☆ Chapter 77
石 | dan | dry measure for grain around one hundred liters
儿 | er | (lit. child) diminutive marker used as a form of endearment
If the one who was to be the mother had a muddled head, it was very difficult to ask for the children in her belly to not be like her!
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi was currently fretting over this matter yet saw his wife turn her head……
Ruan Zhu saw her husband looking at her with a little disdain and couldn’t help but become angry: “Hey, what’s with that look?”
“No……nothing. I thought about the situation with Zhao Hai. Didn’t you say he would surely go hunting?” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi blinked and changed the topic: “How about I send an attractive woman to tempt him?”
“Sure, but who are you going to send?”
“What about Nangong’s wife?”
You want to publicly give Bodyguard Nangong a green hat to wear? Ruan Zhu suddenly felt her husband was extremely black-bellied. None of the children of the imperial family were good. Don’t look at how their outside appearance resembled humans; the wicked things that they’ve done in the dark were too numerous, ah, too numerous.
“Would Bodyguard Nangong be willing?”
“It is beyond his control even if he is unwilling. Furthermore, it is high time his wife should accept secondary husbands.” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi smiled evilly.
While the married couple were conversing, Imperial Physician Zhang arrived while leading a small child who was carrying a medicine chest on his back. He beamed as he entered with Qu Gao by his side.
He was now the dedicated physician of the Prince of Qi’s residence. During the economic depression where even government officials were commonly drinking thin porridge and eating pickles, the elder was living a good life. He received double a soldier’s pay each month; in addition to the portion from the imperial court, the Prince of Qi’s residence also gave him some. But the Prince of Qi’s residence was much, much more generous than the imperial court. Aside from silver, there was also white rice, flour, and everything else he could need.
Ruan Zhu sat on the lounge chair and allowed Imperial Physician Zhang to take her pulse.
The elder chuckled: “Everything is normal. This humble one can confidently guarantee two plump sons will be born. Prince can just wait to become a Father!”
“It is two sons, not two girls and is also not twins of mixed sex?” She wanted a daughter. Always only having sons was so boring and she couldn’t help but to inquire: “I have heard that physicians can determine the gender by feeling the pulse and do not know if this is true?”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi had also heard of this saying, but they were just words and should not be fully believed.
Imperial Physician Zhang deliberated for a moment before responding: “It is not that there is no basis in physicians being able to determine the sex of the unborn child. The male yang, the female yin; there are theories of the left as male and the right as female. If the pulse on the left hand is quicker than on the right, the fetus is male. If the right hand has a weak pulse, the fetus is female. Regarding the issue of speed of the pulses on each hand, there is no harm in niangniang trying it for herself when she has time. Ah, ah, however, this old one thinks that only after the child has been born can we know if they are a boy or girl.”
Engrossed, Xuanyuan Zong Zhi placed his finger on top of his wife’s pulse. Letting Qu Gao count, he waited until the other had counted fifty times before calling a stop and faced his wife, all pleased: “The pulse on the left hand is eighty-seven and the right hand is only sixty-nine. It must be twins of mixed sexes.”
Ruan Zhu was delighted, but after a moment, her beautiful eyes clouded with worry: “I want a daughter, but if in case it really is twins of mixed genders, and then we give the second child up for adoption to the Ruan clan, who would become the heir to the Prince of Qi’s residence?”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi blanked and awkwardly smiled: “At the time, I had not considered the possibility of having twins of separate sex and spoke too grandly. However, if Wife were to birth triplets, then all would be good.”
Ruan Zhu scoffed and rolled her eyes: “Do you think you are shopping where they will give you as much as you want?”
Imperial Physician Zhang smiled: “Feeling the pulse to determine whether the child is a boy or girl is not necessarily accurate. It is better to wait until after they have been born to see the result.”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi let Qu Gao lead Imperial Physician Zhang to the side courtyard for a meal.
