprived of marquis title.”

Lord Qi was quite upset hearing the words. Now looking at the red eggs, he then had some ideas, “Now that Heng’er still wants the girl of Sheng Hong, why not you try to propose? I now think they are a great match.”

Junzhu Pingning harrumphed, “We’re late. Sheng family has a plan.”

Lord Qi asked out of surprise, “You’ve already asked about it?”

Qi family and his son were hapless enough, now if being refused, it would be indeed the worst came to the worst.

“Do you think I’m that imprudent?” Getting her husband’s meaning, Junzhu Pingning comforted, “Sister Wang is straightforward, I coaxed it out of her with a short conversation. Her legal daughter is arranged to match with the nephew from her mother’s side, but that is not decided yet, she plans to keep searching for someone great. Minglan’s future husband has long be chosen by Old Madam Sheng, a youth from a side-branch of He family in Baishitan.”

Lord Qi was quite upset by the news yet thinking of his son’s disappointed look, he ventured with some hesitation, “What about the last girl of Sheng family?”

“Bah!” Junzhu Pingning couldn’t help but despise lightly and frown at her husband, “Heng’er is not at the point of making do with a concubine born daughter! If not for the fact that Minglan is brought up by Old Madam Sheng and her good nature, I’ll never take her either. I just want to compensate our son for my previous mistake.”

Silence reigned the room for quite a while before Lord Qi said, “Then better choose carefully this time and don’t forget to ask Heng’er first. It would be best that Heng’er himself likes the girl.”

Junzhu Pingning couldn’t help but add after seeing her husband’s caring for the son, “I heard that Sheng family and He family haven’t made the match public. Moreover, Sheng family is in its heyday, maybe there will be some changes to that.”

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