Qinglian Chronicles 6

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Chapter 6: Agreement

It required a little bit of effort on my part to assist Yao Jinzi in standing on his feet. His hands are ice cold and I quickly take off the fur cloak from around my shoulder to wrap around him. Ai, taking off a warm outer clothing in the middle of winter, anyone will fell the chill even more. I shiver slightly, a little reluctant to part with the cloak but manage to convince myself that someone else needs it more than I do right now.

His face is stoic when I tug off my cloak, but the moment it drapes around his body, he cannot prevent the loosening of his muscles and relax expression showing on his young face no matter how he tries to conceal it. That cloak was tailored specifically for me, so it is inevitably shorter by quite a bit when the young man wears it. On top of that, he isn’t wearing any shoes, leaving the calf of both legs bare.

Thinking that his legs must be feeling numb right now, I turn to instruct my servants. “What are you looking at? Go get some clothes and shoes.” They scamper off to do my bidding.

My wrist suddenly flares up in pain. Turning my head to look, I realise Jinzi is gripping it firmly as if trying to crush my bone. It hurts so much I feel as though my wrist will break off anytime soon. Not able to tolerate it anymore, I frown. “What are you doing? Let go, it hurts!”

He ignores me, stubbornly staring at my face. “Exactly what is going on? What happened to your Jade Spider Art, Zhang Daren?”

My heart tightens and I blurt: “Are you looking for death? Or do you not care about your younger brother anymore? Still not going to release my hand?!”

Sure enough, his little brother is his Achilles’ heel. I manage to divert his attention with just one sentence. Letting go of my wrist, he grabs the lapels of my robes instead, growling: “What did you do to him?”

Impatiently sighing, I answer: “Didn’t I already say, he is receiving medical treatment.”

Half believing and half doubting, he looks at me until I fell rather restless. Fortunately, at this moment, a servant returns with clothes and a pair of shoes. I move out of the way in order to let that servant attend to Jinzi. Fully dressed now, the servant holds my fox-fur cloak in one hand, inquiring with his eyes what should be done with it. Nodding my head, I indicate the youth should wear it.

Who knew when the cloak is about to be draped over the youth, that brat blocks it with one hand, causing my cloak to fall to the ground, coldly saying: “No need.”

Okay, I admit he is still rather unyielding in character. I can’t decide between being angry or finding it funny. However, I have never been one to lower myself and argue with a rebellious teen still going through puberty. Hence, I smile good-naturedly – completely unaware that it turns into an evil smile in his eyes – and walk out of the dungeons, hinting for him to follow.

Halting after two steps, that smelly, stiff stone is still standing there, expressionless, eyes frigid, completely not intending to follow me. Yah, he still possesses male chauvinism. Not that it matters, as I am not going to bother prying him open to see what makes him tick.

“Would it inconvenience you to come with me to the study?” The smile on my face doesn’t falter despite the thoughts running through my mind. Only then did that rascal move unwillingly, following along as though walking to his execution.

Under the gazes of the servants crowding along the paths, we make our way towards the door of my study. Allowing him to enter first, I wave my hand at the servants. “Scatter. Go do what you are all meant to be doing.”

As I step into the study, I feel the atmosphere is a little strange. Yao Jinzi, that rascal, is sitting upright and afraid in between the bookshelf and the flower stand. Not looking at anyone, not looking at the books around him. His expression is really bad despite the faraway look in his eyes. He completely ignores the unwavering, worshipping stare Xiao Lu aims at him, ignoring that small face turning red with excitement…

Xiao Lu? Oh, that’s right. That little kid is also here and has already changed into a new outfit, his small body exuding enthusiasm. Once Xiao Lu catches sight of me, he promptly comes forth to kowtow, only to be stopped by me before he can bow his head.

“Enough, enough,” I say, laughing. “Always kowtowing, better be careful not to knock you little brain silly. From now on, just a normal greeting will do.”

Daren,” Xiao Lu stands beside me, chatting away. “Does Brilliant Sabre older brother always come to the study? Will I be able to see Brilliant Sabre older brother often in the future? This is my first time seeing him so close! Brilliant Sabre older brother has been my idol since childhood. That time when he used qinggong to flip over the wall of the Imperial Palace, he really looked like he was flying…everyone present was praising him so much…”

This kid really doesn’t fear me even a little.

However, why is he so clever when he needs to be but so silly when there’s no need to be clever? Would the Yao Jinzi right now wish to hear people talking about his past days of glory.

“All right, Xiao Lu, you talk too much,” I interrupt him. “Go find Hong Feng and ask her to give you another two sets of new clothes and two sets of “Four Treasures of the Study[1]”. After that, you will be my study partner. It will be better if you learn to recognise some words.”

Xiao Lu becomes giddy with happiness, immediately giving his affirmative before jumping out the open window, too impatient to even use the door. I follow his retreating figure with my eyes, glancing everywhere to make sure there really is no one around. Can there possibly be an expert hiding somewhere I cannot detect? The things I want to say must not be heard by a third party…

“In case you are wondering if there’s anyone eavesdropping, I can guarantee there is none.” A clear, cold voice suddenly comes from behind me, so close that I jump in fright.

Turning around, I nearly bump into him. “Scared me to death.” Unconsciously a little angry at him, I place a hand on my chest.

I might be because both my words and actions were quite feminine, causing his eyes to dart around, not knowing where to look.

I quickly put my hand down, displaying my signature gentle and soft smile. In my previous life, it is said that a lot of people who sees this beautiful signature smile of mine will break out into cold sweat and have nightmares when they go home. They very tastelessly name it “malicious scheming smile of the Devil”. Naturally, I don’t agree with them as I reckon they think too much. This smile of mine holds no scheme behind it and is not as evil as people presume.

Who knows what results I will get when this smile of mine is plastered on this villain Zhang Qinglian’s face?

The pretty youngster, although brave and looking like he is walking to his death, still retreats a step unconsciously. Annoying. He’s just like the rest of them! Am I really that scary? I take a step forward, shadowing his retreat.

He doesn’t step back again, instead saying icily: “If you have anything to say, just say it. Do you need to get so close?”

Ai, is there any wonder why this person is someone I can admire? He still handsome enough to make a person’s heart thump even as he shows such detestable expressions and says such disagreeable words.

Smoothing out my face, I say: “I am actually here today to talk about a pact between us. A business transaction, one may say. One that will definitely be advantageous for you.”

“A business transaction?” Even if his face is stoic, I can tell he is thinking ‘I absolutely don’t trust you’.

“That’s right. Here’s what I propose. I will take those chains off you and treat you and your younger brother well. In return, you will give me three years of your life. In these three years, you will obey my orders. Naturally, I will not command you to do anything that goes against your conscience and principles. However, you must be loyal, don’t betray my secrets and of course, do no harm to me.”

“Sell my life to you?” The youth sneers disdainfully, the smile that spread across his face carrying four words: ravings of a lunatic!

This reaction is within my expectations. Since I have already planned in advance, I act as though I did not hear his disdain. “Correct.”

“What benefits will I get out of this?” His tone is cynical.

I merely look at him, not saying a word.

The silence turns fairly oppressing, comparable to the atmosphere an experienced actor or politician utilises when looking to make a strong impact with their words in order to move the audience. Although as stoic as before, his heart already seems to waver from the oppressiveness of our surroundings, his body language seeping with uneasiness.

In a split-second, I capture his weakness, slowly spitting out word by word: “I will give you what you desire most. When these three years are up, my life will be yours.”

That pair of deep eyes that have experienced so much pain and suffering but still bright with the vigour of youth, widens at my words.

Striking when the iron is hot, my tone shifts to a heavier and serious one. “On this day three years later, I will offer you this head of mine with both hands. During that time, you can chop it off in revenge for your father, give me a thousand cuts and hang my body for three days and three nights…you can do whatever you wish with it.”

He is so shocked that his body sways a little at this excessive words, but still, he refuses to believe them. Once again displaying that cynical sneer, he says: “Do you think I will believe lies used to deceive a three-year-old child?”

“Do you think I will use lies not even a three-year-old will believe to deceive you?”

“You are most likely thinking to allow me to recuperate my martial arts to help you assassinate any enemies of yours who are a thorn in your side. Am I right?”

I sigh. “I have already established before, I will not make you do anything that is against your principles and conscience.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“Because the lives of you and your younger brother is currently in the palm of my hands. You have no other choice but to believe me.” Although my voice is gentle, the words are anything but. Not waiting for him to react, my tone changes, becoming stern. “I will uphold my promise this time. I, Zhang Qinglian, may not be a good person, but I most certainly will not break any agreements I make.”

My words are all honest and sincere, with no trace of deception, my bearing distant but resolute. Even the most suspicious of them will waver a little. Attentively scrutinising me with his pair of pretty phoenix eyes, he stares at the line of my face, trying to find any hint of a lie or concealed truth.

Unsurprisingly, he fails. Thinking it over for a while, Jinzi cautiously probes: “I want to know the reason for this first.”

Hehe…I was waiting for him to bite the bait! Otherwise, every word I said up until now would have been in vain. I turn and pace slowly towards the window, bowing my head, allowing the breeze to blow through the long strands of hair at my temple. Not saying a word, creating a mood as though I am currently having an inner conflict and hence is hesitant to speak.

