Crossing the Crowd to Chase Love

Chapter 67
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Chapter 67


石 | dan | dry measure for grain around one hundred liters

儿 | er | (lit. child) diminutive marker used as a form of endearment

时辰 | sichen | time system comprising of 12 two-hour periods of the day; one sichen is the equivalent of two modern hours

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi gently stroked his wife’s back, the expression on his face both delighted and distressed: “It’s all right now. You are in your own home and there will be no one to bully you.”

Own home? Ruan Zhu looked at her surroundings, her eyes full of doubt. The room that she was staying in was unspeakably luxurious and could be encapsulated in the four words ‘The Gem of Life.’[a] Famous calligraphy hung on the walls; Ru ware was placed on the tables; even the small ornaments on the tables and the hooks on the bed to hold the red muslin curtains were manufactured with gold.

The bedding was made of cloud brocade from Jiang Nan and were embroidered with large red tree peony blooms. Cloud brocade was extremely precious, and the majority of people used them to make clothes; it was quite rare to see one use it as a quilt.

“This is not my home.” She looked at Xuanyuan Zong Zhi, her eyes full of questions.

“This is my home, so it is also your home.” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi noted that his wife’s still-pale lips yet remained full and captivating and couldn’t help but to pull her closer for a kiss. His actions were very gentle as he was afraid of hurting her. Sucking on her tongue, he could feel that her internal temperature seemed to have returned to normal, and his heart eased. After a long kiss, he lamented: “Fortunately, you are all right. It was my fault. Everything would have been fine if I had assigned a few imperial bodyguards who knew martial arts to protect you.”

“You don’t need to blame yourself; it was me who was at fault. Who could have thought that would happen?” She extended her hand to caress his chin, and the places she touched were pricked by stubble. He had previously paid very close attention to his appearance; unexpectedly, even the thought of taking care of his facial hair hadn’t crossed his mind.

“Those bailiffs and jailers should die. I will not let them go.” He would definitely have them pay the price. They dared to harm the Prince of Qi’s most important person. Even if the other was the Emperor, who cares? He would still spare no effort.

“Bailiffs are all like that.” She sighed. In her previous world, there was even the incident of playing hide-and-seek! What’s more, in the ancient era, one was captured with one’s name and the others would not give up until one’s fortune was completely gone. Fortunately, Elder Jia had sent some money, otherwise she would be even more out of luck.

“You have become hungry, correct? I will have some servants send some dishes over.” Last night while she was still unconscious, he had fed her half a bowl of porridge as he had thought it was best for her to eat a little since she was pregnant with his child.

“No appetite.” Her body was soft, as if she was floating among the clouds, while her head still felt extremely heavy. Speaking these few words with him had already made her tired.

“You must eat a bit otherwise it will not be good for the child.” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi became solemn. Seeing she felt unwell, he moved her from within his arms to on top of the pillow.

“The child is still in the Ruan residence. The majestic general is speaking incoherently yet is not afraid of others laughing at him.” Ruan Zhu mocked him. She had said too much and her throat was extremely painful, leading to a fit of violent coughing that made breathing difficult and caused her face to flush completely red.

“All right, all right, do not speak anymore. When your illness has become better, you can speak for three days and three nights if you prefer, but right now you cannot.” Xuanyuan Min Zhi pat his wife’s back, hoping it could help relieve some of her suffering.

“Isn’t it all because of you......” Ruan Zhu pointed at him.

“I know, all right, don’t speak anymore.” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi hurriedly cut her off and yelled outside the bedroom: “Qu Gao, instruct the kitchen to send in the meal.”

“This slave understands.”

From behind the door came a tapered voice. Ruan Zhu thought, Such a thin voice that was not yet an adult’s and was very likely a child whose voice had just changed. She did not even consider that the man outside was a palace eunuch.

When Qu Gao and He Gua delivered the food, the dishes were on the lighter side and could be considered as to her liking. Xuanyuan Zong Zhi picked up a spoon and fed her, one mouthful at a time. She reluctantly finished a bowl and then pointed at him, indicating for him to also have some.

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi had also truly became hungry and his table manners were rather crude. Ruan Zhu pursed her lips in an attempt to not smile. Ever since he had associated with the old and grizzled men of the army for a long time, the originally elegant Lu Piao Xiang had picked up quite a few coarse habits. But that was good, as this more resembled a man. When all was said and done, being too refined made one too aloof and remote and also caused others to feel they could not and must not long for them.

