☆ Chapter 65
尺 | chi | a Chinese foot, about one-third of a meter
Elder Jia could not easily go against her order. Taking the porcelain jar from between the fence, he walked to the adjacent cell and looked inside. All of the woman inside the cell stared hungrily at the porcelain jar in his hands. The woman holding the child shouted: “Sir, trouble you to carry the child outside to feed him. There will be no portion for the child to eat if it is brought inside.”
Master Jia handed the porcelain jar over to Xiao Wu: “Do as she says.”
Xiao Wu had endured quite a bit of hardships and knew the pain of hunger. He let the prison matron unlock the cell door and release the woman, handing her the porcelain jug for her to feed the child herself.
“Young……That……If you are unwilling to drink the fish soup, that is fine. There are steamed dumplings here, flaky red bean buns, small steamed buns with black sesame and walnut, and also……”
Ruan Zhu could not decline Elder Jia’s affection. Using the provided chopsticks, she picked up two pieces to eat. Fortunately, they were not that greasy, but she had no appetite and put the chopsticks back down.
“Later I will go find Constable Shen and discuss things with him. I will definitely have Young Master’s Wife be released.”
Ruan Zhu was perplexed: “Why must we take a detour for this matter? Could it be that Lord Husband cannot resolve this?”
Elder Jia squeaked out: “He……He left the city for some matters and will return in one or two days.”
Ruan Zhu nibbled her lower lip and frowned: “That Constable Shen is not easy to deal with. If he indeed makes things difficult, there is no harm in waiting until Lord Husband comes back. In any case, it is only one or two more days.” Even though she did not understand how the authorities operated in feudal times, she had seen quite a few movies and TV shows. In order to benefit, many officials lacking in virtue would absolutely not give up until they had squeezed the involved people dry. She feigned a light attitude: “Perhaps when Elder sends over the money tonight, Lord Husband would return tomorrow morning. Wouldn’t that be an injustice?”
“The prison environment is so rotten, staying another moment is profaning you.” Indignance flashed in Master Jia’s eyes and he muttered: “That dirty Constable Shen has borrowed his courage from the Heavens. I will precisely send him some silver tonight, and then when Master comes back tomorrow, he will have to obediently spit them back out for me.”
“Elder has a Master?” Ruan Zhu was surprised. She recalled the conversation she had heard while she was hiding in the chest of Lu Yin Ge being the property of the Fifth Prince: “Is Elder’s Master the Fifth Prince?”
“En, yes……wait for His Fifth Highness to come back to throw them all into prison for you to vent your anger.”
Ruan Zhu’s mood became slightly better and she laughed: “Elder, you are confused. The other is a prince; how could he casually listen to your words?” No wonder Lu Piao Xiang could become a general! It turns out there was this level of connection.
“That’s enough. Time’s up.” The prison matron came over to shoo the visitors away and pushed Elder Jia towards the exit: “Time’s up; you should leave. Later there will be a change in shifts and we also want to go home. If you want to visit a prisoner, come again tomorrow.”
“Young……That……Tomorrow I will bring over clean clothes for you. You also do not have to worry about the matters in the Ruan residence; I will arrange everything well. As for the Second Miss of the Ruan clan and Little Zhi Xi, I will also take good care of them.”
Lu Piao Xiang’s father was truly too passionate! Ruan Zhu gazed at the back of the departing elderly figure, her mind in an endless state of gratefulness.
“Stupid woman, you know nothing. Why on earth would you still wed that man?”
A ridicule sounded from behind her. Ruan Zhu turned around and saw Xuanyuan Min Zhi sitting in the chair, one leg crossed over the other with a completely relaxed attitude while stuffing his mouth with the desserts that Elderly Sir Jia had sent over. She thought in her heart: This man is so rude. Well, if he wants to eat, then just eat. I can’t finish it all anyway.
The light from the window on the roof gradually dimmed and night approached.
The odor in the prison made Ruan Zhu feel terribly stifled and her head was continuously dizzy. There was no one on the bed so she laid on top of it. Pulling the one tattered blanket over herself, a stench entered her nose atop of the other smells……She felt a burst of nausea and quickly threw the blanket to the side, deciding to wrap her arms around herself instead. Perhaps because she was too tired, she entered dreamland not too long after.
