[Condensed translation of c135-140]
After 100+ chapters, LFL & NXJ finally consummate their marriage. I translated their first night in full, but for subsequent times (not that many actually), I’m likely going down the use-your-imagination road. This chapter killed a lot of my brain cells…
When Xuanji woke, there was no one by her side.
She sat up from the bed. Her mind was heavy with sleep, and she did not recognise the room she was in. Though it was luxurious and comfortable, it was neither the Nian residences nor the imperial palace.
Her arm throbbed in pain. Hoarsely, she called, ‘Diefeng…’
No one answered.
Brows creasing, she struggled to leave the bed, yet her body weakened, and she nearly fell to the ground. Footsteps hastened towards her, before a pair of arms supported her.
‘Diefeng?’ Xuanji stopped.
It was Diefeng. Diefeng quickly helped her back to the bed, before covering the blanket over her body.
‘Where is this?’
Quietly, Diefeng said, ‘We’re at the Emperor’s manor in the outskirts of the capital.’
No other answer could have been as surprising. Xuanji was taken-aback – what was going on?
‘Diefeng, where is he?’
Diefeng lowered her gaze, before she stomped her feet and said, ‘Your Highness, your porridge should have been cooked. I’ll bring it over.’
Xuanji stared, speechless. In any case, she had sacrificed herself, and now that she had awoken, not only did she not see that man, even her personal servant was also acting in a huff. The shows on television did not play out in this manner – why were things no longer dramatic when it came to her?
Within this five days, Xuanji had crossed paths with nearly everyone who lived within the vicinity of this manor.
There was still no sign of the Emperor.
The skies were overcast with rain, leaving echoes as they thudded onto the grounds. Beyond the room, the smell of rainwater mingled with the fragrance of bananas.
Xuanji picked up a brush and began to scribble on a parchment, her words incomprehensible.
Diefeng, Xiao Luzi, Xiao Shuangzi, and a few other servants of Fengjiu Palace were all here, as though this manor was a miniscule Fengjiu Palace.
What was worth mentioning was that every day, Physician Lady Cui would bring her a new bowl of medicine, before slinking off as though she had seen a ghost.
Multiple times, Xuanji had asked Diefeng and the others what was going on. In unison, they hastily shook their heads as they denied all knowledge, only repeating that the Emperor had ordered them to take good care of her.
Xuanji felt suffocated within this manor, but there was nothing she could do. Her persuasions towards Diefeng and her other servants were in vain, for they remained unmoved. Yet she could not bear to berate them, for they would only kneel on the grounds and plead for mercy if she pushed them too far.
It seemed as though she was never able to understand what that man was planning.
A few scrawls on the parchment later, Xuanji scrunched it up into a ball and threw it onto the floor. Peeved, she said, ‘I’m going to sleep.’
Curious, Diefeng picked the parchment up, to see a few lines had been written on it:
Abandoned Consort of a Cruel Emperor.
The Concubine Without Prada to Wear.
Your Majesty, I’m Going to Divorce You.
‘Diefeng, what are you looking at?’ A few servants huddled around her.
Though Diefeng could not comprehend these strange words written by her mistress, her lips still twitched, even as she chided, ‘Go, go, go, Her Highness is about to rest.’
The other servants retreated. Diefeng was about to destroy this parchment filled with treasonous words when she heard Xuanji’s dispirited voice travel from beneath the blankets:
Xuanji did not sleep, only covering the blankets over her head, the corners of her eyes glistening with wetness.
She had done that for him on her own accord, and had never expected him to treat her better in return. Yet it had been five days since he had abandoned her here to this isolated manor, without hide nor hair. What was this?
Lost in her thoughts, she did not know how much time had passed when a faint sound travelled from across the room. Her mind immediately cleared, even as she wondered: why was she always running into these things? Had someone entered the rooms? Was it him?
With a jump, she pulled the blankets off her body and said, ‘Long Fei-li–’
The room remained as empty as ever.
Smiling bitterly to herself, she lit the oil lamps on the table, her gaze falling to the floor.
Abruptly, she stood straighter.