At present, there were numerous inhabitants in the Ruan residence. The palace eunuchs and imperial bodyguards brought over from the Prince of Qi’s residence numbered in the several dozens and this residence simply couldn’t house all of them.
Ruan Yu had Steward Yang buy the residence of their neighbor, Wife Li. Ever since their family’s Eldest Miss had become a Princess, Steward Yang had walked with his back extremely straight and became immensely pretentious. He had forcibly snatched Wife Li’s residence and made it so that the other party could only sell it to him.
If he had forcibly bought land from another clan, Ruan Yu would have surely let Steward Yang have it for relying on force to bully others. But she had enmity with Wife Li; that old woman was covered head to toe with shortcomings. Not mentioning how she crazily gossiped about others, whenever she saw whichever family that was living well, she would always badmouth them. When the Ruan clan had moved to the capital, they had frequently
been victimized by her.
Having sent out Imperial Physician Zhang to have a meal, Xuanyuan Zong Zhi carried his wife to the bed and had her lay down to rest for a while.
He Gua pushed the door open and saluted: “Niangniang, the Second Miss of the Ruan clan is seeking an audience.”
Ruan Zhu was displeased: “When did my younger sister begin to require an announcement when she arrived at my room? It is broad daylight; not the fifth strike of the night watch. Is there anything shameful here?” What she did every day–there were things that the two palace eunuchs who kept watch daily in front of the door did not know?
He Gua’s face turned white from fright. Glancing at His Highness, he rushed to kneel down: “This small one deserves death.” He had only announced her because Prince was currently at home, but after seeing His Highness’s expression, it was obvious the latter was not willing to speak up for him. Wuwu……it was not easy being a servant, ah!
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi lazily drawled:” Withdraw. Do not be such a hindrance. Go find Nangong Xun for twenty hits of the cane.”
“This slave will follow.” He Gua sorrowfully answered.
“It is not such a big matter so why on earth should he be caned? It is fine to just not eat the evening meal.” Ruan Zhu spoke up.
“Thanking niangniang.” He Gua knocked his head against the ground. Eating one less meal was always better than being caned. In the future he must take special attention that niangniang was the actual master of the house. As long as niangniang was present, he could thoroughly ignore Prince’s existence.
Ruan Yu carried her little nephew into the bedroom. The little guy was now twelve months and knew how to call for his mother. The day before yesterday, he had called Ruan Yu ‘Aunt’ and the latter had been so delighted that she had rashly taken him to live in her courtyard for several days.
Laughing, Zhi Xi struggled free from Ruan Yu’s arms, ran over to his mother’s side, and crawled onto the bed with his chubby legs.
Ruan Zhu happily stretched out her arms to hold her son.
With a glance, Xuanyuan Zong Zhi was alarmed. His son certainly could not withstand the little fellow’s torment and he hurriedly picked up the toddler.
Zhi Xi was unable to grab his mother and his mouth flattened, about to cry. Xuanyuan Zong Zhi coaxed: “Be good, Third Father will take you to ride horses.” As soon as Zhi Xi heard there were horses to ride, he immediately stopped crying and grabbed onto Xuanyuan Zong Zhi, babbling: “Wide horsey……wide horsey……”
A few days ago, Xuanyuan Zong Zhi had rode outside the city and had conveniently taken Zhi Xi along. While being carried atop a galloping horse, the little guy was surprisingly not the least bit scared and was ecstatic. After he had returned, he continuously shouted to ‘wide horsey,’ so as soon as he heard there were horsies for him to ride, he immediately forgot about his mother.
Ruan Zhu waited until the room had quieted before turning towards Ruan Yu: “Maternal Grandfather came to our residence?”
Ruan Yu raised the corners of her mouth, a touch of helplessness in her eyes: “Isn’t it just to shoot the breeze? These past two years, if it wasn’t the famine then it was the flood, and no one has been living well. Maternal Grandfather previously had some shops that closed because business was not good, so he relied on his meager official’s salary to live and also had to provide for their bastard. It has caused them to nowadays be extremely hard-pressed. Earlier, I gave Maternal Grandfather five hundred taels of silver and also had Xiao San Zi send them ten dan of husked rice via carriage.”
