TIGR Chapter 49
The Imperial Guard’s Revenge
Chapter 49 Revealed
It was almost the third month, and the weather was getting warmer day by day. The spring breeze blew on the willows, the sun was shining brightly, and a lively spring could be seen everywhere, while the willows were shrouded in a hazy green.
In the Yongping Marquis Mansion, the servants were preparing for the upcoming Shangsi Festival. During the Shangsi Festival, exorcistic ablutions were made through bathing on the banks. On this day, women would accompany each other on a spring walk by the water’s edge. It was one of the most lively festivals of the year for daughters. Women would be escorted by their brothers when they go out. Gradually, the Shangsi Festival evolved into a day when young men and women would meet and date.
|| The Shangsi Festival (上巳节) also known as the Double Third Festival takes place on the third day of the third month. It was an important festival in ancient times where people gathered to cleanse themselves and remove impurities. Slowly, this event became a time to feast by water and to hold spring outings in the city.
The Yongping Madam Marquis prepared a large coat for Hong Wanqing early. Today, the embroidery lady brought the clothes, and the Yongping Madam Marquis immediately asked Hong Wanqing to try them on. Five or six little maids gathered around Hong Wanqing, helping Hong Wanqing change her clothes. The Yongping Madam Marquis stood beside her, looking at the effect of her upper body, and said to the embroidery lady: “The horse’s face is too long, and the clothes are too bloated. Find a way to change the waist. The embroidery on the coat is not good, it looks old-fashioned…”
The embroidery lady listened to the complaints. The material was chosen by the Yongping Madam Marquis, and the embroidery was also finalized by the Yongping Madam Marquis and Hong Wanqing. She did every step according to Madam Hong’s wishes and even so, after the result came out, Madam Hong blamed the embroidery lady for it not being good-looking. The embroidery lady felt extremely distressed. A few days ago, one from the Lu Mansion also wore a similar coat and skirt. When the Lu Mansion lady wore the outfit, she was undoubtedly very tall and slender.
The embroidery lady didn’t dare to say such words. She bent down and stood behind the Madam of the Yongping Marquis, smiling along with her. The embroidery lady received a new order, and after returning home, she quickly fixed it overnight, making sure to deliver the coat and skirt before she went to bed.
Hong Wanqing changed back into her clothes, and when she came out, she saw her mother sitting on the Arhat bed, staring blankly into space. She snuggled up to her mother naturally and asked: “Mother, what are you thinking about?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis smiled at Hong Wanqing and said absently: “Today is already the twenty-fifth. The Marquis of Zhenyuan is out of his grieving period, but I don’t know when he will come to propose marriage.”
When Hong Wanqing heard her mother say this, she immediately blushed and said embarrassedly: “Mother, it’s fine. Why are you bringing this up?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis looked at her daughter and thought that she knew her daughter’s mind well. She sighed slightly and said: “My daughter has grown up. I can’t keep her at home anymore. The Marquis of Zhenyuan is by no means a random creature in the pool. He is still young and is looking at our family. In another ten years, our family may not be able to climb up to him. After you get married, you have to win over the Zhenyuan Marquis, and it is best to give birth to “a son and a half daughter”. Maybe, in the future, your father and brother will depend on your help.”
|| “A son and half daughter” (一儿半女) is the direct translation of a phrase used when speaking of having children. Birthing a boy was more valuable than a girl in ancient China, but though a girl’s husband later in life, the family would receive a “half son”. This is the half, that is used in “a son and half daughter”.
The words of the Yongping Madam Marquis were half joking and half sincere. Since the Yongping Marquis returned to Beijing, his position had become embarrassing. He had no decent military exploits in the southwest, and he couldn’t speak in front of the emperor. He was insufficient for an important position and he couldn’t even look at the second-rank positions.
The Yongping Madam Marquis also thought of asking her brother for help, but the Marquis of Wuding had been in Beijing for many years. He had not been on the battlefield for a long time, and many people in the army were unfamiliar with him. Relying on the credit from supporting the emperor, the Marquis had been drinking and eating spicy food from the credit book these years. Admittedly beautiful, but he was getting farther and farther away from the position of real power in the army. Even if there was a good vacancy, the Marquis of Wuding would push his son up, how could he support the Hong family?
