this chapter is brought to you by mio
as translator, proofreader and editor!
The cold wind swirled in the courtyard and plucked away the last dead leaf from the old tung tree.
Ren Dong carried a food box, trotting away, and finally returned to the hall of Yongning Palace.
Compared to the other palaces in the harem, this place was secluded and remote, and the furnishings in the hall were rather simple.
A charcoal bamboo basket made the room just barely warm.
Seeing her coming back, Yan Shu, who was warming herself by the charcoal basket, immediately asked, “What are we eating today?”
Ren Dong took out the contents in the food box one by one, and said, “We have stuffed mushrooms, roast duck with bamboo shoots, an assortment of stir-fried vegetables, eight treasure tofu, right, today is the eighth of the twelfth lunar month, so we have Laba porridge as well!”
Yan Shu then came to the table, “I like stuffed mushrooms the most, the Laba porridge in the palace is also delicious, not bad, not bad!”
With that, a mushroom stuffed with three different kinds of minced meat entered her mouth.
Oh, it was delicious and juicy, the fragrance of the minced meat in the glutinous rice didn’t lose to the delicate feel of the shiitake mushrooms, really the best pairing with rice!
Of course, this was also thanks to the nimble feet of Ren Dong, since if she had taken her time in coming back and caused the food to cool, the flavour would have been greatly reduced.
The hierarchy within the harem was strict. The imperial concubines with high ranks often had their own servants sent from the Department of Palace Delicacies1 that were in charge of their meals. However, Yan Shu was only a Beautiful Lady2, so she could only have her own people go.
There are no more than eight eunuchs and palace maids in Yongning Palace, and from the few that had been brought from her maternal family, only Ren Dong really understood her tastes, thus, the person who brought her meal every time was always Ren Dong.
“Right, master,” Ren Dong said again, “I heard that there would be a New Year’s banquet tonight. Just now, De Wang, who manages the Department of Treasures3, went to Talented Lady4 Zhang with something bundled in a cloth. Don’t know what they’re sending her again.”
At the mention of this, Ren Dong felt that this was unfair for her master—
The concubines had rules on how much they ate, and a budget for the spending allocated for their clothes as well. Yan Shu’s rank was low, so naturally she couldn’t be compared with the concubines above her. However, that Talented Lady Zhang was clearly of an even lower rank, yet stubbornly relied on the fact that her maternal family was wealthy to bribe the palace’s eunuchs so that from time to time, they would find some good quality clothing, jewellery, rogue, foundation, and so on, all wanting to step on her master’s head.
“I don’t think any of the other Ladyships5 are as good looking as you,” she lowered her voice wistfully, “If we had the spare money to dress you more extravagantly, you would definitely outshine them all.”
Yan Shu couldn’t even care less about that, “That’s all just useless, dressing up like a fairy, yet His Majesty still won’t come tonight.”
Tsk, this is her third year in the palace, yet she has never glimpsed even a corner of the Emperor’s robe.
Speaking of him, he could be called a legendary figure today. Back then, the previous emperor’s prestige and bloodline were weak, and the imperial clan’s various kings were all eyeing his position covetously. At a young age, he killed his way out of a siege, unifying and succeeding the throne in the midst of a bloody rain and violent winds, and took just three years to stabilise the country and organise the imperial court, which could be said that he actually had some amount of ability.
What was most important was that his looks were rumoured to be incomparable to that of mortals.
Yet within these three years, the Emperor had never set foot into the harem, not even showing up easily to festival banquets.
Yan Shu was of low status, not qualified to go and pay her respects, so she had not yet had the opportunity to verify whether the rumours of him being a celestial being were true or not.
But in spite of this, the concubines in the palace still didn’t give up hope, banding together and lining up one after the other, and like Talented Lady Zhang, doing their best to enter the Emperor’s sight first; all except for Yan Shu.
Hearing what she said at this moment, Ren Dong hurriedly persuaded her, “Even if His Majesty doesn’t come, it’ll be fine as long as you show your face to the Empress Dowager. If the Empress Dowager takes a liking to you, and often asks for you to chat with her in Ci’an Palace, wouldn’t you have a better chance of meeting His Majesty?”
