In February, we finally got snow and I thought we would have a snow day, which would mean no school. Instead, we still had school and I had to walk to class in the freezing cold, and it was slippery with the ice too. How sad. That didn’t stop me from starting this translation instead of my reading though… And now, I have finally finished it–the translations towards the end become progressively rougher, but I feel that it is still postable. It’s already been quite a long time since the last update, and I don’t want to make the wait longer than it already is.
Chapter 113: Unsheathing of the Sword
Before Xiao Jingyan was crowned a qin prince, whether it was in the inner palace, in the royal courts, or even for the Emperor himself, everyone felt that they had narrow options and were solving a problem with only two choices. It seemed that if you did not choose the Crown Prince, then you should choose Prince Yu, and if you did not choose Prince Yu, then you should choose the Crown Prince. Even if at this time, one did not clearly display the intent to support one or the other, it was inevitable that sooner or later, one of the two would take over the throne.
After thinking in such a way for a long time, when everyone saw Prince Jing, who was previously only a second-ranking royal family member, wearing royal robes and a five-pearl crown standing confidently and valiantly next to Prince Yu, the visual impact of the scene was even stronger than when they all first heard the news of Prince Jing’s promotion. Even the most insensitive to political happenings realized at that moment, that a new era of politics had begun.
In truth, at this time, Prince Jing was not yet completely comparable to Prince Yu as he had two fewer pearls on his crown. Yet regardless, they were now both first-ranking qin princes, and the distance of two pearls was much less than that of a qin and jun prince as it had been previously. In comparison, it seemed that this distance could be easily overcome.
People often are prone to having blind spots that they do not notice, and when something goes unnoticed for long periods of time, it may seem invisible even when placed in plain sight. Yet once the thin film is uncovered, all of a sudden, it becomes perfectly clear. Everyone suddenly realized that Prince Jing really did not have anything less than Prince Yu. Although he was once obscure and rarely heard of, it was only because he lacked attention. However, it was also this lack of attention toward him that sent him away from the capital city quite often, allowing him to gather both political and military achievements that none of his siblings were comparable to. In the end, his lack of attention was really a blessing in disguise.
As for birth rank, thanks to Prince Yu’s court debate before the New Year, everyone was quite clear that since neither was the son (by birth) of the Empress, neither was considered to be more noble than another. Even more, Consort Jing was being increasingly favored by the Emperor, and although Prince Yu was raised by the Empress, his own mother was only a Concubine before her death.
And for birth order, it is true that Xiao Jingyan was not one of the oldest, but after all, this was not an important factor anyways. If the determining factor really was birth order, then the Crown Prince and Prince Yu would both have been working in vain for the past decade.
If someone had said, around two to three months ago, that another prince would suddenly emerge and be capable of rivaling Prince Yu, that person would have been seen to be an idiot and a foolish dreamer. Yet in the short time that had passed, everyone now clearly understood not only that Prince Yu had a new adversary other than the Crown Prince, but even more so that Prince Yu did not have much advantage over him at all.
Of course, as to the change in circumstances, the person who noticed the change most evidently was Prince Jing himself. In the very beginning, when he initially decided to take part in vying for the throne, he seemed to have little potential and had no confidence. He had even asked Mei Changsu, how he should euphemistically communicate to his generals and subordinates that he had intentions, without scaring them. At the time, Mei Changsu only answered, “There is no need to reveal your thoughts, as you slowly develop the eligibility to take part, the people around you will notice it even before you do.”
After being crowned a qin prince, Prince Jing slowly began to understand the true meaning behind Mei Changsu’s words. Before, when he had discussions with his subordinates, even when they were complaining, the most they would complain about was the quality of soldier provisions, that the cotton coats were too thin, and why the court did not pay more attention to these things. But now, the discussions in the Tiger Shadow Hall of the Prince Jing Prefecture were all about how to establish a more efficient soldier and horse assembly system, how to promote the implementation of this system, and other important government affairs. A few of his insightful friends and trusted deputies had even begun to either consciously or unintentionally entice and encourage him to reveal more of his abilities in the court, and to recruit talented individuals for future use. If Prince Jing even showed a subtle hint of interest in the throne, his confidants would immediately light up with excitement and speak with such great enthusiasm to the point that it was Prince Jing who needed to suggest that they remember to slightly restrain themselves.
The water had already risen to such a point that there was no longer a need to say anything—everyone was already fully aware of what was happening.
