❗❗This translation is locked to proof of purchase from chapter 28 ❗❗ This is a passion project (i.e. a fan translation) and not a substitute for purchasing the raws, if you have the means to do so then please support the author.
This translation began in June 2021, so terms and quality can vary across chapter to chapter as I do not MTL – everything hinges on my mood and inspiration on the day. Plus, it’s been over a year, I am now more aware of MXS’s writing style as well as my own translation style.
⚠️ Mistakes highly probable, it needs a good scrub at the end – kindly lower your expectations. I’m Chinese but overseas-born so if you are a native Chinese speaker, I highly recommend you read the raws
if you can lol ! !
N.B. British spellings and punctuation throughout – if you’re used to US EN, you may find it odd but it’s not incorrect
(unless it’s a typo of course). I also have a tendency to comma splice and wrongly capitalise some nouns and change my mind later – sorry!
The 35th Year of Jiajing, fifth month of the lunar calendar, the start of Summer
>.>.> FINAL CONTENT WARNING: [14 year old age-gap between MC and ML, and there is noncon – if that makes you uncomfortable please don’t read].
If you don’t like novels where the story hinges heavily on imperial court politics and Chinese history as well as a slow-burn
almost non-existent romance, you’ll probably be bored off your tits… You have been warned, don’t complain about it later, footnotes will be stacked high throughout. Some inconsistency in terms and typos highly probable. Enjoy ~
All titles are from the Chinese-English Dictionary of Ming Government Official Titles, if there are titles which are not in the dictionary – I’ve gone with the most appropriate English tl I could come up with.
Even though Changle was a small county, it wasn’t lacking in wealthy officials. In a weather like this, the wealthy people would most probably bring some ice cubes from the ice house to put into the hall to drive away the heat.
Whilst the ordinary citizens would get up early to hide under the tall big trees and enjoy the cool air. There were also some who had to work under the scorching sun with a feeble, depressed look on their faces.
“Which time have they ever not accepted it?” Lady Wu laughed out loud. On her face revealed disdain and loathing, whilst she lightly fiddled with the orchid leaf in the flowerpot with her tidily trimmed fingernails.
“This time was slightly different” Maidservant Lee approached a step closer, quietly saying: “When I took the stuff over, it wasn’t Lady Chen who came to the door, it was da-shaoye.”
“Oh?” said Lady Wu. Hearing him being addressed as da-shaoye brought her much displeasure and the corners of her mouth slanted slightly downwards.
Maidservant Lee discerned what she was thinking from her facial expression, she quickly added “I originally wanted to drop off the stuff there and then leave, who knew that Da-shaoye would call me over, and even said a few words.”
“What did he say?” Lady Wu asked, slightly astonished.
“Nothing special, just some small talk. He asked after my lady and Er-shaoye, but the way I see it, Da-shaoye’s manner seems…” Maidservant Lee was racking her brain, thinking about it for a while but couldn’t put it into words.. seems just a bit different from usual…”
“What are you trying to say!”
Lady Wu thought there was something unexpected, but the result of her patience to hear such a result, she could not help but be a little fed up. “If it wasn’t for that little wench, why would so many things have happened!”
The more she thought about it, the more worked up she got, pulling and tugging on the embroidered handkerchief in her hands. No one was around so she didn’t need to hide her disdain any longer, her eyes clearly showed her disgust: “Blame it on father who didn’t recognise it at first and let that little slut to marry into the family, and with a dumb stroke of luck she was even able to give birth to a son, the heaven’s really don’t have eyes!”
This was a shameful secret of her master, a grudge between two generations, even if Maiden Lee was the personal maid to Lady Wu, her status didn’t allow her to comment so she could only sigh silently to herself, not daring to offer up any comment.
Zhao Su took what Maidservant Lee had just brought over – one damp bag which already had some mouldy grains of rice falling out, which he spread across the stone table to dry in the sun and then he turned around to enter the house.
“Su’er, you shouldn’t have spoken to Maiden Lee like that just now.” said the woman who was leaning on the table stitching some clothes, she lifted her head and sighed out loud.
Not to mention that the other party came once a month to deliver these goods, if they didn’t receive these – they would certainly have at least half a month where they’d have to go hungry. As relying simply on the small amount she earned from her embroidery work would certainly not do.
