Chapter 2: Conferred Marriage
(TL: If I can’t tell the first and last name of a character, then all the Chinese characters’ pinyin will be separate. Otherwise I’m going back to my lastname[space]firstname format. I think it will be easier for you guys to remember. Also Dong Ling -> Dongling.)
Prime Minister’s official residence.
Within a study, a refined man was staring at the large pile of marriage candidates, looking like he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was the first time he had ever had such an expression. He looked hopefully towards a handsome man clothed in black who was sitting leisurely, but seeing the slight arch of his mouth that the man was trying to control with difficulty, Ren Fengyao, who was originally going to ask him something, sighed internally. It seemed like his normally cold yet close friend, his junior disciple, wouldn’t help him. He then looked towards Mo Bai, his reading assistant*, who was clearly watching on with interest, waiting for a show and sighed internally once more. They were both looking for entertainment, both with no intention of helping him. When had he ever been such a failure in life?
*“A servant who serves his master and master’s disciples when they read, and he has to be a minor” – Kanoi
The pile of candidates made him speechless. It seems that this time, Dongfang Chao* was serious. Whatever, just follow his wish for once! At least it was better than forcing the arrogant princess to him, bounding him in the royal family.
*Note that he’s referring to the emperor by name = intimacy
Then he looked towards De Zi, who was waiting for his response. Ren Fengyao said helplessly, “Mo Bai!”
“Sir, I can’t help you this time!” Mo Bai said mockingly.
“Who told you to help me? Ink!” Ren Fengyao retorted. He glared resentfully at Mo Bai with his terrifying, profound eyes.
Mo Bai shrinked back with fear, losing his mocking attitude. The young master seemed angry now; it was best not to provoke him. Although he was always lukewarm and seemed gentle normally, he was extremely terrifying when actually angered.
Ren Fengyao picked up a brush and without bothering to read any of the backgrounds, only wrote each name down onto slips of paper, then crumpled up each slip.
Leng Canxing watched his senior disciple* with interest and immediately understood what he was going to do. The hint of a smile in his usually indifferent eyes thickened, understanding that his senior disciple was now pushed to an impatient state. The emperor’s plan had been clever, but senior disciple’s plan was even more cunning. By choosing a wife randomly by drawing lots, betting a possible lifetime on mere slips of paper, he was going to communicate his dissatisfaction very clearly, how impressive!
*Senior disciple = they are both disciples of the same master and Ren Fengyao was a disciple before him and of higher rank, kind of like elder brother
De Zi watched Ren Fengyao’s actions with amazement, staring blankly until he handed him a slip of paper without even looking. Only then did he come back to his senses. He said hesitantly, still shocked, “This….”
“Eunuch De*, it’ll be her. You can go back and report her name now!”
*from this I infer his last name was De and the “little” was just a phrase of endearment.
“But if his highness asks?…”
“Just tell him the truth!” Ren Fengyao smiled faintly.
By using this way to protest, Chao would be able to understand clearly! Chao couldn’t possibly confer his marriage so recklessly. After all, although they were a monarch and a subject, they were close friends.
Ren Fengyao was sure that after seeing this result, Dongfang Chao wouldn’t confer his marriage. But Ren Fengyao didn’t foresee that because Dongfang Chao had hidden himself away fearing Ren Fengyao would hunt him down, he would not know.
The next day, the fateful marriage was announced. What was done could not be undone.
At the the main palace hall Dongfang Chao sat on the throne with a pleased expression, facing a group of officials. When a loud voice of a palace eunuch announced Dongfang Chao had bestowed a marriage to Ren Fengyao, Ren Fengyao stiffened. Although he appeared as calm as usual, Dongfang Chao sensed the slight surge of anger.
Suddenly, Dongfang Chao’s expression changed greatly. When he heard Ren Fengyao was going to marry “Zi Yinye”, his expression turned chilly.
