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The Rebirth of an Ill Fated Consort CH 184

Author:novelreader Category:urban Update time:2022-12-30 02:50:52

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Chapter 184 : The Wedding Draws Near

 

Jiang Ruan was slightly taken aback.

Feeling that Xiao Shao’s words contained an indescribable emotion and finding this strange, she lifted her eyes to look at him.

The young man was directly gazing back at her; his deep, cold, black eyes were almost boring into her soul. 

Xiao Shao appeared cold and indifferent, but he was actually powerful and domineering.

For instance, his words indicated, to some degree, that he wanted to claim her as his own.

After Jiang Ruan thought for a moment, she inwardly shook her head.

Xiao Shao was reserved, and was not one to expose his emotions like this; it was very likely that something had happened.

Therefore, after a moment longer, she replied, “I don’t have to do anything.” She then changed the topic, saying, “Today, you are returning to Great Jin in triumph.

I think His Majesty will have a headache trying to decide what reward to bestow upon you.”

Xiao Shao already held a high position that came with great authority, and it was no exaggeration to say that, among all the Great Jin officials, his advancement was a given.

His meritorious deeds were piled up so high that he might even be considered a threat to the Emperor, so he had absolutely no need for this opportunity (to gain such merit).

Many years ago, the Emperor seemed to have done his best at every opportunity to bestow every possible honour on Xiao Shao- apart from the throne itself.

And so, because he had gained merit so often, he had no shortage of gold, silver, money, or valuables, and he had reached the first-rank of officialdom.

Truly, there was nothing lacking at all. 

A thought suddenly came to Jiang Ruan’s mind.

Smiling faintly, she said “After thinking about it, it seems that the Emperor can only confer a few beauties on you.”

Xiao Shao never imagined that Jiang Ruan would come up with such an idea out of the blue.

He glanced at her and coolly said, “No need.”

“His Majesty supports you with all his heart,” Jiang Ruan replied as she looked at the teacup in front of her.

“You are returning in triumph to the imperial court, and the Empress Dowager’s imperial edict is to be fulfilled.

However, the Jiang fu is currently in a state of collapse, and marrying me will not bring you any advantage.

His Majesty is always thinking about you, and will not be willing for this marriage to take place.

In the past, I heard that His Majesty intended to betroth the di daughter of the Yao family to you and now you have performed such a meritorious service.

A destined marriage in exchange for assistance would be much more beneficial than any amount of gold, silver, or precious stones.”

Jiang Ruan’s words were not groundless[1].

When news of the great victory at the border reached them, Jiang Ruan had entered the palace and heard Empress Dowager Yi De’s personal servant, Yang gugu, say that the Emperor had once again begun to summon Governor Yao more frequently.

Jiang Ruan knew that Xiao Shao harboured many secrets, just as she did.

She did not understand why the Emperor protected him so fervently, but it was obvious that the Emperor was partial to Xiao Shao.

The Emperor had always been highly dissatisfied with the idea of her being the Jinying Wangfei, and if it were not for Xiao Shao himself, the Emperor would long ago have replaced her with someone else.

Now that Xiao Shao was re-entering the imperial court after so many years, and had achieved such great merit, how could the Emperor let this opportunity slip from his grasp Since ancient times, Emperors have always loved to arrange the lives of others. 

[1] 空穴來風 (kong xue lai feng) – lit.

wind from an empty cave; fig. unfounded (story) / baseless (claim),

She said all this in a level tone, without any hint of a bad mood and Xiao Shao quietly observed her without saying anything.

He had always been good-looking, but perhaps, his having been at the border for a period of time had stimulated all the chill in his bones to come forth.

On his return this time, it seemed as if his temperament was even colder, and his entire being gave off a bitingly cold aura.

However, he was as handsome as the subject of a painting, and his face was peerlessly elegant.

But then suddenly, he hid a small smile, which immediately made him seem cold and evil.

There was no emotion in his voice, which drifted dispassionately into Jiang Ruan’s ear, as he asked, “Then, what do you think”

Jiang Ruan’s hand, which was holding the heater, tightened.

