Honestly, nobody liked a paratrooper.
The empress dowager held control over the harem for over a decade and the emperor suddenly dispatched me, a paratrooper to steal her power away. That probably angered her so much. The Head of Imperial Physician had to go in and out of Yi Ning Palace many times. She drank bird’s nest soup everyday but even that could not help her deteriorating health that was caused by loneliness. She would always threw tantrum and got upset over the smallest things.
In the end, the emperor got impatient and announced to the entire world that the empress dowager kept thinking about the late emperor and would go to recuperate in Bao Ji Temple for the time being.
Bao Ji Temple was an old imperial monastery; it usually housed concubines who were not favored or did not have any children. After Xiao Huang’s imperial father died, his foster mother basically packed all of his father’s favored consorts away and shoved them there.
After the Great Qi took over the Great Chen, they also took over the imperial monastery.
In the imperial families, there were always a lot of women who were not favored and childless, and that place was basically reserved for them.
When the news spread, the first one to react was Princess Min An, the empress dowager’s biological daughter. When her mother was ill, she was there by her bedside, taking care of her. At the moment, she rushed into Zhong Hua Palace, looking angry and confrontational.
“Imperial brother, are you really that impatient to let this woman take imperial mother’s place? Forcing her to hand over power is not enough, now you want to kick her out to Bao Ji Temple?”
Her finger almost stabbed my nose with the way she was pointing at me.
Tian Bing Qing and E Huang helplessly chased after her from behind. They could only beg for mercy, “Your Majesty, Your Ladyship, we already tried our best to stop the princess.”
Feng Zhao Wen waved his arm at E Huang and Tian Bing Qing and they both obediently retreated.
We were coincidentally preparing to eat our lunch. Various delicacies lined the table, looking tantalizing and inviting. As everybody knew, this empress’ dining etiquette was forged in the military barracks, completely unpleasant, visual-wise.
Feng Zhao Wen said that my table manner would embarrass him if it spreads out, so whenever we ate, no servant was allowed to be with us.
I calmly pushed aside the jade finger that was pointing towards me and picked up a piece of spicy shrimp before eating it. The emperor’s face darkened next to me.
He was angry now, really really angry.
However, since that anger was not directed to me, I might as well just obediently ate my rice. I stretched out to take a piece of fish meat that was placed in front of him. The moment I smelled the fishy scent, I lost my appetite as the urge to gag suddenly rose. I guess, people was right, it really was unpleasant when you were trying to eat in front of someone angry.
Princess Min An pointed at me indignantly, “Shu biaojie was right when she said you are not a good person!”
(TN: Biaojie is elder female cousin.)
I tried to restrain the desire to puke and drank the hot tea that Feng Zhao Wen fed me before smiling at her while nodding, “Consort De is right, bengong has never been a good person!”
Being a good person was really tiring and would only implicate oneself in the end.
The emperor looked at me happily before he trained his phoenix eyes on Princess Min An, gradually turning cold, “Somebody come, it is time for Princess Min An to get married. She can prepare for her marriage in the palace. Once zhen picks a good husband for her, she will get married in the coming year.”
Princess Min An would be 16 years old this year. She was the late emperor’s favorite child, she could be considered as the innocent and sheltered type. Her eyes were red as she glared at Feng Zhao Wen, “You dare? Without imperial mother’s permission, you cannot decide my marriage as you please!”
In the end, Princess Min An lost. On the day the empress dowager was sent out, she was locked in her palace, crying. In the end, she was not able to change the emperor’s mind.
The emperor brought me to stood in Dan Feng Gate and paid our respect to the empress dowager. His Majesty put on an expression of deep affection for this stepmother of his, as though he was unwilling to part from her. Every single word he said was uttered crisply and could be heard by the ministers behind us, “This son’s health has been bad ever since this son was young, had it not been for imperial mother’s care when this son was ill back then, this son will not be here today. This son is grateful for imperial mother’s care and grace. Now that imperial mother has decided to go to Bao Ji Temple for spiritual purposes, this son will help find a good husband for imperial sister to repay imperial mother’s kindness….”
Such sonorous words…
I felt like gritting my teeth when I heard him.
The empress dowager did not say much, she only said something that I found pretty obscure, “It is best if imperial son does as what you just said you will.”
Did the stepmother and stepson came up with an agreement?
The door of the empress dowager’s palanquin was closed, so I had a hard time figuring out what she was saying, Since I could not see her face, I could not tell if she was happy or sad. There was just a faint, inexplicable feeling added with a hint of desolateness.
After the empress dowager’s phoenix carriage was far away, the emperor and I returned to Zhong Hua Palace. By now, his face was already full of joy and he didn’t even bother to hide it. He instructed people to bring in food; he even excitedly watched me picking up my favorite pastry.
This kind of expression was really rare for him. I carefully inspected the pastry, refusing to eat it no matter what.
“Your Majesty, don’t tell me you poisoned this pastry?”
His expression became strange and messy at the same time. That handsome man looked at me helplessly. In the end, he gently flicked my forehead, “Idiot, when did you last had your period?”
I didn’t really pay much attention to things like that.
My face immediately turned red as I stared at him dumbfoundedly; I could not believe that an emperor who was busy with so many things would pay attention to things like that. I really wanted to make fun of him but could not bring myself to say anything.
15 minutes later, the physician came by to check my pulse. He appeared delighted, “Congratulation Your Majesty, Your Ladyship. The pulse indicates that Your Ladyship is pregnant!”
Tian Bing Qing and E Huang led a number of servants to kneel, congratulating us.
There was a silly smile on His Majesty’s face before he rewarded the physician with an inkstone, straight from his desk. That old head that loved inkstone knelt in joy, thanking him profusely, while my heart ached for that inkstone.