However, Yao Jinzi is not so easily intimidated by this one action and lose his cool. He doesn’t urge me to speak, doesn’t ask, merely waiting silently.

I can only open my mouth. “…This matter, besides you, no third party can know…my Jade Spider Arts…as you also know, is not an easy martial art to practice…”

After hearing him mention Zhang Qinglian practising this Jade Spider Arts, I thought to use it to my own advantage. The name of this martial arts is completely different from the Northern Shaolin style, the Iron Fist style or even the Eight Trigrams style. Instead of being a practice that strengthens muscles, bones and tendons, the Jade Spider Arts is more focused on internal power. The pretty youth coldly scoffs, implying that my guess is right.

Sighing faintly, I continue. “For the past few years, I walked down the wrong fork in the road, accidentally treading into the fires of hell. The signs appeared quite early on…there were problems with my memories. I often completely forget even the important things that I should be able to remember vividly. These events gradually became more serious day after day…I…this morning when I woke up, I couldn’t remember who the person beside me was. I even don’t remember your name…”

Up until here, even the youngster who likes to act cool and aloof can’t help but be surprised.

My expression turns mournful. “The most awful thing is, I have even forgotten my martial arts…In this kind of situation, I am afraid…deep down, I know I don’t have more than a few years to live. In this case, I might as well exchange these remaining years of life. Telling you my secret, the first is to relieve my heart of this burden. The second is you have both brains and brawn, and will be an excellent helping hand…”

Ai, this little guy really is something. Originally, this rascal’s face still expresses traces of doubt, no doubt wanting to ask why I chose to tell my secret to him and not Hong Feng or other subordinates I can trust and so forth. However, after flattering him a little, those suspicions cleared because wouldn’t it be stranger if I didn’t pick him to assist me in my matters? Him, who is clearly better at martial arts than most of my servants.

This time, it is him who paces back and forth, walking here and there, pacing rather quickly. Although my strong point is patience and not losing my composure easily, even I can’t stop a headache from rising while watching him. Luckily, he eventually stops.

“…At that time, in order to catch me, you came up with countless schemes and plans, lost numerous subordinates…now you want to release me. Although my martial arts is wasted, your mansion will no longer have anyone capable of protecting you and restraining me. Are you not afraid I will kill you, snatch Jinfeng back and leave?”

Afraid? Of course, I am afraid. That’s what I am most afraid of!

Outside, I remain calm and composed, smile still playing on my lips. “Of course I am afraid. Which is why I am informing you that I already have preparations and plans in place so as to not disappoint you.”

His expression turns ugly once more, glaring fiercely at me. “What have you done?”

“Hmm…a few years ago, a member of the Miao Tribe gifted me with a little plaything. That parasite is rather unique. It will not harm the host or hinder them in any way. However, once the owner chants, no matter if they are separated by a thousand leagues, it is still able to take the life of the host. Just now, when Hong Feng went to treat Jinfeng, I am afraid she accidentally inserted that parasite into his body.”

Yao Jinzi explodes in rage, lunging forward to grab the lapels of my robe. He is so furious that he can’t even speak properly. “You…you dare…!”

The anger and force are enough to scare people, haha, but it’s not enough to scare me! As of now, all the cards are in the palm of my hand ah.

I don’t panic and don’t get angry, instead gently looking at him, softly saying: “Of course, I dare. You also know that.”


 

Footnotes:

[1] Four Treasures of the Study = calligraphy brush/pen, ink, paper, inkstone (to grind ink)


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Qinglian Chronicles 5

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Chapter 5: Home affairs

Sitting in my “Fragrant carriage”, I finally return to the mansion. The one standing at the door to welcome me is still that Hong Feng, who carefully assists me down and immediately handing over a copper stove to warm my hands on. Winter in this period sure is a lot chillier compared to winters in my time. Not to mention there are no small, mobile heaters one can carry outside and conveniently warm your hands around.

As I walk through the main gates and head indoors, Hong Feng draped a black fox fur cloak around my shoulders, all the while reprimanding Xiao Lu for not taking proper care of me and ensuring I was warm during the ride back. A little impatient, I said: “It’s not even snowing, what’s the point of putting on a cloak now?”

“Although it has stopped snowing, the weather is still chilly. Daren’s body constitution is weak and the national affairs are a heavy burden. It would not be amusing if you fall sick.”

I am too lazy to argue with a long-winded woman, so I obediently stop walking in order for her to properly tie the cloak’s belt together. By accident, my gaze met with Xiao Lu’s shining pair of eyes that are full of worship, and couldn’t help the softening of my heart. I know his position is just that of a slave boy tasked with following the carriage everywhere and thus has a low status amongst the mansion’s servants. Nevertheless, I feel that he is both clever and innocent, which meets my liking, so I tell Hong Feng: “From today onwards, let Xiao Lu serve me in my study.”

Once he hears this, Xiao Lu is unable to contain his joy, nearly jumping to his feet in excitement. The surrounding servants cast repressed looks of jealousy and admiration towards him one after another.

Smiling faintly, I tell him: “You need to do well in the future and cannot be naughty.”

Xiao Lu repeatedly agrees and nods his head, then kneels happily at my feet and kowtows several times to express his gratitude. Waving my hand to allow him to stand back up, I enter the inner courtyard.

As for the still-following Hong Feng, if she is in any way astonished, nothing shows on her face, merely a respectful and calm affirmative before a knitting her brows in a slight frown. Hesitantly, she said: “Jin’er from this morning, I have already ordered someone to give her forty strikes of the wooden rod and had her chased out of the mansion.”

Startled, I yell, “What?”

Hong Feng suddenly kneels down in front of me. “Daren, Hong Feng acted on my own accord. The penalty is too light, but Hong Feng thought about it. That child is usually honest and sincere and did commit no mistakes. If she offended Daren, it can only be her name that offended. If you are unsatisfied, then let her repent. If doing so is bothersome, then chase her out. Either way, she does not deserve death.”

Will I really kill someone just because a letter of their name is identical in pronunciation to mine[1]? Due to Jin’er’s honest character and risking her (HF) life to save her (Jin’er), Hong Feng ordered someone to hit a delicate woman forty time with the wooden rod, and that is considered a light punishment. Where’s the humanity? Where’s the logic?

I laughed in fury. “Do you always act on your own accord?”

Hong Feng lowers her head. “Asking Daren to please punish me.”

I look at the woman kneeling before me, and suddenly realise that this woman doesn’t fear me, doesn’t hate me, and doesn’t fawn over me, thus is able to act so brazenly. Is this kind of pampering not alarming? In ancient time, she can be considered soft on the inside but hard inside[2]. I can appreciate that.

“Forget it. Next time you want to punish any servants in the household by beating or flogging, ask me first before acting. Give this Jin’er ten liang of silver for her injuries then check her natural character. If you feel this person is still of use, bring her back to the mansion.”

Hong Feng raises her head to look at me in alarm. I make my tone gentler. “Hong Feng, before, I was too harsh on people. Because of that, now I have to slowly correct myself. This morning, Jin’er was not to blame for anything. The reason I told her to get away from the carriage is because acting as a footstool is not something a woman should do. Even if that person is a man, it is also unsightly. The next time, bring an actual footstool for me to climb onto the carriage.”

Hong Feng’s constantly expressionless face finally undulate a little, a myriad of emotions enters her eyes. It seems like disbelief, a good kind of surprise, emotionally moved and finally comfort. Her gaze searches my face eagerly, seeking some sort of guarantee from my expression. However, when she opens her mouth to speak, only two words emerge. “Yes, Daren.”

For my first “act of benevolence”, not receiving flowers and applause left me a little disappointed. However, judging from Zhang Qinglian’s usual deeds and conduct, I definitely cannot win people over easily, so simply making steady progress will have to do.

“Hong Feng, where is Yao Jinzi currently?”

She is taken back by the sudden change of topic and hesitated for a bit. “Yao…ah, gongzi[3] is currently chained as per usual in the third dungeons…”

Not waiting for her to finish speaking, my anger explodes. Dungeons? As per usual? Treating my pretty boy this way? This is the way Zhang Qinglian treats his bed partner? What is he, a black widow?!

Hardening my face, I suppress the fury in my voice and say lowly; “Are you still not going to take me there?!”

Angrily stalking through the Zhang mansion, we eventually reach a place where the scenery is vastly different from the rest of the house: the gloomy and sinister look dungeons.

My eyes narrow as I look at the stout, ugly building, walking towards the third door and snappily tell the old servant serving as the jailer: “Open the door quickly!”

The door opens, revealing the dim interior. It took a while before my eyes adjust enough to allow me to see the thing within clearly, only to see the four bare walls and practically empty room. At one corner is a pile of straw, probably used for sleeping. Near the door is a tray with yet-to-be-washed plates and bowls. The place can be considered fairly clean, as there are no foul or strange smells within.

Yao Jinzi is wearing a simple white shirt that doesn’t even cover down to his feet and I can guarantee he is not wearing anything else beneath. In this wintry season, without his martial arts…isn’t that old man outside worried Jinzi might freeze to death? That’s not all, for the silver chains on this body are fastened to an iron ring embedded deeply in the wall behind, restricting his range of movements.

