Emperor's Conquest

By Mei Yu Zhe,寐语者

Emperor's Conquest Chapter 4

Emperor's Conquest Chapter 4

1.4 Husband1

11

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The carriage passed the palace gates, on the road back to the manor. As we swayed along gently, the intricately embroidered curtain screen blocked out the sunshine outside.

I sat straight and upright on the soft cushions inside, head held high, hands and feet numbly cold. All this while, I had maintained this stubbornly proud posture - from stepping out of the Eastern Palace, to passing through the palace gate, to entering the carriage … until now, when I was finally left alone. But it seemed like my body, held tense this entire time, was suddenly not under my control. There was an enormous cold force passing through me, sustaining all my determination, not allowing me to relax or soften.

And yet, it was all a white noise inside my head. I was dazed and lost, as if I had been dropped in the midst of a dense fog, unable to see clearly in any direction, unable to grasp anything.

We were now quite a distance from the palaces2, but Aunt's words seemed to still ring in my ears.

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What she had said, every sentence, every word, seemed to burn and seemed to freeze — my body was one minute ice-cold, and the next minute burning-hot.

I clasped my hands, fingernails digging deep into my palms3. But even this sharp pain could not distract me from my frightened confusion.

33

From ahead came indistinctly the sound of imperial bodyguards clearing the way. The spectating commoners by the side of the road were cleared off in a clamor.

Though these people clearly knew how strict security could be, that however close they pressed they would not see even half-glimpse of me — yet still, they squeezed one past the other, risking that their faces and shoulder might be whipped by the carriage driver, just to catch a look of the Shangyang Princess’s magnificence. Even if they only managed to see the carriage’s shadow, or smell a whiff of incense fragrance, yet their excitement would be without bound.

Though I had long become accustomed to such clamor, yet in this moment, I suddenly felt bitterly miserable.

What they saw was not me, but instead: the Shangyang Princess.

What the people fought so hard to glimpse was that renowned daughter of the Wang family, the doted and pampered young lady of that prestigious house.

Who I was, whether I was beautiful or ugly, whether I cried or laughed — no one actually cared.

In that moment, as if waking from a dream, I suddenly wanted to laugh out loud, but instead tears welled up.

Amidst the hubbub of outside noise, I slowly lifted the curtain screen.

The surrounding crowd of people suddenly quieted.

In the dazzling autumn sunshine, I looked out on the crowd before me, and smiled.

From that quiet crowd suddenly erupted an astonishing uproar, an earth-shattering4 noise that almost overwhelmed me…

44

I let the curtain screen fall back down. I closed my eyes and fell back against the soft cushions, and finally laughed until tears came out.

If my surname had not been Wang, if I had not been born into this family, then at this moment, I would not be sitting in this high carriage, receiving the admiration of the crowd … Perhaps instead, I would be like that young girl selling flowers, squeezed by the side of the road, standing on tiptoe to peer around. Or perhaps, I would be like those servant-maids, following behind the carriage, letting the road-dust cover me.

Who would pay attention to the pretty appearance of a flower-peddling girl? Who would believe that servant-maid too could be talented and beautiful beyond compare?

What I had, and what they did not — was only rank.

Thus distracted, without my notice we arrived back at the manor.

Stepping into the inner hall, I had not even reached my rooms when I distantly heard Mother’s weeping.

I supported myself on Jin’er’s hand. The floor seemed to sway. My heart sank one moment and floated the next. It was the same, familiar courtyard in front of my eyes, yet I had not the courage to take a step forward.

From the front hall into the main inner room, it was only a short distance, yet it seemed as if I walked such a long time, with such difficulty.

A crash split the air, frightening both Jin'er and I into trembles.

An ice-patterned white jade cup was thrown out the door and shattered on the ground. Along with it came the sound of Mother's weeping, "What kind of father are you, what kind of Lord Chancellor!"

"Jinru5, as an imperial princess, you should understand that this is a matter of state, not a family affair." Father's voice sounded bleak and powerless.

55

I came to a stop, standing by the door, not moving.

From beside me came Jin'er's helpless trembling. I turned to look at her. The poor little girl was scared witless.

I smiled at her a little, and saw the reflection of that smile in her clear, bright eyes. It was even more dismal and pale than her pallid countenance.

Mother's voice was faintly hoarse, grieved and heartbroken, entirely without the grace and poise it usually had, "What princess, what matter of state, I only know that I am a mother! The parents of this world naturally love their children more than themselves! Or can it be that you are not A-wu's father? Can it be that you are not pained?"

"I am not only the children's father, I am also the eldest son of the Wang family. I am the chief minister to His Majesty." Father's voice trembled, "Jinru, you and I — not only do we have a daughter, but we have a family, we have a country! A-wu's marriage is not simply us marrying off a daughter. It creates for our Wang family, and even all the scholar-officials6, an alliance!"

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"To have my daughter go form an alliance by marriage, to have my daughter go draw over those soldiers' hearts - you ministers of the imperial court, what use are you? What have you been doing?" Mother fired back.

That furious question pricked my heart like a needle - yes, Mama, that too was what I most wanted to ask.

Father did not answer. Silence, that sudden silence, caused my breath to catch in my chest.

I thought Father would not respond, but then heard his slow, tired voice, "Do you think the scholar-officials of today still hold grandeur of yesteryear? That the world at present is still as peaceful and tranquil as before?"

Father's voice became suddenly low and husky - was this still Father's voice? …That tall, broad, sturdy father of mine, when did he become so aged and hoarse, so lacking in strength!

