Concealed by Brocaded Clouds, Frost on the Roads: Volume 01 Chapter 05

10:09 AM Oyen 0 Comments

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Chapter 5: Soft Green Poplar Smoke, Cold Dawn Outside
translator: Oyen

Cicadas came from among the stacked leaves, and the sound was loud and clear. The hot sun hung high above, like a burning gold plate, spreading heat endlessly. Maids and servants in a row, waiting at the door of the hall at a distance. Although ice cubes were placed in the inner palace, it was still as stuffy as a steamer, and refused to give up until people were sweaty and greasy.

Ruan Wushuang wore a plain white short skirt, with snow gauze of the same color around her arms. Because it was a national funeral, the palace was all light-colored. Even the soft smoke on the window was only a faint green, looking from a distance, it seemed to be a touch of white on the horizon, almost transparent.

Mo Zhu served iced chrysanthemum wolfberry honey water, and muttered. “It's getting hotter and hotter in this damn weather. There's nothing I can do!” Mo Zhu and her two maids were waiting on Ruan Wushuang who had just got up from a nap to wash her hands. She turned her head and replied, “Don't talk nonsense. Can't you see the constant ice in this palace all day long? This is the season. And most of the ice in the whole palace is in this Zhaoyang Hall. What else do you want?” The maids with washbasins and scarves beside them all chuckled.

Ruan Wushuang gave a faint smile, and her stomach was getting bigger and bigger. She was close to giving birth these days, and it was even hotter. Every night, she always turned over and couldn’t sleep. So Baili Haozhe ordered people to send all the ice cubes from the imperial palace to Zhaoyang Hall. Seeing the ice cubes in the round bucket at the corner of the palace bubbling slightly, she felt inexplicably comfortable, as if the April breeze was blowing over her body, refreshing and pleasant.

At this time, Baili Haozhe had ascended the throne, and Ruan Wushuang had become an Empress, and had moved into the Zhaoyang Hall, which symbolized the status of the Empress of the Baili dynasty. Half a month ago, the original Empress Ruan had become the current Empress Dowager Ruan and also moved to the Cining Hall where the empress dowagers of the Baili dynasty had enjoyed their lives.

Ruan Wushuang took the tea presented by Mo Zhu and stirred a few times with the white jade spoon. There was a crisp sound between the bowl and the spoon occasionally colliding. Smiled slightly, took a sip, and the temperature was right. “Is my aunt get used to live in Cining Hall?"

Early in the morning, she asked Mo Zhu to go to the Cining Hall to greet the Empress dowager. Hearing her question, she stopped frolicking with Mo Ran and replied solemnly, “Answering Miss, Aunt Mu said, the Empress Dowager is used to living here. But... But Aunt Mu said that the Empress Dowager was so depressed that she refused to eat every day.”

After a pause, she added. “Young Miss, when this servant looked at it, she felt that the Empress Dowager had lost a lot of weight in recent days...” Although Ruan Wushuang was now an Empress, Ruan Wushuang was still their young miss in Ruan servant girl's heart. Therefore, they still called her as before.

Ruan Wushuang frowned gently, put down the white jade bowl, supported her waist and said, “I'd better go to Cining Hall.” Mo Ran hurriedly stopped and said, “Young miss, imperial physician Su said that your delivery date is these days, repeatedly said to this maidservant to take good care of you. You mustn't work too hard.” Ruan Wushuang, supported her waist with one hand, stood up slowly.

Mo Ran hurriedly winked at Mo Zhu. Although Mo Zhu liked to play, she was also a clever person. She already followed suit. “Young Miss, the empress dowager and the former Emperor have always had a deep relationship. Now that the former Emperor has died, the Empress Dowager is naturally hard to accept the sudden change, it’s also human nature. Maybe it’s better to live for a while. Also, the Empress Dowager also knows the filial piety of the young miss. When this slave and maid went to pay her respects today, the Empress Dowager also asked about the physical condition of the young miss these days, saying that the maid and others should take care of you carefully, and don't go to pay her respects every day.”

Mo Ran then urged. “Yes, Young Miss. What can you do if you go? The Empress Dowager is not able to eat right away. This heart disease still needs to take its time. Second, it's so hot outside, Young Miss. Now you carry the body of two people. What should I do if there is an emergency?”

