How stupid. How tedious.
Chu Yu walked out of Rong Zhi’s courtyard with a self-deprecating smile.
In her past life, she had read before transmigration novels and often found the worries about changing history trivial. Now that she was ironically in such a situation, the severity of it weighed heavy on her.
Facing imminent peril, she did not dare make any risks.
The real reason Chu Yu had hesitated for so long was not out of prudence. It was out of a bone-deep respect she had towards history. That fearful reverence kept her from taking lightly the idea of “changing the river’s course”.
With her heart now set and unburdened, looking back at her past struggles, Chu Yu could not help but feel a trickle of comprehension and relief, and could not help but laugh at herself. No matter how much she revered history, what was the use in doing so? It wanted her dead. If nothing were to change, how would she even live on?
Her frustrations over the past few days could generally be summed up in ten words: So very stupid and naïve. So very foolish and tedious.
However, what would be the meaning of life, if one were to live without committing any foolishness at all?
Turning back, she found herself gazing at the wall of bamboo. It separated her and Rong Zhi, hiding his figure from view. All Chu Yu could see was a forest of greenery.
She shuttered her eyes a little, the faintest curve of a smile appearing on her face before dissolving into tranquility. Breathing out an abrupt ‘hah’, she shrugged her shoulders, as if bidding a final farewell to her past, and, ignoring Yue Jiefei’s bewilderment, she walked away.
Farewells were always inevitable.
History, no matter how much it should be respected, please, as she stood before it with her tiny drop of a life, may it allow her to ever so lightly…take a step forward.
Leaving Rong Zhi, she went on to find Huan Yuan.
After recent changes had been made to Xiu Yuan House, the place now appeared different from how it used to be. As a show of sincerity and trust, Chu Yu had withdrawn the door guards, giving Huan Yuan freedom to exit the place without having to seek her permission every time. Naturally, this freedom was limited. If he were to exit the Princess’s Palace, he would still need to report to her beforehand.
Upon entering Xiu Yuan House, she immediately noticed Huan Yuan. His face had a slight pallor, with lips firmly pressed into a thin line, while his eyes – which held an air of refined, traditional charm – speedily scanned a journal; His left hand flipped through pages, while the right moved in sweeping brushstrokes, leaving behind concise entries in smooth precision.
Being so immersed in his task, Huan Yuan did not register Chu Yu’s arrival. Laughing quietly at this, Chu Yu walked over to the table, sat down opposite him, and waited in silence for him to take notice.
After about 15 minutes of toiling away, Huan Yuan began to feel tired. He set down his brush and pinched the bridge of his nose, only to realize with a start that Chu Yu was seated right in front of him.
Huan Yuan faltered. Given his position, the proper thing to do was to immediately move off his seat and greet her with due reverence. However, there was a rift of reluctance and turmoil in his heart, which made his body refuse to budge.
Seeing the struggling discomfort flitting across his features, Chu Yu laughed, waved a hand at him casually, and peered down at the journal. “How’s everything so far?”
“I did my best.” Huan Yuan’s answer was neither apologetic nor arrogant, but purely serious by nature. He hesitated a little, but could not help his next comment. “Ever since I started taking over, I’ve come to realize, how perfectly managed everything had been when Rong Zhi was still in charge. As long as it was in his hands, not a single thing would be out of place. The more I think about it, Rong Zhi really is…”
Seeing him pause, Chu Yu smiled and prompted him on. “Yes?”
He had to expend all of his efforts to barely get by in handling the affairs. In contrast, when it came to Rong Zhi, everything seemed to settle effortlessly in the blink of an eye. Even though their difference could be chalked up to a lack of experience in Huan Yuan’s case, it made him feel as if he were being pitted against an unscalable mountain.
It felt like some kind of invisible pressure was being forced down on him, so hard he could scarcely breathe.
Chu Yu smiled and patted his shoulder. When she felt him stiffen at her touch, she removed her hand and continued on in a gentle tone. “There’s no need to worry about it. I’m not asking you to compete with Rong Zhi. I’m just letting you learn the ropes of handling the palace’s affairs.” Although time waited for no man, if she were too hasty, Huan Yuan might be pressured past his limits before he even had time to grow into his abilities. Such a thing would only result in a waste of her efforts.