The young man opposite her, pressed her in a voice still devoid of emotion, “Do you want me to accept someone else”

In the blink of an eye, Jiang Ruan’s entire being froze.

She was holding the heater in her hand, but she suddenly felt as though she had been plunged into an ice cellar – because she had heard these exact same words in her previous lifetime. 

At that time, she had just entered the palace, and her prevailing mindset had been one of resignation to the whims of fate[2].

Unfortunately, at that time, there were rumours in the palace that the Prime Minister intended to marry his youngest daughter as a consort to Eighth Prince, Xuan Li.

When Jiang Ruan eventually heard the news, she felt that her already bleak life had its remaining light sucked out of it, and she fell seriously ill.

While she was ill, Xuan Li visited her.

He leaned over to whisper softly into her ear, “What are you thinking Do you want me to accept someone else” 

[2] 自生自滅 (zìshēngzìmiè) – to emerge and perish on its own; to run its course (idiom).

In a daze, she tried to recall what she had replied at that time.

Uneasy and miserable, she had endured the pain in her heart to say, “This is Your Highness’ business, and I have no right to intervene.”

And how did Xuan Li reply Xuan Li looked at her and said, gently, “In my life, the position of the Princess Consort is reserved for you.

My eyes will admit no one else, and my heart even more so.

If you have heard any news, it is just for show; none of it is serious, and none of it is true.

I only have you in my heart, don’t you understand that, yet”

Such sincere and emotional words finally shattered the last vestige of weakness she had in the deep palace.

Because of his deeply expressed emotions, every step she took in the palace, every advancement she sought, she did so because she was willing to be his pawn.

Ultimately, she had lost everything, such that there was nothing left to bury, not even bones.

Accordingly, after hearing these words in her ear, time seemed to have run backwards, bringing her back to the day in her previous life when Xuan Li gently whispered those exact words to her.

Hence, every word was bathed in blood and tears, cutting to her very bones. 

Xiao Shao was alarmed when he took note of the unusual state she was in.

He had seen her many faces: gentle and subdued while being submissive and agreeable, bright and charming while ruthlessly maneuvering, gritting her teeth in a desperate situation while obstinately standing alone.

Yet, he had rarely seen her at a loss.

At this moment, she was sitting opposite him, holding on to the heater, but completely dazed.

He did not know what she was thinking about, but her eyes were utterly bleak and vacant.

Looking at her made his heart clench for no reason.

Without taking the time to analyse why Jiang Ruan’s mood had changed so abruptly, Xiao Shao immediately stood and started to pull her up.

At the same time, he took her hand, and realised that she was slightly trembling all over.

He paused briefly before gathering her into his arms. 

“I am sorry, I misspoke.

I shouldn’t have asked you like that,” he said, sounding slightly vexed.

“I won’t accept anyone else, you are the only mistress here.”

When her body touched Xiao Shao’s ice-cold clothes, Jiang Ruan went blank for a split second.

Her head lay on Xiao Shao’s chest, and his arms were around her shoulders, resting gently on her back, carefully pacifying her, looking a little like how one would coax a child.

Jiang Ruan stretched out her arms stiffly to embrace him in return.

Her arms around his waist slowly tightened, and her eyes gradually regained their tranquillity. 

She thought she had completely forgotten all those things, that she could easily hide the rancour in her heart.

However, it is not so easy to let go of the things we experience in this world.

The betrayal and hurt between Xuan Li and herself in her previous life were always there, and she would not be able to forget them even for a day. 

Xiao Shao sensed the agitation in her emotions.

He did not know what he had said wrongly in order to cause this kind of unusual behaviour in Jiang Ruan, but he knew the problem must lie in his words.

After some thought, he said, softly, “I have already said that there’s nothing you need to do; you don’t need to worry about this matter.” 

“I am not willing,” Jiang Ruan said out of the blue. 

Xiao Shao looked down at her.

Jiang Ruan’s expression bore traces of the dazed state she had been in, but her eyes had already regained their serenity.

Her hands were freezing, and the arms around Xiao Shao’s waist tightened just a fraction.

Smiling faintly, she said, “I am not willing for you to accept others.”

The young lady’s smiling face was like a flower.

