Concealed by Brocaded Clouds, Frost on the Roads: Volume 01 Chapter 08

8:00 PM Oyen 0 Comments

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Chapter 8: Light Smoke and Running Water, Hidden Painted Screen
translator: Oyen

In the sleeping hall, it was as warm as spring. The carbon furnace in the four corners was glowing with enthusiasm. Mo Zhu saw that Mo Ran came in lightly and looked down at the little crown prince. She unexpectedly pulled Mo Ran aside and said, “Young Miss hasn't had a good meal at all this month. What should I do?”

Mo Ran sighed. “Young Miss has something on her mind...” Even if Mo Ran didn't go on, Mo Zhu could understand what she meant and said sadly, “I don't understand what happened to the Emperor. Wasn't he good before? Sleep in Zhaoyang Hall every night. But he hasn’t been here for more than a month now. Can Young Miss have nothing on her mind?” She didn’t know why he set foot in Zhaoyang Hall again. Now even if the Emperor wanted to see the little crown prince, he would at most order someone to pick up the child and stay for half an hour or so.

Mo Ran whispered. “It's still going on in the palace. As soon as the funeral period of the Empress Dowager is over, the Emperor will accept a new imperial concubine.”

Mo Zhu opened her eyes wide. “Didn't you just say some time ago that the Emperor is not going to accept the imperial concubine?”

Mo Ran smiled bitterly. “But the Emperor will take the concubine one day!” It's only a matter of time, so how can Young Miss be in a good mood? Thinking about the situation just a few years ago, it was also a snowy day, and Young Miss and they were still around the furnace, guessing words and tapping walnuts. Mo Zhu always lost. If she lost too much, she cheated and ate her share.

Out of the sleeping hall, seeing Young Miss read on the brocade couch. With a quick meaningful gaze, she ordered people to change the cold tea. Ruan Wushuang closed the book and said, “You don't need to change it, withdraw it.”

Mo Ran smiled. “Young Miss, when this servant passed the Jijing Palace yesterday, I saw that the plum blossoms there were blooming well. It is better for us to go there later.”

She seemed to have some interest and asked, “Plum blossom?”

Seeing that she was a little moved, Mo Ran took the fresh tea and cakes from the maid's hand, took them up, and put them beside the couch. “You haven't moved at noon, so have some refreshments first. Mo Zhu specially ordered the imperial kitchen to do this. She went to pick the plum blossom petals in the garden of the Jijing Palace.”

Ruan Wushuang still didn't have any appetite, but he couldn't bear to deny them. She picked up one with ivory chopsticks, which was fragrant. Mo Ran said, “There are many varieties in the garden, including pink plum, red plum, green plum, big red plum and Jade Butterfly plum... I think there are more varieties than before in the palace.” Her chopsticks gave her a slight stop, remembering that they had a meal in Hanxin last year. At that time, plum blossoms were in full bloom and a beautiful scene.

When Mo Ran saw that she hadn't eaten any of them, she stopped and asked, “Why, isn’t the food from the imperial kitchen delicious?” In the past, when plum blossoms were in full bloom, Young Miss loved to pick petals and make plum cakes with them. 

She shook her head and smiled. “Have you arranged everything for the day after tomorrow?”

The day after tomorrow, the prime minister's wife would come to see Young Miss. The whole Zhaoyang hall had been well prepared. The palace gate was as deep as the sea! Even for the Madam, it was hard to meet Young Miss. She and Mo Ran were looking forward Madam's coming and talking to Young Miss to relieve their boredom.

Madam Ruan approached Zhaoyang Hall with the maid, Mo Ran and Mo Zhu were already at the door early. Seeing her, they hurriedly saluted. “Hello Madam!” Madam Ruan was dressed in a highest rank lady's dress and wore a crimson mink cloak.

As soon as she entered the main hall, she only felt warm and comfortable. Mo Ran came forward to take off her cloak, and Mo Zhu led her into the inner hall in front. Wushuang was waiting for her to come. Seeing Madam Ruan, she busily welcomed her and was excited. “Mother.”

