红颜乱: Chaos Of Beauty Chapter 7

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Inauspicious Calamity

In heaven’s recording of the second year in spring, the case of “Hu Guo Temple” has finally settled, because the case had no empirical evidence, in the end they could only let the matter rest. However rumours circulating, implicated that the matter concerns the Empress, after attesting the case, the Emperor substantially reduced the officials on the Elder Statesman’s side, thus causing the entire court to discuss the matter. In contrast, the power of Consort Ying’s maiden family had been consolidated, under such diminishment, the glory of the Elder Statesman’s Estate is no longer like the past. (Elder statesman refers to the Empress’ father)

“At least the imperial guards have withdrawn from the Empress’ palace, her Empress title has also been saved, other than that, she can no longer afford to dream of anything else.” Under such slender jade-like fingers, the newly grown willow shoots leans towards the nose, a gentle sniff, and sure enough, it indeed carries a refreshing breath of spring air, Gui Wan reveals a faint smile of appreciation, letting go of the willow shoot, she turns her head to ask: “Did nothing else happen?”

The housekeeper lowers his head, his speaking tone remains rigid with no fluctuations, reporting as though he is reciting from a book: “Nothing else has happened, these past two weeks, the most discussed matter outside is the case of the ‘Hu Guo Temple’.”

“Once matters have been spread around too much, they would get tired, and everything will be alright again.” Gui Wan laughingly says, Lou Che has indeed kept his promise to her, the Empress title has been protected, the back palace has not been thrown into a chaotic mess. Along with the arrival of spring, everything is developing in a good direction. Thinking up to this point, she could even more so feel a strong sense of derangement.

“What about the Empress, did she show any response?”

“No,” The housekeeper calmly speaks, “There has been no response at all, the back palace is already back to the usual.”

Placing the willow branch into the flower vase, casually fiddling with it a bit, Gui Wan feels that the big rock in her heart has been lifted. Half a month passed after speaking with the Empress, the matter that has been bothering her so much, seems to have been resolved. The corner of Gui Wan’s lips curves up, was just about to order the housekeeper to withdraw, when suddenly, she once again feels that something is not right, thinking deeper, the Empress is of graceful and restrained character, but once she says something, she would definitely stick to it, like the typical soft on the outside strong on the inside character. She said she would kill Consort Ying, could she really have given up now?

She wouldn’t, she must be waiting……waiting for the best opportune moment, thinking up to here, the image of the Empress’ poignant smile seems to have once again flash before her, without realising, the strength in her hand intensifies, and the willow sounds a snap, Gui Wan suddenly lowers her head, looking at the snapped willow, ah such fragility. Her brows knits together, and she turns around, “Send people to monitor the Elder Statesman’s Estate, once there is any unusual movement, tell me.” The extreme serenity right now, vaguely carries the feeling of a brewing storm, she cannot standby without making any preparations.

Empress-ah, you must not be reckless…….

The housekeeper raises his head, his face showing an unreadable expression, this was the first time she had seen his calm face show a change of emotion, looking at him, she asks: “What’s wrong?”

The housekeeper once again lowers his head, all expressions wiped off his face, his answer short and affirmative: “Yes, I will send for people to monitor the Elder Statesman’s Estate day and night.” This is strange, Lord Prime Minister’s orders this morning, and Madam’s orders right now, is exactly the same, he does not know whether he should say it or not, just when he wanted to open his mouth to say it, he thinks over it again, in the end he just keeps the words in his mouth.

Noticing the housekeeper quietly leave, Gui Wan observes the branches she has just picked from the tree, extending her hand to take hold of them, she could not help but murmur: “It’s already spring now, why is it still so cold?”

******

The Yan’s grass is like jaded silk, the Qin’s green mulberry branches hangs low.

The day the husband thinks of returning home, will be when his wife is heartbroken……” Such clear voice reciting the poem intervenes, mild and melodious, carrying a faint smile like that of wind and cloud.

Placing down the brush, and turning around, indeed it is Gui Wan who stands by the door, Guan Xiu Wen raises his hand, greeting her: “Madam, what brings you to the west wing?”

Seeing his innocent smile and hearing his incomparably sincere words, Gui Wan steps into the study room, she speaks in a melodic laughing tone: “Why is the future First Ranked Scholar reciting {{Spring Thoughts}}?” Every time she sees Guan Xiu Wen carry this sense of purity that moves everyone around him, she cannot help but to tease him, didn’t think that such childishness nature still exists within her.

