Sandy's Read Receipts
Translations, Reviews and Other Written Worlds
I didn’t lie to Wei Tan – I really had my period. But I had to confess. An indescribable joy filled me when his expression changed after I told him right at the peak of his excitement.
He seemed very reluctant, nibbling on my neck for a while. Finally, he said he would “wash up again”, donned his clothes, and disappeared through the door. By the time he returned, I had straightened my disheveled clothes and worn my robe.
Although his expression was a little bummed out, he wasn’t resentful. Even after he got under the covers, he didn’t let his hands wander.
Yet, it was my turn to be bad.
Perhaps I caught a cold during the earlier fuss, but that night, my lower belly swelled up, erupting in waves of pain. I was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t help but moan aloud.
In the darkness, Wei Tan asked, “What’s wrong?”
“......” I didn’t know how to answer. Feeling faint with pain, I bit my lip and didn’t reply.
One hand touched my forehead, and soon, another moved out of the quilt and gripped the hand I had laid over my belly.
“Why is it so cold?” As he spoke, I sensed him propping himself up on his arms. “Stomach pain?”
“Hmm......” I moaned feebly.
“Is it ...... your period?” His voice’s volume dropped.
“Hmm ......” I replied, my volume dropping even more.
He sat up: “Shall I call the doctor?”
If it leaked out that we created a commotion, calling a doctor at midnight for my period, people would laugh to death. I blushed and whipped my hand out to catch his robe’s hem: “No need...... Just tell A’Yuan, Fujun.”
He agreed and got up to wear his clothes.
I heard him call A’Yuan, and the lights flickered on behind the screen. After a short exchange outside the wall, Wei Tan returned.
He asked me, “Are you cold?”
I shrank under the covers and nodded.
Wei Tan said nothing. He undressed and lay down again, holding me under the covers.
“Get some sleep.”
As the pain in my belly persisted in waves, I didn’t have the strength to speak more. I buried my head in his arms and closed my eyes.
A’Yuan brought a steaming bowl of rice wine and ginger soup. Wei Tan helped me up and told me to drink it. Muddled, I sipped one mouthful before slumping down again.
My abdominal pain continued through the night until I fell asleep. But I slept peacefully, wrapped in warmth. I was uncertain if what helped me was the soup or the person holding me.
Over the next few days, Wei Tan still left early and returned late, but he returned a little earlier than before. When going to sleep, he held me under the covers. He teased me, saying if I couldn’t sleep, he’d tell me a story.
I smiled and declined, asking him to sleep earlier because he must be tired.
But in my heart, I wished, 'Alright, you tell me about Empress Xu.'
The silk handkerchief from the clothes trunk lingered on my mind.
A’Yuan informed me that Wei Tan had gone to that room, coming back out within 15 minutes.
When I had first discovered the handkerchief, I had noticed a hair strand caught in a crack. But when I returned to check, the strand had disappeared.
Someone had moved the clothes trunk, and without doubt, it was Wei Tan.
He must know what was tucked in the winter coats. That silk handkerchief was an old gift from Empress Xu, right? The trunk was full of old mementos, and the way Wei Tan had stored them so carefully showed how much he treasured them.
As I pondered, my mood wilted.
Wei Tan and I, like birds resting on the same tree, were different species who became husband and wife by freak coincidences. He knew that Pei Qian and I had ended things back in Huainan. But I still didn’t know what happened him and Empress Xu. I could only guess their past, entanglements, and their current thoughts from a few isolated words here and there. Without the silk handkerchief embroidered with poppies, I wouldn’t even have connected those poppies planted in the courtyard.
I wasn’t jealous. But after my decision to stay in Wei Residence, it never hurt to learn more about this husband who can control my fate.
By the time Wei Jue returned to Yong Capital, the sky was snowing.
The weather was so nasty that the Emperor sent the Minister of Ceremonies and Gentlemen at the Yellow Gates to welcome him instead. After Wei Jue entered the city, he visited the palace to greet the Emperor.
With the North unified, grand rewards were indispensable.
The Emperor was generous. Apart from raising some of his Court officials to nobility, he gave away many titles to the soldiers and generals. He used the countless treasures seized from the Tan Clan as army fees and gifts.
