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The Female Supporting Role Shows Out 2020-03-31 09:24:31

Hearing roaring thunder with a scene of purple fleet lightning, a long-haired female Taoist stabs a male Taoist in the stomach with a sword. The latter seems unbelievable with his mouth full of blood and his eyes open wide. The female Taoist just looks at him with downcast eyes and indifferent expression, then slowly pulls out the sword.

Lightning turns the deep night to one invigorating day, the male Taoist looks very pale with his face blurring in the flashing, and he says, "Lin Dan, it's me..."

The female Taoist’s calm eyes flicker slightly, then she murmurs in a low voice: "You... are supposed to be my illusion."

Actually, the female Taoist has been in the process to survive in all doom and gloom. Thinking that the male Taoist is only an illusion born of demons, she never expects he is true. The female Taoist, Lin Dan, finally raises her head to look at the thunderous sky and the Taoists not far away from practicing levitation or swords. She begins to realize that today is her partnering ceremony. The male Taoist in front of her is just the practicing couple of Taoism she has pursued and accompanied for thousands of years.

But so what? The persistent waiting or crazy chasing even the longest stay can’t beat that siren's unwitting glance back. Even if a pact is imminent, the siren can immediately make the man in front of her lose his mind by spitting out a sob-like syllable of coquetry from thin lips with deep red as soon as she appears.  

Two hours ago:

Seeing that her Taoist couple had been reluctant to pierce his fingertip to pledge himself with her, what else did Lin Dan not understand? At that moment, looking deeply into the eyes of her couple who were struggling and regretting, Lin Dan suddenly saw everything clear. She tore off the red gauze she had worn on her body, took off her gorgeous but heavy headdress, and turned to leave without hesitation.  

The guests who came to the ceremony did not have time to burst into an uproar and the elders of both sides did not have time to reprimand them. The sky originally covered with stars was suddenly engulfed by layers of dark clouds, thunder, and lightning. The wild wind roared, in which, the shrouded illustrious pressure from Gods could be felt, scraping on the Taoists' faces like steel knives making them shiver. These were doom clouds and thunder. At this moment, on such a special occasion, someone dared to practice and survive in the doom test.

Someone is none other than Lin Dan. She has been practicing the Infinite Tao of the infinite immortal master. As the saying goes, there are 3,000 ways to practice Taoism and each has its own secrets. This infinite Tao is just one of the most difficult paths to take, stressing that "Taoism is infinite, the mind of Taoists must be free from dirt, the body must be free from desire." Only by following these rules can a Taoist touch the real truth.  

Lin Dan has always been missing a person who seems to linger in her mind forever. She can’t be free from desire. Therefore, even she holds the body of Nine Yin, and a pure practicing aptitude blessed by Gods, even she is reputed to be a rare genius in the world of practicing Taoism, but she has been stuck in the doom test for more than 600 years.

But she is in no hurry. The ascending ladder in this world has somehow been destroyed. Even if her test goes smoothly, it would be her destiny to eventually dissipate in the air. So the ascension after the practicing can almost be equated with death. That she is not in a hurry is not because she is afraid of death, but because she is afraid that she could no longer accompany the man.  

She knows that the man is still deeply concerned about another person, but it doesn't matter. When he is in trouble, she will always be with him. When he is at a low ebb, she is always with him. Even If his heart is frozen by thick ice lasting for a thousand years, she will warm him with her pure fire from the heart.

She has always believed that she can finally get his attention and love, until this moment ...  

Thereupon, everything begins to change and everything fades.

If one lets go of what one holds tightly in one’s hands but cannot grasp firmly with all strength, what one loses are only the obsession and monsters inside, and what one gains is a world with the vast expanse of sea and sky. Lin Dan returned her Taoist couple to the risen woman who came in a hurry, then stepped out of the hall and walked into the dark doom cloud. The love hindrance that has lasted for hundreds of years was suddenly broken. She began to take the doom test and to soar.  

The monsters inside were still struggling, conjuring up a lot of sweet but poison-coated scenes, trying to hinder Lin Dan, all of which were cut off with her sword. With the ascension ladder has been destroyed, she would die as her only end whether passing the test or not. But so fucking what? She no longer wanted to tangle with these people. The world was too muddy and the heaven above was spacious. Death could be the only way for her to be free at last.  

But she does not understand what the male Taoist is thinking. He dared to rush into the doom test of thunder, enter into the illusion and bring himself to her sword. It is known that he is also a Mighty coming to the level of the doom test, and the No.1 Taoist specializing in the sword in the mainland of Southern China, thus he could have dodged her attacks.

"Lin Dan," Leaving his bleeding stomach behind, gripping her sword, the male Taoist begs imploringly, "don't go please."

"Don't go," Lin Dan slowly draws the sword from his palm with her erratic tone, "where can I go?" This is the case, where else can she go without leaving? Still chasing his footsteps and his trail as hard as ever? She followed him through thousands of years, only to find that she should follow her own way.

Thinking of these, Lin Dan even doesn't want the sword in her hand, casually throws it to the side and then flies to the broken ladder. The Male hurries to chase, but his injury is too serious to do that. Only a big hole in the sky can be seen, Lin Dan and the doom thunder are swallowed by the hole. When he chases to arrive, there is nothing left, the doom cloud, lightning and her, all dissipate like foam.

"Lin Dan!" His hoarse cries echoed in the boundless darkness for a long time...

"Congratulations on the return of the host." Just as Lin Dan opens her eyes, she hears an unfeeling voice, "The host entered the S-class world and successfully obtained the special item--Infinite Heart of Taoism. Will you exchange it for cumulative points immediately?"

"Yes, then open my personal space." Lin Dan says slowly.

In no time, she has been in a pure white space, surrounded by smooth metal walls, with nothing but a bed in the center.

"Dear Host, you have earned a total of 9,990,000 points on this mission. I am very honored to inform you that your points have reached the upper limit. The system has two options for you to choose from: First, return to the original world after unbinding; Second, emigrate to the higher planes after the unbinding. What is your wish? " The robotic voice lingers in Lin Dan's mind.

Lin Dan has been inexplicably bound with the auxiliary system after her death and forced to travel through numerous small worlds to do tasks. She could not be unbound unless she obtained a certain amount of points, and then she could freely choose where to go. Lin Dan has made a plan earlier, but at this time she hesitates. She frowns and ponders for a while, then mutters, "If I emigrate..."

"Sorry, Dear Host," the system interrupted her. "Your referee withdrew the recommendation in the last mission world. If you want to emigrate, please find another referee as soon as possible."

Sure enough... Lin Dan shakes her head with a self-mocking smile.

If she wants to emigrate to the higher planes, system approval alone is not enough. She has to find a referee from the higher planes. Lin Dan's referee is none other than the male Taoist who was stabbed through the stomach by her. Lin Dan knows nothing about his name and background, but only knows that he comes from a higher plane and has far higher authority than the system, even the main system.

It may be a great fortune for others to keep shuttling back and forth between small worlds, but only Lin Dan knows what a painful and desperate process it is. The more she experiences, the deeper she is dragged into the tremendous abyss shaped by the memories in her mind. Too much emotion, love or hate, too many separations, and too much more helplessness, anger, pain, despair… All fill her heart and she gradually loses herself.

For a long time, she has no idea who she is or where she comes from. When she is on the verge of collapse, she meets the man in one of the mission worlds. He rescues her from the dark prison and teaches her how to get out of trouble, how to defeat enemies and how to gain points. With his help, Lin Dan gradually recovers herself, and then willingly becomes his supporting role, following his lead in every small world.

Lin Dan once thought that meeting the man would be redemption, but in the end, she found that this was just another futile struggle. Fortunately, the man's teaching is not all useless, because she has learned to be strong, independent, self-respecting and taking everything easy.

It is said that if one falls in love with an excellent person, even if one cannot get him or her, one will eventually get a better self. This is true for Lin Dan. She does not regret her efforts and patience, because without the pursuit for thousands of years, she would not be enlightened after those experiences.

Although the Infinite Heart of Taoism has been converted into points, those inspirations still remain in her mind. She smiles with relief and shakes her head, says, "He probably wants to be the referee for that siren."

The siren is not a role in doing tasks, but she is also charismatic. A man meets her in a certain task world and has been chasing her in several different worlds, just like Lin Dan once chased him. The siren who practices cultivation is one of the reincarnations of a woman who the man will be worried about, completely obsessed with, even at the expense of fighting against the whole group practicing cultivation.

No matter where the woman’s reincarnation goes, the man can always find her with his miraculous power and then protect her. After all, the man, like Lin Dan, is just a humble follower. Even if the woman has no previous memories after the reincarnation, he is willing to give everything to her and take her to his own world.

Lin Dan envies the woman very much, even with some jealousy, but now she feels nothing when memories ring.

The tone of the system is half a sone lower, and it sounds unexpectedly a little saddened: "If the host wants to know why, I can help the host check, but the opposite side holds higher authority than me, I may not be able to find out what you need. Sorry, Dear Host, for all the auxiliary tasks I as an auxiliary system have issued that make you suffer over the years. "

Auxiliary systems are only responsible for promoting the development of the small worlds and fixing bugs, and the host they choose is just a tool that can be expendable at critical moments. To draw a cruel analogy, if a pot has a hole and needs to be repaired with a piece of scrap metal, Lin Dan is the scrap metal and has no use other than burning herself in flames.

Most of her tasks require her to seek benefits for others at the expense of herself, which are unreasonable. But so fucking what? Once the task fails, she will be obliterated by the system. As a result, most of the guys who are accepting the tasks and being bound with auxiliary systems will not be able to survive, either committing suicide halfway or falling into madness. It is rare for Lin Dan to successfully complete every task and get high points, thanks for the help of the man, and of course Lin Dan's strong and tenacious mind.

Now Lin Dan cares nothing, desires nothing, so where to go is no longer a problem for her. She opens the task panel and says decisively, "No need to check, cancel the emigration application and send me back to the original world."

"Okay. There is also good news to inform the host. As you are the first auxiliary role accepting tasks to get the highest points, the main system decides to reward you with 100 million points which can be converted into the currency of your original world at the ratio of 1:1. Does the host need to exchange it? "

"Exchange." Lin Dan nods without hesitation but with a self-mocking smile. What the "auxiliary role" is, it is nothing but a dispensable supporting role. However, she will never be the same again. She shall live a wonderful life if she sticks to her own color.

"Good, my Dear Host, the system will execute the exchange. Please wait for a moment."

It takes about a minute to get ready for the host's points and deposit. After unbinding the system, Lin Dan is waiting for the initiated transmission device to send her back to the original world. Thinking she could retire peacefully this time, Lin Dan never expects that the time flow will be disrupted by an enormous wave of energy suddenly hitting the transmission belt...

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-30 09:31:18

In the second day of Winter Solstice, Noble Consort Wen, Consort Shu, Consort Xian, Consort De, Jieyu Song and Beauty Wang all gathered in the Weiyang Palace to eat the Antique Potage, today's hot pot, with a copper pot boiling on a stove made with red mud. The beef bone soup stewed by Consort for a whole night with her secret recipe was so delicious to let ourselves go that we all kissed her face to show our happiness and gratitude, as if she were the Emperor. Powerful as Consort Shu was, she never imagined that one day she could take away the Emperor’s Consorts. Frightened by us, she sat transfixed for a long time, unknown of her dropped-out makeup. Seeing that, we took advantage of the situation to carve up all the meat she had sliced, totally absorbed in eating the meat. 

“I heard that Consort Yao smashed the Changle Palace yesterday.” While eating, Jieyu Song didn’t forget to take pleasure in other people's misfortune.

I, “How do you know?”

Jieyu Song, “How can I not know? As a writer, I have to view life at any time so as to write great scripts for story-telling. Discovering the minutest detail in everything is absolutely what I’m good at!”

Noble Consort Wen, “Consort Yao made such a big sound. Except for little Liu’er who was sleeping heavily like a dead person, everyone in the harem must have known. Save it! Be perceptive of the minutest detail, huh? Did you forget that it was me that told you that last night! ”

Jieyu Song, “Alright. I won’t update chapters today.”

Hearing that, we all hastily put down the chopsticks, “You are perceptive of the minutest detail! You are the most perceptive!”

Then Consort De began to tut tut tut. She really liked to tut tut tut. She said, “Tut tut tut. For people, it is not a good thing to be eager to do well in everything, right? Why are she mad at us, huh? Her parents are not killed by us. Tut tut tut. I really feel sorry for the Fifth Princess who has such a irritable mother. Don’t you think so? His father refuses to help, even with things like changing the diaper. There is actually no difference in having the father or not! And the mother, alas! Tut tut tut, let me tell you. In raising a child, you have to be even-tempered, otherwise you may frighten  the child out! If he is frightened out, he may have character defects, finding it difficult to marry someone. In that case, we have to worry about his marriage. Tut tut tut, in raising a child, you have to...”

Noticing Consort De was going to begin her lectures on child rearing, I hurriedly said, “Then what happened?” 

In an instant, Consort Xian sat up properly and cleared her throat, “I was going to report to you. At first Consort Yao only threw a tantrum in her own palace, breaking up many things. But then, she went out of the Changle Palce, crying to ask the Emperor to judge for her and calling your names, my Empress. The content I will not repeat here, which are too unpleasant to hear. At that time, the Emperor was discussing with ministers of the Court about national affairs while you, my Empress was resting. Therefore, I ventured to make decision by myself, ordering servants to subdue her and lock her in her own palace. Now there are still servants watching over her. I also ordered a servant to register and put on file the things she had broke up, including two sets of headpiece, three coral trees and a set of superior Green Porcelain Teapot rewarded by the Emperor, a pair of Ruyi Cade made with White Jade, which looks like a gourd but with two symmetrical ears connecting the top and bottom, and some jewelry you rewarded her with. She even tore or cut the silk you recently rewarded her with! What’s worse, she also beat a maid to death and wounded an eunuch. She went too far. It is totally disrespectful to you and the Emperor. Even today’s Yunv Chen in Fulong Temple and Xu Chanfang who was put into the dog house were not as rampant as she. My Empress, in you opinion, what should we do with her?”

I was struck dumb while listening. Consort Xian was definitely the best steward! She even dared to deal with matters of Consort Yao, who is so horrible, and did that in such a organized manner. If I had seen the scene, where Consort Yao swore and broke up things, I would have seen her as a psycho and called a imperial physician for her. 

Consort Shu sneered, “My sister, Consort Xian, it’s really a compliment to her by comparing she with Chen Cairong and Xu Chanfang. Actually I used to think Chen Cairong was the silliest until I met Consort Yao, who was even much sillier. She again broke my bottom line. Considering that those evil consorts becomes sillier and sillier, no wonder we live a much better life in the harem. Dear sister, Consort Xian, do you still remember when Xu Chanfang was in favor with the Emperor?”

Hearing that, Consort Xian shivered, “Don’t mention that and we can still be good sisters.”

