Emperor's Conquest

By Mei Yu Zhe,寐语者

Emperor's Conquest Chapter 6

Emperor's Conquest Chapter 6

1.6 Helan1

11

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Pitch-black, jolting, stifling, the sound of horse hooves. I realized suddenly that I could not move. Something was stuffed in my mouth, gagging me. I could not make a sound … in the darkness, I tried with all my might to open my eyes, but I could not see a thing.

This was a dream. Surely, this had to be a terrible dream.

I exerted all my effort, yet my limbs remained limp and weak. I could not lift even a finger.

There was only the sound of my jumping heartbeat, pounding in my head. In the stuffy darkness, I thought my heart would pound its way out of my chest.

At that moment, I could only perceive the sounds around me with vague consciousness.

There was the thud of horse hooves. Occasionally the sound of the wooden beams of the carriage jolting.

This was probably a light carriage, built for speed, carrying a long, narrow box … surely it wasn't a coffin!

Only the dead lay in coffins. But I was still alive … a chill ran down my back, a cold sweat rose up.

Who dared to conspire my murder?

Could it have been Father's political enemies? Some feud? Or a traitor against the imperial family? … But to kidnap me, what use would that be to them?

Hundreds and thousands of wild thoughts swirled in my head. My body in its stiff position began to feel numb. The tip of my nose suddenly soured.

No, don't cry. I mustn't cry.

I bit my lips fiercely, but tears slid out the corners of my eyes anyway. A desolate fear overtook me.

For the first time in my life, I tasted this flavor: fright.

I did not know where I was, and I did not know who was around me. The servants and guards who usually surrounded me were all gone.

This time, I was really now all alone.

What awaited me ahead - was it an abyss ten thousand fathoms deep, or a dragon pool, a tiger cave, a pit of monsters? Or maybe - an ice-cold grave?

Thus — half-conscious and afraid, cold and hungry - I fell into an uneasy sleep several times, only to be startled awake by the bumping of the horse carriage.

The horse carriage raced on without stopping. In a period of consciousness, I tried to listen. It seemed that there was the sound of water, the bustle of people in a market, even the sound of wind and rain. After a while, I grew colder and colder, and hungrier and hungrier. In a murky daze, I felt that I was really going to die.

There was a sudden loud bang. I startled awake. A piercing light made it almost impossible for me to open my eyes.

A shadow wavered before me. Someone took a hold of me and pulled me out. Every bone in my body hurt as if they were splitting apart.

"This girl's half-dead. Get Old Tian over to take a look. Can't have her dying on us, after all that trouble to get her!"

"Old Tian's treating Young Master right now, like he has time for her! Toss her in the cellar, she won't die."

The people speaking had a strong accent. They were not from the capital. The second voice, cold and ruthless, was unexpectedly a woman's voice.

My eyes had somewhat adjusted to the dusky light before us. Dimly, I saw a fallen roof, a low battered door, an old shabby house.

The number of people before me were of varying heights, but they were all dressed in the garb of northern herdsmen. Their faces were hidden under felt hats, and I could not make them out.

My entire body felt weak, and I was parched and starving. A large man took hold of me. Staggering along, I was pushed through a doorway.

That person untied the ropes binding my hands, and took out the rag gag in my mouth. Then he shoved me onto a hay pile.

Another person came in and set something on the floor.

The two of them went out, closing the door.

Bent over on the hay pile, I had no strength anymore to crawl back up.

But I smelled some strange smell, somehow familiar and yet marvelous. It made me all of sudden ravenous.

In front of me was what that person had set down — a clay bowl half full with some gray porridge-like thing.

Gathering all my strength, I propped myself up and managed to crawl over … reaching, my fingertips just missed the bowl.

At this moment right now, if anyone else were present, they would have seen a high-born, blue-blooded princess consort bent down on the ground, exhausting all her strength, like some small, dying animal crawling along … all just to reach a bowl of coarse rice gruel.

Finally I reached the bowl. In big mouthfuls, I swallowed the gruel. The rough rice husks scraped against my throat with a dull pain, but the flavor far surpassed any delicacy that I had ever eaten. I tasted a thread of something salty and bitter. It was my own tears, which had fallen into the bowl.

I swallowed the last mouthful of gruel. Silently, I said to myself - I will survive, I will live to escape this place, I will live and go home.

Father and Brother would certainly come to save me.

Now, at last, I knew that there was nothing in this world more important than living.

