Concealed by Brocaded Clouds, Frost on the Roads: Volume 01 Chapter 02

10:45 PM Oyen 1 Comments

This is chapter 2 for this short novel, hope you enjoy your reading, and feel free to comment~
 
Chapter 2: Know Where to Go, Boundless Road Ahead
translator & editor: Oyen

In the solemn and magnificent Zhaoyang palace hall, white sandalwood was burning in the bronze crane incense burner, and the thin smoke was curled up in the air, with a faint fragrance in the whole room.

Ruan Wushuang wore a soft silk palace suit dress, on her head was ceramic glaze hairpin inlaid with gold with five tassels dangling on it. Along with her steps, the pearls and beads between the bun shook slightly. She followed the maid to the palace hall. Outside the full moon shaped crystal curtain, the whole two rows of maids were standing, lowering their head waiting for her. 

Then, she stood still, Aunt Mu, who was next to the Empress, had already lifted the curtain and came out. She saluted her and smiled. “Second imperial consort, please come in. The Empress is waiting!” Aunt Mu was originally the maid of Ruan Mansion. At that time, she became the current Empress Ruan's dowry when she married the sixth prince, and later entered the palace with Empress Ruan. At this time, she was already the head maid of the Zhaoyang palace hall.

Behind the crystal curtain was the Empress's real living place, but she only met people close to her in here. At the moment, Empress Ruan was sitting gracefully on the brocade couch, with four palace maids standing by with feather fans in hand. Seeing her coming in, Empress Ruan nodded and smiled slightly.

Then, she waved her hand. “You all can withdraw.” 

Several palace maids answered, “Yes,” as they hurriedly and neatly came out. Ruan Wushuang was following palace rules and bowed her head to salute. and filed out neatly. 

“You're excuse!” Empress Ruan smiled. “You are my nephew, no need to follow the rules.”

She personally got off the brocaded couch, came over to hold Wushuang’s hand. “Come, chat with aunt.” As soon as she sat down, Aunt Mu brought tea, cakes, preserved fruit and so on. She put the white porcelain tea cup outlined in gold and a few exquisite pastries one by one on the brocade couch, then she bowed down and retreated.

Empress Ruan picked up the tea cup. With her long fingers, she gently picked up the white porcelain tea cover, she smelled it and had a sip, then said. “Are you still getting used in the prince's mansion?”

Wushuang smiled and replied. “Answering my aunt, I’m still getting used to.” There was still something she got used to and not used to, there were many miscellaneous things, but there were always housekeepers, wet nurse Sun and others who came forward, and most of them did things according to the old rules of the house, so she didn’t need to worry too much.

Empress Ruan picked out a chrysanthemum-shaped pastry and handed it to her, as if casually saying. “What about Zhe’er? Is he treating you well?” 

Wushuang blushed slightly, but her eyes were indifferent. “Aunt’s heart naturally understands it clearly. How can he be unkind to me?”

If he wanted to rely on Ruan family's influence, he would be obedient to her. But it was only a month since he got married. Baili Haozhe had to take part in the royal court affair every day, and most of the time, he stayed with the Emperor and his ministers in the imperial study. They interacted more in the evening, and actually spent the most time at night—— and she was unable to mention that, her face turned redder.

Empress Ruan took a leisurely sip of tea, and replied softly. “Wushuang, our Ruan family has always been weak, and aunt has always spoiled you. Knowing that you are different from ordinary people, you have a gentle temper, and you never care about the glory and wealth that others can't ask for. If your temperament is in an ordinary family, it would be a blessing. But if you marry Zhe'er now, if your temperament does not change, I am afraid that you will suffer in the future.”

In her heart, she had always treated Baili Haoting and Baili Haozhe equally, and there was no closeness between them, and there was no need for intimacy. But now, Shuang'er was married to Baili Haozhe, her heart was biased after all.

“Even if you want to be an imperial consort all your life, it's hard to ensure that Zhe'er won't take concubines one day. As a man, who doesn't crave for a wife and beautiful concubines. If you sit in aunt's position in the future, you will understand more clearly that the affairs of the harem are not something you can quit without arguing. Over the years, this Empress has been self cultivated enough, and that charming fox is still not aggressive.”

Ruan Wushuang knew that the charming fox in her aunt's mouth was Meng Lihua, the highest rank imperial concubine in the palace, the mother of the emperor's fourth prince. Since she gave birth to an imperial son and was conferred a title as an imperial concubine—— she had been competing with the Empress in the palace for favour and always wanted to take her place.