Before she had retired for the night, those pieces of parchment were still there –
Her heart stilled. Without bothering to wear her robes and shoes, she flung open the doors, hurrying out.
Beyond the comfort of her rooms, the skies were still overcast with stormy rain, the temperature icy cold. She stood in the courtyard and called for him, ignoring the rain which drenched the wound on her shoulders, a sharp pain.
The wound was deep, and it had only just begun to heal.
‘Your Highness, why are you standing there?’
From behind, Diefeng and some other dishevelled-looking servants rushed over, fluster on their faces, umbrellas held within their hands.
‘If you still think of me as your mistress, don’t follow me.’ Rainwater slid down the curve of Xuanji’s face, and she wiped them off furiously, before pushing open the front gates, giving chase.
The night was dark, thunderstorm making waves across the treacherous skies. Not far beyond the Emperor’s manor was a small banana forest. Within the vicinity, the few other households had long extinguished their lamps, casting the entire stretch of road in hooded darkness.
In a daze, Xuanji stood in the rain for a long time, before she stumbled forward, like a fly which had lost its way home.
‘Long Fei-li, is it you? Where are you? Come out!’ Crying, she continued to shout in the direction of the endless road, but all that answered her was the cold rain which hammered onto her face as they fell, their coolness akin to fragments of sharp ice.
‘Long Fei-li, Long Fei-li.’
She repeated his name, over and over again, as she searched, stumbling forward, without knowing where she was heading. A few steps later, her feet caught on something, and she fell towards the ground. Her leg seemed to have been wounded, for a sharp ache radiated from it.
A rainy night; falling down. It was truly dramatic.
Suddenly, Xuanji wanted to laugh. Forcing herself to stand, she whispered in a hoarse shout to the emptiness around her, ‘Long Fei-li, I’ve had enough. With so many women by your side, I know I have never amounted to anything in your heart. The only thing useful I’ve done was to help you retrieve your embroidered pouch, wasn’t it?’
‘Enough, I’ve had enough. I will never like you again, I will never…’
She laughed, even as her tears began to fall from her eyes. Her head swum with heaviness, her legs giving way, falling to the grounds once more.
Something rippled through the air, swift as wind. A strong arm wound around her waist, pulling her into a warm embrace.
‘Diefeng…’ Xuanji murmured, closing her eyes.
‘Does Diefeng have the strength to carry you?’ The man said tonelessly.
As Xuanji was lifted to a person’s arms, her eyes flung open, immediately drawn to a pair of dark eyes.
Just like her, every inch of that person’s skin was drenched with rainwater. From afar, Xu Xi held an oil-paper umbrella as he watched them through quiet eyes.
Clenching her jaw, Xuanji bit out, ‘Long Fei-li, what do you mean by this?’
Long Fei-li did not speak. He rose, carrying her as he strode back to the manor, his steps swift.
Coldly, Xuanji said, ‘Let me down.’
His steps did not falter, and she began to struggle…
Seconds later, her struggles ceased, and she curled weakly within his arms.
With a start, Long Fei-li’s gaze dipped down to her face, taking in the red swell of her eyes, and the cries which left her breathless.
He paused. Slowly, he placed her down on the ground.
Xuanji stood unsteadily, fighting back the pain moving through her body. She walked over to the wall and supported herself, before turning to stare coldly at the man before her.
‘Didn’t you want to abandon me here and have me waste my life away? Then, don’t come over ever again. Leave!’
A cold smile appeared on Long Fei-li’s face, matching hers. His eyes traced her hand which was pointed towards him, trembling but resolute, and the gaze in his eyes hardened.
‘Leave? This is my manor, and you are my woman.’ Icily.
At this moment, Xu Xi walked over and held the oilpaper umbrella over Long Fei-li’s head.
‘Your Majesty, please be wary of your health.’
Yet Long Fei-li pushed him away. The umbrella fell to the ground, the small thud vanishing into the heavy echo of falling rain.