Once a brother and sister got married, they became separate families, and they would never be of one mind again. Seeing that the Marquis of Wuding had become more and more addicted to pleasure and power these years, there were many things that even the Marquis of Yongping dare not say. She couldn’t count on her elder brother, her eldest son was not promising, and the Yongping Madam Marquis did not dare use any of the concubines’ children. In the end, she could only focus on her son-in-law.
Unlike the Marquis of Wuding and the Marquis of Yongping who were founding nobles, the Marquis of Zhenyuan was named a marquis by a previous generation. The Fu family’s seniority also proved that they had high credit and real power. Fu Yue, the old marquis of Zhenyuan, fought in Datong and successfully repelled the Mongols, making a great contribution.
Datong was one of the nine major border towns, but its strategic significance was much more important than the other eight towns, and it was the most important gateway of the Ming Dynasty. In the past, only the officers most trusted by the emperor could go to Datong to lead the army. Fu Yue guarded Datong, which showed the status of the Fu family in the emperor’s heart.
There were many dukes, marquis, and counts in the capital, and everyone passed down their titles from generation to generation. Even when there were descendants who had not matured, they could only pinch their noses and admit them. How could Fu Yue skip a generation when giving the inheritance even if he wanted to? The Ministry of Rites was willing to approve his invitation to seal the document, but it was the emperor who nodded behind him.
Fu Tingzhou, like Lu Heng, seemed to have been lucky for the rules to bend around them, but it was actually the emperor who picked them. In time, Fu Tingzhou will surely rise to the sky. The only way the Yongping Madam Marquis could tie up this hidden dragon would be to secure a marriage while he was young.
Therefore, not only did the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion need this marriage, but the Yongping Marquis Mansion also tried their best to facilitate this.
Hong Wanqing knew that her parents and uncles were very satisfied with the marriage. Of course, Hong Wanqing was willing to marry Fu Tingzhou, but this kind of thing was not something Hong Wanqing was willing to do and Fu Tingzhou’s attitude about it was at the crux. A figure quickly passed in front of Hong Wanqing’s eyes and her heart became heavy. She lowered her eyes and said: “The woman can’t take the initiative in marriage matters, the Marquis of Zhenyuan should have some arrangements.”
The Yongping Madam Marquis didn’t know about that, she sighed and said: “It’s probably because he has been too busy recently, the Marquis of Zhenyuan can’t spare time. This year’s turmoil continued, Head Auxiliary Yang resigned in the new year, and less than a month later, Empress Zhang had another accident. I heard from your father that the brothers Zhang Heling and Zhang Yanling left the capital the day before yesterday and went to take up their posts in Nanjing. The emperor gave Zhang Heling the title of an Imperial Guard commander, which seemed to be a third-rank official, but everyone knew that this was a false title. The real power of the Imperial Guards was in Lu Heng’s hands. The Zhang family seemed to gain promotions, but they were actually demoted and driven out of Beijing. In the future, I am afraid that only Empress Zhang will be alone in the capital.”
Hong Wanqing didn’t know much about the changes in the officialdom, but the previous case of expelling nobility was so big some time ago that Hong Wanqing couldn’t not hear it. Hong Wanqing asked: “Mother, the Zhang family carries two titles, will they really be stripped like this?”
“Otherwise?” The Yongping Madam Marquis saw that it hurt her kind, and she couldn’t help sighing, “When we saw the Zhang family in the Lantern Festival, they were still beautiful, but in a blink of an eye, they fell.”
Speaking of this, the Yongping Madam Marquis was also angry and said: “It was even true, wealth and power are not enough, one even raped a maid in the palace. Can the women in the palace be touched by outsiders? This is still Empress Zhang. The emperor remembered the grace of their welcome back then and was embarrassed to kill them. When Empress Zhang dies in the future, it will be uncertain how the emperor will turn over old debts.”
