☆ Chapter 87
When they arrived at the palace, the Emperor was sitting straight-backed in the main chair with a reserved appearance; the Empress sitting next to him. The several secondary husbands were standing yet one did not know why Empress Dowager Zheng was not present among them. Zong Zhi’s biological father, the Prince of Dai, stood to the side of the Empress and threw over a cold glare at Ruan Zhu’s entrance.
Ruan Zhu pretended not to notice and followed her husbands in paying respects to both the Emperor and Empress, receiving the tea cup from a palace eunuch to present it before the Emperor.
This venerable Jiu Wu Zhi Zun was aware of Ruan Zhu’s ability and naturally was fond of her. Taking the proffered cup, he then spoke a few words, saying to financially assist her Lord Husbands and be a good and proper wife, before turning his head to have a palace eunuch hand over a famous ink-stone from Duan Zhou as a present.
Ruan Zhu quietly accepted under an appearance of obedience, but the gift had truly entered her heart a little though only she knew that. Handing over the ink-stone to a palace eunuch by the side to hold onto, she then went to serve tea to the Empress.
In front of so many people, it was not good for the Emperor to speak of Ruan Zhu’s good deeds and the ones that knew of them were only a few. It wasn’t that he distrusted the Empress; he very much distrusted her. All of the officials in the court knew the Empress’s heart leaned towards the Crown Prince, thus the Emperor concealed quite a few secrets from her.
The Empress Dowager was relaxed with her eyes closed as she counted the Buddhist prayer beads on her wrist, seemingly like she hadn’t seen Ruan Zhu at all.
Ruan Zhu’s arms had been raised for a while now and started to feel a little sore. She innocently glanced at her two husbands at the side. Zong Zhi felt distressed and greeted the Emperor: “Requesting Emperor-Father to assist by saying a few words.”
The Emperor coughed, but seeing the Empress remaining taciturn, he turned towards one of the palace eunuchs behind him: “Xiao Zhou Zi, the Empress is tired. Support her in returning to rest.” The feelings between the two elders had been pretty good when they were young but too many arguments rose up between them later and affections became weaker and weaker. The Emperor was infatuated with painting and calligraphy and did not feel too strongly about the emotions between a man and a woman.
“Understood!” Xiao Zhou Zhi responded and walked over to pay his respects to the Empress: “Niangniang……”
The Empress opened her eyes and coldly stared at the female commoner kneeling on the ground: “What kind of tricks did you use to successively snatch away two of this empress’s sons?”
Ruan Zhu was still lifting the teacup and chose to remain silent before the intense Empress. In any case, opening her mouth would be wrong and saying nothing would also be wrong.
Min Zhi had been sent to the country of Nan Ling since he was small and had little affection for the imperial family of Tian Chu. After going through the wind and rain, he actually paid more attention to unchanging love. “Empress-Mother has misunderstood. It was this subject-son that proactively sought her. My wife has never used any tricks.”
Zong Zhi was still thinking of a countermeasure when, to his surprise, Third Brother had replied in such a manner: “Empress-Mother, Zhu’er is very talented and will surely give the imperial clan face. Even Imperial Grandmother praises her without cease.”
Ice flashed from within the Empress’s eyes: “As expected, once a son has a wife, he forgets his mother. This empress only said one sentence and you two brothers united to stand against me.”
The two brothers saw that their wife was still lifting the cup of tea, yet could not tell her to relax and had a headache from the Empress’s actions.
The Prince of Dai probed from behind the Empress: “Empress, I have met this girl at Princess Long Yuan’s residence before. She is an insolent child from a merchant family that has clearly never been taught any manners. I had only let her kneel for a little bit longer when she put a front against me and even contradicted her elders.”
Disgust was clear across the Empress’s face: “Truly a commoner that lacks control.”
The Prince of Dai hurried to agree: “What Empress said is too correct. She should just be punished today in kneeling as apology and when she ever turns into someone resembling a wise and virtuous lady and no longer throws away our imperial family’s face, then she can rise.”
The Emperor frowned and directed towards a palace eunuch: “The Prince of Dai has tired. Xiao Zhou Zi, take him back to retire for the day.”
It was only at this time that the Prince of Dai realized he had said the wrong thing and could only follow the palace eunuch in leaving. Who could have imagined that when he reached the entrance, he was struck by a dragon-headed cane who had come out of nowhere, causing him to retreat several steps while crying ouch? Without even looking, it was plain who had arrived. In the palace, the only one who would dare to use a cane to hit people was Empress Dowager Zheng.
He nevertheless saw the elder Empress Dowager leaning against the dragon-headed cane, panting with rage as she rained down curses: “An entire group of absolutely disgraceful people, bullying my granddaughter-in-law while this old one was absent. Not beating you black-hearted seeds of the four horsemen of the apocalypse to death, are you proud of yourself?” Her phrase ‘group of absolutely disgraceful people’ included the Empress. The more the elder ranted, the angrier she became, and she lifted up the dragon-headed cane again to swing it at the Prince of Dai.