“You sending things out like this, if everyone was to know, they would all come over to shoot the breeze.” There were quite a few relatives of the Ruan clan, and the majority of the concubine-born relatives of the previous generation resided in the capital.
“That is also something that cannot be controlled. It will be fine after next year when you have given birth and we have moved to Lan Zhou. The Emperor said last year that he planned to move the capital, but it has already been over a year yet there has not been even a sound. On the contrary, it is the people underneath us that have become poorer and more anxious.”
“Previously, the move was because of the tension from the war. Later, the imperial army was able to withstand the attack on Cang Huang Mountain. Recently, didn’t they also achieve a victory?” Ruan Zhu thought of the words Xuanyuan Zong Zhi had spoken during the time when Yun Shi Wei had returned from Lan Zhou and divulged towards her younger sister: “I believe sooner or later, the capital will move to Lan Zhou.”
“Eldest Sister, how do you know this? Did Brother-in-law say it?”
Per the customs of Tian Chu, secondary husbands did not have the qualifications to be respected by members of the maternal family and titles such as ‘son-in-law’ and ‘brother-in-law’ could be ignored. But as Xuanyuan Zong Zhi was a prince, he was an exception.
“I am guessing. Do not mention this to anyone or you may rouse panic.”
“Eldest Sister, relax. Your sister is not one who flaps their mouth.”
Ruan Zhu remembered Madam Ruan and asked: “When Maternal Grandfather visited, did he bring up Mother? How is she currently after leaving with her family?”
Ruan Yu was dispirited: “After Mother was kicked out by Maternal Grandfather, she led her concubines and concubine-born children to a poor alley in the east of the city where she rented a residence for them to stay in. They have never returned to Maternal Grandfather’s place and I do not know how they are currently?”
From the other’s expression, Ruan Zhu could see she had a guilty conscience: “You have gone to look for Mother before, correct?”
Ruan Yu was silent for a moment: “I took Lian Xi to the poor alley but did not see Mother. They said Mother was working outside and several of the concubine-Fathers were also doing the same. Since the day Mother brought Second Concubine-Father back, he has continuously been ill and relies on medicine every day. Not long before, Wei Jia became a bedwarmer of a wealthy family. I do not know what Ruan Ju is doing, but all of her husbands are trouble. Not long after staying together with Mother, they stole all of Mother’s silver and also all of her jewelry. After Mother found out, she was so infuriated, she drove them all out……”
Madam Ruan was actually still unyielding. After fighting with Ruan Zi Xu so that they were both in a stubborn stalemate, she would actually prefer doing hard physical labor than willingly return to the Ruan clan.
Ruan Zhu was thinking–If it was the real Ruan Zhu who was faced with this situation, what would she do? Since she was using this body, shouldn’t she shoulder some of this body’s duty?
“I feel that the Ruan residence has become more peaceful with those secondary husbands and concubine-born children not present, but it is not good for us to not care about our Mother. Wait a few more days, okay? Yu’er, listen to big sister. For all of these years, Mother has not had to worry about clothes and food while in the Ruan clan and has lived too superficially, to the extent that she no longer understands what is the most precious and the most beautiful. When she understands, one day, just how unrealistic and ridiculous the illusory emotion that she has continuously and stubbornly chased after is, she will return to the Ruan clan.”
“Do we currently not need to send over some silver?” Ruan Yu widened her eyes.
“Mother being able to work outside is a good thing, and us sending silver over will destroy her current positive mental state. Money can save people, but it is also the best at corrupting a person’s heart. Mother previously was corrupted by silver. Since she has just started to show a bit light, you should not scatter it.”
Ruan Yu made a melancholy ‘en’ in response. It could be considered her agreement.