Hong Wanqing was very surprised: “They have already been dethroned and demoted, and this matter is not over yet?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis sneered. This was about the emperor, so she did not dare to speak rashly, but her tone undoubtedly expressed her thoughts. When the emperor and Empress Jiang first came to the capital, Empress Zhang relied on her two dynasties as the empress and did not spare Empress Jiang from a lot of looks. With the emperor’s cautious and grudge-bearing character, can he let the Zhang family go?
They must be dreaming. She was afraid that Empress Zhang didn’t believe it herself, so she couldn’t afford to get sick. She even heard that people have disappeared these days.
The Yongping Madam Marquis gave a big sigh. During the Hongzhi period, Empress Zhang was the only favorite in the harem. No ordinary man in the world could only have one pair for the rest of his life, but Emperor Hongzhi could not accept a concubine and guarded Empress Zhang for all his life. She didn’t even know how many women envied Empress Zhang’s good life back then. Later, when Empress Zhang’s son succeeded to the throne, everyone felt that Empress Zhang’s life would never have ups and downs again. Looking at the experience of Empress Zhang, simply lucky and blessed, she was born with good fortune. Who would have known that the world would actually make a huge joke of everyone.
The first half of Empress Zhang’s life was prosperous, but the later scene was extremely desolate. It can be said that Zhang Yanling’s life was saved because Empress Zhang knelt outside the Qianqing Palace that day, crying and begging the emperor for mercy. The Yongping Madam Marquis was anxious just thinking about the scene. Anyway, she couldn’t accept it at all. She took back a child from a side branch to inherit the family business, but many years later she had to kneel down in public and beg the other party.
If there would be such a day, it was better to just let her die early.
Hong Wanqing did not feel as deeply as her mother. When she heard about what happened in the palace, she just listened to the story and didn’t think that this kind of thing would happen to her. Young girls and women always had a heart higher than the sky, and they felt that they were different. Ordinary people were mediocre and suffering, but they were by no means ordinary. In contrast, Hong Wanqing was more concerned about the haunted rumors that were catching wind.
Hong Wanqing lowered her voice and asked quietly: “Mother, I heard that the maids of the Ciqing Palace heard a female ghost cry for several nights. Is this true?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis didn’t bother to answer. She also quietly asked her husband about this matter, and he asked her not to inquire about court affairs, but the Yongping Madam Marquis felt that it was somehow related.
Otherwise, how could it be so coincidental. There were rumors that there was a ghost in the palace, Lu Heng went to the palace to investigate, and it didn’t take long until he was re-investigating the old case of He Ding 30 years ago, which revealed that Zhang Yanling raped a palace maid. When the Zhang family was sent back, Empress Zhang stopped making a commotion about the haunting, and the crying in the East Palace disappeared. If they said there was no connection, the Yongping Madam Marquis would not believe it anyway.
The Yongping Madam Marquis looked at her daughter’s fearful and curious eyes, did not elaborate, and said roughly: “Don’t inquire about these strange things. The most important thing in a daughter’s family is virtue and goodness, to assist your husband and educate the children. You should not touch these matters.”
Hong Wanqing’s face flushed red with embarrassment when she heard this, and she quickly responded, ashamed. The Yongping Madam Marquis reminded herself that her daughter was about to get married and would be the daughter-in-law of someone else’s family in the future. She couldn’t help but slow down and say: “Your mother is not blaming you, but I am afraid that you will suffer in your in-law’s house in the future. It’s fine for you to say anything in front of your mother, but in the future, you can’t be so outspoken when facing the Marquis of Zhenyuan. The male is in charge of the outside and the female is in the house, court affairs are not something that women should worry about. What you need to do is to be filial to your mother-in-law and manage your concubines. It would be better if you can give birth to a son as soon as possible.”
Hong Wanqing blushed when she heard these words, giving birth to a son, and responded as finely as a mosquito. The Yongping Madam Marquis took advantage of the situation and instilled Hong Wanqing with the secret of managing concubines. Hong Wanqing heard this from a young age and she was not surprised, her mind slowly flew to another name.
