Ruan Zhu had Dong Fang Hua stay for a meal and the two started to chat about daily life when Xing Yun came in to report that His Highness, the Prince of Yong, had come to pay a visit.
While Ruan Zhu was mulling over who His Highness, the Prince of Yong, was, the door was pushed open, and a tall, handsomely bright man swaggered inside the living room of Yi Xin Residence.
Seeing that His Highness, the Prince of Yong, had entered unsolicited, Xing Yun was worried the Princess would become angry and was so scared his face became white.
Ruan Zhu was just about to scold which family’s wild child had no manners when she looked and saw Xuanyuan Min Zhi. She knit her brows. It was time to celebrate a major holiday so what was this Prince doing, not going to the palace to attend the banquet and instead coming up with the idea of coming to the Ruan residence?
Dong Fang Hua saw that a guest had arrived for the Princess and stood up to take her leave.
Ruan Zhu sent Xing Yun out and also had servants prepare two bolts of Jiang Nan cloud brocade for the Nangong family as gifts.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi did not regard himself one bit as a stranger and took the Ruan residence as his personal courtyard in being all casual and doing whatever he pleased. Picking up the teapot, he poured himself a cup before crossing his legs in the taishi chair and slowly sipping his tea.
“Nuan Chun, don’t busy yourself. The Prince of Yong is not an outsider and it’s nothing for him to drink cold tea. Isn’t that correct, Your Highness, the Prince of Yong?” Ruan Zhu saw that Nuan Chun was about to boil more water to steep some tea and blocked him verbally: “In any case, when His Highness fled from Nan Ling, he had even eaten the weeds on Mount Lian. Drinking a few sips of cold tea is inconsequential.”
Xuanyuan Min Zhi gulped down a mouthful, the corner of his mouth hooking into a perfect curve: “The Princess of Qi is truly stingy to not even be willing to receive an old friend who has dropped by for a visit with a cup of hot tea.”
“The palace is currently hosting a feast with all kinds of delicacies that will certainly stir your appetite. Is there meaning in running over to my ordinary and humble home to drink tea?” Ruan Zhu slightly lifted her two graceful brows as she looked over at the tall and straight man opposite her, a trace of deliberation in her eyes.
Reportedly, the Prince of Yong was finally able to meet with the Emperor through Empress Dowager Zheng. However, the honorable Emperor, perhaps as a result of being consistently busy with government affairs, had long had absolutely no impression of this Prince of Yong that he had sent out as a child. He had to think for a very long time before he remembered that such a person existed. The Emperor was someone who did not like to offend anyone and on the spot, assigned him a princely residence, bestowed him land, servants, silver, silk, foodstuffs......In accordance with the standards of a prince, all that should be given was given, with the exception of an official position. After all, he had not grow up by his side and how one treated someone they were close with versus someone they were distant with was naturally different.//were not close at all.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi lazily reclined against the back of the chair. His eyes were dark and difficult to understand as he placed the empty cup back on the table: “Eating the things in the palace make my teeth hurt and is inferior to the comfort found here. I have yet to eat, hmm? Have the kitchen prepare some delicious food and send them over. It’s a major holiday and there should be a bit of a celebratory air.”
Just like a prince, this person has drifted along so pathetically! Ruan Zhu’s shapely eyebrows curved: “Nuan Chun, go call for someone to bring in the evening meal that the kitchen has already prepared, then go to the cellar and bring back a bottle of bamboo-leaf green liquor to entertain the Prince of Yong with.”
The Prince of Qi was not home and none of the servants of the princely residence dared to slight their Princess in the least. Delicious delicacies were packed on top of the table and the aromas swirled around the room. Ruan Zhu had a servant also invite her second sister to come join in the meal, but the reply she received said Ruan Yu had met Dong Fang Hua. As birds of a feather, they had became fast bosom friends and her sister had pulled the other out for a stroll.
They were the ones who were truly women of this era. No matter how close she was with them, in the end, they were still different! Ruan Zhu’s expression was complicated and there was a little hint of dejection in her eyes.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi drove away the palace eunuch that was pouring wine and personally filled the cup to the brim before downing it: “That hits the spot! It is still the wine in your residence that is the most satisfying. After staying so long in the princely Yong residence, it felt rather like squatting in prison. Fuck, it’s even more terrible than squatting in prison. It’s just a big tomb.”
Ruan Zhu’s pair of bright eyes were thoughtful as it seemed the respected Prince in front of her was filled with melancholy.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi had been kicked to a strange country when he was small and had to face an enormous amount of people who wanted his life. The way he lived must have been out of his expectations, right? Although there was the old Duke as his shield, a single person could not save the situation. Having narrowly escaped death, Xuanyuan Min Zhi finally returned to his motherland but was not accepted by either the Emperor or his Empress-Mother who had birthed him. Presumably, it must be incredibly upsetting and hard to take in.
Nuan Chun placed a little bit of every dish in front of his master into her bowl. His eyes wer gentle as he took pleasure in doing these things. “Eldest Miss, please eat a little. It will be good for the child.”