Zong Zhi strode over in one large step and caught the cane with both palms……No matter how bad the Prince of Dai was, he was still his biological father. How could he watch him take a beating and not be concerned? He smiled apologetically: “May Imperial Grandmother take a seat and rest. Imperial Grandmother must not tire yourself out.”
Empress Dowager Zheng dearly loved her grandson and also adored her granddaughter-in-law the same way. Although the Prince of Dai was her son and the relationship between a mother and her son should be closer than that of a grandmother and her grandson, the Empress Dowager had never really liked this son of hers. She /cursed at Prince of Dai: “You embarrassing and vulgar person, quickly zip up that coarse mouth and leave this place. Seeing you makes one uncomfortable.”
“May Empress-Mother release your anger, this son will immediately leave and will not ager Empress-Mother.” The Prince of Dai hurriedly bowed then rushed out of the palace.
Empress Dowager Zheng saw that the Prince of Dai had left and seemed as if she hadn’t yet scolded enough. Seeing Ruan Zhu still had the teacup raised in the air, her anger rushed forth: “You muddled silly girl, can’t you see your mother-in-law is humiliating you? Why haven’t you hurried to stand up yet?”
With the Empress Dowager as support, how much face did she have! Ruan Zhu was pleased with herself in her heart though her expression remained neutral as she got up off the floor and handed the tea cup to the palace eunuch waiting upon her.
The Emperor led the entire group of people over to pay respects to the Empress Dowager.
Empress Dowager Zheng sat down in the main seat, still angry. She coolly gazed at the Empress: “The way you are acting as a mother-in-law is very impressive. I think it is quite fascinating and would like to learn a thing or two. What do you say?”
The Empress was very scared she had been rude and unreasonable to the Empress Dowager and hesitated: “Daughter-in-law does not dare.””
The old dowager snorted: “This old one sees that you actually quite dare.”
Ruan Zhu secretly snickered. It has been said that since time immemorial, a mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law would always be at odds, and this adage had been thoroughly acted out today in this family. Forget it, she would do something to preserve the peace this one time. She stepped forwards to the table in front to pour a cup of tea before returning to before the Empress Dowager and offering it with both hands: “Imperial Grandmother, please have some tea to moisten your throat.”
Empress Dowager Zheng had already scolded for a while and felt a bit thirsty: “It is still my granddaughter-in-law that is considerate.” She took the offered cup and drained it in a gulp.
The Emperor saw that his Empress-Mother’s temper had cooled and had the servants present the meal. The entire group sat together and enjoyed the food. Afterwards, Empress Dowager Zheng started complaining: “Having ridden on a boat for these past few days, this old one has become so idle, my bones are itching. This dowager does not care; Zhu’er, girl, the day after tomorrow when we set sail again, I will board your ship.”
The Emperor joined in on the conversation: “If Empress-Mother feels too idle, we and the Empress can just accompany you to play mahjong.”
Empress Dowager Zheng frowned: “Mahjong is something that a small child plays with. This dowager wants to play ‘The Joys’ with my granddaughter-in-law.”
“What is ‘The Joys’?” The Emperor asked in astonishment.
“That is……even if I said it you would not understand.”
Ruan Zhu was speechless out of helplessness and embarrassment for a moment. During that time when they were still living in the capital, the Empress Dowager would run over when she had nothing else to do, causing her to often be hard-pressed to think of a trick to curry favor with the elder. She really couldn’t think of anything else and just decided to draw from some of the practical events in ‘The Sims.’ But because she was then also worried that the game would pass onto Zhao Hai, she changed the name to ‘The Joys.’[a] A simple, thatched hut had been built in the garden and bedding, crockery, and all other sorts of daily necessities were placed inside. She had also instructed for some fish to be placed inside the pond so that they could reel them in with fishhooks, drill wood for fire, and then simmer some fish soup to drink.
It was just like the primitive humans. They had played this until they were all in high spirits and in the end, Zong Zhi had also found it fascinating and joined them.
Ruan Zhu had not expected Empress Dowager Zheng would have played until she became addicted and was still thinking of the game even now.
Once the meal was over, the Emperor went to handle official business. After the rebellion of the Red Eyebrow army in the south, he had incessantly reflected upon himself for his previous negligence of the country’s government. It was good that he had now recognized his mistakes and was able to reform himself as his work was much more diligent than before.
Ruan Zhu followed her two husbands in returning to their residence. She first went to look at her children and picked up each twin in turn to breastfeed them. Zhi Xi caught sight of Zong Zhi and cheerfully giggled as he hugged his thigh: “Third Father, ride horsey, ride horsey.”
Xuanyuan Zong Zhi bitterly sighed and carried little Zhi Xi out to ride horses.