This cellar, compared to the coffin before, was already an enormous improvement.

At least there was the dim light of sunset, the dry pile of hay, no more bumping and jolting, no more frigid cold.

Exhausted and worn to the bone, a wave of sleepiness came over me. I curled into the hay pile.

At that moment, how violently I missed home. How I longed for Mother and Father, for Brother, for Zitan … how I thought about the people who cared about me. With each person I thought about, my courage grew a little.

I even thought about Xiao Qi.

I had an unrivalled hero of a husband. He could subdue the realm! Certainly he must strike terror into the heart of any traitor bandit.

Drowsing and half-sleep, I sank into a sort of dream, and for the first time dreamt about my husband … that general wielding a sword, spurring on his horse, coming to me from a far distance, reaching a hand out to me. Yet I could not make out his face. Yuzhang Prince, have you come to save me …

I did not know how much time later, the lock on the door made a noise. Someone came in and hauled me out of the cellar.

We were inside a worn, broken down room. I saw once again that day's yellow-dressed, graceful "daughter of the Wu family".

The woman before me now was wearing an oversized cotton gown and had a felt hat on her head - she was disguised in men's clothes. Her face was elegant, yet her expression was hard and severe. She seemed fiercer and more frightening than the several big men standing beside her.

I smiled at her, but she coldly glared at me, with a low curse, "Wanton slut2!"

22

The three men behind her were all tall and sturdy, wearing high boots and carrying knives on their belts. They looked to be people from outside the Wall3.

33

The door and window in the room were tightly closed. It was a pretty empty room, with a crooked table and chair. Messily piled in one corner of the room were burlap sacks of hay. On the right was a side-door, completely covered by hanging curtain. Through the side door wafted a faint smell of medicine.

As I was thinking that this place was probably along the northern border, nearly outside the pass - suddenly I was pushed by someone. I staggered toward that side door.

An old man, stooped and bearded, lifted the hanging curtain, and said toward the inside of the room, "Young Master, we've brought her."

"Come in," came a clear, cold male voice.

Inside the side room, the light was even dimmer. I could just barely make out the figure resting on the bed4 facing us.

44

The strong, pungent smell of herbs wafted from the pot of medicine decocting by the head of the bed, so heavy and sharp a smell it could have choked a person. Behind me, the old man wordlessly retreated out of the room. The hanging curtain closed down over the doorway again.

The person on the bed seemed unwell with some injury or illness. He lay inclined on the bed, coldly gazing at me.

"Come here." His voice was feeble and revealed no emotion.

I lifted a hand and tidied up the hair at my temples, and then slowly walked to where he lay.

By the low light from the window, I met a pair of pitch-black, unfathomable eyes.

He was a surprisingly young man. He had a pale wan face with sharply defined features, long swooping eyebrows, and thin lips tightly pursed, almost bloodless in their pallor. Yet his eyes were sharp enough to pierce a person, cutting like the edge of a hidden sword.

I stared, startled that such a person could be the bandit who had kidnapped me.

This white clean appearance, as pale and lonely as the new-fallen snow, this frail weak figure that inspired such feelings of tenderness and pity, this detached coldness that seemed to set itself somewhere infinitely remote…

His gaze seemed to see through me.

"As expected, a beauty indeed," he smiled coldly. "What good luck Xiao Qi has with women."

I was astonished to suddenly hear him mention Xiao Qi. But he leaned forward, stretched out an arm and pinched my chin.

Alarmed, I backed away, reprimanding, "Remember yourself a gentleman5!"

55

"A gentleman?" He leaned against the side of the bed, bending over with laughter. The plain white clothes that he wore was spotted with bright scarlet bloodstains.

"But please, Your Highness - explain to me, what is a gentleman?" His face was white, the startling pallor of sickliness, but his pair of burning eyes were undiminished in their fervor, staring at me with wanton impudence and with something like derision.

"You're right. I was being silly." I gazed at him impassively. "Since my lord6 can go to such lengths to seize and imprison a woman, clearly scruples are too trifling to be bothered with. To discuss the ways of a gentleman with my lord would indeed be ridiculous."

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His eyes flashed, bright as snow. There lurked an inward anger in those eyes. He smiled coldly, "Your Highness is not timid7."

77

"My lord is too kind." I met his eyes calmly.

He was still smiling, but slowly that smile became colder still. "While in my hands and at my mercy8, can Your Highness really be certain that death is outside the realm of possibility?"