Damn it, why another daughter of the Zi clan? The palaces already had two vixens from the Zi clan, was there going to be another? And hadn’t he thrown away this “Zi Yinye”’s name away, how had she appeared? Was he going to let an overbearing, bossy woman marry Jing Xuan? Damned Jing Xuan, did he not know what antics those Li clan daughters had been up to? And damned De Zi, how could he allow this to happen? With an imperial decree, even he*, the emperor, would not be able to alter it, goddammit!
TL: one asterisk for arrogant/more higher status way of referral, whether to themself or another person, and two for a subservient way of referring to oneself or lowering of another. Assume the person continues that kind of address in the chapter/following dialogue unless I make another note. I personally think these nuances are pretty important. Keep this in mind.
Below the throne, Ren Fengyao saw the changes in Dongfang Chao’s expressions, flickering between paling and greening, his eyes starting to darken. Ren Fengyao sensed something was off. Had Dongfang Chao made a mistake?
Helplessly accepting both sincere and fake congratulations of the palace officials, Ren Fengyao watched as Dongfang Chao’s expression turn icy, then stood up and left, sleeves flapping. Seeing this, he thought of something interesting. It seems there truly was a mishap. Dongfang Chao also seemed very discontent with the marriage, otherwise he would not have been so angry. This was still good. He couldn’t be the only one to suffer. Ren Fengyao smiled gently, his calm expression a facade for his inner dissatisfaction.
But Ren Fengyao and Dongfang Chao were not the only ones dissatisfied. When the imperial decree arrived, the Zi clan fell into a flurry. Although the Zi clan had already two concubines, the Zi clan’s seventh lady who was rumored to be too shameful to show herself in the public was going to be married to the one in a million prime minister Reng Fengyao. This was what made the Zi clan completely astonished.
Very few people from the Zi clan had met the seventh daughter before. It was difficult for even the head of the Zi clan, Zi Zuoqian, to see his daughter once a year. In fact, for the past ten years or more, he had never seen this daughter’s true appearance. Even her mother who she had a close relationship with hadn’t seen her true appearance so could he, a distant father, be able to do so! Zi Zuoqian digested the decree with difficulty, a bit disbelieving. He had heard of the rumors pertaining his seventh daughter before. His official wife’s daughter’s appearance had been described as awful as could be possible, to the point that she could not show herself to anyone. Zi Zuoqian had assumed she would not be able to marry her entire lifetime, but who would have thought…
“See? How could Ye-er* lose to anyone else?” the Zi clan’s first wife, Mu Mianmian said coquettishly, her voice like that of a little girl’s.
*[name]-er is a way to show endearment/intimacy. So is xiao [name], which means little, but it’s more cutesy than [name]-er
Mu Mianmian could be considered one of the most beautiful women in all of Dongling, delicate and weak, a typical wife dependent on her husband. But at the same time, she had a firm grasp on her husband’s heart. Although there had been a period of time when his gaze followed around his second and third wives, as time passed and they aged, but Mu Mianmian maintained her beautiful, youthful physique, she won back his heart. Compared to the second wife and third wife, her status was stable, unshakable.
Although the second and third wives each had a daughter in the harem, they had to compete with numerous other concubines. Competing for one man’s heart was no simple task. Therefore for the past year, the third lady and fourth lady had not relayed back any good news. Increasing in status through their daughters seemed unlikely. On the other hand, the seventh lady who was deemed too ugly to be in public was going to marry someone the emperor favored in the blink of an eye and gain the status of being the prime minister’s wife with no one contending over her position. The seventh lady had much better luck in comparison.
“Congratulations, elder sister!” the second madam said with a fake smile.
“Right! Right!” the third madam is added, her voice with unconcealable jealousy.
“Of course, just look at whose daughter she is, right? My lord!” Mu Mianmian said flirtatiously to her husband, but before Zi Zuoqian replied, she saw a figure in white calmly standing outside the main hall.
“Ye-er?” Mu Mianmian was astonished.
