After the previous emperor’s death, the young crown prince inherited the throne. All factions were eager to make their moves back then. Though Father was there to suppress them as the regent, the opposite faction led by Uncle Yan who was the military’s Fan Wang wasn’t willing to bow down. I also heard that Rui Wang frequently took his beloved daughter Qin Yu Zheng to Uncle Yan’s manor; rumors had it that he apparently wanted to have a marriage alliance with Uncle Yan.
That was a bad news for me.
———- Whenever times like these came, I really wanted to shake off my men clothing and announce to the world: Actually I am a woman. Truth be told, with this young lady’s background, I too wasn’t a bad choice for political marriage…… As long as I could turn Yan Ping’s head back to me.
Yan Ping had started to acknowledge me lately, he was no longer as cold as he used to be. But he was obviously not as warm as to discuss marriage proposals with me.
One day, while I was testing in my chamber, I received Xiao Huang’s summon to enter the palace.
I cleaned myself up and rode a horse to the imperial palace. By the time I arrived, the morning court has just ended and the officials were retreating back from the Great Hall. I accidentally bumped into the official uncle from the military department. He poked fun at me, “Xiao Yi, even the emperor is getting married, when will you? Do you want uncle to matchmake you with a pretty maiden?”
I wiped the sweat on my forehead before respectfully bowing over to him, “Xiao Yi is not in a rush. I shall wait to drink the celebratory wine from uncle first!” Who told you to always visit our manor and steal my spicy lobster?
In the end, he discourteously slapped me on my back. “Little bastard, you actually made fun of your uncle? Quick, enter the palace now! Don’t let the emperor wait for too long!” he scolded me.
After his wife divorced him, he sent away all the female servants from his manor. Even the old mamas were sent to live elsewhere; his manor was no different than a monastery.
I looked at his thick eyebrows and his eyes that were staring fiercely at me. After that, he laughed heartily before heading back to his horse. Something seemed to be stuck at my throat; I decided to give in to him the next time he try to fight over my food again. What if he didn’t ate enough and didn’t have the energy to hit me?
When I arrived in Zhong Hua Palace later, Xiao Huang was already pacing anxiously in the hall. Seeing me, he grabbed me over and quickly begged me, “Xiao Yi, my Imperial Mother wants to select my empress and consorts.”
I looked at him up and down, the fifteen year old Xiao Huang was indeed handsome. His eyebrows were thick and straight. Unfortunately, he didn’t hold back when it came to food so he had a lot of meat on him. He was a little chubby. Add that with that pitiful look on his eyes; there was no heroic air in him at all.
I kindheartedly comforted him, “Actually, selecting an empress and consorts are fun. They can keep you company in the palace; they can eat with you, play with you, sleep with you. You will not be lonely anymore.”
He angrily threw away my arms before fiercely glaring at me. He looked a little disappointed, as though I could not understand what he wanted. “Xiao Yi, I do not need people to keep me company. Besides, you are there to do all those things with me. It is better for you to enter the palace than those consorts that I didn’t know.”
I shivered from the fear and shock.
Last night, I passed by Father’s study and accidentally heard his discussion with Uncle Tong about political marriage between Uncle Yan’s manor and Rui Wang’s manor. I also heard about the empress dowager selecting the new empress from her maiden family’s clan. All the courtiers were excited by this news, waiting to send their daughters into the harem.
Uncle Tong had sighed back then, “This is a good opportunity. As long as there is a political marriage, we can have the backing from the empress dowager’s maternal family. You will have an easier time in the court. It’s a pity…..”
I had practically plastered my ear to the wall to listen to Father’s reply. “Tong You, you know I spent half of my life wandering. I only has one daughter and I want to take careful care of her. (I disagree with that part. Does careful care includes cane?) I have no other desire than to see her live in peace. If I raise her as a daughter, she will receive a lot of attention from the people in the palace. They will make her enter the harem as a leverage to keep me in check. She will be in a lot of people’s minds.”
I hugged my head, secretly hating that blockhead Yan Ping for not putting me on his mind. I secretly told myself to find ways to make him put me in his mind the next time we meet.
I could hear Uncle Tong’s reply, “General’s consideration isn’t entirely unreasonable. The Great Chen is in great instability at the moment. Raising Xiao Lang as a son is easier. If we have to depend on that little kid, even if Xiao Yi becomes the empress, what will we do if the Great Chen perishes one day? Even if the Great Chen remain strong, she will have to spend the rest of her days battling intrigues with so many other women. Seeing our Xiao Lang living the life she is living at the moment makes my heart a lot easier.”
Turned out they were not optimistic about Xiao Huang nor were they confident in the Great Chen’s future.
They had a point; it really was hard to have faith in Xiao Huang who droolingly slept while sitting on the dragon seat and always left work on time to eat.
