Published at 7th of November 2020 06:38:47 PM
The thirtieth year of the Changlong¹ era . Winter .
The commoners of the Jin dynasty were immersed in joy . For many years, the Great State of Jin had conflicting views with the neighboring nation of Jinpo Country . This time, not only had their Defender General² almost rendered Jinpo Country’s army to a sorry state, he had even captured their brave and skilled-at-warfare Second Prince from the battlefield . Such acts forced the other nation to give up land and capitulate, becoming their vassal state . Practically all members of the Jin dynasty grew exalted from fulfillment; even their strides felt light .
Momentarily in the eyes of the commoners, the Defender General became the Wu Quxing³ who had descended to the mortal realm . His three sons were also reincarnations of celestial troops and generals⁴ . Because the current emperor was intelligent and possessed good vision, while also glowing with vigor and health, he was a wise monarch rarely seen in history . As such, the Defender General had deliberately descended to the mortal realm to assist this wise emperor . To assist the Great State of Jin in flourishing . And now, nations from all around would come to pay tribute .
No matter what the commoners said, in short the emperor was very wise, and General Hua and his family were very valiant .
At this moment, General Hua and his family were over a hundred kilometers⁵ from the capital’s posthouse⁶ . In order to celebrate the grand victory of the Great State of Jin, the official in charge of this posthouse purposely hung two red lanterns at the gate . However, it had snowed heavily in recent days, and not many officials had come to stay here . Therefore, not many people saw his intention .
The official in charge of the post house held a plate of stir-fried beans, crouching by the doorway, staring blankly at the snow in the courtyard . A cold gust blew his messy beard in even more disarray .
A sigh escaped his lips . Then an inspector official⁷ approached his side and said with a bitter expression, “Who knows when those people staying here would leave?”
This time, the criminal who had been sent here was said to be a high-ranking official . One who had committed a crime in the capital . Before he even arrived, someone had already come to notify them not to slight that person . As the official in charge of the post house, he could only guard this place every day, so as to avoid something happening to that high-ranking official .
These high-ranking officials would be exiled one year, and then have their official posts restored the next . One side wanted to make reprisals; another side wanted to protect those people . The ones out of luck were these low-ranking officials, unable to slight anyone .
“He’s already a convicted criminal . What’s he putting on airs for? This father⁸ doesn’t want to wait on him . ” The official spat out a bean husk to the snow-covered ground . “He doesn’t know how to stop at all . ”
Just as those words had left his lips, he caught sight of a horse-drawn carriage on the main path⁹, far away at the end . A glance, and he could tell it belonged to powerful people .
The posthouse official handed his plate of stir-fried beans to the inspector . Patted his half-worn outer robe, a welcoming smile stretching across his entire face .
The inspector official rolled his eyes . After saying he wouldn’t serve them, the posthouse official became someone who curried favor once he saw the influential bigwigs .
What kind of divine horse was pulling the carriage stood as anyone’s guess . It could even travel in the snow, four hooves stable and steady, bold and powerful to the extreme . Guards dressed in soldier attire surrounded the carriage, gazes bright and expressive . They were completely different from those garrison troops in the city . As though they had entered the battlefield and witnessed blood before .
The inspector official realized that the identities of these travelers weren’t simple . He rushed to set the plate of stir-fried beans onto the windowsill, then went over to greet them, putting on a flattering smile like the posthouse official had done .
On the second floor, someone slowly pushed open the wooden door a crack, revealing a pair of eyes from a secret place .
“The Hua family members are finally here .
“It… can begin . ”
Just when the carriage stopped outside of the posthouse, the posthouse official went forward to bow with hands held in front of him, a smile across his entire face . “This humble official¹⁰ is the posthouse official . From where did these noble personages come?”
“We come from Qinghan Province,” said the high-ranking military officer leading the group . He took out a set of travel documents . “We are escorting the family members of General Hua¹¹ to the capital first . ”
“So these are the family members of General Hua?!” The posthouse official returned the documents in a deferential manner to the high-ranking military officer . “May the noble personages quickly enter . ”
The curtain of the carriage in the front shifted . The posthouse official lowered his head, not daring to look straight at the noble personages .
He only saw the corner of the curtain rise, a pair of deer-hide boots that did not seem to have ever come into contact with dust coming to view . A cloak of brilliant red swayed on the carriage, giving a glimpse of what lay beneath it: a snow-white brocade dress with embroidered red plum blossoms .
