Part of a Memories of a Graceful Reflection translation project at fruitydeer.com.
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Source: 猶記驚鴻照影 by Feng Ning Xue Wu // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
With her sister tied to the crown prince, Murong Qing finds herself in a peculiar position.
Chapter 016: The Sixteenth Time
Three days later, news of the marriage between His Highness the Crown Prince and Prime Minister Murong’s treasured daughter spread across all of the Nan Dynasty.
Seeing the glee in Shu Ying’s expression, I couldn’t help but think of the last words Nan Cheng Yao said to me that day before he left.
Still carrying that cool and indifferent smile of his, he said: No need to worry. Murong Yan will be able to marry into the Eastern Palace in no less than half a month.
I was slightly taken aback. And in that moment, I was not sure how to react, having only enough awareness to curtsy to him and reply gently: “Thank you, Your Highness.”
He began to laugh: “Thank me for what? Didn’t you want me to do nothing at all? Even if I really did do something, it wouldn’t be for you, so you can take back that token of gratitude.”
With that, he left, and I have not seen him since.
Thus, I had no idea what kind of role Nan Cheng Yao played in Yan’er and the crown prince’s wedding.
But regardless of all else, my mei-mei could finally have her wish fulfilled. It was always a good thing to see lovers being able to be together.
Owing to the fact that Yan’er was with child, the wedding was marked for the earliest possible auspicious date, which was ten days later.
In these ten days, the entire Murong Clan mobilized all its forces. After all, the timetable was simply too short and there were too many necessary preparations.
Mother came to see me once. Though her eyes were filled with a joy that was difficult to conceal, she still couldn’t let go of those threads of worry. I knew she feared that the status quo would change once more.
Fortunately, the worries in our hearts never came to fruition. Tomorrow was going to be the day of Yan’er’s grand wedding. Of all the relatives in the clan, only I could enter the Eastern Palace to offer congratulations, and it was under the status of Third Wang fei at that.
I watched as the Good Fortune Matron held a jade comb and slowly brushed across Yan’er’s dark, satin-like hair. It felt just like the night before I myself had left the boudoir.
Through life or death, the solemn promise between you and I. Hand in hand, a lifetime spent together.1
For women of the world, this was the truest of blessings.
Though this may be something that I would never realize in my lifetime, I hoped that my mei-mei would be able to.
Mother held Yan’er’s hand, sharing with her bits of advice. Yan’er’s countenance was like that of a flower, serene and beautiful. Maybe she had already gone through so much that, at this point, it had merely become a canal forming where the water flows.2 Thus, her expression showed no particular signs of shyness and excitement.
“Jie-jie.” Perhaps it was because she saw that I didn’t speak at all that Yan’er suddenly spoke up and called out to me: “Have you been doing well?”
I stilled slightly, looking at her as her soft voice rang: “Why does Yan’er ask this?”
She stared at me with a desire to speak, but Mother’s voice already sounded as she spoke with a slight sigh: “Qing’er, you may not know, but it’s not just your father and I that feel at fault. In truth, Yan’er has been blaming herself this whole time, too. We all feel that we’ve wronged you.”
My heart was both moved and bitter. I forced myself to say with a smile: “To have Father, Mother, and mei-mei worry over me is Qing’er’s fault. The Third Highness treats me very well and I’ve lived well at the Third Wang fu. We’re family, what is there to be sorry about? Are you all earnestly trying to make me sad?”
Yan’er looked at me, finally smiling faintly: “You were left in an empty room on your wedding night. He even let you visit the natal home on your own. Is this considered good in jie-jie‘s eyes?”
“Yan’er!” Mother’s expression was displeased, her voice carrying some anger with it.
And so Yan’er spoke no further, her line of sight moving faintly past the window.
I held Mother’s hand to placate her, smiling slightly: “Everything happens for a reason. His Highness had no choice, so I can sympathize with that. In this world, each person has their own destiny. This is the mandate of the gods, something impossible to change by means of force. Moreover, I’m not as aggrieved as you all think. All said and done, the Third Highness treats me very well.”
Though these words were meant to ease their minds, it was indeed the truth.
Other than in love, Nan Cheng Yao’s treatment of me was not measured. Without exception, ever in Gui Mo Pavilion was the best in the world.
The way he treated me could even be considered like that of indulgence, as he had never restricted any of my behavior. Though it may stem from him not caring at all, when I told him that I wanted to return to the fu to send Yan’er off for marriage, he smiled with indifference: “Whatever you want to do, just do it. There is no need to ask for my approval on all things. There’s very few people who would dare go against my, Nan Cheng Yao’s wang fei.”
At that moment, I think that I might even have felt gratitude towards him.
Mother didn’t say much else, yet Yan’er turned back to look at me. She smiled faintly: “Everyone has their own destiny. That is indeed a truth.”
I was just about to say something, but she suddenly asked: “Jie-jie, will you go with Third Highness to attend the ceremony in the Eastern Palace tomorrow?”
I smiled and nodded: “Naturally. I’m waiting to see the world’s most beautiful bride.”
Mother began smiling as well: “Don’t flatter her too much, if you keep doing so, this silly girl will really underestimate the might of Heaven and Earth.3
As she spoke, she looked to the skies outside the window: “The time is getting late. Qing’er, you should return to the wang fu. I’ll see you out. This way, Yan’er can also rest early so that she can be well for tomorrow.”
I smiled as I stood up with Mother. Before leaving, I couldn’t help myself from turning back and giving Yan’er a gentle hug.
Perhaps, the two of us will one day walk on paths of opposition.
But right now, that she could marry into the Crown Prince fu was undoubtedly the greatest blessing to the entire Murong Family.
The struggle for power was never going to change for our sake us. But in this case, no matter who wins or loses, at least there will be one person between Yan’er and I that will be able to safeguard the whole family.
Yan’er did not say anything either, so I wasn’t sure if she was thinking the same things as me. She hugged me tightly for a moment, then went on to stand outside the little courtyard, sending Mother and I off as we gradually walked further and further away.
Translator’s Note: Is anyone bothered that I tend to keep idioms in their literal form? If it were a modern novel, I would likely just use the figurative meaning, but I think using the literal description adds to the authenticity of historical novels.
I’ve also been translating 千金 (qian jin) as “treasured daughter,” but in reality it means “thousand golds” and is akin to saying “rich lass.” Used to refer to a nobleman or wealthy man’s daughter. Murong Qing and Murong Yan are both referred throughout the novel as the qian jin of the Murong Family.
- 死生契闊，與子成說；執子之手，與子偕老: A saying that derives from the Book of Songs (詩經 // shi jing), the oldest anthology of Chinese poetry that was compiled around the time of Confucius. This particular passage (邶風·擊鼓) is said to have originated as a poem about the brotherly bond between soldiers at war. Today, the prose is used to describe a promise between lovers.
- 水到渠成: Idiom. Fig. Things that happen naturally given the conditions.
- 不知天高地厚: Figure of speech. To overestimate one’s own powers and abilities relative to the world around them.