Consort Shu clinked her glass against Consort Xian’s, “To our lost youth! We are the women who have been around.”

That gave me a headache, “Come on. Women who have seen the world. Tell me, what should I do?”

Consort Xian, “My empress, let the Emperor to make a decision. History shows that it’s no good for an Empress to dispose of the Emperor’s favourite imperial concubine.It is the biggest hole, which is a synonym of a trap, for an Empress to try to dispose of the Emperor’s favourite imperial concubine for centuries. My Empress, you must learn from history.”

Noble Consort Wen couldn’t agree more, “It’s the Emperor’s favourite imperial concubine. Anguish as it it, he is left to stew in his own juice.” 

Obviously, the Emperor didn’t want to lie in the bed he had made. Before I was prepared to tell him that, he already ordered a servant to call me to the Changle Palace. Out of wrath, I  wanted to lift the table and curse, because I had just boiled the meat and hadn’t even eat a single slice but had to clean up Consort Yao’s mess. I finally restrained myself because the soup base was so delicious. In the conscienceless laughter of the women, I reluctantly and slowly went out with Consort Xian. Among them, only Beauty Wang had some conscience, holding me to the front of the palace and asking, after a long hesitation, “My Empress, can I have a talk with you in private tomorrow?”  

Beauty Song lived as neighbors with Jieyu Song. She laughed a lot but said little. Whenever we gathered together to play, she was always busy in passing the handkerchief or picking dishes for others, totally a unknown and helpful little angel. What did she intend to talk to me in private?! How I wished to know now! I even couldn’t sleep at night!

However, I had no choice. Serious Consort Xian pulled me to the Changle Palace.

It was a deadly stillness in the Changle Palace, except for the intermittent sobs of Consort Yao, “Dear Emperor, you said you would protect me for life. Dear Emperor... Dear Emperor, I am wronged. They all envies me to be in favor with you. They joint hands to frame me. Dear Emperor...”

The Emperor remained in silence. For me, I couldn’t regret more for not bringing a handful of sunflower seeds. Consort Xian, however, expressed in order that since she was the person that handled the matter, she had to ask Consort Yao some questions, “Consort Yao, why did you beat a maid to death and wound an eunuch? ” 

Consort Yao, “Wuwuwu, they irritated me! They were disrespectful to me! Wuwuwu, dear Emperor...”

Consort Xian, “Why did you break up so many rewards given by the Emperor and the Empress? Are you disrespectful to them?”

Consort Yao, “I was in bad mood at that time... Dear Emperor, don’t you tell me that I can do any thing as long as I’m happy, right? Wuwuwu, Dear Emperor... ”

Consort Xian, “Lat night, you abused the Empress, saying she would die early just as the late Empress. Many servants and Consorts in the harem heard that. What do you want to say about that?”

Consort Yao, “Wuwuwu, I didn’t say that! I didn’t! You frame me wuwuwu...”

Just then the Emperor said, “I heard.”

We should have asked Jieyu Song to witness such an striking twist! That was the true reflection that art comes from life.

Consort Yao’s wuwuwu stopped abruptly after the Emperor’s slap over her face (the Emperor’s words was just like a slap over her face). The Emperor said, with his voice as clod as the snow piling up on the top of a mountain, “You don’t deserve to the title Yao.”

I really wanted to remind him that he was the one gave her the title. I also wanted to touch his face to see if it swelled. 

Therefore, Consort Yao, who was in high favor of the Emperor for two years was deprived of her title, reduced to the common and put into the dog house. Seeing her being took off the finery and dragged out in dull looks, sympathetic I was, I didn’t plead for her in the end. 

It was not that I didn’t want to but I couldn’t do anything to help. For her, it was totally out of the mouth came evil, while the dragon had reverse scale, which means that a ruler has his bottom line.

That night, the Emperor crept onto my bed at midnight. Fortunately, I was still awake because of the words of Beauty Wang during the day, which made me hard to fall asleep. Otherwise, I could have been frightened to death by him.

It was never easy to be the woman of the Emperor. In the next recruitment of beauties, I would test the courage of the beauties.

“Jiaojiao, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. I frightened you out, right? It’s my fault. It’s my fault,” the Emperor nervously patted me on the back. The force was so large that I felt I would be patted to death at any time. To save myself, I clasped his hand, “Dear Xiu, why do you come?”

The Emperor held the whole body of me in his arms and asked, “What do you usually do when I’m not here?”

I was... eating sunflowers seeds, chatting or abusing you with Noble Consort Wen, Consort Shu, Consort Xian, Consort De, Jieyu Song and Beauty Wang...

How could I tell him the truth!

I had to reply gently and obediently, “Nothing new. I just stay in the Weiyang Palace to accompany the children. Sometimes other Consorts come to chat with me. I also play the Ancient Qin or practise calligraphy sometimes.”

The Emperor, “Why don’t you come to see me?”

Because I was busy... 

I said, “Dear Xiu, if you want to see me, you will come; if not, my coming will only make you feel bothered.”

I said slowly, as if I was very sad. Though I was smiling, I wore a little frown. Without looking at myself in the mirror, I knew that would make him feel sorry. As expected, he touched my face with deep eyes, as deep as the night in the winter, and asked, slowly stressing each syllable, “Are these your true words?” 

Whether they were or not? How could I know? There were many things in the word that could not be explained clearly. It depended on how you said.

I turned around, refusing to look at him. After a long time, I nodded my head lightly, “Hmm.”  

He hugged from the back, so closely that as if he wanted to recall the missing past, “You are my Jiaojiao... You are the most blessed. You will live a long life. I will accompany you forever, Jiaojiao.”

I said OK.

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-30 09:28:55

In the twinkling of an eye, the Winter Solstice (22nd solar term) came. At the end the year, I finally realized that the Emperor paid less visits to me than last year. Most of the time, he accompanied Consort Yao from her pregnancy to delivery and then to her confinement in childbirth. 

The night before the Winter Solstice, the Emperor with a cold air came to Weiyang Palace. Before he entered the door, he shouted, “Where is my Jiaojiao?”

At that time, Changyi was asleep and Changsi was drowsy, and I was patting him to help him to fall asleep. However, the shouting woke the two kids up. They were all awake! All awake! Awake!

What the fuck did the man come!

Changle burst into tears. Hearing his crying, Changsi began cry as well as if she was competing with him to see whose crying was louder. That threw me, wet nurses and all servants into total confusion, irritating me. Out of anger, I threw a pillow at him. 

The Emperor always liked me to throw a tantrum from time to time. I knew it a long time ago. He liked me to be shy and naughty occasionally; he also liked me to act like a spoiled child and throw an innocuous tantrum once in a while. In a word, he liked me to be lively but also lovely. 

The more he liked, the more pathetic he was in my eyes. 

Just as I expected, after I threw the pillow, the Emperor burst out laughing heartily. Out of anxiety, I almost hit the ceiling and rushed to point a finger before his mouth, “Shh! Wait, until they fall asleep!”

To my surprise, he suddenly clasp my waist in his arms, smiled faintly with soft eyes, exuding tenderness and love, and then put my finger in his mouth passingly. 

The man...

The man.

The kids were soon calmed down and took away. Then the Emperor bent over with his head against my forehead, “I find you become even more naughty, hmm? How dare you!” 

I intentionally threw a tantrum, “I didn't mean to. Having not seen you for a long time, I didn't recognize you at first in the dim light. I thought it was a burglar. Your Majesty, you deigns to come here. Are you sure you don't go to the wrong room and mistake me for someone else?” 

Although I said so, I was smiling. The Emperor, however, looked ashamed. Putting me on his lap against his chest, he said, “It's my fault. I always. Alas, I always...” 

He lowered his voice bit by bit. Finally he didn't make it clear what was after the word “always”. I really wanted to ask what that was after “always”. Was it “always missed” or “always made mistakes”?

I didn't ask in the end. I wasn't that stupid to be my real self before the Emperor. 

I gently touched hair beside his temple. Just in a year, he had more white hair. I said sorrowfully, “Dear Xiu, take good care of yourself. You're having white hair.” 

He held me even more closely. After a long time, he said, “After this year, I would be 30 years old.”

While he was saying, several drips dropped onto my forehead. I knew what these were, but I didn't want to look up. 

That night he kept on holding me and asked me to play The Phoenix Courtship to him. He also asked me to practise calligraphy with him. His letters, which were fierce and adventurous, showing his ability to the full extent, totally dwarfed my regular script in small characters like hairpin, making them look extremely tender and pathetic. 

My forehead covered by my hair cut straight,

I played with flowers pluck’d before the gate.

On a hobby-horse you came on the scene,

Around the well we played with mumes still green.

We lived, close neighbors on Riverside lane.

Carefree and innocent, we children twain.

In the past we were both young, while now only you had white hair.

After a night of passion, I cuddled up in his arms. Worn out as a was in a trance, I didn’t forget what I had intended to say, “Dear brother Xiu, can I see my family tomorrow? I’m a little homesick.”

According to the rule of this dynasty, during holidays, Imperial Mandate Madams could enter the Imperial Palace to pay respects to the Empress. However, in recent years after the Emperor’s accession, Imperial Mandate Madams were not often summoned to enter the palace because of the illness of the late Emperor. After the late Empress passed away, leaving no Empress in the harem, Imperial Mandate Madams came to the harem even less frequently. This year after my coronation, I only saw them once when they kowtowed to me during my coronation. Reasons I didn’t summon them to come were as follows,

Consort Yao worried that the entering of Imperial Mandate Madams to the Imperial Palace may be inauspicious to her baby because she was pregnant. Besides, she would be brokenhearted if she saw other consorts meet their mothers while she couldn't because of her parents’ death! How could a pregnant woman be sad!

To our surprise, the Emperor agreed. He didn't even worry that one day Consort Yao be beaten to death in the Changle Palace. 

The Emperor said, “OK.”

I said, “Dear brother Xiu, sisters in the harem... ”

The Emperor lowered his head to kiss my forehead and sighed, “Jiaojiao, you are always like this. You care about everyone. On the one hand, I likes your thoughtfulness. But on the other, I hope you can only put your heart into me, ignoring all other things.” 

If I really did so, I was already insane. 

The Emperor finally promised me that during the winter solstice he would summon Imperial Mandate Madams of the fifth rank and above to the Imperial Palace. Consorts of the fourth rank, Jieyu or above could meet their families for consorts under the fourth rank or those whose parents were not in the capital, he would order the Liu Ju, six organizations in charge of oblation, to open the storehouse to reward with these consorts’ family various treasures according to their ranks. Actually, in past years, during holidays the Emperor would also reward with consorts’ families holiday gifts. However, either consorts in low ranks were devoided of the opportunity to be rewarded, or consorts had no idea what the gifts were. This time it was different. Everyone  had the the opportunity. Besides, I also allowed them to pick up the treasures in line according to their ranks, making it possible for them do something for their families.

After the decree was issued, all consorts came to the Weiyang Palace to give thanks to me, almost treading down the palace. Everyone looked at me with stars shining in their eyes. They complimented me and flattered me, making me feel that I reached the peak of my life in an instant. 

Consort Shu said, “You always do such arduous but fruitless things. If you want to see Princess Huayang, you can just tell the Emperor who will absolutely permit. Why do you have to share weal with us? Are you silly!” 

Noble Consort Wen sneered, “So what were you doing, Ah Rou? Isn’t that you who picked up a pile of things to send home?!”

Consort Shu, whose parents were in the west of Liaozhou, didn’t see her parents for eleven years ever since she entered the East Palace when she was 17 years old. This time she couldn't see her parents either. I really felt sorry for her. I said, “You can pick up more. You are in such a high rank and you have entered the palace for so many years...” 

Consort Shu waved her hand, “Things in the Imperial Palace are beautiful, but not useful. It’s enough for me to pick up a few, sending them home to let them know that I’m living well... Besides, the Emperor it when consorts often connect with their families. Just several years after Empress Dowager Renhe’s death, he wished us to put our families out of our minds since we entered the Imperial Palace, and quietly stayed in the harem as mascots so that our brothers and fathers will risk their lives for him. When he is happy, he will speak to you; when not, he only regards you as stepping stones to give him a helping hand...”

I said it was my fault to ask for the grace of the Emperor this time. 

Consort Shu shook her head, “You're not wrong either. Woman in the harem are very pathetic. For families who the Emperor wants them to lose power and influence they already have; for consorts who he wants to clean up have already been. Now, the Emperor stays in absolute political power. Naturally, he doesn't have to keep an eye on the harem anymore.  Otherwise, he wouldn’t have agreed. The old Emperor, though not qualified enough to be a man, is definitely qualified enough to be an Emperor.” 

In winter solstice, it was very suitable for sleeping. Therefore, I slept all the time. Until Imperial Mandate Madams stepped one foot into the Weiyang Palace, I was still grabbing the quilt, shouting, “15 minutes more! Just 15 minutes!”

Consort Shu lifted my quilt and woke me up, “If you sleep again, I will never make Mutton Soup with Coriander, Stir-fried Pigeon, Fried Scallop in Shape of Silk Ball, Crab Meat & Minced Pork Ball in Casserole and Lion's Head, large meatballs for you!”

Too terrible! The threat was too terrible! Hearing that, I became sober in an instant. 

Imperial Mandate Madams came to pay respects to me first, before going to meet their daughters. For those who were not qualified to see their daughters, they could chat with me, often very awkwardly, for a while and then kowtowed to me and went back. Because only a few consorts in the harem were of fourth rank and above, most Madams came to chat with me. 

My grandmother was really old now. Before I entered the palace, grey-haired as she was, she spoke, full of energy, and could hit my father easily with her Dragon Head Cane,which means "to hit both fatuous and self-indulgent Emperors and evil counselors”, playing a deterrent role in persuasion, warning, etc However. However, now when she spoke, she panted slightly. I threw myself into her arms instantly after the outsiders went away and refused to leave her, because I grew up with her and loved her deeply. 

“Little Liu’er, stand up. Oh, it’s inappropriate. Oh, little Liu’er, my little Liu’er”, while she said, unconscious tears filled my eyes. “Our little Liu’er, you loses weight. Why do you lose weight...” 

If consort Shu was here, she would jump up out of anger. It was absolutely an insult to her if I, after eating food she made every two or three days, turned out to lose weight.

I leaned my head on grandma’ knees, “... everyone in the family is well. Your brothers and sisters are all fine. Jinge’er of your oldest brother now can write articles very well. Your sister-in-law of your third brother is pregnant and is expected to give birth next year. Your grandpa is also well. He sometimes coughs, but it doesn’t matter.”

“Are you living well in the palace, little Liu’er? Yes. All right, all right. I always want to come to see you, but I’m not feeling well after you entered the Imperial Palace two years ago, because I missed you so much... Last year the late Empress passed away... This year, I finally meet my little Liu’er...”

