The Prince's escaped fiancée (Arc 2-7)
Wángyé (王爷) - Brother of the Emperor. Referring to Jing Cheng.
Róng Qīnwáng (荣亲王) - Prince (of the first Rank) Rong. Jing Cheng's current title.
Fūjūn (夫君) - Husband
After being locked in the palace by Jing Cheng for over a month, Su Yang began to feel depressed. He soon realised that Jing Cheng's attitude towards him was that of an owner with a pet who relied on its master for survival.
Everyday, he was fed on time, given a bath and his clothes were changed for him. When Jing Cheng felt like it, he would kiss and cuddle him, or sometimes tease him playfully. And at night, he would clasp Su Yang in his arms, hugging him like a pillow. How is this any different from raising a labrador!
Even if you were raising a pet dog, you should still take it out for frequent walks okay! If you keep it in a cage all the time, even the dog will be depressed!
But how do you reason with him? Lecture him on the rights to freedom of citizens? Or tell him that people should have a certain level of respect and understanding for one another? Or open your heart to him and say, the one who ran away from the marriage arrangement with you was not me, I really love you love you can't live without you!
In this superstitious feudal society, claiming to be an errant soul in another man's body will surely lead him to be burned to death as a demon!
Su Yang slammed the chains on his wrist against the smooth marble floor. There was a clear ringing sound and a scratch appeared on the polished marble, but the silver chain remained pristine.
The chain was deceptively delicate. It resisted all his efforts at breaking the fine links and showed no sign of having sustained any damage. Its length was just enough for him to reach the windows, he couldn't get close to the palace doors. All in all, his range of movement was restricted to less than three metres.
Su Yang was proud to say that he is very even natured and fairly tolerant, but his forbearance was being slowly whittled away as the days went by and he remained in captivity. Anyone who was locked up in such a cold and empty palace for more than a month is bound to eventually suffer from a mental breakdown.
He has to think of a plan to get Jing Cheng to release him before he loses his mind entirely.
During the later session of the Imperial court, Jing Cheng was, as usual, closely surrounded by the ministers of civil and military affairs.
One of them was sighing, "The issues of the North have only just been settled, but now hostilities have risen in the South China Sea. When will we see the end of this.”
Someone immediately retorted, “What need do we have to fear these trifling Wokou pirates. Our Greater Ming today is as boundless as the ocean and vast as the skies1, thanks to the late Taizong Emperor’s efforts in cleaning out the Siguo island of these filth. Now we have the Róng Wángyé to defend us in his stead. Let them come and perish!”
Wōkòu (倭寇) – Wokou were pirates who who raided the coastlines of China and Korea from the 4th century to the 16th century. The wokou came from Japanese, Korean, and Chinese ethnicities which varied over time.
Sìguó (四国) – Shikoku island, one of the four main islands of Japan
“Yes yes yes, that’s very true. Be it the Northern barbarians or the Southern midgets2, when faced with our Wángyé, they can only kneel and swear fealty to him3.”
Jing Cheng’s closest aide and confidante stepped forward, and said rebukingly, “Lord Wang, words should not be carelessly spoken! Even if they were to swear fealty, it would be to His Majesty the Emperor. All of Wángyé battles with our enemy was but to defend and safeguard the Jing ancestry and all of the country. His loyalty is unwavering, the heavens can attest to this!”
The man was well aware of his own indiscretion, and began hastily making amends, “Begging Wángyé’s pardon, begging Wángyé’s pardon, this humble official was merely expressing his opinion, and did not guard well his loose tongue, asking for Wángyé’s forgiveness….”
Jing Cheng listened to this spiel expressionlessly, and only felt that these people who were trying to out-talk one another, were in no way comparable to his obedient and pleasing little puppy.
At this current moment, his head was full of thoughts of Su Yang’s peacefully sleeping face earlier this morning. He had risen and left somewhat urgently, and hadn’t fed his little pet yet, and so right now he was impatient to leave. Country matters, welfare issues, all these were annoying buzzes to his ears, and he had no intention of humoring them with prolonged discussions.
A pity then, that his wish was destined to go unfulfilled. Because here was Wu Xingde, who had shown up unexpectedly at the court and was walking towards him.
The old General Wu was still hale and fighting fit despite his years, and his steps can only be described as a brisk march. One glance at the sullen scowl on his face, and the crowd around Jing Cheng wisely began to disperse in a succession of hasty goodbyes.