88

I stayed silent.

The corners of his lips curled mockingly.

"I cannot, and I am very afraid of death." I sighed, then raised my eyes to smile at him. "But you will not let me die."

That mocking smile froze. His focus wavered for a moment.

"I am still of use, am I not?" I walked slowly over to an old chair and brushed off the dust. Smiling, I took a seat.

His eyes narrowed at me, and his gaze was like a thorn, like a wolf taking measure of its prey.

Under that gaze, slowly my skin prickled with cold. A deep feeling of unease settled in my chest.

"Yes, you are still useful." His smile was light, almost frivolous, as his gaze swept over me from head to toe. "But the manner of use depends on my liking."

I froze, icy fear seizing my heart. But then a surge of hot anger welled up - never had anyone dared to treat me with such impudence, to speak with such open impropriety9.

99

"The unrivalled hero Yuzhang Prince, if he should know that his princess had lost her chastity to the wicked people of the Helan tribe10 …" His gaze blazed like a fire, while his smile could chill a person to the marrow, "What do you suppose the great General Xiao would think?"

1010

I suddenly raised my head, as if struck by lightning.

Helan! He was of the Helan tribe.

The Helan tribe, a people who had become almost entirely forgotten.

Some hundred years ago, the Helan people had slowly grown from a small nomadic tribe to a small state. They drew their borders and founded the Helan nation. Each year, they paid their imperial tributes, and trade grew between their country and the empire. Many Helan people intermarried with people from the Central Plain11, and so Helan slowly assimilated the culture of the Central Plain. It became that the language and customs of the Helan people became indistinguishable from that of the Central Plain.

1111

Later, during the seven years of infighting over the succession12, the Göktürks took advantage of the confusion and invaded. Helan in self-preservation realigned its allegiance with the Göktürks and became the empire's enemy.

1212

The Göktürks occupied the north13 for many years, until they were driven out from the lands north of the Yellow River by Xiao Qi. Deadlocked for three years, they were finally routed into the desert.

1313

At that time, Helan allied with the Göktürks against the empire. They blockaded the imperial army's only road north and burned the army's rations and fodder. The Ningshuo General Xiao Qi14 was harrassed until he erupted into a great rage and commanded the army to besiege Helan city. The Helan king was forced to commit suicide. The crown prince led the whole city out of the walls to surrender and swore fealty to Xiao Qi.

1414

Xiao Qi left one division of soldiers to defend Helan. Then the great army continued north in pursuit of the Göktürks.

What they did not expect was that the royal family of Helan again rose up in rebellion once Xiao Qi had left. They killed the division of imperial soldiers garrisoned in the city, and then together with the Göktürks launched a pincer movement against the imperial army, flanking Xiao Qi from both sides. In that battle, the imperial army suffered heavy losses. The battle lasted two days and two nights, until finally the enemy was repelled. The military forces of Helan was almost entirely wiped out. Their royal family retreated into the city and would not come out. The crown prince once more tried to surrender, but Xiao Qi would not allow it. He ordered the army to assault the city. Once inside, he put to death all three-hundred some members of the Helan royal family.  The crown prince's whole family15 was beheaded in the city square.

1515

"Your Highness, do you know how those brilliant achievements of your husband's were attained? For the glory of your house, do you know how many ghosts linger about their dried bones, demanding vengeance for their unjust deaths?" He leaned forward and pressed his gaze against me intently. His gaze was like the frost-cold edge of a blade, his face terrifyingly white. "On that day when Helan was vanquished, he slaughtered all three hundred some members of the royal family! Not even newborn infants were spared! And the common people, trampled under the iron hooves of that oppressor, crushed to death like ants …"

I bit my lip and sat perfectly still. I did not want to reveal before him even a hint of pallor. Though my heart was chilled, hot blood flooded my cheeks.

He suddenly sat up straight. His eyes were like two lit fires, burning straight into my heart. "Have you even seen orphans and widows, women and children, frozen to death and starved to death, falling dead by the side of the road? Their corpses being gnawed upon by wild beasts? The white-haired elderly burying their sons and grandsons? Villages in the blink of an eye turning into a sea of fire? … And all just because they are not people of the Central Plain, so they must suffer such terrible tragedies?"

I abruptly closed my eyes. I did not dare to listen anymore, I did not dare to think anymore, but there appeared before my eyes one blood red scene after another.

