☆ Chapter 102
里 | li | unit of measurement that has varied over time but has now been standardized to 500 meters (Wikipedia)
The Prince said: I am truly happy you finally decided to fly south, little Sparrow, for you have stayed here too long. But you must first place a kiss on my lips for I love you.
Little Sparrow murmured a reply: It is not to the South I am going. After subsequently kissing the Happy Prince’s mouth, it then fell underneath the prince’s foot, dead……[a]
Speaking to here, Ruan Zhu stopped and glanced at the expressions of the several children before her.
“And then, and then? Little Sparrow died then what about the little Prince?” The three- or four-years old Bo Ya widened her watery eyes, her little mouth opening as she directed her mournful, small face at her mother.
“And then……little Sparrow fell onto the ground, dead, and then a peculiar crack was heard inside from within a statue as if something had shattered. It was actually the little Prince’s lead heart that had broke into two pieces.”
“His heart broke into two pieces; did he die? The little Prince won’t die, right? Mama, tell me.” Bo Ya’s chubby and small hands clutched a corner of her mother’s skirt, hope flashing across her tiny face.
“Stupid Xiao Ya. The little Prince’s heart had already split so how could he not have died?” Zhi Xi was, after all, a little older and understood more things.
“The little Prince was both stupid and foolish. He gave away his precious stone and even gave away his eyes. He deserved to die, but what a pity for the poor swallow.” The one who spoke was Bo Yu. This little one was the same age as his little sister but he spoke amazingly well as he declared his own opinion.
Bo Ya wailed, sniffling and sobbing: “The little Prince won’t die. He’s also not stupid.”
“All right, the little Prince won’t die. Ai, he originally was a statue……not having a brain is also normal. Xiao Ya, don’t cry.” Ruan Zhu picked up her daughter and soothed her. Nearly all of the Oscar Wilde’s works that she had read in her childhood had left a strange yet warm shadow. Telling this story to her children was to make them understand that there were also many poor commoners in the world who could not afford to eat, so while they enjoyed their privileged lives, they also must learn how to think about this issue.
In middle school, she had read from a history book that Du Fu had wrote “Vermilion doors with rotten wine and meat, frozen bones along the roads” with a broken heart after hearing his youngest son had starved to death. However, that famous historical phrase was then ridiculed by Prime Minister Yan Shu of the Song dynasty.[b]
It was impossible for those who had never starved before to understand the horrifying tragedy of seeing your loved ones slowly starve to death. Fancy that he was still a prime minister. It could be seen that he was one without class or morals.
She currently had five children and each one of them was a precious treasure in her hands. Like all parents of this world, she hoped they would have good prospects in the future with the sons becoming dragons and her daughter becoming a phoenix.[c]
Ruan Zhu drove the two little boys outside to play. Of her five children, Bo Ya was the sole girl and had been spoiled by Zong Zhi to become extremely delicate. Even Bo Zhao and Yu Ze, whose births weren’t that long ago, didn’t need to be carried and cajoled every day.
After she had coaxed Bo Ya to sleep, she handed her daughter over to her wet nurse.
She then headed towards the other room to peek at the just-born twins who were now a little over a month old. The two wet nurses were currently sitting beside their beds, nursing them. She walked in and took one of her sons, pushing aside her lapel so that he could suckle. A smile formed on her face as she took in his tiny mouth moving without pause, the radiance of maternal love flashing on her face.
She only returned to her own room when the twins had fallen asleep. Nowadays, she rarely visited the high tech experimental field because her responsibility as a qualified wife and mother was even more important, and managing her household well was her largest duty.
“Eldest Miss, look. This is the clothing that was made according to your instructions. Try it on to see if it fits?” Nuan Chun held out a warm-yellow long dress with a plunging neckline. He had received the position as the head of Mei Yan Ying Ying Chu’s embroidery department and frequently used that authority to create beautiful clothes for Ruan Zhu.