‘Xuanji is yours, but I am not. If you are done speaking, then I’m going back to sleep. You should also return to your palace and summon a beautiful woman to attend to you for the night.’ Xuanji closed her eyes, ignoring the prickling burn within them, and no longer acknowledged him as she slowly made her way back to her room, clinging onto the walls for support.
Long Fei-li’s hands curled into fists by his sides.
For what reason had he arranged for her to rest within this secluded manor, and for what had he rushed over here in the middle of the night? Just to pick up those fragments of torn parchment which she had flung onto the floor? And yet he had kept them, carefully tucking them within his robes…
A strong arm tightened around Xuanji’s waist. Soundlessly, the man approached her from the back, lifting her into his arms once more.
‘You’re a tyrant, let go of me. You’re hurting me.’ Fuming, Xuanji’s protests were reduced to a hoarse whisper, her body trembling from the aftereffects of standing in the cold rain.
Long Fei-li did not pay heed to her words. Tightening his hold around her, he took large steps towards the courtyard.
‘Greetings to Your Majesty.’
Seeing them, several servants prostrated themselves on the ground, fluster rising within them as their eyes took in the state of disorder the Emperor and Concubine Nian were in.
‘Leave!’ Long Fei-li ordered, his voice cold.
‘Let go of me, Long Fei-li!’
In shock, the umbrella fell from Diefeng’s hands. She stood in the rain with all the other servants and watched, dumbstruck, as the Emperor kicked open the door to Xuanji’s room, striding in.
Xuanji was flung towards the bed. Long Fei-li waved a hand, and the door immediately swung shut behind them, the loud thumps of falling rain sequestered from the heavy silence of their room.
Long Fei-li’s lips were pressed tight in a line, his expression hard. His hands reached out, and the brocade curtains hanging over the shelves by the bed quickly slid to the floor.
Numerous night pearls came into view. Within the dimly lit room, the pearls shone, their glows luminous.
Xuanji, who had not discovered the existence of these night pearls within the room, was momentarily dazzled by their hypnotising luminescence.
Long Fei-li strode forward, his footsteps pressing closer and closer to her.
The gentle glow of the night pearls elongated his shadow, stretching across the grounds.
Xuanji grew fearful, and the trepidation which stemmed from her heart began to snake towards her four limbs and seep into her bones.
‘Why are you still here –’ She bit her lips, not wanting to reveal her unease.
Eyes narrowing, Long Fei-li’s penetrating gaze locked onto her face for a moment, before he spoke. ‘Didn’t you want me to summon a woman to serve me for the night? Tonight, you will be mine.’
His hands shifted to the curtains hanging around the bed, drawing them down, a flutter of cloth.
The fog in Xuanji’s mind deepened, yet her heart became clearer than ever. She shivered, and saw his unreadable gaze falling onto her robe.
Unthinkingly, she followed his gaze to look down at her body.
Her inner robe was partially untied after their struggles, revealing a hint of her collarbone; her light blue robes, drenched with rainwater, was a shade translucent, the paleness of her snow-white skin unconcealed beneath them.
Flustered, warmth crept up the sides of Xuanji’s neck as she quickly reached out to cover her robes over herself.
‘It’s too late.’ His deep voice was the only forewarning before his hands twisted around her inner robes, shredding them.
Xuanji faltered. What did Long Fei-li want from her? Hadn’t he refused to touch her all this while?
‘Long Fei-li, don’t force me to hate you.’ She shook her head furiously, shrinking back to a corner of the bed.
Long Fei-li’s hands clasped her jaw, his grip tight. A pair of unforgiving eyes surveyed her. ‘Hate? You do not have this right! You are my woman, and this is your responsibility.’
The last of his words were lost in her mouth.
He kissed her, hard. Xuanji struggled, but Long Fei-li did not falter, his hand moving to rest at the nape of her neck, pressing her head down towards him.
She could not hide.
Demandingly, his lips moved against hers, biting them raw. Under his sharp possession, her body warmed, a fire inflaming her heart. No longer satisfied with this simple entanglement between their joined lips, his hands shifted towards her back, pressing her small frame closer to him. Trembling, her body curled towards him, not an inch of distance separating them.