It was not true! He was lying to me! A voice, still unwilling to believe, still resisting, resounded in my heart. The Yuzhang Prince was an unrivalled hero. There was no way he could be the cruel, brutal tyrant this person was describing!

Though ten thousand anxieties struggled in my heart, I still bit my lip and did not say a word.

My throat suddenly tightened, and then soon after - a sharp pain.

He ruthlessly gripped my neck, his two eyes red as blood. He pressed me against the chair, the hard armrest pushing against my back until it almost seemed my back would break.

But I could not make even one cry of hurt.

"Don't give me that act, putting on that composed air … I want to see how high and noble you can be, how self-possessed, how long you can pretend!" He raged. All of a sudden, he hauled me up, dragging me toward him.

His hand was bony, but his grip was very strong. I was dragged straight to fall against the side of the bed, to tumble into his arms.

In a panicked struggle, with a sudden strength I didn't know I had, I rammed my elbow against his chest.

He gave a low groan. The force constricting me suddenly loosened. I fell to the ground. Raising my eyes, I saw him pressing one hand against his chest. Slowly, bright red seeped out from the wound on his chest, straining his clothes.

He glared at me hatefully, his face deathly pale. All of a sudden, his body trembled, he gave a choking cough, bloody foam splashed the sides of his mouth - a ghastly sight.

I covered my mouth to press back a startled yell. My heart gave a shocked leap.

Quickly, I saw the half closed window by the side of the bed.

The hanging curtain blocked the sight of the guards outside the door. No one had heard the sounds of our struggle inside. The person on the bed was suffering a relapse of his wound … This was the chance to escape.

I could not be bothered with propriety or taboos. Hurriedly, I stepped onto the bed, circled around that person's curled up body, and pushed open the window. The north wind immediately swept in.

Outside was the bleak yellow of the desolate16 grass plains. I clenched my teeth, and bent low, preparing to climb out the window, when suddenly from behind I heard a pitiful moaning.

1616

Only to see that man, gripping his chest and trembling, as if enduring enormous pain. With great effort, he reached out one hand to the bowl of medicine by the side of the bed - but it was too great a distance, and he could not reach.

His slim body was huddled like that of an infant, and from his throat came a low whimpering moan. His face was so pale as to seem translucent. It seemed that at any moment he might breathe his last.

I already had half my body out the window, but at that moment, I hesitated.

He only needed a little further to reach the bowl. If he could not reach it, it seemed that he might really die … When I had hit him with my elbow, I had not anticipated that it might reopen an old wound, and that it might kill him.

Before me was a living person, whose life - because of me - was now hanging by a thread.

But he was of a foreign tribe, and one who had conspired against the empire … My thoughts were all a mess. I only felt that in the space of a thought, lay the difference between life and death.

Could it be that today, a perfectly well person would die by my hand?

That person all of a sudden opened his eyes, and looked toward me - in an instant, it seemed as if I was seeing Zitan. In former days, when he had been ill, he too had shown this kind of frail helplessness, and he too had looked at me with that pitiful gaze, unwilling that I should leave his sickbed by even half a step.

It was precisely that pitiful expression, which gouged at my heart. It felt as if something soft had collapsed in my chest.

So be it! After all, it was still a human life! Steeling myself, I stepped down from the bed and picked up the bowl of medicine.

He already did not have the strength to lift his hand. I could only hold the bowl close to his lips, and slowly pour the medicine into his mouth.

He gasped in a breath of air. His face was still as deathly pale as before. He only stared fixedly at me, his expression pained and bewildered, as helpless as a child.

That expression, for some reason, made my hand holding the bowl start to tremble.

His whole body was leaning on me. His brow was knitted into a frown, as he panted shallowly.

I lifted my sleeve and wiped away the bloodstains by the corner of his mouth.

There could be no more delays. I looked back at the door, and then laid him down. But when I turned, the cuff of my sleeve tightened - he had grabbed my sleeve.

"Come now, I just saved your life after all. Let me go." I sighed, and pulled my sleeve from his grip. Then, bending low, I jumped out the window.

I fell onto the soft pile of grass underneath the window. Stumbling, I pulled myself up, and hurriedly ran.

I had only run a short distance17, when suddenly my feet stumbled, tripping over my belt sash. I fell to the ground, scraping my knees and knocking my head.

1717

But it had suddenly become bright before my eyes. The light fell bright on the snow, dazzling like a sword.