Having long been getting the words “First Ranked Scholar” gratingly bring out the shame in him, Guan Xiu Wen freely passes by the study desk, saying to Gui Wan: “{{Spring Thoughts}} is originally a great poem, now that it coincides with the spring breeze in March, it carries nothing more but the feeling of being moved by what one sees.”[1]

It vaguely feels as though his explanation is a little far-fetched. {{Spring Thoughts}} is written about a woman’s yearning love as she waits for her husband’s return, how can it be moving by what one sees? Discarding the mixed thoughts in her head, Gui Wan does not think much of it, sitting on the guest chair in the study room, she turns her body, asking Guan Xiu Wen: “The imperial examinations starts next month, have you prepared?”

“Everything has already been prepared,” His smile carries a slight hint of shyness, Guan Xiu Wen modestly replies, “I hope I will be able to pass with great results.” In front of this woman, he is able to speak out his most honest thoughts, could this have something to do with her being the one who changed his destiny?

From Lou Che she had already known that he is a talent capable of the First Ranked Scholar title, without the slightest surprise, Gui Wan’s smile remains unwavered, “Didn’t I ask you whether you were prepared to get into the officialdom?” Her voice sounding ever so relaxed, as though they are having the usual conversation.

Guan Xiu Wen freezes, unable to utter a word for the time being, he gazes at Gui Wan attentively, beginning to open his mouth in reply: “I am already prepared for officialdom, but, I have yet to find something I want to protect.” His voice was light, carrying regret as well as an unknown feeling of loneliness.

This youth is so much like herself, Gui Wan’s thoughts quickly makes a turn, with no firm conviction, the road ahead will be much more difficult to walk ah, such purity like water, would it become an ink stained pool one day? Looking at Guan Xiu Wen with concern, Gui Wan asks: “If one day, you find that your feelings clashes with that of imperial power, what would you choose, what would you abandon?” She does not know why she asks him this question, such question that even she has no answer to, because this youth has no background whatsoever, has no political benefits, under a chanced coincidence, he has also come to know the truth of certain matters, that is why she can ask him this, with no burden, without having to worry about the consequences.

Hearing this, Guan Xiu Wen remains dumbly frozen, not knowing how to answer, what he had seen three months ago, still remains fresh in his memory right now. Other than Gui Wan, no one else knows of this matter, this is the secret between the two of them, it also the key that has changed the course of his fate, countless times has he recalled that scene in his dreams, within the darkness, that woman looking at him, asking, are you willing to leave the performance troupe and follow me? He himself must have been possessed, not knowing her identity, and within the backlight, he could not even make out the person’s appearance clearly, yet he readily answers in agreement.

On several occasions, thinking back to that time, he would always feel so puzzled, at that time, what was it that made him agree, was it the fear of death? That is but only a small portion of his reason, exactly for what reason……even now he still does not understand, really does not understand……

Seeing Gui Wan wait for his answer with a sparkling smile, his thoughts stirs, he does not regret his decision back then, if he was given the choice once again, he would still make the same decision, if he is able to face such smile so often. With utmost certainty, he answers: “I also don’t know how I should choose.” Neither of the two answers are right, nor are they wrong, under such situation, there is no value in choice.

A little disappointed, Gui Wan says nothing, clearly knowing that the question is difficult to choose from, yet she still hopes for someone to give her an answer, this answer can at least enlighten her, leaving her to face the chain of events that will be coming her way in future, lightly shaking her head twice, she turns her head to the side, looking out the window, reciting: “The spring breeze is but a stranger, [so] why does it enter the bed curtains?”

Guan Xiu Wen’s heart throbs at the reciting of the poem, it was the last two lines of {{Spring Thoughts}}. When recited from Gui Wan’s lips, it actually carries feelings of distant and confused feelings, could it be that she has encountered some sort of difficulty? He could not help but ask: “Is there something troubling you Madam?”

“There is,” Gui Wan clearly answers, “There’s many troubling matters.” Another two weeks has past, and the Empress has still not made a single move, she too is feeling rather restless.

Guan Xiu Wen slightly furrows his brows, gently asking: “What matter could be troubling you?” Could it be because of Prime Minister Lou’s matters? The scene from three months ago abruptly jumps into his mind, making him secretly feel rather repelled.

Deliberately wanting to test his understanding of the imperial court, Gui Wan cautiously mentions: “Do you know of the ‘Hu Guo Temple’ incident?”

Guan Xiu Wen seriously thinks about it, he implicitly smiles towards Gui Wan and says: “Hu Guo Temple, is this referring to the matter of Consort Ying and the Empress’ offering of joss sticks?”

“What?”

Gui Wan was dumbfounded, thinking she had heard wrong, she raises her brows, her voice quiet as she speaks: “When was this? Consort Ying and the Empress went to offer joss sticks?” Her voice was filled with uncertainty, why is this? Why is it that she knows nothing of this matter, could there have been some misunderstanding in between, or could it be……

Guan Xiu Wen sees that her reaction was somewhat strange, and slowly explains: “Three days ago, Consort Ying and the Empress went to offer joss sticks, a votive offering, quelling the aftermath of the ‘Hu Guo Temple’ incident. This matter, is known throughout the entire Capital, everyone is curious, why these two arch-rivals would go offer joss sticks together.”