“Miss grandma? Grandma also misses you, little Liu’er. My baby, how can I not miss you~It’s my fault. I don’t make a name. In the past in the harem I didn’t make a name either. The late Emperor even didn’t know me... ”

“Your grandpa, that evil old man, told me that when monster Renhe was alive, she liked to draw Imperial Mandate Madams over to her side and closely connected to the Court. The Emperor hates such behavior very much. That’s why Consort Chen was killed. The old man Chen always told the Emperor to take good care of his granddaughter and the granddaughter always summoned her family to the Imperial Palace without the grand of the late Empress... Your grandpa said that the less frequently we meet you, the more dutiful we seem and the safer you are... That totally frightened me! Therefore, I restrained me from submitting a written statement to the Emperor, asking to see you. But anyway, even if I submitted a written statement, the Emperor perhaps couldn’t recall me, one of his great aunts, who didn’t hugged him even once when he was young...”

“Does the Emperor treat you well, little Liu’er? What does the word fine mean? Yes is yes and no is no. What does the word fine mean? Ah, I’m relieved to hear that you are well. How about the Sixth Prince and the Fourth Princess? What do you mean when you say they are like little pigs? Nonsense. Nonsense. Be good. Your grandpa hit your father and uncles, requesting them to behave themselves as officials and make no trouble for you. Be good. In this way the Emperor likes you. Don’t throw a tantrum after being the Empress.”

While listening to my grandma’s endless talking, I, leaning on her, grinned at her with tears in my eyes like a child and buried my face in her bosom rubbing, repeating “Grandma, I miss you” or “Grandma, you love me the most”. Until a serious “Little Liu’er” nearby, I realized that my mother was also present!

I was not very familiar with my mother, because I grew up with my grandmother and she devoted herself to my brothers and sister. My older sister, who was beautiful and industrious, longed to make it huge in the harem since she was young, while I only wanted to be a salted fish, who was even too lazy to turn over. She treated us so differently that I often doubted that I was born by her. She bought my older sister beautiful clothes and jewelry and my brothers tonics but me nothing. Later, my elder sister fell into the lake unexplainedly and couldn’t enter the Imperial Palace. Therefore, I became the one to enter the palace. She even asked me whether it was me that pushed her into the lake.

I thought she was a silly woman, from whom I inherited the silliness.

Just as I expected, the minute I looked at her, she began to do silly things, “Little Liu’er, you should thank your sister for helping you become the Empress. The harem should be in her hands! Now she lives a pathetic life in her husband’s home. You can’t leave her alone... ” 

Before she finished her words, she was covered mouth by my oldest aunt-in-law, “Dear Empress, it’s nonsense. Your mother must be too excited to see you after such a lone time.”

My oldest aunt was indeed my oldest aunt. She could adjust to changing circumstances so quickly to talk such nonsense, no wonder my mother was always bullied her.   

“Isn’t there something wrong with your sister, who refused to look at your brother-in-law or talk to him and prevented him from taking concubines... How can I have such a silly granddaughter. So ashamed! Little Liu’er, it’s none of your business. Don’t care about that. Be a dutiful Empress... ”

Even when my grandma was leaving, she still repeated, “Be good, little Liu’er...”

Of course I will be good! Standing in front of the Weiyang Palace, I watched them going away step by step. Soon, grandma was out of my sight. It was the first time I felt the Weiyang Palace was so small.

Notes:

1. Imperial Mandate Madams: titles conferred with the mother or wife of a senior official in the dynasties of Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming.

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-29 09:02:05

The Third Princess was already eight years old. Although she still had a round face and was chubby and fair in skin, she became more composed after being the older sister, busy in taking care of her little brother and sister in my palace, absolutely an elder sister. The Fifth Prince was more than two years old and kind of good at speaking. He somehow learned some honey-sweet words from somewhere. Even Noble Consort Wen who didn’t like kids was cajoled by him. One day, when she chatted with me and Consort Shu, she even said words like “my little Fifth Prince” in public, frightening us out while remaining totally shameless herself. From then on, she never said words like bringing up sons only for the benefit of the old Emperor.

We highly doubted that Jieyu Song, the great author of scripts for story-telling, was deemed to teach the Fifth Prince to say those words. However, whatever we said, she refused to admit. Until the release of her new book in which the male protagonist said the same words to flatter his lover almost 800 times every day did the truth came out. We took this opportunity to force her to update two chapters every day. However, pushing too hard made Jieyu Song unhappy, who made the female protagonist who we loved deeply be beaten and deceived, breaking our hearts. We had to apologize to her and gave her a pair of soft turquoise satin mousseline shoes embroidered with green-leaf orchid of Consort Wen and Braised Pork with Cherry Juice exquisitely cooked by Consort Shu. In this way, we retrieved the happy ending of the male and female protagonists.

The children were in a good relationship. As they played together, it was unavoidable that sometimes they had conflict with each other. But they made up very quickly. Consort Xian and Consort De often visited me with the Fourth Prince. Almost about the same age of the little Fifth Prince, he was totally different. He behaved well and had good manners. Whenever you asked him to greet someone, he would do as you asked. He quietly sat in the arms of Consort De, never shouting or squirming, producing a sharp contrast with the naughty little Fifth Prince.

It was interesting to put together the little Fourth Prince and the little Fifth Prince, because although they were about the same age, one spoke clearly but seldom spoke, while the other talked endlessly though he could not speak clearly.

The little Fourth Prince said, “Wish you well, Liangliang.”

The little Fifth Prince said, “Give me a hug, Liangliang. Liangliang, you are so pretty. Give you a flower, Liangliang~ Liangliang...”

I invited them to eat dessert.

The little Fourth Prince, “Thanks, Liangliang.”

The little Fifth Prince, “Wow, Liangliang, you are the best. Little Fourth Prince likes you! Liangliang...”

Sometimes Consort Shu teased the two little kids out of ill will, “Little Fourth Prince and little Fifth Prince, your moms and the Empress, which one do you think is prettier?”

The little Fourth Prince, “Hmm... Hmm... Hmm...”

The little Fifth Prince, “They are all pretty! My mom is pretty! Liangliang is pretty! Liangliang and we are all pretty! Give Liangliang a flower!”

Then the little Fifth Prince gave the little flowers he picked in the garden in Weiyang Palace to me, Consort Shu, Noble Consort Wen, Consort Xian, Consort De, Jieyu Song and Beauty Wang as a present. Before giving us the flower, he would repeat again, “Liangliang is pretty! Give Liangliang flower!” That made us all feel honored and couldn’t help picking him up and kissing him. Then he repeated, “The little Fifth Prince loves Liangliang...”

The small Fourth Prince looked at this one and then that one. Finally he fixed his eyes on “a child born by others”-- the little Fifth Prince and was on the edge of crying with his mouth pouting. The little Fifth Prince, to our surprise, obediently ran over to kiss him on the head, “Forth elder brother, give you the flower! I love you, fourth elder brother!” Then the little brothers went to play hand in hand.

Holding the first flower she ever received from a man in life, Consort De was so touched that tears came into her eyes. In the following days, she came to Weiyang Palace every day to try to take the little Fifth Prince away under Noble Consort Wen’s eyes in the name of paying respects to me:

“Little Fifth Prince, do yo you like Consort De? Yes? Little Fifth Prince, follow Consort De to Jingning Palace, OK? There are many beautiful flowers in Jingning Palace... ”

Noble Consort Wen who had no interest in children looked up while embroidering, “No!”

Consort De, “It’s OK, little Fifth Prince. Your mom doesn’t go but you can follow me to go to Jining Palace. You can sleep together with your fourth elder brother! OK?”

Noble Consort Wen, “Dear Empress, there are too many flowers in Jingning Palace. How about pulling them up? A selected day is no better than today. How about today?”

Consort De: ...

Considering child rearing was Consort De’s favorite hobby, we could not blame her to try to take the little Fifth Prince away every day. It was said that as the eldest daughter in family, she learned a lot in taking care of her little brothers and sisters and especially loved kids. Therefore, she was obsessed in sharing with us her experience in child rearing. No matter how unwanted we were to listen to, she would always make use of every chance.

Consort Shu, “I’m in a good mood today. Let me make Steamed Grass Carp in Vinegar Gravy for you.”

Consort De, “Oops. Thank you dear. What a lucky gourmet I am today. Speaking of food, we must take great care of what the kids eat, such as...”

Noble Consort Wen, “I made two little caps for Changsi and Changyi. Let them wear to see it they are suitable.”

Consort De, “Oh, Noble Consort, you are so handy. Speaking of the clothes of children, we should...”

She talked on and on. Consort Xian told us in secret that she became disappointed to the Emperor after he refused to listen to her child rearing experience. One day when we brought that up, Consort De lowered her voice after checking there was no outsider.

“You all have to keep an eye. The Emperor, tut, tut, are good on the whole. But, hmm, he doesn’t want to learn the four basic operations like changing the diapers for the Fourth Prince, who is his own son. That is too, right? Tut, tut, tut, he is a father! Are we pitiful to take care of the baby alone after giving birth to them, right? Thank God I had the help of Consort Xian, tut, tut, tut. So shameless is he. The Fourth Prince is the son of him and me instead of Consort Xian and me, right? Consort Shu has already gone through the tough days, because the Third Princess is easy to look after now after growing up. Noble Consort can also easily handle it with the help of Jieyu Song and Beauty Wang. Dear Empress, you are the most hard, right? You have to look after the two kids all by yourself. Did the Emperor help you with things like changing the diapers or kids’ breast feeding at night?”

I replied no and Consort De showed a face of aversion, “It’s not OK to be a qualified father! Right? Half of the child belongs to him! To tell you, I liked him in the past, because he treated me well. I was even sad when I found he was in love with the Empress. I even bad-mouthed a few of the Empress. Now I can’t be more regretful! At that time, I was too young, right? To know whether a man is good or not, see what he does after having children, right? How can we say a man good who even doesn’t change diapers for the children?”

What kind of a special flower the Emperor was that he could form such a harem. I imagined the scene Consort De taught the emperor to change the diapers for the child. I thought he must be a kind Emperor because he not only doesn’t punish her but also goes to Jingning Palace to visit her from time to time.

After all, we could not judge an emperor with the standards of a man. A good emperor doesn’t have to be a qualified father. Speaking of kids in the harem, there was also Consort Chun’s Third Prince and Shuyi Yao’s Fifth Princess. However, Consort Chun was very mysterious and never communicated with anyone.

“Consort Chun is also a special flower. Actually she entered the Eastern Palace with Liangdi Xu, earlier than Consort Xian and me. When the Emperor was still Chu Wang, there was only Yaoyao. Only after he became the crown prince did he one by one get our four Consorts.” The weather got cold, and coal flaming with silver flame was lighted. However, it was still quite cold. Therefore, Consort Shu, Noble Consort Wen and I all covered ourselves in a blanket on a lounge chair with thick mat on it, chatting while eating the delicious sunflower seeds made by Consort Shu.

“Consort Chun is the cousin of the Emperor, whose own mother died early. The harem at the time of the late Emperor was not that peaceful, with Empress Dowager Renhe dominating the harem, who could not tolerate others and was hard to get along with. The Emperor’s own mother was forced to death by her. The Imperial Palace and the harem are closely related. If the Imperial Palace is not peaceful, neither does the harem. Although the Emperor is not a qualified husband, he is in no doubt a qualified emperor. He took great charge of the Imperial Palace, leaving those Consorts with bad will lack of support. They don’t dare to outdo. The harem of the late Emperor was just like a battle. Although I don’t like the Emperor, I have to gratitude it that he regulates the family and rulesthe state well so that I can live such a comfortable life in the harem.”

Noble Consort Wen and I only wanted to listen to the story. Who cared about the Emperor? Throwing shells of the sunflower seeds to Consort Shu, we shouted, “Talk about the story of Consort Chun!”

Consort Shu closed her eyes, pretending to hear nothing. We wanted to go to scratch her but were unwilling to lift the tablet. So we shouted together: 

“Talk about the story of Consort Chun--”

“Talk about the story of Consort Chun--”

“Consort Chun ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!”

I had no idea how many sneezes Consort Chun made in Yihe Palace or whether she called the imperial doctor.

“The Emperor is not the prince born by Empress Dowager Renhe and his own mother died early. In theory, he was the last to be the emperor. However, he was such a shameless and evil man that he put aside the hatred of the death of his mother and as a husband and went to seduce Xu Chanfang. Bah, what a thing he is, so shameless. Totally a waste of Yaoyao’s love. Such a man in the west of Liaozhou must have been beaten to death...”

After abusing the Emperor for a long period, she finally came to the point, “Xu Chanfang was the eye of her family. Empress Dowager Renhe did so many evil things and finally her son and daughter were smothered to death by her private senior servant. It was said pregnant Xiuyi Wang of the late Empress was killed by Empress Dowager Renhe. We didn’t know that Xu Chanfang’s elder sister was a trusted follower of Empress Dowager Renhe. The elder sister killed the two children with unknown means... The Xu family was powerful enough to easily kill any Consort or prince and princess. Considering Empress Dowager Renhe was so evil, she deserved to lose her children. Bah, it was said that Empress Dowager Renhe cried to death when the late Emperor died. I don’t buy a single word of it. She must be killed by the Emperor. He is such a guy who can restrain his revenge for such a long  period...”

“Where were we? Oh, the Emperor went to seduce Xu Chanfang. With a handsome appearance and hypocrisy which made him look attractive, he was certain to succeed in seducing Xu Chanfang. They even exchanged many cheesy poems, which Xu Chanfang even held in arms when she died... At first, the Xu family disagreed with their love. Considering there were 12 princes of the late Emperor, who knew who Chu Wang was! What they took a fancy to was the previous crown prince, whose mother was sent to the Imperial Palace by the Xu family. Then his mother was killed and he survived... After the loss of her children, Empress Dowager Renhe was very fond of Xu Chanfang very much. Whenever Xu Chanfang shed tears, she would feel distressed. At that time, the previous prince did a stupid thing. He somewhat knew the thing about his own mother and worshiped her in secret, which made Empress Dowager Renhe indignant...”

“The Emperor was also lucky enough to run into the death of Taishi Xu, thus supporting the whole Xu family all on his own. The rest members in Xu family were all incapable and began to support Chu Wang. Finally, Chu Wang became the Emperor. That is why we have the saying Man proposes, God disposes. If Taishi Xu hadn’t been dead, who knew who would get the thrown... In this way, the old Emperor became the crown prince. At the day of his coronation, he conferred with Xu Chanfang as Liangdi of the Crown Prince. It was said that they worshiped the Heaven and ancestors hand in hand like a couple. Who remembered the positive wife Yaoyao? Were it not for the powerful elderly prime minister Shen, the old lady would force the Emperor to divorce Yaoyao...”

“The late Emperor wanted to free his son from the dominance of the Xu family to prevent him from suffering from the same distressed experience of him. Therefore, the late Empress ordered him to take Consort Chun and me because all of our family were somewhat powerful to help him. My family had station troops in the west of Liaozhou and Consort Chun had Nanyang Marquis, who just made military merits in the south front and was the close uncle of him. It was said that the Emperor’s own mother was bullied to death because of lack of support of a distinguished and powerful family. Therefore, her little brother was determined to join the army and became the Nanyang Marquis later. Then, when the late Emperor was dying, he ordered the Emperor to get Consort Xian, doing good to the son who he didn’t like that much.”