Lu Heng. In such a short time, her mother had mentioned this name several times.
Hong Wanqing had something in her heart, and when the Yongping Madam Marquis said that she was tired, she casually mentioned: “Mother, doesn’t Lu Heng also have a wife?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis took a sip of tea and responded indifferently: “Hmm. He is also odd. For the Marquis of Zhenyuan to get married at the age of twenty-one was late. He is two years older than the Marquis of Zhenyuan, yet has never married.”
Hong Wanqing, wanting to clear her thoughts, asked: “Why is that?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis raised her eyebrows with a subtle expression. There were many private speculations in the capital, such as homosexuality, poor health, eccentricities in bed, and so on. But how these words could be put forward in front of the girl, the Yongping Madam Marquis refused to go into details and said briefly: “Who knows, maybe he has other arrangements.”
Hong Wanqing let out a sigh and lowered her eyes, spacing out. The Yongping Madam Marquis did not pay attention to her daughter’s abnormality and she said with emotion: “Aside from the fact that he has no wife and no children, he is also a genius. The day we went to visit Empress Jiang, we bumped into him entering the palace, and it was only then that he was officially ordered to investigate. As a result, after only two or three days, the rumors of the haunting stopped, and after that, no one in the palace met the ghost again. He is really good at figuring out intentions. The emperor only mentioned expelling nobility in the first month of the month, and in early the second month, he handed over the old case of the Zhang family. I am afraid that even the roundworms in the emperor’s stomach didn’t even understand the emperor’s intentions. He was just promoted at the beginning of the year, and when he accumulates his qualifications, I am afraid he will be promoted again.”
Lu Heng’s resume already made everyone in the capital look numb, and his experience was so dazzling that people couldn’t even feel jealous. When the Yongping Madam Marquis thought about Lu Heng, and then her son, she was really heartbroken. She sighed for a while, then regained her mind, and suddenly noticed that Hong Wanqing was biting her lip, her face in a trance as if she had something on her mind.
Hong Wanqing’s series of anomalies finally caught the attention of the Yongping Madam Marquis. She felt her face unconsciously sink as she asked: “Wanqing, what’s the matter with you? Ever since you came back from the New Year’s Festival, you have been distracted. What happened?”
Hong Wanqing hesitated for a long time, and finally tried to speak about the matter with Wang Yanqing: “Mother, in fact, I saw Wang Yanqing the day of the Lantern Festival.”
When the Yongping Madam Marquis heard this name, her thin eyebrows rose immediately: “What?”
“This was when the Marquis of Zhenyuan left. You asked me what I was watching, and I said it was nothing. Actually, I saw Wang Yanqing passing by with a man. Later, when I met Lu Heng in the palace, I learned that the man that day was actually him.”
The Yongping Madam Marquis did not expect these words at all, and her face could not help but become serious: “Are you serious?”
“Completely!” Hong Wanqing couldn’t help but get excited, she held it back for a long time, and finally spit it out today. She breathed a sigh of relief, then looked at her mother nervously: “Mother, why is she by Lu Heng’s side?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis snorted and said coldly: “Why, she is just climbing the dragon to get to the phoenix. I just said why she was willing to leave the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion. It turns out that she was climbing to a higher branch separately.”
Hong Wanqing nervously asked: “Then what should we do next?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis thought for a long time and finally said solemnly: “This is no trivial matter, you should forget about this, and not pay it any mind. You don’t have to worry, maybe this is a good thing.”
“A good thing?” Hong Wanqing became more and more confused, “You don’t know how many secrets of the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion she has mastered. Now that she has thrown herself to Lu Heng’s side, saying that is almost a threat. How could it be a good thing?”