“Wushuang,” Madam Ruan grabbed her daughter's hand and looked at it carefully. “Why are you so thin recently?” Her chin had lost its meat, and pointy, she felt sorry. Wearing a plum red phoenix pattern in a silver knit garment, her skin looked whiter as snow.

After speaking for a long time, Madam Ruan remembered that she hadn't made a big courtesy yet. She hurriedly pushed her daughter to the seat. “This wife salutes to the Empress.” This was the rule since ancient times.

Ruan Wushuang just refused. “Mother, there are only a few of us here, no need.” Her parents were old and she hadn’t been able to serve them, which was already unfilial. Did she have the heart to let them kneel three times and kowtow nine times every time she saw them?

Madam Ruan smiled. “What a silly child. This is etiquette and cannot be abolished. In this palace, you are the Empress, and it is right for a mother to kowtow to the Empress. Otherwise, if it gets out, it will make people think that we in the Ruan family don't know etiquette!”

After saluting, Mo Ran and Mo Zhu arranged for the maid to serve tea and snacks. Madam Ruan took the tea cup covered with silver and green branches handed over by her daughter, took a sip of hot tea, looked around, and asked. “Why don't you see His Highness Crown Prince?”

Ruan Wushuang smiled slightly and picked out some preserved fruits and handed them over. “Still sleeping.” Turning to Mo Zhu, she said, “Go and see if Cheng Xuan is awake. If he is awake, bring him over.”

Mo Zhu: “Yes.” Then, she turned into the inner bedroom.

Her mother's complexion looked okay, and upon asking, she found out that the second sister-in-law was pregnant again, and it had been more than two months. Ruan's family had always been not prosperous. The eldest brother had been married for many years and only had Shi'er. After giving birth to a daughter a few years earlier, the second sister-in-law had never been pregnant again. Now that she had the second chance, her parents must be happy to come. It also slightly relieved the pain of her aunt's death.

Floating in the air, there seemed to be a sweet basil fragrance, Ruan Wushuang suddenly remembered a thing, and waved to let Mo Ran retreat, she asked. “Mother, how did it go when I asked you to arrange for wet nurse Sun to return to her hometown to enjoy old age last time?” 

Madam Ruan replied, “it has been arranged. Some time ago, I had people prepare more than two thousand taels of silver and prepared a carriage to take her back to her hometown to be reunited with her children and grandchildren.”

Wet nurse Sun had been serving her since Wushuang was born, and it had been nearly 20 years now, and it was time for her to enjoy peace and happiness.

Wushuang nodded. “Wet nurse has loved me for so many years. If it is convenient for my mother, send someone to ask about it during the holidays. If there is anything missing, we can arrange for someone to fill it up.”

Madam Ruan smiled and nodded. “It should be like this.”

The wet nurse helped her to conceal it at that time. The only people who knew about her were Su Quanhong and the wet nurse. For one thing, there were so many rules in the palace that the wet nurses already had nearly a hundred people, and she really couldn't bear to let her salute. Second, the palace had never been a peaceful place, with many people and interests, she always thought it was more appropriate to let the wet nurse go back to her hometown.

While chatting, Mo Zhu came over with the baby in her arms, tender and lovely, and his black jade eyes were turning around as if he were recognizing a person. Madam Ruan hugged him and narrowed her eyes with smiled. “Our little crown prince is really handsome.” After looking at it for a long time, she looked up and said, “The child resembles you more.” Ruan Wushuang never liked to hear this topic, but her mother said it differently from others. She leaned over and took a closer look.

Madam Ruan smiled and said, “It's good for a son to resemble his mother. As the saying goes: the son resembles his mother, the gold hits the wall, the future is limitless! Isn't that what you should say? Our little crown prince is the youngest prince since the founding of the Dynasty.” With that, she kissed Chengxuan on the forehead. “If your father were here, he would have held him and refused to let go. Your sister-in-law has been pregnant recently, and your father's eyebrows have stretched out for days.”

