Chapter 1: Choosing a Wife
TL: Names will have chinese characters separate unless I’m sure about the last name
Dongling, a vast territory and a prosperous nation.
The Ziyun continent has five countries, Dongling one among them, located on the east side, a beautiful country renowned for its silk, particularly from the “Qi Luo Shop”.
“Qi Luo Shop” is the leader of the silk world, its branches extended to every county of Dongling. “Qi Luo Shop” was run by a man surnamed Zi, first name Zuoqian. Naturally, he was the richest man of all of Dongling. His lived in the Zi clan’s courtyard in Dongling’s capital, Ming Jing, on its east main street.
It was a rather wide courtyard, taking up nearly half of the east main street. From a distance, it exhibited majestic grandeur, showing off the wealth of its owner.
The Zi clan’s courtyard was made with money and anything that could be made from money was in the Zi clans’ courtyard. Although with all its beauty, the courtyard was lacking a bit of taste, a lone, small courtyard gave off its own dignified aura.
The small courtyard was one among the rear court. Past a rear garden and a small thicket of bamboo was the entrance of the said courtyard. On the door were two large words, “Lunar Sanctuary*”. Although the words were not etched very deeply and the handwriting delicate, there was an unspeakable charm. With one look, you could tell it was written by a woman.
(*TL:眠月幽居 Literal: Sleep moon remote/secluded residence. I’m 100% open for suggestions)
Inside the small courtyard, on a hammock underneath a wutong tree was a young lady clothed in white, white cloth covering her face, her eyes closed. Her left hand lay at her waist while her right arm hung down limply. The book that she had been reading had fallen onto the ground covered in wutong leaves. Other wutong leaves had landed on her head. Evidently, the young girl was fast asleep.
On a afternoon in late autumn with the sun shining warmly, a small nap or resting one’s eyes for a moment was extremely fitting.
From the distance, the sound of rapid footsteps approached. The young lady clothed in white’s eyebrows knit. Before they arrived, she quietly scolded, “Xia Yue, I’ve said it before so many times. Why can’t you fix your impatient personality?”
Xia Yue, hearing the words, slowed down for a moment, but then starting breaking into a run again, running until she arrived at the lady in white’s side. “My lady, there’s trouble!”
The lady in white was who Xia Yue referred to as my lady, also the Zi clang’s seventh daughter, Zi Yinye. She opened her eyes, slowly sat up, then calmly bent down to pick up the book. She patted it slightly, and then finally said quietly, “What is it now? Is second mother and third mother* fighting again? Or is first brother causing trouble again?”
*TL: more like mistresses but it’s hard to explain. Sometimes will be referred to as madam.
“Neither of those!”
“Then did second brother…”
“Not that either!”
Zi Yinye’s voice carried ridicule as she said, “Or is father marrying a fourth mother?”
“Aiya! No, no!”
Zi Yinye said impatiently, “Then what is it? If it’s not relevant to me, then don’t say anything!”
“My lady, the emperor is drafting the list of potential concubines.”
“So what? He prepared a list last year, it’s nothing unusual. How is it related to me?” Zi Yinye flipped through the pages of the book from before, not even caring to look up.
“Last year is last year, this year is this year. My lady, the draft is reaaaally related to you.”
Hearing this, Zi Yinye snorted softly. “How? Is my name in the list of possible concubines or something?”
“Yes, my lady!”
Zi Yinye looked up immediately. “Impossible! Last year when they were drafting, Father pulled some strings to get rid of my name. Father wouldn’t allow my ugly appearance to lose face for the Zi clan. What’s more, the clan already has two imperial concubines within the palace! And in any case, father has already forgotten my existence, I’m afraid!”
Detecting the faint satire in Zi Yinye’s voice, Xia Yue sighed, then said, “My lady, this time it was madam…”
“Mother?!” Zi Yinye called out in shock, then immediately said in an annoyed manner, “Tch, I forgot about mother! Mother must have been crying to get Father’s attention to make me attend the drafting so that Father would send my name.”
Xia Yue nodded. Zi Yinye frowned. “Oh, of course. How would Father even think of letting me go. It turns out it was… ah! What a miscalculation, how could I have forgotten about mother! Mother sure is meddlesome!”
“Madam scolded Master for being prejudiced, not caring for you, my lady. Master wasn’t able to out-talk Madam, so….”
A flash of helplessness and disdain gleamed through Zi Yin Ye’s eyes. “It’s not Father being prejudiced nor him being uncaring. It’s just that he lost the chance to be caring. Once it was too late, he didn’t know how to care for me any more or interact with me. It must be because he felt guilt so he agreed with Mother! It’s really funny how everybody thinks having the chance of being imprisoned in the palace to fight over one man is somehow a blessing.”
“My lady, what do we do? If you’re chosen, then you…”
“Idiot, what are you so nervous about? Just because my name is sent doesn’t mean I’ll be chosen. Even if I’m chosen, the chance of meeting the emperor is very small. Also, I will definitely not be chosen.”
“My lady, how are you so sure?”
“That’s simple. First, the Zi clan already has two imperial concubines. If another of the clan is sent, it would endanger and interfere with some other people’s interests, so they would think of a way to make me not get chosen. Second, the two Zi daughters and I are not close at all. Do you think they would be willing to share the same man with me? It’s very easy to bribe some servants* to prevent me from getting chosen.”
*TL: People who are considered servants can be very high up. In the first place, the king is the “master” of everybody, so….
“In other word, my lady will definitely not get chosen! Ah, I was so worried. If the emperor saw your true appearance and talents, he would go crazy!”
“Alright already, you should leave now! Stop wasting time here chatting, go out and see if there’s any news.”
