MBCEM Ch 3

this chapter is brought to you by mio
as translator, proofreader and editor!


For the first time, Yuwen Lan discovered that someone knew his secret.

He looked up at the seemingly inconspicuous woman in the far corner.

Just who was she?

Not too long after, all the other imperial concubines soon discovered that the Emperor’s eyes seemed to be always only pointed in one direction.

Following his line of sight, they looked down and saw that it was two women who were sitting at a table near the door of the hall. One was dressed plainly, as if she were a palace maid, while the other had adorned herself so extravagantly that she was even on the same level as Noble Consort Zhou, Consort Ning, and the rest of the consorts.

They were all able to guess who it was in their hearts.

In a low voice, Ren Dong also said to Yan Shu, “Master, why does it feel to me as if His Majesty keeps looking in your direction?”

Yan Shu didn’t take her words seriously at all, only saying flippantly, “It can’t be. Wouldn’t he be looking at Talented Lady Zhang? Just look at how eye-catching she is!”

As she spoke, she had a taste of the Western Lake fish soaked in vinegar that had just been served on the table. Mm, the meat of the fish was tender with a sweet and sour tang to it, even unexpectedly having the umami of the crab soaked into it — truly extraordinary.

The voices of the two of them floated over to a certain side, causing Talented Lady Zhang to grow increasingly certain of her conjecture.

Ever since the Empress Dowager had arrived, the Emperor had intentionally or otherwise continued to look over in this direction. Thus, she concluded that dressing herself up today seemed to indeed have some effect.

This invaluable feet of woven brocade, this precious stone hairpin that cost ten thousand gold just for one, were truly the perfect finishing touches. 

It was just that the distance between the two was still a bit too far, and she still had to find a way to make a memorable impression on the Emperor, so she must not miss this great opportunity for nothing.

As a result, she called for Chun’e, her palace maid, to fetch her a pipa, carrying it over to the middle of the hall and and opened her mouth to say, “On this beautiful occasion, chenqie would like to sing a song for Your Majesty and the Empress Dowager, wishing the both of you good fortune and health.”

 枇杷 (pipa): traditional chinese instrument that’s played by plucking the strings

Not to mention that the pipa had been inlaid with mother-of-pearl, it even could be said that it complemented her dazzling appearance.

The eyes of Noble Consort Zhou, Consort Ning, and the rest of them, burned with a raging fire, their hearts filled with all kinds of curses that stemmed from their jealousy and resentment.

Absent-minded, Yuwen Lan said, “Granted.”

The palace servants hurriedly moved over a round stool. Talented Lady Zhang hugged the instrument and sat down, plucking at the strings with her fingers that resembled scallions, and started to sing in a delicate voice.

“A single straight stalk of purple bamboo, make a bamboo flute and send it to me…”

It turned out that Talented Lady Zhang was actually playing and singing a Jiangnan ballad. The melody was graceful and lilting, and the lyrics were all kinds of tender, delicate and charming. They had even been sung in a Suzhou1 dialect, which indeed caused people to sit up and take notice.

 江南 (jiangnan): often refers to the sunny south, often regarded as one of the most prosperous districts due to its wealth in trade.

After the song ended, everyone had no choice but to applaud.

The Empress Dowager even intentionally asked, “Are you from Jiangnan?”

From the side, Hu’an, a manager within the Department of Ceremonies2, said, “Reporting to Empress Dowager, Talented Lady’s father is a weaving envoy from the capital, with their whole family being true capital citizens.”

Talented Lady Zhang also said with a smile, “Chenqie heard that the Empress Dowager is fond of Suzhou ballads, thus, especially sought to learn a few poems. However, my singing isn’t too good, so thus, must have made you laugh.”

The Empress Dowager nodded, “At least you have the heart.”

In between speaking, she snuck a peek at the Emperor out of the corner of her eye. However, he only calmly took a sip of tea, his face indifferent, with not a ripple of disturbance to be found.

However, Consort Ning suddenly said to Imperial Concubine Li beside her, “This ballad is indeed pleasant to hear, just that the lyrics are a bit difficult to understand. Oh, that’s right, Imperial Concubine Li, your hometown is in Jiangnan, quickly tell us, what is the meaning of that song?”

Imperial Concubine Li showed a troubled look, looking around and saying, “This… I’m afraid this sort of thing isn’t appropriate to say on a night like this.”

Once these words were said, everyone present couldn’t help but be curious—

Oh, it isn’t appropriate to say? What exactly did Talented Lady Zhang sing in her song?

Consort Ning burst into laughter, what else could be inappropriate to say? Don’t tell me the lyrics are disgraceful?”

大逆不道 (danibudao): referring to disgraceful behaviour that’s a grave breach of societal norms, e.g. being unfilial, rebelling, etc

Talented Lady Zhang’s complexion changed completely, immediately shaking her head and saying, “How could this concubine dare to do so?”