She had been born outstandingly beautiful, and each time he saw her she seemed to have matured a little more.

Now, every trace of childishness had disappeared, and her appearance was gracefully charming; every movement was so stunning that it left a deep impression.

With a firm and serene voice, she said, “Since you want me to enter your Wangfu, your Wangfu and you both belong to me alone.

All women in this world become jealous, and I am no exception.

If more women come over in an attempt to divide up what is mine, I will not hesitate to kill them.

Even going along with social convention is not permissible.”

As she pronounced her final words, murderous intent was already clear in her tone.

In truth, Jiang Ruan herself was not sure why she had spoken such words.

After her rebirth, she had thought of her own marriage as a means to use the power of her husband’s family to attain her own goals.

Since this was purely an act of vengeance, she did not care about whether there was sincerity or hypocrisy involved.

In order to play the role of a virtuous wife, if necessary, she was even willing to take the initiative to find a concubine for her own husband. 

But now, she was sharing her opinions, and this time period and her previous life had overlapped, and she did not know if her answer at present was in response to Xiao Shao’s question or Xuan Li’s question in her previous life.

What she did know with certainty, however, was that, right now, she had spoken instinctively, without careful deliberation.

This, then, was her true intention. 

Xiao Shao stared at her.

His calm and jet-black eyes seemed to shimmer for a moment, but this ripple of emotion vanished in the blink of an eye.

In the very next second, he swiftly bowed his head and kissed Jiang Ruan’s forehead. 

He pressed Jiang Ruan’s head into his embrace and his tone was gentle in a way it had never been before, as he said, “I don’t like to play along with social conventions.

Therefore, there will be no one else.”

Jiang Ruan’s body trembled.

He said he did not like to play along with social conventions.

He and Xuan Li were truly different people.

Jiang Ruan sighed in her heart and unconsciously held Xiao Shao more tightly.

He was not Xuan Li, the two of them were not similar at all. 

Xiao Shao embraced her, and his long eyelashes dropped down, effectively concealing the emotion in his eyes.

Jiang Ruan was behaving so strangely today, but he did not know what had gone wrong.

He used to think that Jiang Ruan harboured some secrets which, perhaps, she did not want others to pry into, so he would not deliberately investigate them.

However, looking at the situation now, if he did not solve this mystery, there would always be an invisible barrier between them. 

* * *

The news that Jinying Wang, Xiao Shao, and Jiang Xin Zhi had returned to the capital ahead of schedule spread throughout the capital on the next day, and it was not for any reason other than to fulfill two decrees.

The first was to finalize the date for Jinying Wang, Xiao Shao, and Hong’an Junzhu, Jiang Ruan’s marriage.

The second was the conferment of additional honours on Jiang Xin Zhi: he was to become Great General of Lu Xi as well as an official of the second-rank, and he was given the command of the hundred thousand troops formerly under the command of General Wu. 

Although talented, this was an amazing honour for someone so young, who was both new to court, and the son of a civil official.

With this position as a starting point, Jiang Xin Zhi’s future could only be splendidly glorious.

However, in reality, the Jinyi Guards led by Xiao Shao had collaborated with Jiang Xin Zhi to fight a beautiful battle.

Guan Liang Han, with his troops, and the envoy from Tian Jin were still en route.

When the envoy arrived at the capital, he would present a letter of surrender.

From this time forward, Tian Jin would pay Great Jin a yearly tribute and cede ten cities to her; Tian Jin would be subservient to Great Jin. 

The Emperor was mightily satisfied with this outcome.

That day, Xiao Shao entered the imperial study and talked to the Emperor for at least an hour.

No one knew what they talked about, but after Xiao Shao left, the eunuch who went in to tidy up the study saw that the floor was covered in fragments of china and smashed teacups; the Emperor had obviously been furious.

However, by the next day, the news was sent out announcing the immediate nuptials of Xiao Shao and Jiang Ruan.

Thus, everyone surmised that the Emperor and Xiao Shao must have talked about something related to this, and they could not help but envy Jiang Ruan. 

The wedding was scheduled to take place in a month, and by that time, Guan Liang Han would have returned to the capital, and it also happened to be the end of the year.