Something seized tightly in my chest, as if an invisible hand was clenched there and pulled.

"You were born into the imperial family, and married a duke7 - everything you have seen and heard have all been as beautiful as brocade. But Jinru, can it be that you really don't know - the imperial court has been feeble for a long time now, military power has been given to outsiders, the people are riotous. The prominent old families, once so renowned and powerful, have sunken to such lows today … do you think, our Wang family being able to remain as illustrious as we are, was really only because of marriage with the imperial family?"

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Mother did not speak, only gave a long sob.

Father's words, however, were like ice water pouring down.

"You've seen with your own eyes how the Xie family and Gu family deteriorated. Which family did not once have power over earth and sky8, which family did not have imperial in-laws? Jinru, you don't really not know, you only will not believe … these years, with such effort I managed to hold together the aristocracy's power at court - but if it were not for the Qingyang Prince's influence in the military, how could it have gone so smoothly?"

88

The Qingyang Prince, who had pass away already two years now. Hearing his name still shocked me.

This name had once been a token and symbol of the immense military might of the imperial court.

Of my two paternal aunts, one had become Empress, and the other had become princess consort of the Qingyang Prince.

Only, the younger aunt9 had early on died of illness, and my uncle10 the Qingyang Prince spent all year guarding the frontier pass, so my impression of him was very faint.

991010

"Since two years ago, when the Qingyang Prince passed, the imperial family and the aristocracy have had ever diminishing influence in the military, to the point that there is practically nothing left now. There is no one left now."

Father's hoarse voice sounded, full of bitter helplessness.

After seven years of war, the sons of the aristocracy, who were inclined to scholarship and refinement to begin with, who were genial and peaceful in temperament - none of them wanted to join the army.

They only loved music and song, night after night, poetry and wine, books and conversation. Even if they idled their entire lives, still they would inherit their titles, and their offices, and the salaries of those offices.

"The only ones left in the army to go on campaigns are those men of the lower classes. Relying entirely on their muscle and blood, they've forced down the power and position of the scholar-officials. They are no longer the mean and worthless soldiers people used to look down upon. The Yuzhang Prince by himself holds great power in the military, and moreover is relied upon to bring peace and stability to the country. To say nothing of the scholars or aristocracy, even the imperial family fears11 him somewhat. At present, he has rendered extraordinary service to the throne, and the Emperor has personally promised to bestow a favor. Not even I had expected that he would ask for A-wu … If we do not consent to this marriage, we would force the Emperor to go back on his word. We would offend a power general of the military. We would aggravate the enmity between the two factions at court12. But if we consent, then we could draw the soldiers to our side, and once more win for the Wang family power and influence in the military…"

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"Father, to use a girl's marriage to strengthen the family's position, is not what a man of character does!"

Brother's voice abruptly sounded from behind me. He had actually been behind me the entire time!

"Brother!" I cried out in alarm, and stretched out a hand to stop him.

But he did not even glance at me. He pushed the doors open and went directly into the room. Chin up and chest out, he stood in front of Mother and Father.

Tears at once blurred my vision. I could not clearly see Mother's and Father's expressions.

"Brother, don't …" I rushed inside. I had not even grasped his sleeve, when Brother lifted the hem of his robes, and knelt on the ground, "Father, I want13 to enlist!"

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I trembled, as if struck by lightning.

Father stood there, the gray hair at his temples quivering a little. His hale figure and always straight back suddenly stooped.

Mother swayed. She did not even managed a sound, but weakly fell into a chair.

I hastened forward, wanting to support Mother. But my legs abruptly went soft, and with a stumble, I fell to my knees on the ground.

"A-wu - !" Papa14 and Brother cried out at the same time. Brother rushed forward to hold me.

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Leaning against Brother's embrace, I suddenly felt relieved, very relieved - like when I was little, and fell asleep while studying, and how he would carry me back to bed … I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath, and in Brother's arms, smiled.

Brother, Father, Mother, their faces appeared vividly in my mind's eye.

I lowered my head, and infinitely bashful said, "For a long time I have admired the Yuzhang Prince. To marry such a hero of a man would be my15 honor."

1515

Silence, silence like death.

"You, you - " Mother's entire body was trembling. She pointed a finger at me, but could not manage a single word.

Brother's hand holding me became colder, but he held me tighter.

Daddy looked at me, his gaze straight and direct, and the sorrow in his eyes even heavier.

I straightened my neck, and met Daddy's gaze. I heard myself say in a low hoarse voice, firmly, "I am willing13 to marry the Yuzhang Prince Xiao Qi!"

1313

Such a result, though as unexpected a turn as that of a mountain road16, yet it must be to the satisfaction and happiness of everyone.

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The Emperor's edict granting the marriage came down three days later. The entire manor knelt to receive the imperial edict and to give thanks17.

1717

The news that the Yuzhang Prince was to marry the Shangyang Princess caused a great sensation throughout the capital.

They said, one was an unrivaled hero who had the power to subdue the entire world, one was a blue-blooded aristocrat18 of peerless beauty. Everyone sighed with envious admiration: how suitable an alliance, what a match made in heaven, as fitting as gold and jade together … A hero and a beauty, who would not love such a romance.

1818

Yes, perhaps it was so.

I finally understood, a good marriage required only that the families were of comparable rank. There was no need that the couple have any mutual tender feeling.

Only, what the world said, how it viewed me, I no longer cared.