Beyond the haziness in her mind was a sudden jolt of coolness as his fingers breached her; entering, leaving.
Her body betrayed her.
Warmth; chaos. She was furious and flustered, but had forgotten to resist him.
His fingers were still moving within her, igniting her desires, even as her gaze shifted upwards to land on his face, hopelessly drawn towards his eyes, unable to look away.
His eyes were something she had never been able to read.
But now, she could clearly see the intensity which congealed within them.
Was it simply punishment, or the natural desires between a man and woman? What did he truly think in his heart – he had chosen to abandon her here, without news nor word for days, but now, he had come in the darkness of the night to visit her.
She had discarded those parchments, scattered fragments of paper on the grounds. Had he picked them up?
In the middle of the night, the ruler of this country had picked up the dozen abandoned fragments of parchment scrawled with her ridiculous words borne from frustration?
She could never understand what went through his mind. She did not even know what she wanted herself.
She stared at him; anger, helplessness; exhaling, choking, crying…
Then she saw Long Fei-li’s brows crease. He paused, the slightest movement in his throat.
Gently, a kiss fell onto her eyelids, bringing with it the warmth of his breath.
By her ears, his quiet voice whispered, ‘Don’t cry.’
His low voice was a heavy blow on her heart. She remembered the first time she had heard his voice, hypnotised as though it possessed the ability to cross a thousand years of history to seize her soul.
She could not help her tears, nor the increasing desolation of her cries.
She shuddered – his hand left her body, cupping her face as he brought his lips to hers.
His lips moved across every inch of her face, lingering on her tear-tracks, kissing them, without the hint of disdain.
His gentleness kindled a faint illusion in her mind, as though she was the only woman he had caressed in such a manner, and she was truly the person he loved with the whole of his heart, beyond the lies and pretences.
In the palace, was this how he placated all his other women? She did not know.
His beautiful eyes were shadowed, yet the burning intensity within them was unveiled.
His desire to conquer could no longer be smothered, as though he had been suppressing himself for the longest time, and no longer wished to do so.
His breath hovered above her ears; he placed another kiss on her earlobe.
‘I want you. Will you?’ His murmur was soft and clear, yet the unyielding want within them could not be masked and did not allow her to shrink back.
She had been crying a moment ago, but now, she could not help but laugh.
Perhaps it was only because of the gentleness of his kiss; perhaps it was simply because his words had rung with such sincerity, that now, she thought, if he wanted, she would give.
There were too many obstacles between the two of them. Within this overcast night, for a few fleeting hours, they would forget them all.
Their heated tempers were simultaneously extinguished.
She smiled, ‘Have you never asked for permission before? But it is true. How could a person like you –’
His lips pressed against hers once more.
Even as she exhaled heavily, her body falling backwards onto the bed, he did not relent, his lips continuing to attack her neck, teeth scraping against her skin. His hands slid beneath her robes, moving across her chest, taking… she shuddered.
His body was pressed tight against hers, and she could feel his desire… Her face reddened. Her mind was in a haze, broken cries escaping her, beyond her consciousness. His movements grew frantic, hands shifting across her body to tear away her inner robe.
Embarrassed and annoyed, she pushed him away.
He propped himself up on an elbow, staring closely at her.
She searched the depths of his eyes for a moment, before she suddenly reached out to pull the golden band binding his hair away. Like a waterfall, his long hair spilled across his back. A few strands landed on her palms, droplets of cool water clinging onto them.
She murmured, ‘I can’t be the only person in a mess.’
His face relaxed as he laughed. One of his hands reached out, fingers twining around a silver of her hair, equally drenched –
‘Long Fei-li, a woman binds her hair only for her husband, but so does a man. But how many women do you have to help you bind and untie your hair …’ She smiled faintly, her eyes crestfallen.
‘Nian Xuanji, you’re a jealous woman!’ His eyes did not leave hers, and he saw the dejection which mingled with the bright glimmer in her eyes. In that instant, his heart seemed to fill with something, and he cast it aside, pressing her down beneath his body, towering over her…
From the shelves, the glow of the night pearls illuminated the rooms in a faint light. On the grounds, their robes were scattered in a mess, a majestic yellow robe twining around a pale blue inner robe.