She comforted her hurriedly. “Aunt, there’s no need to bother with her! No matter how favoured she is, she couldn’t surpass you.” The Emperor's body had been weakening over the years, and he had begun to lose touch with women. Let that imperial concubine Meng the ability to pass the sky, she would also leave out in front of the door.

Empress Ruan was still angry, replied coldly. “Only because she takes advantage of this Empress doesn’t have an imperial son! Over the years, she exerted all the schemes to this Empress to be kicked out from Zhaoyang palace hall. After fighting for so many years, this Empress still lives firmly at this palace hall. Now, this Empress wants to see what that charming fox will do to make her son a crown prince!”

Involving palace’s secret matter, Ruan Wushuang didn’t have the ability to give her advice, only replied faintly. “We the ordinary people all know that aunt is virtuous, the mother of the world, and loved by common people. This is what imperial concubine Meng can’t compete for. And for decades, aunt has been pampered by the Emperor, not because you didn't give birth to an imperial son as well as he didn’t bear a slightest grievance. On this point alone, aunt has become the envy of many women in imperial court!” Empress Ruan seemed to be at ease, smiling slightly.

Suddenly, recalling something, Empress Ruan stared at her for a long time, gently asked. “How are you? It's been more than a month since you got married, right? Isn't there any news yet? Let this Empress see… Looking at it, your body seems to be more plump than before! Remember, everything is a small matter, but it’s the biggest thing in the world for the royal family to have a descendant.”

Thinking about it for a while, Ruan Wushuang’s complexion turned pale. After a while, she replied. “Aunt——”

Empress Ruan looked in her eyes and thought she was shy. She smiled and gently brushed the hair in her forehead and whispered softly. “Shuang'er, aunt said this just for your own good. Whether in the prince’s mansion or in this harem, the son is the most important.”

***
The candlelight shone brightly from the eight-treasure ceramic glaze lantern hanging around Linhua palace hall, shrouding the whole palace in a layer of pink, shining as clearly as daylight. This day was September 9th, and a family banquet was held in the palace. The main hall was covered with layers of yellow satin felt, and there were feasts and several stacks of cups on the long table.

The dishes were presented one by one by the servants. She had been thinking about the conversation she had just had with her aunt, and there was something on her mind. The laughter around her and the small cups was passed on, but she felt increasingly unbearable.

Baili Haozhe looked at his wife, looking down and thinking, the bead string fell on the edge of the bun because of her movements, as if with infinite amorous feelings. Because of his proximity, he could still vaguely smell her body fragrance, faint, like light jasmine.

He picked out some dishes, took a cup of bird's nest chrysanthemum soup presented by the servants, put it on the bright yellow porcelain plate in front of her, and whispered, “Eat some bird's nest.”

One night, he didn't see her eat much. Ruan Wushuang then reacted, turning her head slightly, faintly smiled at him. With her movements, the bead glided slightly over the black hair and rippled brightly in the candlelight.

After picking up a dish, as soon as she scooped it to eat, she felt that her mouth was full of fishy smell, and her stomach tumbled as if something was about to rush out. She quickly put her hand over her chest, trying to stop the retching.

Baili Haozhe patted her on the back with his hand to help her breathe, and asked urgently. “What's the matter? Is it uncomfortable? Do you want to call the physician?”

The tone was a little hasty and unstable. After a few breaths, she calmed down and shook her head. “It’s alright, don't call the physician too much. It's just that the mutton tastes too fishy. I feel uncomfortable…”

Baili Haozhe waved his hand to the servant and ordered, “Remove these five locks of mutton shreds.”

“Yes.” The servant picked it up and then bowed down to leave.

The next day, she didn't get up until very late. Baili Haozhe had gone up early in the morning. Recently, in clear and refreshing autumn weather made people addicted to sleep. Dressed in black silk, sitting lazily in front of the dresser. In the bronze mirror was a joyful like face, she stared at it for a long time. It was really as plump as her aunt said, and her chin was not as sharp as it used to be.

Turning her head, she ordered. “Mo Ran, send someone to the imperial physician courtyard, ask imperial physician Su Quanhong to come to the mansion.” Mo Ran answered, and hurriedly went out to send a person to invite him. 

Mo Zhu and wet nurse Sun were picking out clothes. When they heard the words, they raised their heads and asked. “Miss, are you not feeling well?” Ruan Wushuang looked at the mirror and said nothing. 

After a long time, she said to Mo Zhu, who was giving her a bun, “Don’t help me wear the gold hairpin with tassel ornaments, insert one jade hairpin.”