“Consort Xian was very lucky for the Emperor acceded soon after she entered the Imperial Palace only for a short time. We were not that fortunate! Xu Chanfang tried every means to bully Yaoyao, later to bully Consort Chun and me after we entered the palace. She was gloomy. In surface she seemed graceful and majestic, while behind our back she tried various means to torture us without leaving any trace. She vented her hatred on us instead of on the Emperor who actually cheated her. I don’t know what was wrong with her. Being cheated by men, she vented her anger on women...The Emperor is such an astute man that attracts Consort Chun to call him dear brother. She even refused to change the title of the Emperor regardless of numerous punishment of Xu Chanfang! In contrast, I am kind of smart. Seeing three of the consorts were in love with him, I decided to step out of the situation. Who am I? I am the different firework on earth! Why do I love a man that people all love?! It is not playing the Leaf Card, which requires four people to play together.”

She talked for a long time but still didn’t talk about Consort Chun at all. Noble Consort Wen and I debunked her ability to tell stories. That provoked Consort Shun and she began to throw shells of sunflower seeds to us. We, while throwing back, shouted as well to show our momentum, as if we were having a fight in battle. 

The result of the fright was Consort Shu, who overrated her ability to fight against us by herself, was defeated by us so badly and complained there was no adequate shells. Thus, she had to go on telling story:  

“Consort Chun always thinks too much of oneself and looks down upon me. When I went to the Eastern Palace, I thought now that we were all bullied by Xu Chanfang, it would be a good idea for us three to play together and look after each other in case of punishment. Therefore, I often invited her and Yaoyao to go to bathroom together. To my surprise, she not only refused me but also criticized me as a rough and ill-bred person. Is she silly?! Every human being has to go to the bathroom! What is rough with it?! If girls don’t go to the bathroom together, how do we develop friendship?!”

“Later I realized it was normal for her to be silly as she was the cousin of the Emperor.”

“Consort Chun was much more courageous than Yaoyao and me, who chose to shut up and allow Xu Chanfang to bully us at her will. We thought that it was useless to revolt because she could bully us due to such a powerful family to depend on. As long as her family was powerful, we could do nothing but tolerate... Plus the dominance of Empress Dowager Renhe, we were always wrong whatever...”

Noble Consort Wen, “Just admit you are timid.”

“Timid? If we were not timid, how could we survive to the accession of the Emperor? Consort Chun was brave enough to continue to call the emperor cousin for two years. Consort pointed two fingers, ‘She lost two kids. One was lost because Xu Chanfang punished her to kneel down for a day and a night given that Xu knew Consort Shu was pregnant... We went to save her but almost brought ourselves down. She lost her baby and hated us as well. To our face, she complained why we didn’t come earlier. I always doubt how her parents breed such a girl who knows nothing about speaking. If Jiale spoke like this, I would be glad to beat her to death.”

“The Third Prince was born on the third year of the accession of the Emperor when the Xu family was losing power. Oh, Wen Yuanyuan, at that time, you entered the Imperial Palace. Did you forget Consort Chun, who refused to talk to you as if she were a fairy even when pregnant?”

Noble Consort Wen recalled the painful past and sat up from the chair out of anger in a indignant face, “She she she she she dared to say me goof around and embroider mess things everyday instead of trying to serve the Emperor well! Messy things! Messy things! She is such a woman with no taste for art! She doesn’t have an elegant hobby and criticize me for goofing around?! Can she distinguish flat embroidery, segment stria embroidery, French Knot and coil needle embroidery?! Ah?! She knows nothing!!! What can she do besides pull a long face, pretending to be cold but not flying to the sky?!”

Enraged Noble Consort Wen was really horrible. I holding a small tablet in arms nodded like a chick while Consort Shu laughed heartily, “You two actually had such a past, ha ha ha ha ha. Alright, don’t stare at me! Then, Yaoyao’s little Chang’an died... And the Emperor intended to let Yaoyao adopt the Third Prince. Since then, Consort Chun became ill from time to time... Alas, the Emperor is a man who never makes but always breaks. He mistakes stupidity for wisdom, thinking Yaoyao would be happy by giving her a child of her child’s age... What a silly man he is. He makes Consort Chun hate Yaoyao, while Yaoyao doesn’t want her child at all! Oh, my! The pair of cousins are in such a silly family.”

I asked, “Does Consort Chun be in good relationship with anyone in the harem?”

Consort Shu shook her head, “You are too ignorant. A fairy doesn’t need friends.”

My fault. I regretted.

Noble Consort Wen finally calmed down, “I really don’t remember she is in good relationship with someone. Speaking of that, the Third Prince is now six years old, right? Do you hear that child speak?”

I said, “No. But that doesn’t mean anything. Jiale also doesn’t speak before outsiders neither!”

Noble Consort Wen, “I don’t care. To me, Consort Chun is a strange psycho.”

Consort Shu, “...Well, I remember Consort Xian once insisted on greeting to her and trying to sit beside her every day for three months, trying to lead her to integrate into the big harem family.”

I, “Then?”

Consort Shu, “She told Consort Xian to be quiet.”

Consort Shu was absolutely a psycho! We could never bear it that someone did criticize Consort Xian, who was the most kind, virtuous, and tolerant lady! 

Notes:

1.Liangliang: is actually Niangniang, the kid can’t speak it clearly.

2.Leaf Card: a kind of game like Mahjong.

3.Liangdi: the highest-level concubine of the crown prince, second to the Crown Princess.

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-29 08:58:56

The imperial consort selection was set to begin in April. The Emperor accepted my proposition to promote all consorts before new girls entered the Palace with alacrity. Then Consort Wen was promoted as Noble Consort Wen, Shuyi Yao as Zhaoyi Yao, Beauty Song as Jieyu Song and Baolin Wang as Beauty Wang. For Consort Xian, Consort Shu and Consort Chun who were not promoted, there were rewards as well. Besides them, the rest consorts were also promoted one to two rates higher. Consorts were all grateful to me as I brought everyone in the harem material benefits ever since my accession.

A conclusion Consort Shu and I came to was that Noble Consort Wen’s father must have saved a great amount of money for the Emperor. Otherwise it was too unscientific for her who was obsessed in embroidering all year, to be granted a stepson and promoted as well considering her rare opportunities to meet the Emperor.

However, Consort Shu told me and Noble Consort Wen cryptically, “It seems that the Emperor doesn’t trust Nanyang Marquis either, otherwise Consort Chun would have become one of the four consorts. Bah, why does he make his daughter enter the palace if he doesn’t trust her family at all?”

The Emperor is an Emperor in the first place.

The imperial consort selection in April was very spectacular, during which ten girls were selected to enter the palace. Six of them were selected by me and four by the Emperor. All of them were from general ministers’ families. Standing side by side, they were like a line of tender scirpus tabernaemontani. Modestly listening to my teaching, they replied “My pleasure, noble Empress” with an atmosphere of beautiful Spring. That reminded me of three years ago when I entered into the palace which was so long ago.

Considering that the arrangement of the new girls’ status, title and housing were serious, I planned to obey to the Emperor’s arrangement. However, the Emperor, after ordering two girls from the south to live in the palace of Consort Chun, passed all things to me and even said shamelessly, “Jioajiao helps me to take charge of the harem. Such a small matter you must be able to handle well”.

Luckily, I had Consort Xian who was enthusiastic in housekeeping behind me. Hearing my seeking for help, she was too excited to say any humble words to cover her fantasy, “Noble Empress, I think it’s no big deal. As to the Emperor’s attitude, he doesn’t care at all. You can follow the custom of the previous two selections.” Noticing my blankness, she reiterated the arrangement before, deciding the status of new beauties in terms of their family, appearance... from the morning to the night when the lamp was lighted. She said all that as fluently as she was reciting, which made me ashamed. Before I had the opportunity to express my admiration, she already handed me the suggestion list of the arrangement of the new girls she had written.

I even felt regretful for Consort Xian, who, with such distinguished talent, had to work under me, such a common and even stupid one. However, what was magic in Consort Xian was that she only wanted to be a steward free from any distractions. She was most grateful after finding that I trusted her so much. She regarded me as the most virtuous Empress in centuries just like the late Empress and thought the dynasty was blessed to have an Empress like me.

These words were not spoken out by her but expressed on her face, which could not be more obvious. Her sincere admiration for me made me afraid of being found out.

The Emperor became busier after the selection of new girls. After a long time’s observation, Consort Shu and I noticed that he visited them one by one in a great balance. Consort Shu whispered in my ear, “It’s difficult to be a Emperor. It seems that he doesn’t like them that much. Such beautiful girls have to end their youth in the complicated harem. It does do great harm to people.”

Since new girls came, it became even more boisterous during the morning and dusk when consorts paid respects to me. Due to lack of enough sleep every morning, I, sitting in the chair in front of them, tried to restrain me from yawning when chatting with them. Filled with weary tears in my eyes, I tried to wear a decorous smile, in case they thought too much if I didn’t smile someday. Later, I realized that was never a good solution, because without enough sleep, one tended to be irritable. Once one became irritable, she would harbor ill ideas, then became an evil person, doing bad things and disturbing the peace of the harem. I would never let such things happen. To maintain the harmony in the harem, I delayed their time to pay respects to me later and later. Finally I even asked them to come after having breakfast.

When I entered the palace, Noble Consort Chen was in high favor with the Emperor, who made the situation to pay respects to her like a battle. Now it was different when I became the Empress. To me, paying respects to me was an occasion where four consorts, who lived comfortably but felt boring, gathered together to chat, play jokes and eat snacks. If I noticed there was some discord between two consorts, I would leave them behind in private, asking them what the wrong with them and persuading them to reconcile. In the script written by Jieyu Song, a capable Empress would establish her dignity and majesty when other consorts paid respects to her, otherwise she would be bullied by them. As for me, no one would bully me and Consort Shu were my best friends, Consort Xian my fan and Consort De a friend of Consort Xian. None of the four consorts would bully me.

I told Jieyu Song to take a good look at the reality and to stop making up, but she retorted:

“You indeed lack dignity. Yesterday, you begged Consort Shu to make Honey Cake made with Rose for you. In every case you have majesty, you will stand up and point you finger at her nose ‘you do what I order you to do. Give you half an hour. If Jieyu Song and I don’t see the cake after half an hour... you know what I’ll do!’ .”

Saying in a gloomy manner, backing me into a corner while speaking together with a distorted face, she succeeded in frightening me out of being a prestigious empress. Consort Shu applause for Jieyu Song’s acting ability. To punish her, all of us ate the cake except for Jieyu Song, who was left looking at us eating. Out of anger, she wrote a new script in which the protagonist was a devil, who has the same name and appearance of Consort Shu. The devil with a wry mouth stilted her head to beat people everyday with the spatula. Before she beat someone, she would always say, “You, in my eyes, is just a dish.” While she told us the story, she played the devil in the script just like an insane person. Consort Shu was enraged to hit the ceiling. Finally, one day, Consort Shu chased after her to beat her on the head with a spatula in hand. How harmonious the harem family was!

Well, there was also dissonant people, among whom Zhaoyi Yao was one. The Emperor freed her from paying respects to me, as she told the Emperor that she was feeling unwell because of pregnancy. Consorts all felt a kind of regret for me. For me, however, I appreciated the rare wisdom of the Emperor, as for Zhaoyi Yao, in my eyes, was a prototype of the word “affectation”, who always said with a long tone with the wriggling of her neck, waist and the playing with her hair, such as “Oops~~, you all see, my sisters~~, dear Empress~~, I’m late~~, the Emperor allows me to get up late, would you be mad at me~~”. Under the organization of Jieyu Song, we imitated Zhaoyi Yao in secret several times but all failed in imitating the essence of her. Consort Shu even twisted her neck. It was better for her not to come, or else I would fear of myself laughing to death.

None of the new beauties won special favor with the Emperor. After promoting several of them casually, the Emperor became cold to them. None of them won favor with him. This year being prosperous, the Emperor with more free time went to the harem more often. Besides me, he also went to visit the Noble Consort, Consort De, Consort Xian and Consort Chun from time to time. However, the most frequently visited was still Zhaoyi Yao. As we expected, he never visited Consort Shu. That made Noble Consort Wen jealous, “Every time he came to see me, I restrain myself from poking the old man with the embroidery needle.”

Zhaoyi Yao gave birth to a princess in August. The Emperor was fantastic and conferred her as Consort Yao. In fact, if it were not for her far less distinguished family, she would possibly be conferred as Noble Consort. Maybe to compensate for her, the Emperor granted the Changle Palace where I lived before to her. Since then, Consort Yao was so elated that she, besides wriggling her waist, neck and playing with her hair, even rolled her eyes when she paid respects to me. Let alone the words she said. As a result, all, from four consorts to Baolin Wang and servants in the harem criticized her one by one till she began to doubt her life. During the next several days, no one greeted her when she paid respects to me. Lately, she  belatedly realized she was isolated. Then she said something to the Emperor and he told me that he freed her from paying respects to me because she needed time to recover due to postpartum disorder. That news enlightened me so much that I opened the storeroom that day to reward with her a ginseng, telling her to take a good rest. Kind and virtuous as I was, the Emperor felt ashamed for me and slept in Weiyang Palace for several nights.

My Changsi and Changyi were aged 1, able to speak and walk. The Emperor loved them very much, held them on his knees to play with them. Most of the time, he would hold me in his arms with both of us holing a child in our arms. Seen from the mirror, we seemed like a happy family. 

However, it was only the surface but not the truth.

I seldom took the children out to hang out, because the tragic memory of the mysterious death of the three children of the late Empress cast a shadow on me, Consort Shu and Noble Consort Wen. People in Weiyang Palace, Yihua Palace and Jinxia Palace were all scrupulous and careful, prohibiting servants to take them out alone. It seemed that we were preventing against burglars.

When thinking, I found it interesting that the Emperor and I seemed like a family, while the complicated harem like my home.

Changsi was taller than his sister and more naughty as well. When Changsi was still crawling, he was able to stand up trembly and toddled like a little duck. The naughty boy even swaggered before his sister on purpose. Seeing that, poor little Changyi stared at her brother for a while, tried to stand up but was still scared. Finally, she burst into crying, at the same time kicking her feet.

That made me overwhelmed with joy. I finally felt what Consort Shu said the interest in bringing up children.

Although Changyi was slow in learning to walk, she was quick in learning to speak. Before she was 1 year old, she was able to call “mummy” and “daddy”, which excited the Emperor and me. Whenever he was free, he would come to hold her in his arms and amuse her to speak. Changsi, however, was slow in learning to speak, uttering loudly “Ah” “Ah” to his father with great pride just like a proud white goose.