This night, she slept very roughly. Scattered images and fantasies came thick and fast–fluttering and fleeting–with no link between them. It was just like an octopus in the deep sea had extended an enormous tentacle, bringing about an unspeakably frightening shadow.
She dreamt of her past life……In her dreams, she seemed to have returned to the night before she transmigrated……The father that had been absent for many years returned with his new wife and crippled son, saying it was to celebrate his daughter’s eighteenth birthday and for them to have a meal together. She rode with them to a luxurious restaurant. Waiting for her was her father unexpectedly wanting to marry his eighteen-year-old daughter to his crippled stepson.
The result of the matter was her firm refusal no matter how they tried to persuade her. When their nice words were exhausted, she still didn’t agree even after they used the house and property as a bargaining chip.
At the end, her father was enraged and slapped her several times in the face.
She had ran out of the restaurant, crying. But not long after she reached the street, she was caught by her father and dragged back into the car, saying if she did not agree, then she would be confined for a lifetime.
Yet, there was never any thought that an even more dreadful event would happen.
When their car was underneath downtown’s most beautiful interchange, they met with a terrible disaster–the bridges collapsed and blocks of concrete crashed down one after the other……A few chunks fell down beside her, smashing into their car and leaving her with no way out.
During this moment of crisis, her father left the car with his beloved woman in tow, leaving behind his biological daughter and crippled stepson.
She looked at the back of that so-called father of hers in despair when another large chunk of cement dropped down and she completely sank into darkness.
Ruan Zhu woke from her dream with a start, her entire body covered in sweat and unable to stop shaking. Even her heart almost jumped out from her chest.
A long while passed before she realized it was all a dream. She looked at the skylight above the prison cell; it was still the long suffering night with brightly twinkling stars. The midnight wind drifted into the cell, causing a nip in the air, and she felt a chill pass through her body.
“Had a dream?”
A low male voice flowed into her ear; it was the one sitting in the chair–Xuanyuan Min Zhi. She did not respond. Recollecting the scenes in her dream, a kind of intuition rose up from within her. This dream was some sort of prophecy, seemingly pointing to something in the dark.
She thought hard about the people and matters that had occurred in this past day, not letting a single one slip by.
The crippled man!
Suddenly, the scene of Steward Wang being killed in Lu Yin Ge by the crippled man flashed in her mind! She was so startled, she sat up from the bed. Impossible. How could there be such a coincidence?
Their appearances did not resemble each other at all, but they were both lame. Could it be that even though the other had crossed, he was still unable to alter the fate of being crippled?
With two transmigrators, it’s enough for there to only be one that knows the advanced technology of the future; the second person is unnecessary! It was as if the perpetrator’s voice was in her ear. Ruan Zhu was so frightened, every single one of her bones trembled.
Wait, wait. Let her think for a moment. Since her transmigration, what had she done that had violated this era’s laws?……She must list everything out, one by one……
The matter with the tables–she can forget about that. And then not long after she transmigrated, she met Lu Piao Xiang and recited one of Wang Wei’s poems. That shouldn’t be too big of an issue. She had heard others say that guy had already mixed into society without graduating from high school. Then, when he had gone to apply to some company, he couldn’t even write a resume, let alone an ancient poem.
She had sung ‘Plum Blossoms Blooming Thrice’ for Lu Piao Xiang, and he had played it with the guqin. That was fine; that person didn’t even know what ‘do re mi’ was, so even if he listened to the guqin, he would still not understand.
Oh yes, she had designed a set of jewelry at Ming Xiang Cui Yu. Carefully thinking about it, it should also not be much of a problem as one wouldn’t be able to appraise it if one wasn’t an expert.
What else has she done……right, she had helped Lu Piao Xiang improve many of the army’s weapons. But these were considered to be military secrets. Don’t mention a small common civilian, even high ranking officials in the imperial court may not be aware of these things.
Also, also, Zhi Xi had a few toys that were not from this era and several of his onesies were embroidered with cartoon characters. When she returned, she’ll pull them all off.