“Silly girl.” The Yongping Madam Marquis looked at her daughter with clear eyes and sighed, “It’s not good for the Fu family, but it can’t be better for you. She and the Zhenyuan Marquis grew up together, and their ten-year friendship was not a joke. I heard that Master Fu had always favored her as his granddaughter-in-law before, and it is estimated that the Zhenyuan Marquis has long regarded her as his own. If she disappears or falls to her death, it will become a life-long hurdle in the Zhenyuan Marquis’ heart. He will always miss her in the future, and whatever you do will be wrong; However, if she remarries, she will fall from the clouds and into the mud, which is worse than the loss of remnant flowers and willows. It is better, so she can’t be the moon in the Zhenyuan Marquis’ heart anymore.”
Hong Wanqing’s eyes froze and she seemed to understand, but she didn’t seem to understand. The Yongping Madam Marquis put it to a stop by saying: “Don’t worry, she’s nothing to be afraid of. You are thinking about the male. As long as this works well, it won’t be difficult to make the Zhenyuan Marquis hate her, and she won’t be able to compete with you in the future.”
Hong Wanqing became nervous and asked: “Mother, what are you going to do?”
The Yongping Madam Marquis shook her head and said: “You don’t need to worry about it. I’ll let your brother do these things, you just need to be the bride with peace of mind.”
It has been two months, and Fu Tingzhou has not yet found Wang Yanqing. Although he was anxious, he still felt suspicious. He almost checked all the households in the capital. Whether Wang Yanqing rented a house, bought a house, or used a pseudonym, he should have found out under this kind of strength. How could he still not find her?
Fu Tingzhou was puzzled. He had no intention of doing business in the past two months and left as soon as court was over. Today, he also left the Nancheng Military and Calvary Division early, but just after leaving the imperial city, he met the prince of the Yongping Marquis.
These days, Fu Tingzhou was busy looking for Wang Yanqing and had no time to go to the Hong family to propose for marriage, but the Yongping Marquis Mansion had already regarded him as their future son-in-law. The Yongping Marquis Prince came chatting enthusiastically and invited Fu Tingzhou for a few drinks at a restaurant. Fu Tingzhou was not interested, but he had to go and give face to the Hong family.
The Yongping Marquis Prince asked for the best box and the table was served with good wine and good food. As the two of them were people of rank, no one cared about the price of the meal. After a few glasses of wine, the atmosphere was lively, and the topic gradually opened.
The Yongping Marquis Prince poured wine for Fu Tingzhou and said lively: “I haven’t had a drink with you in a long time, so I must not get drunk today. What is the Zhenyuan Marquis busy with during this time, why can’t I see you anywhere?”
Civil officials and military officials ran in two circles. These noble children were born with a title, and they didn’t need to test for fame or make a way out, as long as they could keep the family foundation. Coupled with the relationship between their parents, these princes and young masters formed a circle of their own. They were almost all acquainted with each other and when they went out to play, they were just a big group of people. Gradually this had become an unspoken rule. If you wanted to mix in the military, you must first integrate into this circle, otherwise, you would not be able to eat anywhere.
Some were born into the military in the capital and did not participate in the circle gatherings, one was Lu Heng, and the other was Fu Tingzhou. Lu Heng only came to the capital at the age of eleven, and the next year entered the Imperial Guards with a title. After that, he went on missions from the south to the north and didn’t have time to attend the banquets. Of course, even if Lu Heng was in the city, they would not dare to invite him. What did Lu Heng do. If he was invited to come to a fun occasion, wouldn’t he just find something he did not like?
But Fu Tingzhou was different. He grew up in the capital, and he was used to getting along well with people in the circle. Recently, he had suddenly become cold, which was not typical.
Fu Tingzhou was busy looking for Wang Yanqing, but it wasn’t that he didn’t know about any banquets. Fu Tingzhou had no intention of explaining that even if he was a child of nobility, there were two classes, people who did business and those who did not. He had already taken over the title of the family and would be the head of the family in the future. It was not the same as this group of noble children who had nothing to do. Fu Tingzhou patiently accompanied the Yongping Marquis Prince for a drink, and said lightly: “Recently, there have been some things in the house that I can’t leave.”