Imperial Concubine Li, however, covered her lips and smiled, saying, “Contrary to that, that isn’t the case, Her Ladyship Consort Ning is just joking. This song, however, is simply just uncultured language said between rural people, talking about passionately making love. Something like, ‘A single straight stalk of purple bamboo, make a bamboo flute and send it to me, bamboo flute against the mouth, mouth against the bamboo flute, back and forth like a little carp’s tail, young girl’s cheeks blushed with pink, my little…”

“Oh my!”

Before Imperial Concubine Li could finish speaking, Consort Ning interrupted her, covering her ears and scolding her, “You too, Imperial Concubine Li. How could you speak such language at an occasion like this? How could you tarnish the ears of His Majesty and the Empress Dowager?”

Having heard what was said, Imperial Concubine Li hurriedly got up with a face full of panic and bowed toward the seat of honour, “Your Majesty, Empress Dowager, please forgive me. Chenqie has acted out of propriety…”

Tch, she was only the one to relay those words, so even if they wanted to blame her, they couldn’t put it on her. As a result, both the Emperor and the Empress Dowager didn’t say anything else, however, everyone soon turned their eyes to Talented Lady Zhang.

Only Yan Shu, who was holding up the freshly served fish soup and drinking it, shook her head in her heart—

The so-called shooting the first bird with a gun, having to take responsibility for as much work as your skills, even coming out to scramble to and fro blindly for no purpose — you’ve done it this time, haven’t you!

Look how nice it is to just eat honestly like me!

Mm, this fish soup is sour and spicy, truly delicious.

Not far away, Talented Lady Zhang was as if she was sitting on pins and needles, having rode the tiger and unable to get off, her feeling of pride that had just sprouted instantly vanished like smoke in thin air. Having no other alternative, she hurriedly kneeled and said, “Asking for His Majesty and the Empress Dowager to forgive me. Chenqie also learned this from the people in the Department of Musical Instruction3. Chenqie is not from Jiangnan, and at that time, worked diligently on the intonation for the sake of singing well, not at all aware of what one was singing about.”

骑虎难下 (qihunanxia): lit. finding it hard to get off after riding a tiger / fig. impossible to stop halfway.

Consort Ning and Imperial Concubine Li no longer said anything, only coldly looking on as bystanders. 

After a while, the female official by the Empress Dowager’s side, Zhu Shu, came out to mediate the situation, “Presumably there are many folk tunes amongst the people like this, Talented Lady Zhang must have done it unintentionally.”

After these words fell, the Empress Dowager also raised her hand, “Forget it, today is a big celebration, all of you return to your seats.”

Only then did Talented Lady Zhang dare to get up, carrying the pipa and returning to her seat with her tail between her legs.

Imperial Concubine Li also returned to her seat, and while no one was paying attention, shared a look with Consort Ning, a tacit understanding that goes without saying in their eyes.

The palace servants serving in the banquet began to bring out new dishes again. Although Noble Consort Zhou and Consort Ning continued to fight over talking to the Empress Dowager, Yuwen Lan’s face, from beginning to end, showed no sign of happiness or anger.

Dealing with everyone on one side, the Empress Dowager’s gaze travelled toward that faraway corner once again, and couldn’t help wonder, could it be that the Emperor had taken a liking to the one near the door that just kept eating?

That’s… really a unique preference.

~~

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:

Seeing all the cold dishes, hot dishes, pastries and snacks, and hot soup all come one after the other, just as Yan Shu had eaten to the point of bursting, the New Year’s banquet finally came to an end.

When the Empress Dowager got up from her seat to leave, everyone got up to respectfully see her off.

Yuwen Lan also got up from his seat of honour, following the figure of the Empress Dowager as she walked out of the palace hall door and boarded her palanquin, still trying to seek out that girl’s thoughts.

However, he heard her burp in satisfaction and secretly smack her lips, [Tonight was all kinds of delicious, it would’ve been perfect if we had a few more spicy dishes. Let’s do the maths, today is the eighth day of the lunar year, when would the next banquet be? Little New Year? Damn, I still need to wait another half a month…]

 小年 (xiaonian): also known as the festival of the kitchen god and is often the event that kicks off the main festivities for the spring festival

Yuwen Lan, “???”

Why is it all about food?

Then, he heard her sigh in her heart again, [Since it’s already set in stone, might as well just sit back and relax4. It’s still a blessing to eat good food without being sexually satisfied5 in life.]

Yuwen Lan, “???”

Now what does this mean?

What is the meaning of ‘sexually satisfied’?

t/n: would make sense that yuwen lan is unaware of what this means since it’s modern day slang

Why is this woman’s thoughts so… strange?

Yuwen Lan narrowly stopped his footsteps.

However, if he did so, afraid that would inadvertently alert the other party6.

He continued to endure, feigning that nothing happened and walked out the door of the palace hall.

~~

The Head of the Imperial Guards, Fu Hai, could sense that there was something different about His Majesty tonight. 

After coming out of Rouyi Hall, although he still went to the imperial study to read the memorandums as usual, he didn’t start writing for a long time, as if he was distracted.