It was like Ruan Zhu had become crazy as she tossed and turned, unable to sleep. She felt that as soon as she closed her eyes, nightmares would torment her again. Never had she imagined that in the country of Tian Chu, there would be a terrifying enemy that would cross together with her through a twist in time and space in the midst of that disaster to this era.
“What’s with you; why are you so unhinged in the middle of the night?” Xuanyuan Min Zhi looked at the woman on the bed, baffled. He had already given up the sole bed for her to sleep in, so why did she suddenly have a breakdown? Sure enough, she really was an Eldest Miss that could not endure the slightest bit of suffering.
Ruan Zhu could no longer fall asleep and sat up in the bed, her heart enshrouded by an unending stream of misery and hopelessness.
If Yun Shi Yi was here, then it would be okay. She could hide herself within his broad chest and be moved to laughter by his cajoles; she could forget all of the unhappiness in the world. Tears accidentally flowed down her face, and she quickly turned her back and wiped them dry.
Agitation burst forth in Xuanyuan Min Zhi’s heart. Even though it was pitch-black, he could still feel the sorrow pouring off the woman just a few meters away from him.
He didn’t know what was wrong with him. Whether other people lived or died–what did that have to do with him? Since childhood, he did not understand how to be concerned about others. His heart was unfeeling and has always been this way. When he had witnessed his biological father die in front of his eyes, not a tear had dropped.
He could tie up his own flesh and blood brother and throw him into the streets. Worried Emperor-Father, who had gone south on patrol, would return and be infuriated, he had fabricated a fire by using an eunuch’s corpse as a substitute for his brother and setting the latter’s bedroom on fire.
Unfortunately, he still could not escape being investigated and a small eunuch by his side betrayed him and revealed his secret to Emperor-Father.
If it weren’t for Empress-Mother pleading on his behalf, he would have long been bestowed a cup of poison at the age of eight. But what of it? Wasn’t he still exiled to the far flung country of Nan Ling by a simple edict?
He did not have a single close relative, and apart from the several palace eunuchs at his side, there was not one person that he was familiar with. All that he did had to depend on how others reacted. The concubine-born brothers of his saw him as a thorn in their eyes and a thorn in their sides, wishing they could remove him and quickly, at that.
Even if he demanded favor from the Duchess, he was not born from her. They were separated by blood and he would ultimately suffer a crushing defeat in the struggle for inheritance.
When dawn arrived, Ruan Zhu fell ill. With her eyes closed, she motionlessly leaned against the bed, her face flushed red while her body was hot one instant and cold the next. Her eyebrows would occasionally slightly crease or she would occasionally pant deeply. Her illness tormented her and robbed her of her previous vitality.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi did not pay attention at first, but after he saw there had been no movement on the bed for a long time, he walked over to pat her shoulder: “You all right?”
She pried open her eyes to look at him, her gaze unfocused, before closing them again.
He placed his hand on top of her wrist, searching for her pulse, only to find it jumping terribly. Her temperature was also high enough to scare someone. If this continued, her brain would be fried. He went to the door of the cell, loudly shouting for someone to come. The prison matron walked over and swore at him before coldly leaving.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi waited for another while until the sun’s rays shone.
Master Jia sent someone to deliver food, but the bailiff did not allow them to enter the cell and the food case was sent in by the prison matron. They heard that a multitude of suspicious people had assembled outside the prison. The warden was worried the prison would be infiltrated by unscrupulous people thus no one was allowed to visit any prisoners.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi knew these ‘unscrupulous people’ were very likely to be the assassins from Nan Ling that were after him. As expected, they were guarding a tree stump, waiting for rabbits,[a] not leaving a single opportunity for him to live. If they were not even hesitating to break into the prison, they absolutely would not permit him to meet with the Emperor of Tian Chu.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi took out a meat soup from the food box and fed her with a spoon. But seriously ill patients could not eat anything too strong, and she was unable to bear even a whiff of the smell. He had no other choice and could only give her water to drink. Tearing off a piece of his lapel, he soaked it in water before placing it on her forehead, hoping it would help in lowering her temperature.