Cool wind crept in through the crevices of the window, gently furling up the curtains hanging around the bed.
The heavy exhalations of breath were all that punctuated the stillness of the night skies.
‘Don’t call me the way you call all your other women –’ The sharp ache which tore through her choked her whispers. ‘I’m the seventh child in my family…’
She was in deep sleep, faint traces of tears still glistening at the corner of her eyes.
He had not withdrawn from her body. He could not say what it was.
He wanted her, still.
He was the Emperor, and would always be the first man of any woman he spent the night with. He was not violent; at the very least, he had always been gentle on their first nights.
Tonight, she had suffered under him. Her body was unexperienced, but he had taken her with such swiftness, and later, achieved climax even as she pleaded for him to let her free.
He had never wanted a person in such a manner.
Perhaps it was because she was his consort, and had always belonged to him, but because of some veiled reason, he had always avoided touching her, and tonight, he no longer wished to suppress himself, and had taken from her what belonged to him. So, he could not help the violence of his possession.
Except, what was that unfamiliar emotion coiling around his heart? And out of what intention had he arranged for her to remain here, in the outskirts of the capital, temporarily?
Brows drawing together, he withdrew from her body, picked his robes up from the floor and attired himself.
He glanced at the skies. It was nearly time for the morning court session.
He stood, hair cascading down his back. To bind one’s hair and untie them… Her words replayed themselves in his mind, and he turned to look at her.
Her brows were furrowed, but her breathing was even as she slept deeply. Occasionally, her tongue would stick out, wetting her lips.
His lips upturned in a faint smile. Quietly, he returned to sit by her side.
One of his hands reached over, pinching her nose.
Xuanji, who had been dreaming about having a meal together with Zhuizhui and Yuhuan, suddenly heard Yuhuan remark: ‘Ah Qi, there’s someone staring at you from the window.’
Puzzled, Xuanji looked towards the window, only to meet a pair of beautiful eyes.
Her breath hitched, and she grew increasingly suffocated…
Abruptly, her eyes flung open. A man was lying in bed next to her, his head propped up on one hand as he stared at her, the hint of languid teasing brimming within his eyes.
‘Who are you?’ She murmured, her mind thick with sleep.
That man’s face grew heavy, the expression in his eyes subdued.
A sharp pain assailed her nose, and she paused, her mind clearing in an instant.
Swatting that man’s hand away, she fumed, ‘Long Fei-li, you’re a tyrant!’
Long Fei-li simply lifted her onto his knees. Leisurely, he said, ‘I’m about to leave for the morning’s court session. Didn’t you want to help me bind my hair?’
A warm palm traced her bare skin. Xuanji lowered her head, saw that her entire body was bare, and finally recalled their night spent together. Exclaiming, she broke free from his hold and scrambled back to the bed, hoisting the blanket securely over herself.
That unperturbed smile.
Xuanji gritted her teeth and said, ‘No.’
Long Fei-li’s lips upturned in a faint smile. He reached over and pulled her back into his arms, together with the blanket.
As the two of them struggled, they quickly fell back onto the bed.
‘Hurry and leave.’ When that man’s warm breath began to linger on her neck once again, Xuanji was flustered and miffed. ‘You’re a hedonistic Emperor. Hurry and leave for your morning’s assembly.’
Long Fei-li glanced at her for a moment, before placing her hand on his hair.
Xuanji bit her bottom lip, even as a warm glow began to envelop her. Without bashfulness, she left the bed, her body bare, and began to search the room for a comb.
As she returned to the bed, she picked up his headband, before making herself comfortable on his lap. Carefully, she bound his hair.
Long Fei-li’s eyes were closed. He had not slept in the night.
A soft pressure descended on his lips. Opening his eyes, he saw her lips moving away from his, the traces of shy inexperience visible.
‘Are you tired?’ Softly.
The gentleness of her lips, accompanied by her soothing voice, was like a drum which hammered tightly on his chest. He spread his arms, pulling her tight into his embrace.
