TW: self-harm. Nothing explicit, and it’s very short, but better safe than sorry.
The section has been marked with ********************. See the bottom of the page for a brief summary.
“I want to go home, I really want to go home.”
Song Yuan didn’t give any response. Although Rong Ting was frightened, he noticed that her face was flushed.
He placed a hand on her forehead and immediately snatched it back. Why is it so hot? Could it be that Empress Mother has a fever?
Rong Ting, who had never encountered such a situation before, couldn’t help but lose himself in panic, especially as Empress Mother cried with her eyes shut, her hands tightly gripping the quilt. He wanted to tug her, to wake her. On this night, he was anxious enough to break into a sweat.
It could not go on like this!
Rong Ting, you must calm down! Remain calm!!
He bit the tip of his tongue and pinched the soft flesh of his arm. After forcing himself to calm down, he closed his eyes and recalled what Empress Mother had done the last time he’d had a fever. He muttered to himself, “Thermometer, fever-reducing patches, ibuprofen1–yes! That’s it!”
He clenched his tiny fist and walked out of the bedroom. He made his way to the living room to grab the medicine kit, but because he was in such a hurry, he didn’t watch for anything at his feet and nearly tripped over a chair.
He opened the medicine kit, grabbed the ear thermometer, and took Song Yuan’s temperature with trembling hands. He glanced at the display that read 38.7 degrees2 and confirmed that Empress Mother did indeed have a fever.
After Rong Ting placed a fever-reducing patch on Song Yuan, he called Song Haiping with trembling fingers. At this moment, he wanted to seek out Emperor Father, but he also knew that Emperor Father was in B City and was too far away to be of help. It was still more reasonable to find Grandfather.
It was early in the morning, and Song Haiping was still asleep. He cursed as he was woken by the ringtone. Seeing that the call was from Song Ting, he shook his head to shake himself more awake and accepted the call. “Rong Ting, what’s wrong?”
He understood this grandson quite well. He should be asleep at this time. If he was calling, it meant that something had happened at home.
He got up to change his clothes as he answered the phone.
Sure enough, Rong Ting cried out, his voice carrying a hint of a sob, “Grandfather, Empress Mother is sick, she has a fever!”
Song Haiping’s heart thumped. He had been a father for more than twenty years–a fever wasn’t a huge problem. He quickly put on his pants, not forgetting to comfort Rong Ting. “Ai, don’t worry, don’t worry, I’ll be there right away. This person, when she gets sick, catching a cold or having a fever is not a big deal. Here’s what you should do–after you hang up the phone, pay attention to her temperature and check it from time to time. Grandpa’s coming right now!”
Hearing Song Haiping say this, Rong Ting choked up and calmed himself down.
It was his first time seeing Empress Mother sick. Moreover, Empress Mother was still in tears, leaving him at a loss for what to do.
After hanging up the phone, he sat by the bed and held Song Yuan’s hand, not daring to blink or speak. Time seemed to pass slowly. When he heard the sound of the door opening, he stood up and saw Grandfather coming in. He shot like a bullet into Song Haiping’s arms. Song Haiping picked him up and patted him on the back, coaxing in a low voice, “It’s okay. Look at you, you have such small guts.”
Song Haiping put down Rong Ting and quickly headed to the bed. He finally understood why the child had been so nervous and frightened.
Yuanyuan’s condition was indeed not good. She had clearly fallen asleep, her face flushed red and still letting out heart-breaking sobs.
There was no one who did not get sick. Song Haiping remembered that when his daughter was sick, it was truly a fever every other day–teething fevers3 and fever rashes. After going to kindergarten, it was not an exaggeration to say they rushed to the hospital several times a month.
He calmed himself down. He had bought antipyretics and a thermometer on the way here and took her temperature. She did indeed have a fever, but it wasn’t serious.
“You head to bed first ba.” Once Song Haiping determined that the problem with his daughter wasn’t serious, he turned back to coax Rong Ting. “Yuanyuan’s fine, I’ll watch over her. The fever’s not high, so there’s no need to take medicine. Tomorrow morning, we’ll check on her, and if the fever still hasn’t gone away, I’ll take her to the hospital. If we take her to the hospital now, we don’t know if there are any beds available, and the temperature outside is low. It might make her condition worse.”
But Rong Ting stubbornly shook his head, his voice somewhat hoarse. “No, I also want to watch over Empress Mother. Empress Mother also watched over me like this when I had a fever.”
“Ai, this child, why are you so disobedient ah, how can children stay up late!”