Clenching my teeth, I slowly sat up. My whole heart felt like it had plunged into a ravine.

"What, you thought the dozen people outside are all blind or something? That we were just going to let you run if you wanted to run?" A thick, rough man burst into loud laughter.

A pair of dark, coarse hands stretched toward me. I turned sideways and avoided them, and said coldly, "You need not inconvenience yourself. I will walk back myself!"

"Ho, a feisty girl18!" He stretched his hands toward me again.

1818

I raised my head, and coldly swept my gaze toward him.

He froze. Subdued, he watched blankly as I stood and calmly rearranged my clothes. Then he followed me as we returned to the house.

Stepping in through the doorway, I was greeted, "Bitch19."

1919

Before I saw anything clearly, a shadow moved in front of me. A loud noise rang in my ear, then a painful heat erupted on my cheek.

That girl, who dressed as a man, raised her hand and slapped me again. "Bitch, how dare you offend the Young Master, and then have the gall to run!"

My vision grew dark, the taste of blood seeped into my mouth … ashamed and in pain, I couldn't help the tears that welled up. Clenching my teeth, I turned my head to the side and stiffly forced the tears back.

The girl once again raised her hand, but a voice berated, "Stop, Xiaoye20!"

2020

The stooped and bearded old man lifted the hanging curtain and came into the room, and said in a low voice, "Young Master has instructed, we must not be rude to Her Highness."

"How is Young Master?" The girl had no more attention for me, but immediately seized the old man to ask.

The old man gave me an impassive glance. "He took the medicine in time. There's no major harm."

Everyone became busy looking after their Young Master, and I was once more thrown into the cellar.

This time, probably to prevent me from running away again, they bound my hands together and my feet together with hemp rope.

The cellar door closed heavily. In the darkness, I laughed bitterly to myself.

Thank goodness for that moment of benevolence, otherwise who knew how they would have tormented me … if I had known earlier that there was no point in running, I might have done a few more favors21 for that Young Master.

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I could only hope that one good turn deserved another.

Yet, past my anticipation, that good turn actually came.

When I awoke from my sleep, the girl called Xiaoye led me out of the cellar, untied the ropes, and took me to the rear courtyard. Without any explanation, she pushed me into a tent.

To my surprise, inside was a tub of hot water, and even a clean change of coarse-cloth clothes22.

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I drew in a deep breath and sank my whole body into the water. I could not be bothered to care about what their aim was, I forgot entirely the dangers surrounding me at the moment. I only felt that to have a tub of hot water to bathe in was already the most fortunate thing.

Changing into clean clothes, pulling up23 my wet hair, I stepped out of the tent with regained vigor.

2323

Young miss Xiaoye without a word stepped forward to bind my hands again, purposefully pulling the hemp ropes tight.

Enduring the pain, I smiled at her, "You don't look good dressed in men's clothes. Your Young Master ought to have prepared a set of women's clothes."

Her face flushed red with anger. She gave me a sharp pinch under my ribs.

Aunt had said before, women tormenting women were much more ruthless than men.

I was led again to that Young Master's room.

As before, he lay inclined on the bed. His calm, deep gaze lingered on my face for some time, and then moved to my hands.

"Who bound you?" He frowned. "Give me your hands."

He leaned forward, reaching out to untie the rope around my wrists. His fingers were long and slim, and slightly cold against my palms … a little like Zitan.

Zitan's hands were pale as jade, but also warm and gentle.

"It's bruised." He held my wrist.

I withdrew my hands and stepped back a pace, quietly gazing at him.

He also looked at me, just as quietly. After a long time, he smiled, light and slow, "Regretting saving me?"

"It was hardly any effort, there's nothing for me to regret," I said blandly.

He was silent for a moment, and then suddenly laughed coldly, "Xiao Qi kills people like scything flax, and yet has taken to wife one who has Bodhisattva's heart. Ridiculous, truly ridiculous!"

I also smiled, "If the general did not kill enemies, could it be that he should heal them instead? Like the physicians, practicing medicine for the public good?"

heal

He gave a cold snort, "You seem rather protective of your husband. It is a pity that the Yuzhang Prince harbors no such tender feelings24. Such a beauty as you, and yet - still, you were left desolate with an empty boudoir25 for three years."

24242525

I pressed my lips tightly together, and made a great effort to suppress the shame and resentment in my heart. I could not let him pry out even half a bit of distress or embarrassment. I said coldly, "My humble domestic affairs are hardly worth discussion with outsiders."