‘Does it still hurt?’ He asked, stroking her back.
Heat crept up Xuanji’s neck as though a fire had been lit under her. Memories of his forceful possession last night swarmed through her mind, and she quickly insisted, ‘It hurts!’
His mild voice carried the traces of teasing as he spoke. ‘It will not hurt after a few more times.’
Speechless by Long Fei-li’s self-possession, Xuanji decisively ignored him, only curling closer to him. Last night, he had not been gentle, and she had cried herself hoarse as she pleaded for him to let her go, but to no avail. Even as his lips moved against hers, soothing her, the force with which he took her was unrestrained.
A gentle ruthlessness. How could a person harbour two extremes? Yet his lack of inhibition caused a faint illusion to loom in her mind, that perhaps, last night, he had lost a trace of his self-control.
Finally, he placed her down on the bed and stood, preparing to leave.
‘Long Fei-li, why did you arrange for me to stay here?’
The tall body stilled.
‘Don’t you dislike the palace? It is better for you to nurse your wounds here.’
‘Then when will you bring me back?’ Though she did not wish to return, she wanted to know what had happened in the palace.
If Long Fei-li had specially arranged for her to remain here, at the outskirts of the capital far from the imperial palace, the matter likely involved her.
Finally, he spoke, not a single emotion betrayed from his voice. ‘Yuzhi is about to wed. Everyone is in a frenzy helping with the preparations. It would be better for you to rest here in the quiet. I will come over tonight.’
Without turning back, he left.
The part where Xuanji scribbled those things on the paper was the author poking fun at the typical novel titles you see on Hongxiu, jjwxc, etc… If you’ve been reading c-novels for some time, you’ll start to realise web novel titles are more or less the same. Something something Emperor, Concubine, Consort, Prince, Daughter, CEO/ President, Wife, Husband…… + adjective to describe them. 😛
Anyway, to repeat, 小七 (Xiaoqi) is Long Fei-li’s nickname for Xuanji.
Xiao = Little;
Qi = Seven.
In the modern world, her name was Zhu Qi. As Zisu, she was the 7th daughter of the Celestial Emperor, hence the nickname “Little Seven”.
In fan discussions, I noticed people rarely use the names Long Fei-li & Nian Xuanji when referring to the characters. They usually use Ah Li and Xiaoqi, because as the novel progresses, this is how they call each other.
It’s also less obvious in the translation, but the way you address a person by his title or name is a big thing in ancient China, which I guess most of you know by now.
Technically, an Emperor’s wife addresses herself as “chen qie”, a combination of the words “official” and “wife” (kind of weird that as a wife, you’re still considered an official of the Emperor, rather than his equal, but this just emphasizes the absolute & unparalleled authority of a ruler, which we will see next chapter). Officials address themselves as “chen”. And the Emperor address himself as “zhen”; the Crown Prince as “gu” (lonely/ solitary).
But in translations, these things are lost, because it’s not a practice to refer to yourself in third-person form in English. I removed them to improve the flow, but it’s a trade-off.
For LFL & NXJ to go from formal titles, to names, then nicknames, is another sign of the progress of their relationship. It’s a more ‘subtle’ detail, and something I never consciously noticed until I began to translate.
Maybe in English, the names don’t sound very different… Xuanji, Xiaoqi – not very many letters apart. But in Chinese, the endearment behind their nicknames is clearer. It’s also more meaningful since Xiaoqi refers directly to Zhu Qi/ Zisu, rather than the body her soul has inhabited, i.e. Xuanji. It’s one of the small details about them that I love.
& in the radiodrama, 轩 Zone [LFL’s voice actor]’s voice when he says, Xiaoqi, just melts in your ears. <33
http://www.ximalaya.com/18883493/sound/12410029/ –> a 1 min special the radiodrama made to celebrate the New Year in 2016 (it’s a tradition to bathe & wear new clothes for the New Year). If you listen closely, you’ll be able to hear how Xiaoqi & Ah Li are pronounced, because they repeat their names several times. 🙂
Anyhow, I wanted to explain this first, because we’re coming to the end of their happier times.