I recognized the truth in Uncle Tong’s words.
I thought, rather than being imprisoned in the palace…… living in Yan Ping’s manor would do me more good.
But I could not tell Xiao Huang that, I could only persuade him gently.
Such an unlucky day.
The moment I left the palace, I bumped into Yan Ping who just returned from the Military Department. This was a heaven-sent opportunity. A smile bloomed in my face; and then, I heard the pleased voice of a young maiden, “Yan Lang!” And then, her silhouette fluttered by before she pulled Yan Ping’s arm.
Such indecency! Such immorality!
I covered my eyes with my sleeves; my heart was not willing ah! I could not stop myself from glancing over and saw her fierce eyes provokingly looking over to me with her chin tipped high. Such arrogance……
It was Qin Yu Zheng.
I never expect that the daughter of Rui Wang would be able to ignore the rumors surrounding Yan Ping and I. She even publicly approached him.
Qin Yu Zheng’s motives had been clear from the start. The battle between me and her were like that of a war, I really admired her god-like methods.
I’m afraid even the empress dowager could not win over her when it came to chasing men.
The empress dowager’s competitors had always been women; her methods were truly extraordinary. Those women that surrounded Yan Ping were leagues below her. As long as she decided to get into a confrontation with me, she would’ve left me mentally broken in the blink of an eye; easily stealing a man from another man (though I was only a fake man). I didn’t want Yan Xiaolang to walk down the evil path but at that moment, I felt truly helpless. I felt like I was hated by the gods. I’m afraid, had it not been my male identity, I would have been placed in a swine’s cage and thrown to a pond.
I was chaotic when I first faced this situation, but I grew used to it over time.
Just like this day when I invited Yan Ping to a tea house.
We heard that the Great Qi had already swept away four little states on the north. Under Feng Zhao Wen’s iron-clad rule, half of the kingdom was already within his grasp.
Yan Ping and I could be considered an acquaintance of his so I used him as an excuse to invite Yan Ping out. He actually agreed pretty quick.
While the both of us enjoyed melons and melon seeds, we listened to Mr. Shu’s laments over the jiangshan. We listened to him as we smile to each other; never before had we felt so casual and had such a tacit understanding of each other.
(TN: the jiangshan here means the land/the country.)
In the past decades, chaos had been looming over us ever since Xiao Huang’s grandfather’s era. There were fights everywhere, the common people could only gather at teahouses like this to gossip.
My heart was blooming when I suddenly heard a loud voice from the entrance, “Bestow him with 50 liang of silver!”
From the voice, the other person’s heart was blooming more than mine.
I turned my head to take a look and could see Qin Yu Zheng walking in slowly with a bright smile on her face, “First of all, mister speaks really well. Second of all, you did a great job satirizing that crown prince of Great Qi. How is my Yan Lang a level below? What a joke! Yu Zheng is truly grateful to mister; take that 50 liang of silver as the price for a cup of tea!”
The teahouse suddenly roared in chaos, some were praising the princess for being generous, others were disagreeing with her while I only focused on the ‘my Yan Lang’ part of her words. I hastily looked up to Yan Ping with my heart out cold. His warm and elegant face actually turned cold and his arrow-like eyes are set on Qin Yu Zheng.
My chest lightened up as music played in my heart.
People said that to fawning over someone must be done according to what the target likes. This time, Qin Yu Zheng miscalculated.
Yan Ping had always liked spending time in this teahouse. I used to secretly followed him here, watching him from afar. Even though me getting to sit next to him here had been spoilt by Qin Yu Zheng, everything seems to be worth it seeing him loathing her like that.
Yan Ping stood up with a straight face, “An Yi, let’s go!”
I stared at him like at idiot. Even though I clearly heard what he said, my brain processed it wrong.
That kind of word would never be said to me by Yan Ping.
He grabbed my sleeve as he stepped forward, dragging me along with him. The rest of the day was naturally beautiful.
Qin Yu Zheng was left drying in the entrance, motionless. She bit her lips as she looks at the sleeve that was being pulled by Yan Ping. She did not cry, what a pity.
That day, me and Yan Ping rode our horses to the western suburbs, racing with each other a couple of times. The incident in the teahouse was thrown to the back of our heads.
At night, when I returned home, dozens of imperial guards were waiting on the road in front of our manor. Qin Yu Zheng led a eunuch to stop my horse.
That eunuch served the empress dowager.
There was an edict that said that I offended Princess Yu Zheng and basically offended the royal institution as a whole. They ordered the imperial guards to seize me; everything else was up to Princess Yu Zheng.
The imperial guard next to her pulled me off my horse harshly.
Extreme joy begets sorrow: I basically endured rounds of whipping in the hand of Qin Yu Zheng.
serene: Chapter 18 is dedicated to Olivia!