Madam Ruan sighed and then said, “Speaking of your father, he is also getting older. Empress Dowager just died a few days ago, and his hair turned gray a lot. It is no wonder that Empress Dowager is his younger sister, and their age is a lot different. After the Empress Dowager left, he was also discouraged and said that he wanted to resign…” She paused slowly.

Wushuang looked at her mother and saw that she looked a little unnatural and pulled her sleeve. “What else did my father say?” She also felt something was wrong in her heart, but her face remained the same, and it didn’t reveal a bit.

Madam Ruan glanced at her and said, “Your father said that everything had been arranged before the Empress Dowager left. Chengxuan’s position as the Crown Prince, and your throne as an Empress will be more stable. He's just worried that you've been spoiled since you were a child, and he just loves you. And he is old and doesn't want to work any more.”

Seeing that her daughter was silent, Madam Ruan continued, “He told you to know the truth. Whether it is good or bad is chosen by yourself.”

Ruan Wushuang replied. “Yes, this daughter knows.”

It seemed that within half a year, the Emperor would have plenty of harem. In fact, this was a matter of time, which was bound to happen. Now that the harem was so empty, how many imperial court ministers were eager to recommend beautiful women to the palace. After that, the harem would even become a battlefield. It was just that she had to choose whether to go into battle or to sit

She put down the book and ordered, “Move the lamp.” Mo Ran smiled and said, “It’s still not yet a nightime. Won't the young lady read more books?” 

Ruan Wushuang said faintly, “No, help me to change clothes.”

Some days ago, she often went to midnight as soon as she read a book or played chess. Although she didn't want to admit it, she knew that she was just waiting for him.

It was just that today, after today, she didn't want to wait any longer. She had understood that he had deliberately given her the cold shoulder, though she did not know the reason and had no way of knowing it. But weren't all Emperors like this? Heaven’s might was unpredictable, even if she once hugged and slept with him, she was just one of many women after him. The only difference was that she had the status of Empress.

The eight-sided candlestick of blue and white folded peony flowers had been lit with red candles, standing in all directions. Coupled with the eight treasure palace lanterns covered with bright yellow gauze, the entire Chengqian Hall shone like daylight.

Baili Haozhe put down the memorial. As soon as Shi Quan next to him saw this, he quickly handed over hot tea. Baili Haozhe took it in his hand and only rubbed it repeatedly. The porcelain surface wrapped with green branches was as smooth as jade and slightly penetrated the temperature of tea.

Even if he was busy, he could clearly remember how long he hadn't seen her. It had been a whole month and twenty days. The last time they met was at Ruan Yujin's funeral. She wore all white, and even the only hair pin on her head was magnolia carved with white jade, which was blooming to her ears. But no matter how white she was, her face was as pale as gray without a trace of blood.

It was only at that moment that he deeply realized that she was Ruan Yujin's niece. No matter how long the days passed, even if the sky and earth changed color and the world turned upside down, it would not change the blood relationship between them.

Originally, according to uncle Shu’s plan, she would be removed after Ruan Yujin was removed, but he was not willing to give up. In just over a year, he couldn't do it. No matter how Uncle Shen tried to persuade him, he still couldn't do it. As long as he thought of the scene, his heart almost felt a clear pain. On that day, the fingers in Zhaoyang Hall were intertwined, and it seemed that they were entangled not only in his hands, but also in his heart!

The memorial was presented by the Imperial Tutor just now. He once again mentioned to him that after the Empress Dowager's three-month filial piety expired, some ministers and abundant harem would be changed. Imperial Tutor Gui had taught him to read and write for more than 20 years. All his actions were to help him ascend to the throne. Now that he had ascended, he began to give advice on how to make himself sit more firmly. It was really hard for his painstaking efforts!

In fact, a few months ago, Imperial Tutor Gui had joined with several ministers to present the memorial, but at that time, she had just given birth to the Emperor’s son, and her body was still weak, so he always avoided it, and delayed. In addition, Ruan Yujin's influence in the palace was not small at that time, so it was not appropriate to make big moves. He then pressed down the memorial. Now it was really the time.