Yan Shu was currently putting a yellow piece of eight treasure tofu into her mouth as she said perfunctorily, “Forget it, isn’t that Noble Consort6 Zhou still the Empress Dowager’s niece, yet isn’t she still the same as well? Oh, this tofu is seriously crispy on the outside and soft on the inside!”
Ren Dong, “…”
Ai, just by judging from her master’s appearance, if she had even a tiny smidgen of ambitious spirit, afraid she would have already made a name for herself! Yet all she cares about all day long is what she should eat and all the gossip she hears out of nowhere.
At this time, she heard her say again, “Right, I heard that Noble Consort Zhou’s parents have been having a couple’s quarrel over these past two days, don’t know if she and the Empress Dowager have heard of it yet.”
Ren Dong’s eyes lit up, “Could it be that Madam Cheng found out about Benefactor Cheng’s sixth concubine that he raised outside?”
Yan Shu nodded as she ate, “This little six does indeed have some small schemes, taking advantage of the fortunate timing of her pregnancy to spread the news and provoke Madam Cheng into making a fuss. However, Benefactor Cheng would still anyhow be distressed for his own flesh and blood, and Madam Cheng’s cannot possibly override him, so he will most likely demand for little six to be accepted into the manor and become a proper concubine.”
胳膊拧不过大腿: (lit.) arm cannot pinch one’s thigh / (fig.) the weak cannot overcome the strong
Ren Dong clicked her tongue, “If little fifth had been this scheming last time, then the she wouldn’t have passed away. That said, just how old is Benefactor Cheng already, yet he’s still got such a bellyful of trickery, isn’t he ashamed?”
香消玉殒: (lit.) fragrance vanishes and jade crumbles / (fig.) a beauty passes away
“He’s a man, most of them are like that.”
Yan Shu gulped down a mouthful of Laba porridge, only feeling that it was sweet and dense, so appetising it reached all the way down to her stomach.
Try another taste of a piece of duck, oh, the imperial kitchen is very skilled in controlling the heat, the duck meat is soft and delicious, the flavour of the bamboo shoots had even seeped into its texture, the meat was fragrant yet not greasy, salty and delicious.
She had come from a modern world and traversed through time to get here. In her previous life, she had been in poor health, hugging herbal decoctions and medicine ever since she was a child, and could not eat this nor that. Despite all her efforts, she had barely managed to survive to her youthful years, yet she had still died under the torture of her illness.
Although in this life, she had somehow passed through to the ancient era, for her to possess a healthy body that didn’t make her worry about what she could eat or drink already made her cherish this opportunity, and grateful to the heavens.
Furthermore, she gained a melon eating system after she entered the palace. From time to time, she was able to eat all kinds of novel melons, with each family’s harem having some juicy love history told to her everyday, she was constantly overwhelmed with excitement.
吃瓜: (lit.) eat melons / (fig.) derived from eating melon seeds when watching entertainment, it figuratively means listen to gossip (a western equivalent would perhaps be eating popcorn)
Right at this moment, the voice of the system once again reappeared in her mind, [New melon, Marquis Lin Wu’s heir isn’t his own son.]
Yan Shu almost choked on the Laba porridge, [There’s even this?]
The entire capital was well aware that Marquis Lin Wu only had this one son, who was normally the apple of his eye, yet unexpectedly it isn’t his?
pls do not share this anywhere or u will always stub ur toe when u walk past a door frame !! this translation has been stolen from mioscorner.com, pls only read there i’m begging u :kneels:
After lunch, the cold wind outside howled even more severely.
Yan Shu was currently eating Marquis Lin Wu manor’s huge melon, then heard someone outside the door say, “Is Beautiful Lady Li inside?”
Hearing that voice, it was exactly that Talented Zhang that Ren Dong had just spoken of.