Ruan Wushuang sighed and looked into the distance. Because of the light green smoke and gauze window, she saw that the shade in the garden was as shady as water, the courtyard was profound, and everything was green.

Her aunt and the former Emperor had been husband and wife for a decade, after all, had feelings for each other. Even though there was always a woman in the heart of the former Emperor, what he did was nothing more than for himself, but for so many years, her aunt still got stuck in it and couldn't help herself. Only her aunt knew how much she had experienced in the past few decades. Otherwise, how could her aunt get sick as soon as the Emperor left? Things had remained the same, but the people had changed, and the hardest thing was such suffering.

Before she was about to sit down, she felt something strange in her abdomen, so she hurriedly supported herself by the table. Mo Zhu stood by and saw something was wrong, and asked, “What's the matter, Young Miss?”

Ruan Wushuang took a deep breath, the pain seemed to be better. But after a while, the pain hit again, wave after wave... Ruan Wushuang's face was pale, holding Mo Ran's hand, and said. “Estimate... I'm going to give birth. Help me to bed!”

Mo Zhu hurriedly lifted the curtain and commanded the waiting maids and servants. “Hurry, go and get the imperial physician and midwife.” The imperial physician and midwife had been arranged early in the morning, and recently they were waiting in the side hall of Zhaoyang Hall. The waiter who stood with his hands down hurriedly responded and ran out like smoke.

There was not a trace of wind in the air, and it was suffocating. Sweat on her forehead had been dripping down, even if the maids had been wiping it with silk scarves, it was no use, the whole body was sweaty, and the whole person was like being drenched in the storm, wet all over. Ruan Wushuang just felt the pain as if the tide was coming, and it was so close that there was no chance to breathe... She had almost exhausted her strength to cry.

The midwife kept shouting in her ear. “Empress, push hard, push harder…” And the voice of Mo Ran, Mo Zhu and others walking back and forth. “Hot water ... hurry ... change a pot immediately!”

“Quick, take ginseng soup…” 

“She feels that she’s almost numb, not her own self…”

Outside the Zhaoyang Hall, a red candle was lit on the golden beast candlestick, haunting the fire and the lingering flame dragged Baili Haozhe's figure on the white marble floor. He stood with his hands down, looking at the ink-like night.

Shi Quanyi, the servant, came over and reported hesitatingly. “Your Majesty... the imperial physician said... The Empress has not yet given birth to the prince at this time. It's an estimate… estimate a difficult birth.”

Baili Haozhe suddenly turned around and stared at him straight, his eyes as sharp and silent as a knife. Shi Quanyi, surprised for no reason, busily bowed his head. The newly enthroned Emperor had always been restrained as the Prince, and he seldom had a smile, and few people could guess his thoughts. At this time, he stared at him like this, and his back couldn't help but sweat. He was afraid but said. “Your Majesty, do you ... do you want to go to Fengxian Hall to pray?” According to the tradition of the Baili Dynasty, if the Empress was in childbirth, the Emperor would personally go to Fengxian Hall to pray for the blessings of the ancestors.

Shi Quanyi stood with his head down. For a long time, he did not hear Baili Haozhe’s voice, so he raised his head slightly. He saw that Baili Haozhe had strode towards the inner hall, and his apricot robe drew an arc behind him. He followed hurriedly and said hurriedly, “Your Majesty, you are not allowed to enter the inner hall.” Because it would be unlucky, even if ordinary women gave birth, men were absolutely not allowed to enter the delivery room. Not to mention the Emperor, the ruler with ten thousand chariots at his command.

Baili Haozhe stood at the door and said to the waiting maid. “Open the door.” The voice was not loud, but the maids already shuddered and hurriedly opened the door.

Shi Quanyi was still behind him, saying, “Your Majesty, you have the body of gold, and you must never…” Before the voice fell, Baili Haozhe had strided in.

He heaved a long sigh and looked back, just in time to see some of his little attendants probing their heads, so he angrily said. “What are you looking at? Why don't you go to Cining Hall and invite the Empress dowager to come over.”

A group of people in the inner hall saw Baili Haozhe come in, and all of a sudden they were stunned in place. Mo Ran and Mo Zhu reacted as quickly as possible and knelt down. “Greet the Emperor!” The others came to their senses and knelt together.