“Prince, Elder Jia has brought some food from Lu Yin Ge and is currently waiting in the outer courtyard to seek an audience.” A palace eunuch walked to the beaded curtain and made a report.

“Send him in!” Having said that, Xuanyuan Zong Zhi smiled towards his wife: “This time, you did not have any issues thanks to him. However, we can also blame him for letting something happen to you while in Lu Yin Ge. But since he has done a meritorious deed to make up for his mistake, I will not count this against him.”

“Why are they calling you ‘Prince’?” She mouthed the question to him, suspicion flashing in her eyes. Lu Piao Xiang had been bestowed the title of a Prince? How could that be possible? Based on what she knew, surnames different from ‘Xuanyuan’ did not have the qualification to be awarded the title of ‘Prince.’

“Because......” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi became awkward and he forced a laugh: “After two days when you are better, I will explain everything clearly.”

“Fine, then!” She agreed, despite not being fully satisfied.

Elder Jia did not dare to enter. He bowed towards his Master while separated by the beaded curtain and handed the food box to a palace eunuch for the latter to bring it inside. He also asked about niangniang‘s status, and only after finding out her fever had reduced and she was currently recuperating did he relax his manner of speaking. These few days, he had shouldered ample worries. He had feared that because Ruan Zhu had met with mishap, the Prince would be angered and take it out on him; it would be disastrous if he ended up without his head.

Ruan Zhu was even more confused. Wasn’t Elder Jia her own Lord Husband’s father? Under what sky would the father salute his own son? She then recalled that they were not of the same surname–one was Jia; one was Lu–but it was very possible that Lord Husband’s name was a stage name.

Ai, it’s been this long yet she still doesn’t comprehend him. In her opinion, he had always been a mystery.

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi accepted the food box that the palace eunuch presented. Displayed inside were several quite delicate dishes that were all made according to the tastes of the patient and leaned to the lighter side. He ladled a spoonful of the gorgon fruit seeds and white fungus soup to his wife’s mouth. Seeing that she didn’t reject it, he fed her a few more bites.

At this time, a palace eunuch entered and reported that Imperial Physician Zhang was here to check on niangniang‘s condition. Just as Ruan Zhu was pondering who exactly ‘niangniang‘ was, Imperial Physician Zhang walked in and bowed to the two in front before placing his hand on her wrist. After a moment, a smile appeared on his face.

“It appears there will be no further complications with niangniang and a complete recovery can be made if the medicine is taken for another two days. This lowly one will now prescribe a medicine to stabilize the fetus. Niangniang‘s body is frail and must be properly nurtured to be beneficial to both the fetus and the adult.”

Fetus? Were they talking about her? Full of doubt, Ruan Zhu felt her stomach and abdomen. Her becoming pregnant–when did this happen and how was it that she herself was not aware? No wonder this month’s period still hadn’t come. But it had also been abnormal before so that’s why she didn’t think much of it.

“What, you are a mother yet you still don’t know?” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi teased her. Thinking about how his own child was in her belly, his heart was full of unspeakable happiness. He beamed at Imperial Physician Zhang: “You saved niangniang‘s life. You can say whatever it is you want. Gold and silver jewelry are all easy to handle.” As long as it was within his power, then all was possible.

Imperial Physician Zhang shook his head: “This humble one’s family can no longer open the pot.[b] This humle one does not want gold and silver jewelry and would only like grain, oil, and salt. Being able to have a little bit of mutton and chicken would also not be bad.”

The current political situation was full of unrest and the previous year’s drought and this year’s flood were something that Tian Chu saw once in a century.

The families of the doctors in the imperial hospital were also living with difficulty and painfully chewed brown rice every day. Don’t even mention meat, even merely white rice was something they had not eaten for a long time. The ‘Chen Jie Cai Lu’ he had mentioned to Xuanyuan Zong Zhi that he had purchased with an enormous amount of money was a lie. In actually, he had thickened his face and used the Prince of Qi’s good name and reputation along with threats to blackmail the other for it.

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi smiled and commanded a palace eunuch: “Go find the steward and have him send to Imperial Physician Zhang’s home: ten dan of rice, a hundred catties of oil, thirty catties of salt, and fifty each of sheep and chicken.”

Imperial Physician Zhang plopped onto his knees and loudly called out: “Thanks to Prince.” Ten dan of rice was exactly two thousand catties. There was also oil and salt; so many delicious foods that even if one was wealthy, one may not necessarily be able to buy them on the streets at this time. The Prince was truly too generous.