Father, Mother, Brother … what any of them said, I vaguely remember and vaguely do not remember.

The Emperor and Empress summoned me to court. What they said, I also forgot.

The Yuzhang Prince sent betrothal gifts of astonishing worth. The Emperor conferred on me even more sumptuous gifts19.

1919

The dowry the Empress bestowed on me was carried into the manor in an uninterrupted stream for three entire days.

Wedding clothes, phoenix coronet20, embroidered tasseled cape21, pearls and jades as much as one could stand to see, jewels enough to dazzle one's eyes.

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The wedding matron22 said, when His Second Highness married, even that had not been as lavish an occasion as this.

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Wanru came to see me, and congratulated me in her capacity as Crown Princess.

After the servants were dismissed and there remained only the two of us, however - she cried.

"Zitan still knows nothing of your wedding news," she said tearfully, distressed.

I bowed my head. I picked up her wedding present, a phoenix hairpin of black pearls made by a famous craftsman, and fiddled with it. Smiling lightly, I said, "When Zitan returns from his period of mourning, it will be time for him to marry too. Time passes so quickly … However close playmates were in childhood, yet when they grow up, they must nevertheless part ways."

Wanru lifted her tearful eyes and stared at me. "Can you really forget him?"

I met her eyes mildly and smiling stuck the phoenix hair pin in my hair bun. My reflection in the mirror seemed sedate and peaceful, and my smile easy and natural.

"I have always admired those heroic men of indomitable spirit23. The Yuzhang Prince is the one I want to marry24."

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I said it for Wanru to hear, and also for myself to hear.

From then on, until the day of my wedding, Wanru did not come to see me again.

Zitan would hear from her what I had said.

Zitan would resent me, and blame me, and then forget me.

Zitan would marry, would take a beautiful proper lady as princess consort.

Zitan would love her, and be loved in return, and pass the years with her in wedded bliss until they both grew old.

Zitan, Zitan, Zitan …

Even as changes came in dizzying array25, yet the entire sky was full of his name, everywhere I looked was his face.

2525

It was not a sharp pain, not the pierce of a spear thrust — but sank in the heart, a heavy ache.

The wedding day approached.

The household became very busy. Aunt Xu and the rest spent every day bustling about, preparing for the wedding ceremony.

Yet I became increasingly idle. I no longer had to enter the palace to pay my respects, I no longer had to go out the manor doors. I only needed to sit in my room with dignified composure, and listen to the old palace maids teach me wedding customs, the things I had to remember, what I must do, what I must not do … And a never-ending stream of well-wishers came, their congratulations and felicitations cramming into my ear.

So the days flowed by like water, passing in a muddled whirl.

At night, I would read books until very late, until the night deepened and all was quiet, until I was so tired I could not keep my eyes open.

Only like this, would I not have the energy to think excessive thoughts, nor the time to think of Zitan.

Occasionally, I would think of that faraway and vague, and yet exceptionally distinct name, my to be wedded husband … I could not remember the shape of his figure, and I had never seen his face - but that glimpse I had seen of him at the army review, I could not dismiss from my mind.

Xiao Qi — this name, from now would be forever intertwined with mine.

The Yuzhang Princess26 — from now I would no longer be the carefree and light-hearted Shangyang Princess, but in this new capacity, and with this total stranger of a man, begin an unknowable new life …

2626

Fifteen days later, came my wedding.

My wedding was arranged according to the rites of an imperial princess27. In the middle of the night, we started putting on my dress and makeup. Before the sun was up, I knelt to my parents, to thank them and bid them farewell. Then I entered the palace to thank the Emperor and Empress. In the wedding sedan, we went out from the Taihua Gate, through the Xuanhua Gate, Kunde Gate, Fenyi Gate … Sounds of celebration rose up to the sky. On the sides of the road, vermilion red brocade was spread along the way. As we went, flower petals28 as bright as gold were scattered up into the sky. Six hundred palace maids, bolts of red raw silk, caskets of green jade, escorted the golden tasseled, vermilion red wedding sedan - the progression wound along like a long dragon, making our way past the palaces, through the Imperial City, the Inner City29, until we reached the Yuzhang Prince’s manor.

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Inside the bridal chamber, two wedding matrons brought along a number of servants and maids to wait on me. Outside, music and festivities sounded unceasingly.

The phoenix coronet and ceremonial robes, as well as the heavy bridal veil30, seemed to tightly bind me, until I could not move a single step.

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Jin’er on one side would occasionally chatter on about the festivities and make auspicious remarks, to cheer me up — but hearing her talk only exhausted me further.

We had been up since the middle of the night. Underneath the heavy bridal veil, my world was all a muddle. I could not see anything, and could only hear the noisy celebrations, which from this morning until now had not stopped once.

In the midst of my dazed confusion, I was guided out by the wedding matron to perform the exchange of vows31, and then guided again back into the bridal chamber.

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Inside the bridal chamber, I had scarcely a moment of quiet, before the wedding matrons started fussing again, incessantly praying for blessings and good luck.

According to the customs, I must wait for the bridegroom to enter the bridal chamber, before taking any drink or food.

Fortunately, Jin’er was clever and had secretly fetched some bird’s nest soup for me32. Otherwise, I might not have had the energy to sit until then.

3232

In a short while, I was about to face the most nerve-wracking moment of the night.

That person, that person who the world revered as both a god and a demon, had today become my husband.

Just now, I had together with him paid respects to the heaven and earth. From underneath the veil, I had caught a glimpse of his feet.