The day went by. Ruan Zhu remained unconscious under her fever and laid there like a corpse.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi thought she could no longer wait. Only the Heavens knew whether Xuanyuan Zong Zhi, that idiot, could return. If he couldn’t, he was afraid this stupid woman would die.
He bundled her up in the tattered blanket on the bed before strapping her onto his back. Walking to the edge of the cell, he circulated the qi within his meridians and with chilly eyes, struck the sturdy door with his palm. The air swirled within the single room and the heavy door cracked into several fragments.
“A prisoner is escaping; someone come!”
The sound of the door breaking alarmed the prison guards, and they rushed towards the source with their weapons.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi coldly smiled. Since he had decided to use his inner force, how could these jailers who were only superficially skilled in martial arts be his opponent? Toes pressing against the ground, he appeared in front of a jailer in a flash and with a stretch of his arm, seized the others’ broadsword. Raising his arm while letting the sword plummet, two of the jailers in front of him were chopped to the ground.
“The prisoner has killed, the prisoner has killed; quickly come and kill him.”
A jailer yelled out in panic for bravado, but there was no one that dared to step forward.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi slashed open the prison door in one swing and stepped outside into a very large courtyard. His eyes were filled with a majestic coldness and he strode domineeringly towards the large gate……Outside the gate, there were countless assassins waiting to take his life. He also didn’t know why he had to save and carry that stupid woman, but perhaps it was just because he was unwilling to watch her die.
“Open the gate.” Xuanyuan Min Zhi pointed his sword at the sentry guarding the gate. That man trembled and took out the key, inserting it into the keyhole.
The large gate slowly opened. There were multiple peddlers on either side of the street, approximately thirty to fifty people. With a glance, he could see these people were wearing disguises and the corner of his lip hooked upwards with a smear of cold anticipation. To meet force with force under these circumstances, the winner was still not evident. However, the stupid woman on his back must not die.
Tens of these small hawkers took out their weapons and crowded around. The head of these assassins walked in front with a sharp sword in his hand, announcing in a heavy voice: “Xuanyuan Min Zhi, today is the day you will die. You can only blame yourself for being born.”
“Wait, it does not matter if I die, but the background of the woman behind me is not small. She is the current Fifth Prince’s woman; I am afraid none of you can afford to offend her.”
“Who the hell are you trying to fool? Why have I not heard that the Fifth Prince had married?” The head of the assassins waved his sword and shouted: “None may leave; all must die.”
But before his words had dropped, a sharp arrow, like lightning, flew towards his throat with a whistling sound. By the time he was aware, he hastily used his sword to block it but that arrow’s strength was abnormal. The tip of the arrow created a few sparks from contact with the blade and flew out sideways just enough that it tore across the main artery in the head of the assassins’s neck. Blood flew out over one chi tall, like a faucet, like blazing sparklers, unspeakably bewitching……
“This prince would actually like to see who you would like dead?”
A shout came from a distant place. A young general on a tall Malaysian horse with a bow and arrow in his hands had dropped out of the sky, immediately followed by an army several-thousand strong with the power and momentum of a tiger for a thousand li.
The young general finally arrived before them. Pointing at the small hawkers, his cold eyes swept past them and seemed to pierce them through with ice as he commanded the soldiers behind him: “Kill them all.”
“Xuanyuan Zong Zhi, so you still know to return.”
“Xuanyuan Min Zhi, return this prince’s beloved concubine back to me.”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi held Ruan Zhu in his arms. Seeing that she was unconscious but only asleep, he couldn’t help but become anxious as if he had been burned. He yelled towards a soldier: “Quickly go invite a physician.” Saying that, he hugged his wife, mounted his horse, and galloped towards his own princely residence.
[a] 守株待兔, idiom meaning to wait idly for opportunities; to trust chance rather than show initiative
TN: I had to recheck the raws, but the word the author used when they first described XMZ in Chapter 40 was 幼子, which literally translates to young/immature son but is also commonly used to describe the youngest son. So, either a) the author forgot what they wrote previously, or b) YSY’s information at the time was incorrect. But to clarify, XMZ is older than LPX.