Yan Shu’s rank was low, so the other concubines disdained to deal with her, thinking it was beneath their own honour, nor did she also show herself in front of others either. This Talented Lady Zhang, however, was very different. Although she was the lowest-ranking concubine in the palace, she often came to the place of her, the second-to-last ranking concubine, to make her presence known.
It wasn’t polite to not see her when she was already at the door, so Yan Shu had Ren Dong open the door.
Sure enough, she saw Talented Lady Zhang step into the room and greet her, “Sister Li must have already had her meal, so having nothing to do, I came over to your place to chat.”
Yan Shu smiled politely, “Please sit down, is it cold outside?”
“It’s alright. I dressed warmly, so I didn’t notice either.”
With a smile, Talented Lady Zhang unhurriedly removed her brocade cloak that was line in ink, seemingly worth a fortune at a glance, and even intentionally smoothened out the snow white animal down that lined the brim of her cap. Only after that did she settle down in her chair, “There’s a New Year’s banquet tonight, and I even heard that His Majesty will be attending. Has Sister gotten ready yet?”
As she spoke, the plum blossom dangling hair ornament that was crafted of pure gold at her temple continued to sway, and borrowing the afternoon sun that poured into the room, the bright light was so dazzling that it blinded people’s eyes.
Ren Dong’s heart seemed to harbour a fire. This Talented Lady came here wearing a new cloak and jewellery, wasn’t she just here with the aim of deliberately making fun of her poor master?
However, Yan Shu frowned and rubbed her forehead tiredly, even covering her mouth and coughing twice, pretending to be weak as she said, “Unfortunately, I caught a cold yesterday, so I don’t feel too well today. I’m afraid I won’t be able to go tonight.”
Ren Dong, “???”
Not feeling too well? Didn’t you just swallow one bowl of rice and two bowls of porridge?
Zhang cairen’s eyes lit up, but she tried to cover it up and said, “What a pity, it’s such a rare chance to see the Emperor’s face. I was even thinking that if Sister didn’t have any jewellery, I could even lend you two!”
Yan Shu covered her mouth and coughed twice, “Thank you for your good intentions, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to make use of it now.”
Probably out of fear of getting sick as well, Talented Lady Zhang hurriedly got up and said, “Then I’ll let Sister rest well, I won’t intrude on you any longer.”
With that, she put on her newly made mink cloak and led her palace maids out the door.
The room became quiet again. Ren Dong cast a grieving and lamenting glance toward Yan Shu, “Didn’t you hear that His Majesty will be there tonight? What a great opportunity, so why are you pretending to be sick?”
Yan Shu didn’t pay that any mind, “Even if I go, I’ll be seated at the bottom, separated by dozens of people in the middle. His Majesty can’t even see past other people, yet can still see me?”
Rather than watch those bored concubines strive for his favour, it was better for her to stay in her room and continue to eat melons, just halfway through digging up Marquis Lin Wu Madam’s relationship history, yet it was already so thrilling!
But Ren Dong said, “You’re the hope of the entire An De County’s common people! In any case, our county has never before produced an imperial concubine, so how could you be so unambitious and abandon yourself to despair?”
Yan Shu, “…”
She just wanted to be a happy salted fish, can’t afford to carry such heavy moral shackles, okay?
咸鱼: salted fish refers to someone who wants to laze around and do nothing
However, before she could speak, the little palace maid, Lian Xin, entered the room and said, “Beautiful Lady, the Empress Dowager’s palace maid has just come to deliver a decree. His Majesty will be there in person tonight, so all concubines must be sure to attend the New Year’s banquet in Rouyi Hall.
Yan Shu, “…”
Great, I can’t even be lazy when I want to.
Twilight descended, the lanterns were lit at the first signs of darkness, the entire palace shrouded in splendour.
Living in a remote area of the palace, her status too low for her to ride a palanquin, Yan Shu struggled all the way to Rouyi Hall, her little face having already turned red from the cold.
Fortunately, the warmth of the hall soon faded her two spots of blush, making her complexion look quite good.