He has been watching me the moment I walk in, with a gaze I’m not even willing to describe. It is the kind of meticulous hatred unleashed on a hostile party when planning their deaths, a disdain that is long carved deep into a person’s bones, one that is unforgettable and not easy to reckon with.

Basically speaking, his current situation is bad, but not the level of terrible I imagined, therefore, I am able to let out a breath of temporary relief. The sound has barely left my mouth when a ball of black dashes over, dodging everyone as they try to block him. His head knocks into my waist, small hands firmly pushing against me while shouting: “Felon! You are here again to bully my older brother!”

Ah, so it is Yao Jinfeng. The kid is not chained and is also wearing warm attire and cotton-padded jacket. His strength is fairly big for a child’s while I am weak, so it isn’t a surprise I am pushed over. The scene explodes into chaos, some freeze in shock, some curse, someone cried out, but fortunately, Hong Feng is behind me, supporting me with one hand on my back. Finally able to stabilise my feet, I am slightly surprised to discover she is a martial artist. Huh, looks like I do have some skilled people in my mansion.

Whatever the case, my attention is back on the pretty youth, who had shouted “Jinfeng, don’t!” just as the kid rushed over and pushed me. However, his expression was amused and doubtful as he looks at me.

Suddenly at this moment, a rat-haired man rushes inside, most probably the person put in charge of this gloomy little compound. Grabbing the little brat by the back of his neck, the man slaps him across the face twice, shouting: “You little bastard. Must not want to live anymore!” Tossing the kid onto the floor, the jailer tramples down once. That one step isn’t light, and the brat didn’t have the strength to push himself up for a while.

That one action is like poking the hornet’s nest. I have long since concluded that Yao Jinzi is very protective of his little brother. Even before the rat-haired man stepped on Jinfeng, a bellow rips out from the youth’s throat. Like a caged beast, he pulled relentlessly on his chains, full of bloodthirsty desire to attack the old jailer.

Although his martial arts has been wasted, his pure physical power is still more than enough to scare people. The chains and the iron ring were being pulled to the point of straining, and even the scoundrel who hit the kid is scared enough to retreat a few steps. A few other servants run up to stop Jinzi. But he struggles as if facing death, causing the chain piercing his scapulars to strain as well, pulling on skin and flesh. Phantom pain ripple from my shoulders even as I watch, and can’t help the shiver that runs up my back.

Heavens, I really can’t bear watching it any longer. I may not be the saintliest or uncorrupted woman – I am heartless enough to efficiently cut the company’s workforce during times of crisis without blinking an eye. I showed no mercy when making the best decisions for the firm I work for. I have been called “murderer” by some colleagues and have seen the dirtiest strategies being implemented beneath the glamourous cover of the business world. However, this kind of situation is one I am incapable of confronting with a straight face. If those chains are not quickly taken out of his body, I will likely be hearing that terrible sound even in my dreams!

But – but – I will die if you ask me to personally intervene. I can’t do it.

So what can I do? Biting my lower lip, a daring plan suddenly pops up in my mind. Un, things have developed to this extent so I might as well take a risk.

“I order you all to desist!” I shout in a stern voice.

Everything fell silent instantly, whether it be the old jailer, the constantly noisy brat, the struggling Jinzi or the three servants trying to restrain him. Every one of them froze, staring at me foolishly.

My expression ice cold, I call Hong Feng over, putting my mouth to her ear to issue a few commands. She nods and stoop down to carry the little brat up from his prone position by the jailer’s side, then turns and walks out. Yao Jinzi snaps out of his daze, struggling even more ferociously than before while crying out: “Stop! Zhang Qinglian, what are you planning on doing to him?!”

“Shut up!” I can’t bear this kind of chaos any longer. I tell him icily: “I told Hong Feng to treat his injuries.”

Hearing this, he obediently close his mouth. Hmph, seems like he is still salvageable/teachable.

My hard and stern expression causes the remaining people to be scared silent. Turning, I slowly pace towards the out-of-luck jailer. Every step I advance makes him retreat in equal measure until he can retreat no longer and I end up directly in front of him. This rat-haired scoundrel has already broken into cold sweat.

I don’t open my mouth, staring harshly for a full minute before running my eyes up and down his shaking body scornfully. Under my scrutiny, his legs seem to be on the verge of giving out.

“In this place, who is the master, and who is the slave?” My voice is soft, calm and unhurried.

The man finally falls to his knees with a thud, kowtowing repeatedly. “Daren, spare my life, spare my life!”

I scoff. “Daring to act so unrestrainedly in front of me. Who knows what kind of tyrannical abuse you dare dish out behind me back!”

This useless scoundrel who only knows how to kowtow and plead for forgiveness. The type of people I dislike the most is men who hit women without reason, rascals who abuse children and those who bully the kind while fearing evil. These sorts will only have unfortunate endings. Living without moral integrity, don’t blame me for being ruthless!

“Whichever hand was used to hit, chop off that hand…and scram out of my mansion! Don’t ever let me see you again! And you are forbidden to say you were once a slave under me! The day I discover you outside swindling people using my name will be the day you die!” Using my harshest and most callous tone to throw words down on him. Un, the one period that I am most in tune with Zhang Qinglian’s original character must be right now.

This jailer is truly gutless, already weeping piteously, banging his forehead against the floor, body shaking as though he is having a seizure. Giving him one more loathing glance, I turn my back, ignoring him. Surely, the more a person is malicious and villainous, the more gutless they are.

A guard comes in to drag the jailer out with a practised efficiency that will surprise most. Judging from this, I suppose it is not uncommon for the original Zhang Qinglian to order someone killed or thrown out of the mansion. Taking the keys to the shackles, I personally unlock the iron ring and unwind the length of chain, letting Yao Jinzi go.


 

Footnotes:

[1] Before, the author used Jin (仅) for her name, and now it became Qing (清), which is the same character as the MC’s first character in her name. But decide to leave it as Jin’er.

[2] Soft on the outside, hard inside = Appears to be delicate/weak in appearance/physically but is actually mentally/spiritually strong.

[3] Gongzi: Usually used to address sons of officials, but can be used like “Mister” to address wealthy and/or high-status men if one is not so sure of their titles (if they have any)

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Qinglian Chronicles 4

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Chapter 4: In the palace hall

If it was not for the gong signalling the start of Court, who knows how long more I have to endure the countless “Daren is not arrogant and doesn’t claim credit for himself, truly is such a rarity”, “Daren is generous even to criminals, truly a saint”, and such other nonsense. I want to follow along with everyone else into the palace hall. After all, I had no idea what to do and could only follow the example of others. Only, this bunch of lackey officials are firmly set on my leading the way instead. Hence, I could only brace myself mentally and go forth.

Luckily, that black-faced official and his civil official follower are already standing in their spots. At least now I will have a marker to gauge where my allocated place is. The civil and military officials are divided into rows. The older one is positioned second at the right-hand side while there is a distance of seven or eight people between him and the younger man. From observation, I suppose my place is also on the right-hand side. Taking into account my status and the way a lot of ministers went out of their way to avoid offending me, it is prudent to assume the empty seat of honour at his side is meant for me. Still, I dare not take the initiative to go over just in case I am wrong and create a situation that will ruin my reputation. Should something serious arise due to this one action, things will be disastrous for me.

After a moment’s consideration, I deliberately adopt a slow pace, turning my body slightly to look behind me at the gaggle[1] of lackeys and show a polite smile. “Fellow ministers, please.”

Sure enough, overwhelmed by the show of graciousness from a superior, each and every one of them tucked their hands into their flowing sleeves bow slightly before gesturing towards the empty seat of honour. “Daren, please.” “Prime Minister Zhang, please.”

Chuckling softly, I walk over to my position confidently.

As I was standing, I thought about which dynasty or era am I in now? Why are the titles for each official’s position so chaotic? For instance, the master Dragon Portrait Pavilion’s Four Books of Confucianism appears around the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), the position of Crown Prince’s tutor in recorded history has always been given to senior important ministers, not to someone young like me. Also, the title of Chancellor and so on are all positions during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911), which is most definitely not the era I am in now for these people don’t have shaved heads and long braids. That means…

One cannot expose holes or tears in their clothes[2] ah. I am a little worried but decide to firmly remember the words of my idol Minister Zhang Tingyu[3]. “Ten words, ten gains, but not equal to a single silence.” This saying, I am going to use as a lifeline.

At this moment, the generals finally make their entrance in an orderly line. Looking at their solemn and respectful demeanour, I realise that the way I entered the hall just now was gravely discourteous. If the Imperial Censor holds even a little bit of grudge towards me, it is possible for him to charge me with the offence of being impolite in Court. However, I doubt he would try to since the majority of ministers seem to be on my side. Therefore, there’s no need for me to be too anxious.

Finally, a court eunuch called with a high voice. “The emperor has arrived!”

Hmm…it sounds very similar to actors portraying eunuchs in serialised dramas.