Hua Liuli left the carriage, taking in the worn-out and dilapidated posthouse before her . After a moment of silence, she turned around to return to her carriage . “I think it’s better to continue our journey in haste . ”
The older female servant¹², who had long since been used to her pickiness, advised with her usual expression, “Princess¹³, the next posthouse is almost fifty kilometers from here . The snow has yet to melt on the road . There isn’t even a place to take a bath . Your honored self¹⁴ must think carefully before acting . ”
Hua Liuli furrowed her brows that were pleasant to the eye, wanting to shut the curtain and leave . She turned her head and noticed that the chilly wind and snow had blown the noses of the officers red . Expression one of displeasure, she said, “We’ll rest here for the night and leave tomorrow . ”
The older female servant threw a few pieces of silver to the posthouse official . “Prepare more hot water . ”
“Yes,” replied the posthouse official, smiling . He was fond of such generous noble personages, less of a worry than that official who had committed a crime and was currently held in custody on the second floor .
Hua Changkong, who had just climbed off his horse, caught sight of his younger sister trying to hop off the carriage with a taut expression . Without delay, he approached her and supported her . “Younger Sister, be careful . Slow down . The ground is full of snow . How about Elder Brother support you as you go inside?”
The older female servant watched this sight with a normal expression . Behind every hedonistic son of wealthy families was a family head who spoiled their children to no end . General Hua’s family was great in all aspects, except for the fact that they had spoiled their only daughter beyond recognition .
After she took two steps, they’d fear she would tire; after the wind had blown her a little, they’d fear she would catch a cold . They could not even bear to say harsh words to her, afraid that they would scare their daughter . She was the precious darling of this family of a general, yet was actually raised into a squeamish and fussy person .
“No need,” said Hua Liuli, shaking her head . Then she disembarked . She adjusted her cloak, using Hua Changkong’s arm as support as she entered the front doors of the posthouse . It was not at all prosperous here . As such, not enough money could be taken out to repair the posthouse . And it was very dim inside . She was somewhat worried that the snow would be too heavy . That it would cause the roof of this shabby building to collapse from its weight .
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“May the noble personages sit . ” The posthouse official wiped the stool with his sleeve . Looked up at the two noble personages with a smile full of the intention to curry favor . Astonishment crashed into his form upon a single look .
It turned out the members of General Hua’s family were beautiful, especially this young lady who appeared delicate . She was as prepossessing as a celestial fairy .
Hua Liuli looked at the dark colored stool . It was a mystery what type of wood it was made from . Refusing to sit, she reached out to pull down the hood of her cloak, lifted her head, and looked toward the stairs .
A thin man in fetters descended the stairs, taking his time to do so . His hair and beard were peppered with white strands . He appeared in his fifties or sixties, face carrying bitterness and unwillingness . Behind this old man, the yamen¹⁵ bailiff keeping watch of him was especially respectful to him .
As the old man descended the stairs, the chains by his legs rattled due to the movement .
Realizing there were more people at the posthouse now, the old man stopped in his tracks . He swept his gaze through the people in the room, before slowly averting his gaze .
The few yamen bailiffs did not know the identities of the Hua clan’s brother-and-sister pair . However, they cupped their hands in greeting toward them, so as to avoid slighting noble personages .
Hua Liuli looked away from the old man and asked, “What crime did this mister commit to wear such heavy shackles?”
The yamen bailiff leading the group noticed that the manner in which this noblewoman had inquired was very natural . As though it had never crossed her mind that they might refuse to answer . After a moment of hesitation, he said, “This villainous official had tried to impeach General Hua in court for being militaristic, and said that high-ranking military officers at the frontier were bloodthirsty by nature . His words angered His Majesty, so he was exiled as punishment . For the noble personages to go as far as speaking about this, we can change his fetters to ones that are more lightweight…”
“No need,” said Hua Liuli in a flash . “I find this great . ”
The yamen bailiff was speechless .