Although Prince Jing believed that even if he had never gained influence, his generals and soldiers who had stood by him on the battlefields would never abandon him, from the perspective of ambition and achievement, he understood that following a prince who had hopes of establishing a new era was much better than following a prince who was constantly oppressed.
Of course, the person who was most frustrated about Prince Jing’s new position was no one other than Prince Yu, Xiao Jinghuan. Thinking back, he felt as if he had just idly stood by as he clearly watched Prince Jing, step by step, discreetly plant a firm stance in the courts. During this entire process, there were so many obvious opportunities where he could have intervened and suppressed Prince Jing’s movements. He couldn’t believe that he unexpectedly let it all pass by him, even providing assistance to Prince Jing in certain situations.
Prince Yu felt as if he was the farmer who had saved the freezing snake* and was so remorseful over what he had done that he wanted to curse someone. For many years, he had placed his time and energy focusing on the Crown Prince, and did not know much about this newly emerged opponent. He only had a few rather superficial impressions of Prince Jing, and did not know what role Consort Jing played in the inner-palace either.
After Xiao Jingyan was crowned a qin prince, within a month, Prince Yu held several meetings with his confidants and deputies to come up with countermeasures, but in the end, they could not form any useful tactics. When he went to discuss with Mei Changsu, Mei Changsu was not worried in the slightest, and calmly smiled, saying, “Congratulations.”
Prince Yu could not help but angrily hit the table, yelling, “Jingyan has been crowned a qin prince, and you are congratulating me?”
“Prince Jing being crowned a qin prince represents that the Crown Prince is about to be dethroned. Your highness’ long-cherished wish is about to come true. Shouldn’t I congratulate you?”
Prince Yu furrowed his eyebrows and did not say anything. He understood what Mei Changsu was saying. Back then, Prince Qi had an overwhelming amount of power to the point that the Emperor no longer had control–because of this, the Emperor was keen on keeping powers balanced, and allowed for Prince Yu to obtain the power he had today in order to balance out the Crown Prince’s position in the court. The rise of Prince Jing represented that the Crown Prince was about to be abandoned, and the Emperor intended to have a new balance of powers. Yet although this all made sense to Prince Yu, the more he thought about it, the more it seemed as if his years of hard work resulted in nothing, causing further frustration.
“It took me ten years to dethrone the Crown Prince. Do I really have to spend the next ten years competing with Prince Jing?”
Mei Changsu smiled coldly, saying, “How could you compare the Crown Prince with Prince Jing? The Crown Prince already had the title, and thus it was difficult for your highness to compare to him. But Prince Jing is only a five-pearl qin prince and is only recently being favored, which makes him seem special. If we first disregard what may happen in the future, if the Crown Prince is dethroned, then your highness has already made a great victory. If this first step does not happen, if one day, something unspeakable happens to his majesty, no matter how much power you have over the Crown Prince, the title and position both still belong to him. At that point, if you try to compete for it, it would be treason. “
After hearing this, Prince Yu felt persuaded and was slightly calmer, but once he returned to his prefecture, he still felt uneasy and was restless. If it were at this time last year, and he still held much power in his hands, Mei Changsu’s explanation would immediately please him. Yet at this time, after carefully calculating the power in his hands, Prince Yu suddenly realized that he was holding onto little to no power, and could not help but feel panicked.
Prince Yu felt a lot of uncertainty and doubt, and Mei Changsu understood that this time, it was difficult to completely persuade him. So after Prince Jing was crowned with his new title, the defense outside the Su Manor was strengthened. Though it looked lax on the outside, in reality, Li Gang and Zhen Ping controlled it so tightly, that it was as difficult to get into as an iron bucket.
Tong Lu continued to come by once every two days, and would come every day if there was urgent information. However, he never stayed at the Su Manor for too long, at most a little less than an hour. If Mei Changsu had any instructions for Mister Shisan, he would stop by the Miaoyin House afterward, in the name of delivering fresh produce. Otherwise, he would return to his own place of residence.
Since he needed to conceal his identity, Tong Lu lived in the rather impoverished neighborhood of the area. His neighbors directly to the left and right of his home who were from the Alliance, but other than the two of them, the rest of his neighbors were all underprivileged, ordinary inhabitants of the city. Some sold tofu, some sold sundries, and others would do miscellaneous work such as carry bags, run errands, mend clothes, and more. They worked hard but lived extremely difficult lives, and thus rarely had additional time or energy to notice him.
Most of the time, it was already almost dusk when Tong Lu returned to his dilapidated residence. Sometimes, just after he put away his vegetable cart and led the donkey into the stable, he would hear the sound of heavy breathing and panting from climbing up the hill. When he heard this, he knew that Auntie Qiu, who lived two houses down, had come back.