The emperor walks out and my eyes widen. Hehe…a boy of six or seven years old as the sovereign of a country filled with treacherous court officials. How can a young child possibly help his nation emerge from this ocean of bad circumstances? No wonder the heavens took such a drastic measure like pulling the original soul out and forcing me into the Prime Minister’s body. But did this incident truly happen because the heavens want me to rescue the country?

Naturally, I will have to weigh my current situation first. Don’t hope for me to commit myself to justice just because I transmigrated.

Nonetheless, the little emperor is pitiful. At such a young age when sleep is very important for growth, he needs to wake up so early every day. Even so, he still sits perfectly straight upon the throne, carrying a bit of domineering aura.

The court eunuch holding the position of Master of Ceremonies has just begun to say those classic lines “If there are things to report, bring it forward. If not, Court is dismissed”, when the Minister of Rites (that black-faced Zhong Kui[4]) steps out of the ranks. The matter he brings up is adding an honorific title for the previous emperor who died two months ago, and his empress who chose to die together with her husband, which is the last essential step for a royal funeral.

This one matter instantly set fire under the pot[5], with both civil and military officials leaping into the fray, causing the debate to become more and more heated. From my point of view, the way each of the skilfully joined the argument, commenting and rebutting, it is absolutely not the first time this topic has been brought up and argued over. Honestly, I am not surprised by the gleeful way everyone involves themselves in the debate. In fact, I would be more shocked if an issue brought up in Court is not heatedly argued over even a little.

Towards this kind of foolish and time-consuming activity, I have absolutely zero interest. I am quite happy to tuck my hands in my sleeves and watch the show as a bystander.

The verbal struggle drags on as these chosen servants of the Crown send their spittle flying all over the place. With the exception for profanities, every other rule regarding etiquettes in the palace is slowly being broken as the argument accelerates. Personal attacks can be heard most frequently amongst the things being said, especially mocking other households for not being wealthy or high-standing enough. Things like “summer insects cannot talk about ice[6]”, and “General Li is a man of action, without reading literary texts, don’t try to solve academic matters”, etc. are being thrown around without end.

I listen to all this while standing aside for a while, only to find that the current situation is very clear-cut. It is precisely because my clique desires to lift the previous emperor up on a pedestal, thus proposing the title “Holy Far-sighted Emperor Above Countless Talents” while the Minister of Rites’ faction propose the title of “Wise and Courageous Holy Empress Above the Heavens” for the empress. Those in my group wants to get rid of the word “Holy” in the empress’ title even if it cost them their lives. Thus, both sides degraded to hurling continuous insults at each other.

At present, I still don’t know who is who, and politics is an extremely complicated matter. While I, of course, have no idea why, but I am sure Zhang Qinglian and the previous empress always clashed for some reason. But it’s expected that there will be deep hatred between two parties when someone’s husband is stolen.  However, this case of the empress choosing to die together with the emperor is somewhat strange. Don’t tell me this bastard (ZQL) killed her too!

It is only a little later that I notice besides Zhong Kui and the scholarly official, the white-bearded old man standing opposite me is also a member of the opposing faction. Ah, to have the support of the army, no wonder they are not scared of me.

Soon, they have already been quarrelling for an hour but have yet to compromise. I am so bored I really want to yawn. This bunch of people are really annoying. Why does it matter if a commemorative title for a dead person is short one or two words?

Glancing at the emperor on his dragon throne, I involuntarily sympathise with him. This is really hard on the child. He doesn’t have parents or advisors to guide him, doesn’t have the right to speak and yet is still required to sit there like a decorative piece. In actual fact, he must really want to yawn too, right?

As my mind wanders, someone drags me into the chaos. “Zhang Daren, I wonder if you have any wise opinions to give?”

Who is it that’s so annoying? Impatiently sweeping my eyes over to that joy-killing rascal. Apparently, it’s my “a person with a clean conscience has nothing to worry about” currently smiling “son”.

Pondering deeply, I decided to make both sides compromise. “The previous emperor is well versed in literary and military arts, astute and far-sighted. No doubt he is “Holy Far-sighted Emperor Above Countless Talents”. The empress gave up her life to follow the previous emperor, showing true affection and devotion. How is she not qualified to bear the word “Holy”?”

Once I finish speaking, both parties stare at me in a daze, mostly likely not expecting me to take this course of action. Their mouths open and close silently for a while before the matter is settled just like this.

The next issue pertains to a request to increase the army provisions delivered to the militia in the southwest borders of the country. The size of the militia is not large and makes up that local region’s military ranks. These rascals who were so intensely debating moments ago are now silent, expressing their refusal to care about this small matter, especially the higher-ranking officials surrounding me.

However, I am aware of how important the militia is to a country and its borders. The power of a single militia is, of course, insufficient to sway the nation, but provisions are the lifeline of an army. Without it, there would be no militias. It’s a pity I do not completely understand the circumstances surrounding it, thus can only worry hopelessly.

At this moment, a civil official wearing the green robes of the lowest Court rank steps out, bowing towards the throne. “This servant, Official Liu Chunxi of the Ministry of Revenue requests permission to speak.”

Everyone’s eyes turn to me. Taking the cue to speak, I said: “Liu Daren, please speak.”

This person is approximately thirty years old, but is tall, has a strong built with a pair of peach eyes, which made him look slightly odd.

His speech is not flowery but straightforward, his words clear and organised. “The Imperial capital is the pillar of the world, it cannot be left unguarded. In addition, the road to and fro is far, the expenses costly and the soldiers’ spirits will deteriorate should we waste our soldiers to replace the militia. At present, the Eastern province’s warehouse typically keeps a stock of four hundred and seventy-nine thousand six hundred and fifty-hour stones of grains, the Western province has three hundred and twenty-seven thousand five hundred and ninety-four stones of grain, all for military use. Once the spring season arrives and the farmers harvest their crops, the paddies that are set aside to pay rental fees will leave approximately seventy to eighty thousand stones of grains. Should these amounts be insufficient as provisions for the militia, the Southern province can transfer more.”

This person is someone I have an impression of, for in the heated dispute earlier, while everyone was hollering away, he did not say a single word. Although I suspect he preferred not to say anything previously due to his lower official status, I am sure he can be categorised as someone I can appreciate and trust to get things done.

Since I have decided to give him an opportunity to shine, I say warmly: “In this case, we shall leave this to Liu Daren to arrange.”

After a few other small trifle matters, morning court is dismissed. For the entire morning, my body muscles was rather taunt so I am a little exhausted, but at least I manage to clear up some matter regarding my new identity. Firstly, currently, it’s the first year of the new emperor’s reign, not even two months into the child emperor’s succession, in fact. The previous emperor lived to the age of twenty-nine before dying from illness.

To pass at such a young age…the portrait depicted him so strong and healthy, very much unlike a frail person who can be brought down by a bout of illness. A sudden chill clutched my heart. It couldn’t be a case of AIDS, right?

From what I heard, people with a certain kind of sexual behaviour had more chances of contracting AIDS. I just pray that the heavens don’t blame me for saying unsightly words beforehand. My current situation is difficult enough as it is. Originally, I worked in the capital industry dealing with economics and was dubbed the expert within this field by my company boss. Under my supervision, situations like ill-handed management of firms, repeated strikes by workers causing a company to go bankrupt, etc. never happened. Problems were solved without much fuss and there were no terrible messes I couldn’t handle. But all that experience doesn’t really help a lot when I’m currently someone who over-indulged in debauchery and a death-sentence-worthy scoundrel. I already feel so wronged ah! If you give me one more hair-pulling, blood-spitting sickness on top of everything, I really will die to show you!

Anyway, at present, I am sure the dynasty I am currently in is not any one recorded in history, and I definitely have no way of returning to the modern times. However, even if it’s not a recognisable dynasty, the customs, language and culture are all very similar to ancient China. Even the topography is the same. Perhaps the theory of parallel dimensions is real, and this is a parallel world corresponding to the ancient China I knew?

Nonetheless, to a practical person like me, this kind of mystery within a mystery is not all that important to me. I don’t really care how or why I transmigrated here. My concern is how to integrate into my new life like a fish to water and stir up the waters like the wind.

After Court was dismissed, I originally recall the chains piercing my pretty youth’s scapulars and want to return to the mansion as soon as possible to ensure it is removed. Only, a few civil officials close to my status surround me to inquire about my well-being and such nonsense. Without a way out, I can only return their pleasantries until they finally throw out the classic line of “Daren, please”.

My pretty youth, I’m coming back! Full of joy within my heart, I head in the direction those officials gestured towards. Yi, the direction they point to isn’t right ah. I hesitate for a second, but can only continue walking forward. Seven turns and eight bends later, I finally reach a cluster of fairly plain and simple houses. Lifting my head, the plaque read “Inner study”. I can’t believe a place famed for being the middle of strategic discussions is actually so unremarkable!

Heading inside, I see that the top of the old table is a pile of scrolls. Ah, that’s right. As the Prime Minister, I need to look over these proposal scrolls. Ai, looks like I wouldn’t be able to go back for a while seeing as this amount of work will take some time. And I’m not even receiving the usual two-day weekend annual leave for it!

With a “few words, few mistakes” attitude, I set out to handle to affairs of the nation with several other high-ranking officials. Straining my ears and absorbing everything like a sponge, I don’t let go of every word they say, managing to uncover some news and information that might be useful for me. Like this, a few hours passed, and at long last, I at least knew the names and positions of these people here and within the Court.