Su Quanhong soon came over. Under the maid’s guidance, he went through the garden and the outer hall to the inner room. Su Quanhong hurriedly saluted according to etiquette. “Your servant Su Quanhong greets the second imperial consort!”

Across several gauze curtains, Ruan Wushuang replied. “Imperial physician Su, you may excuse!” With that, she stretched out her hands lightly.

Su Quanhong got up, walked to the bedside with his head down, and put his finger on Ruan Wushuang’s warm and cool wrist. There were only two maids and a wet nurse standing in the inner room. Seeing how they were dressed, their status should not be low. After a closer look, he found that they were a member of the original Ruan’s family people. The other maids stood at a distance by the door outside the hall.

The golden incense burner in the room emitted a pleasant fragrance. In fact, the burning in the furnace was yellow sandalwood, which had the effect of concentrating and calming qi.

But Su Quanhong felt a little distracted at the moment, and his inner garment behind him was slightly wet. 

After a while, he only heard Ruan Wushuang’s voice faintly. “What's the matter? Imperial physician Su, is this imperial consort's condition very serious?”

Su Quanhong knelt down, and replied with a staggered voice. “This humble servant… this humble servant…”

Feeling the gauze curtain wave faintly, Ruan Wushuang had already lifted the curtain and came out. Su Quanhong knelt on the ground, only vaguely seeing the light-colored woven gold skirt swinging with her footsteps.

Ruan Wushuang helped Su Quanhong up and smiled. “Uncle Su, please get up, your niece can’t bear it! The Ruan and Su family have been friends for many years, and you and my father have been friends for many years. Watching Wushuang grow up, why bother to give this big courtesy!” 

Su Quanhong hurriedly lowered his head and said repeatedly. “This humble servant dare not! There is a difference between the lord and the servant!”

Ruan Wushuang smiled, didn’t take it seriously, waved to wet nurse Sun and others, signaling them to withdraw. Only then, she took a look at him and asked. “Uncle, there’s no one here now. Can you tell me about my condition?”

Su Quanhong only felt cold sweat dripping wet all over his body, and sweat on his forehead. He looked up slightly, only to see Ruan Wushuang’s pair of beautiful water-like eyes staring at him. Stunned, he hurriedly lowered his head and whispered. “Second imperial consort is pregnant—— according to this humble servant’s shallow medical skills it should be-- should be-- should be pregnant for more than two months!”

The air was quiet, so quiet that it felt creepy. It seemed that even the breeze outside the window blew through the leaves, and the low, rustling voice could be heard clearly.

The window was carved with a pattern of magpies in spring. Through the hollow, Ruan Wushuang could see the garden full of chrysanthemums. Purple, white, yellow, red, like a rainbow after the rain, multicoloured satin, beautiful and elegant.

Su Quanhong raised his eyes again and saw that Ruan Wushuang was facing him with her back. She was dressed in a light blue silk tapestry palace dress, and her black hair was only wrapped in a bun, with jade hairpin inserted in it, as if the first snow was full of fragrance.

After a long time, Ruan Wushuang heard her own voice echoed faintly. “Uncle Su, you must be mistaken. This imperial consort has just married, and was only pregnant for more than a month, right?”

The tone was light, very light, but in Su Quanhong's ears, it was like the evening drum, morning bell, still made him shiver. Walking between the royal family and the country for many years, he had heard about all kinds of secret scandals more or less, and quickly replied. “Yes! Yes! This humble servant's medical skills are shallow, and this humble servant made a mistake.”

After adjusting his clothes, he knelt down and gave a big salute, then shouted. “Congratulations to the second imperial consort. The second imperial consort is pregnant for more than a month!”

“Come in!” Ruan Wushuang called out. Mo Zhu and Mo Ran had already pushed the door to come in and wait for orders. Ruan Wushuang smiled. “Take ten pieces of gold!”

Turning her head to Su Quanhong, she said with a soft voice. “Uncle Su, there is still room for you to help a lot in the future!”

Su Quanhong immediately replied respectfully. “If the second imperial consort has a place where the old humble servant can be used, this old humble servant will go through water and tread on fire, not to refuse to!”

Watching Su Quanhong walk out of the door, Ruan Wushuang sat softly on the couch, her heart beating like thunder, her hands and feet cold, and her whole body had no trace of strength.

Now it was really hard to ride a tiger. Suddenly, Baili Haozhe’s face emerged before her, star eyes with bright eyebrows. Although he had been busy with official duties, for more than a month they were married, he had been considerate. Although they never met each other well before marriage, they still respect each other. Now it came to this...