I developed a good habit in bringing up the children, that was, whenever Consort Shu made delicate cakes such as Osmanthus Cake with Lotus Root Starch for me, I would sat before the two children, holding a plate in the palm to eat these cakes. I ate them slowly one by one while they would stare at me. In the end, when I finished the last piece and they realized there was none left for them, they would burst out crying. It proved effective every time, which was really hilarious.

The Emperor pinched my face out of anger after accidentally finding the source of my happiness. Every time he left, he would tell me again and again:

“Jiaojiao, be good. Don’t tease with my children.”

His words were in vain.

After Consort Shu found out the interest of me, she cut off the supply of cakes from her with a bright smile. I felt like weeping but had no tears, crying for two months before she became lenient to me. Therefore, I turned over a new leaf to learn to be a good mother.

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-28 10:06:57

In June, the Emperor took Shuyi Yao to the temporary imperial palace to prevent sunstroke.

It began with Shuyi Yao complaining to the Emperor that she had been to nowhere else ever since she entered the palace. Hearing that, the Emperor waved his big hands, deciding to take her to the temporary imperial palace outside the imperial capital to avoid summer heat. They totally forgot the fact that they had already gone hunting together last year.

After their leaving, the harem restored to its lethargic, comfortable and methodical life. I had no idea how many people in the palace hoped such life could be longer, even more longer.

The Fifth Prince began to utter after aged 1 year old. Beauty Song and Baolin Wang tried to teach him to call Consort Wen “mother imperial consort”, while Consort Wen fled in the indistinctly-spoken “mother imperial consort”, cultivating no maternal love towards him. However, to Beauty Song and Baolin Wang’s delight, Consort Wen made two small halter tops for the prince, one with lucky kids holding ornamental carp on the top, while the other with a lion rolling with a colorful ball. Seeing these tops, Beauty Song and Baolin Wang wept with joy, feeling the Fifth Prince be blessed by Heaven and his died mother, Zhaoyi Qing to become Consort Wen’s stepson. 

I was going to give birth in April or May in terms of pregnancy. However, it was until June 15th that the amniotic fluid began to flow. The baby was in no hurry at all. 

Details about my bearing were vague. The only thing I remembered was the great pain. In a trance, I recalled some words I said that day, “Emperor, can you come in to accompany me for a while when I am giving birth. I am a little scared...”

What did he say? Oh, he said, “... I will accompany you until the baby was born and I will accompany you day by day afterwards. Jiaojiao, don’t be afraid, Jiaojiao...”

There was no doubt that I didn’t have to be afraid, because Consort Shu, Consort Wen, Beauty Song and Wang Baolin, even Consort Xian were handling things related to my bearing outside... Ha, it is always difficult for a person to distinguish sincerity and hypocrisy.

Take my words that day for example. Was I able to make it clear whether the Emperor and I were sincere?

Certainly not.

I gave birth to a pair of twins, a boy and a girl. The boy was bigger while the girl smaller. Holding a baby, Consort Shu whispered in my ear, “Little Liu’er, how lucky you are.”

When I woke up, the Emperor was sitting beside me holding my hand, unshaven and gaunt. Seeing me wake up, he didn’t dare to touch me with utmost care, “Jiaojiao, are you awake? Are you awake? Are you still feeling unwell?

Later, I knew I passed out for three days because of weakness and the Emperor, after hearing of my childbearing, hurried back from the temporary imperial palace overnight and looked after me for three nights .

It seemed that he was affectionate to me. Even so, I felt like laughing. What difference did that make? All in all, it could only be concluded in two words: too late. 

The Emperor wholeheartedly accompanied me, combing my hair, feeding me the medicine and holding the babies in front of me to let me see them. During the day, he would go to the Imperial Study to handle national affairs. Sometimes, he even took the babies with him. Once, he, holding the sixth prince in his arms, discussed the flood in Jiangnan with a group of ministers. Whenever the baby cried, he dandled him for a while. He repeated the action again and again. The anecdote even became a wonder at that time.

He thought for a long time for the naming of the Sixth Prince and the Fourth Princess. Later, he named the prince Li Changsi and the princess Li Changyi.

The two names catered to my likeliness. Only Jiale was unhappy, because neither of the two babies were named after her. After discussing, we decided to call Jiajia as Changsi’s nickname and Lele as Changyi’s. In this way, Jiale was satisfied and even shared a bowl of Fish Maw and Ginseng Soup with me. Holding my neck, she said, “You have to love Jiale the most. You can not love my father. Only Jiale is your good friend!”

Appeals for electing the empress were getting even higher. Modest as my grandfather, I won high appeal due to my lineage, children and favor with the Emperor. Candidates included Consort Xian who has a distinguished family as well, Consort Chun and Consort De, who also have sons. For a while, the Imperial Palace was in turmoil. Once, when the Emperor washed feet for me, he asked, “Jiaojiao, how about you being my Empress?”

I said, “Brother Xiu, I don’t know how to be a qualified Empress...”

After the birth of babies, he would not let me call him Emperor but “Brother Xiu”. Disgusted as I was, I had to obey him to call him “Brother Xiu”. Out of joy, he held me to turn around. 

“It’s easy to be the Empress. Nothing will change except that Jiaojiao has to move to Weiyang Palace to live. Hmm. Don’t be afraid.”

Leaning in his arms, I poked his hands with a finger without saying yes or no. Interested by my poking, he tickled me under my armpits. Due to itch which I could never withhold, I struggled in his arms giggling. He also smiled happily, repeating to call me, “Jiaojiao... Jiaojiao...” 

The selection of the Empress was still not settled. Who knew what he really thought, although he said he wanted to select me. While calculating, Consort Shu shook her head and said to me: 

“Consort De is impossible, considering her undistinguished family with her father only a fourth-rank official and her inability. Whether she can be promoted is in doubt. Consort Chun has an eminent father, who is Nanyang marquis and Consort Xian has the Grand General in back... No, Consort Xian has no opportunity, otherwise the Emperor would allow her to adopt the Fifth Prince. Oh, there is Wen Yuanyuna as well, who also has a son. However, in case the Emperor was insane, he would never select her. In this way, consorts left are you, Consort De and Consort Chun. Although the Emperor fears of powerful exterior relatives, he never wants a waning one... Therefore, you are the most suitable, with both prince and princess, a distinguished but not too powerful family, as Taifu Jiang was elderly. Your father and uncle, though capable, were just third-rank officials, requiring a period to become powerful...”

Consort Wen disagreed with her, “The thinking of the old thing is so abnormal. Who knows what he is thinking. Besides, you can’t forget that Nanyang marquis, Consort Shu’s father, is the close uncle of the Emperor. Without him and the elderly prime minister Shen, how could the Emperor whose mother died earlier enter the Eastern Palace and then become the Emperor. The Empress Dowager Renhe could have tortured him to death. After his accession, the prime minister Shen was forced to leave, while Nanyang marquis went through it safely and lived a comfortable life these years as well as Consort Chun. Who knows whether he actually trusts Nanyang marquis the most and keeps him to pave the way for Consort Chun to become the Empress.”

Her analysis seemed plausible with reasons, evidence and great confidence, as if what she was talking was not affairs of state but basic theories of embroider. At the end, she held us in her arms and said, “The son of Consort Chun is the first prince! The first prince! Consider that, is it possible that Consort Chun is the true love of the Emperor and we are all spare tires!”

I was frightened by her words due to limited horizon. Consort Shu twitched her mouth, “... Have you read scripts for story-telling recently?”

Consort Wen said, “Yes. That’s exactly what I read in a script, the one Beauty Song wrote by herself. What’s wrong?”

?! Beauty Song is able to write scripts for story-telling?! How many talents there are in the harem!

Consort Wen still wanted to discuss with us the election of the Empress, while Consort Shu and I were only interested in things related to the script. She argued with us for a while but finally gave in to the Button Soup made by Consort Shu regardless of her dignity. Our argument must be the largest wave in the election of the Empress in the harem.

The selection of the Empress was not settled until the end of the year. The Emperor might be quite annoyed for every time when he came to Changle Palace, he wore a worried brown and told me not to worry. I was ashamed to tell him that recently we were absorbed in Beauty Song’s script, listening to the Emperor in her script being deceived, beaten and cheated on and enjoyed ourselves.

The New Year was bustling. Shuyi Yao didn’t dance this year, because she was pregnant. Sitting beside me, the Emperor kissed my temple from time to time, while at the same time he frequently glanced at Shuyi Yao. His behavior made me worry about him being schizophrenic. As the Emperor neither left earlier nor did anyone else, we didn’t have the opportunity to talk about homelands and families freely or toast the banquet, which was really disappointing. At the end of the banquet, I even heard a young servant murmur, “So boring this year. It’s a rare opportunity to see all consorts. I also have several jokes to share with Noble Consort. She will certainly like these jokes...”  

I wanted to hold her hand and shout “Come on. Tell me the jokes. I want to listen” but was taken away by the Emperor. This year, the Emperor’s behavior was very uncommon, inviting me and Shuyi Yao at the same time to watch the fireworks. Glancing at each other in confusion, we saw the same doubts in each other’s eyes: why are you here? Why am I here?

If we say two people enjoying fireworks together is cozy, then three together is a disaster. During the half of the fireworks, Shuyi Yao began to flirt with the Emperor and he, in return, made out with her. The fireworks were so beautiful, but I was the only one among us to appreciate that. It was absolutely a reckless waste of grain. At the end of the fireworks, Shuyi Yao was still leaning in the arms of the Emperor. I saluted formally to him and went back to Changle Palace. 

The Emperor was such kind of a man that would leave when you needed him and wanted to stay when you didn’t need him anymore. No wonder Consort Shu and Consort Wen always spoke ill of him behind his back. The minute I lay on the bed after getting changed, he came over. I pretended to be sleeping. Then he changed his clothes by himself and crawled into bed, repeating, “Jiaojiao, why didn’t you wait for me? Are you angry? Jiaojiao, don’t be mad at me.” I was annoyed by his bothering and said casually, “Let me have a nice sleep, Your Majesty. Once I wake up, I will not be mad anymore.”  

The next day when we were awake, he turned me over and kissed me on the mouth, “Jiaojiao, you said you would not be mad anymore after you wake up.” 

That made me feel like to laugh out. However, I just returned his kiss on his mouth and said, “Hmm. Not mad anymore”.

For a while he was stunned. After he returned to his mind, he held me to turn around out of fantasy. Holding me in his arms with his eyes looking at me into the eye, he asked, “You say, Jiaojiao, you say you are not angry anymore!”

I replied, “Hmm.”

He smiled as ignorant as a child. I stretched my hand to touch his temple for the first time. Twelve years older than me, he was just 29 years old after the new year. However, there were already several strands of white hair on his head. 

He is pathetic. I said to myself, he is detestable but pathetic.

He spent a cozy and happy Spring Festival with me and our children. He also painted a picture for us, in which I was holding a child with her head on my shoulder picking flowers back towards us, while the other child leaned on the table gazing at me.

Before he had the opportunity to ask whether I like the panting or not, he was asked to pay a visit to Shuyi Yao because of her stomachache. As soon as he left, I ordered a servant to invite Consort Shu and Consort Wen together with their children to come over to play. There was some progress made in Beauty Song’s script. She wrote several more chapters. While we were listening to the story, we snacked on sunflower seeds, leaving the floor full of shells of sunflower seeds all over.

As the new year began, the palace began to recruit new Beauties. Before the recruitment, the Emperor conferred on me the step-empress.

In the third year of my entering the palace, I was conferred on the step-empress. The coronation ceremony was grand and complicated, making me tired and unhappy. However, I was pleased to move to Weiyang Palace from Changle Palace with the children. I even didn’t change the furniture of Weiyang Palace, because I really liked and missed the late empress. I didn’t want to change the palace she had lived, lest she could not identify it if one day she came to visit me with her children. 

I said the above words to Consort Shu. She asked me whether I was scared? I said there was nothing to be afraid, because I sincerely wished that she could reunite with her children in the heaven and could come to see me and my children. She would pray for us. Considering her gentleness, her soul must be the most gentle as well.

Notes:

1. The Emperor named the Sixth Prince Li Changsi (李长思in Chinese) and the Fourth Princess Li Changyi (李长忆in Chinese): the Emperor might be inspired by the poem “Autumn Wind Tune” (秋风词in Chinese) written by Li Bai. The following is the whole poem and the translated version of Hsing Chou:

秋风词 

Autumn Wind Tune

秋风清,

Autumn wind is fresh,

秋月明,

Autumn moon is bright,

落叶聚还散,

Falling leaves gathered and scattered,

寒鸦栖复惊。

Trembling crows perched and startled.

相思相见知何日? 

Don’t know when we will meet and be intimate again?

此时此夜难为情! 

Tonight at this moment I won’t be able to express my feelings!


入我相思门, 

If you entered my deep mood of longing,

知我相思苦。

You would understand my suffering for yearning.

长相思兮长相忆,

Long yearning recalls long memories,

短相思兮无尽极。 

Short yearning has no end.

早知如此绊人心, 

If I knew my thought of you would be like this so tangled,

何如当初莫相识。 

Wouldn’t it be better we had never acquainted.

2. The first prince: who is very precious, only second to the crown prince in the Imperial Palace.

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-28 10:03:49

It was the Mid-Autumn Festival when Consort Xian who was still in charge of the harem affairs held a vivid and dramatic mid-autumn banquet. The court was discussing the selection of the Empress. Devoting herself to tending the harem, Consort Xian was qualified to be the Empress in every aspect. However, childlessness deprived her of the opportunity to be the Empress. To this point, I felt sorry for her.

The Emperor was enjoying the song and dance while most consorts was staring at him and I was eating grapefruit happily. Consort Shu was in a daze, while Consort Wen full of despair on her face with the Fifth Prince had got to sit beside Consort Chun with the Third Prince. All she conveyed all over her was “taking away the child”. 

By the time I returned to my mind, the Emperor had already asked a dancer to come up. I glanced at her and found the face very familiar. The face, though charming, lacked a bit of disillusioned immortal temperament. Although she looked like the late Empress, I would never mistake her for the deceased Empress, because her temperament was totally different from that of the Empress. 

On August 16th, there was one more Beauty in the imperial palace— Beauty Yao.

Consort Shu and Consort Wen broke several cups and scolded, “Bah! Old thing, it’s his freedom to like anyone. But why does he choose the word ‘Yao’ as her title? Who does he want to disgust?”

I also felt very disgusted. But I was really feeling nausea and vomited all over the floor. I was pregnant, the imperial physician told me.

After the news was disseminated, Consort Xian was the first to visit me, bringing me many things and telling me to nourish the fetus with great care. Consort Shu told me that Consort Xian was really virtuous and kind, taking happy events of the imperial house as her own happiness, loss of the imperial house as her own pain ever since in the Eastern Palace (where the crown prince usually lived). Consort Shu emphasized that Consort Xian was genuine and sincere with no hypocrisy and thought there must be something wrong with her.