Song Haiping had a big headache. On the one hand, he had to worry about his daughter. On the other hand, he had to worry about his grandson. It was just a pity that his grandson was too stubborn. He moved over a small bench from outside and plopped himself down in a manner of refusing to budge.
Song Haiping couldn’t change his grandson’s mind, and the grandfather-grandson pair kept watch by the bed.
Rong Ting took Song Yuan’s hand. In a quiet voice, he said tirelessly, over and over again, “Empress Mother, Gugu is here.”
Song Haiping also reached out to pull up her quilt and take her temperature.
The originally crying Song Yuan slowly calmed down, her tears drying up. She seemed to sink into a deep sleep.
Song Haiping was relieved. Rong Ting was still a child and couldn’t last the entire night–he fell asleep in the middle of the night. Song Haiping carried him back to bed and helped tuck in his quilt. He stared at the child’s frowning face as he slept and gave a light sigh. In any case, this grandson of his was very good. Song Yuan had not stayed by his side growing up, yet he could still worry for Yuanyuan and know to feel distress for his mother.
After a while, Song Haiping turned off the light, shut the door, and returned to his daughter’s bedroom, sitting at the head of the bed. He wanted to call his ex-wife, but seeing the time, he put a stop to his thoughts.
Seeing his daughter like this, he recalled the time she’d had a fever as a child. At the time, she was less than a year old, and the doctor said that she needed an injection. It was difficult to find the blood vessels in young children’s arms, and they could only shave off her hair and give her an injection through the scalp. He’d held his daughter and watched as the nurse gave an injection through the scalp. His daughter had cried, and his heart had ached.
“Yuanyuan, get better soon!”
Song Yuan looked at the woman in palace clothing sitting limply on the ground. The woman was very young, no more than twenty years old. The hem of her palace dress was stained with blood, and her buyao4 was crooked, but she continued to hold the dagger in her hands as she stretched out her hand to show her fair and slender wrist. She looked demented, but she stared at Song Yuan unblinkingly as she slashed her outstretched arm.
The acrid smell of blood went straight to Song Yuan’s nose. She wanted to vomit. Her stomach churned, and her head was a bit faint. She was supported by the maid beside her.
The royal guards encircled the palace lady, and the court ladies protected Song Yuan.
Song Yuan was about to leave when she heard the woman’s shrill voice. “Empress niangniang! Have you5 never doubted? Why His Majesty insisted on making you his empress?” She suddenly gave a sneer. “My grandfather is the Minister of Revenue6, Consort Min’s uncle is the prime minister7, Imperial Concubine Wan’s8 grandfather is the imperial preceptor9. And you? Is a mere adopted daughter of the General’s estate worthy of the seat?”
“Empress niangniang, I am unresigned! Everyone is unresigned!”
The woman in palace clothing had lost too much blood. She sank into madness, wielding the dagger in self-mutilation. Her eyes as she looked at Song Yuan was filled with hatred. “I curse you, I curse you with a wretched end! Curse the child in your stomach!”
Just as Song Yuan’s stomach clenched at the nauseating and bloody scene, the Son of Heaven in his dragon robes appeared and shielded her behind him.
His voice was calm, even unfeeling. “Send Consort Li back to the palace. Order the imperial physician to ensure she is kept alive and well10 ba.”
Song Yuan looked up at him, but she could only see his dragon robe. For some reason, she felt uncomfortable, almost suffocated. She was very afraid of blood, especially in the face of such a situation. She was so scared her hands were shaking.
The eunuchs went to send Consort Li away. The blood on the ground was particularly dazzling. Consort Li was a consort, after all–as she struggled, the eunuchs didn’t dare to be too discourteous to her. Consort Li’s grandfather was the Minister of Revenue, but he was also involved in the recent corruption case in the south. His Majesty loathed corrupt officials the most; they were afraid that this Minister of Revenue would not be able to smoothly retire from his post. But if His Majesty recalled the minister’s past merits, then the day that Consort Li rose up, the unlucky ones would be them slaves.
Consort Li stared foolishly at the Son of Heaven before her, but each word she spat out wept with blood. From the moment the Son of Heaven appeared, her gaze held no hated, only a deep adoration. “Your Highness, chenqie once met you from far away upon entering the palace at twelve years old. Later, when the late emperor granted chenqie to be your ce fei , chenqie was overjoyed. Chenqie inquired about your preferences. Chenqie knows that you like painting and calligraphy, that you enjoy playing chess. Chenqie wishes to accompany you, but why do you not give chenqie a glance?”