"All the world knows of your grievances. There is no need for Your Highness to force this pretended composure26." He smiled slightly, yet his words carried such malevolence.

2626

"As you are not me, how would you know of my grievances." I said with lofty pride. "Even if Xiao Qi should have ten thousands faults, yet he is still my husband. I, Wang Xuan, will not allow outsiders to vilify him27."

2727

He did not speak, but stared fixedly at me. After a long while, he gave a sigh.

"Wang Xuan." Looking pensive, he murmured my name. Then suddenly he raised his eyes to me, "Why did you not take the chance to kill me, but instead save me?"

Why did I save him? Because of his slight similarities to Zitan, or because of my excessively soft heart28… I did not know how to answer it myself.

2828

"People are compassionate in their hearts." Impassively, I turned my head to the side.

But I heard his sneer29, "Compassion!"

2929

His gaze was piercing, anger in his look. His smile concealing malice, he said, "Such compassion as you speak of is hard to come by. Then how about using your life to atone for Xiao Qi's crimes on his behalf?"

I did not know what had enraged him, but at once, with my head high, I said, "Have you ever heard of anyone of the Wang family of Lang Ya who feared death?"

His burning eyes fixed on me, his chest heaving, as if repressing some enormous wrath. "Begone, get out of here30!"

3030

After this, I was again sent back to the cellar. But the next day, I was taken into his room once more, to wait on him.

This so called "waiting on him", consisted only of holding the medicine, or passing the water, or sitting to one side listening to him talk, occasionally being subjected to his insults.

I silently went along with it and made no more meaningless efforts of resistance. But I paid careful attention, looking for an opportunity to escape.

When he was awake, he would speak with me some idle talk of insignificant topics, occasionally showing a smile. Otherwise, he spent most of his time harshly berating his underlings, moody and temperamental, ready at the slightest excuse to dole out heavy punishments.

Only when he slept, did his expression calm, and not contain his usual gloom or easy anger.

Gradually, I came to realize, this person was really extremely proud and aloof and sensitive. He hated to receive any pity or sympathy. Even if other people, out of the goodness of their hearts, tried to show him extra concern or care, he would feel that these people were pitying him, and then immediately become angry and hostile.

But those underlines yet remained devoted to him. Their loyalty was incomparable. No matter how he cursed or abused them, they were always exceptionally respectful, and never made a sound of complaint.

Footnotes:

1 - "Helan"

1 - "Helan" Helan

2 - "Wanton slut!" - the more accurate translation is "reckless slut", or more literally, "cheap person who does not know life or death"

2 - "Wanton slut!" - the more accurate translation is "reckless slut", or more literally, "cheap person who does not know life or death"

3 - "from outside the Wall" - the Wall referring to the Great Wall. The phrase used here is guanwai, which more literally translates to "outside the pass" and generally indicates some "region outside or beyond a strategic pass", but these passes are usually in the Great Wall, so I have translated as "past the wall" (specifically, north of the wall)

3 - "from outside the Wall" - the Wall referring to the Great Wall. The phrase used here is guanwai, which more literally translates to "outside the pass" and generally indicates some "region outside or beyond a strategic pass", but these passes are usually in the Great Wall, so I have translated as "past the wall" (specifically, north of the wall)guanwai

4 - "bed" - specifically, a kang, a heated brick common bed

4 - "bed" - specifically, a kang, a heated brick common bedkangkang

5 - "remember yourself a gentleman" - the phrase junzizizhong/君子自重 can be split into junzi, which translates to "nobleman" or "person of noble character" and zizhong which translates to "to conduct oneself with dignity; to be dignified"; A-wu is reprimanding him to conduct himself as expected of a person of noble character.

5 - "remember yourself a gentleman" - the phrase junzizizhong/君子自重 can be split into junzi, which translates to "nobleman" or "person of noble character" and zizhong which translates to "to conduct oneself with dignity; to be dignified"; A-wu is reprimanding him to conduct himself as expected of a person of noble character.junzizizhongjunzizizhong

6 - "my lord" - the term gongzi means "son of an official" or "son of nobility", and indicates generally a high-born or wealthy young man. I have translated this as "my lord" though it does not necessarily mean that he holds a title.

