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Title: ChongFei Manual
Chapter: 143.1 out of 171
Inside Zhao Yang Hall, there were only a few palace servants. They were wearing purple garments and tidying up the hall. As soon as they saw Emperor Chong Zhen entering the hall, they hurriedly saluted, “Greetings Your Majesty.”
Emperor Chong Zhen looked around the hall. Not seeing Empress Chen, his expression became more solemn as he asked, “Where’s the empress?”
One of the palace servants, Zi Zhu, said, “To respond to Your Majesty, the empress spoke to Princess Consort Jing for a while. She felt tired and she’s currently resting in the heated room.
Emperor Chong Zhen nodded. He looked at the food on the small, vermillion-lacquered arhat table and casually asked, “Has Princess Consort Jing left?”
Zi Zhu replied, “Yes, she recently left. Prince Jing personally came here for Princess Consort Jing.”
Emperor Chong Zhen didn’t ask any more questions. He walked towards the heated room, “This emperor is going to see the empress.”
Actually, it was slightly strange. For the past decade, Emperor Chong Zhen and Empress Chen’s relationship had been at a deadlock. Every time they met, they would most likely argue and part on bad terms. Even so, Emperor Chong Zhen would still come to Zhao Yang Hall once a month. None of the palace servants knew why.
Zhao Yang Hall’s palace servants were already used to their pattern of interacting with each other. This was why they weren’t surprised that Emperor Chong Zhen would still insist on going to see Empress Chen today even though she was already asleep.
Original translation is from fuyuneko dot org. If you’re reading this elsewhere, this chapter has been stolen. Please stop supporting theft.
After Emperor Chong Zhen passed through the luo di zhao that was carved with joyful magpies, pushed open the doors, he looked towards the rosewood couch that was near a window and had decorative carvings. Empress Chen was lying down on the couch on her side. She was covered with a dark reddish purple blanket that was embroidered with dragons, phoenixes, and auspicious symbols. The precious hairpins and other hair accessories had been removed from her hair, so her silky black hair was piled up on the pillow. For no reason at all, it made him think of a phrase – hair as delicate and dense as clouds, neck as resplendent as jade.
(T/N: Luo di zhao is a ceiling to floor carved screen. Below is a picture of one with a simple design.)
Emperor Chong Zhen walked to the couch and looked at the woman lying down on it. He couldn’t help sinking into contemplation.
He thought of the past, how they had fought together to conquer the world. She had been so bold and proud. Back then, she had seemed like an untamable little firecracker. If she wasn’t happy with him, she would argue with him. Back then, he had told her that she was impossible to get along with. But in his heart, he would gladly endured any hardships for her and he was a glutton for punishment. No matter what she did, he could tolerate her little tantrums.
He remembered that there was one time when she had pulled her horse’s reins and rode out of the camp when they couldn’t come to an agreement. Even when night had fallen, she still didn’t come back. At that time, it was a crucial juncture for the two armies. He was worried she had been kidnapped by their enemies and was in danger. He searched for her for the next two days like a headless chicken. He even risked the danger of going to the enemy camp to search for her.
Unexpectedly, she rushed out of the enemy camp on the third day with their enemy’s severed head hanging on her horse. She proudly raised her chin and asked him, “Do you still think my plan isn’t feasible?”
Even now, that scene still remained fresh in his memory. Her back had been facing the sun and she looked like a blossoming rose that was burning. Her beauty had dazzled his eyes.
Later, he had torn off her wings with his hands. He had forced her to give up her freedom and she could no longer soar through the battlefields. She could only become a canary in his cage. He knew that even now, she still wanted to go back. All these years, she had resented him and didn’t want to be close to him. And so, the distance between them only increased as they kept walking farther away from each other.
Emperor Chong Zhen sat down on the couch. He gently stroked Empress Chen’s cheek with his fingers and quietly said, “Wan Wan…”
Empress Chen’s name was Chen Ru Fu. Because she had been the youngest daughter in her family, her nickname was Wan Wan. Back when their relationship hadn’t been at a standstill, he would call her “Wan Wan” and she would call him “Older brother Zhi Qing.” But now, that was only a long ago memory.
Empress Chen always slept lightly. Emperor Chong Zhen had only sat down for a short period of time when she started to furrow her eyebrows and wake up. When she saw Emperor Chong Zhen, her first reaction was freezing in surprise. But, her expression quickly returned to normal, “Your Majesty, why did you come here? This consort had already fallen asleep.”
Without changing his expression, Chong Zhen withdrew his hand and said, “This emperor came to see how you were doing. You recently said you weren’t feeling well. Are you feeling better now?”
Empress Chen curved the corners of her lips. He didn’t know if she was smiling because she felt moved by his words or if she wanted to laugh at him for acting superfluous.
“It wasn’t anything serious. Ah Luo accompanied this consort for a while. This consort has already mostly recovered.”
The emperor nodded. For a time, he didn’t have anything else to say.
Empress Chen sat up, pushed her dense, dark hair behind her shoulders, and looked at the emperor. “This consort wants to go to sleep. If there’s nothing else, this consort will have people send you back.”
She was openly asking him to leave. Emperor Chong Zhen felt as if a stone was clogging his heart up. It wouldn’t go up or down. He couldn’t describe the feeling that he was experiencing. He saw that Empress Chen was already changing into her sleeping clothes and expressionlessly said, “This emperor will be sleeping here tonight.”
Empress Chen paused in washing her face for a moment. Soon after, she calmly took the towel that Zi Zhu had brought. As she dried her face, she said, “The entire harem belongs to Your Majesty. You have the freedom to go wherever you want.” Then, she ordered Zi Zhu, “Bring over His Majesty’s sleeping clothes and serve His Majesty with washing up and changing clothes.”
Zi Zhu acknowledged her order and left.
Today was the last day of the year. After today, it would be the beginning of a new year. Right after Emperor Chong Zhen changed his clothes, he heard the crackling sounds of firecrackers from outside the hall. It continued for the time it would take to steep a pot of tea. It seemed that it was already the New Year.
Empress Chen was standing by the bed. When she turned her head to look at him, there wasn’t the slightest emotion in her eyes. A long time later, she finally faintly smiled and said, “It’s New Year again. This consort has ordered people to cook dumplings filled with winter bamboo shoots. Your Majesty, you should try some.”
Emperor Chong Zhen didn’t move. He was still thinking of her recent expression. Why did she look at him as if she didn’t have any desire or expectations towards him and only had weariness left? Her indifference scared him witless.
After Emperor Chong Zhen ate the dumplings, he looked at Empress Chen again. He didn’t see the expression from before.
The two of them respectively went to sleep without saying another word for the rest night.