Once everyone had withdrawn, Ruan Zhu was extremely exhausted. Xuanyuan Zong Zhi fed her the medicine and pulled her into his arms. Under his coaxing, she fell asleep not too long later.

He saw that her complexion was still as wan and sallow as before though it was no longer as abnormal and the load that had weighed on his mind for several days eased. Positioning her properly, he covered her with the brocade quilt......he then quietly rose from the bed.

Qu Gao stepped over to help his Master change his clothes. One in front and one behind, they walked out of Wang You Hall.

“All of those people have been brought over?”

“Responding to Master, Bodyguard Nangong have caught them all, with not a single one missing. They have been imprisoned in the dungeon. Does Prince wish to interrogate them now?”

“Speaking of Hua Yu Ping in the west courtyard, steep two pots of tea. The stir-fried tea that Elder Jia brought over a few days over is not bad. Go steep it. I must really let Zhu’er try it. It is a pity that she does not love to drink tea.”

But he did not know that it wasn’t that Ruan Zhu disliked drinking tea; it was that she disliked this era’s tea. If she had known earlier that stir-fried tea was in the residence, she would have long drank it, much less wait for him to mention it.

The Hua Yu Ping in the west courtyard was where plants of different species were grown. During the fifth lunar month, the mass off flowers would be in full bloom and such a gorgeous and bright sight would dazzle one’s eyes.

But for the captives that were being led by the imperial bodyguards, they didn’t even have enough time to be terrified so how could they be in a frame of mind to enjoy the scenery?

They had already been kneeling for half of a sichen, and among them, Constable Shen quivered the most with fear. When the imperial bodyguards of the Prince of Qi had arrived at Shun Tian Hall, the magistrate had finally realized he had arrested the Princess of Qi and had almost caused her to lose her life. Granted, they were backed by the Crown Prince, but they did not dare take the initiative for him.

Constable Shen had never entertained the thought that the woman he had arrested in Lu Yin Ge was the Prince of Qi’s imperial concubine. He had originally thought of extorting some silver to use, but right now, just the matter of preserving his head was very difficult.

“Prince, Prince, please spare this slave, this lowly dog’s life. Next time, I will no longer dare to do this.” Constable Shen kowtowed and pounded his head against the ground. As long as he wasn’t killed, he was fine with whatever bit of punishment the other wanted to pass down.

The Xuanyuan Zong Zhi that was currently sipping his tea asked Bodyguard Nangong: “I did not hear wrong? He still wishes for a next time.”

Do not merely look at how Nangong Xun was gentle and refined in manner as his heart and mind were very fierce. He has stood on a battlefield, killed bandits, and greatly profited from the human lives in his hands. Laughing, his face abruptly became harsh, and stalking fowards, he violently aimed a kick at Constable Shen. As he could ascend to becoming the head of the imperial bodyguards, his martial arts skill was exceptional.

Initially, Constable Shen’s head was still firmly continuing his motion when all of a sudden, he was sprawled on the ground with a look of great pain on his face. Both of his hands clutched the crotch of his pants while he squealed like a pig being slaughtered as he saw red and yellow liquid dribbling out from the cracks between his fingers.

Nangong Xun faintly smiled: “Don’t think too much of it. It’s merely that the egg yolk has been kicked til it broke. Yesterday, I had even heard people mentioning the number of palace eunuchs in Your Highness’s palace was too few and not enough to order around. To make full use of everything, why not make this man into a crude palace eunuch messenger?”

These shameful people frequently used the law in their name and their hands were covered in blood. This was truly karma! A jeer formed on the corner of Nangong Xun’s mouth.

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi coldly glanced out of the corner of his eye: “How respectable is Emperor-Father’s imperial palace? How could it tolerate this level of wretchedness and vulgarity?”

The iron mine in Da Jue Mountain was plentiful and the quality was also the best. However, the climate was vile; nine months out of the entire year was full of blustery wind and snow. The conditions were arduous. Added with the inhuman persecution, the ones who were sent to dig for ore never survived past four to five months.

The people kneeling on the ground waiting had all become so scared their faces were ashen and they repeatedly kowtowed, begging for forgiveness.

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s gaze landed on top of a prison matron. A sneer appearing on his mouth like a blossoming poppy, he slowly enunciated: “This prince has heard that you really like Princess’s clothes and had even tore off her shoes.” As soon as he thought of how his wife’s feet were covered in bloody blisters, he became even more infuriated, and his face became a sheet of ice.