Shi Quanyi bowed and stood beside him. Seeing the Emperor pick up the imperial pen and prepare to give instructions on the memorial. However, the word ‘grant’ had not been written for a long time. He looked up and peeked at the Emperor's look, and somehow his brows were frowned and vaguely cold.

The weather was getting hot. Zhaoyang Hall was extremely spacious and bright, and many jewel frame windows were opened. Under the eaves of the green trees, the red flowers slowly came in with a few hints of fragrance that seemed to be absent under the sway of the wind.

Ruan Wushuang sat in front of the bronze mirror, watching Mo Ran help her insert Chaoyang nine phoenix's ornaments, golden beads and jade pieces, and the green jade flower shook. This was the highest reward for the women in the harem—— the Empress’ sign. She smiled slightly, and the woman in the mirror smiled as if she were happy. She looked up to Mo Ran and said, “that’s it.”

Mo Ran took the hairpin and showed it to her and said, “This looks good!” Mo Zhu nodded and agreed. Ruan Wushuang shook her head, and the hanging pearl-jade tassel string also swayed with it, with a unique charm. “No need!” Today was a big day for the Emperor to choose imperial concubines, but as an Empress, she wasn’t essensial. Since it was optional, it didn't matter whether she dressed up or not.

The location of the selection of imperial concubines was arranged in Linhua Hall, not far from Zhaoyang Hall. When she went down to Fengluan, the maid of Linhua Hall knelt down together and said, “Long live the Empress, the Empress has arrived!” The attendant's voice was sharp and thin, and he was used to it on usual days, but she felt a little irritable at this time.

There are already many women kneeling in the hall, oppressed by darkness. Standing in front of the Phoenix seat, she gently waved the wide sleeves of apricot yellow, which she had dragged to the ground, and said, “You may rise!”

“Thank you Empress.” The sound of numerous concubines was really like Orioles cout of the valley.

The Emperor had not arrived yet. Yes, it was not time yet, and the concubine selection ceremony hadn't really begun yet. Mo Zhu put a bright yellow soft cushion on her seat and helped her to sit down slowly.

The whole hall was quiet, and she almost suspected that even the sound of a needle falling to the ground could be heard clearly. These women candidates were all selected through layers of screening. Tall and short, fat and thin, manners, and even calligraphy, poetry and painting had been measured one by one一一 The severity was far beyond ordinary people's imagination.

The sharp voice of the chamberlain came from afar: “The Emperor is here!” All the people in the hall, except her, knelt on their knees. Seeing him coming from afar, the long and elegant apricot yellow robe embroidered with colorful silk thread golden dragon pattern, black, green and gold. The sun was shining outside, and in the light of the transition between spring and summer, the colored dragon patterns reflected a slight golden light, as if a golden dragon were cruising in the blue waves.

She bowed her head slowly and saluted gracefully, ragging her wide-sleeved double-silk shirt to the ground like a spring in the moonlight, flowing faintly on the floor of white marble. “Greetings to the Emperor!”

From his point of view, only the delicate beads and jade tassels swayed in her bun, with a haze. He froze for a few seconds, but he reacted instantly. “Empress, you may rise.” The hands under the dragon robe moved slightly, but he held back. Turn around, face the main hall, and say in a low voice. “You all may rise!”

The first person to be named was the Ministry of Justice, Yan Shangshu’s daughter, Yan Dongbi, with rosy pink cheeks and a graceful figure. Baili Haozhe didn’t respond, the afterglow of his eyes swept to Ruan Wushuang, only to see that she was taking the teacup from Mo Ran’s hand, with a smile. He took a breath and said, “Stay!” It wasn’t loud, but it was resounding.

Yan Dongbi hurriedly knelt down and thanked. “Thank you, Emperor. Long live the Emperor.” After getting up, she knelt down to Ruan Wushuang. “Thank you, Empress. Long live the Empress.”
Ruan Wushuang said softly, “You may rise!”

To be fair, they were all beauties with their own characteristics. Some were beautiful and lovely, some were charming, and some were elegant and delicate. It was extremely difficult to choose. She fiddled with the floating leaves with the tea lid leisurely, waiting for the next name to be called.