Zhao Su smiled: “I wasn’t even impolite to her, it’s just that she always looks down on others, eye for an eye, I only said two words to her. People should treat others how they would like to be treated.”
Lady Chen wondered out loud: “Where did you learn to be so well-spoken and wise?”
“Recently, going up the mountain, I passed by the clan school, so I just listened in for a bit, this is just what the teacher of the school was saying.
Lady Chen didn’t cover up her worries: “The clan already doesn’t want us mother and son, don’t go making any more trouble for us!”
Zhao Su laughed: “I was only listening at the door, there’s no harm in that, your son would also like to study and learn how to write.”
Chen stared blankly at this thirteen year old boy, his body shape was frail, like that of an eight or nine year old. Her eyes twitched, she lowered her head: “It’s all my fault, if it wasn’t for my lowly background… you are still the Da-shaoye…”
Lady Chen nodded her head, she forced a smile: “Mother will go prepare it now.”
Zhao Su stopped her: “You can rest today, let your son work on my cooking skills, and show my filial piety.”
The locals all spoke with Fuzhou dialect, Zhao Su, however, unconsciously, used a Beijing accent, which sounded a bit weird, but Chen was so troubled in her heart that she did not even notice this detail.
Since mother and son were kicked out of Zhao manor, the youngster had continued to be heavily negative, depressed, sometimes he would even hide himself and secretly cry. Never had he been this mature and sensible as now, Chen was surprised and moved but felt even more guilty.
Zhao Su fled in the midst of Lady Chen’s emotive gaze, and waited until he entered the kitchen before slowing down and sighing. Half a month ago, Zhao Su was not Zhao Su, but he was called Wang Ning.
In Wang Ning’s world, even if communism had not been achieved. Everyone had enough to eat and had warm clothes to wear, had some small talk over current affairs during a meal, and could complain about politics. If he had nothing to do he’d just go online, pick up a girl, his days would go by calmly and comfortably.
Before becoming the owner of this body, he felt that the days were tasteless and dull but after coming here, he realized that feeling bored was also a kind of happiness.
The Zhao family roots could be traced back to the Song Dynasty. and are said to be descendants of Zhao Delin, the third son, of Emperor Taizu of Song. Zhao Su’s senior ancestors had long settled in Changle, Fujian for several generations, and the Zhao family thus multiplied into a large local clan.
Zhao Su’s father was called Zhao Xifeng, he spent over ten years studying for the imperial exam but only ever achieved Xiucai. In the end, this took a toll on his body and he died three years ago. Zhao Xifeng’s legitimate wife was surnamed Wu.
Zhao Su’s birth was accidental.
One time, Lady Wu left to visit relatives, Zhao Xifeng got drunk and forced himself on Lady Chen, who knew that this incident would end up in a pregnancy and the conception of this child would lead to so much trouble for the former.
In the Ming Dynasty, the status between the first wife and concubines were clearly defined, and the status of concubines could never surpass that of the first wife, and any children born to concubines could not inherit the family property. Also, Lady Chen couldn’t even be counted as a concubine, at the most, she was only ever a personal servant. Sleeping with him would be one thing, but she had to bear him a son, how could Lady Wu not be surprised and angry?
From then on, Lady Wu hated this lowly servant to the bone.
But with an heir, the situation is a little different, however unsatisfied the first wife was, she couldn’t sell off the birth mother of the bastard. The Zhao family was still a literary family who valued their reputation, if word got out then it would definitely be bad.
Lady Wu feigned well on appearance but had trickery in mind. Plus, because of what he had done Zhao Xifeng was afraid of the consequences, he knew he was in the wrong and didn’t dare to say anything, as long as Lady Wu didn’t kill his son, he let her do whatever she wanted to torment Lady Chen.
Lady Chen was of a soft nature, her lowly birth made her easy to bully, and be tricked by men, but in this era, the status of women was low, and she is a servant girl, even if there is a son, in the future he’d have to address the first wife as mother.
Therefore, Zhao Su’s status in the house can be imagined, especially after a year, Lady Wu had her own son, his half-brother Zhao Jin, this situation intensified. Everyone knew that this concubine’s son was unliked, even Zhao Xifeng did not let him learn to read and write, he received only plain tea and simple food like the servants so even a servant would look down on him.