The Emperor didn’t come to see me until ten days later. He was accompanying Beauty Yao, no, Shuyi Yao now, during the past ten days. From Beauty to Shuyi in just ten days, Shuyi Yao must be a legend in the harem.

At a dusk in late August, the Emperor finally came to Orchid Fragrance Pavilion. The two osmanthus trees outside the door emitted a charming sweet-scented fragrance in the autumn wind.

Seeing his coming, I saluted to him formally without looking up, “Wish you well, my Emperor.”

When he approached to hold my hand, I withdrew intentionally. With my head down, I invited him to sit down, served him tea and answered his questions all in a polite and formal manner. Finally, just as I expected, panic came upon his face. He held me closely and said trembly:

“Jiaojiao, Jiaojiao, don’t be mad at me. Don’t be mad at me. It is my fault. I didn’t come to see you these days. I promise, I will never do this again. I will never do this again...”

He spitted out these whispers in tremble. I knew every word he said was sincere. However, the more sincere it was, the more ridiculous it seemed to me. I leaned my head on his shoulder with tears dropping and clenched my teeth to prevent me from crying aloud. He held my face in his hands and soothed me gently with the repeated words, “Don’t cry, Jiaojiao.”

The next day, I was promoted as Noble Consort Wan and rewarded with Changle Palace to live.

Consort Shu came to help me pack up to move. When I was going to leave, glancing backward at the palace in which I lived for more than a year brought forth the feeling that I had lived here for many years.  

It is true that entering the imperial palace is similar to falling into a deep sea.

I pulled the sleeves of Consort Shu, refusing to leave and the Third Princess pulled mine to make me stay. Looking at the scene, Consort Shu didn’t know whether to cry or laugh and said, “When a girl grows up, she has to live alone sooner or later, doesn’t she? Alright, I will go to see you every day.”

I asked, “Can you still make brewed quail eggs in wine for me?”

The third princess nodded after me, “Don’t forget my share.”

Consort Shu said nothing.

The Emperor took special care of my pregnancy, rewarding me with many things and distributing me a very capable senior servant in charge of things. Under the guidance of the servant, the whole Changle Palace was as closed as a metal pail, allowing for no neglects. Even so, Consort Shu was still worried about me.

She and Consort Wen took over everything in my daily life including what I eat and wear. Beauty Song and Baolin Wang learned a lesson from taking care of Zhaoyi Qing. They still didn’t get over the scare from Zhaoyi Qing’s dystocia and urged me to move around frequently every day.

In October, the Emperor took Shuyi Yao to go hunting. It was certainly great glory as she was the only one consort being taken. Once they left, the harem became a horse without bridle. Consort Shu cooked by herself and drank to the morning with Consort Wen. Drunk, hand in hand, they came to Changle Palace. One taught me to embroider in person and the other talked about taking me to the west of Liaozhou with a finger curled underneath my chin. I pouted and wept because of anger as I missed the occasion to drink all night due to pregnancy, rendering the whole Changle Palace in chaos. They had no choice but tried to pacify me. Finally, Consort Wen forced me to accept a embroider stretch with 12-colored embroider lines. Consort Shu promised me to take me to the west of Liaozhou to compete with her in horse riding. They also promised to allow me scold them when they were sober. Given all that, I eventually calmed down.

After I became the Noble Consort, top in the four consorts, it became inappropriate for Consort Xian to continue managing the harem affairs. That is why as soon as I moved into Changle Palace, Consort Shu came humbly and modestly to talk about giving the token to me. That really bothered me, making me even want to hit the wall, because I had no interest in taking charge of messy affairs at all. To persuade Consort Xian to continue managing those tiresome affairs, I flattered her for a long time, saying her management is number one in the whole harem and no one can compare with her. Touched by my words, she burst into tears out of gratitude and said that she would try her best to manage the harem to ensure nothing goes wrong to live up to my trust...  

At that point we realized that Consort Shu loves cooking, Wen loves embroidering, while Consort Xian... loves housekeeping?!

No wonder she was so respectful to the former Empress and was as sorrowful as us when she passed away so that she cried at the top of her lungs. Was all that for being well understood and treated?!

When the Emperor was absent, I nourished the fetus at ease with Consort Shu making various nutritious food for me and Consort Wen making clothes for me and the expectant child, including clothes for both boys and girls. Beauty Song and Baolin Wang transcribed a roll of Buddhist scriptures every day to pry for my child, while the Third Princess was, uh, busy in naming the child, such as Li Jiayan and Li Xile. All in all, the name of the child must have one word in common with hers.

Consort Xian managed various affairs in the harem and by the way cared whether there was enough pen and ink for the Third Prince to study, whether the Fourth Prince and the Fifth Prince had enough milk to drink... Every two days she would come over to report to me and showed care about my body. In a word, she was busy but happy as well.

Consort Xian told me in secret that it would be a good thing if the Emperor kept playing outside and never came back. 

However, the Emperor finally came back and brought me back two little rabbits, which reminded me of the late two rabbits he gave me before that were threw onto the stone by Noble Consort Chen at that time and died in front of me. Ironically, she became a nun in Fulong Temple, while I became a noble consort.

The Emperor asked me to hold a rabbit to portray a picture for me. The girl in the picture with her head down was stroking the rabbit. The hair before her profile made it difficult for me to see her face clearly. The only thing I could feel was that she was really gentle.

The lady in the picture didn’t look like me at all. Touching the rabbit, I thought that Taro Rabbit was so delicious but I couldn’t eat due to pregnancy. Cry, cry, cry. Where did the gentle expression come from?

The Emperor held my hand and asked, “Jiaojiao, is she like you? Hmm?” Holding my hand, he wrote a poem on the picture:

To fix my dust with yours were my dear vows.

While smiling, I thought to myself, detestable as the Emperor was, he was somewhat pathetic.

The New Year this time was quite lively because Consort Xian prepared everything properly. However, Shuyi Yao proposed to dance for us, which made everyone gaze at one another— being at a loss what to do. Under the management of the late Empress and Consort Xian, consorts only by doing what they had to do could receive due treatment without taking great pains. As the Emperor somewhat took every consort into account, even those junior consorts lived comfortably, consorts therefore had no intense motive for fighting for the affections of the Emperor, leaving all senior consorts still alive most Buddha-like with a casual and calm mindset. The whole harem hadn’t seen such occasion where a consort obviously used her ingenuity to win the Emperor’s favor for a long time. Everyone was stunned by the scene.

Did the harem become so cruel for survival that we had to prepare a show for every single festival?!

After Shuyi Yao in thin gauze clothing finished her dancing named Flying to the Moon, the Emperor held her in his arms and left together, leaving the rest consorts look at me in eager. I glanced at Consort Xian, Consort De and Consort Shu, only to find them in confusion. Having no other choices, I cleared my throat, pretending to be calm and said, “The Emperor must be worried about Shuyi Yao’s warmth. In such a cold day, she danced regardless of her health. I am also concerned about her health, least she suffers from scapulohumeral periarthritis with aging. It’s a good thing to put on more clothes. Have you all worn warm clothes?”

Still in confusion, they all answered that they dressed warmly.

Then I said, “It’s not a easy thing for Consort Xian to arrange such a grand New Year’s Eve banquet. Considering there is nothing urgent to do, let’s continue to enjoy the banquet. Ah, you can leave if you have things to handle. If not, you can continue eating here.”

Hearing my words, consort was so touched by my understanding that she burst in to tears. Consort De who was in a good relationship with her also said, “Noble Consort is certainly the example of beauty and morality”.

Everyone enjoyed themselves in the banquet. Due to the Emperor’s absence, I urged them to help themselves at ease. Finally, the banquet became a kind of forum where everyone recalled and shared the local customs of their homelands with others while eating and drinking. At the end, everyone joined me in a toast before leaving. Everyone had a great time. From then on, whenever everyone talked of Noble Consort Wan, they would say she is as kind and unassuming as the late Empress.  

The Emperor kept Shuyi Yao in Yongan Palace with him till the 15th day of the 1st month in the Lunar New Year. It originally didn’t matter that Shuyi Yao was in favor with the Emperor. However, since she was in high favor with the Emperor, she began to show off everywhere and find fault with other consorts and even bullied them. Once, when Beauty Song and Baolin Wang came from Jinxia Palace to visit me, they came across Shuyi Yao and were made to knee down for half an hour until Consort Wen came and rescued them. To make things worse, Shuyi Yao went to complain to the Emperor, resulting in the punishment of deduction of salaries of all the three consorts in Jinxia Palace.

I had no idea what the late Empress would do in such situation if she had been alive. As for me, I chose to play the song Phoenix Courtship while being served by the senior servant he rewarded me with. She served me very thoughtfully, considering that I seldom ordered her to serve me.

When the Emperor came to see me, he worn a look of shame. There was no need to throw a tantrum. The only thing I needed to do was to smile, salute, and answer in a cold manner. That would certainly drive him crazy. He held me in his arms, trying to pacify me with good words. This time, I chose to ignore him and engrossed in playing the song. After the song, he held me closely in his arms and said, “Jiaojiao, I beg you. Please smile. You make me panic.” 

I dodged him, refusing to look at him and asked, “Emperor, can you come in to accompany me for a while when I am giving birth. I am a little scared... Zhaoyi Qing...”

He was finally frightened out, “Don’t think about Zhaoyi Qing! I will accompany you till the baby is born and I will accompany you day by day afterwards. Jiaojiao, don’t be afraid, Jiaojiao...”

He began to come to accompany me every day. I had to admit that as long as he wants, he could be the most gentle husband in the world.

Shuyi Yao came to ask the Emperor to accompany her several times. However, I was not afraid, because I didn’t want the Emperor to accompany me every day. The only thing I wanted to do was when Shuyi Yao overdid, I played the song Phoenix Courtship in the palace with the service of the senior servant whom he rewarded me with and stood against the wind for a while. Standing too long may be harmful to the baby. Normally, the Emperor would come to see me with rewards the next day.

When I talked of that, Consort Shu spat, “Bah, I even feel tired for him.”

Just now, Consort Wen fed me a piece of Mapo Tofu (sauteed tofu in hot and spicy sauce) and Consort Su fed me a spoon of Deep-fried Peanuts Pickled in Vinegar. I had no idea what was going on. Who knew what it was in my womb since I loved both sour and spicy food after my pregnancy.

Consort Shu told me not to think too much and to nourish the fetus with utmost care until I gave birth to the baby safely.

Consort Wen told me that they were all fine and all they wished was my safety.

I replied, “OK.”

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-27 09:17:45

On New Year's Eve, the Empress was unable to stand up for her poor health. Consort Xian arranged the imperial banquet wonderfully, but we were absent-minded. After the imperial banquet, we returned to Yihua Palace and I almost fell asleep. The Emperor suddenly rushed into the inner hall with a cold chill and grabbed me. He looked angry and held me for a long time without talking. After seeing that, I was cold and shocked. I didn't dare to move in his arms and could only see the fresh beard on his chin.

After a while, he backed to normal and said to me with a smile, "Jiaojiao, Brother Xiu will take you to see something good."

He personally changed me into a light cyan dress and put on the big red fox fur cape he brought me and took me to watch the fireworks by the lake in the Imperial Garden. The fireworks were beautiful and fabulous. He hugged me from the back and kissed my cheek. I heard him say softly, "Jiaojiao, this is a new year and we will have a new beginning."

I leaned in his arms and pretended not to hear him, "Emperor, the fireworks are so beautiful."

The fireworks are beautiful, but they are a flash in the pan.

The world is full of glory but a nine days' wonder.

That night I did not return to Yihua Palace and went to Yong'an Palace with the Emperor. The Emperor kept me until the Lantern Festival. He accompanied me to play chess, pick flowers and write poems. He told me stories and sang lullabies to coax me to sleep. I wrote poems in his arms again and again:

My forehead covered by my hair cut straight,

I played with flowers pluck’d before the gate.

On a hobby-horse you came on the scene,

Around the well we played with mumes still green.

We lived, close neighbors on Riverside lane.

Carefree and innocent, we children twain.

I was forteen when I became your young bride,

I’d often turn my bashful face aside,

Hanging my head, I’d look towards the wall,

A thousand times I’d not answer your call.

I was fifteen when I composed my brows,

To fix my dust with yours were my dear vows.

Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die.

Who knew I’d live alone in a tower high?

I really wanted to ask the Emperor, why didn’t you write the next part? But I said nothing.

I didn't say, "Emperor, I know that you came to me on New Year's Eve because you couldn't enter Weiyang Palace."

People in the palace said that I-- the favored consort was too unaware of convergence, but the Empress didn't care. She rewarded me with a lot of things and said that I worked hard for serving the Emperor.

Serving the Emperor is not hard, but missing the delicious food made by Consort Shu is really hard for me.

After the New Year, the Empress got sicker. In February, the Empress could not get up and was lying in bed in a coma. She spent less time awake every day. We stayed with her all day, fed her medicine and told her funny stories, but the Empress couldn't even smile at us.

The Emperor seemed to be particularly busy during this period of time and didn’t step into the harem once. I didn’t know how many memorials were in the Xuanzheng Hall and had no idea how could the medicine smell from Weiyang Palace float to Yong'an Palace?

Yunv Chen copied a lot of Buddhist scriptures for the Empress. Consort Shu and Zhaoyi Wen moved to live in Weiyang Palace and they took turns sleeping on the cot beside the Empress's bed. Both the Third Princess and I were scared. We cried secretly every day and then said something encourage in front of the Empress's bed. We did this day after day and just hoped that she could suddenly say, "Two little sparrows, come here, shall I tell you a story about a little sparrow?"

On the night of the Flower Fairy Festival, the imperial doctor said that the Empress was about to die. We sat around the Empress's bed and gritted our teeth and cried. When the firecracker exploded around 11pm, the Empress suddenly opened her eyes, grabbed Consort Shu and shouted, "Mum, Mum, Jiaojiao wants to go home. Dad makes kites for Jiaojiao..."

We didn't dare to move. The Empress forgot everything. She didn't remember us, didn't remember that she was in the palace and didn’t remember her disappointed husband and her dead children. She only remembered her old parents who were thousands of miles away and shouted again and again:

"Mum, Dad, Jiaoliao wants to go  home..."

The Empress died before her 25th birthday. At the age of 14, she married the Emperor who was still Chu Wang and became the Princess Consort Chu. At the age of 16, she became the Crown Princess Consort and gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, but her son soon died. After the 20-year-old Emperor ascended to the throne, she became the Empress and lost her daughter six months later. She had her little son at the age of 21, but her little son was also gone when she was 23 years old. Her grandfather died suddenly and then his family left the capital. She had been sick since then and died before her 25th birthday.

The Emperor was seriously ill and almost coughed to death. Consort Shu was also seriously ill and had a bad cough. I was running between Yihua Palace and Yong'an Palace. One day, when I was at a loss, I covered my mouth and silently cried in a low cough. My makeup was massed up and my hair was in a mess, at this time, I looked like a ghost.