Just listen to the chamberlain's call: “Yin Shuiya.” A woman came forward. The chamberlain said, “Raise your head.” The woman slowly raised her head. Ruan Wushuang hadn't taken a closer look. She had heard Mo Ran's faint gasp. Although it was extremely soft, she was standing behind her, so Ruan Wushuang could hear it clearly.

Looking intently, she was slightly surprised. The woman was beautiful and quiet, and she was very kind. It took a few seconds to reflect that this person looked like herself six or seven points. No wonder Mo Ran had this reaction just now.

Baili Haozhe's voice rang. “Yin Shuiya, good name. Stay!” Yin Shuiya knelt down softly: “Thank you Emperor for the favour, and thank you Empress!” The voice was sweet and soft, beautiful and charming.

A few days later, Baili Haozhe conferred the title of four concubines, and Yin Shuiya was the first one to be conferred the title of concubine Yin, giving her a place in Chengbi Hall. Yan Dongbi was concubine Yan, and she was given Jiangyun Hall. Liu Lan was concubine Liu, given to live in Lanlin Hall. Tang Qiaoyan was concubine Tang, and she was given the residence of Wen Ni Hall.

She opened the window, and the flowers in the back garden of Zhaoyang Hall bloomed and faded innumerably. As the spring light gradually fell, they were scattered and silent. Turning her head, she saw that Mo Ran had already taken the water and was waiting on the side. She took the silk scarf that Mo Ran handed over and wiped her hands.

Mo Ran said, “Young Miss, the new concubines have been waiting for you early in the morning.” She nodded to show that she knew and said, “get ready to change.” Mo Ran took an apricot yellow dress. Ruan Wushuang shook her head. “The one with blue color will do.” The new imperial concubine must be well dressed and ready to accept the emperor's grace at any time. But she was already an old person, so she didn't have to show off.

In the main hall, as soon as she appeared, the concubines hurriedly saluted and greeted. “The Empress is auspicious!” It was true that all of them were beauties, and they were a feast for the eyes. Ruan Wushuang smiled lightly. “You may dispense from the courtesy, from now on, everyone will serve the Emperor, and we will all be sisters, so there is no need to be so formal.” The concubines hurriedly replied, “This concubine dare not!” They were very cautious in their words and deeds.

Ruan Wushuang smiled. “Sit down!” As she sat down, Mo Ran brought all the maids to serve new tea and cakes. After chatting for a while, she realized that all the concubines weren’t old, the oldest concubine Yan happened to be the same year as her, and the rest were a few years younger than her. Since it was the first formal meeting, they were relatively stiff.

Ruan Wushuang smiled slightly and said. “It’s rare for everyone here to be brought by fate in the palace as sisters. Come, Mo Ran, bring the things here.” Mo Ran ordered the maid to bring a brocade plate, which was covered with a layer of black silk. On the silk were eight exquisite jewelry.

Ruan Wushuang picked up the tea cup and took a sip. “Everyone chooses one you like. It is a little bit of my heart.” The concubines stood up quickly and said, “I don't dare!” Ruan Wushuang said faintly, “Think of it as a meeting gift for sisters.” Then everyone saluted and gave thanks. “Thanks the Empress.”

Mo Ran watched the graceful figures of the concubines and looked back at the young miss. “Young Miss, I think all the imperial concubines are very careful.” Ruan Wushuang nodded and praised. “It's rare for you to understand my mind.” Just because she didn’t harm others in the palace didn't mean that others wouldn't harm her. She just wanted to live the life she wanted, so she tested the concubines with jewelry.

It seemed that everyone was very cautious, pushing back and forth. Later, although concubine Yan was the first to choose, she was very knowledgeable and only chose the emerald ring among the ruby and emerald rings, which was the cheapest of the eight pieces of jewelry. The others each chose a gold bracelet, a gold hairpin and a pair of emerald earrings, all of which were relatively cheap and not exquisite in workmanship. But the more this was the case, the more it showed that the four were very observant and knew how to weigh. It seemed that none of these four were ordinary people. She smiled, and as long as they didn't offend her, it had nothing to do with her.

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