This was the first time Min Zhi had seen Ruan Zhu’s soft and plump breasts. His eyes couldn’t help but to stare while his throat became dry and his tongue continuously licked his lower lip. He waited for Ruan Zhu to finish feeding the twins and for her to place them on the bed. He then stretched out a hand towards her chest to gently caress it. As soon as his hand touched the softness, a ** limpness poured into his body. His cheeks flushed as if he had become drunk from wine, and he felt carefree yet also a little unbearable. Wanting to demand more, he also stuck his other hand on top.
Ruan Zhu did not wish to do this in front of the children and pushed his hands aside before turning around and straightening her lapel.
“Zhu’er, how about we head to our room……” There was some of her milky scent on his hand and he couldn’t resist putting his finger inside his mouth for a taste.
“It’s broad daylight. Are you not afraid to lose face?” Ruan Zhu rolled her eyes at him. Hey mister, since you dared to blackmail me into marriage, then you better be prepared to suffer the cold treatment. “Oh right, hand over Zhao Hai’s letter.”
The posthumous letter! He had almost forgotten about this thing: “It’s not on me. Return to the room with me and I’ll give it to you.”
Something good could come out of returning to their room? But the letter was more important. Ruan Zhu hugged her two babies and pressed kisses against them before calling their wet nurses over to take over. Immediately afterwards, she went to his courtyard which was precisely the bridal room from last night when they had gotten married.
She had just stepped over the threshold when she suddenly felt her body was suspended in air as he had horizontally picked her up into his arms. In a few steps they reached the bed and she was placed onto it with him meaning to plant a kiss down.
Ruan Zhu blocked his lips with her hand: “Hand over the letter!”
Xuanyuan Min Zhi could only get up, open up a secret compartment in the nightstand and hand over a rag covered with bloodstains.
Ruan Zhu endured the unbearable smell and opened it for a look. She first stared blankly at it and then became enraged. What the hell kind of posthumous letter was this!? She had been deceived. Even if this rag had been exhibited on full display in a main street, there would be no one willing to look at it.
The rag was entirely covered in undecipherable handwriting and scribbles. At least, that’s what it would appear like to the people of this era. Zhao Hai was an incredibly big idiot who had not properly studied in the past life and after crossing over, was also a loser among losers. What was written in blood on the rag were simplified Chinese characters along with multiple incorrectly written ones. There were even some words that he didn’t know how to write and had used pinyin as a substitute.
I’ve been had……had had had…..It was just one simple letter that couldn’t be read by any person in this world, with the exception of herself, yet it had sealed her marriage.
Very good, Xuanyuan Min Zhi. There’s no way on earth I’ll believe you weren’t aware of this. You deliberately played with me, didn’t you?
“Your expression seems strange.” As Xuanyuan Min Zhi looked at his flustered wife, a bad premonition rose in his heart and he feigned calmness as he spoke.
“Nothing!” Ruan Zhu pushed down the fury in her mind and deeply breathed in a long breath that rather put her beautiful face on display. She then lightly released it: “I’m worried. My monthlies arrived this morning and we cannot sleep in the same room.”
Monthlies! Xuanyuan Min Zhi’s brows tightly creased. He had long heard others say before that a woman’s monthlies were incredibly troublesome and inconvenient. He was so worried he stood at attention: “How long are monthlies?”
Ruan Zhu restrained the rising of her eyebrows and from within her sorrowful expression, tactful words sounded out: “That is hard to say. Sometimes it requires longer for some women, and sometimes it is shorter.”
“Then are yours long or short?” Hope gleamed in Xuanyuan Min Zhi’s eyes.
“Roughly half a month, but it could also be one month. I can only know after everything is clean.”
“A month?” Xuanyuan Min Zhi faced his wife. His bright, deeply embedded pupils that shined with brilliance and were like penetrating swords were currently full of doubt and confusion. He muttered: “A month. Is it really that long?”
“It varies from person to person. I am one of those that are a little more special.” Ruan Zhu deadpanned and acted like a sincere and good child, not leaking a single bit of a guilty conscience from telling such a bold-faced lie. “At night, I want to sleep alone. This is a habit that I’ve developed over the years and I hope you can understand.”
Ruan Zhu unhurriedly got up and right when Xuanyuan Min Zhi had yet to notice, a perfect smile appeared on her face. This was the result of offending her. Hmph! He can go eat himself! She could only deceive a man as inexperienced as he. If it was her other husbands, don’t even mention lying to them as they had even clearly calculated out the length and days of her monthlies.
On the next day, everyone boarded their respective ships that were moored at the docks, and the majestic sight of the over a thousand vessels formed by the imperial clan and the common people headed east.
Besides having to coax her three children, an extra job had been handed to Ruan Zhu. It was precisely the task of accompanying the Empress Dowager in playing ‘The Joys.’ Fortunately, after the Empress Dowager had played enough, she would return to her own ship and the work was not too terribly exhausting.
[a] In Chinese, The Sims translates to 模拟人生 which is literally simulated life. RZ came up with the name 快乐人生 which is literally happy life. I thought ‘The Joys’ made more sense than ‘The Haps’ so there ya go.