The black-faced guy who opposed me is the Minister of Rites, Gu Yunzhi. Although he is not very old, he is a third-generation important minister and has seen several short-lived emperors on the throne. Gu Yunzhi is an honourable and upright official, as well as outspoken. He is someone the citizens hold hope in, a pillar both in name and reality for the nation and also a chancellor whose Court position is second to mine.

There are four chancellors, one is that white-beard old military official. Grand General of the forward Calvary, the brave and loyal Li Minguo. He is the empress’ father, but as a person of foreign nationality, is someone whose status is incomparable to me.

From history and experience, in this type of circumstance, both the foreign group and loyalists are surely working together to stand against me. However, their ultimate goals are different. One does it to further their standing while the other does it for the country and its people. For sure, there will be layer upon layers of contradicting views between members of the two groups. If a common enemy, me, no longer existed, both parties will fight to the death.

The other chancellor is Liang Wang, the older cousin of the previous emperor. According to my newly acquired information, his body’s constitution is not good and is recuperating somewhere quiet. I don’t know which faction he belongs to.

The scholarly-looking official who follows the Minister of Rites is Zhou Zizhu, a graduate of the Imperial Academy and a student of Gu Yunzhi. A famous scholar in Jiangnan, civilised and noble, with a large family backing. No wonder a small historian with no real power dares to publically go against me.

Last but not least, there is my “son”. Ministry of Justice’s historian, Gao Yushu. One look and you can tell he is from a very wealthy background and is someone who spends frivolously. Unexpectedly, he was once the top scorer in the palace examination.

Now that I have a clear picture of the power struggle within the Court, unlike what it seems on the surface, the present situation is not all that advantageous for me. Therefore, I will really need to be doubly careful with my speech and actions.

Of course, the most important thing is how much military power you have in your grasp. As of now, I am not the original Zhang Qinglian, and have no desire for total control of the Court, to harm those loyal to the Crown, to make the emperor my puppet nor force the boy to abdicate and seize the throne. However, I’m at a phase where it’s hard to immediately correct my past deeds and become an upright minister. If I were to soften and allow the other faction to win, do you think I can escape death if I simply yell out loud that I am not the real Zhang Qinglian but merely a soul that took over the body? They are more likely to execute me with fire to set an example rather than spare my life.


 

Footnotes:

[1] Not a translation error. Author used ‘gaggle’ to describe the followers are like geese, i.e. noisy lackeys.

[2] To expose holes or tears in clothes = to show weakness

[3] Zhang Tingyu (1672 – 175), a minister during the Qing Dynasty to three consecutive emperors. He oversaw the compilation of the Ming Dynasty’s history and the Kangxi Dictionary.

[4] Zhong Kui is not that guy’s name. It is a nickname MC bestowed on him as his appearance is similar to a mythical figure in Chinese mythology that drives away evil spirits.

39303192-zhong-kui-is-a-figure-of-chinese-mythology-stock-vector

[5] Set fire under the pot = open a topic for debate/discussion

[6] (夏虫不可语于冰): meaning someone who has only seen a small portion of the world have no qualifications to talk about what they have never seen before/what they don’t know of.


 

Translator’s notes: And she survives the first day of Court! Hurray!

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Qinglian Chronicles 3

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Chapter 3: Attending court

Only after stepping out of the house’s door did I realise exactly how big and how stunning ‘my’ mansion really is. However, I am unwilling to spend any more effort and money to pretty the place up further. Not to mention, these were obtained by raking in the wealth, sweat, blood and tears of the people, so there’s really no meaning in continuing.

The sky has yet to brighten, so two pretty-looking servant girls are leading the road ahead, illuminating my surrounding in a faint glow with lamps. The clothes I was made to change into is a violet official robe, made from no doubt high-quality materials. However, was there any records of a corrupt official named Zhang Qinglian in history? Was there an upright official surnamed Yao? Exactly which dynasty and era have I arrive in?

I have no way to ask someone else about these matters. ‘I’ merely awoke from sleep as per usual. Nothing strange like being frightened awake happened, and I cannot use excuses other regularly come up with. I mean, has anyone heard of incidents where people randomly awaken only to lose their memory? Don’t say that this corrupt official surnamed Zhang will definitely have a lot of enemies under the heavens. If the matter of ‘me’ losing my memories become known to the public, who knows how many people, whether it is within the court or in the wilderness, would carry their grudge-filled hearts and come after me with the intention to kill and devour ah!

Thinking about this, this Zhang Qinglian is thoroughly evil to the bones or else why would the heavens take away his soul when he fell asleep and give his body to me? Outside of the tall, heavy mansion gates that are lavishly decorated with carvings of birds of prey, a gorgeous sandalwood carriage inlaid with gold stood, the curtains made from blue arctic fox fur. Four identical-looking and equally spirited horses were bridled to the front of the carriage. Observing more closely, one can see the hooves of the horses are snow white. I can’t help but be shocked once again. This Zhang Qinglian really knew how to boast his fortune, using four exquisite “Wu Yun Ge Xue[1]” horses to pull a carriage. Even those dubbed as Masters of a Nation (emperors) would not necessarily have this as a means of transport!

At this moment, a lovely maid wearing black clothes comes forward, going on all fours on the snow-covered ground, waiting for me to step on her back in order to enter the carriage.

I stared blankly before indignation overflowed. What exactly is this Zhang Qinglian? Was he human or a monster?! Stepping on someone’s back to mount a horse or enter a carriage is equivalent to trampling on that person’s dignity! However, it is not rare to see ancient people doing so, but what’s rare is stepping on a frail woman’s back in order to get on the carriage! This genuinely is the actions of a vile and nasty bastard!

Before I transmigrated, I had been called a feminist by various people, and additionally, was one who chose to speak her mind.

“Stand up.” I say to the woman kneeling on the ground.

Unexpectedly, the servant girl’s complexion changed drastically, standing up only to grovel at my feet, kowtowing repeatedly. Body trembling like a lone leaf blown by a gale, crying but not daring to sob openly, merely pleading pitifully. “This slave is wrong, humbly asking Daren to spare this slave.”

The poor her doesn’t even know what she did wrong.

Sighing inwardly from the bottom of my heart, a feeling of powerlessness emerged within.

Suddenly, a woman clad in an amber coloured with ivory buttons lined-jacket over flower-embroidered dress came forward from amongst the crowd of servants, long hair combed to the point of shining, a pearl phoenix hairpin stuck through the bun on her head. Bowing deeply before me, she said: “Replying Daren, Jin’er woke up late today so Hong Feng took it upon themselves to switch the sedan chair to the carriage. Asking Daren to punish Hong Feng. This has nothing to do with Jin’er.”

Staring at the woman, I unconsciously start to guess her identity. Seeing her refined appearance, she is already twenty-six or seven years old, but is still unmarried. The accessories on her person certainly do not belong to an ordinary slave’s. But she also shouldn’t be a member of the Zhang family as her clothes are too plain. Her tone was deferential, but carried no trace of fear or trepidation. On the contrary, she is neither servile nor overbearing…

Doesn’t matter, she is most probably this mansion’s housekeeper.

I speak amiably: “I am not blaming her (Jin’er) for anything. From now onwards, I don’t want anyone acting like a stool in front of the carriage.”

Who would have imagined the slave called Jin’er would lose her breath at my words, weeping openly while pleading more earnestly for her life. “Please spare my life!” The surrounding people lower their heads further, shoulder curling inwards.

The atmosphere doesn’t feel right or good. The presumed housekeeper, Hong Feng, sighed faintly. “That girl Jin’er may not be all that smart, but she is honest and sincere. Don’t know how she offended Daren…forget it. Please quickly get on the carriage. You cannot be late for court.”

I suppose being late for Court is a heavy offence, with the lightest punishment being a reduction or forfeiting of salary, the heaviest punishment is execution. Not daring to test the theory, I leapt onto the carriage in one step. Even as it pulls away into the distance, I can still hear the faint sobbing of the Jin’er girl.

My mansion isn’t all that far from the imperial palace, reaching it after crossing only two streets. The number of sedan chairs and horse carriages the various scholars and officials took to come here increased bit by bit. Finally, the massive copper and gold-plated doors of the palace appeared. With such a wonderful vision before me, my heart is also somewhat emotionally moved.

Suddenly, I realise that my carriage went past the crowd of carriages and sedan chairs, all of which halted before the smaller gates located to the east and west. The officials and scholars get down from their transport and entered those smaller doors but my carriage head directly towards the middle-most entrance at a swift pace. Cold sweat covered my entire body as I gulp in alarm. Even if I knew nothing about history, I would also be able to guess these doors are reserved only for the rightful emperor to enter and exit from. Is this damned carriage driver trying to kill me and exterminate nine generations of my family?

“Stop the carriage!” I inelegantly yelled, pounding on the wall of the carriage.

“Dog slave!” Lifting the curtain urgently, I scold the driver. “Are your dog eyes blind? Why are you heading in that direction?!”