So close, he was so very close.

On that day, this person had from so far away startled and frightened me. But now, though he was almost within reach, yet I was no longer afraid.

After all, this was my destined marriage, and he was my husband.

Rather than fear, was not calm better?

He too was an ordinary person of flesh and blood. Perhaps he would not be so dreadful. Perhaps my marriage would not be so terrible.

As Brother had consoled me, the Yuzhang Prince was a man of formidable spirit. He a hero and I a beauty — it was precisely a fitting match.

Thinking of it, I smiled faintly. Perhaps it would be so.

As long as things had not reached their worst, there always remained a thread of hope.

After some time, I realized the celebration and music outside had quieted.

It was still early. How could the wedding banquet already have concluded?

After a moment, the wedding matron too started worrying to herself.

I straightened my back, in some astonishment. Just as I was about to tell Jin’er to go take a look outside, I heard a rush of footsteps outside, numerous and loud.

And following that, many voices outside the door, one over the other.

“General, you are still wearing your armor and sword! Weapons are too fearsome, they cannot be brought near the bridal chamber — please, General, you must stop.”

“My orders are from His Highness33. I must personally report to the Princess.”

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A man’s voice, as cold and hard as stone, without half a thread of emotion, disrupted the wedding night’s sense of gentle charm.

“Your servant I must protest34. There are still ceremony rites, Her Highness cannot see outsiders.”

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“Matters are urgent. His Highness has instructed that the wedding rites for now must be secondary. Her Highness will have to forgive me.”

Outside the doors, Aunt Xu could not dispatch the other person, and her words began to contain a thin layer of anger.

I stood up. The moment I stood, a wave of dizziness passed over me.

“Princess, be careful.” Jin’er hurried to steady me.

That phoenix coronet weighed on my head, heavy like nothing else, until I could hardly straighten my neck.

I made an effort to gather myself, and walked to the door, and said mildly, “I am here. What is it you wished to say, General35?”

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There was silence for a moment outside. Then, that person said in that same cold, hard voice, “Yes, Your Highness. Just now we received a sealed missive36 containing urgent report that Jizhou’s37 forces are lost. Matters are pressing and time is critical. His Highness has already left for the army camps, and will immediately thereafter lead the troops to battle. But he has specially dispatched me38 to report to Your Highness. Truly, it is an emergency, and there is no time to personally bid farewell to Your Highness. But after His Highness has pacified the rebellion, he will himself come to beg forgiveness of Your Highness.”

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For a moment, there was only blankness in my mind.

The next moment, I came back to myself. In a flash, I understood.

He was saying, on my wedding night, my wedded husband had — before even stepping into the bridal chamber — already left the city to go into battle.

I did not know anything of even his appearance or voice — but, just like this, I was left behind in the bridal chamber, to pass the wedding night by myself.

I suddenly wanted to laugh, but I could not.

That high and mighty Yuzhang Prince — but at the time, it had been he to ask the Emperor for this marriage. It was he who wanted to form by marriage an alliance with my family.

Regardless what his purpose had been, whether he had been willing or unwilling, it had been he himself who asked for this!

Yet still, I had made every effort for this. But now, on the receipt of a sealed missive, he would up and leave — and not spare time for even a perfunctory show of consideration. How much time could it take to personally come and say farewell? Even if the situation was as urgent as a fire, it did not necessarily mean that the fire was to the point of singeing his eyebrows.

I did not care whether he passed the wedding night with me or not, and I did not care whether he sympathized with my feelings or not.

But I absolutely could not tolerate him humiliating me and humiliating my family in this way.

A sudden, wild change, startling in the spring night.

The servants and wedding matrons around were all silent, afraid to speak. Even Jin’er did not dare to make a sound.

Probably they had never before seen a bridegroom leave at such a time, never seen the spectacle of him abandoning the bridal chamber. Everyone was embarrassed and at a complete loss by this unforeseen turn of events. For a moment, each and every one of them was struck dumb as a wooden chicken, looking at each other in dismay.

The phoenix coronet on my head weighed down until I could hardly breathe.

I finally laughed out loud. Inside that cold and lonely room, was only the sound of my laughter.

The bridal doors were covered in celebratory red characters — heedless, I pushed the doors open. The night air greeted me, blowing my veil until the cold silk brushed my face.

I lifted a hand and tore off the veil. For a moment, everything appeared terribly bright.

The wedding matrons and other servants were greatly alarmed. One after another, they knelt, and the head wedding matron said anxiously, “Your Highness, you must not! The wedding rites have not yet been completed, you must not take off the veil!”

In front of me were a number of men wearing armor and carrying swords. The one at their head saw me all of a sudden, and his astonishment was great. Seeing me take off the veil, he did not even know to bow his head and withdraw — but actually stared straight at me, his gaze fixed on my face. Only after another moment did he regain his wits. He knelt down on one knee, and behind him, the others following his lead did the same, the metal of their armor clinking and clanking with metallic coldness.

I looked coldly at them kneeling in front of me. That body of dazzling armor, gleaming with ice-cold light — kneeling there, they seemed as immovable as stone carvings.

It was my first time seeing up close soldiers in heavy armor and carrying swords, so close as to be just in front of me.

So this was the Yuzhang Prince’s trusted officer, his aide-de-camp39. Then what kind of a man was that husband of mine, how hard and how cold and how like iron, how unfeeling and how ruthless?

