Part of a Memories of a Graceful Reflection translation project at fruitydeer.com.
Do not download, copy, or redistribute without permission.
Source: 猶記驚鴻照影 by Feng Ning Xue Wu // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
Just a heads up that I won’t be able to update next weekend, so the next chapter will be posted this coming Wednesday in lieu of next Saturday’s chapter.
Chapter 014: The Fourteenth Time
Since Nan Cheng Yao was not in the fu, Qin An personally accompanied Mother into the main hall.
Upon seeing my arrival, he bowed and withdrew, leaving mother and I to talk whilst ordering some servant girls to carefully tend to us.
Mother led An Xiang to rise and greet me: “Greetings to Third Wang fei.”
I hurriedly helped her up: “It’s not as if there are any outsides. A mother greeting her daughter like so, are you intending for Qing’er’s heart to feel ill at ease?”
Mother straightened and spoke grimly: “No matter what, the courtesies between ruler and subject cannot be abandoned. Especially right now. Murong Family cannot take one wrong step, lest people seize any tiniest excuse to make talk.”
Seeing Mother carry a particularly solemn expression, I could not help but ask: “What’s happened?”
Mother sighed softly: “Yan’er is back.”
It was what I speculated, but I hadn’t expected that it was indeed the case, as Mother’s voice had been bleak when she spoke.
I was pensive for a moment, then smiled: “Mother has yet to see where I live, right? How about Qing’er accompany you to Gui Mo Pavilion for a sit, what do you1 think?”
Mother’s eyes held praise as she smiled and nodded to me.
At Gui Mo Pavilion, Shi Qing and Hua Yi served tea before withdrawing. The only ones remaining were Mother and I along with Shu Ying, An Xiang, and Bi Zhi, whom were all well-familiar with the xiang fu.
Having served Mother for many years, Bi Zhi has always been clever with a good attention to detail. She took a careful look around the house, then peered out the windows facing the corridor. Once she was positive that no one else was present, she returned and nodded to Mother.
All was quiet in the room. I heard Mother sigh softly in my ears: “Yan’er is pregnant.”
With slight bewilderment, I turned my gaze to Mother. Her expression was both helpless and disconcerted; it didn’t seem at all like she was joking around with me. It was impossible to use something like this as a joking matter.
However, what I could not understand was, though the anxiety in Mother’s expression was true, why did her countenance show traces of restrained joy?
After hesitating for a moment, I asked candidly: “Is it that you already know who the child’s father is?”
Mother nodded. She paused for a long while before speaking up again, her voice carrying a sigh: “It’s the crown prince, Nan Cheng Mian.”2
This time around, I was not as shocked. Though I had not expected that it would be the crown prince, this explained the hidden joy in mother’s eyes very well.
The crown prince had yet to marry. Should Yan’er successfully marry into the Eastern Palace,3 then it really could be said that the Murong Family was thriving in this moment of glory. Out of two daughters, one married the most favored Third Highness while the other could very well be the future empress.
It’s just that, imperial grace as grand as this was not a burden that most people could bear. I sighed softly in my heart.
Mother failed to notice my reticence and continued to carry that sense of helplessness along with her thinly concealed jubilation. She said: “This child, Yan’er, is just too willful. Yesterday evening when the crown prince personally sent her back to the fu, I really couldn’t believe it myself. But then I saw that the crown prince treated her very well. Though this might be due to the child in her stomach, for someone who’s been raised with a golden spoon, him being this considerate in his mannerisms is too rare.”
I remained silent while I listened to Mother’s voice as she trailed on.
“According to Yan’er, they had a chance meeting while admiring lanterns at the Lantern Festival last year. They shared a mutual regard and originally wanted to wait for the crown prince to formally bring up the topic of marriage with the emperor, but they didn’t expect that the Sacred One would first bestow her to the Third Highness in marriage. Since it was all so sudden, she couldn’t think too much and could only bring An Xiang along to run away in the middle of the night, seeking shelter with the crown prince.”
Mother suddenly began to laugh: “It’s no wonder. Your father sent so many people to track her down without success, but it turns out she was hiding in the Eastern Palace. With His Highness the Crown Prince deliberately shielding her, it was natural that we could not find her.”