After Zi Yinye sent Xia Yue away, she didn’t have the heart to read any more. Truthfully, she had not expected her name to appear on the list. Although she was very sure she wouldn’t be chosen, there was always a chance. It seemed that she would have to come up with a countermeasure just in case.
Inside the Dong Hua palace, there was a young, yet domineering man, also the master of the country, Dong Fangchao. He was currently flipping through books one by one, reading the backgrounds of the concubine candidates, all the while constantly stopping to nod and say, “Oh, not bad!”
Nearby, the serving marquis and young eunuch little De Zi couldn’t help interrupting as he saw the emperor’s pleased expression. “Your majesty, are the concubine candidates this time exceptional?”
“Oh, not bad, not bad!” Dongfang Chao said, pleased. Their backgrounds were pretty good, personalities kind and warm, very suitable for that troublesome guy.
“Zi Yin Ye?” Dongfang Chao read a name on the list out loud and immediately frowned. “Another surnamed Zi?”
“Your majesty, what is it?”
“Humph! Now whenever I hear the surname “Zi” I feel disgust!” As he spoke, he flipped through the her background information. With a glance, he was already annoyed. “She really is from the Zi clan!”
“Your majesty?!” Little De Zi said cautiously, “Today, concubine De and concubine Shu started causing trouble again because of the drafting of the next concubine.”
“Don’t bring up those two greedy people in front of my presence. Those ignorant women, what concubine De, what concubine Shu. It’s all because I was blinded by their beauty. Those two use so much make up and only care about their appearances. My harem has also been turned into a mess because of those two.” Dongfang Chou resisted his anger with difficulty as he threw the list with the name “Zi Yinye” onto the ground.
He massaged his temples, then shifted his attention back to the list. In any case, he had to finish today, or else something might happen!
“Wang Wanrou?” Dongfang Chou flipped to the background. A thoughtful expression appeared on his face and he smiled. “It’s imperial tutor Wang’s daughter!”
“Your majesty, this lowly one has heard of the the lady before. I heard her appearance is exceptional and she is versed in all of the four arts*. Her temperament is also gentle and subdued! Your majesty, are you going to choose her?”
*zither, Go, calligraphy, painting
“Choose her?” Dongfang Chao laughed, amused. “Little De Zi, if I chose her, then the power of the dynasty would shift!”
Currently, the dynasty had two major powers: prime minister Ren Feng Yao leading the younger officials while imperial tutor Wang Weizhi led the older officials. Secretly, there had been two major powers that had fallen and become hidden. As of right now, prime minister Ren Fengyao’s faction was in the lead, but imperial tutor Wang Wei Zhi’s influence was not one to be underestimated. And they were battling secretly without a shadow of a doubt. He would choose the side that would win. He wasn’t foolish enough to choose Wang Weizhi’s daughter as a concubine and let him overwhelm his trusted aide. Currently, they were evenly matched with Ren Fengyao in the slight lead, but…. Dongfang Chao laughed inwardly. He definitely wouldn’t choose a side out in the open. It’s only entertaining when they’re evenly matched. Also, the dynasty’s position was unstable. Only that person would stay with the dynasty, wouldn’t abandon him to struggle by himself and escape far away to be free and happy. So no matter what, he had to stay on his side. But… An amused expression surfaced on Dongfang Chao’s face. What would happen if the imperial tutor’s daughter married the prime minister? Thinking of this, Dongfang Chao circled “Wang Wanrou”. Surely that person would take notice!
After he finished, Dongfang Chao glanced at the merely three books left and didn’t bother to read any more names. “Alright, just leave these three!”
“What?!” Little De Zi froze for a moment. The emperor had just been reading with interested, continuously saying “not bad.” Why didn’t he leave any of them, instead, leaving the three that he hadn’t seen?
Dongfang Chao watched Xiao De Zi bemusedly. “What are you blanking out for, quickly call for people to send these away to the residence of Prime Minister Ren!”
“Why?” Xiao De Zi didn’t understand, forgetting his position for a moment.
Fortunately, Dongfang Chao was in a good mood. He explained happily, “This is for Jing Xuan*. The three left are only to fool people. Jing Xuan has worked hard for me. It’s time I found him someone to share his worries with.”
Hearing these words, little De Zi finally understood. It turns out his majesty was preparing a list for Prime Minister Ren to choose a wife and left three as concubines as not to be criticized. In reality, the majority of the fine women were left to Prime Minister Ren to choose from. His majesty favored Prime Minister Ren very much, it seemed.
*Reading ahead, Jing Xuan refers to Ren Fengyao
“Your highness, Princess Rong, she…”
“I know. Rong Fei has always liked Jing Xuan very much. I’ve also mentioned this to Jing Xuan many times, but he stubbornly refuses. I cannot force my little sister onto Jing Xuan. Nobody seems to like Rong Fei because she is simply too crafty*. Anyways, the women were chosen from thousands of miles and there are so many choices. If Jing Xuan refuses them all, it would be a slap to my face!”
*TL: In synopsis, MC hid her intelligence because of this, women who are seen as too cunning are disliked
Dongfang Chao closed his eyes for a moment, then said, “Oh, right, little De Zi, in a moment, you will personally send out my message. Tell Jing Xuan he must choose a name tonight. He can even choose multiple names. Tomorrow, they will have their marriage in the early morning.”
Little De Zi nodded then left. Dongfang Chao seemed to remember something else as he called out to De Zi, “Little De Zi, immediately prepare the decree when you come back. You don’t need to have me look over it, it will be decreed tomorrow morning. Also, tonight, I will not meet anyone so I won’t be convinced by Jing Xuan’s clever tongue to change my mind.”
Dong Fang Chao yawned as he walked away while muttering, “I’m tired tonight. Which palace should I hide in?”