The young girl in white with a slim figure standing at the entrance was the Zi clan’s seventh lady, Zi Yinye. Hearing what Mu Mianmian said, multiple gazes shot towards Zi Yinye, all filled with shock.
And no wonder they were all shocked. Zi Yinye hasn’t appeared in the main hall for more than a decade. Not considering the servants had never seen her before, even the number of times the second madam and third madam had seen Zi Yinye since she had been seven years old could be counted on one hand and even then, it had only been brief passing. Perhaps they hadn’t spoken to each other even once.
As a lady of the Zi clan and daughter of the official wife, according to conventions, set was supposed to attend clan events, but Zi Yinye did not. Because she had been deeply favored by her late grandfather, she had freedom to do as she pleased. After he passed away, she became even more privileged, Nobody had the power to force her to do anything she was not willing to do. Thus, after his passing when she was seven years old, she lived in seclusion in the small courtyard and never appeared near the main house ever since. Even on the night of new year’s eve every year, she never showed herself. For the past decade that Zi Yinye remained in the small courtyard, the servants had been replaced multiple times. Perhaps the only one to remember a clever child was the old housekeeper Zi Fu and wet nurse Lin. Then rumors started circulating when she started living in seclusion, depicting her as so ugly even ghosts would be shocked at the sight of her.
Outside the entrance, the young lady stood with a white silk veil covering her face. With light footsteps, she advanced without a word, but her every action emitted overbearing pressure. In particular, her lustrous dark eyes shot out menacing, cold rays. Everybody was stunned speechless. The Mu Mianmian had interacted with her daughter the most out of everybody there, so naturally, she understood her daughter’s personality better. Currently, Zi Yinye was not as calm and aloof as she usually was, but a little angry.
No, not just a little angry. It was more appropriate to say extremely furious. When Zi Yinye learned of the marriage, she immediately dashed out of her small courtyard without any care for image or conventional norms. Within a few minutes, she arrived at the main residence she hadn’t set foot in for a decade. Zi Yinye ignored their wide eyed gazes and softly walked over to her father. She slowly raised a hand palm up towards her father. “Father, let me see!”
This was the first time many people there had heard Zi Yinye’s voice. Although it wasn’t as gentle as Mu Mianmian’s, it held a trace of grace and certainly was not as coarse and vulgar as the rumors said. Was her appearance similar to her voice? Nobody dared to guess.
Zi Zuoqian felt cowardice and fearful before this daughter of his ever since she had appeared. He didn’t know whether it was from guilt or if it was because she contained the imposing, dignified aura his late father had. He handed over the imperial edict to her outstretched hand apprehensively and was shocked to discover that he didn’t know what to say.
Inside the grasp of her delicate, jade white hand, she skimmed it briefly. Four fingers tightened, crinkling the edict. She burst forth with an extremely icy aura. Now others besides Mu Mianmian could sense she was angry.
Mu Mianmian spoke timidly. “Ye-er, are you angry?” Others unfamiliar with Zi Yinye had sensed her anger, how could she not be able to? Truth be told, she too did not understand her daughter very well. Although it was only because of Zi Yinye that she had been able to win back her husband’s heart so quickly and Zi Yinye had treated her most affectionately out of all family members, she had always felt timid before her daughter, especially when she was angry. Although she had rarely seen her daughter angry, she had always felt that if her daughter wanted to, the entire Zi clan could fall.
Sensing her mother’s unease, Zi Yinye understood that she was exposing her emotions too much. Taking a deep breath, Zi Yinye’s cold aura dissipated. She returned back to a calm and aloof woman.
“Mother, why do you think I’m angry?” Zi Yinye said, her tone faintly gentle. Whether she was pleased or displeased was indiscernible.
“Right, isn’t it very fortunate? Elder sister, how could you think Ye-er was angry?” the second madam chimed in. Her abrupt addressing of the seventh lady as “Ye-er” even though they had never conversed before went unnoticed.