Baili Haozhe waved his hand with great irritability, and his voice was tense. “Get up, everyone.” In three steps came to the bed, only to see Ruan Wushuang's eyes closed, her face was sweaty, and was as white as paper, and her lips had no blood.

He turned his head and stared at the midwife. “What's the situation?” The midwife had a face like she couldn’t see another day. At this time, she had been scared out of her mind. Seeing the Emperor sternly questioning her, she knelt down with a thump and knocked her head desperately. .

Baili Haozhe turned his gaze back to Ruan Wushuang’s face, took the silk scarf held by the maid on the tray, and slowly wiped the sweat from Wushuang’s head one by one, his eyes were soft and boundless, but the words he uttered made people frightened. “If there is something wrong with the Empress and the child, all of you here will be buried by me!”

Ruan Wushuang felt in a daze that someone had been holding her hand, very hard, as if to work hard with her. But she was already numb from the pain, and she didn't even want to move her fingers. That person gave her courage in the ear. “Wushuang, I have already seen the child's head—— come on, use more force! Faster, sooner, use more force, it will be better soon…”

When the last wave of pain hit like a tsunami, she couldn't stand it. She grabbed his hand, used all her strength, and snapped it hard... At that moment, she seemed to hear a child crying ‘wa, wa’. She was dark at the moment, and fell into endless darkness.

The midwife picked up the child, wiped the child clean with a silk scarf, and knelt down hurriedly. “Congratulations Emperor, congratulations Emperor, it’s a Prince!” Hearing this, everyone knelt down. “Congratulations Emperor, congratulations Emperor”

Baili Haozhe took the baby. The little baby was just a thin ball in his palm, like a kitten, wrinkled and red. Suddenly, he seemed to be sensitive, opened his eyes slightly, and then immediately closed again. Although small, the nose and eyes were vivid and very cute.

He couldn't say how he felt, and his heart seemed to sweep through a warm current, slowly flowing through every corner of his body. With a smile, he leaned over and said to Ruan Wushuang, “Wushuang, come and have a look at the child.” Ruan Wushuang seemed to have no consciousness, and she didn't move. For some reason, his heart tightened as if he had been grabbed, and he could not help reaching for her breath. The place touched by the fingertips was still warm and humid, which put the hanging heart down a little bit. Turning to Mo Ran and Mo Zhu, he said, “Quick, tidy up the Empress and call the imperial physician to feel the pulse.”

In a twinkling of an eye, it was autumn, and the cool breeze was refreshing. The breeze blew through the leaves, leaving a slight rustling sound, listening attentively, as if there was something like falling rain.

Mo Ran brought a few maids and presented a cup of almond bird's nest and a few delicate sweets, Ruan Wushuang was trimming the flower branches in the official glaze painted porcelain, and her head was decorated with only black silk that was slightly slanted in a phoenix bun. Although she had only given birth to the little prince for a few months, her figure was already thinner, and she was dressed in a purple-smoked wide-sleeved skirt with plain gauze. Looking at it from a distance, Mo Ran only felt that she was more elegant and graceful than before in the days when she was still in the Prime Minister’s mansion.

Mo Ran motioned to the handmaids behind her to put the refreshments gently on the table and waved her hands to let them retreat, then she called out. “Young Miss!” The tone was a little different from the usual. Ruan Wushuang had been with her since childhood, naturally could clearly distinguish, only looking at the hand movement, without raising her eyelids, she replied shallowly. “What’s the matter?”

Mo Ran stepped forward, with a very cautious expression, and then glanced back. The servants and the maids were standing far away from the door. So she lowered her voice and said, “Yesterday, several ministers counseled the emperor, saying that the new Emperor was enthroned and the harem was empty and it should be expanded. It is recommended that the Emperor choose his concubine.”

Ruan Wushuang's hand paused a little, turning slightly, and a slanted beaded tassel on the slanted phoenix bun was drawing a small arc with her movements, trembling, looking small and delicate. “How did you know about these imperial court affairs?”

Ruan Wushuang never asked questions about imperial court affairs, nor did she like to inquire. The handmaids around her knew her temper and seldom talked about the imperial court. Today, Mo Ran would disregard her preferences, so she mentioned, she was afraid that these ministers were not ordinary people!