6 - "my lord" - the term gongzi means "son of an official" or "son of nobility", and indicates generally a high-born or wealthy young man. I have translated this as "my lord" though it does not necessarily mean that he holds a title.gongzi

7 - "is not timid" - maybe a better translation, though awkwardly phrased, would be, "Your Highness's courage is not small," though in a not necessarily complimentary way: more in the vein of, "you've got guts". Slightly provocative.

7 - "is not timid" - maybe a better translation, though awkwardly phrased, would be, "Your Highness's courage is not small," though in a not necessarily complimentary way: more in the vein of, "you've got guts". Slightly provocative.

8 - "while in my hands and at my mercy" - the idiom here can more literally translated as "while you are the meat on my chopping block"

8 - "while in my hands and at my mercy" - the idiom here can more literally translated as "while you are the meat on my chopping block"

9 - "such impudence….such open impropriety" - impudence here can also be translated as "wanton/unbridled/presumptuous" and "impropriety" more literally can be translated as "light (weight)/frivolous/philanderer/disrespectful". A-wu as a high-born, well-bred young lady has probably never spoken directly of sexual matters, and was not expected to know anything of them before her marriage; as her marriage has not been consummated yet, this is probably still the case. Regardless, for a man who is not her husband to speak so openly of such things to her is an affront to the respect and propriety owed to her high station.

9 - "such impudence….such open impropriety" - impudence here can also be translated as "wanton/unbridled/presumptuous" and "impropriety" more literally can be translated as "light (weight)/frivolous/philanderer/disrespectful". A-wu as a high-born, well-bred young lady has probably never spoken directly of sexual matters, and was not expected to know anything of them before her marriage; as her marriage has not been consummated yet, this is probably still the case. Regardless, for a man who is not her husband to speak so openly of such things to her is an affront to the respect and propriety owed to her high station.

10 - "the wicked people of the Helan tribe" - a better translation might be "the remaining evil elements of the Helan tribe" or "the surviving members of the evil Helan tribe"

10 - "the wicked people of the Helan tribe" - a better translation might be "the remaining evil elements of the Helan tribe" or "the surviving members of the evil Helan tribe"

11 - "Central Plain" - the middle and lower regions of the Yellow river, including Henan, western Shandong, southern Shanxi and Hebei; generally indicates China proper, as opposed to the tribute states

11 - "Central Plain" - the middle and lower regions of the Yellow river, including Henan, western Shandong, southern Shanxi and Hebei; generally indicates China proper, as opposed to the tribute statesCentral Plain

12 - "seven years of infighting over the succession" - the text merely states "seven years of confusion", referencing from Chapter 2: "When the late Emperor first ascended to the throne, the succession was disputed by three princes, who coluuded to raise an armed rebellion. The fighting in that conflict lasted a full seven years."

12 - "seven years of infighting over the succession" - the text merely states "seven years of confusion", referencing from Chapter 2: "When the late Emperor first ascended to the throne, the succession was disputed by three princes, who coluuded to raise an armed rebellion. The fighting in that conflict lasted a full seven years."

13 - "the north" - specifically, north of Xinjiang

13 - "the north" - specifically, north of XinjiangXinjiang

14 - "Ningshuo General Xiao Qi" - the use of this title gives a rough timeline of events, i.e. the siege of Helan occurred when Xiao Qi was still Ningshuo General rather than Yuzhang Prince. See chapter 3 for more details.

14 - "Ningshuo General Xiao Qi" - the use of this title gives a rough timeline of events, i.e. the siege of Helan occurred when Xiao Qi was still Ningshuo General rather than Yuzhang Prince. See chapter 3 for more details.

15 - "crown prince's whole family" -this refers to the more immediate members of the crown prince's family. The royal family is more extended, like a clan; this refers to the household of the crown prince.

15 - "crown prince's whole family" -this refers to the more immediate members of the crown prince's family. The royal family is more extended, like a clan; this refers to the household of the crown prince.

16 - "desolate grass plains" - the literal translation is "the disarrayed/chaotic grass plains" which doesn't quite make sense to me. I think the point is that this is untilled land, not cultivated into any sort of order, so I have translated it as "desolate".

16 - "desolate grass plains" - the literal translation is "the disarrayed/chaotic grass plains" which doesn't quite make sense to me. I think the point is that this is untilled land, not cultivated into any sort of order, so I have translated it as "desolate".

17 - "a short distance" - more precisely, the text gives "no more than a number of zhang", where zhang is about 10 ft. So she had not run more than a few dozen feet.