***
Wet nurse Sun took a bowl of tonic, walked over gently and said. “Miss, this is the tonic that imperial physician Su ordered to take!”

She laid on her side and replied lazily. “Leave it!”

It seemed that Su Quanhong had been sincerely willing to cover up for her. The best way to buy someone off was to reveal your secret to him. Let him know clearly that he was already an accomplice when he knew the secret, and either win-win or die. For things like pregnancy, Su Quanhong, as the head of imperial physician courtyard, could cover up the month as long as he played tricks a little bit. He was just doing a favor!

If he dared to fight against Ruan Wushuang, he didn’t look at her two brothers as emperor’s son in law, her father as the prime minister, but also didn’t look at the power of Empress Ruan and Ruan family. Su Quanhong had always been a smart man, how could he not understand this. It was easy to understand! Just followed with the current to curry favour with Ruan Wushuang. If she guessed correctly, Su Quanhong should now go to congratulate the second prince Baili Haozhe, the Emperor and the Empress. A smart subject would do what he knew to do!

***
There was silence in the huge room. In addition to the smell of sandalwood, there was a clear, bitter, medicinal smell. She sat up abruptly, walked slowly to the table, and quietly looked at the medicine bowl. The black as ink medicine water was faintly radiating heat.

Many scenes flashed in Ruan Wushuang's mind. Her aunt's words rang in her ear. “Whether it is in the prince’s mansion or in this harem, the son is the most important.”

She could understand the implication of her aunt's words. If she didn't give birth to a son, no matter how harmonious the husband and wife were, she would always be in a passive place in the following days. In fact, the rivalry between the concubines in the imperial palace and the concubines in the mansion was the same. They all tried their best to strive for favour, and they would never give up until they won a life-and-death battle.

After a long time, she picked up the bowl and gulped it down. Full of bitterness! She had no way out, it was difficult to advance and there was no way to retreat.

The door was pushed open with a ‘creak’, and the sound of footsteps came in gradually. She was still lying on the couch, and in a moment of obscurity, she thought it was Mo Zhu and others, but she only replied lazily. “Didn't I tell you not to disturb me?”

No one answered for a long time. It was only then that she felt strange and suddenly turned her head and saw Baili Haozhe standing by the couch.

She had never seen him at this time in the mansion, and she couldn't help being surprised that he came back earlier than estimated. He sat down and stopped her from getting up. “Don't move, watch your body.” Su Quanhong was really a smart man, exactly what she expected.

She smiled lightly and responded in a low voice. At this time in the autumn afternoon, the sun slanted through the hollow pattern in the window, rippling across the room. He was dressed in an apricot and yellow court suit and a purple gold crown on his head. He was looking at her with a faint smile, as if with endless joy.

“Wet nurse, take all of these things down.” Ruan Wushuang didn’t reject or answer. Since she was pregnant, she had been drinking a lot of supplements everyday. Nowadays, as long as she smelled the scent, she could almost tell what tonic it was.

***
Looking at the white jade cup on the maid's hand, wet nurse Sun said. “Miss, this is the best blood bird's nest bestowed by the empress. It can nourish the skin and mend the body!” Empress Ruan, knowing that Wushuang was pregnant, sent a servant to come and rewarded many precious medicinal supplements such as velvet antler, bird's nest and snow lotus. She was also told to take good care of herself.

Ruan Wushuang put down the book in her hand and replied lazily. “Just take it out.” People were getting more and more tired, and when it came to winter, they didn't want to move.

Wet nurse advised: “Miss, look how much you eat, and look at how thin your body is. Where is it like a person who has been pregnant for a few months?” The young lady seldom eats tonic on weekdays, and only occasionally eats a little tonic at the behest of the imperial physician, even if she broke her mouth every day, it was no use.

Ruan Wushuang supported her waist and got up slowly with the help of Mo Ran. “Everyone can withdraw!” She had been pregnant for more than five months now, but because the fetus in her belly was still small, her belly was not particularly big. But, after all, there was a difference of more than a month. If she was not careful, she was afraid it would go wrong. It didn't hurt to take some fetus-calming medicine, but tried to take less tonics. There were some things that had to be prevented. Even for herself, for the family, she should be careful. Only by being careful could she sail for ten thousand years.

Several pine rosin carbon stoves were burning in the room, which made the room warm like spring. Her stomach was getting bigger and bigger, and she couldn’t sleep well. She slept on the edge every day, and it was not easy to turn over. Recalling that in the past, when the two sisters-in-law were pregnant, the brothers would sleep in separate rooms with their sister-in-law. Even the wet nurse whispered in her ear that in general, if the wife and concubine were pregnant, they would sleep separately from their husband.