Thus, it could be said that there were going to be two simultaneous happy events to be celebrated.

This destined pairing blessed by the heavens had already been set in place earlier, and now it was finally being realized.

However, this topic still stirred up plenty of waves in the palace, and for a time, discussions about this matter could be heard everywhere. 

In the imperial garden, Noble Consort Jiang and a few palace ladies were sitting at a small table discussing the upcoming nuptials.

Jiang Dan casually peeled a honey tangerine, her nail-polished fingers looking extremely delicate and fair against the plump tangerine.

With a slight smile, she said, “Da Jiejie truly has been blessed with good fortune.”

Wang Meiren, who should now be addressed as Noble Consort Wang, said gently, “Hong’an Junzhu is intelligent and decorous, and together with Jinying Wang, they are indeed a match made in heaven.

What’s more, their marriage was conferred earlier by the Empress Dowager herself; it’s all so perfect.”

Jiang Dan smiled, and glanced at Wang Lian’er, before shooting a glance at Mu Xi Rou on the other side.

Over the past year, for some unknown reason, the Emperor had raised her, Wang Lian’er, and Mu Xi Rou at the same time.

Perhaps he felt that by doing so, they could mutually curb each other’s power.

Wang Lian’er became Noble Consort Wang[3], Mu Xi Rou became Noble Consort Mu[4], and she herself became Noble Consort Jiang[5].

All three of them were of the third-rank; there was no distinction between them.

Mu Xi Rou was cold and adopted a haughty air all day long, so she was not someone to fear for the time being.

However, this Wang Lian’er was extremely crafty, thus the hidden struggle between the two of them in the palace was immensely fierce. 

[3] 昭容 (zhāo róng) – Lady of Bright Countenance

[4] 昭華 (zhāo huá) – Lady of Bright Splendidness 

[5] 昭儀 (zhāo yí) – Lady of Bright Deportment

Jiang Dan laughed.

Without warning, she said to a lady seated in a lower position, “Noble Consort Dong[6], you and my Da Jiejie used to be close friends.

What gift have you prepared for the occasion of my Da Jiejie’s marriage”

[6] 修儀 (xiū yí) – Lady of Cultivated Deportment 

That lady lifted her head to reveal a dainty face; it was indeed Dong Yinger.

Her appearance had not changed, but her expression was no longer as lively as when she was younger.

In the past year, she had also received the Emperor’s favour, and had been raised to a third-rank consort as well.

The world was truly ironic.

At the time when she was a young, unmarried lady, she had been the di daughter of the Lord Mayor fu, while Jiang Dan was merely the shu daughter of a minister’s fu.

Where status was concerned, Jiang Dan was far beneath her.

Now, in the palace, everything was topsy-turvy; when she saw Jiang Dan, she had to bow in respect.

At this time, when Dong Yinger heard Jiang Dan’s mocking words, she simply smiled faintly and said, “Junzhu is high-ranking nobility[7], how can this concubine claim to have any connection to her”

[7] 金枝玉葉 (jīnzhīyùyè) – golden branch, jade leaves (idiom); fig.

blue-blooded nobility, esp.

imperial kinsmen or peerless beauty.

“Noble Consort Dong has spoken wrongly, I remember that you and my Da Jiejie were very close. Oh, that’s right, wasn’t there also the young lady from the Zhao family Speaking of this, I remember something.

Eldest Brother has now been promoted to Great General, and this reward is considered superior.

At that time, people were saying that Eldest Brother was to be beheaded, but who could have guessed that he would have this kind of impressive life now So, man proposes but God disposes.

Moreover, Eldest Brother’s fortunate circumstances at present may cause those people to guiltily back away in embarrassment.

When all those things were happening to Eldest Brother, all those people who had intended to pursue a marital agreement with him saw the way the wind was blowing and immediately drew clear boundary lines between their families and him.

But now, they must be eaten up with regret[8].”

[8] 腸子悔青 (chang zi du qing) – lit.

intestines are green with regret. 

Dong Yinger froze slightly and lowered her head, her throat unconsciously tightening.