That old head actually managed to obtain two of them; one through a fair route and the other through bribery.
I pulled over His Majesty who was smiling happily before frugally advising him, “From now on, you must not simply reward people with precious objects. People will take you for a fool. They will do things expecting to be rewarded heavily next. You normally looks very smart, Your Majesty, why did you become stupid when you are happy?”
No matter what I said, that silly smile was still on the emperor’s face. Tian Bing Qing and E Huang looked at me with big smiles, looking really pleased. I pointed angrily at them, “Go! Go! Go! All of you only know to flatter His Majesty to get rewards!”
Both of them laughed out loud, even Feng Zhao Wen ended up laughing with them.
When everyone else had left, I paced around Zhong Hua Hall to try and take everything in. Then, I turned to His Majesty for confirmation, “The physician said I am pregnant?”
He laughed happily while nodding.
I paced again before turning to him, “I am going to be a mother?”
“It’s ‘imperial mother’. ‘Imperial mother,’” the guy who was laughing like a lunatic corrected me.
In my opinion, this was an indescribably joyful thing… Only now did I understood the meaning of joy, perhaps I was even sillier than His Majesty.
I swooped over to him, scaring him as he outstretched both hands to keep me still, “Be careful! Be careful!” He wrapped me into his chest, “Be a little more careful!”
I looked up and could not help from giggling like an idiot, “Your Majesty, I believe there is something you didn’t know.”
He looked silly and lost, unlike the usually sharp and imposing him. “What is it?”
I felt a little embarrassed, as though I was lying to him, “My Father married only my Mother in his entire lifetime. The An menfolk aren’t allowed to take concubines. As for those wanting to marry the An womenfolk, unless things go wrong, they too are not allowed to take concubines.”
Actually, Father did not put it to me that way.
Father once told me that I must always grasp the things that I owned and the people that I liked. I must never loosen my grip and hand them over to other people.
Father also told me that if the person that I liked was unfaithful, that means that the person belonged to another person. Grasping him in my palm would be useless. I must quickly let go of him and catch another person home.
Between men and women, choices usually had their own reasoning.
Nowadays, I started believing Father more and more. Using the clan rules and menfolk and womenfolk was only to make it sound a little better.
His Majesty’s mood was really good today, he actually opened his golden mouth and said, “Granted!”
After that, things became busy. Waves and waves and people came to congratulate us; noble madams and members of the imperial family….. All in all, people I did and did not know came over to congratulate us. Zhong Hua Palace was so noisy and lively that it hurts my head. Nowadays, I could not bear the smell of oil and I kept vomiting more and more after days passed. The imperial physician had to run a couple of trips in one day to Zhong Hua Palace because of me. In the end, the emperor forbade anyone from entering Zhong Hua Hall and my world finally calmed down again.
When An Le came with the little miss in tow, I was pushing a couple of light dishes away. My entire body felt so weak.
He was grinning happily as he stepped forward, “Congratulation, jiejie!” Then, he turned to face the little miss and said, “Why aren’t you coming over to congratulate jiejie?”
The little miss’ face was red as she unwillingly knelt, “Xiao Wu greets jiejie.”
I stared at him, dumbfounded. What were they playing at?
He looked a little uneasy before he laughed shadily, “This girl made things hard for this Marquis for half a year. Now, this Marquis plans to makes her pay for it for the rest of her life.”
What he meant by that was marrying her?
In my opinion, I became a lot dumber after I got pregnant.
After I sent them away, I watched their retreating backs from the door of Zhong Hua Hall. I remembered years ago, how happy he was when he was standing at this very spot, watching me as I went home. Now, the situation had reversed. Him who lived in the Marquis of An’s Manor seemed to live an easygoing life. One could never predict life.
A gentle-looking man led a group of imperial guards nearby. When they passed me, he knelt on the ground, “This official, Yan Ping, greets Your Ladyship. Congratulation, Your Ladyship.” The other men who were wearing armors behind him were also kneeling.
Imperial guards usually would not kneel; they probably did this time because I was carrying the dragon seed.
(TN: Dragon seeds refer to an emperor’s pre-born child.)
It had been a long time since I last thought about this man. Ever since I got married, I only knew to spent quality time with His Majesty behind the locked doors of Zhong Hua Hall. I did faintly remember seeing him going here and there while on duty during sacrificial day.
Anything before that seemed so hazy and distant.
At night, His Majesty returned to Zhong Hua Palace and changed into a regular robe. He caressed my stomach, something he seemed to had taken as a hobby lately. He looked so satisfied. I traced after his hand and got into my recent hobby, that was complaining about the food I kept on getting lately. The food from the imperial kitchen tasted so bad, even the smell of them wanted to make me vomit. I, then went on and on about how they didn’t take me, this empress, seriously.
His eyes turned fierce, he looked like he was about to attack them. I looped my hands around his neck and buried my head into his chest, “Never mind, just leave them be. Let’s give them a chance to make up for their error.”
He pinched my nose and rubbed my cheeks before wrapping his arms around me, “It is hard, isn’t it?”
My tears suddenly flowed. I gave his shoulder a good bite, “I cannot even smell all the things I liked eating in the past. They make me want to vomit. This is all your fault…”
He glared at me in shock, “You dared to bite zhen?” His Majesty probably never received this kind of treatment before.
I showed him my flat stomach and tearfully glared at him, “You are mine! I can bite you whenever I wanted to!”
He seemed a little pathetic as he offered me his arm, looking so aggrieved, “Alright, alright. You can bite if you want!”
Life was peaceful and good.
serene: This chapter was supposed to be the ending to the web version of this novel. There will be a couple of disjointed extras after this, and then, there will be a continuation from here.