“Nuan Chun, your tailoring skills have become better than ever. Look at how these stitches are smoother and closer than……” than a sewing machine. The latter half of the sentence got caught in her throat. Although it had already been a long time since she transmigrated, she still sometimes carelessly blurted out some of the vocabulary of her previous world. Alas, this was the aspect where she differed from them. No matter how much time passed, she could never change into a woman of this era as some of her previous world’s habits had been engraved into her soul and were thus difficult to change.
Ruan Zhu changed with his assistance. This floor-length cheongsam really defined the waist, and with its flowing sleeves that barely reached her wrists, it brought an air of elegance among its simplicity.
She scrutinized her reflection in the large mirror on the wall, extremely pleased with both the skirt and her figure. She was a now a mother of five children yet was only twenty years old. Since giving birth to Bo Zhao and Yu Ze, she had become aware that youth was fleeting and started to practice yoga every day.
She had seen a video in her past life of a forty year old married Japanese woman who still looked twenty and in her prime because she maintained her beauty and took good care of herself year-round.
As the saying goes: there were no ugly women in the world, only lazy women.
“Eldest Miss, it is very fitting and looks very good.” Nuan Chun gazed at his mistress, his eyes completely filled with admiration.
Zong Zhi returned to Guan Ju Villa from the barracks and directly entered Yi Zhu Cottage. His eyes brightened upon seeing his wife’s winsome figure. “My wife is truly beautiful.” Pulling her into his arms, he kissed her for a while before handing over a letter.
Ruan Zhu took the letter and read it before suddenly giving a delighted cry, forgetting herself: “Oh my god, is this saying Second Cousin is coming back?”
“The news came today at noon. The imperial army has already broken through the enemy’s final line of defense, with the soldiers at the walls of Nan Hua, slowly and steadily besieging the city. The fraudulent emperor sent emissaries outside the city to negotiate peace, saying he was willing to life the rest of his life as the imperial court’s subject. Unfortunately, it was already too late and the imperial army is continuing to strengthen its siege, not letting the rebels off in the slightest.”
The city of Nan Hua was the Red Eyebrows’ last line of defense. It wasn’t far from the southern border’s Mao Er Town and was the location where the Red Eyebrows had first started their revolt during the beginning of their rebellion. “As long as they’re willing to leave their city in surrender, then that should be enough, right? There are still plenty of innocent civilians inside that will also be implicated.”
“The commoners of the rebels are also subjects of the imperial court. As long as they are willing to pledge their loyalty, Father-Emperor will surely let bygones be bygones.” Zong Zhi saw his wife was happy and his spirits also rose: “After fighting such a long war, the imperial treasury is empty and the civilians find life difficult, but now that the war is on the eve of its conclusion, our officers and soldiers can withdraw and return back to the capital after a few more months.”
Who knew what the Yun Shi Wei who had been baptized in the battlefield would become? Would he be his previous self of a supercilious and straightforward youth, or an extraordinary general with a soldierly appearance?!
“Second Cousin is finally coming back.” Ruan Zhu slanted a gaze at the two boys, Zhi Xi and Bo Yu, in the garden. Urgently wanting to share this happiness with someone, she ran outside and picked up little Zhi Xi: “Ma will tell you a good piece of news–your second uncle is returning from the battlefield.”
“Second Uncle?” Zhi Xi scratched his head, bewildered: “Ma, you’re muddled. What does Second Uncle returning have anything to do with me? Seeing how you’re so happy, I thought it was Pa that was returning.”
Ruan Zhu became angered: “You heartless thing, to think how much your Second Uncle has always loved you so.”
Little Zhi Xi wasn’t convinced and pouted his small mouth: “There’s plenty of people who dearly love Zhi Xi–Third Father, Fourth Father, Fifth Father, Uncle Nuan Chun, and there’s also Grandpapa and Grandmama in the Yun Manor plus a whole squadron of imperial bodyguards in the residence who loves me.”
“Big Brother Lu, do you see how heartless he is?”