His father didn’t care, Lady Wu didn’t show any love, and his mother didn’t dare to speak out. Zhao Su grew up in this environment, with an extremely closed off and cowardly personality. After Zhao Xifeng’s death, Zhao Su and his mother were forced out of the Zhao family manor under false pretenses and forced to live in another holding. It was called a holding but in fact it was closer to a grass hut with a simple courtyard surrounded by fences in the suburbs. It was surrounded by poor people’s settlements, similar to slums.
To avoid petty talk, the Zhao Family would send someone every month to deliver some food. Even though it was said to be food, in fact, it was the old stale food that Zhao Manor no longer wanted.
Even though Zhao Su was the first born in the Zhao family, the difference between him and his half brother was so great it was impossible to tell whether he was so depressed that he threw himself into the water to commit suicide or whether he really lost his footing and fell into the river.
Because the Zhao Su of today is completely different from the Zhao Su back then.
Whether he wanted to or not, from now on, he could only go on living using the name and identity of Zhao Su.
From now on, there will no longer be Wang Ning, there is only Zhao Su.
However, this kind of life, in the end, is impossible.
Zhao Su was thirteen years old, in ancient times, he was considered a man who could take responsibility for his family, and with his soul in his thirties, he would not have allowed Lady Chen, a weak woman, to support him by going blind embroidering day and night.
So Zhao Su sat on the doorsill of the kitchen, pondering slowly.
He first consoled himself, arriving in the Ming dynasty was at least better than being in the Qing dynasty. At least, at this time period, there wasn’t any pressure coming down from above from the Manchus, otherwise, the days would be even more difficult.
But what exactly was happening in the thirty-fifth year of Jiajing?
Since the Ming Emperor Zhu Di built the Grand Secretariat, the Grand Secretariat’s power was increasing day by day. To the current Emperor Jiajing, concocting pills of immortality was a hobby, but to become immortal was a lifelong achievement, so he pushed all big and small world matters to the cabinet. The power of the cabinet ministers also reached its peak, developing internal strife between the civil officials and imperial power. This may be regarded as unique to the Ming Dynasty, this was unimaginable in the next dynasty, Qing Dynasty.
After another ten years, Hu Zongxian, a famous general who fought against the Wukou would committed suicide in prison.
After another three years, China will have its first gun rifle.
The West will have entered the age of great sea voyages, they began to travel all over the world, including to China.
And at this time, the Ming Empire, including the extremely smart Emperor Jiajing, many smart people were rising in the Ming dynasty political arena. Entering into the arena one after the other, it was extremely lively.
Zhao Su thought for a moment, the current senior Grand Secretary should be the famous Yan Song. This person dominated the Imperial Court for twenty years, and now the spring is in full swing, there are still some years ahead before he steps down.
To survey the entire Empire, the North had the Tartar tribe, the Southwest had the Wukou, the Emperor was busy practising Taoism, the court officials were busy with internal conflicts, the people had no surplus grains, life was hard, the people have no way to make a living, so that’s why there was this infamous folk song: “JiaJing Jiajing, jia jia, ganjing”
Right now, Zhao Su is one of these poor people.
So thinking too far into the future was no use, it was better to first focus on the present.
Firstly, he must improve his way of living.
In the end, relying on Lady Chen’s embroidery to earn money was not a long term solution.
The prices of goods during the Ming Dynasty weren’t as frightening as in the future, but with their current financial situation, it would be very hard to get by.
Go to Zhao Manor asking for food and money? Of course, that was no good either. They didn’t care about mother and son at all, Not to mention that going to the door is equal to self-humiliation, even if he suffered all the insults, he still may not be able to get the food and money.
How about starting their own little business? This was also not good, because firstly, they had no money to set up and secondly, they didn’t have any contacts so what kind of business could they do?
Next was to study, and participate in the imperial examination.
In ancient times, everything was inferior, only studying could he achieve scholarly honor. Even if it was Xiucai, he’d definitely attain a certain social status, this way, they would no longer be humiliated and bullied.
The original Zhao Su couldn’t read, so he used standing outside the Clan school slightly listening to the lessons as a form of deception, but in order to take part in the imperial exam, he must know the ins and outs of the Four Books and the Five Classics to succeed.
People from ancient times always talked about ten years of arduous study and this wasn’t to be said lightly.
