The Noble Woman’s Guide On How to Tease One’s Husband – Chapter 3
The Noble Woman’s Guide On How to Tease One’s Husband
Translated by: Oinkoink
Chapter 3 – Jinglan
Chu Jinglan would never enter the Imperial Palace if it was not necessary, thus merely for the sake of courtesy he came here today to pay a formal visit to the Queen Mother and also to attend the welcome dinner banquet that the Emperor, Chu Sanghuai arranged for him.
As dusk fell, hazy shades of the carved beams and painted rafters of Golden Pond Pavilion spread out that still fitted closely with the embedded images in his memory where every places contained the vividly pictures, of either silence or noisiness which seemed to reappear in front of his eyes and made the path leading to the Chen Ji Palace became incomparably long.
Many of the ministers had already taken their seats by the time he arrived. There were not many familiar faces left from the reign of the previous emperor. Instead many new scholars from the poor and humble origins were gathered together as they discussed historical works as well as political affairs. All of whom were well-educated, well-balanced as well as uncorrupted. On the other side was where the high-ranking officials of the prominent families seated with refined speech and rarely laughed displaying the cultured demeanour.
There was a flat white marble paved open-space in the center which was originally used for enjoying songs and dances, but now had separated the officials of the prominent families and the poor and humble origins just like the river that divided the Chu and the Han* as both sides did not have any interaction with each other which proved the matter of peer competition wasn’t really baseless.
T/N : river that divided the Chu and the Han ( 楚河漢界 – Chǔ héhàn jiè) – a line that divides rival territories
They nevertheless did share one common understanding – stay away from Chu Jinglan.
It was indeed a laughable matter as many of these promising talents had never actually seen Chu Jinglan before. When they met him in front of the palace, they merely thought he was outstanding and imposing with a pair of brown eyes as cold as the midnight stars that none dared to look him straight in the eyes. However, when they turned around and caught sight of his mystical dragon robe, they promptly wished they had jumped three feet away distancing themselves, lest others would misunderstood.
Who didn’t know he was the thorn in the Emperor’s eyes during that year of the heir selection? After he had gone to the northern land, there were rumours circulating that the true crown prince whom the previous emperor had his heart set on was actually him. Wouldn’t it be obvious for those who dared to approach him to be pulling the rug from under the Emperor’s feet? Even if one didn’t want the official post, one would still want to stay alive!
Hence this was the scene.
Chu Jinglan took a sip of wine and just as the wine filled the stomach, an extremely familiar male voice reached him from the left-hand seat, “We remember that younger brother doesn’t drink any wine in the past, has he changed his nature now?”
T/N : We/Our (朕 – Zhèn) – used by a royal person in proclamations instead of I
Finally, the Emperor had arrived.
He was wearing a crimson ceremonial robe with red shoes and a twelve jade-algae crown which dazzled like the sun. As soon as the Emperor ascended the imperial pedestal, all the ministers were silent of their own accord and stood up in succession to salute him. Chu Jinglan was also no exception and his every movement was extremely respectful with cautiousness.
The Emperor turned his body around to take the seat as both hands were placed on the gilded dragon heads armrests then he merely waved randomly before the group of ministers expressed their gratitudes and seated. He seemed to have not noticed them but chose to gaze at Chu Jinglan when a light flashed through his eyes that diminished as quickly.
“Why is Our younger brother so courteous? We haven’t seen you for many years and miss you very much. You don’t have to be constrained with the presence of the ministers here, just relax.”
“Yes, younger brother will comply.”
Chu Jinglan’s voice was as bland as water thus no one was sure if he had heard the words. The smile on the Emperor’s face gradually deepened and the atmosphere was inexplicably strange. The ministers were also acting with extreme caution that even the collision sound of plates with chopsticks could not be heard seemingly as quiet as the pool of stagnant water.
“Why are all the ministers so quiet? We set up this welcome dinner banquet not for you to keep watch. Why not give a toast to King Lan?”
After hearing that, the ministers’ expressions immediately were each unto their own and they couldn’t say much of anything since the Emperor had already ordered. Some petty officials couldn’t wait to start putting on a play of flattering and fawning Chu Sanghuai while on the other side toasting with Chu Jinglan, trying to please both parties where soon many started to follow suit.
The expression in the Emperor’s eyes turned gloomy for an instant before rapidly resumed. As if he carelessly glanced through the throng of people, his gaze abruptly paused at one place and immediately opened his mouth to ask, “Why is General Ye not proposing a toast?”