Zong Zhi walked out from the room, and in complaint, Ruan Zhu thrust Zhi Xi into his arms. While Yun Shi Yi was absent, all of the people in Guan Ju Villa blindly followed Zong Zhi as he was dependable and handled things well.
“Zhi Xi, be good. Third Father will take you out for a ride.” Zong Zhi smiled as he held Zhi Xi with one hand while leading his son, Bo Yu, with the other as they headed out of Yi Zhu Cottage.
Good things came in pairs. Just while Ruan Zhu was exulting in Yun Shi Wei’s imminent return, Xiao Zhou Zhi, who attended to the emperor, arrived at Guan Ju Villa via carriage. After performing the rites, he then announced that Ruan Zi Xu had returned to Tian Chu by sailing across the ocean, was currently resting and reorganizing in Wan Zhou and would return to Lan Zhou within the next few days.
Ruan Zhu was immediately thunderstruck and then asked with a heart full of anticipation: “Did Head Yun return with him?”
Xiao Zhou Zi was taken aback: “This one has not heard any news regarding that. The year Head Yun left on his voyage, he was followed by several dozen large ships with fluttering brocade flags that made for such a magnificent sight. If he was to return, there would surely be fast couriers heading towards Lan Zhou with the news!”
There was also the imperial navy as an escort, so there was bound to be a commotion as soon as they reached the port.
Saudade overwhelmed Ruan Zhu and she didn’t even know when Xiao Zhou Zi left. Listless, she didn’t eat much during the evening meal and returned alone to her room afterwards to blankly stare in space.
Seeing that their wife’s mood wasn’t good, her husbands lingered in Yi Zhu Cottage, none of them willing to leave.
“All of you should retire for the night. It will be fine with just me here.” Wang Jing Yan toughened his face as he attempted to drive the others away. Today was finally his turn and all of these blind men followed in stirring up trouble, making him grow angrier with each glance. Zong Zhi hugged his wife as he sat by the head of the bed, unhurriedly saying: “Since Wife is not in a good mood, it is everyone’s responsibility to comfort her. Fifth only knows to satisfy himself–this is too heartless.”
Ruan Zhu rolled her eyes: “Don’t describe yourself as so lofty; I can’t take it. It’s obvious that all of you want to take advantage of this situation and rub my oil[d] yet you still think I don’t know it?”
“Wife is not making sense again. It seems this husband will have to properly punish you tonight.” A strange smile was hooked on the corner of Zong Zhi’s mouth as he pushed a hand inside her night clothes, his movements nice and slow as he rubbed, while his other hand stretched downwards and began to tease her susceptible spot.
His so-called “punishment” was very unusual as it often caused her to be unable to get out of bed.
She closed her mouth, thinking to herself–Who allowed all of you to create such a large disturbance? I don’t care anymore! But his provocation caused her body to become limp.
Min Zhi stared at his wife’s seductive appearance and noiselessly walked in front of her before immediately carrying out his mission. Throwing off her clothes, he buried his head between her breasts, taking one of her red plums into his mouth as his other hand grabbed the remaining one.
She bit her lip and couldn’t help but to remind them: “Okay, stop it. Today is Jing Yan’s turn so stop disturbing us.”
It was like Zong Zhi hadn’t heard her at all. He attached herself to her ear, smirking: “Wife, you’re wet!”
Irritation formed in Ruan Zhu’s heart and she shifted her body, extending her hands into either man’s pants. One hand on each shaft, she gripped the two mens’ desires located at the base of their crotches and responded as if in retaliation: “Lord Husbands, you’re hard.”
“That’s right, and Wife is in charge of soothing it.”
Nuan Chun carried a basin of warm water in and placed Ruan Zhu’s feet inside: “Eldest Miss, this slave will wash your feet for you. It will be easier to retire for the night once that has been done.” Ruan Zhu repeatedly moaned from Zong Zhi’s teasing and her coquettish eyes were like smoke: “Wu……Nuan Chun……how many times have I said it……don’t call yourself a slave……why have you forgotten it again……”
“I remember now.” After Nuan Chun finished washing one of her sparkling and beautiful feet, he pulled it close to his lips and sucked on two of her delicate toes.