Two days later was the Winter Solstice Festival, and neither of her two husbands were home. Yun Shi Wei had finally integrated with his comrades in the barracks, and they were all now bros. At dawn, he had tasked some of the resident’s servants to fill several carriages with delicious food as he was going to celebrate the holiday with everyone in the barracks.
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi had gone to the palace to participate in the banquet. There was not only him–he had also taken little Zhi Xi along.
Originally, the Emperor’s decree had also ordered Ruan Zhu to participate, but she was currently at the most important period of her pregnancy, so how could Xuanyuan Zong Zhi be willing to have her run around? If by chance the fetuses were harmed, he would become unspeakably angry. Not only could she not carelessly run around, she couldn’t even do it in her own home; but, her room was all right as there were two imperial bodyguards stationed at all times at the entrance to the passage leading to her room.
After Ruan Zhu had circled the flower garden a few times, she felt unwell from the continuous stares of the two imperial bodyguards. It was rather like she was a prisoner. The idea and the stares made her depressed and she then rarely went out. In any case, it was too cold outside and there was Nuan Chun to help her walk around the living room.
Near the end of the year, Yun Shi Yi sent Yun Shan to bring quite a lot of things from Lan Zhou, with the majority of it being cloud brocade from Jiang Nan. Ruan Zhu had previously created a set of jewelry from Ming Xiang Cui Yu, and Yun Shi Yi had used that as a guideline to order two more sets, then carefully selected a few unique pieces and delivered it all in several successive cases.
The large carriage was full of glittering gems and objects, and when they arrived, it caused Ruan Zhu’s room to become entirely packed with goods.
Ruan Zhu held the ornaments that Yun Shi Yi had bought for her and suddenly burst into brilliant laughter. The pieces she created at that time had long become a type of trend and been promoted by Ming Xiang Cui Yu as their signature item. She could even purchase them at the Ming Xiang Cui Yu branch in the capital; there was no need to send them on such a long journey.
But in the end, this was a piece of her hubby’s kind regard. Holding them in her hands, her heart and mind were cosy.
She selected the important pieces to leave behind and had servants take the rest over to Ruan Yu. Handling it like this was convenient as it was nearly the end of the year and presents must be handed out. Seeing as she was nearly about to give birth and did not have much energy, she might as well let Ruan Yu handle it!
As for matters of the Prince of Qi’s residence, ever since Steward Chen had been beaten to death, it had been handled by Nangong Xun. This person was an outstanding financial manager–once something had passed through his hands, they were soon placed in order. This person was talented in both civil and military matters, handsome, confident and at ease. However, it is said that if the man is good, the pitiable part is that he did not have a good-tempered wife.
At the end of this previous autumn, Nangong Xun had married. The bride’s family was also of a military origin, and were looking for a principal husband. The bride had been brought up as a boy and her martial arts were not inferior to that of her husband’s. When the husband and wife were free, they frequently fought to compare notes and Nangong Xun was often badly battered.
So pitiful! Ruan Zhu offered sympathetic tears. However, she really liked Nangong Xun’s wife. Her temper was straightforward, she did not put on artificial airs, and she also had a bit of a man’s air.
“Eldest Miss, Madam Nangong has come to see Eldest Miss.” Qu Gao and He Gua had been taken to the palace as well to look after Zhi Xi. Xing Yun and Liu Shui were standing in front of the door and one of them opened the door a crack and announced through the opening.
Nuan Chun supported Ruan Zhu as they walked out of the bathroom. Being pregnant with twins, her body was incredibly heavy and required someone to help her with each step. Her two husbands were not home so this one bedwarmer undertook all the responsibilities and her body had long been seen by him. Ai, according to this era’s customs, the one who suffered was clearly not her.
“Invite her in.”