Whichever way one looked at it, Jiang Dan’s words seemed to be directed at her.

While Jiang Xin Zhi’s whereabouts remained unknown, her parents had seen that there was something wrong and had compelled her to enter the palace.

By then, she had no way out, and when she saw that everything seemed to bode ill for Jiang Xin Zhi, her will died and she entered the palace.

Who knew that a day like today would come When the news of Jiang Xin Zhi’s rescue was known, her heart was filled with both joy and sorrow.

Joy because that person was alive, sorrow because she had already been wed to another; there was no longer any possibility of a relationship between them.

Now, Jiang Xin Zhi had become a Great General.

It was his time to stand in the limelight, and no one could compare to him.

She, on the other hand, was now one of the many palace women who endlessly ran here and there.

Consequently, the words from Jiang Dan’s mouth were undoubtedly laced with ridicule.

Seeing this, Wang Lian’er smiled faintly and said, “Isn’t that true Great General Jiang is young and full of promise, his meritorious achievements are extraordinary, and he was born both handsome and talented.

So who knows which fu’s daughter will be able to win his favour in future”

“Why wait for the future” Jiang Dan’s smile grew even bigger.

“Wouldn’t now be a little more meaningful”

Dong Yinger felt herself go rigid.

Wang Lian’er was stunned, and asked, “What does meimei mean by this”

“Noble Consort Dong might remember Miss Zhao who was very close to Da Jiejie at one time” Jiang Dan smilingly continued, “Back then, the three of you were extremely close.

I heard that the person in Great General Jiang’s heart is Miss Zhao, and he has already sent people to the Zhao fu to make inquiries.

It is really a match made in heaven, and I think Da Jiejie will also be extremely happy.”

Dong Yinger’s face was completely white, and if she had not remembered that this was the imperial garden, she would have almost tottered and collapsed. Zhao Jin It was actually Zhao Jin Dong Yinger had entered the palace long ago, and she had clearly seen very early on that Jiang Dan was not a good character to be with.

Her initial reaction was to take these words as Jiang Dan recklessly making false assertions, but as long as Jiang Xin Zhi was involved, she could not help being upset. Was Zhao Jin really Jiang Xin Zhi’s sweetheart When did they get together When did Zhao Jin catch Jiang Xin Zhi’s eye

Dong Yinger felt her heart turn ice-cold.

In the past, she had not concealed her liking for Jiang Xin Zhi from Zhao Jin; Zhao Jin knew how she felt but still got together with Jiang Xin Zhi.

And there was also Jiang Ruan – Jiang Ruan had completely disregarded her feelings then, but she had helped Zhao Jin and Jiang Xin Zhi.

They were both Jiang Ruan’s friends, why had she treated Dong Yinger differently 

She felt deeply aggrieved and indignant, as well as hurt over being betrayed.

It was as if everyone was taking her for a joke; she felt entirely unlike herself.

It was not surprising that she hardly heard what else Jiang Dan was saying. 

“Miss Zhao and Eldest Brother are exceedingly well matched,” Jiang Dan said with a smile.

“Eldest Brother is a General, and Miss Zhao comes from a family of military generals.

It’s suitable no matter which way you look at it.

No wonder Da Jiejie wants to help them as well.”

Jiang Dan spoke cheerfully, not expecting that someone would come from behind her.

She had just finished speaking when a bright, clear voice sounded from behind her.

“This prince initially thought that it was only the ignorant women in the marketplaces and rural villages who uttered such malicious nonsense, never thinking that the noble ladies in the deep palace would do the same.

Truly, what an eye-opening experience.

Fortunately, Miss Zhao and General Jiang are not here today, otherwise, hearing one’s reputation being slandered like this for no reason, they would be unlikely to let the matter rest.

Imperial Tutor Liu, do you think this prince is right”

Everyone was startled.

Jiang Dan immediately stood up and saw behind her a young man and a beautiful youth.

The tender youth had a jade-like appearance, and although he had a smile on his face, his tone was mocking, while his eyes held a hint of coldness.

Who could it be but Xuan Pei

“Thirteenth Highness,” Wang Lian’er and several others hurriedly rose to pay their respects.