Gui Wan has thoroughly frozen, a chill runs up her spine, she already understands where the problem lies. The Empress must be wanting to take action now, which is why she left the Capital with Consort Ying in order to make their offerings, because only then, can she make her move. All of this, Lou Che should already know of, that’s why the housekeeper has been keeping the facts from her, the daily reports were all to deceive her. What’s more serious is, since Lou Che is aware of the Empress’ plans, then wouldn’t the Empress lose without a doubt? The more she thinks about it, the more serious the matter is. Between both sides, one side would definitely fail, and it would most likely be the Empress. Since the ancient times, the loser of imperial power struggle, usually only ever have one path to walk……thinking up to this point, Gui Wan’s blood runs cold.

Her body suddenly stands up, her voice cold, losing its usual leisurely vibe that captivates others, “How long have they left? Did they leave three days ago?”

Guan Xiu Wen was startled by her sudden movement, hastily replying: “Yes, they left three days ago, and are expected to be back tomorrow morning.” He did not understand why Gui Wan’s complexion suddenly turned pale, but was still able to sense the seriousness of the situation.

This cannot do……Gui Wan immediately turns and runs for the door, this matter cannot happen.

Grabbing onto Gui Wan’s hand, Guan Xiu Wen was also surprised as he looks at his own hand, just now, he did not even think before grabbing her, didn’t think through how abrupt this action of his is, just that he definitely cannot just watch her run out in panic like that, anxiously asking her: “What’s wrong?”

Feeling the slight pain of being abruptly caught by the arm like that, causes her to suddenly wake up a bit, and hearing the youth question her, she reminds herself not to panic, she needs to remain calm, the situation still has the chance to be turned around. Bringing back a touch of a smile, she orders the youth: “Xiu Wen, you quickly go help me call for a horse carriage, not from the Prime Minister Estate, also cannot let the housekeeper and the others know of this, I need to go out right now.”

Perhaps it was that calling of Xiu Wen, her calling of him bringing a slight shock to his heart, or perhaps it was the trace of helplessness that was revealed in her eyes, causing him to no longer ask any further, seeing that Gui Wan has faintly restored her calm, he immediately runs out the door.

An hour later, a horse carriage fleetingly passes by the big street outside the Prime Minister Estate, raising gusts of yellow dust, the turning of wheels sounding crazily as it runs.

Gui Wan who was sitting in the carriage was feeling extremely uncomfortable, but she must endure this. One hand grabbing hold of the shaft the cart, half lowering her body, she agonises over what kind of method the Empress would use, vaguely guessing, a long time ago, she has once heard that the Elder Statesman has group of powerful phantom soldiers, the approach must be a midway rob and kill. If that’s the case, they can push away the responsibility, thus protecting the Elder Statesman’s life, but what about the Empress? What plans does she have for herself then? She had already withheld the determination of death……could it be……

Hear heart jumps up and down along with the bumpy carriage, Gui Wan was feeling unceasingly anxious, Lou Che promised her that he would spare the Empress, such promise has already been fulfilled, this time, he would no longer be lenient right?

Such a cold heart. What could she do now? Will she be able to stop the Empress in time like this? Could it be that there is no one that can help her?

Just when she was thinking this, the horse carriage comes to an abrupt stop, secretly feeling annoyed inside, she gravely asks the coachman: “What exactly happened? Why did you stop?” She can no longer afford to be delayed.

The coachman’s fearful voice travels in: “We’ve reached the North Gate, there’s a border inspection.”

They already reached the city gates? Raising the curtains, she looks out, the soldiers at the city gates were thoroughly inspecting, her eyes travels across, a good few people were stood by the city gates, it appears to be the commanders, enthusiastically discussing something, amongst them is……is General Lin Rui En.

That young general who is cold on the outside but warm on the inside, the imperial court’s number one commander, is the only person who can compete with Lou Che in the imperial court. Seeing him, Gui Wan’s heart jumps, joy flowing in, there’s hope.



[1] Being moved by what one sees chù jǐng shēng qíng / 触景生情 literally translates to a touching view that gives rise to feelings/emotions.

[Additional note] Click here for the fully translated version of Spring Thoughts, by Lǐ Bái / 李白, the poem that has been mentioned in this chapter, you may have noticed that the writer has cleverly broken up and included all lines of the poem throughout the chapter, which I have italicised.

And General Lin comes to save the day! Haha. I hope you guys weren’t getting too used to the long chapters 😛 this may be a really short chapter, but there’s another two part chapter coming up next, although I’d probably only be able to get one part translated for next week, but chapter eight is a really action packed chapter and the first part is definitely a nice treat for all you on the General Lin ship  ^_~

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