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Thinking this, I felt neither anger nor mirth. Raising my hand, I cast my bridal veil to the ground in front of him. “I must trouble the general to pass this thing to His Highness, and to tell him for me, since the rites of this wedding can be considered secondary, then I will not inconvenience my honored husband with them40.”

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The wedding matrons hurriedly stopped me, “Your Highness, please41. The bridal veil cannot be taken away just as one pleases. It would be inauspicious.”

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“What did you say?” I said coldly, “The Yuzhang Prince is a renowned hero, blessed by the Heavens. That I have met such a husband, and married such a warrior, can only be fortune very auspicious42."

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"Your Highness, please take this back. I will convey your meaning to His Highness, please rest easy 43." That man bowed his head, and offered up the bridal veil in both hands. His voice was lowered and had none of its previous unyielding hardness.

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I smiled thinly, and said, “The general dares to barge into the bridal chamber with his men. Surely, you are not afraid of this trifling matter?"

That man flushed red, and bending over heavily pressed his head against the ground. "My mistake44!"

4444

Though the Yuzhang Prince's wordless departure might be overlooked, but even this lowly officer dared to come uncouth and manner-less, bullying up to the door - how could such rampant arrogance be born?

Daddy had indeed not been wrong, when he said that these military officers no longer held even a little bit of reverence for our land-owning aristocracy.

From now on, having married into a general's house, I needed to place myself among this crowd of military men.

The night wind passed through my clothes. I lifted my head a little, and only felt that all my heart had become as ash.

"You may leave, General. I will not see you out45."

4545

I turned and stepped into the room. Behind me, the doors closed with a bang.

Inside that beautiful bridal chamber, all decorated in auspicious red, I stood alone, looking at a pair of tall red candles still burning. The candle wax melted and flowed down like tears.

All that night, I locked myself in that room. No matter who outside the doors entreated, I did not open the doors. Even Mother was barred entrance.

They were all overthinking matters. I was neither broken-hearted, nor had I anything to rage about. I was only tired. I did not want to force any more smiles.

My heart echoed hollowly, a vast emptiness, like the vast emptiness of this bridal room. There was only my own shadow to fall on all this beautiful splendor.

I could not say if it was desolation or loneliness. Pressing my chest, it seemed as if there was not even a trace of a pulse to be found.

Just like that, I lay as if fallen on the bed, wrapped in all that crimson bridal dress. Hazily, dully, I slept.

I did not see anyone in my dreams, not Father or Mother, not Brother, not Zitan.

There was only myself, alone.

Footnotes:

*cleaned up the romanization of some names. A-wu’s name, with the “Ah” prefix, I have patterned after A-mei’s styling. Apologies for any confusion.

*cleaned up the romanization of some names. A-wu’s name, with the “Ah” prefix, I have patterned after A-mei’s styling. Apologies for any confusion.A-mei’s styling

1 – “Husband” – archaically “husband”, though baike also gives 良人 as “one’s good man”

1 – “Husband” – archaically “husband”, though baike also gives 良人 as “one’s good man”

2 – “palaces” – 宫城/gongcheng literally “palace city”; refers to a palace complex like the Forbidden City, without actually being the Forbidden City

2 – “palaces” – 宫城/gongcheng literally “palace city”; refers to a palace complex like the Forbidden City, without actually being the Forbidden Citygongchengthe

3 – “clasped my hands, fingernails…” – I have no idea how this is possible. It seems however you fold your hands together, the fingernails are not … positioned over the palms??? But it is what the text says.

3 – “clasped my hands, fingernails…” – I have no idea how this is possible. It seems however you fold your hands together, the fingernails are not … positioned over the palms??? But it is what the text says.

4 – “earth-shattering” – 铺天盖地/putiangaidi is an idiom that, literally translated, means “to hide the sky and cover the earth”; in other words, overwhelming, of universal important, to eclipse all else

4 – “earth-shattering” – 铺天盖地/putiangaidi is an idiom that, literally translated, means “to hide the sky and cover the earth”; in other words, overwhelming, of universal important, to eclipse all elseputiangaidi

5 - "Jinru" -A-wu's mother's given name

5 - "Jinru" -A-wu's mother's given name

6 - "scholar-officials" - shizhu is an influential and privileged social class of scholar-officials. Notable, because (from chapter 2), the military-officials are currently in power at court.

6 - "scholar-officials" - shizhu is an influential and privileged social class of scholar-officials. Notable, because (from chapter 2), the military-officials are currently in power at court.shizhu

7 - "You were born into the imperial family, and married a duke" - the more literal translation of this is "you were born in the imperial palace, and married into the chief minister's residence"; the house is metaphorical for the family.

7 - "You were born into the imperial family, and married a duke" - the more literal translation of this is "you were born in the imperial palace, and married into the chief minister's residence"; the house is metaphorical for the family.

8 - "power over earth and sky" - the more literal translation of this is "power and influence to hide the sky from view", an illustrative but kind of strange sounding metaphor; basically, means a great amount of power

8 - "power over earth and sky" - the more literal translation of this is "power and influence to hide the sky from view", an illustrative but kind of strange sounding metaphor; basically, means a great amount of power

9 - "the younger aunt" - the term used here is xiaogugu/小姑姑, literally "young/little aunt"

9 - "the younger aunt" - the term used here is xiaogugu/小姑姑, literally "young/little aunt"xiaogugu/

10 - "my uncle" - technically, she calls him guzhang/姑丈, "uncle-in-law"

10 - "my uncle" - technically, she calls him guzhang/姑丈, "uncle-in-law"guzhang/

11 - "even the imperial family fears him" - the word ji/忌 here can either mean "to be jealous of, to envy" or "to fear, dread, or scruple". So the Yuzhang Prince is powerful enough that even the emperor is wary of him.