Because they received news of His Majesty personally attending today, the concubines all arrived particularly early tonight, decked out in gold and silver, having all applied powder and cinnabar, all exceptionally gorgeous.
Even Talented Lady Zhang was dressed even more extravagantly than when they had met in the afternoon. Adorned in a palace dress clustered with gold plum blossoms, a gold hair pin with precious gems and blossom and butterfly pearls, lips painted bright red with rouge, she looked extremely eye-catching.
In contrast, Yan Shu was wearing a lotus coloured coat and skirt, only a pearl dangling hair ornament in her hair that had been coiled up, her plain appearance seemingly extremely pitiful.
Ren Dong was completely helpless, wanting to dress her master up prettily, yet Yan Shu insisted on the light makeup, so light that it didn’t even have any sense of presence, thus, she had no choice to do so.
At this time, Yan Shu was sitting almost near the end of the banquet, and compared with the concubines in front of her with their heavy makeup, she really had no sense of presence.
However, it was different for Talented Lady Zhang, who was sitting at the same table as her. Ren Dong could clearly feel that Noble Consort Zhou, who was in the seat of honour, Consort7 Ning, and the others, were all intentionally or otherwise shooting daggers at her with their eyes.
In an instant, she suddenly had a flash of insight, finally understanding her master’s intentions—to stand out in such an occasion was clearly seeking enemies for oneself; and furthermore, they were all extremely powerful enemies!
This Talented Lady Zhang really has the guts.
Talented Lady Zhang, however, did not seem to sense it herself. At this time, she was sitting upright, assuming her best bearing, patiently waiting for His Imperial Majesty to come.
By contrast, Yan Shu was exactly like an extra, listening to the system’s melons while looking at the pastries on the table, wondering when they can start eating.
Oh, the pastries for this huge banquet are truly different at first glance, this lotus cake really looks too alluring.
Not long after, with a “His Majesty has arrived…”, tonight’s main character finally appeared on the stage.
Everyone saw a figure wearing a black dragon robe enter into the hall. He was tall and imposing, the face underneath the golden crown seemed to be carved like a knife, with wind billowing with every step.
The mood of the concubines in the palace hall began to stir in excitement, getting up to salute him, each and every one of them calling out in a lovable and coquettish voice, “Respectfully greeting His Majesty, long live.”
Yan Shu copied their usual practice, after all, it was a rare opportunity for her to sneak a peek. But unfortunately, she was too far away and could only vaguely make out that the other party had a straight nose, thin lips, and strong jawline. It seems that he was indeed quite good looking.
At this moment, there was the sound of a ding in her ear, and the voice of the system rang out, [There is a big melon of the Emperor’s.]
the author has something to say:
System: There’s a melon of the Emperor’s.
Yan Shu: What melon?
System: Your husband is very handsome.
Yan Shu: …
 尚膳监: managed by eunuchs. the department provides the food for the imperial household
 美人: a low ranking concubine title, titled ‘beautiful lady’, quite low on the hierarchy, below the noble consorts, consorts, and imperial concubines. an unlimited amount of people can possess this title.
 司珍: department that is responsible for making or purchasing the imperial household’s share of jewellery and treasure and is under the ministry of revenue
 才人: a low ranking concubine title, titled ‘talented lady’, even lower than beautiful lady. an unlimited amount of people can possess this title
 娘娘: seniority appellation that’s used for empress or imperial concubines
 贵妃: high ranking concubine title, titled ‘noble consort’, ranked only below the empress. there are typically only two people who can hold this title.
 妃: high ranking concubine title, ‘consort’. typically only four positions of this title are open.
just thought i’d try my hand at tling chinese novels since this doesn’t have a translation! please do go easy on me, i’m not fluent in chinese and this is mostly with the help of a dictionary as well, so don’t expect fast updates,,,
this novel is so good though, mc is a foodie and just wants to laze around all day while the emperor can read minds HGLSDFKJDFS 100% a chaotic novel LMAOSDKSDFJ
on another note, i got hungry translating this chapter, haven’t eaten yet GHSDFLJSDF