Zi Yinye’s eyes flashed coldly. She was displeased with the second wife’s address, but she did not say anything about it. Instead, she said faintly, “Mother, I’m going back!” As she said this, she turned around without waiting for anyone to reply.
She left as abruptly as she arrived. When they came back to their senses, Zi Yinye had already disappeared without a trace, as if she had never appeared in the first place. The second madam was a bit shocked, completely unable say anything. From the time Zi Yinye had appeared to when she had left, she had spoken three times only, one time to her father, two times to her mother. Only after Zi Yinye had left did Zi Zuoqian speak, letting out a long sigh. “Alas! The girl has been too wronged!”
They all understood what Zi Zuoqian meant. He felt guilt towards his daughter and a bit at a loss with what to do with the rumors. It seems Zi Zuoqian also believed in the rumors. Even someone very self assured would believe a little in such vivid and colorful rumors. What’s more, the seventh lady had always been very mysterious. If she wasn’t as unsightly as the rumors described, why would she always wear a white veil covering her face and not let any family members see?
Mu Mianmian was also well aware that in the past, she too had left her daughter alone. If she had not been unexpectedly ignored by her husband, which caused her to visit her daughter’s smaller courtyard, then she would probably also be distant from her daughter! It was because she had been in contact with her daughter two years more than everyone else that she understood her daughter’s disposition better. This was their mother-daughter relationship. Mu Mianmian could see her daughter was angry. Although she had exhibited anger for such a brief moment, she knew her daughter was genuinely angry, and extremely furious at that, but she could not understand what her daughter was angry about. Was marrying the young and handsome talent Ren Fengyao and becoming a good couple a bad thing? Or did her daughter have someone else in mind?
And indeed, Zi Yinye was extremely angered. Her four servant girls could hear from their master’s heavier than usual footsteps that Zi Yinye was furious. They glanced at each other, none of them daring to ask.
Zi Yinye walked seemingly very peacefully back to the small courtyard. She sat down, beneath her feet the teacup she had dropped with shock when hearing the news and chess pieces she had flung off the table. Seeing their master remain silent, the four servant girls did not dare to speak. They only waited silently at the side for the young lady to speak.
After a while, Zi Yinye finally spoke. “Chun Ri, take care of the mess on the ground!”
“Yes, my lady!” Chun Ri crouched down and picked up the teacup and dispersed chess pieces. The courtyard was so quiet, it was scary. Qiu Xing summoned her courage and said, “My lady, what can I** do?” with concern.
“What can you do? What else can be done?” Zi Yinye’s tone was completely flat.
“My lady, what if…” Xia Yue spoke.
“Escape from the arranged marriage? I wish! But, defying the edict will implicate the entire family. If it were just me, it would be fine, but how can the entire Zi clan disappear? And the marriage is next month. Even if I had a way, one month is not enough time. And I cannot just throw away the Zi clan.” She paused for a moment, helplessness flashing through her eyes, then continued, “In the end, they are still family. Even though we are not close, they have never caused great offense towards me. No matter how disdainful I am of my father, he is still my father. Blood is thicker than water! And how can I abandon Mother?”
“Mother is a very typical delicate woman. If she left Father, she would live in misery. If I escaped with her, we would be unable to know whether Father was alive or not and she would not be able to bear it. Therefore…” Zi Yinye sighed gently and stopped speaking.
“Then, my lady, is there no other way?” Dong Chen asked a bit sadly.
“Not necessarily!” A hint of a smile flashed in her eyes. She instructed, “Dong Chen, investigate why I am being married to Ren Fengyao. There must be a special reason, otherwise I would definitely not be selected!”
“I understand, my lady!” Dong Chen left to carry out her orders.
Watching as the light blue dress flapped as Dong Chen left hurriedly, Zi Yinye suddenly thought of an idea, but she had to first wait for Dong Chen’s information before she made a decision.