11 - "even the imperial family fears him" - the word ji/忌 here can either mean "to be jealous of, to envy" or "to fear, dread, or scruple". So the Yuzhang Prince is powerful enough that even the emperor is wary of him.ji

12 - "the two factions at court" - that is, the scholar faction and the military faction

12 - "the two factions at court" - that is, the scholar faction and the military faction

13 - "I want to/I am willing" - the word yuan/愿 can mean either "want to" or "willing to". Ah Wu and her brother use the same word, but to slightly different effect.

13 - "I want to/I am willing" - the word yuan/愿 can mean either "want to" or "willing to". Ah Wu and her brother use the same word, but to slightly different effect.yuan/

14 - "Papa and Brother" - generally, A-wu refers to her parents as fuqin/父亲 and muqin/母亲, which are fairly formal, and I've translated them as "Father" and "Mother"; occasionally, though, she uses diedie/爹爹, which I've translated as "Daddy", or die/爹, which I've translated as "Papa", and niang/娘, which I've translated as "Mama"

14 - "Papa and Brother" - generally, A-wu refers to her parents as fuqin/父亲 and muqin/母亲, which are fairly formal, and I've translated them as "Father" and "Mother"; occasionally, though, she uses diedie/爹爹, which I've translated as "Daddy", or die/爹, which I've translated as "Papa", and niang/娘, which I've translated as "Mama"fuqin/muqin/diedie/die/niang/

15 - "I have admired / would be my honor" - A-wu starts off this sentence with a straightforward wo (the first person pronoun "I"), but as the sentence goes on, she shifts to a more polite/modest/bashful tone, and concludes with "would be your daughter's honor", using the third person "your daughter's" instead of a first person "my"

15 - "I have admired / would be my honor" - A-wu starts off this sentence with a straightforward wo (the first person pronoun "I"), but as the sentence goes on, she shifts to a more polite/modest/bashful tone, and concludes with "would be your daughter's honor", using the third person "your daughter's" instead of a first person "my"wo

16 - "as unexpected a turn as that of a mountain road" - fenghuiluzhuan/峰回路转 is an idiom, "the mountain road twists around each new peak", meaning something like "an opportunity comes unexpectedly" or "things have taken a new turn"

16 - "as unexpected a turn as that of a mountain road" - fenghuiluzhuan/峰回路转 is an idiom, "the mountain road twists around each new peak", meaning something like "an opportunity comes unexpectedly" or "things have taken a new turn"fenghuiluzhuan/

17 - "the entire manor knelt to receive…" - this is the usual practice, that all the family members and servants in the manor are present receive the edict (likely they do this in the manor front courtyard). When an edict is passed down, as in this case, to someone outside the palaces, usually a eunuch will take the scroll on which the edict is written. Before the eunuch reads the scroll, the ones receiving the edict will kneel as if the Emperor himself is present. After the edict is read, those that receive the edict will xie'en/谢恩 - that is, thank the Emperor for his favor, regardless of how they actually feel about the contents of the edict.

17 - "the entire manor knelt to receive…" - this is the usual practice, that all the family members and servants in the manor are present receive the edict (likely they do this in the manor front courtyard). When an edict is passed down, as in this case, to someone outside the palaces, usually a eunuch will take the scroll on which the edict is written. Before the eunuch reads the scroll, the ones receiving the edict will kneel as if the Emperor himself is present. After the edict is read, those that receive the edict will xie'en/谢恩 - that is, thank the Emperor for his favor, regardless of how they actually feel about the contents of the edict.xie'en/

18 - "blue-blooded aristocrat" - the term jinzhiyuye/金枝玉叶 means literally "golden branch, jade leaves", an idiom for blue-blooded nobility, especially referring to imperial kinsmen or peerless beauties

18 - "blue-blooded aristocrat" - the term jinzhiyuye/金枝玉叶 means literally "golden branch, jade leaves", an idiom for blue-blooded nobility, especially referring to imperial kinsmen or peerless beautiesjinzhiyuye/

19 - "even more sumptuous gifts" - the phrase mubuxiajie/目不暇接 is literally "too much for the eye to take in", to mean something like "a feast for the eyes", which I have translated as "sumptuous". What the Emperor bestows, his enshang/恩赏, can mean "favor" or "kindness" or "reward" - and there is a flavor of all three in his wedding presents to Ah Wu.

19 - "even more sumptuous gifts" - the phrase mubuxiajie/目不暇接 is literally "too much for the eye to take in", to mean something like "a feast for the eyes", which I have translated as "sumptuous". What the Emperor bestows, his enshang/恩赏, can mean "favor" or "kindness" or "reward" - and there is a flavor of all three in his wedding presents to Ah Wu.mubuxiajie/enshang/

20 - "phoenix coronet" - a bride's headdress (but also worn by an empress or imperial concubine, in non-wedding contexts)

20 - "phoenix coronet" - a bride's headdress (but also worn by an empress or imperial concubine, in non-wedding contexts)

21 - "embroidered tasseled cape" - worn by noble women as part of their ceremonial dress

21 - "embroidered tasseled cape" - worn by noble women as part of their ceremonial dress

22 - "wedding matron" - a woman employed to wait on the bride on her wedding day

22 - "wedding matron" - a woman employed to wait on the bride on her wedding day

23 - "of indomitable spirit" - the term dingtianlidi/顶天立地 is an idiom "able to support both heaven and earth", and means someone who is able to shoulder heavy loads, one who has an indomitable spirit

23 - "of indomitable spirit" - the term dingtianlidi/顶天立地 is an idiom "able to support both heaven and earth", and means someone who is able to shoulder heavy loads, one who has an indomitable spiritdingtianlidi/

24 - "I have always / the one I want to marry" - at first, A-wu again adopts a modest tone and refers to herself in the third person: "A-wu has always admired…" Her tone firms toward the end of the sentence, and she uses the first person when stating "The Yuzhang Prince is the one I want to marry."