The driver’s face reveals a stunned expression and the ten-plus years old servant boy following along behind the carriage walk forward. “Haven’t Master always been entering through this gate since four years ago, when you were conferred the position of Left Reserve Calvary General? You rode in the same carriage as the former emperor, who authorised you to go through the middle gates. Able to ride a horse inside, have an audience with the emperor whilst armed, not needing to pay respects afterwards.”

This…a drop of cold sweat makes it way slowly down my forehead. The original Zhang Qinglian was really favoured. Was he possibly the previous emperor’s favoured man? That was the only reason he dares to rely on this favour to act arrogant and prey on the citizens.

However, that emperor is now the former emperor. He still dares to behave like this. Doesn’t he know how many important and favoured ministers in history finally died without a burial site because the favours they receive makes people jealous of them? In the end, was this Zhang Qinglian already planning to turn a new leaf or did he already lose sight of basic human principles?

But whatever the case may be, from today onwards, I will be here to help him correct all the wrongs he did.

Glancing around the place, it seems that the majority of people going through the eastern gates are officials of more academic appearance while a majority of those going through the western one are officials with large frames and strong builds. It is easy to tell the eastern side ones are civil officials while those to the west are military officials. Since I am apparently the Left Reserve Calvary General, then naturally, I will enter the palace through the west gate.

Having made up my mind, I instruct the driver: “From today onwards, stop the carriage at the west gate.”

The cart driver was about to say something when the servant boy speaks up again. “Daren is someone who was appointed as Prime Minister by the previous emperor before he passed. As an esteemed scholar of Confucianism as well as the tutor to the crown prince, if you wish to enter through the side door, you ought to use the eastern gate dedicated to scholars. Why do you wish to enter through the west side?”

I paused, turning around to gaze thoughtfully at the boy. As I have come to expect, this servant is also pretty but possesses an intelligent glint in his eyes.

“What you have said is right. Enter through the east gate. Your name?”

The boy looks at me, flabbergasted, before adopting an about-to-cry expression. “Daren has even forgotten Xiao Lu’s name? What’s more, it’s a name you personally picked for me!”

“Oh. Xiao Lu, how old are you this year?”

Xiao Lu’s voice reveals his excitement clearly. “Daren, Xiao Lu is thirteen this year, and can now wait on Daren now. Older brother Chu Yan said Xiao Lu is born to a good life!”

My scalp feels numb. What in the world is he saying? “Xiao Lu, why do you wish to attend to me?”

The little boy blinks his large, innocent eyes. “Because Daren is beautiful, Xiao Lu likes Daren!”

Nope, this definitely will not do. Exactly what kind of logic are these kids learning? I will have to lead these young sprouts tainted by Zhang Qinglian down the right path. Displaying a kind smile, I said: “Xiao Lu, there are males and females in this world. Men ought to like good-looking women. I am a man, you are also a man, which is why Xiao Lu cannot attend to me.”

“But how come those older brothers can?”

“Those…?” Urgh, that damned Zhang Qinglian! Exactly how many boy toys did he raise? Exactly how many sons of good families did he harm? “Er…that’s because they did not study, so cannot tell right from wrong.”

“Xiao Lu is also illiterate.”

“Er…” I am becoming pretty engrossed in his smile. “Xiao Lu is very clever ah. Knowing so much despite being illiterate.”

Xiao Lu embarrassedly scratched his head. “Mother said Xiao Lu has no good point other than having a good memory.”

“Then does Xiao Lu wish to learn?”

With a warm smile spreading across his face, the little boy immediately nods his head happily.

Before I can say anything else, the carriage comes to a halt. Xiao Lu approaches me, taking my arm to assist me to go down. The driver was about to offer his back as a footstool but remembered the incident at the mansion once he sees my fierce glare, and eventually did not dare to try.

All the civil and military officials who saw that my carriage did not enter through the middle gate are greatly astonished and begin to discuss spiritedly amongst themselves. The instant I step down from my carriage, silence falls. Then, one after another, respectful calls of greeting came. A path opens before me, almost similar to the attitude displayed by my servants at the mansion. I courteously returned their greetings, smiling and nodding at everyone, saying, “Daren, please[2]”, and “Greetings, Daren”, and various other polite words. That’s the best I can do when I have no idea who was who. Surely there were few who secretly found my behaviour odd but don’t wish to question me.

In the middle of social niceties, a small disturbance suddenly occurs amongst the crowd. A minister clad in blue robes emerges, seeming to be especially intimate with me. Stopping in front of me and not saying anything at all, he kneels on the ground and humbly kowtows three times. Using a loud and clear voice, the words he spoke were clearly sincere, from the bottom of his heart.

Yifu Daren[3], this child pays his respect to you!”

My heart stutters. This minister is at least forty years old, but is unexpectedly calling someone young enough to be his son as his foster father. For a minister of the Imperial Court to be so shameless to this extent, don’t tell me this country’s political situation has deteriorated so drastically!

Looking around, my fellow ministers all appear relaxed and peaceful. This scene is undoubtedly a common occurrence, but the glances that are cast at this blue-clothed minister varies. Some are admiring, some envious, some cynical, some disdainful. A forty over a robust looking man wearing vermilion coloured official robes snorted coldly, his face dark. “How shameless!”

The crowd parted before him as he flicked his sleeves and walk away. Another scholarly twenty-something official with a refined air in green robes follow behind. The remaining people neither move nor make a sound. Seems like those that left make up the opposing faction within the Court, and they appear pretty loyal. Then, of course, the remaining flatterers and fawners are those in my faction.

In actual fact, the words that older minister said before leaving are ones that I approve of, but the people he scolded includes me after all, thus I cannot openly agree with him in public.

Waiting until the leader of the opposing faction is far away, this lot of ministers begin discussing among themselves. “Gu Daren still acts so boorishly and his appearance so unkempt. To think he is the Minister of Rites!”

“That’s right. He is also aiming to be an Imperial Censor. Could he possibly be thinking of following Yao Qianjin’s footsteps?”

“Still, as the Crown Prince’s teacher, the current Grand Tutor, how could he possibly misguide the emperor?”

Staring at these flattering ministers, the loathing in my heart keeps rising and I can’t help but let out a few coughs. After that, I see my “precious son” bounding over, beaming. “Yifu Daren, there’s no need to be angry at barbarians. This child has nothing but filial piety and an admiring heart for you. Just treat those despicable people with ulterior motives like a passing wind. A person whose conscience is clean does not need to worry about slanders. This child will also not take their words to heart.”

I sincerely don’t dare believe his words. This kind of person is also qualified to say “a person with a clean conscience has nothing to worry about”? If black and white is turned upside down to this degree, does this world still have reason ah? Being so shameless to this extent, I guess this friend of mine has long since made an art out of it.

Nevertheless, we still have to see if this person is capable or not, and if his heart is not that narrow, he cannot be taken lightly. Thinking until here, I observed my “foster son” closely. This man has delicate scholarly features, a thin moustache, friendly face and healthy skin. If I did not know he doesn’t have a sense of shame, I would have treated him as some kindly senior, a righteous learned man. Really goes to show one cannot judge a person by appearance.

Yifu Daren, is there a reason for avoiding to enter through the middle gate?” He most probably feels he is the best suited to ask me this.

Just as well he asked, as I have long prepared the answer. Clearing my throat lightly, I deliberately raised my voice loud enough so the others that left would still be able to hear. “Hehe, benguan[4] might be young but has already accomplished my ambition. In addition to the previous emperor’s favour, I became frivolous. I pursued a few scriptures in the past few days and finally realised my unjust actions, hence had the mind to correct my ways. Although I was pampered and loved by the previous emperor, I shouldn’t be abusing my authority to offend the law.” What I said are all sincere words unlike my son’s.

The surrounding officials froze but immediately composed themselves again to react. Once again, I am hit by a wave of flattery from all sides.


 

Footnotes:

[1] 乌云盖雪: literally means “dark clouds covering snow”. This description is used to describe cats (generally) that has pure white fur on their legs and white underbelly, but black fur covering the back.

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[2] Giving way/gesturing for someone else to go first or walk ahead of you. It’s a polite gesture towards those of similar or higher status (typically).

[3] Yifu Daren (义父大人): A very respectful way to call foster father.

[4] Benguan (本馆): the way high ranking officials address themselves.


Translator’s notes: Poor MC, dumped into this situation without even the cheat of receiving the memories of the original…˚‧º·(˚ ˃̣̣̥᷄⌓˂̣̣̥᷅ )‧º·˚

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Qinglian Chronicles 2

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Chapter 2: Hatred deeper than the ocean

I am scared stupid by his bearing and expression. In the brief period when I am struggling to regain control of myself, I accidentally pulled a cord located within the bed. Immediately, two men came into the room, one tall and fat, the other short and thin. They are a pair of odd-looking people. With a deferential expression, these two men greet me with a single “Daren”. The short and thin man with a rather large belly had a twelve or thirteen year old boy caught in his grasp. Although he can see Jinzi and I are tangled together on the bed, his facial expression did not even move one bit, making me think my current situation is a common occurrence.

As various thoughts form in my mind, the youth on the bed cried painfully. “Xiao Feng.”

The mournful sound cut deep into my heart and a chilliness settled on my back.