These days, the people from the General’s and the Róng Qīnwáng’s sides were like fire and water. Even the royal courtiers dared not ask after their affairs, these were not people they could risk offending with wagging tongues. As for the grievances between these two, a couple of coins at a teahouse can buy you a whole day’s worth of narrative from the local storyteller.
Ever since old General Wu’s grandson broke off the marriage arrangement and attempted to flee, thereby causing a scandal which led to the humiliation of the Róng Qīnwáng, these two families seemed to have completely severed all ties between them. Fast forward to a month ago, when the Róng Qīnwáng returned after having secured a decisive victory, all thought that the Wu and Tao families would have to humbly beg for his forgiveness. Who would have thought the Crown Prince would enforce the late Emperor’s previous edict, leaving the Róng Qīnwáng no choice but to pick up and marry the young master of the Tao family.
Initially, it was solely General Wu’s side who was in the wrong. But then the Róng Qīnwáng unexpectedly did not show up on his wedding day, thereby embarrassing the Minister and the Wu family. As for the Tao family’s young master, after being picked up by the small four-man sedan to be married off to the Wángyé, there had been no ceremony to bow to Heaven and Earth to date. In fact, neither hide nor hair has been seen of him since, no news to even indicate if he was dead or alive.
Note: 拜堂 (Bàitáng) : An official at the wedding would direct the bride and groom to pray to heaven and earth first, then to the groom parents or family elders and lastly to bow to each other.
With such acrimony and deep grudges, even if it were to occur between the families of the common people, they may not be able to swallow their pride and overlook this, much less between two parties who held such prestigious and lofty stations within Greater Ming.
Hence now, Wu Xingde strode up to Jing Cheng, and cupped his hands in greeting.
“Wángyé is well?”
Jing Cheng nodded indifferently, “General Wu is too kind.”
A penetrating gleam of interest lit Wu Xingde’s murky eyes. This gravely dignified man before him had a forbidding and coldly authoritarian aura. Compared to his more reticent and self-effacing manner of the past, he now boldly displayed his talents and prowess unreservedly. This was the true Jing Cheng.
In reality, most of the rumours floating around outside was somewhat heavily embellished. Wu Xingde held no grudge against Jing Cheng, a part of him even held admiration for this man. As for his ne’er-do-well of a grandson, as long as the boy was alive, letting that brat face the consequences of his own actions and have a little taste of hardship was all well and good with him.
But upon recalling his daughter’s tearful entreaty, he could only grit his teeth and said, “Róng Wángyé, pertaining to the battles at the South China Sea, this elder would like to share his humble opinion, if it pleases Wángyé to hear what this elder has to say.”
Something flashed in Jing Cheng’s eyes. “General Wu is too modest, for a veteran as yourself to be willing to enlighten me, the honour is mine.”
Seeing how Jing Cheng was willing to humour him, Wu Xingde relaxed slightly. “Then….. how about we discuss this at Wángyé’s residence?”
Jing Cheng nodded, “That is fine. General Wu, after you4.”
“Wángyé, after you.”
Wu Xingde’s expression betrayed his expectant cheerfulness. In stark contrast, Jing Cheng eyes were dark and inscrutable. The issues of the South China Sea were but a pretext, he knew well that the General’s true objective was the little puppy in his room.
Several days ago, his steward had reported to him of how the elderly maid who came with the Tao family’s dowry had stolen out of his residence in secret. No doubt she had been reporting everything she knew of Tao Ziyu’s situation.
Jing Cheng’s lips curved in a cold smile. His possessions were his own to deal with as he sees fit, he will brook no interference from others.
Wu Xingde had been very reluctant to pull this farce of a meeting, but Wu Xueyan had given him a very severe account of Tao Ziyu’s illness. She had told him of how the child was now foolish and simple-minded, how he cries if bullied, how Granny Wu has not even caught the barest glimpse of the young master for more than a month since they entered the Wángyé’s residence, and could only make inquiries and hear snippets from the back kitchen of how his appetite has been gradually worsening day by day.
His daughter was similar to him in all aspects, with a cold and calm temperament, always guarding her emotions and never revealing any weaknesses. Hence her pleas had moved him.
Fine, fine. He will just take a quick look from a distance, if nothing else it will give his daughter some peace of mind.
These two men both harbored their own motives. Once they reached his residence, Jing Cheng led his visitor to the study room and laid out the diagrams and plans for discussing the current situation.
With two of the sharpest minds bent on such a minor issue as the South China Sea conflict, how many rounds of proposals and feasible options do you think you can come up with for my consideration.