Drowsiness gradually hit, she thought vaguely. “Do you want to find a chance to say it?” The relationship between her and Baili Haozhe could be regarded as respectful to each other. The marriage was still harmonious. He shared his worries and pains for his father in the court, while she took care of the chores of the mansion. Just like the duties of men and women since ancient times, men developed outside, while women took care of everything behind men.

However, she really didn’t know how much the love between the men and women. He should be what the world calls a beautiful man, handsome and had an extraordinary bearing. He was also considerate and courteous to her, always respected her arrangements for the affairs of the mansion, and never interfered with her. But she always felt vaguely blurred and could not tell clearly. Maybe she had a knot in her heart, so she always felt unacceptable. Her attitude may be gentle, others always think that she was virtuous, but she clearly understood that this gentleness contained a lot of cold and indifference.

***
The sun was shining, scattered among the dead branches of the old trees. The whole lake surface of Taiye lake was like a polished bronze mirror, with the wind passing by, the ripples flashing and sparkling. She stopped for a moment, and her eyes swept across the lake, fixed on the other side. The inner court of the imperial palace was stacked with pavilions.

They stood there without knowing the time, then a gentle voice sounded from behind. “Sister-in-law, how elegant ah!” 

Ruan Wushuang, and the maid behind her had already knelt down on her knees and bowed slightly according to the rules. “Greetings to the eldest brother!” This was the way to the Zhaoyang Hall where the Empress lives. She had been to the palace so many times, but it was the first time she had met Baili Haoting in the imperial garden.

Baili Haoting stood with his hand down and looked at the distance and said. “It's cold here. Sister-in-law is pregnant, so don’t catch a cold!”

“Thank you for eldest brother's concern.” Ruan Wushuang lowered her head, then she asked. “Is sister-in-law's illness better?” The eldest imperial consort Liu Man, the daughter of the old ministry of war, had been married to Baili Haoting for several years. She had been in poor health and had been lingering in the sickbed. She had only met once or twice at the royal banquet.

“It’s still the same.” Baili Haoting replied. “After taking a lot of medicine, it’s still no good.” After a pause, seemingly asking indifferently. “Why didn’t second brother accompany you to come here? He always has an arrogant temper, sister-in-law, remember not to let him be like this in ordinary days!”

Was he arrogant? She never seemed to feel it, but she answered. “Yes.”

On weekdays, even if he returned to his residence, he was mostly in the study with his advisers. To her, it seemed, had not been shown.
When she was about to leave, she heard Baili Haoting say. “Sister in law is going to greet mother Empress? I'm going to mother Empress's chamber, too. Let's go together!”

After entering Zhaoyang Palace’s main hall, Baili Haozhe was already in the hall. Empress Ruan, wearing a mink fur with Suzhou embroidered Phoenix tail skirt, sat on the couch and saw the two people come in with a smile. “Ting’er also come!”

Baili Haozhe stood up and saluted. “Eldest brother!” The hall was lit with an incense burner, which was very warm. Ruan Wushuang’s crimson brocade mink cloak surrounded the increasingly plump body, only slightly revealing the snow-white skin on her skin, as if a shining Hetian fine jade in the eyes of Baili Haozhe.

Baili Haoting knelt down and saluted. “This son greets the mother Empress!” As soon as Ruan Wushuang entered the main hall, two maids came up and helped her untie her cloak, and ready to kneel. 

“You’re excuse, you’re excuse.” Empress Ruan waved her hand again and again. “As long as you have this Empress as mother Empress in your heart, this Empress will be at peace. Sit down!”

At this time, the maid was already holding a tray and presented the hot tea cup. Empress Ruan took a sip and then asked with concern. “Is the imperial consort getting better?”

Baili Haoting replied. “Answering mother Empress, she ate the thousand-year-old ginseng given by mother Empress a few days ago, which made her much better! Man’er said that when she gets better in a few days, she will go into the palace to pay respect to mother Empress!”

“That’s good!” Empress Ruan smiled. “It will be the Spring Festival in another half a month, we will have family dinner at the palace. Man’er can accompany this old woman to chat, relieving the boredom is good. There's no need to pay respect, it's freezing! It's not good to catch a cold.” 

Baili Haoting only replied with ‘yes’ again and again.
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1 comment:

  1. I just check it up on NU & seem interesting. Thanks for the work!

    ReplyDelete