Even if Zhao Su already had the mature understanding of an adult, without a teacher, not speaking of trying to figure out the exam questions, even getting his foot in the door would be a problem.
There wasn’t a shortage of problems when laying it out like this. Although people are born to solve problems, he thought that he was very far from the happy lifestyle of eating meat and drinking alcohol, simply it was like the distance between the north and south pole.
He’d been thinking all day but to no avail. Zhao Su got up, but he suddenly felt like his eyes were going black, his body shaking, holding on to the wall whilst sighing to himself.
Because of long-term malnourishment, this body was anemic and had calcium deficiency, he was so thin it was like skin and bone. He stretched out his withered hands, even the thumbs were deathly pale, there was any sign of blood. He’d need at least 3-5 years of care to regain full strength and vitality.
In the end, it was all about money, without money it was hard to go on.
Zhao Su took out the celery and mushrooms he had picked in the morning and used water to wash them and then proceeded to chop them up. He waited for the congee to soften before adding the ingredients in, he cast some salt, and suddenly a fragrance flowed over the place.
His brain sparked suddenly, and he came up with another idea.
He was thinking about the possibility of success whilst taking the congee out all the way into the house.
The sky sounded a burst of thunder, a heavy rain was about to hit.
From inside the room came the sound of someone speaking quietly, Zhao Su couldn’t help but slow down his steps.
“I pray for the blessing of the Bodhisattva, I pray for the blessing of the Buddha, I wish my son to be free of disease and calamities and to be safe and happy. I wish to pay for it with a broken life, even if I die right away, I have no complaints or regrets!”
Lady Chen was kneeling in front of the window, hands clasped together whilst praying.
Lightning illuminated half the sky, the moment of light also reflected her face, which was not very old, but the corners of the eyes were full of piety.
Outside the door, Zhao Su stood in silence, not knowing what his heart felt like.
When he woke up and learned that he had transmigrated to such a time and family, he’d not necessarily had the intention of leaving everything behind and leaving home, but later he had abandoned this idea. But regarding Lady Chen, he didn’t have the feeling of his own flesh and blood, however, until this moment, he suddenly discovered that how he had thought before was very wrong.
As a mother, even if they are weak, they will do their best to hold up a sky for their children, this is true of ancient times to the present.
He was no longer the previous Zhao Su, but the duties and responsibilities of this body had not decreased one bit.
The person before him, from now on would be his mother.
Lady Chen answers yes, she got up to help him set the table, and then mother and son ate together.
The little congee was fragrant and sweet, Lady Chen was astonished: “Su-er has some culinary skills.”
Zhao Su smiled: “If mother likes, from now on, I can cook every meal.”
Lady Chen said lightly: “I will pick up some more embroidery work, save up some more money so you can go to school. I’m afraid from now on you may have to actually take care of the cooking.”
Zhao Su had just said it casually, but Lady Chen had taken his words to heart, Zhao Su felt moved: “Your son will also try to find a way.”
“These days when I have been going up to the mountain to collect vegetables, I discovered that there are quite a lot of medicinal herbs up there. I want to pick some and sell it to the apothecaries. Mother, do you know if they will accept wild medicinal herbs?”
Lady Chen was very surprised, she would never have thought that Zhao Su would think of earning money himself, the youth in front of her certainly looked as frail and weak as before but he was no longer his disheartened former self?
“Yes they will accept it, but the price will be lowered considerably, but there are not many pharmacies in the city, the biggest one is called “Hui Chun Tang”, it’s a shop with a long established reputation, if you give the medicine to them, the price will not be as low.” Lady Chen said whilst thinking that this idea was not bad. On second thoughts, she did find it a bit strange: “Su’er, when did you learn to recognise medicinal herbs?”
Lady Chen was a local afterall, and understands matters much better than he did, so once she inquired, Zhao Su also felt that there is great potential, casually found an excuse to shrug it off, while asking for more details, and finally smiled and said “Mother, if this works, we could stop accepting goods from Zhao Manor and rely on our own two feet, you could also stop your embroidery work”.
The many days of dullness cleared away, everything was difficult at the beginning, the future will always be better.
This is how Zhao Su thought half a month after arriving here. He, who was wearing coarse clothes, eating wild vegetables and plain congee, and sitting in a run down house that could barely keep out the rain.