Wu Xingde’s initial plan had been to draw out the discussion until it was time for the noon meal, in order to formulate an excuse to stay and dine together and take a look at his grandson at the same time. But he was drawn in by Jing Cheng’s credible words, and before he realised it, a conclusion was reached and the issue has been decisively settled
And so the elder of the two was galled as he stood there indecisively for a moment, his expression thunderous.
Jing Cheng artlessly bade his guest farewell, Wu Xingde couldn’t muster up the nerve to invite himself to freeload a lunch either. Hence, with an angry flick of his sleeves, he left in a huff.
After seeing Wu Xingde off, Jing Cheng ordered for some clear congee5 and light snacks to be prepared, then personally carried them to his quarters.
Su Yang was sitting on top of the table which faced the window, with his arms hugging his knees. The large red sandalwood table made his slender stature seem even smaller, and his long, jet black hair lay scattered over the table top. He was staring fixedly out the window where a pear blossom tree stood in full bloom.
Jing Cheng set aside the food he had brought, and walked over to embrace him from behind, "Hungry?"
Su Yang continued staring at the snowy white pear blossoms and did not answer him.
Jing Cheng said, "If you don't answer me, I will have this tree chopped down immediately."
Su Yang turned around at once and grabbed on to his lapels imploringly. "No don't, I like it, don't chop it…."
Something flashed in Jing Cheng's eyes. He tilted his jaw up.
"Hungry, or not hungry?"
Su Yang shook his head. He has been growing less and less prone to hunger of late.
Jing Cheng muttered something to himself, then picked up the spoon and scooped up some of the light, watery congee. He held it against Su Yang's lips, and gave a terse order: "Drink."
Su Yang obediently parted his lips. The spoon slipped in, and he slowly swallowed the porridge.
Jing Cheng smiled faintly, and continued feeding him spoonful by spoonful. This lovely and obedient little pet, was his and his alone.
He spoke as he scooped up the congee: "Your grandfather was here today."
Su Yang lifted his gaze and gave him a puzzled look. Jing Cheng laughed softly, “I know you can’t remember him. Contrary to what one may expect, he still has a soft spot for you, his grandson. He was anxious to see you.”
Su Yang asked, “Then, can I see him?”
Jing Cheng’s movements paused. He lifted a brow, “Do you want to see him?”
Su Yang nodded eagerly, his eyes bright and starry, “I want to see him, I want to see Mother too, and Granny Wu, and Ah Gui. I haven’t seen other people for a long time, it’s so boring, anyone is fine……”
Jing Cheng placed the spoon on the table, and swiped his thumb over Su Yang’s lips to clean off the faint traces of congee.
“But I don’t agree to it,” he said flatly. “You are forbidden from seeing anyone else, and no one is permitted to see you either. You are mine, you belong only to me.”
Su Yang was so angry that his fingers trembled. It took all of his self-control to quell the bubbling rage from bursting forth. He was aware that right now, his mental stability was not in the best state, but he couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed from helplessness.
He buried his face in Jing Cheng’s chest to hide his twisted expression.
His voice was muffled as he began pleading, “Fūjūn, I miss my mother, I want to go out, I don’t want to be shut in here, it’s so dark and cold, I don’t like it here.”
Jing Cheng touched his silky hair, and said softly, “Behave, you have to stay by my side forever, get used to it.”
Su Yang acted as if he did not understand the meaning of his words at all, and chanted incessantly, “I don’t like it here, I don’t like it, I want my mother, I don’t want to stay here.”
At the end, there was a soft sound of muffled weeping.
Jing Cheng’s brows lifted, and his voice was chilly, “You would dare disobey me?”
Su Yang knew he was growing angry, but right now he was too aggrieved to control his whirling emotions. If Jing Cheng were to gently coax him now, he might have been able to calm down and pull himself together. Unfortunately, Jing Cheng had no experience in coaxing anyone whatsoever. After being threatened instead, Su Yang finally broke down and began sobbing in earnest.
Am I the only one who's disappointed at the lack of a bath scene? Lol.
Jing Cheng, stop making your wife cry.
Notes :Wàn lǐ jiāng shān (万里江山) – lit. ten thousand miles of rivers and mountains; a vast territory (idiom) Wō (倭) – lit. dwarf. An ancient derogatory way of referring to the Japanese. Fǔ shǒu chēng chén (俯首称臣) – lit. bow and call yourself a servant.
Thanks for reading.