Auntie Qiu married at a young age and lived most of her life in this neighborhood. Both her husband and son died early, and she only lived with her granddaughter who was around the age of seven or eight. Every day, she made some syrups and would push them to the market to be sold in a wheelbarrow–by the time she returned home, she had little energy to push the cart up the hill.
So, as long as Tong Lu saw her, he would always go outside to help.
This had become an established habit from when Tong Lu moved in a few years ago, yet recently, some things slightly changed.
The change was that in the past, he would help her only if they coincidentally arrived home at similar times, but now, he would unconsciously ensure that he arrived home at a specific time, just so he could help Auntie Qiu push her wheelbarrow.
After helping her out, he would also receive a bowl of unsold syrup in return, and it would be specially delivered to him by Auntie Qiu’s niece, who had come from afar to seek shelter.
Auntie Qiu’s niece’s name was Jun Niang, and she came about a month ago from the far away Wu Province to seek help. When she first found the neighborhood, it was evident that she encountered a long and difficult journey, as she looked so thin and sallow that even her eyes seemed unfocused. After being unable to speak clearly when asking for help, she fainted on the street. It was then that Tong Lu saved her and brought her back, discovering that she was looking for Auntie Qiu. However, Auntie Qiu had been married away from her home town for a long time, and although she remembered having a niece, she could not recall what she looked like anymore. It was only seeing the reddish birthmarks on Jun Niang’s shoulder that she recognized her, and they burst into tears while hugging one another. They did not stop crying until the neighbors came by to comfort the two of them, and from then on, Jun Niang stayed at Auntie Qiu’s house.
Once she settled in, it was natural that Tong Lu and Jun Niang often ran into one another when leaving and returning to the neighborhood. Jun Niang would reveal a little information about herself–it seemed that she had no children and her husband had died, and was almost assaulted by a gang leader before escaping. Although she was frail from being so thin, it was clear that she was a beauty, and thus no wonder that others would have their eyes on her. Everyone felt sympathetic, especially Tong Lu, who was reminded of the humiliation his younger sister once endured. Because of this, he would help out whenever he had a chance, and since he saved Jun Niang, she hoped to return favors to him as well and would help him with housework. It was inevitable that the two of them interacted and conversed frequently.
With a newcomer moving into the area, Mister Shisan also conducted procedural investigations, confirming that Jun Niang’s history was as she had described it to be–becoming widowed, being unwelcome in her family, and escaping assault. After arriving, she rose early, rested late, and helped Auntie Qiu sell and stew syrup every day. It was evident that she was skillful, accustomed to hard work, and lived a very simple life. It could be seen that she developed these habits from growing up on a farm as a child, and thus Mister Shisan did not think much of it.
Though life was not easy, she had a loving family, had a harmonious relationship with their neighbors, and life was peaceful. Following a month’s recovery, Jun Niang became both happier and healthier, and her figure looked more elegant as well. Even in just a simple cloth dress, she looked graceful and charming. Tong Lu frequently visited the Miaoyin House and it was not uncommon for him to see beautiful women. Yet despite this, he was still mesmerized by her shy gaze and would feel lost and empty if he even went a day without seeing her. As for Jun Niang, it seemed that she did not lack feelings toward him either, and occasionally displayed affection for him, other times feeling so close, yet also so far. Her exquisite allure and gentleness had caused Tong Lu to unknowingly become so attracted, that he was head over heels for her.
*the farmer who had saved the freezing snake: This is referring to Aesop’s fable, where the farmer saves the freezing snake, but then is in return, bitten and killed by the snake
It took me forever to decide what to translate the name of this chapter into. Nothing seems to be fitting enough, but it basically means that the tip of the sword is shining through, which refers to Prince Jing. Here were the runner-ups:
The Tip of a Sword Shines Through
Appearance of the Sword’s Tip
But they both seemed too wordy. So I stuck with “Unsheathing of the Sword” as I felt that it captures the idea well and sounds better. I hate the end of this chapter since I know what it is about to lead up to, but anything with Prince Yu is quite entertaining, especially since he throws a mini tantrum in this chapter. On a different note, the entire time I read the novel and watched the drama, I thought that the niece’s name was Ji Niang, not Jun Niang. So I had a huge revelation when translating this chapter.
Anyways, translating takes forever and I will try my best to continue on faster! I have a super heavy spring quarter though, so the outlook is not looking great…This translation was rougher than usual, but I hope it was still enjoyable!