24 - "I have always / the one I want to marry" - at first, A-wu again adopts a modest tone and refers to herself in the third person: "A-wu has always admired…" Her tone firms toward the end of the sentence, and she uses the first person when stating "The Yuzhang Prince is the one I want to marry."

25 - "even as changes came in dizzying array" - the phrase tianxuandizhuan/天旋地转 means literally "the sky spins, the earth rotates", an idiom for "giddy with one's head spinning" or to indicate figuratively "the huge changes in the world"

25 - "even as changes came in dizzying array" - the phrase tianxuandizhuan/天旋地转 means literally "the sky spins, the earth rotates", an idiom for "giddy with one's head spinning" or to indicate figuratively "the huge changes in the world"tianxuandizhuan/

26 - "Yuzhang Princess" - wangfei/王妃/princess may be better translated as "princess consort": specifically a princess by marriage, and not princess by birth

26 - "Yuzhang Princess" - wangfei/王妃/princess may be better translated as "princess consort": specifically a princess by marriage, and not princess by birthwangfeiprincess

27 - "the rites of an imperial princess" - that is, the wedding is in accordance to the rites of a gongzhu (daughter of the Emperor), which A-wu is not: she is a junzhu, a lower rank. So this is both a compliment to her, reflecting the high favor in which she is held; and also probably flattery to Xiao Qi, that he is not marrying a "mere" junzhu

27 - "the rites of an imperial princess" - that is, the wedding is in accordance to the rites of a gongzhu (daughter of the Emperor), which A-wu is not: she is a junzhu, a lower rank. So this is both a compliment to her, reflecting the high favor in which she is held; and also probably flattery to Xiao Qi, that he is not marrying a "mere" junzhugongzhujunzhujunzhu

28 - "flower petals" - specifically, of the Albizia julibrissin plant

28 - "flower petals" - specifically, of the Albizia julibrissin plant Albizia julibrissin plantAlbizia julibrissin

29 – “Imperial City/Inner City” – the Imperial City is the section of the capital that surrounds the palaces/Forbidden City. In this story, similar to — though not necessarily referring to — the one in Beijing. The Imperial City is enclosed within the Inner City.

29 – “Imperial City/Inner City” – the Imperial City is the section of the capital that surrounds the palaces/Forbidden City. In this story, similar to — though not necessarily referring to — the one in Beijing. The Imperial City is enclosed within the Inner City.one in Beijing

30 – “bridal veil” – these are usually of red silk, not the gauzy translucent veils in Western tradition

30 – “bridal veil” – these are usually of red silk, not the gauzy translucent veils in Western tradition

31 – “exchange of vows” – the Chinese formal wedding ceremony (equivalent to the Western ‘exchange of vows’) is baitang/拜堂, where the bride and groom pay their respects by kowtowing to the heavens/deities, then to their parents, and finally to each other.

31 – “exchange of vows” – the Chinese formal wedding ceremony (equivalent to the Western ‘exchange of vows’) is baitang/拜堂, where the bride and groom pay their respects by kowtowing to the heavens/deities, then to their parents, and finally to each other.wedding ceremonybaitang

32 – “bird’s nest soup” – a delicacy. Presumably from the wedding banquet, in which A-wu as the bride does not take part.

32 – “bird’s nest soup” – a delicacy. Presumably from the wedding banquet, in which A-wu as the bride does not take part.delicacy

33 – “His Highness” – wangye/王爷 can refer to a prince or any lord. Different from dianxia/殿下/”Highness” which is only used for a member of the imperial family.

33 – “His Highness” – wangye/王爷 can refer to a prince or any lord. Different from dianxia/殿下/”Highness” which is only used for a member of the imperial family.wangyedianxia

34 – “Your servant I must protest” – More literally, she says, “Your servant I can serve as a messenger”, which is a polite, passive-aggressive way of implying, “You may not know this, so let me lay it clear for you”.

34 – “Your servant I must protest” – More literally, she says, “Your servant I can serve as a messenger”, which is a polite, passive-aggressive way of implying, “You may not know this, so let me lay it clear for you”.

35 – “I am here. What is it…” – A-wu refers to herself here as bengong/本宫, much grander a self-reference than anything she has used in the past. Throughout her conversation with the general, she continues to use bengong to refer to herself. When asking the general to speak, she is polite but not deferential: a more literal translation might be, “General, if you have something to say, then please say it”.

35 – “I am here. What is it…” – A-wu refers to herself here as bengong/本宫, much grander a self-reference than anything she has used in the past. Throughout her conversation with the general, she continues to use bengong to refer to herself. When asking the general to speak, she is polite but not deferential: a more literal translation might be, “General, if you have something to say, then please say it”.bengongbengong

36 – “a sealed missive” - not sure if this is the correct translation, or if there is a greater significance. From what I could tell, huoqichuanshu/火漆传书 translates to "letter sealed in sealing wax". Presumably there is some notion of secrecy here.