That little boy also possesses pretty features, all soft skin and tender flesh, the hints of a beautiful youngster peeking through his childish face. He struggles non-stop, continuously shouting: “Older brother! Older brother!”

Jinzi’s head snaps towards me, the ferocious look in his eyes reminding me of a wild beast. Gritting his teeth, he said: “Zhang Qinglian, you are truly unwilling to let my younger brother off?”

My brain is still in a stupid state. “Let off…your younger brother?”

Although my reply was due to me not quite grasping the situation yet, but when it entered his ears, the meaning became: No, I will not let your younger brother off.

The youth let out a loud “then I’ll fight you!” before throwing himself at me.

I dazedly stare at him, only coming back to my senses when I saw the silver chains enlarging in my vision. Evading the attack, I yell: “Save me!”

The two obviously-a-bad-guy subordinates of mine originally had no intention of assisting. Hearing me cry of help, however, they froze for a second before the tall, fat guy rushed over and subdued the youth in two to three moves, laughing darkly: “Yao Family’s brat, stop your meaningless struggle. Do you still think you are the ‘Brilliant Sabre Yao Jinzi’ from those days? It’s your good fortune that my Family’s Lord looks favourably upon you this pair of brothers, otherwise, both of you would have followed that Old Man Yao to meet Yan Wang[1] together!”

At those words, the youth glared at me bitter resentment, seemingly wishing to split me in two. That little kid was also wailing: “Older brother, kill that man and avenge daddy!”

This weird spectacle thoroughly befuddled me to the point of not knowing what would be the best course of action. Suddenly, I saw that the youth is not only chained around his arms, legs and neck, but there were two fine chains coming down from the collar around his neck and piercing through his scapulars.

How painful must that be! My heart trembled and I avoided his gaze.

The youth abruptly spat out: “Zhang Qinglian, I beg you. I beg you to let my younger brother off. He is only a child. As long as you let him go, I will do whatever you want me to do.” Although trembling with grief and remorse, his voice is still firm and steady, full of seriousness.

What kind of body did I enter!? What kind of person was this body’s original owner!? Oppressing people, preying on the citizens. Apparently the original is a completely evil guy.

I laugh bitterly and said with a low voice. “What can I possibly do to a child? Don’t you worry.”

The four people within the room froze for a while, but I am able to read the three words reflecting in everyone’s eyes: cannot be trusted.

That youth called Yao Jinzi stares at me, then asks nervously: “Zhang Qinglian, exactly what are you playing at?”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. “You told me to let him off, I agreed. What else do you wish for?”

The youth continue shooting cautious and suspicious looks at me with his phoenix eyes, simply making me have an urge to cry. Oh heavens, I plead with you, other people travel back to the past and are met with chests of treasures, housefuls of beauties, acquiring success and recognition. But you throw me in such a complicated situation! At least let me have some time to adjust first!

In a fit of anger, I coldly give an order to both the fat and thin men. “Remove the two of them from here!”

Both brothers’ eyes emitted a hesitantly joyful and hopeful light. Seeing two beautiful youths show such happy expression at the idea of being far away from me, that kind of blow…ai[2]…let’s not talk about that.

The thin one asks: “Daren, do you want to lock them in the water prison?”

What. Glancing at the youth’s delicate and fine skin, I can’t help but wonder how this kind of skin will change to become after being soaked in water for a period of time. Furthermore, I also cannot mistreat a child ah.

I glared at the underling severely. “Bring them to their usual residence. Serve them fine wine and food!”

Hearing what I said, the youth snorted, clearly conveying that he cannot be corrupted by wealth and honour, refusing to easily be bought over. I am honestly too lazy to bother with him for now.

Fatty and thin guy respectfully accept the order, grab my beautiful youngster and the still-yelling brat before withdrawing from the room. The curtain just closed when something stirs in me. “Hold it.”

The two underlings halt immediately. The youth raises his head, glancing at me with weariness and disdain, mostly likely itching to say he had long ago guessed I’m not that good-hearted. I ran my eyes up and down his body, slowly said: “Get rid of the shackles on him.”

As soon as these words left my mouth, my subordinates turned pale with fright. Fatty said: “Daren, you absolutely cannot!”

I sweep a cold glance at him. “Why not?”

Fatty said: “The father of these two is Imperial Censor[3] Yao Qianjin, a name revered by the world and dubbed Yao Qingtian[4]. He always opposed Daren’s political views. Two years ago, due to harbouring fugitives, the previous emperor beheaded him after interrogation. The family properties were all seized, every member of the family was given to you as slaves. These people are very laughable, insisting to the end that this Yao Qianjin was framed by Daren, you. These two brats also constantly go against you, but Daren is benevolent and kind, helping the Yao family preserve their lineage. Regardless of their fuss, you suffered untold hardships to find a specialist skilled enough to forge ‘Binding God Thousand Pearl Lock’ to bind a martial arts expert. This Yao Jinzi is hence bound, ensuring he cannot commit a grave blunder. From childhood, this Yao Jinzi was already hailed as a martial arts genius. He displayed his abilities before the Imperial family and his magnificent name spread. The previous emperor conferred him the title of ‘Brilliant Sabre’. If you allow him to restore his martial prowess once more, although Daren, your martial arts is…um…excellent, you will always need to be on guard lest he plots against you.”

The youth has yet to say anything when the kid hollered angrily. “Pei[5], you traitor who forced my father to his grave! Older brother’s martial arts is incomparable, it’s not something any of you insignificant people can measure up to. If he restores his strength, he can use a single finger to press you to death!”

Fatty and thin guy chide him loudly, but the kid continued being noisy. Meanwhile, I wallow in misery at being dragged to this complex event. According to Fatty’s words, I’m more than a normal bad guy, but a despicable villain. Ah! Copyright protection! Respects to the author! Protest against illegal pirating!

The other party is Yao Qingtian, as his opponent, I’m naturally a treacherous court official who brings damage to the country and suffering to the people. The Yao family is now bankrupt and nearly perished. This is absolutely the doing of my body’s original owner. But that’s not all I (he) did. I (he) still took a prestigious family’s noble son as a boy toy, performing a taboo act like sealing their martial arts, piercing their scapulars to make him easy to play with. And now, I (he) was even planning to make the kid brother another boy toy. A person who is able to do all these things is lower than a sore on one’s head or a festering boil on the sole of one’s foot. Even I myself shiver at the thought of doing all those evil things.

I lift my eyes to look at the obstinate youth, a feeling of pity arising involuntarily. Originally the son of an official up high, possessing excellent martial arts, handsome features, high self-esteem, the pride of his peers. In just a single moment, his father died, his family destroyed, his younger brother and himself becoming the slaves of their hated enemy, his martial arts wasted, humiliated by the enemy, wrong himself in order to protect his sibling by catering to his enemy’s desires. This last point is surely the most shameful one.

I couldn’t help but walk towards him, lowering my head to look him straight in the eye. He did not shrink away, gazing back at me indifferently. Smiling sweetly, I said softly: “I removed your shackles, do you still plan to kill me?”

He eyes are cold as he thinks over how to answer me, whether he should lie or not, eventually nodding his head. “Yes.”

I really was not given any face, but truth be told, I’m also rather foolish, unexpectedly forgetting the body I have now is not that of some sexy, charming beautiful woman, but an enemy who people wish to tear apart and devour. What was I expecting him to say?

Dully letting the underlings bring them away, I thought in my heart: Handsome guy, although I let you down, but I also cannot simply put my neck out for you to chop, right? After all, I did not do all that to you. I’m also innocent ah.

At this moment, a maid brought over bathing supplies in order to help me make myself presentable. I am finally faced with a copper mirror and will be able to see my present appearance. Although it’s a pity this is not a full-length mirror so I wouldn’t be able to see the complete picture.

When my reflection appeared on the surface of the mirror, I’m also slightly dazed by it. For the mirror shows an extremely gentle and lovely face, one that’s more beautiful than Yao Jinzi’s. However, while that youth is still not fully matured, he already exudes masculinity. On the other hand, this person in the mirror is completely feminine. If it were not for the ‘proof’ I already saw, I would have thought my body is that of a good-looking woman. Approximately twenty-seven or eight years old, the corners of the mouth and eyes are a little slack, which are signs of over-excessive indulgence in debauchery.

Looking at those few men standing together earlier, my current height is approximately only 170cm with a slender body structure. The saying “too weak to bear the weight of one’s clothing” is used to describe this type of man, I suppose? If Fatty did not tell me Zhang Qinglian practised martial arts, I totally would not have been able to tell just by looking. Really don’t understand why a person who’s naturally born with wife-like disposition would choose to work as an official?

As I daydream, another maid entered. “The carriage is ready. May Daren not miss the morning court.”

 


Footnotes:

[1] see/meet Yan Wang = to meet your maker

[2] ai = sound of sighing

[3] Imperial Censor: The Censorate was a high-level supervisory agency in ancient China, first established during the Qin dynasty (221–207 BCE). The Censorate is a branch of the centralized bureaucracy, paralleling the Six Ministries and the five Chief Military Commissions, and was directly responsible to the emperor.

[4] 晴天: Literally translates to “clear skies”, to symbolise uncorrupted nature and no blemishes to his name.