The old man turned to look at Hua Liuli . Tone indifferent, he said, “At such a young age, her heart is already this vicious . Today, this old man¹⁶ has met with misfortune . I have seen the fickleness of human nature at long last . ”
“It doesn’t matter . Not only will you see it, but you will slowly get used to it . ” A smile blossomed on Hua Liuli’s lips . “After all, people like you who stab the officers and soldiers in the back won’t have a good outcome . ”
In order to defend the frontiers of the Great State of Jin, the generals shed their blood and sacrificed their lives . If this civil official’s words entered their ears, wouldn’t they be bitterly disappointed?
“As an official, this old man naturally vows loyalty and devotion to the throne and pleads for the people . Hua Yingting leads campaigns everywhere, exhausting the wealth of the common folk . ”
“General Hua defends the borders for the sake of the common people . And now, he has achieved a grand victory against Jinpo Country, creating peace at our frontier . Yet such deeds turn into being militaristic in your mouth . ” Hua Liuli arched a brow . “You don’t have a mental illness, do you? Jinpo Country stirred up trouble at our borders all year round . If we didn’t wage war against them, don’t tell me we should give them free reign to grow rampant? You live in the flourishing capital . Naturally, you don’t know the suffering that is to experience Jinpo Country’s enemy soldiers looting and harassment . You say you plead for the people, yet don’t view the commoners in the frontier as people . What do you even call this?”
“It’s called speaking glibly of humanity, justice, and morality,” said Hua Changkong, all smiles . “Patriotic and loyal to the throne? In reality, your whole belly is full of hypocrisy . You indulge in a life of pleasure and comfort . Hypocrite . ”
“This old man, this old man…” Once he had heard the words of the two teenagers, his face grew ashen, losing his breath for a good while . “You¹⁷ of the younger generation are spouting nonsense . ”
“You of the older generation have blurred vision, thoroughly muddleheaded,” replied the guard behind the Hua clan’s brother-and-sister pair at once . In this kind of situation where one must scold another, it was unnecessary for the young noble and young miss to personally act .
The signs of activity on the lower floor were finally detectable from the upstairs . The man within the room revealed a satisfied expression . He turned his head, looking at the person who had crawled through the window . “Have you applied the poison yet?”
“Yes . It’s colorless and tasteless, and will kill immediately¹⁸ . It’s guaranteed that the cause of death cannot be determined . ”
The first man smiled . “The civil official who impeached the Hua clan is currently quarreling with the Hua clan’s younger generation . If he dies a bizarre death, who knows how Great Jin’s civil officials would react?
“Once the birds are gone, one puts away the bow¹⁹ . The Hua clan has accumulated so much outstanding military service . One would fear that those who want to deal with them the most aren’t the civil officials, but…”
Since ancient times, the number of generals whom emperors had felt suspicious and jealous of numbered as many as stars . The addition of the Hua clan could not be considered much .
Although the pen of literati proved powerful, regarding the ability of using the mouth to scold others, such literati could not compare to a soldier who had experienced a battlefield . After a few back and forths, the old civil official seethed with anger, a mouth full of just calling them ignorant simpletons .
Meanwhile, the cook carried the dishes out to the lobby²⁰ . The moment he caught sight of the two parties clashing, the words “T-time to eat?” left his mouth . Then he shrunk back .
“Time to eat?” Hua Liuli looked at the food the cook was carrying . There were meat and vegetables . It seemed this civil official who had committed a crime by impeaching her father was treated well, much better than how the soldiers guarding the borders were .
At once, she pulled out a handkerchief and covered her mouth and nose . And she put on the act of stepping back . “My goodness, I have a headache . Yuanwei, I can’t stand the smell of meat²¹ . Quickly overturn the dishes . ”
“Yes, Princess,” said the sole servant girl behind Hua Liuli, stepping forward . Without the slightest hesitation, she kicked over the plates of food, her action smooth and easy, making her seem valiant and formidable .
The dishes fell to the ground . All of a sudden, the whole room smelled like food .
“Now that’s good . ” Hua Liuli revealed a satisfied expression . She had Yuanwei give the cook a piece of silver . “Prepare a new meal for the elderly person²² . Remember not to add any meat . ”
“Yes, noble person . ” After the cook received the piece of silver, he returned to the kitchen . Whatever the people who gave money said was right .
Not a word escaping his lips, the posthouse official swept away the food on the floor, throwing it on the snow-covered ground outside . He pretended not to see this young lady’s deliberate retaliation .
“What is the meaning of this?” The old man was so angry, his hands shook .