Ye Huaili faintly replied, “Report to the Emperor. This official is stationed at the defend post for many years and it’s prohibited to drink liquor in the army base. As the commander, this official must strictly abide by the military order hence was not likely able to drink anymore as time passes.
“So that’s what it is.” The Emperor lightly tapped the armrest as thread of laughter lines were visible at the corners of his mouth, “If all the troops at the border frontiers are as self-restraint and devoted to public duties like General Ye, We would needlessly be worried about the border defence anymore.”
Those people who were just proposing toasts saw that the Emperor didn’t even reproach Ye Huaili but instead commended him, thus their expression slightly changed. The cup of wine in their hands now felt like soldering iron, too hot to hold. Chu Jinglan seemed as if he didn’t understand their profound meaning. He just lowered his head and poured himself another cup of wine. There was a subtle depressed emotion streaked across his eyes that was somewhat forbearing and restrained but vanished the instant he raised his head.
He could recognize this voice. It was the man who spoke in the restaurant yesterday. He knew this person was the outstanding General Ye Huaili of the royal court. He was also extremely familiar with this surname that had been clearly engraved on the silver medal of the black-clad assassins.
What a loyal and devoted Ye family! Such a distinctive standpoint without the least of ambiguity!
“Speaking of the border frontier, there have been a lot of petitions recently which mostly apply for the construction of the garrison and to increase the allocation of armaments. What are Our younger brother’s opinions with regards to these matters as you have just returned from the northern land?”
Chu Jinglan was silent for a moment before he slowly replied, “Younger brother doesn’t know about other places but the northern border has long been subjected to the harassment of foreign enemies as the defending troops have limited support and the common people have also been suffering untold hardships. If these matters can enhance the strength of the troop, the barbarians will most probably dare not invade our country’s border anymore.”
“If that’s the way, this matter will be handed over to you. You can officially discuss this at the Ministry of War tomorrow. Minister Zhu will submit the account book for Our perusal after the discussion.” The Emperor was fiddling with the four-stem jade wine cup and half his face was obscured under the shadow of the palace lantern, “Since you are finally back, it is only right that you should share some of Our responsibilities in the affairs of governing.”
All the ministers burst into an uproar.
The purpose of Chu Jinglan’s return this time was unclear and not only the Emperor wasn’t wary of him but even allowed him to immediately participate in the governing and political affairs!
The sound of the music covered up the low and mingling whispers of the feast. Just as most of them knew it was like the buzzing bees besides their ears provoking annoyance when a powerful and resounding voice ripped through the whitewashed silence at this moment.
“This official believes that Your Highness King Lan is not suitable to participate in the royal court and partaking in the governing of the political affairs.”
After Ye Huaili finished his words, he looked at Chu Jinglan across the floating gauze net and the innumerable rosewood tables with a dauntless expression. Chu Jinglan returned his gaze nonchalantly without a trace of annoyance except the sereneness of his eyes were like a deep ocean that seemingly could reeled one in at any time.
Ye Huaili vaguely frowned.
Generally, it would be impossible for a person’s temperament to remain amiable and magnanimous like before after going through that sort of incident, thus Chu Jinglan’s performance was particularly doubtful that perhaps he was actually playacting for everyone to watch.
Ye Huaili was still pondering when Chu Jinglan took up his thread of words and spoke in a loud voice, “General Ye is right. Younger brother has not returned for many years and ought to precede by worshipping the ancestors as well as performing a self-reflection. It has been a long time and out of practice to partake in political governing. Disappointing the imperial elder brother’s expectation is trivial but failing the security of the border and appeasing the people is a major matter, thus would like to request the Imperial Elder Brother to retract your order.”
The Emperor raised his brows as he looked closely at him. Every second seemed endless before he finally opened his mouth, “All right. Wait until you are ready then.”
Chu Yinglan bowed his thanks and said, “The matter of worshipping the ancestors…”
“What’s so troublesome about it?” The Emperor smiled and turned his head to summon the commander of the imperial guards, Zhang Yin for an audience as he instructed him, “Escort King Lan for a roundtrip to the Imperial Ancestral Temple tomorrow.”
“This official obeys the Emperor’s command.”
Zhang Yin responded profoundly then swiftly withdrew from the main hall in deft. Chu Jinglan didn’t refuse as he got up once more and cupped his hands, “Thank you Imperial Elder Brother.”
The Emperor waved his hand then directly relinquished that matter, instead he said, “We see that King Lan’s mansion had been vacant for a long time, perhaps it is somewhat inconvenient to reside again, wouldn’t it be better to stay in the palace and move back after the renovation.”