17 - "a short distance" - more precisely, the text gives "no more than a number of zhang", where zhang is about 10 ft. So she had not run more than a few dozen feet.zhangzhang

18 - "a feisty girl" - more literally, a "spicy" girl

18 - "a feisty girl" - more literally, a "spicy" girl

19 - "Bitch" - this can also be translated as "cheap person" (as in, one of low moral character, one who is mean and low), also as "slut". Sort of a catch-all insult for a despised person, or a mean petty person, or women in ancient settings.

19 - "Bitch" - this can also be translated as "cheap person" (as in, one of low moral character, one who is mean and low), also as "slut". Sort of a catch-all insult for a despised person, or a mean petty person, or women in ancient settings.

20 - "Xiaoye" - this is a diminutive, rather than her full name. "Xiao" here means "small", used affectionately or to indicate closeness; "ye" means "leaf" and probably is part of her full name.

20 - "Xiaoye" - this is a diminutive, rather than her full name. "Xiao" here means "small", used affectionately or to indicate closeness; "ye" means "leaf" and probably is part of her full name.

21 - "done a few more favors" - the phrase used here, mairenqing, indicates a more selfish motivation for doing favors, ie "give favors for selfish ends; win gratitude by giving favors". Basically, A-wu means that she would have milked it more, in hopes that it earns her their gratitude and thus kindlier treatment for herself.

21 - "done a few more favors" - the phrase used here, mairenqing, indicates a more selfish motivation for doing favors, ie "give favors for selfish ends; win gratitude by giving favors". Basically, A-wu means that she would have milked it more, in hopes that it earns her their gratitude and thus kindlier treatment for herself.mairenqing

22 - "coarse-cloth" - as opposed to the sort of silk and satin that A-wu usually wears.

22 - "coarse-cloth" - as opposed to the sort of silk and satin that A-wu usually wears.

23 - "pulling up wet hair" - as in, to bind the hair up into a bun

23 - "pulling up wet hair" - as in, to bind the hair up into a bun

24 - "harbors no such tender feelings" - the more complete translation is "to show pity and tender love for women" or "to have tender, protective feelings for the fairer sex". The implication is that Xiao Qi is cold and hard-hearted, even to women.

24 - "harbors no such tender feelings" - the more complete translation is "to show pity and tender love for women" or "to have tender, protective feelings for the fairer sex". The implication is that Xiao Qi is cold and hard-hearted, even to women.

25 - "left desolate with an empty boudoir" - that is, that her husband has not visited her chambers, and that he has given her the cold shoulder

25 - "left desolate with an empty boudoir" - that is, that her husband has not visited her chambers, and that he has given her the cold shoulder

26 - "force this pretended composure" - that is, to so strongly deny his insinuations in an attempt to save face.

26 - "force this pretended composure" - that is, to so strongly deny his insinuations in an attempt to save face.

27 - "yet he is still … to vilify him" - I have rearranged the phrasing of this to make it read smoother in English. A more literal translation would be, "yet he is still my, Wang Xuan's, husband, and it is not the place of outsiders to vilify him."

27 - "yet he is still … to vilify him" - I have rearranged the phrasing of this to make it read smoother in English. A more literal translation would be, "yet he is still my, Wang Xuan's, husband, and it is not the place of outsiders to vilify him."

28 - "excessively soft heart" - the literal translation of this idiom is "the benevolence of a married woman", and is used to describe "excessive tendency to clemency", a sort of pejorative soft-heartedness.

28 - "excessively soft heart" - the literal translation of this idiom is "the benevolence of a married woman", and is used to describe "excessive tendency to clemency", a sort of pejorative soft-heartedness.

29 - "sneer" - there's a lot of translations of this word. Above, I translated it as "cold laugh", but it can also mean "sneer / grim laugh / grin of dissatisfaction, bitterness, helplessness, indignation etc / bitter, grim, sarcastic, or angry smile". That general feeling of derision.

29 - "sneer" - there's a lot of translations of this word. Above, I translated it as "cold laugh", but it can also mean "sneer / grim laugh / grin of dissatisfaction, bitterness, helplessness, indignation etc / bitter, grim, sarcastic, or angry smile". That general feeling of derision.

30 - "Begone, get out of here" - alternately, this might be translated as "Get lost, get out of here!" or "Fuck off, get the fuck out!"

30 - "Begone, get out of here" - alternately, this might be translated as "Get lost, get out of here!" or "Fuck off, get the fuck out!"

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