Wei Tan’s fief grew by 2,000 households, and to the already rewarded beyond measure Wei Jue, besides gold and jade given according to tradition, the Emperor rewarded a sedan chair to ride in the Imperial Palace.
The most noteworthy was Wei Zhao.
After Tan Xi’s death, the Wei army advanced at every turn. Wei Zhao launched a surprise attack on Tan Meng in Youzhou and not only beheaded him with his own hands, but he also seized the long-stolen Imperial Jade Seal from him.
The Imperial Jade Seal was a national treasure. During the chaos in Chang’An, the seal had vanished from the palace. After the Emperor set the capital in Yong Province, the missing Jade Seal was a constant regret. The pacification of the North and the Jade Seal’s reclamation was a double joy.
The Emperor heaped praise on Wei Zhao and raised his title from Marquis of Shanyang with 5,000 households to Marquis of Xiangling with 12,000 households. This was a huge gift because since settling in Yong Capital, he had only granted one other “Marquis of 10,000 households” title—to Wei Jue 2 years ago.
Wei Zhao was staying in Jizhou, only returning next month. The formerly sad Madam Guo cheered up at this news. Even her thick white makeup didn’t conceal her joy.
A’Yuan told me privately, “Furen, I heard them say that the Second Young Master is going to surpass the Eldest Young Master.”
“Who are ‘they’?” I looked into the mirror and carefully examined the rouge I had just dabbed on my lips.
“Just the people in the mansion. They say that Madam Guo is the legitimate mother now, and Second Young Master is her biological son. The Prime Minister allowed him to join the attack on the Tan Clan, giving him the opportunity to win merits. Perhaps, the Prime Minister will even assign him as the heir.”
“What a load of nonsense.” I wiped my rouge-stained fingers on a handkerchief and rebuked her. “Avoid them if they say these words again. Understand?”
A’Yuan agreed and stopped talking.
As I stared into the mirror, though the person inside had a calm expression, her gaze didn’t stay calm.
Although I chided A’Yuan, my heart had similar thoughts. In this battle, Wei Jue had arranged for Wei Tan to guard the rear. While it made sense that the merit didn’t surpass Wei Zhao, I couldn’t help but doubt if Wei Jue’s approach was intentional.
I understood the sensitivity of this matter.
After they distributed the rewards, apart from telling me how much money and territory he received, Wei Tan didn’t say more. Whenever someone mentioned Wei Zhao in front of him, he looked the same. And despite her happiness, Madam Guo treated Wei Tan as if nothing had changed.
As for Wei Jue, only he knew his mind.
Preoccupied with these thoughts, I checked my clothes and makeup again. Pleased, I stepped away from the mirror.
The Emperor was hosting a banquet in the palace to dine with his praiseworthy officials. To show harmony and happiness, the women would join them. Madam Guo and I were among those dining at today’s banquet.
Although we didn’t have to keep a formal audience’s restraint, it was still a palace banquet. As Wei Tan’s wife, I couldn’t be careless in my attire. I asked around about Madam Guo’s jewelry and discovered that she was planning to wear a gold and jade buyao lined with tortoiseshells. After contemplating, I picked out a set of pearl and jade hairpins; the style was bright but wouldn’t suppress Madam Guo.
Wei Tan didn’t care about these matters, but after my persuasion, he changed into a gold hat and a brocade robe, his leather belt inlaid with a jade buckle. After he finished dressing, he stood in front of the mirror, exuding a rare aristocratic aura.
“How is it?” He caught me looking and turned around to ask.
I smiled: “Excellent.”
My efforts didn’t go to waste. When I boarded the carriage in front of the Residence, Wei Jue examined us and smiled appreciatively: “A’Jin is indeed a worthy wife for my son.”
I bowed modestly: “I’m flattered, Father-in-law.”
Madam Guo looked on silently, her smile faint.
The Emperor’s feast was a grand affair. Apart from the Wei father and son pair, a hundred army generals and Imperial Court ministers attended.
The Emperor and Empress were in their finest clothing. I noticed that when Empress Xu entered, her eyes glanced this way. Her jewels glittered in the candlelight, highlighting her lovely and dignified face.