[5] pei = spitting in disgust


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Qinglian Chronicles 1

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Chapter 1: Paedophile

There are numerous people who time-travelled back to the past, using an assortment of methods to achieve it. In addition, the time, place and people vary immensely. Transmigration, reincarnation…one person, two people…arriving to save the world, arriving to destroy the world and of course, there are those who arrive to conquer beautiful men and women.

Whatever the case, there is one important point – that is, your location and the role you play. If you become the emperor once you cross over, then, in reality, you have it really easy. If you really want to dominate the world or acquire beauties, it wouldn’t be difficult. At least, the second option wouldn’t be. However, if you are unlucky and end up in a farmer’s family, and the author adheres to reality more, then it doesn’t matter if you are a nuclear expert here. Over there, you will have difficulty surviving. In comparison, travelling to the past and being a woman is not very favourable as society practices a strong gender discrimination. Women in general have to follow only one man.

Which was why the moment I open my eyes and glance around twice, I am filled with satisfaction and am extremely happy. Breathing out a long relieved breath, blissfully closing my eyes, envisioning enjoying a better life in the future. The obvious reason: first glance, the environment I saw around me, a mahogany bed inlaid with jade and gold, a beautifully embroidered high-quality white blanket, the aroma of white orchid in the air, the expensive, soft, large bed. There is no doubt my new identity holds a high status in this current world.

Lucky! The first concern is solved, I don’t need to worry about my living conditions! (Once a materialist, always a materialist.)

Hence, slowly turning my neck to the side and taking a second glance after arriving in the ancient times. This one glance almost stopped my breathing, my heart went on strike. It was simply breathtaking. I couldn’t help but be moved to tears. Oh heavens, you are showering upon me with too much love! I’ve been graced!

As it turns out, there is another person sleeping beside me, his face so close there is barely an inch between us. And what a face it was. The white sheets accented his olive skin, the healthy shade is exactly like that of my favourite Latin men. His facial features are so handsome to the point of being able to kill women, perfectly flawless body structure. If one took all the beautiful men in history and mix them together, it would only add up to one-tenth of his beauty. Such a handsome man doesn’t exist even in manga or one’s dreams! But if there’s a negative point, his long eyelashes, closed eyes and shallow breathing makes him look really young.

Yi[1]…that’s not right. The facial contours are somewhat like a young adolescent. Th-th-this…this beautiful youth is obviously no more than seventeen or eighteen years old!

A cradle robber? That’s just too immoral, even if older woman/younger man type of relationship is very popular…I partially salivated in my heart while warring with my morals.

Wait a minute, people in ancient times married early. My body’s current groom is an adolescent, which is pretty normal. Oh heavens, my tears overflow again…why are you so good to me? Could it be I’m your illegitimate daughter left on this earth?

My mind moves away from the youth. I want to get out of bed to take a look at my new body, to see what kind of little beauty I am (why am I immediately reminded or parasites that takes over the body of the host?). Unexpectedly, my beautiful husband is a light sleeper. I only move a little and he immediately opens his eyes.

Without any warning, my gaze collided with his. In that instant, time seems to stop. I cannot hear anything save the gradually increasing loud sound of my heartbeat, my hands unconsciously clench and start to sweat. Was…was this the miraculous meeting by fate that stories always mentioned? The very thing my previous life never experienced for twenty-six years…love at first sight.

However, why is little Mr Handsome’s gaze so serene, and beneath the serenity lurks a trace of coldness and cautiousness. It really doesn’t have the feeling of a husband’s morning greeting kiss. He is a step quicker than me, slowly pushing himself to a half-sitting position, the blanket pooling at his waist. He looks at me out of the corner of his eyes charmingly. I simply couldn’t not look at those lean muscles, the epitome of a young male’s appeal…there was a bit of frail feeling within that sexiness, but in a few years’ time, he will be full of masculinity. Really is the man of my dreams!

Wait, something’s not right. This light ling-ling[2] noise…my eyes widen. What is that thin silver chain? Furthermore, the collar around his neck…is it possible us husband and wife are into SM? If I am originally into it, it would be okay, but I am afraid of pain. Even if Mr Handsome was ten times more good looking, I can only bear the pain and sever our relationship. I was just about to speak when my handsome groom opens his mouth at the same time.

Daren[3], you are awake.”

What a lovely combination of a sharp, clear tone and low voice! Eh? Hang on. Daren? Am I possibly someone like Wu Zhetian[4] and this youth was my boy toy?

Daren.” The silver chained beautiful boy toy turn his body to face me, his voice slightly rough. One hand reaches down to remove the blanket, exposing my body to the air.

I-It can’t be, right? Doing that first thing in the morning? My weary old bones wouldn’t be able to tolerate it ah. It would be better to develop some feelings between us first.

However, the youth did not bother saying further and has proceeded to press his body above mine, bowing his head to kiss my smooth chest.

Smooth? What happened to the 75D-cup chest I was immensely proud of?

I sweep a glance down towards my chest out of the corner of my eyes. Sure enough, although flawlessly white like jade, it was flatter than a field. Don’t say chest, this body doesn’t even have pectoral muscles. Even idiots know, so long as one is a woman, no matter how flat, no matter how underdeveloped, there’s no way a woman’s body can look like this.

Damn heavens! I knew he wouldn’t be so good to me without reason. Not only did I become a man, but a gay. On top of that, it’s a BL setting from the moment I came to this time. Was it made this way to increase click rates? In my previous life, I wasn’t an emotionally intense woman as I haven’t met a man I liked enough to make mine. I had a couple of sex partners when I returned to China, simply giving them a call when I had the urge, typically once every week or fortnight. There were regular periods of a few months where I didn’t have the urge. Either way, I have never experienced being emotionally involved in a relationship. I have never had a one night stand, never had a man stay overnight and never spent a night at anyone’s house. My preferences in bed are also comparatively conservative, which might be due to not having any romantic feelings for my partner.

Now, my mind feels faint, my brain dizzy, my underbelly hot. What in the world is this? Why can’t I help but gasp for breath? Why do I unconsciously want to grab the youth’s hair? Was it because a man’s physiology makes them have a stronger sex drive? If it is, from here on, I can truly understand why the majority of men cheat in bed. There’s a saying that a man’s behaviour before you know him and after you do varies greatly[5].

Nevertheless, calmly maintaining self-control has always been my strongest trait. Hence, as both hands reached out to grab the youth’s hair, I am still able to transform the action midway, directing my limbs to brace his shoulders instead. After a second’s hesitation, I hardened my heart and pushed the youth away from me.

He raised his head to stare at me. Panting, I returned his gaze, not knowing what to say. But I am taken back after another look at him. The expression in his eyes is still so serene, revealing nothing at all, absolutely not looking like someone who moments ago initiated such intimate acts. The coldness in his stare made me feel like retreating.

A flash of resentment crossed his eyes and he abruptly pulled away completely from me. Under my puzzled gaze, he prostrates himself beside me, bottom sticking towards the ceiling before going motionless.

I can’t believe I’m seeing the man of my dreams displaying such humiliating attitude towards me. D-does this mean he wants me to get on top of him? I peeked down at my…thing. Although it wasn’t all that big, it seems to be rather interested in the youth’s silent request.

However, I have yet to fully adapt in regards to my newly-acquired body. Isn’t it asking too much of me to fulfill this request?

The youth is still motionlessly waiting for me. I took in his well-toned body, that slender waist and couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. To assume such grovelling posture, is he feeling very much ashamed deep in his heart?

Not able to bear it any longer, I suddenly wish to comfort him and extend a slightly trembling hand to touch his tailbone. His body trembled, obviously wishing to avoid but is with much difficulty forcing himself to endure. My fingertips lightly ran up his backbone, causing him to shudder. From my perspective, it is easy to see every muscle clenching. Originally, I had the aim to soothe him using my touch but it seems to have given rise to a different reaction than what I was hoping for. I know the youth is getting excited. Looking at his narrow bottom, my scalp began to feel numb, but…even if you beat me to death I cannot do what you want me to do ah!

Thus, I jump to one side of the bed, my voice a little shrill. “No, you get up quickly. I…urgh…today, I don’t feel like…”

His head snaps up, beautiful pupils displaying extreme despair and hatred as he stares at me. Shocked, I wanted to recoil when he throws himself at me, pressing me back on the bed.

Dropping kisses randomly, hands wandering aimlessly, repressing the hate in his eyes, level tone carrying a trace of desperation, he asks: “Daren, you don’t want me anymore? Didn’t you say you like Jinzi the most? That you will forever not throw me aside?”

 


Footnotes:

[1] An expression of surprise.

[2] Onomatopoeia, the sound of chains clinking lightly

[3] Daren (大人)= Lord (a form of address towards people/ministers holding a high official rank)

[4] Wu Zetian (624 – 705): Tang Empress, reigned 690 – 705

[5] Author’s words. This translator is innocent (⊃д⊂)


Translator’s notes: The words in brackets in the story itself is in the raws. They are not my added opinions or something (^∇^)

Also, reading it seems to be fine for me, but when it comes to translating sexual references it kinda gives me second-hand embarrassment…? Haha…idk…

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