The prison matron stammered out in fright: “This old woman did not know she was your Princess. Truly......truly did not know. This old woman......this old woman just took the clothes back......”

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi’s slender finger leisurely stroked the lid of the teacup and insipidly shot her a glance: “Such an ugly and disgraceful old woman. If we send her to Da Jue Mountain to become a prostitute for the military, no one would pay attention to her. How should the punishment be handed out then? It has actually become a big question for this prince.”

Nangong Xun’s eyes flashed: “Yesterday, Imperial Physician Zhang had mentioned that he was lacking a medicine tester. How about sending her to Imperial Zhang as a tester?”

“Good idea. Let’s do it like that!” Xuanyuan Zong Zhi rose from his seat, the corner of his mouth drawing a perfect curve and said: “My mood has worsened after seeing these uncouth people. It would be better to see this prince’s imperial concubine.”

Seeing that their Prince was departing, the imperial bodyguards all respectfully bent their waists to send him off.

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi walked a few steps before remembering something and instructed the palace eunuch that was following him: “Qu Gao, go to the Ruan residence; it is the third door on Min An Street. Have the wet nurse bring the child to the princely residence and also send the Princess’s two male servants together on a carriage here. Listen, you must be courteous; if I find out you have offended someone, you can just follow that group to Da Jue Mountain.”

He knew that the servants of the princely residence relied on the awe-inspiring authority of their Master and did not place commoners in their eyes. Thus, he specially instructed him this one time.

Qu Gao hurriedly responded: “Prince, this small one will surely do one’s utmost and will absolutely not dare to humiliate Prince.”

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi left Hua Yu Ping and strode towards Wang You Hall. His beloved concubine must no longer meet with mishap, and he turned around to request a few days of leave from his Emperor-Father. He did not have to attend the morning court and as for military affairs, he would first have the deputy general manage them.

He returned to the study and wrote a memorial for a leave of absence before handing it to a palace eunuch to present it in the palace. Finished with this, he returned to the bedroom. His wife had already woken and seemed to be in deep thought.

“Still thinking of the nastiness in the prison?”

Ruan Zhu shook her head: “I......” Her voice was still hoarse.

Xuanyuan Zong Zhi picked up the teapot on the side table and poured a cup of lukewarm water before circling his arm around her neck and helping her drink some of it.

Ruan Zhu felt a little better: “I want you to help me investigate a person. That person seems to be called......Called Zhao Hai......” When Steward Wang was at death’s door, what had he choked out? But why did this name seem so familiar as if she had heard it somewhere before?

She had transmigrated for over a year now and the people she had met were limited. Starting from when she had first crossed over, she started to think of the disabled people by her side. Rifling through her memories, there was only one person that satisfied this condition. Wasn’t Yun family’s Fifth Concubine-Father Zhao’s son, who had sought asylum from the south, called this name? Hai’er, Zhao Hai.

At Liu Zhou, while repairing the river dike, his leg had broke and he had walked for half a year with a lame leg.

Ruan Zhu’s head felt dizzy. The disabled stepson of her father from her previous world had died, and after transmigrating, still could not escape becoming lame and had unexpectedly been this involved with her.

When did he transmigrate? Was it in Liu Zhou when he was repairing the dike and the carriage had flipped over, breaking his leg? Furthermore, he was also like her in that they carried some of the previous soul’s memories, otherwise how could he have known where to find the Yun family manor?

She had felt a little peculiar when she had seen Hai’er through the carriage window outside the Yun family manor. Was that because the deep injury she had sustained in the previous world had left such a lasting mark that it had been engraved into her soul even after transmigration?

Half a year. Her father’s crippled stepson had died mere seconds before her yet had crossed over half a year earlier. This person that made her disgusted, no matter if it was the him from the past life or the him in this life. She must think of a way to have him disappear from this world; otherwise, it was uncertain just how tragic her life would become.

[a] 珠光宝气 The Gem of Life is a 2008 Hong Kong TV series centered around three sisters and, as far as I can tell from the Wikipedia synopsis, about a bunch of socialites. (Wikipedia)

[b] Phrase/slang meaning a family is super duper poor. ‘Can’t open the pot’ could come from 1) the pot never being used so the lid and the pot itself rusted together, or 2) because they have no food, they are too embarrassed to open the pot.

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