Even consorts of the third-rank had to bow their heads before a prince.

What’s more, this Thirteenth Prince was so favoured now that even the Crown Prince’s Imperial Grand Tutor, Liu Min, had been given to him.

The young man by his side had very dainty features, as well as a faint air of arrogance.

Right now, anger flashed in his eyes, but he calmly agreed, “It is as Your Highness says.”

He was merely echoing what had been said. 

Jiang Dan gritted her teeth silently.

Who knew when Xuan Pei had come She felt that she had lost face in front of everyone, and was momentarily beset with annoyance.

Immediately she said with a smile, “Thirteenth Highness, all this harem talk is women’s business.

If Thirteenth Highness gets involved in this, it will make people laugh.”

For some reason, she did not like Xuan Pei at all.

She was able to handle the other princes with ease and was not miserly in her praise of them.

However, where this Thirteenth Prince was concerned, even a pleasant expression had to be forced.

Moreover, she did not know if it was her misconception, but she always saw a reflection of Jiang Ruan in Xuan Pei, especially his eyes, which possessed a depth of peace that could not be easily shaken.

When those eyes looked at people, they were as cold as ice, giving people palpitations. 

Wang Lian’er cursed inwardly.

Everyone knew that the Emperor valued Xuan Pei, but Jiang Dan was still speaking so discourteously.

She did not want to imagine what the Emperor would think if what Jiang Dan had said reached his ears.

The Emperor could take Xuan Pei to task himself, but he would never in a million years allow a consort to teach a prince a lesson. 

“How could this be considered a matter of the harem” Xuan Pei smiled faintly as he said, “General Jiang has achieved such extraordinary merit in the Great Jin; Noble Consort Jiang lives in the palace, yet has so much clarity on General Jiang’s personal matters.

It can also be assumed that you have great concern for General Jiang.

Since Noble Consort Jiang, one of the womenfolk in the inner palace, can be concerned with General Jiang, this prince, as one of Great Jin’s princes, Imperial Father’s son, should naturally also be concerned about General Jiang.”

Jiang Dan was at a loss for words, and cursed Xuan Pei silently for being sly.

These words were almost a slap in the face; for her as a woman of the inner palace to be concerned about the young General’s personal matters was overstepping her bounds somewhat.

With difficulty, Jiang Dan eked out, “In any case, he is my Eldest Brother .

.

.”

“Noble Consort Jiang is truly strange,” said the cold-eyed Mu Xi Rou, who had been watching from the sidelines.

She was a natural beauty, but was excessively arrogant.

At the moment, her voice was like ice as she said, “I heard that General Jiang entered the palace to receive his reward, but I’ve never heard that he entered the palace to reminisce with Noble Consort Jiang, and no one from Jiang family has ever visited Noble Consort Jiang here.

I really have no idea where Noble Consort Jiang got this news from as neither the Empress Dowager nor His Majesty have said a word.

It looks like Noble Consort Jiang is far more capable than His Majesty.” 

No one would have thought that the usually frosty beauty Mu Xi Rou would say such lethal words, almost rendering Jiang Dan dumb.

The Emperor’s people were everywhere in the palace.

Whatever was said here today would doubtlessly reach the Emperor’s ears.

No one could fathom what the Emperor thought or felt, but Jiang Dan felt incredibly anxious at present.

She said, “I never said anything like that; Noble Consort Mu, why would you say something like that about me” 

Mu Xi Rou sneered and did not say more. 

Xuan Pei, who was watching from the side, laughed, and Liu Min, who was standing next to him, lifted the corners of his mouth slightly, while laughter showed in his eyes briefly.

Jiang Dan had inadvertently offended Xuan Pei, and had thus isolated herself.

No one was going to offend the prince whom the Emperor favoured, and no one would speak on behalf of Jiang Dan.

Jiang Dan was in a truly difficult situation right now. 

Xuan Pei dusted his sleeves.

That splendidly and exquisitely attired, elegantly handsome youth had a gentle smile on his face, but his voice held undisguised contempt as he said, “Noble Consort Jiang, a loose tongue may cause a lot of trouble[9]. You would do well to remember this.”

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