Perhaps it was the sight of my reticence that led Mother to continue to laugh in succession, holding my hand as she said: “Qing’er, Mother knows you’ve been wronged. In the end, all this was because of Yan’er’s nonsense. But don’t get upset with her. She’s your sister after all, she’s still immature and ignorant.”
I shook my head and simply asked: “Is Yan’er doing well now?”
With this, Mother’s brows knitted imperceptibly: “If she’s able to marry into the Eastern Palace, she will naturally be well. Otherwise, I fear that her life may be ruined.”
I had yet to speak when Shu Ying could not help but ask: “Isn’t Miss Yan already pregnant with His Highness the Crown Prince’s flesh and bone, how is it possible for her to be unable to marry into the Eastern Palace?”
Though Mother did not berate her for interrupting, she did not take heed to her and was only focused on my silence. A long moment later, she finally sighed softly and told Bi Zhi to take Shu Ying and An Xiang out to keep watch by the door. She held my hand and said:
“Qing’er, Mother won’t keep you in the dark. The crown prince’s willingness to marry is not a guarantee that Yan’er will be able to marry into the Eastern Palace. Murong Family’s current influence in the court is quite large and the Sacred One already has his doubts and suspicions. The Murong Family already has a wang fei in a daughter, he may not be willing to let another Murong shi4 woman become the crown princess consort. If our guess is correct, the child in Yan’er’s stomach could very likely be useless as a justification for her marriage to the crown prince. In the eyes of the emperor, this might be spun into a loss of womanly virtue; an excuse for why she’s not worthy of being crown princess.”
I looked at mother and said quietly: “Since Mother and Father can see the matter with clarity, then why place the entire Murong Clan above burning embers by insisting on having Yan’er enter the Eastern Palace?”
Mother looked at me in disbelief. After a while, she turned away, a thread of grief in her words: “Qing’er, in regards to you, your father and I have always been ashamed because we’ve always let you down. But you cannot simply misconstrue us like that, either. You think that your father and I can so easily sell off our own daughters in exchange for political power? You’re wrong! If it wasn’t that Yan’er has deep feelings for the crown prince and that she’s pregnant with his flesh and bone, I would never in a thousand years allow her to wade in these muddy waters. The courtyards of noble houses are complicated. I’ve already had no choice but to give a daughter up to one. Your father and I are keenly aware of the wrongs you’ve suffered, how could we be willing to let Yan’er into Heaven’s Family as well?”
As Mother spoke, her tears began to fall: “Is there a mother and father that doesn’t want their own daughter to live a smooth sailing life? But a family like ours will, at times, be unable to act on our own volition for many things. Now that Yan’er is in this state, other than the crown prince, what other family would want her? Even if we used the political power of our Murong Family to force a marriage, how would the other party treat her? Your mei-mei has never gone through any hardships. With a haughty temperament like hers, I fear that she may not be able to endure it…”
Mother’s voice was choked by sobs, she could no longer go on speaking. And I, in that moment, began feeling a deep sense of remorse.
What was the matter with me? Had I spent too much time with Nan Cheng Yao and become affected by his cynicism, his inability to trust anyone? Now, I was even second-guessing my own parents and hurting to Mother for no reason.
As I hurriedly took a silk handkerchief and began wiping away Mother’s tears, I could not stop my eyes from welling up with tears, nor could I set aside my guilt: “Qing’er was wrong. Mother, don’t be sad, Qing’er was wrong.”
Mother could only look at me while shaking her repeatedly, tears continuing their descent.
I held back my tears, forcing myself to smile: “I understand the painstaking efforts that Mother has gone through. Yan’er is my own mei-mei, of course I don’t want her to suffer. When Third Highness returns to the fu, Qing’er will certainly beg His Highness to put a word in with the Sacred One and find a way to bring the fate between Yan’er and the crown prince to fruition…”
Before I could finish, Mother had already brought me into her arms in a tight embrace, unable to utter another sound.
Translator’s Note: More rising action, which persist for the next few chapters. Murong Qing this entire chapter is *surprised pikachu face*
- Murong Qing addresses her mother with the polite form of “you” when speaking to her directly.
- 冕 // Mian: Mian literally means crown. Le sigh…
- 東宮 // Dong Gong: The crown prince’s residence has traditionally been referred to as the Eastern Palace.
- 氏 // Shi: A woman’s maiden name used for identifying their clan. Chinese women typically do not assume their husband’s name upon marriage. They are still referred to by maiden name.