A wisp of glimmer streaked across Chu Jinglan’s eyes yet when he raised his head, he unexpectedly mocked himself right in front of everyone, “Younger brother is only one person and unmarried, so it’s the same to stay anywhere, however troubling Imperial Elder Brother about this matter is truly remorseful.”
It was clear to everyone at the feast that this was a tactful rejection.
The Emperor’s expression remained unchanged as he laughed boisterously, “Come to speak of this, We must then ask the Queen Mother to seek a marriage for you at once so to save you from using this to fob Us off again.”
“Younger brother will not dare to go pay a formal visit to the Queen Mother later if the Imperial Elder Brother speaks this way.”
“Then you won’t even have to think of getting out from the Imperial City compound today.”
As soon as the words were out, the ministers were startled with cold sweat that they abruptly looked up towards the seat of honour then blew out a breath of relief when they saw the thin smile at the corners of the Emperor’s mouth. Their minds however were extremely precarious as they eventually felt that they might have missed out something. The Emperor’s intentions were seemingly getting more and more difficult to surmise, yet Chu Jinglan merely clasped his hands and returned to his seat when the Emperor also didn’t pursue leaving the matter unsettled.
Soon after the feast concluded, all the ministers successively left the banquet in groups of two or three walking slowly towards the Imperial Palace entrance and departed.
As the time was still early, Chu Jinglan needed to make a trip to Han Zhang Palace so he walked down to the lower blue brick paved corridor with auspicious clouds around his knees. He winded around a corner when a shadow abruptly appeared revealing the corner hem of a gown. When he looked up, he saw it was precisely Tang Qingfeng who had waited a long time.
“Wangye.” He bowed to salute.
Chu Jinglan briefly nodded his head then his elegant figure crossed to the front of the corridor. Tang Qingfeng silently followed after as they passed through countless cassia trees to Dian Lan Palace. He vaguely reminisced those early years when he was still the imperial bodyguard in the forbidden city where he used to follow Chu Jinglan like now, shuttling back and forth within the Imperial City however the circumstances at present had already changed.
They imperceptibly reached the front of a desolated palace with creeper vines covering the vermillion walls and weeds reached their ankles. It would appear that no one had resided for a very long time. Chu Jinglan however stopped walking when he silently stared at the narrow cracked gap on the entrance door when the light in his eyes turned vaguely discernible or what was going through his mind.
Tang Qingfeng was surprised at first as he didn’t know why they had stopped here until he raised his head and caught sight of the inscribed plaque on the top when he suddenly realized and secretly condemned himself for being so oblivious as not to even recognize this place.
This was precisely the bedroom of Chu Jinglan’s mother, Imperial Concubine Chen before her death.
When the previous emperor died six years ago, Imperial Concubine Chen subsequently passed away too and this place was left deserted. Though this was known by them, looking at it now would inevitably arouse deep feelings especially for Chu Jinglan as his heart still couldn’t get over it and was drenched in blood.
Imperial Concubine Chen died to protect him.
The past surged up from the bottom of his heart and could not be calmed for a long time, yet Chu Jinglan only stood there. There was no fluctuating emotion so much so that not even a wee bit of nostalgia displayed on his handsome face. Just as he lifted his foot to leave, a subtle sound of broken dry twig was heard. He abruptly turned around with undercurrent rolling in his eyes.
Just when Tang Qingfeng wanted to speak, he saw Chu Jinglan taking large strides towards the inner courtyard. The wooden door was pushed open and a creaking sound emitted from the uneven interlocked of the door. They seemingly saw a shadow of a person startled by their entrance through the door that she started running helter-skelter towards the rear with light and confused footsteps unlike someone that practiced martial arts. It would probably be a palace maid or perhaps a Gugu.
T/N : Gūgū (姑姑 -Gūgū) – old palace maid / paternal aunt
The two quickly leaped into the hall as they wanted to catch up to see who that person was, but as their vision swept across every nook of the hall, they were shocked to see the place was clean and spotless. The cleaning tools were casually placed beside the eight immortals table evidently proved that someone didn’t have enough time to collect and was left behind. Could it be…..she had been taking care of this place all along?
After the death of Imperial Concubine Chen that year, the sl*ve servants who served her were also executed one after the other so there shouldn’t be anymore former sl*ves left. Who would take the risk to do this?
Numerous questions rolled within the mind of Tang Qingfeng but he was aware that it was inadvisable to stay any longer in this place and softly reminded, “Wangye, we’ve already stayed too long in this place. If we are to return late, Physician Lu would be worried.”
Chu Jinglan clenched his fist tightly and unclenched it a while later, “Let’s go.”