36 – “a sealed missive” - not sure if this is the correct translation, or if there is a greater significance. From what I could tell, huoqichuanshu/火漆传书 translates to "letter sealed in sealing wax". Presumably there is some notion of secrecy here. huoqichuanshu

37 – “Jizhou” - city in Heibei

37 – “Jizhou” - city in Heibei

38 – “… me” - here, he uses shuxia/属下 to refer to himself, meaning "subordinate", in context to the Yuzhang Prince. To A-wu, he uses mojiang/末将 to refer to himself, which might be translated as "this insignificant general".

38 – “… me” - here, he uses shuxia/属下 to refer to himself, meaning "subordinate", in context to the Yuzhang Prince. To A-wu, he uses mojiang/末将 to refer to himself, which might be translated as "this insignificant general". shuxiamojiang

39 – “his aide-de-camp” - the literal translation for qinweijiangling/亲卫将领 might be something like "personal guard general". It's fairly clear this general is not really the personal bodyguard to the Yuzhang Prince: he is more like an adjutant, though not necessarily confined to the administrative side of things; I have translated this as an aide-de-camp, to reflect his relatively high position.

39 – “his aide-de-camp” - the literal translation for qinweijiangling/亲卫将领 might be something like "personal guard general". It's fairly clear this general is not really the personal bodyguard to the Yuzhang Prince: he is more like an adjutant, though not necessarily confined to the administrative side of things; I have translated this as an aide-de-camp, to reflect his relatively high position. qinweijianglingaide-de-camp

40 – “then I will not inconvenience my honored husband with them” - Here, in reference to the Yuzhang Prince, A-wu reverts to the first person 我/I to refer to herself. She refers to him as zunjia/尊驾 which literally means "your honored carriage" but can also mean "your highness" or, sarcastically, "honored Sir".

40 – “then I will not inconvenience my honored husband with them” - Here, in reference to the Yuzhang Prince, A-wu reverts to the first person 我/I to refer to herself. She refers to him as zunjia/尊驾 which literally means "your honored carriage" but can also mean "your highness" or, sarcastically, "honored Sir". zunjia

41 – “Your Highness, please” - More literally, they say, "Your Highness, please calm your anger", a fairly standard phrase by the servants when their master is angered. I have translated it as only "please" since the literal translation reads awkward and almost impertinent in English.

41 – “Your Highness, please” - More literally, they say, "Your Highness, please calm your anger", a fairly standard phrase by the servants when their master is angered. I have translated it as only "please" since the literal translation reads awkward and almost impertinent in English.

42 – “a renowned hero…can only be fortune very auspicious” - A-wu's furious and biting sarcasm continues, haha. She describes the Yuzhang Prince as tianzongyingming/天纵英明, which might be a misspelling of tianzongyingcai/天纵英才: either way, it means something like, "one whom the Heavens indulge, one whom the Heavens do not restrict, one whom the Heavens allow to unrestrainedly display his exceptional talents and ability". She goes on to add that "naturally, the Heavens help the worthy" (blessed by the Heavens) - basically, sarcastically praising him that he needs not fear any "inauspicious" doings, he has Heaven on his side. A-wu uses bengong here again as self-referent. "Married such a warrior" might be more literally translated as "married into the door of a general's household". Her own fortune, she says, sufficient to disregard any inauspicious doings, is in this marriage - the sincerity of such a statement is left as an exercise for the reader.

42 – “a renowned hero…can only be fortune very auspicious” - A-wu's furious and biting sarcasm continues, haha. She describes the Yuzhang Prince as tianzongyingming/天纵英明, which might be a misspelling of tianzongyingcai/天纵英才: either way, it means something like, "one whom the Heavens indulge, one whom the Heavens do not restrict, one whom the Heavens allow to unrestrainedly display his exceptional talents and ability". She goes on to add that "naturally, the Heavens help the worthy" (blessed by the Heavens) - basically, sarcastically praising him that he needs not fear any "inauspicious" doings, he has Heaven on his side. A-wu uses bengong here again as self-referent. "Married such a warrior" might be more literally translated as "married into the door of a general's household". Her own fortune, she says, sufficient to disregard any inauspicious doings, is in this marriage - the sincerity of such a statement is left as an exercise for the reader. tianzongyingmingtianzongyingcai

43 – “please rest easy” - More literally, he says, "I hope Your Highness will please take good care of yourself". A pretty standard phrase, but more honorific than what how he has been speaking until now.

43 – “please rest easy” - More literally, he says, "I hope Your Highness will please take good care of yourself". A pretty standard phrase, but more honorific than what how he has been speaking until now.

44 – “My mistake!” - More literally, "This insignificant general knows his guilt!" using the standard error-acknowledging phrase.

44 – “My mistake!” - More literally, "This insignificant general knows his guilt!" using the standard error-acknowledging phrase.

45 – “You may leave….not see you out” - More literally, "General please leave, I will not send you off". A-wu uses bengong here, and her diction is formal; but her tone and sentence structure is fairly simple and thus casual - implying tiredness. Still acknowledging rank, but she does not go to the effort of high language.

45 – “You may leave….not see you out” - More literally, "General please leave, I will not send you off". A-wu uses bengong here, and her diction is formal; but her tone and sentence structure is fairly simple and thus casual - implying tiredness. Still acknowledging rank, but she does not go to the effort of high language.

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