Yunv Chen asked to be a nun at the Fulong Temple to pray for the Empress. When Zhaoyi Wen and I went to send her, she was pale and said to us, "I beg your pardon for the past things. Now... there is nothing to say now. I will pray for you at Fulong Temple and I hope you will be safe in the palace."

After the Emperor was recovered, he titled the dead Empress as "Empress Minhui", Consort Shu and Zhaoyi Wen felt that the posthumous title was too vulgar and scolded him for several days.

I also wanted to scold him, but I was not free. I had to accompany the Emperor in Yong'an Palace and listened him call me "Jiaojiao" to beg me to play the Phoenix Courtship for him.

After the Empress died, the atmosphere in the palace was very bad, because the Emperor was not happy. Consort Xian, Consort Shu, Zhaoyi Wen and I were also not happy. Consort Chun didn't talk much. Consort Zheng stayed indoors for her pregnancy and Jieyu Qing also stayed in the bed for nourishing her fetus. Since a little Yunv and her close maid talked and joked in the Imperial Garden and then the Emperor directly punished them to the cold palace, there was no laughter in the palace. In spring, full of flowers, it was sorrowful in the palace and everyone was immersed in the grief of the Empress's early death.

To a great extent, this grief is sincere. The Empress is really good. She is fair and loving and treats every consort very well. Those consorts that the Emperor could not remember were sliced up by anyone in the former, but the Empress never forgot anyone of them and never shortchanged their materials. There were also unjust cases, but the Empress never listened to only one side and ignored anyone's life. Many low-rank consorts lived a peaceful life not because of the emperor, but the Empress.

Until May, Consort Zheng and Jieyu Qing gave birth to prince one after one.

After ascending to the throne for five years, the Emperor had few children. There were only the Third Prince and Third Princess alive. Now there were two more princes. The Emperor was very happy, and he finally remembered that Consort Zheng was his favorite consort before I entered the palace. Then he went to accompany her every day and also promoted her to Consort De.

Jieyu Qing... Jieyu Qing was promoted to Zhaoyi, but everyone knew that she was not in good condition. When she was pregnant, she was in a state of anxiety in Jingming Palace and thought too much. Her health was not good before and the people around Noble Consort Chen only cared about the baby in her belly, so they only gave her food supplements every day and did not allow her to stretch her legs. After that, the fetus was physically big but the mother was weak and it took three days to give birth, so she was going to die when the baby was born safely.

In view of entering the palace together, I went to see her and she was surrounded by Beauty Song and Baolin Wang-- both of them entered the palace together with me, and they were favored earlier than me! But after one year, I almost forgot their appearances.

The three of them apparently had good relationships like sisters. Beauty Song and Baolin Wang both had swollen eyes. They knelt down and begged me, "Xiuyi Wan, please tell the Emperor to let him come to see Sister Yang. After all, Sister Yang gave birth to a prince!"

I talked to Consort Shu about it, and she said, "You are really like Yaoyao! Love meddling in other people's affairs! Forget it, and you can talk to the Emperor when he comes. You ask me how to say? Well, just act like a puppy when you are begging me to make you the Yan Du Xian soup."

Pooh! I am not a puppy!

The Emperor called me the next day. I pulled his sleeves and smiled at him. When he fed me with lotus cake, I laughed. I also kept smiling when he played chess with me. He was curious, so he hugged me in the arms and touched my face by his new stubble, "What does my little bad girl want?"

I muttered and mumbled, so it took a long time for me to tell him about Qing Zhaoyi. The Emperor got angry when he heard it and dropped the cups on the table,

"You asked me to see other women?! Huh? You asked me to see others?!"

You selected those women into the palace, but now I asked you to see them, you got mad at me. You were really a crazy guy!

I really wanted to point at his nose and scolded him, but I didn't dare, I was so aggrieved and couldn't help crying, "If you don't want to go, just don't go, why do you scold me?!" I was bad at quarreling, and if I cry, I was even messier to say, and just said in a sore, "You have been to see Consort De for the past seven days! I just feel that Zhaoyi Qing is very pitiful. You don't even visit her once after she gave birth to your baby with an unhealthy body. She is so pitiful! Pitiful! If I am like her, I will be scared..."

The Emperor held me tightly in his arms, bowed his head and kissed my tears, my horns and my forehead. He said in my ear over and over again, " Jiaojiao, stop crying, it' my fault, it' my fault, and I am supposed to see you earlier. It' my fault, you can rest assured that you and our children will be good, you will be good..."

He looked like that he was swearing to me word by word.

That night, he was very gentle on the bed and whispered besides my ear, "Jiaojiao, you have to born a child with Brother Xiu-- no, three children, two sons and a daughter, I will teach our son riding and archery and make a kite for our daughter!"

In the end, he took a glance at Zhaoyi Qing. Beauty Song and Baolin Wang were grateful to me for this and they looked at me as if I was the Chinese Goddess of Mercy.

In June, Zhaoyi Qing died and the Emperor had no response. Consort Xian made her funeral affairs in a good manner, but as Consort Shu said, it was no use.

After Zhaoyi Qing died, the whereabouts of the Fifth Prince became a problem. Among the high-level consorts, Consort Shu had the Third Princess, Consort Chun had the Third Prince and Consort De had the Fourth Prince. Consort Xian, Zhaoyi Wen and I had no children, so Consort Shu was gloating, "Just wait and see, Wen Yuanyuan is going to raise a child for the Emperor, hahahahaha!"

I asked why, Consort Shu said, "Consort Xian is the daughter of General Lin. The Lin family built up a fortune by Imperial Tutor at first... there were the Xu Family, the Chen Family and the Shen Family before, three Families have higher level than them. But Now, the Lin Family has the strongest power in the imperial court, so the Emperor will not let her have children. As for you, the Emperor may want you to have your own baby. Wen Yuanyuan's father is the Emperor's loyal official, so the Emperor is willing to have a child with her, but Wen Yuanyuan can't have children! So he can only give her a child and the Ministry of Revenue will be moved to tears of gratitude for the Emperor and will desperately save money for him!"

Sure enough, on the next day, the Emperor issued an imperial edit that Zhaoyi Wen was promoted to Consort Wen, moved to Jinxia Palace and adopted the Fifth Prince. Consort Wen was so angry that she smashed the decorations of Yihua Palace.

Consort Shu was so distressed that she couldn't say a word while pointing at Consort Wen. I shouted to Consort Wen as I comforted Consort Shu, "Niangniang! That red coral tree was given by the Empress!"

Consort Wen put the red coral tree back and reached out to touch it for comfort.

"I don't want to raise a child! Raising a child is terrible! I can't continue to embroider if I raise a child! I just got a new flower design the day before yesterday! I also want to embroider twelve tapestry portraits of sister Yaoyao! I don't want to raise a child for the Emperor. He raises his own children! "

Consort Wen cried hardly, others would assume that the Emperor died if they didn't know the truth. After comforting her for a long time, Consort Wen still refused to return to Jinxia Palace and cursed the Emperor from the body to the soul with Consort Shu. In the end, I came up with an idea, "Oh, yes, Beauty Song and Baolin Wang have quite a intimidate relation with Zhaoyi Qing, why not ask one of them to live in Jinxia Palace to help you raise the child?"

Consort Wen was overjoyed and praised me for my wisdom. Consort Shu rolled up her sleeves to make me char-grilled pork neck and mushroom and shrimp soup with mushrooms and bamboo shoots to encourage me.

Beauty Song and Baolin Wang both lived in Jinxia Palace. Both of them came to Yihua Palace to kowtow at my feet sincerely. They both loved the Fifth Prince and took good care of him. Consort Wen did not look after him for a day but got a promotion. She was very embarrassed for this, so she had to make a suit for Beauty Song and Baolin Lin, which made them shocked.

We looked at it aside, and found that Beauty Song and Baolin Wang were both very dutiful and righteous. Therefore, when we visited each other, we took them together and slowly became familiar.

Notes:

1.Minhui: Smart.

2.De: Virtue.

3.Flower Fairy Festival: Birthday of all flowers celebrated on the 12th February of lunar calendar.

4.Yan Du Xian Soup: Young bamboo shoots, chunks of pork belly, cured pork slices, firm tofu sheets and premium yellow rice wine, are put together in one clay pot for hours of simmering.

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-27 09:15:00

We couldn't stop the Empress. She walked to Yong'an Palace under the rain. Consort Shu and I wanted to follow her, but embroidery enthusiast Zhaoyi Wen disagreed with us, "Ah Rou, you are crazy, don't you know that the bastard Emperor doesn't like you? Forget it, you take Liu'er back and I'll go to have a look."

We went back to Yihua Palace first. I asked Consort Shu why the Emperor didn't like her, and she proudly shook her legs, "Because I exposed him when he was hypocritically acting in front of me, hahahaha. At that time, he just ascended the throne and the First Princess was just died, but he was still holding the imperial consort selection. He pretended to thank me for taking care of Yaoyao for him in tears. I said, bah, he overthought it, I take care of Yaoyao not because of him. I have a good relation with Yaoyao, what does it matter to him? He doesn't care about the life or death of the First Princess. I was so happy to say that, and he almost died of angry. Hahahaha."

Consort Shu laughed her head off, as if she was really happy and I asked her, how was she so brave? She said, "Six generations of my Zhou family are loyal to guard the west of Liaozhou for him. How many good guys of the family lost their lives for him? My father has four brothers, now only my third uncle and my father are alive, while two of my five brothers are dead... As long as I don't look for trouble, he shall not embarrass me. It was just a slip of the tongue because of anxiety, he punished me by stopping my bonus for three months-- he didn't like me at first, now he just ignores me, it's fine. He needs my father and brothers, so he gave me a high title to comfort them; but he also keeps an eye on my father and brothers, so he will not spoil me too much, and not to mention having a son with me, in case my father and brothers usurping the throne. I am now one of the Four Consorts but live like a shadow. He is very satisfied."

Consort Shu threw a piece of apricot kernel crisp into her mouth and stuffed another piece into my mouth, but the crisp was too big to chew. Consort Shu hugged me and laughed, "Liu'er, you really look like a little squirrel with your mouth stuffed."

I rolled my eyes, swallowed the apricot kernel crisp and asked, "What if the Empress gets wet from the rain? Will the Emperor bully her?"

Consort Shu rubbed my head, "Don't worry, she will be fine tonight. Yaoyao is too stupid and was exactly the same as you before. She is silly, likes to eat and play and is always smiling and laughing. I just married into the Eastern Palace from the weat of Liaozhou. When I first paid my visit to the Crown Princess, she gave me a handful of sunflower seeds. We also catched fish secretly together and Liangdi Xu reported us. The Empress (later was the Express Dowager Renhe) who died later is Liangdi Xu's aunt. The old woman was pretty bad! We were punished for copying books together, oops. At midnight, the Emperor (he was still the Crown Prince) came in through the window and apologized to Yaoyao. Yaoyao ignored him and he begged shamelessly, pulling her sleeves and dangling... Oops, I secretly envied them then! However later…"

Her voice weakened a little with a vague sob, "... Later Yaoyao gave birth to a boy and girl twins. The girl was named Changle and the boy was Changping. We were only happy for three days, and then Express Dowager Renhe and Langdi Xu snatched Changping from my arms! They took away her from my arms! I was good at fighting, but I, but I... I'm sorry to Yaoyao... I'm sorry to Yaoyao... I went to the Crown Prince and begged him. I knelt down on the ground for a long time and got the knee problem at that time. But the Xu family was dominating at that time... Three months later, Liangdi Xu was also pregnant and we thought we could take Changping back, but Changping was suddenly gone... They said that Princess Consort Zhao stifled her to death... Ah, ah, Liu'er, you have no idea, Yaoyao and I cried until no more tears to shed... We all know it's not Princess Consort Zhao, but we couldn’t do anything! The Crown Prince needed the Xu family at that time and also wanted to defeat Zhao Wang. In this way, Zhao Wang was demoted to guard the Emperor's Tomb. Liangdi Xu gave birth to a daughter, and Yaoyao's Changping was gone… If there wasn't Changle, she wouldn't get though it..."

She tilted her head up slightly and I leaned on her shoulders. Her body trembled slightly but her voice was hollow, "Xu Chanfang's daughter is the most favored in the Eastern Palace and she is very domineering at a young age. As a three-year-old child, she would be in a uproar when she saw the Crown Prince hug Changle... Jiale is two years younger than her. Her dad never remembered this daughter. That's good, I thought Jiale could grow up with Changle, the two of them also had a very good relation. They always sat down playing puppets quietly... Then Changle was gone... Xu Chanfang's daughter pushed her into the lake of the Imperial Garden... "

The cool wind blew in, the candle shadows swayed and the rain outside the window was incessant, as if a fragmented Phoenix Courtship.

On September 16th, the Lord Protector, his whole Chen family were exterminated. The Imperial Noble Consort Chen was degraded to Yunv and moved to Zaisi Palace.

The Empress had a cold last night and could not breathe because of coughing. When we arrived at Weiyang Palace early in the morning, we saw that the Emperor was here holding the medicine bowl and standing aside with his head down, and he looked helpless. The Empress didn’t even look at him, nor was she as intimate as she always was to us, "The Emperor should deal with state affairs."

The Emperor didn't tell us to stand up, and we all kept kneeling down. It was really uncomfortable to keel on the ground. I really hoped that the Emperor hurried away, but I secretly raised my eyelid to look at him and saw that the Emperor didn't intend to leave. He stayed still and said, "Do you feel better after drinking this medicine?"

The Empress stayed still like a mountain, "National affairs are the most important thing and the imperial doctors will take care of me, so Your Majesty does not need to worry." Her voice was so pleasant and lonely while the Emperor lingered for a long time before he put the bowl down, "Then I will come at night."

The Emperor went out and didn't even look at us kneeling on the ground. We didn't care much. As soon as he left, Consort Shu rushed to shake the Empress angrily, "I heard that you protected Chen Cairong? Huh? I heard that you bowed down and begged the Emperor to protect Chen Cairong who bullied me for so long?!"

She grabbed the Empress's shoulders and shook it back and forth. The Empress was out of breath with laughter and I pulled Consort Shu and shouted, "Niangniang, take it easy! The Empress is not feeling good!"

The Empress smiled for a long time before she explained to Consort Shu, "Ah Rou, Chen Cairong is not a bad person. She is domineering and unreasonable, but she is not like this from the beginning." the Empress shook her head and she was so beautiful when frowning slightly, "She was pampered step by step, and she was deceived... It isn't Chen Cairong who bullied you, and it is... that person. She was like a fool as me. The fox mourns for the death of the hare, all things are sorry for their own kind, Ah Rou..."

Consort Shu hugged the Empress angrily and rumpled her clothes, "Alright, but you have to make sure you like me best! Wen Yuanyuan, Liu'er and I, we are your best friends! Chen Cairong is after us!"

This kind of competing for favor is really unique!