But the Son of Heaven’s expression was indifferent, as though looking at a stranger.
He was not a person who enjoyed others pouring out their every thought, especially this sort of thought.
“Your Majesty! Your Majesty!” Consort Li cried out in grief. She lay on the floor, crawling towards him, and shouted desperately, “Your Majesty, look at me, look at me…”
The Son of Heaven did not pause his footsteps.
Song Yuan was protected by him, but she couldn’t help looking back at the once-delicate and charming Consort Li.
Consort Li finally stopped, her tears falling. Her voice was not longer as shrill as before, but it was brimming with grievances and longing. “Father, Mother, Yan-er wants to go home, really wants… to go home.”
Song Yuan returned to the palace. The emperor had a great many affairs to handle, and he could only sit with her for a moment before leaving.
She was a very fragile person and did not eat dinner. The maids around her each implored her in turn, but she couldn’t even eat a single bite. She asked her most trusted maid Peilan, and Peilan told her the consort and concubines’ ages, how long they stayed in the East Palace and Imperial Palace12…
Many concubines in the harem, from the moment they set foot in the palace, never saw their families again. They had all come to the palace at a very young age.
Song Yuan looked at herself in the copper mirror. It was clearly her, but why did she look so unfamiliar?
Was she still Song Yuan, or was she the empress of the Great Ye dynasty? Just who was she? Was the palace her home? The General’s estate?
She recalled Consort Li’s words…
“Peilan, I want to go home.”
Peilan looked at her worriedly. “Niangniang, if you miss Madam, you can summon her to the palace.”
She shook her head. “No, no.”
The person in the bronze mirror was already in tears. She buried her face in her hands, helpless and in agony. “I want to go home, I really want to go home.”
This was not her home. It was not her home.
 美林: this got translated to Merrill Lynch, but that’s the name of an investment company… it’s also apparently the name of an ibuprofen suspension, which is used for reducing fevers
 38.7 degrees Celsius = 101.66 degrees Fahrenheit
 Apparently babies can get a fever when they’re teething. It’s not more than up to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, though
 步摇: a hair ornament that dangles when the wearer walks, hence its name (shake as you go)
 Despite looking deranged af, the lady is using the polite ‘you’ here. But then she switches right back to the casual ‘you’ in the next bit, so I guess I spoke too soon.
 户部尚书: the title used for the Minister of Revenue from the Han dynasty onwards. In charge of the census, taxes, and state revenues. To be in charge of this ministry was probably a very powerful position to be in. Also, this is the lady’s paternal grandfather.
 宰相: also known as chancellor or chief councillor. He is the highest-ranking official in the imperial government. He is Consort Min’s paternal uncle.
 嫔 (trad. 嬪): most dynasties list them as ranking below the empress → consort → imperial concubine, but the Qing dynasty ranking has it below empress → imperial noble consort → noble consort → consort → imperial concubine. I think I’ve been relying on the Qing dynasty ranking up until now, so let’s go with the second ranking until I find out otherwise.
 帝师: I think I’ve looked this up before but I forgot LOL. It depends on the dynasty, but the imperial preceptor acted as the emperor’s teacher and was in charge of religious/sacred ceremonies. I think this is the same guy who told the emperor how to transmigrate with that forbidden ritual, but I could be wrong (will check later maybe). He is Imperial Concubine Wan’s paternal grandfather.
 (好生)养着: 养 means to raise or keep in the sense of raising animals or children
 侧妃: the secondary wife of a prince (in this case, the crown prince). The highest ranking after the official wife, but I don’t believe they’re registered in the genealogical records, as they’re still not officially wed to the prince
 东宫, 皇宫: eastern palace, imperial palace. 东宫 might be a reference to the Six Eastern Palaces in the Forbidden City irl. The Six Eastern Palaces housed the imperial concubines. The 皇宫 housed the emperor and empress, as well as other concubines
Cheese: basically, one of the emperor’s consorts curses song yuan and the unborn rong ting as she harms herself. rong heng arrives and has the eunuchs send her away.
is it weird that i feel a bit sad for consort li? she, at the very least, seems to be in love with the emperor, but she’s doomed to never obtain that love. she’s also probably the “insane woman” in the cold palace that rong ting mentioned before
also @ any other people with wordpress, have you been having issues with copy pasting? i always translate on google docs and copy paste from there onto wordpress, but lately when i ctrl + v it always pastes the text twice?? it’s not a huge problem but it’s a dang pain to highlight and delete