Mo Ran pursed her lip. “I still need to inquire. In this palace, there are so many people who want to curry favor with the handmaiden and come to Zhaoyang palace every day to send news!” People in the palace have their own rules of survival. Her young miss was an Empress, and she had just given birth to the eldest son of the Emperor, not to mention prime minister Ruan and Empress Dowager Ruan behind her. Every Emperor had an Empress, but even there were few people who were so prominent in ancient times. How could people in the palace not understand this truth?

Ruan Wushuang lowered her head and continued to trim. The autumn begonia, which was originally pleasing to the eye in the official glaze, turned a little dazzling. She frowned slightly, as if inadvertently asking, “Has it been agreed?”

As an Empress, it was necessary to share a man with all the women in the harem. She was already understood! In fact, in general wealthy families, was it not in this way too? Which man didn't yearn for the beauty of his wife and concubine? As long as a man had power, financial resources and ability, he would want to have such a life. Throughout the ages, there was no exception!

For a long time, she didn't hear Mo Ran's voice. As soon as she turned her head, she saw Mo Ran covering her mouth, smiling and squinting her eyes. Somehow, her face suddenly turned red, feigning anger and replied. “Good, you, Mo Ran, even playing with me!”

Mo Ran hurriedly stopped her smiling face, but her eyes and eyebrows still filled with a smile expression, but her tone was respectfully replied. “This servant dare not, this servant dare not.” After a few steps, she replied mischievously. “This… The emperor said... the emperor said, first ascend to the throne, everything is just beginning, it is not suitable to be greedy and enjoy life... This is what Xiao Dezi under General Shi said.” Looking at Ruan Wushuang's red angry face, Mo Ran lowered her head and was busily explaining.

After Mo Ran went out, the air quieted down, and the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves outside the hall could be clearly heard. Ruan Wushuang was still trimming branches and leaves, and the green leaves and flowers set each other off. Mo Ran's words rang in her ears from time to time, and she knew clearly that it was only a matter of time. But somehow, the more she thought about it, the more she couldn’t calm down. God must have discovered that she had cut the flowers by mistake. The petals were scarlet, like falling stars scattered on the white marble floor tiles. After being stunned, she suddenly turned around and called out, “Somebody!”

Mo Ran brought in the two maids and bowed to salute. “Young Miss!” Ruan Wushuang slowly turned around and ordered. “Serve me to change clothes!”

Mo Ran always knew what she wanted, so she picked a piece of light yellow snow silk, a long skirt. The imperial family had always respected yellow and purple, and bright yellow and apricot yellow had always been the exclusive colors of Emperors and Empresses. But she liked light colors, elegant and clean.

In the Cining Hall, the smell of sandalwood lingered. When Empress Dowager Ruan had just finished worshipping Buddha, cleaning her hands, Aunt Mu came in and said, “Empress Dowager, the Empress has come.”

Empress Dowager Ruan took the silk scarf presented by her maid and turned her head and said, “Why are you here? you just gave birth to a baby, and you should have a good rest and recuperation!” Before the words were finished, Ruan Wushuang had already entered the hall, and the servants and maids who were waiting in the hall had already knelt down to salute.

Empress Dowager Ruan took Ruan Wushuang’s hand, sat down and looked at her for a long time and said, “How come I haven't seen you for two days, and you've lost weight again? There is no plumpness at all. How is the imperial physician court recuperating you?”

Ruan Wushuang smiled slightly, replying. “Rest assured aunt, imperial physician Su said that my body has recovered, so I don't have to make up for it every day.” Empress Dowager Ruan felt more comfortable, “I am also relieved that imperial physician Su handles the matter.” Turned and took the chrysanthemum dew handed by Aunt Mu, and ordered. “You all can disperse!”

Empress Dowager Ruan picked up the tea of white jade pottery tea cup. The red colour long fingernails in the past had long gone. With two long, thin gold-plated fingers, she gently picked up the lid of the white jade tea cup and said gently. “Take a sip and have a look. It was made by Mu Qing herself.”

She sighed, looked out of the window and said, “In a twinkling of an eye, it has been so many years.” Mu Qing was the name of aunt Mu. As a child, she was my aunt's maid. She followed my aunt into the Prince's mansion and then into the palace.

Empress Dowager Ruan took a leisurely sip and just said, “The taste is still the same as before. Mu Qing has been with me since childhood and has always been familiar with my preferences.” Ruan Wushuang gently lifted the lid, a burst of chrysanthemum fragrance to pass through her nostrils, a few dried chrysanthemums soaked in water, as in full bloom in the branches, delicate, beautiful, pleasant. After taking a sip, she only felt fragrant in her mouth, and then nodded and smiled slightly. “It's really delicious.”