Fu Hai was pondering it over secretly when he heard the Emperor ask, “Who was sitting at the end tonight?”

After having accompanied him for many years through the good and bad, Fu Hai hurriedly replied, “Replying to Your Majesty, the one who came out to present a song just now at the banquet was Talented Lady Zhang, the daughter of the capital’s Weaving Bureau envoy, Zhang Tong.”

After those words were said, the Emperor didn’t react at all.

He then added on hurriedly, “The one sitting next to Talented Lady Zhang is Yongning Palace’s Beautiful Lady Li.”

As soon as those words were uttered, the Emperor finally opened his precious mouth, “Where is she from?”

Fu Hai finally knew that he had guessed right, hurriedly replying, “This small one recalls that Beautiful Lady Li was born in Qingzhou prefecture’s An De County, entering into the palace through the imperial draft three years ago.”

Qingzhou…

Yuwen Lan pondered to himself secretly, a place that was a few hundred miles away from the capital, how could she possibly be aware of affairs that were regarding him?

However, he heard Fu Hai sigh in his heart, as if deeply moved, [Hey, looks like this Beautiful Lady Li is about to get promoted. Who could’ve thought that the first person in the harem to catch the Holy One’s eyes would be a little insignificant Beautiful Lady?]

Disturbed by the voice, Yuwen Lan raised his hand and said, “You may withdraw.”

“Yes.”

Fu Hai bowed and retreated a step, mulling it over in his heart, [What sort of situation is this? Since you’ve already taken a liking to her, why didn’t you ask her to come and serve you? It isn’t early anymore. My dear Emperor, a moment of the spring night is worth a thousand pounds of gold!]

 春晓 (chunxiao): spring night refers to a night of love making; spring is often an euphemism for sex

Just as he thought of this, he felt as if he could feel the icy tip of a blade at the top of his head. Fu Hai quivered, unable to figure out when he had touched on an inverse scale of His Majesty’s, only quickening his footsteps out of the door.

inverse scales usually refer to the soft spot of a dragon and resemble something or somebody you shouldn’t touch, and doing so would lead to dire consequences.

With his ears finally quiet, Yuwen Lan tiredly rubbed his forehead, thinking for a while before calling again, “Someone come.”

This time, the person who entered was a Brocade Uniform Guard clad in a flying fish robe7.

 锦衣卫 (jinyiwei): secret police force of ming emperors

“Go and take a trip to Qingzhou Prefecture’s An De County, and look into the imperial draft of that year.”

The Brocade Uniform Guard nodded, immediately exiting out of the door to carry out his orders.

Yuwen Lan picked up the case in the memorandum once again, but his mind seemingly hadn’t fully come back yet.

His mind would always go back to that woman from the banquet.

—Three years ago, on his way back to the capital, he encountered a sudden clap of thunder8 and fainted. Upon waking up, he gained the ability to read minds, but gradually lost the functions a man should have.

Over the years, he had secretly been sending out people to inquire and seek a cure, but it was all to no avail. 

This was a big taboo, especially as an emperor. He had always taken strict precautions in defending this secret to death, so much so that even his trusted aides and eunuch that he relied on the most were unaware of it. 

So, how exactly did that woman know?

Just who was she?

Just where did it all go wrong?

His heart became more and more chaotic and disorderly, so he simply put down his papers and called over another little eunuch who was wearing a rounded collar gown.

“Keep a close watch over Yongning Palace. Big or small9, Zhen wants to know every single detail.”

——

the author has something to say:

A certain emperor: Woman, you have successfully attracted Zhen’s attention

A certain author: Kid, this sort of opening is seriously too low standard.

A certain emperor: Woman, you know too much.

A certain author: ???

[1] 苏州 (suzhou): prefecture in jiangnan.

[2] 司禮監 (silijian): in charge of etiquette and ceremonial rituals

[3] 教坊司 (jiaofangsi): in charge of music and dance practices for banquets and festivals

[4] 既来之,则安之 (jilaizhi, zeanzhi): since it’s like this, we should just accept it

[5] she literally says ‘xing福’, which is a homophone with ‘幸福’ (good fortune). it’s slang that alludes to a sexually satisfied life by replacing the first character ‘幸’ with the character ‘性’ for sex

[6] 打草惊蛇 (dǎcǎojīngshé): lit. beat the grass and scare the snake. / fig. Inadvertently alert the enemy

[7] 飞鱼服 (feiyufu): worn by the ming dynasty imperial guards.

[8] 惊雷 (jinglei): lit. sudden clap of thunder. / fig. a surprising turn of events

[9] 事无巨细 (shìwújùxì): lit. things are not separated according to their size (idiom) / fig. to deal with any matter, regardless of its importance


almost cried translating that folk song QAQ
if any of you guys can offer me a better translation, please comment it down below, i’m rlly out of ideas GHDSFLKJD ;-; the raw is:
一根紫竹直苗苗,送也吾郎做管箫,箫儿对着口,口儿对着箫,小小鲤鱼尾巴摆,好似妹妹粉红腮。我个小乖乖……”

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