She slowly chose her words after thinking a while. “I have my own reasons for leaving this to you. It isn’t my intention for you and Rong Zhi to compete. Moreover, there is no need to compare yourself with him, for you have your own strengths.” Pausing, Chu Yu bit her lip, then gazed at him with a smile. “I think, that even with all his talents, Rong Zhi would never have matched up to how you were able to write poetry as smooth as flowing water at the poetry banquet.”
Despite it being a passing remark, Huan Yuan was instantly reminded of the incident on the cliffs. That day after, Yue Jiefei had sent men to investigate but had failed to find any evidence tracing back to Huan Yuan. It was almost as if someone had forcefully wiped off any evidence trails.
He let out a shallow sigh.
I gave you arsenic, yet you threw me driftwood.
If he had not been the one behind the assassination, he would have almost suspected she had staged it all in a plot to gain his gratitude. But since he himself was the culprit, his emotions were hence in far greater turmoil.
Why did you reach your hand out to me?
Huan Yuan gazed back at Chu Yu. In the perplexed haze of his thoughts, there was a vague hint of resentment. Why did it have to be her? If it were someone else, surely his expression of gratitude would not feel so uncomfortable and conflicted?
Noticing how Huan Yuan was staring at her in a daze, Chu Yu discreetly inspected herself, trying to discern if there was any mishap on her body. After feeling her face a bit and confirming nothing was amiss, she breathed out in relief. She peered at the journal entries next, realized she could not understand any of it, and shortly decided she would give up any hope of gaining expertise in this area. She decided to ask Huan Yuan directly instead. “How much has been handed over to you so far?” How much privilege had been taken away from Rong Zhi’s hands?
Brought back to reality by her sudden words, Huan Yuan immediately settled his inner turmoil and answered. “About more than half.”
The inner treasury, food supplies and capital were already in his hands. As for the authority to manage general staff and matters, that privilege had also been handed to him. However, authority over security matters had been passed onto Yue Jiefei. “Rong Zhi has almost handed down all the general affairs, but there are still a few which he refuses to let go of.”
Chu Yu’s expression remained neutral except for a slight widening of her eyes. “Which ones?”
“Fragrances, medicine and the Imperial Medical Bureau”. When he had begun taking over the palace affairs, Rong Zhi had very generously handed him everything. And yet, he had also openly stated that everything could be handed over, except for those three items, which he resolutely would not relinquish to anyone.
Fragrances, medicine and the Imperial Medical Bureau.
At the mention of each item by Huan Yuan, Chu Yu’s brows would raise in response. Finally, she cast down her eyes and uttered: “He’s probably keeping the medicine and Imperial Medical Bureau to cure Hua Cuo’s wounds.” From previous inquiry, she knew that Rong Zhi’s medical expertise was extremely good. In fact, there had been a few occasions where at least two of the physicians in the Imperial Medical Bureau had come to him for advice.
“As for the fragrances…” Chu Yu’s hand inadvertently touched the bag of fragrances hanging at her waist. At her slight touch, a delicate aroma began to waft from it. “Leave it to him along with the other two. For the time being, you can manage whatever is on your hand. When the right time comes, I’ll call on you to take care of something for me.”
Before leaving, Chu Yu once again tried to reassure Huan Yuan by encouraging him not to be disheartened, and not to overexert himself lest he ruin his health – what good would that do then. She was midway through informing him about having some tonics sent over, when a deafening commotion caught her attention from outside.
修远居: Xiu Yuan House – Xiu Yuan means ‘far away’ and is generally used to describe paths and landscapes as being long and distant. I’m using this because calling it Winding Residence or something like that doesn’t feel very accurate. I don’t remember if an English term was used in the past chapters, or if it was mentioned at all? So if anyone does, kindly let me know, thanks!
我赠君砒霜，君予我浮木: I tried to kill you, yet you tried to save me. Imagine if you gift someone arsenic to kill them, but when you are drowning, they toss you a raft.
尚药司: Shang Medical Bureau – The entire term refers to a pharmacy/medical bureau, which used to be under control of the imperial court in ancient China. I tried researching the individual meaning of 尚药 but couldn’t find out exactly why it’s called 尚/Shang other than one particular meaning that could link it to government administration under the emperor.