Ruan Zhu’s eyes were like a clear blue wave and she handed the bowl filled with food over to Nuan Chun: “Head over to the heated room and eat this. I am not particularly hungry.” They poured this and that soup down her throat every day, so how could she have the chance to be hungry? Besides, the fetuses also need to lose some weight. If they were too big, they would become hard to deliver.
One can eat, but it must be done nutritiously, and eating too much was not necessarily a good thing.
“Eldest Miss, I......I am not hungry......”
“Today is the Winter Solstice, a major festival. Do not go against my order; do as you are told and go eat.” Ruan Zhu handed over a pair of chopsticks.
“Thanking Eldest Miss.” Nuan Chun could only take the proffered items and silently walked into the heated room.
Xuanyuan Min Zhi was also not eating and continued to down cup after cup of wine. Resenting the wine cup for being too small, he exchanged it for a bowl and in a flash, an entire bottle of bamboo-leaf green liquor had been finished by him. After he had poured the very last drop of wine, he turned towards Ruan Zhu: “I’m not satisfied. Bring another bottle.”
Ruan Zhu did not like drunk men: “You have already said I am stingy so why on earth would I give you more liquor? If you want to drink, that’s fine–return to your princely Yong residence and satisfy your appetite there.”
Xuanyuan Min Zhi grabbed a tofu skin bun filled with lamb and threw it into his mouth: “Ten days ago, I came across your younger sister......”
豆腐皮包子 | Tofu skin bun
Was meeting Ruan Yu very strange? I run into her every day! But who would have thought that as Ruan Zhu continued listening, it wasn’t like that at all.
“She was fooling around with a male customer in front of a restaurant on An Hua Street and had been seen by the man’s wife, who rushed over, gave her several times and kicked her quite a few times. I was about to head over and give her a beating with my whip but at that moment, her several husbands ran over and stole the few silvers she had just received. Truly karma. Her husbands kicked and beat her while cursing her for being a chicken that is unable to lay eggs......”
So it was actually Ruan Ju. What ‘unable to lay eggs’? Don’t tell me after the miscarriage last time, she became sterile?
“The grand Third Miss of the Ruan clan had been reduced to being worse than a beggar. After her husbands left, her face bloomed under my whip and her nose was lost.”
Xuanyuan Min Zhi used an indifferent tone but his face was cold. At the time he had been bought by Ruan Ju from Aunt Sun, his poison injury had not yet healed and he had been tormented half to death by her. Now that he had a noble status, how could he not demand a return? He, Xuanyuan Min Zhi, was certainly not a good man. Who the hell cares if it was an elderly or a female that offended him–the result was that it was hard for them to even wish for death.
Ruan Ju had inherited the characteristics of her biological father, Wei Rong, and naturally had a fawning manner with a superb appearance. If there was the slightest blemish on the beauty, perhaps it was better to die than to live. Ruan Zhu felt a little disturbed: “You might as well kill her.”
“How much of a pity would that be? She will continue to live, live to the point where she is spurned by all those around her.” Disdain was on Xuanyuan Min Zhi’s face and the corner of his mouth hooked into a cold sneer: “That time, weren’t you also nearly killed by her? Isn’t this just false kindness?”
“That time I nearly died because of her was all thanks to you.”
Xuanyuan Min Zhi declined to comment and his face remained as frigid as before: “From today on, Ruan Ju has an appearance tantamount to a devil’s. I will see how she continues to live?”
Ruan Zhu remained silent and remembered that he had previously sustained a very heavy injury when he was escaping from Shun Tian Hall’s prison with her. Fighting with the jailers had caused his injuries to intensify and although later there was Imperial Physician Zhang’s careful treatment, it could not cure him. “Your poison injury is all healed by now, right?”
“After I ate all of the snow lotus from Mount Tian that Emperor-Father bestowed, I’m pretty much cured.”
“Are those assassins still causing trouble for you?”
“Your family’s number three led some people and killed quite a few of them and the ones remaining were constantly under danger and misfortune.”
‘Your family’s number three’? Xuanyuan Zong Zhi–when did her third husband receive the appellation of ‘the other man’? Forget it, this xiao san was not the same as the other xiao san, so there’s no reason to twist them up.[a]
Nuan Chun finished eating and stepped out of the heated room, continuing to serve his master in the meal.
“Niangniang!” Xing Yun entered to report: “Outside the gate, there is a girl with a very frightening appearance claiming to be niangniang‘s younger sister and saying something about how she also wants to enter the residence. But that person clearly is not Second Miss. This slave asked Steward Yang and Lian Xi to identify the person and they said she was the Third Miss who had left home previously and allowed this slave to ask for niangniang‘s opinion?”
Third Miss, Ruan Ju?
Ruan Zhu’s brows lifted: “Have Steward Yang give her ten taels of silver and then send her off!” After having transmigrated for this long, her heart had gradually become cold. She had gone through so many experiences that her previous compassion and gentleness had subsequently been whittled away quite a bit.