“To take advantage of one’s position to bully people, and kicking people when they’re down . ” Hua Liuli’s smile was sweet . “As a person who committed a large crime, what are you still eating meat for? The ordinary people at the frontiers cannot even eat meat twice a month . For the people and the nation, it’s only natural to share life’s joys and sorrows with the common people, Sir . ”
The pitiable civil official finally fell unconscious from anger due to Hua Liuli .
For a long while, the man on the second floor did not hear any activity downstairs . The smile on his face gradually disappeared . “What happened? Why is Lin Huizhi still alive?”
“A servant of the Hua clan overturned t-those poisoned dishes . ”
“What… did you say?”
They had expended much effort, calculated countless places where those two parties could encounter one another, and purposely arranged for that many coincidental obstructions of the path . Just so that the two parties could meet at this place . But now, this person told him that all the work they had done was in vain?!
Changlong era: 昌隆 . This marks the reign of the current emperor . His title is Changlong, so he is Emperor Changlong . Defender General: 辅国 . Means assisting the country . The title is a very great honor Wu Quxing: 武曲星 . Legendary deity of battle . Also used to describe renowned warriors . reincarnations of celestial troops and generals: This is used figuratively . I kept it in this form because it matched the prior description of the Defender General as a Wu Quxing . But basically, it means his sons were skilled in battle as well . over a hundred kilometers: 里 . Raws said “a few hundred li . ” Li, also known as the Chinese mile, is a traditional Chinese unit of distance . It’s equivalent to half a kilometer . Assuming “few” means ~300, then they’re ~150 km away . That’s why I chose to translate this part as “over a hundred kilometers . ” posthouse: This was the closest word I could find, but typically these are rest stops for envoys and diplomats . When there weren’t any, then these places would open up to travelers from other countries but with a fee . It’s different from embassies, since embassies only took care of diplomats . inspector official: 巡检 . This is not a civil official position . They know martial arts . this father: 老子 . Commonly written in pinyin as “laozi . ” It’s a way of self-address that’s very arrogant . main path: 官道 . It’s a path that the government makes for the officials, but civilians can use it too . If an official is using it, civilians must make way . It’s also typically wider than other paths . this humble official: 下官 . A way of self-address that officials use toward people higher ranked or more influential than them . General Hua: 大将军 . The raws say Da jiangjun, but what they mean here is General Hua . In the context of the story, everyone knows that General Hua had just achieved a great victory, and is returning to the capital with his family and army . A da jiangjun is an important general, and in some cases it can refer to the generalissimo, the highest-ranked general . older female servant: 嬷嬷 . These are older female servants, but can also be used to mean wet nurses depending on the context . Princess: 县主 . I shortened it here to mirror actual dialogue, but she is literally a Princess of the Fourth Rank (or county princess) . Princesses of the Fourth Ranks were usually daughters of Princes of the Second Rank . Prince of the Second Rank is a title typically given to subordinates of the king that aren’t in the imperial clan but contributed greatly to the emperor/nation . For example, helping the emperor form his country/dynasty . Your honored self: 您 . A polite way of saying “you . ” yamen: 衙门 . The administrative office or residence of a local bureaucrat in imperial China . Somewhat similar to a modern police station . this old man: 老夫 . A term of self-address for old men . You: 尔等 . A way of addressing someone lower in rank than you or in a younger generation in ancient China . There isn’t really an English equivalent to it, just like how there isn’t really an English equivalent to 您 (which I translate to “your honored self . ) English doesn’t have as rigid polite speech patterns . kill immediately: 见血封喉 . It can also mean “made from Antiaris toxicaria,” which is a tree in the mulberry and fig family . A poison can be made from it . But I decided to go with alternate translation since it fits the context better in my opinion . once the birds are gone, one puts away the bow: 飞鸟尽，良弓藏 . Idiom that means once someone is of no other use, they will be disposed of . lobby: 大堂 . This kind of lobby is a bit different from the ones we typically think of in the modern age . There are chairs and tables here where people can eat . I can’t stand the smell of meat: Literally, she says she can’t stand gamey/fishy smells . But what the text is implying is that she is upset that this civil official gets to eat meat . Meat was hard to come by in ancient China . Only wealthy individuals can eat it, and most of the commoners and soldiers ate vegetarian meals . elderly person: 老人家 . It’s hard to see it in English, but this is polite term of addressing an elderly person .