We lived very happily in the following days. The Empress was still ill, so everything in the harem was managed by Consort Xian. Consort Xian did not dare to affront, Every day, she reported the harem affairs to the Empress respectfully. We earnestly wished her to deal with these messy things for the Empress, so we praised her that she was capable, clever and selfless every day. Consort Shu even made her pastries. Consort Xian got dizzy with our praises and worked harder.

Noble Consort Chen, oh no. After all this, Yunv Chen completely became a loyal fan of the Empress. She was the earliest to arrive at Weiyang Palace and the latest to leave. She did everything for the Empress, such as combing hair for the Empress or helping her to stand up. The Aunt in charge of the Weiyang Palace lived in the shadow of being taken away jobs by Yunv Chen every day and her hair got gray because of this.

Consort Shu, "Emotion is quite subtle, we have come through bitterness together and it is not the same as some half-cuts."

Yunv Chen, "Niangniang, please drink the bird's nest soup."

Concubien Shu, "Well, speaking of the dishes, Yaoyao, last time you told Yuanyuan and me that you wanted to eat fresh crabs brewed in orange juice, don't you remember? The crab meat is cold and cool, you can't eat it this year, and I'll make it for you next year when you are healthy."

Yunv Chen, "Niangniang, do you want to put on clothes?"

Consort Shu was furious and joined hands with Zhaoyi Wen every day to fight for favor. Yunv Chen combed the Empress's hair and Zhaoyi Wen took out a new red and gold thread moiré cape wth rabbit fur to the Empress. Then Consort Shu would serve the Emperor Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, which was cooked for two hours and tried to show off their indestructible relationship in front of Yunv Chen. The Empress lay on the bed, pointed at them and said with a smile, "Look at yourself, you act like a child and Liu'er will laugh at you."

The Emperor didn't embarrass the Empress and went to see her several times, but he stopped coming to her without reason again. Consort Shu cursed, "Does he think Yaoyao is willing to be nice to him? If not for Chen Cairong... Does he really think Yaoyao is willing to see him? Bah!"

The Emperor began to call me frequently.

The Emperor asked me, "Jiaojiao, do you often go to Weiyang Palace?" I ate the crab shell cake in his hand, nodded and said vaguely, "The Empress teaches me to play the Chinese rope waving game, and I like the Empress."

The Emperor smiled and said that Jiaojiao loves to play.

Since the Chen family fell from power, the Emperor was naturally in a good mood. The Former Emperor was constrained by the minister and he couldn't take charge of anything, while the Emperor ascended the throne by killing a blood path among his brothers. Less than five years after he ascended the throne, he toppled the Xu family and the Chen family and forced the Shen family (the Empress's parents' family) to leave, so now he finally got all the power of the national affairs. He lazily held me in his arms, provoked my chin, kissed me gently and then said to me, "Jiaojiao, I promise you, you will be fine in this life, and our children will be also fine."

Notes:

1.Buddha Jumps Over the Wall: Steamed Abalone with Shark's Fin and Fish Maw.

Liu in the Imperial Harem 2020-03-26 10:49:39

On May 20th, the Emperor called me to serve him.

When the Emperor's verbal instruction came, I was playing the Chinese rope waving game with the Third Princess, and we did not make a beautiful flower while Consort Shu laughed loudly at us in the reclining chair. We were angry and said loudly that we would ignore her from now on! As a result, Consort Shu said that she wouldn't make deep-fried pork fingers for dinner, and then we begged her to forgive us by giving her a foot and back massage.

The eunuch who delivered a verbal instruction is the eunuch's chief beside the Emperor. His name is Fang Mingde and sounds like a knowledgeable person. He is plump and is the most amiable in usual. He smiles like the housekeeper of my parents' family and I like him very much, but I don't want to see the Emperor.

Consort Shu asked me if I want to help the Empress, I said yes, and then she said you just go there. I said what I should talk with the Emperor there, and Consort Shu said, "You don't need to say anything. It's okay for you to throw a tantrum deliberately, but remember to closely watch his expression." I understood a little.

Or I didn't quite understand it.

I was so stupid.

I went to Yong'an Palace in a daze. 

When the Emperor saw me, he took my hand, "Jiaojiao, come here."

Damn it, he is a dirty old man.

I twitched my mouth, put my hands behind my back, lowered my head and didn't look at him.

He sighed, hugged me and said, "I know you will throw a tantrum to me."

I didn't know what to say. He rolled up my sleeves and asked me, "Do your hands hurt?"

Several days passed and I didn't feel the pain anymore. It was Consort Shu who applied me the medicinal oil, not the Emperor. 

A man's woman was beaten by another woman of him, and another woman wiped tears and applied medical oil for the beaten woman. After several days, the man asked the beaten woman, do you still feel painful? 

What a ridiculous and chaotic relationship between men and women.

But I said in a tearful voice, "I feel no pain."

He gave a long sigh and held me on his lap, "Look at me."

After I refused, he bowed his head to kiss my face, my forehead, my eyes, then put his forehead against mine, and his eyes showed the affection of more than 20 years.

I leaned on him and my tears fell down. I knew why I was crying. It was for the Emperor, for myself, for the Empress and Consort Shu, for this miserable and helpless fate. From my crying, there was three-tenth sadness, five-tenth sigh, and two-tenth pity with a weeping beauty.

I cried and sobbed, "It is not painful. I don't feel pain."

The Emperor coaxed me for a long time. That night he did nothing, just hugged me and asked, "Are you angry at me?"

I said, "As your consort, can I be angry?"

He said, "Of course Jiaojiao can be angry. Jiao Jiao can do whatever you want."

I said, "Then I'm angry, I'm going to be furious!"

There was a long sigh in his low laugh. He closed his eyes and rubbed my face, "Jiaojiao, don't be angry, it is my fault. I swear to you, I will never make you angry again."

I remained silent, and then he kept kissing me. He kissed me all the time and said, "Don't be angry... Don't be angry..."

He later said, "Jiaojiao, listen to me, live in Changle Palace, OK? These days I have no time to take care of you, you live in Changle Palace to stay away from those messy things. After getting through these days, everything will be fine and I will have the time to accompany you. Since you like little princess, let's have a little princess who is as good and smart as her." He was wrong. If my child was like me, she would be stupid and also be the naughtiest child in the world. How could she be good and smart?

There are good and smart girls in the world but not me!

After a long time, I said, "I... I will stay at Orchid Fragrance Pavilion and not go out. I beg Your Majesty not ask me to go to Changle Palace. Changle Palace is too large and I will be afraid alone. Consort Shu treats me very well, I am begging Your Majesty... "

I spoke slowly and embarrassedly. I looked at him with tears in my eyes. As expected, I saw a concern on his face.

He was so gentle and said, "Okay."

When I was asleep, he patted my back and I heard him read slowly, 

"My forehead covered by my hair cut straight,

I played with flowers pluck’d before the gate.

On a hobby-horse you came on the scene,

Around the well we played with mumes still green.

We lived, close neighbors on Riverside lane.

Carefree and innocent, we children twain.

I was fourteen when I became your young bride,

I’d often turn my bashful face aside, 

Hanging my head, I’d look towards the wall,

A thousand times I’d not answer your call. 

I was fifteen when I composed my brows,

To fix my dust with yours were my dear vows. 

Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die.

Who knew I’d live alone in a tower high? 

Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die.

Who knew I’d live alone in a tower high?...

Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die.

Who knew I’d live alone in a tower high?..."

Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die.

Who knew I’d live alone in a tower high!!!

The most pitiful thing is that "Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die" is fake, but today "live alone in a tower high" is true.

I hope that the successors don't take the so-called "Rather than break faith, you declared you’d die" seriously.

After I returned to Yihua Palace, I told Consort Shu about the story of last night. Consort Shu heard that I refused to follow the Emperor's arrangements to go to Changle Palace and stay away from those messy things. She made a table of delicious food for me. I didn't know where she got the rabbit. The Taro Rabbit with spicy oil was so spicy that my mouth was swollen. How delicious it is! Consort Shu said, "Liu'er, this table of dishes, first is to thank you for your justice and sincerity. The second... "

She smiled with naughty and said, "Thank you for not being too stupid, You are the person I like."

She said while looking at me meaningfully, "You really look like Yaoyao, no, not all the same. You are good enough as you are and smarter than Yaoyao."

I was so hot that I opened my mouth wide and asked with my tongue hanging out, "I bother you tell me the details, and you will be beaten by pnly saying half of the story if you are a story teller."

Consort Shu stuffed a piece of rabbit meat into my mouth, "What else can I say? Curiosity kills the cat, why do you want to know the details?" She was right, and then I didn't ask anymore, because I was so hot that I could not speak.

In the next three months, the Imperial Noble Consort had been enjoying a comfortable and beautiful life. The Emperor occasionally called others, but most of the time he went to her place. Jieyu Qing who entered the palace with me was pregnant, so the Emperor ordered her to move to the Imperial Noble Consort's place where the Imperial Noble Consort would take care of her. This basically meant that the child would belong to the Imperial Noble Consort. Poor Jieyu Qing was pale all the day. A few months ago, she looked at me with pity, but now she is a poor person!

Shuyi Zheng was also pregnant and promoted to Consort Zheng. Consort Shu said that Consort Zheng's father is just a fourth level doctor and the Emperor likes her very much. As long as she is careful, the child would probably be born safely. Consort Zheng was really very careful. She used to love dressing up, but she didn't apply makeup anymore since she was pregnant. Somehow, she became a good friend with Consort Xian. Consort Xian had no children and was particularly generous and virtuous. Now she is overwhelmed by the Imperial Noble Consort, and Consort Zheng is like an ally for her. She looked the pregnant belly of Consort Zheng with delightful expression these days, so I suspected that Consort Xian is not the woman of the Emperor but his mother.

We didn't care about these things. Consort Shu did not take us out, and we rarely even went to the Imperial Garden. Even the Third Princess knew that although the Imperial Garden is beautiful, she would be taken away by monsters if she goes there alone!

The Third Princess was experiencing the teeth changing period, so she could neither speak smoothly nor fight against food with me. I ate pastry in front of her every day. Consort Shu was happy to watch our show, so the little girl could only hug the Empress's neck to sue me. The Empress laughed so hard that she patted me gently as punishment.

The Empress was still grounded, and we thought this was very good. No one came to bother Niangniang, so Niangniang could take a good rest and nourishment. Weiyang Palace is also very large. She took a walk around Weiyang Palace and we went to accompany her more. There is no need to go out! We almost went to accompany the Empress every day. Recently, Zhaoyi Wen was fascinated with making puppets, after making a set of zodiac puppets, I praised her hardly, so she was more diligent to make that. She started to make a set of cat puppets. Since then Weiyang Palace and Yihua Palace were full of Jiale and me meowing with a puppet. Consort Shu was thinking about new dishes every day. She tried lotus leaf and seedpod porridge, rock sugar winter melon soup. If the new dish was successful, we would eat it, while if it failed...

It would be sent to Yong'an Palace.

Consort Shu said that the Emperor would not eat what she made, anyway, even if he ate it, he would feel her defective dishes are better than those in other palaces'!

The Empress taught me to play the Chinese Zither and chess. She knew a variety of music scores well! It was really a kind of enjoyment to hear her play the Phoenix Courtship! However, the Empress comforted me and said that my music is more energetic. She was sick, so she played the Phoenix Courtship with sorrow.

She was not sick, in fact, she was so sad. I knew it but didn't say that. I said, "Niangniang should laugh a bit more and eat more food, and then you will recover from your illness soon!"

The Empress also writes very well, as I expected, she also writes the lower case. Our lower case handwriting is even somewhat similar.

When we talked about our childhood, it was a coincidence that we were all sitting in the arms of our grandfather to do exercises in calligraphy. Her grandfather is the Prime Minister Shen and my grandfather often mentioned the painstaking "Brother Shen". "Brother Shen" of my grandfather had a lot of students everywhere. The former Emperor believed him the most. Then 22-year-old Emperor had ascended to the throne, and he was both talented and ruthless. Every emperor has a cabinet composed of his own favorites, Prime Minister Shen retired a year ago and then died three months later.

The Empress had no home in the capital. After her grandfather died, her parents, uncles and brothers returned to the countryside to be in mourning for her grandfather's death. She was married to the Emperor who was a prince at the age of fourteen and gave birth to three children. By the age of twenty-four, her children all died. Her families got away of here and her youngest son died only one year ago, however her husband chose twelve young girls to enter the palace.

So the Empress was getting sick day by day and her cough was getting worse and worse. The aunt in charge of Weiyang Palace cried and said that the Empress had blood on her handkerchief and coughed all night.

But the Empress did not allow us to stay to take care of her at night, and she did not hug the Third Princess anymore. She was afraid of passing her sickness to her. We were all worried about her. Consort Shu made a variety of medicated diets for her every day, but the Empress was getting thinner every day.

Every morning we had to greet the Imperial Noble Consort and she was so bad that she picked up faults every day. She punished this one and scolded another one, as if she couldn't prove that she was the sweetheart of the Emperor's if she didn't act like this. Consort Shu and I kept silent like the quail, but she still didn't leave us alone. The “immortal” Consort Chun also had a hard time. The Imperial Noble Consort said that it is unlucky to wear such plain clothes every day and to have a face as white as a female ghost, but Consort Chun didn't even raise her head to look at her. She didn't care and rolled her eyes elegantly as respect before she left. Seeing this, the Imperial Noble Consort was angry and punished her to stay inside her palace for half a month. Zhaoyi Wen and Consort Shu privately said that the Imperial Noble Consort was really stupid, and she could not realize that being grounded was actually a reward for Consort Chun. But comparing to Consort Xian and Consort Zheng, we were only small enemies to her, and she was devoted herself to fighting against two of them. But as seen from her expression, there must be no progress.

In September, the Lord Protector conspired to rebel, and there were human testimonies and material evidences.

On the night of September 15th, it rained heavily. Consort Shu, Zhaoyi Wen and I accompanied the Empress for dinner. Someone reported that the Imperial Noble Consort had been kneeling at the gate of Yong'an Palace for a day.

The Empress stopped eating and gave a long sigh, "We are all miserable people."

Consort Shu was so happy that she had one more bowl of rice, "The Emperor is really a jerk. He took a long time and finally dealt with the Lord Protector. I am thinking about how long he will delay the case! I am almost killed by Chen Cairong in the past four months. Fortunately, it is over, otherwise I really can't hold it anymore." Zhaoyi Wen spitted, "Every time he uses the same trick that he holds someone high and then pushes her down."

Consort Shu said, "As long as it works, it doesn't need many tricks." Zhaoyi Wen spitted again, "I don't care if the Emperor play tricks or not. The way he holds someone up is to let us lie underneath as stepping stone. If he wins, he is the eternal wise Emperor. If he loses, we will be butchered. No, after he wins, if we are still alive, we have to be stepping stones for the second, third and countless times. Marrying such a shameless man, we are so unfortunate."

As they were talking, the Empress suddenly stood up and went out, and then she said, "I'll go to see her."