The Yongping Marquis Prince sighed, and did not say whether he believed it or not, but did not continue to ask. The Yongping Marquis Prince suddenly approached and said mysteriously: “You haven’t been here for a while, and you missed a lot of fun. Did you know that in private, there are now rumors that Lu Heng has changed his gender, and is even building a golden house for his beloved.”
|| Jinwucangjiao (金屋藏娇) is a Chinese idiom that directly translates to a wealthy house to keep a beloved. This is derived from a long story where a prince committed to marrying a girl of his choice from a young age. When he was older, he built her a golden house and married her. In this context, the verb, to play, is used preceeding this idiom. So this refers to Lu Heng toying around with an engagement of sorts, a promise of marrying someone without acutally marrying yet.
Fu Tingzhou had no interest in these private gossips, but the other party was Lu Heng, so he asked more: “You are talking about Lu Heng?”
“That’s right.” The Yongping Marquis Prince smiled, “It’s hard to believe. I thought they were joking when I first heard it, but it turned out to be true.”
Fu Tingzhou felt that at Lu Heng’s age, it was normal to have a woman by his side. Before Lu Heng didn’t marry or take concubines and they always felt that Lu Heng had physical problems in private. However, Fu Tingzhou wondered: “Why? If he likes someone, he can just marry them and go home. Even if he can’t do a wedding because of his grieving period, there are ways to go around it. Why did he have to build a golden house for his beloved?”
The Yongping Marquis Prince spread his hands: “Who knows? Maybe it is not convenient to disclose the identity of the other party. Some time ago, before the Zhang family was investigated, he brought the woman into the palace.”
The more Fu Tingzhou listened, the more strange he felt. Being able to bring the other party into the palace showed that they were not of a shady and lowly status such as a brothel woman, so why did Lu Heng hide it? Fu Tingzhou had an inexplicable feeling and asked: “Really? With Lu Heng’s suspicious personality, what kind of heavenly appearance should this person have that he would allow them in his own home. What did this woman look like?”
The Yongping Marquis seemed to be drinking too much and said with a big tongue: “I haven’t seen her before, but I heard from the people in the palace that she was a cold beauty, tall and slender, probably about this tall, and her skin is very white. What is especially rare is that she has an appearance of ice and jade, but her speech is gentle and soft.”
Fu Tingzhou squinted his eyes secretly. Was he thinking too much? Why did he feel that this description was very similar to Qing Qing?
The Yongping Marquis Prince happily talked drunkenly again and fell asleep on the table. Fu Tingzhou looked at him quietly, with a confused look in his eyes, and called someone in to check out.
He didn’t think that the Yongping Marquis Prince could only handle this amount of alcohol, let alone the fact that the Yongping Marquis Prince ran half of the city and deliberately intercepted him at the gate of the Military and Calvary Division, just to discuss Lu Heng’s private affairs. But now was not the time to worry about this, Fu Tingzhou needed to check another thing.
All things can only be calculated with the mind, and once there was doubt, the next thing would not stand up to further scrutiny, even Lu Heng was no exception. Sure enough, within a few days, Fu Tingzhou found clues.
He only searched private houses before, why didn’t he think about it. No matter how careful Wang Yanqing was, she was just an ordinary woman. What kind of house could hide from Fu Tingzhou’s eyes?
Unless it was the mansion of another powerful man.
As Fu Tingzhou looked at the various reports on the paper, a click sounded and he crushed the tea cup into pieces.
He was not mistaken, the carriage he encountered at the gate of the city last winter, and the back of the woman he saw at the Lu Mansion on New Year’s Eve, was really her. When he went to Lu Heng for a showdown, Lu Heng had the audacity to put his interest on the table. Although he was cold-blooded, he was inexplicably sincere, and Fu Tingzhou actually believed it.
He was simply, hopelessly, stupid, he actually believed Lu Heng!
|| Author’s Note:
Lu Heng: I just said it casually, but you actually believed it?
|| Translator’s Note: Thanks for all the comments 🙂 It always makes my day when I read them! We just got back from our longest road trip this weekend, and I am back to consistency for you lovelies. We are just getting to the exciting part, so I will make sure to post once more before Saturday! Wishing you all an amazing week!