Wang Jing Yan’s cold voice rang out: “All of you are too outrageous. Wife should be mine today so I want to be first.”
Zong Zhi’s mouth twitched: “Do not be so narrow-minded. At worst, after tonight, I will let you have our wife for one more day.”
Jing Yan’s expression became a little better, and he pried apart his wife’s slender and long legs. Zong Zhi’s finger was still provoking that particular spot, creating a stain on the bed sheets that was caused by a liquid that continued to trickle down……Looking at it incited his entire body to be in an uproar. Taking out Zong Zhi’s finger, he took back what was his. He stripped himself and then supported his little brother inside her.
After Jing Yan, it was Zong Zhi, and then Min Zhi, with the last spot being Nuan Chun’s……
They continued until over half the night had passed. The men could finally be considered as having ate their fill and left, one by one……Ruan Zhu was so tired that her entire body ached and even panting for air was a strenuous task.
Jing Yan massaged her acupuncture points, which helped in soothing her qi and blood.
Ruan Zhu laid on her belly in bed, yelping: “Jing Yan, it hurts. Lighter.”
“It is already very light. I am using a little bit of inner force. This way, the qi and blood vessels will quickly be unblocked, and I guarantee that tomorrow morning, you will be as you normally are.”
“I’m already much better now. So tired, Jing Yan, let’s sleep. My Pa will return soon and I still need to prepare to receive him. Oh, and Second Cousin is also returning soon.”
Ruan Zi Xu was almost home. Ruan Zhu was very glad but also a little worried.
She had received news regarding Madam Ruan not too long ago, or maybe it was something that Tian Wang Embassy had found. In a mountain village five hundred li from Lan Zhou, Madam Ruan had opened a small tavern with Fourth Concubine-Father Zhu, earning several dozen copper wen every day and surviving with great difficulty. Because Fourth Concubine-Father Zhu’s two sons could not receive a good education, they had become like mountain villagers.
At that time, Ruan Zhu had still been in her month-long confinement and could not leave her room. After Ruan Yu had known about their situation, she had taken some servants with her to the mountain village one time to implore their mother to come home with her. But Madam Ruan’s temperament was one that was inflexibly stubborn, and she had refused to return no matter what was said.
Ruan Zhu sank into contemplation. This married couple should be one that still has feelings for each other. Should she find a way to act as the middleman?
She held weak emotions towards Madam Ruan and did not have much of a preconceived bias, thus hoped that they were able to reconcile. But there was also another selfish reason–she was very unwilling to let Ruan Zi Xu bring home a young and attractive woman. Having her and Ruan Yu call that lady ‘Mother’ was something she could never do.
That was precisely because her father in her previous world had liked the new and hated the old. It had caused her mother to be abandoned and then die an early death. Towards the word ‘stepmother,’ she rejected it from the bottom of her heart.
[a] This is an excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s story “The Happy Prince,” which is about a statue who meets a little sparrow and has it send all of his precious stones and other decorations to the poor villagers. The entire story can be found on Gutenberg while Wiki has a summary.
[b] Du Fu (712-770) is one of China’s most famous poets. (Wikipedia) The phrase is an excerpt from his poem 自京赴奉先县咏怀五百字 Five Hundred Words of My Thoughts from the Capital to Feng Xian which compares the haves and the have-nots. Prime Minister Yang Shu (991-1055) was also a celebrated poet. (Wikipedia)
[c] 望子成龙，望女成凤, idiom translated literally above that means ‘hoping one’s [child] is successful in life. Left it literally translated bc of the double meaning as the kids are royalty.
[d] 揩油 lit. wipe/rub oil means to take advantage of someone. It’s basically the same meaning as “eat [someone’s] tofu” (which I think everyone of this genre is familiar with) except according to Baiku, this phrase is older while tofu is more modern slang.