Empress Dowager Ruan also laughed. “If you like it, let Mu Qing send some to Zhaoyang Hall.”

Ruan Wushuang took another sip and nodded. “Thank you aunt.”

Empress Dowager Ruan was fiddling with the preserved fruits. She gently raised her head and said, “We are aunt and niece, there's no need for formal courtesy.” She picked a golden jujube and handed it to Ruan Wushuang. Her eyes seemed to glance lazily and add faintly. “It was said that yesterday, imperial tutor Gui and others counseled the Emperor, saying that the new emperor ascended the throne, but the harem palace is still empty and suggested the Emperor expand the Imperial Concubine hall.”

Ruan Wushuang’s heart thumped for a moment, it really happened, and it was the imperial tutor who took the lead. No wonder Mo Ran came to report this morning. It was known that this Imperial Tutor Gui was conferred the title of the Prince Imperial Tutor by the late Emperor, he was Baili Haozhe’s tutor during his ignorant period. For more than 20 years, he had supported Baili Haozhe through countless court battles. Among many advisers of Baili Haozhe, the words of Imperial Tutor Gui were the most important.

In this way, the matter of choosing an imperial concubine could be either big or small!

The Ruan family's power was now in full swing. Father Ruan was the prime minister in the court, while Ruan's eldest prince’s consort was Marquis Wuxuan, who was in charge of the military power of the court. Ruan's second prince’s consort was the official minister, with three outstanding officials. Such a high-ranking official was even unprecedented. In the imperial harem, the Empress Dowager and the Empress were all from Ruan’s family. Imperial tutor Gui and the others who were loyal to Baili Haozhe were naturally worried about this situation. It had always been a taboo for the imperial court that relatives were in charge of politics.

But it was not easy to move the Ruan family's deep-rooted influence in the imperial court. The so-called pull a hair to start the whole body. Not long after Baili Haozhe ascended the throne, the eldest prince and the former emperor's men were still in the stage of constant response to change, there might be action at any time. Baili Haozhe only relies on the Ruan family's influence to sit firmly in the Dragon chair.

But what about when he sat firmly on the throne? As the saying goes, “If there’s no bird, the bow will be hidden,” “the cunning rabbit dies and the hunting dogs cook.” There had always been many things that being close to the Emperor could be as perilous as lying with a tiger. Ruan Wushuang’s heart was inexplicably sad. Who knew what would happen in the future!

But the harem could be loose. Traditionally, when the new Emperor ascended the throne, he would choose the world's most beautiful women to fill the harem. First, there was a precedent, and Ruan’s family had no reason to object to it. Up to now, there was only one prince born by Ruan Wushuang. It could be said that he was still weak. Traditionally, every Dynasty paid the most attention to children, and thought that children were the foundation of the continuation of the national vein, and it was a big thing that related to the country for centuries. For this reason, even the Empress Dowager Ruan could not say no. Secondly, when choosing a concubine to enter the harem, many court ministers would be eager to recommend their age-appropriate daughters to enter the palace. Numerous concubines, the beauty was like a cloud, and the Emperor would not focus on the Empress alone. In this way, the Empress's status would become a mere formality, and the ability of the Emperor would be much less. And the power of court ministers might be reorganized because of the Emperor's favour. As a result, Ruan's power would be weakened relatively. This was a wonderful move!

Ruan Wushuang only felt cold in her hands and feet, and she could clearly feel the temperature of the clear dew of the chrysanthemum across the white jade cup, mild and warm. She remembered that during dinner yesterday, Baili Haozhe lifted the curtain and entered, she was playing with the Emperor on the brocade couch. Looking back now, his expression was as gentle as usual, without any slight abnormality.

Ruan Wushuang frowned slightly and looked at Empress Dowager Ruan wordlessly. The Empress Dowager Ruan was also meditating, looking out of the window at the shadow of the trees. It was already an autumn afternoon, and the light came lazily from the carved peony on the window, mottled on them. As soon as Ruan Wushuang lowered her head, she saw the sleeves of light yellow snow gauze, clusters of silver apricot flowers in full bloom, embroidered with silver silk, delicate and blurred.

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