After the audience paid their respects to the smiling Emperor, the musicians started performing in the hall, the music elegant and gentle.
When the court servants finished serving the meal, the Emperor raised his cup: “My dear ministers, you have fought valiantly in this campaign to pacify the North, and the country is fortunate. I am very pleased, and I would like to toast you all.”
Everyone raised their cups, saluted, and downed the wine.
The Emperor refilled his empty cup, faced Wei Jue, and smiled. “The greatest contribution in this battle was from the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, this second toast is for you.”
Wei Jue raised his cup to the Emperor with both hands and bowed. “I went on this campaign as a benefactor of the Emperor’s grace. I wouldn’t hesitate to die for this country!” He tilted his head and downed the wine.
“Good!” A few loud cheers emerged from the lower seats, the abrupt noise ringing through the otherwise quiet banquet hall.
With one glance, I recognized the several sloppily dressed men seated in the end as generals under Wei Jue. The particularly rugged man whom I had met in Wuzhi county was Meng Zhong. The other tall, dark-skinned figure was Cen Han, who had killed Tan Yao. These great generals under Wei Jue came from wild backgrounds, but their several achievements in this expedition raised them to County Marquises.
As Wei Jue smiled at them, the Emperor’s expression remained stoic, as if he had heard nothing. But plain displeasure marked a few ministers’ and noblemen’s faces, their gaze at the end seats filled with contempt. A few noblewomen bowed their heads and whispered, snickering.
The Emperor asked Wei Jue, “Is Second Young Master, who had a miraculous achievement in this battle, still in Jizhou?”
“My son is leading a 10,000 strong army to stay back and clean up Jizhou, which still has the Tan Clan remnants.”
The Emperor nodded and gazed towards me and Wei Tan: “The Marquis of Xin’an guarded the Yong Capital, rendering a great service too.”
Wei Tan replied, “I am duty-bound to protect you, Your Majesty.”
The Emperor smiled: “A legendary story’s spreading that when Huaiyang was in chaos, the Marquis of Xin’an himself traveled there to save Madam Fu, calming the turmoil.”
My heart jerked as the Emperor unexpectedly mentioned this story, and my ears warmed. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Empress Xu also glancing in our direction, her eyes of hidden depth.
“You are flattering me, Your Majesty.” Remaining calm, Wei Tan replied, “Liang Chong’s second son Liang Heng laid siege on Huaiyang. When I received a letter in Luoyang reporting the dire straits, I rushed over the night to aid them. I met my wife then, who was coincidentally paying tributes to her ancestors in Huainan.”
“Oh?” The Emperor continued smiling and peered at me.
Before I could reply, Wei Jue spoke up from the seat of honor. “Liang Chong had gathered troops in Jingzhou, daring to invade because of the circumstances. When his son, Liang Heng led an army to the city, my young son shot him to death with one arrow from the city walls. Even before the battle started!” He laughed in his booming voice and added, “That’s what happens to traitors.”
The Emperor’s face twitched.
As an Imperial family member, Liang Chong was its staunch supporter. Amongst all the warlords, his voice to “Protect the Emperor and Denounce the Rebels” cried the loudest. To regain control of the country, the Emperor needed to rely on someone like him. Wei Jue’s words were a direct provocation.
“Your words are true, Prime Minister.” From beside the Emperor, Empress Xu smiled mildly and spoke, her voice soft, “His Majesty has always regarded Madam Fu as a sister. It is a great comfort to him that she can receive the Marquis of Xin’an’s care.” As she spoke, she refilled the Emperor’s wine cup and gazed at him.
The Emperor’s face stirred again, soon recovering his earlier placid expression.
“What you said is true, Empress.” He faced Wei Tan and intoned, “Here’s a toast to you, Marquis of Xin’an.”
Wei Tan raised his cup too: “Thank you, Your Majesty.” He tilted his head to drink the wine.
I watched them for a moment before glancing at Empress Xu, only to find her staring at Wei Tan. Just then, her eyes darted around, making eye contact with me.
Her probing and quiet gaze seemed to be half-smiling.
SANDY'S READ RECEIPTS
Beginning as an avid reader, I am translating novels with the help of machine translation and online dictionaries.
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