Madam Nangong’s maiden name was Dong; Dong Fang Hua. She was an extraordinary beauty and her face and figure were both top-notch. After wedding Nangong Xun, she had always protected herself against pregnancy, and up until now, there were no signs of her being with child. Using her words, she would first inspect this man. If he cleared the inspection, she would then birth children for him. If he did not pass, they would separate and she would remarry.
Ruan Zhu leaned against the lounge chair, and Nuan Chun placed the brazier next to her feet. Boiling some tea on the stove, he poured a cup each for his master and the guest.
The method of stir-frying tea was not too complicated and soon spread throughout the capital. Many people were now manufacturing it, and currently, they had sprung up all over the place and were much better than the ones that Zhao Hai had cooked up.
Dong Fang Hua respectfully offered a present. Nuan Chun received it and handed it to his master.
Ruan Zhu opened the present and immensely liked it. This Dong Fang Hua knew that she would not necessarily be moved by presents of gold and silver and other valuables. Inside the case was a pair of decorated eggshell porcelain bowls from the Ru kiln that with a light tap, chimed melodiously. If this were to be appraised in the future, how much money would this be? It would be enough to buy a villa in the most expensive districts of a major metropolis.
Ruan Zhu was so happy her brows curved and she called for Nuan Qing to bring over a bottle of chen jie cai lu that Yun Shan had brought over from Lan Zhou to give to Dong Fang Hua. Yun Shi Yi had heard from a servant who had come to deliver a letter to Lan Zhou that his wife had been seriously ill at one point and fortunately had survived by depending on chen jie cai lu. He had then spent an exorbitant amount to buy a great deal of bottles from the Tian Ning Buddhist Temple and sent them to the capital.
Ruan Zhu could not use up that many bottles and gave out a few as gifts, and in a moment, chen jie cai lu became very famous within the capital and was hailed by the nobles as a miracle medicine.
After Dong Fang Hua had taken a seat, she chatted: “His Highness had previously mentioned that Zhao Hai is one of the Crown Prince’s most famous advisers and many of the Crown Prince’s matters are decided by him. He has sent word to Nangong for me to seduce this man. I am still amazed–to my surprise, I actually chanced upon Zhao Hai while shopping yesterday. After throwing two glances his way, unexpectedly that man just really took the bait.”
She had gone shopping to select items for the festival and there just so happened to be a crippled man who was protected by an entire squadron of imperial bodyguards entering a porcelain store. Listening to their conversation let her know the identity of the crippled man, and she started being seductive after curiosity spurred her on. Though it was only a few looks, it had actually caused half of Zhao Hai’s body to go limp.
Ruan Zhu inwardly laughed. Out of the men of the twenty-first century, there was not a single one that was not lewd. After riding the transmigration train to the ancient era, he was precisely searching for the optimal ‘three wives and four concubines’ dream. Although the customs of Tian Chu were a little unreasonable, how could it restrain the mind of the stallion male?
“Since you have not hesitated to commit, it is best that you play hard to get. Make it so Zhao Hai cannot have what makes his heart itch so. It is best to appear where there are large crowds to manufacture public opinion. Oh right, Zhao Hai must not know who you are. It would be dangerous if they were to know your background, so you must protect yourself well. Do not go to your home either and take a few extra attendants that know martial arts with you. His Highness will also secretly send some experts to protect you. After Zhao Hai’s reputation has thoroughly been tarnished, His Highness will find a few people of good morals and reputation to ‘catch’ the two of you in the act. However, at that time, you do not need to personally appear. His Highness has said he will find anither to pretend to be you in the room and wait for Zhao Hai to take the bait.”
Ruan Zhu gave a sinister smile. After the two had been caught in the act, the stark naked Zhao Hai would be paraded through the streets and as he had thrown aside the Crown Prince’s face, the latter wouldn’t even have the courage to come out and defend him.
Dong Fang Hua laughed: “Why go to the trouble of finding someone else? I do good deeds to the end. It is merely keeping watch in the bedroom for him to take the bait and would be a pity if such an interesting thing was not done neatly.”