After a while, a reply came from below, saying the female outside refused to leave and asking if niangniang would like for them to inform the yamen for them to take her to prison.
“Truly annoying. I’ll go send her off.”
Without even taking his woolen cloak, Xuanyuan Min Zhi grabbed his sword and left Yi Xin Residence.
Ruan Zhu was afraid he would kill someone in his anger. No matter how wicked Ruan Ju was, she was still of the same blood. If she were to die at the entrance to her home, it would become words that were easy to say but hard to hear and a topic for the neighbors to gossip about.
“Nuan Chun, support me outside for a look.”
Nuan Chun brought over a fox fur cloak and had Ruan Zhu properly wear it before supporting her and pushing the door for them to leave......The two imperial bodyguards had received the news and came out of their respective rooms, carrying swords as they accompanied the pair. They had yet to walk out of Yi Xin Residence when they could distantly hear pounding against the gate along with a series of shrill screams:
“Open the gate, open the gate. This is my home, I am also surnamed Ruan, I am a person of the Ruan clan. All of you dog slaves actually dare to lock the Third Miss of the Ruan clan outside. In a little while, I’ll break all of you dogs!”
Outside the door came an extremely crude male voice shouting curses: “You said before this was your Pa’s house but you cheated us, you hen who can’t lay eggs, you ugly person who ain’t useful at all. I toldja to earn some silver but you can’t even do that so what was the point in letting you eat? I shoulda just kicked you to death.”
Ruan Ju cried: “Don’t hit me, help me pound the door. When we have broken through the door, my Pa can then come out and see me.”
A round of even fiercer slamming sounded out and the two vermilion gates seemed as if they were about to break when Xuanyuan Min Zhi had men lift up the door bolt.
Ruan Ju’s several husbands ruthlessly charged inside when suddenly, a bright, cold ray of light from a longsword horizontally slashed before their eyes. The eldest youth yelped in alarm: “This is my father-in-law’s home, what are ya trying to do?”
Ruan Zhu felt extreme hatred towards their use of the the phrase ‘father-in-law’ and deemed it as if they had profaned Ruan Zi Xu. Seeing Xuanyuan Min Zhi’s blade striking downwards, she couldn’t resist shouting: “Do not kill in front of my home. If you want to kill, go outside. Do not dirty the doorstep with bloodstains.”
Xuanyuan Min Zhi sheathed his sword and lifted his leg to aim a kick over at the wretched eldest youth’s stomach. Amidst the sound of breaking bone, the eldest brother’s body flew outside the gate and past the steps, where he laid flat on the ground, motionless. His several brothers ran over to pull at him, only to realize their eldest brother had already been kicked to the bucket. His sternum had collapsed, exposing a corner of his heart. With a touch of a hand, they discovered that he was actually no longer breathing.
The several brothers became so scared they lost their heads and started shouting: Murder! The Ruan clan has killed someone!
The night was dark. Ruan Zhu was a distance away and could not see the scene outside but that trace of blood wafted inside the courtyard, causing her to be dizzy for a spell.
Those several brothers wildly charged inside the Ruan residence and caused an uproar: “Eldest Brother was killed by them and a murder must be paid with a life. Hurry and give us money or we’ll report ya to the yamen.”
“First, grab that young wife and force them to give us money.”
“Get five hundred taels, no......a thousand taels......”
The imperial bodyguards of the Prince of Qi’s residence heard there was trouble and stepped out with their swords before encircling Ruan Ju’s husbands and starting a scene of blows and kicks.
Seeing this array of men, Ruan Ju’s husbands were stunned silly with fright. They had only heard that the Ruan clan was one of merchants. Since that was the case, how could a mere merchant be able to produce this sort of scene?
A luxurious carriage galloped along the street with an entire squadron of imperial bodyguards on horses following behind. The carriage stopped before the residence’s gates. From the carriage stepped out man with a grave and cold face and in his arms was a fast-asleep small toddler.
“Nangong, send the troublemakers to Da Jue Mountain.”
“Understood, Your Highness.”
The one who arrived was precisely Xuanyuan Zong Zhi, who hadn’t expected there would actually be people who dared caused a commotion at the entrance of his home when he had only been gone for half a day. Handing over the sleeping Zhi Xi over to Qu Gao, he stepped inside the courtyard and pulled his wife into his arms before horizontally lifting her up and striding towards Yi Xin Residence. He instructed He Gua while he moved: “Quickly bring Imperial Physician Zhang over. Delays are not allowed.”
Entering the bedroom, Xuanyuan Zong Zhi placed his wife on the bed and saw that her complexion was pale. His heart jumped into his throat: “Wife, are you all right? Is there anywhere that is uncomfortable?”
Ruan Zhu was only able to recover from that extreme dizziness after a spell: “I just can’t bear the smell of blood and am much better now.”
[a] Again, this is a pun based on 小三 which in modern terms, refers to a mistress or the other woman.
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