步步惊心/ Bu Bu Jing Xin
Startling Surprises with Every Step
Written by Tong Hua
Chapter 6 Part (1-3)
Translated by Yanfeng
Brought to you by the Magnolia Translation Team
Download link (Chapter 6 Part 1-3): http://www.mediafire.com/?rir1r46gpmh8edr
This work is an amateur fan-translation of original work by Tong Hua as available in free online format in Mandarin Chinese at:
The translation is done as good will, so that fellow fans who do not read Mandarin may enjoy this lovely work. We declare that we do not profit monetarily in any way from this work, and also do not pretend to be professional translators. Hence, we apologize in advance for inadvertent translation errors. In addition, reposting of the translation must be done with explicit permission of all translators as contactable via spcnet.
Characters Introduced So Far
(In Alphabetical Order)
Crown Prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinreng): The second son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently the Crown Prince and thus next in line for the throne.
Dong Yun: One of Ruolan’s maids.
Fourteenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinzheng): The fourteenth son of Emperor Kangxi. He is described as being quite handsome. Is currently around fourteen to fifteen years of age.
Fourth-prince (Asin-Gioro Yinzhen): The fourth son of Emperor Kangxi and the future Emperor Yongzheng. Slightly pale and has an impassive demeanour.
Eighth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinsi): The eighth son of Emperor Kangxi. Also known as the Eighth Bei’le. Ruolan is his Ce’fujin (Second Wife). Is often seen smiling out of the corners of his mouth as well as conducting himself with a calm and gentle disposition.
Kangxi: The current Emperor of China.
Mingyu Ge’ge (Guoluoluo Mingyu): Younger sister of the Eighth-prince’s Di’fujin, Guoluoluo Minghui. Not on good terms with Ruoxi. Most likely the one who caused the original Ruoxi’s accident after an argument. During the Tenth’s Birthday banquet, Ruoxi and Mingyu gets into a fight, resulting in quite a spectacle.
Ninth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yintang): The ninth son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently not given a peerage title. Seems to have a more taciturn personality. Nicknamed “the venomous snake” by Ruoxi.
Qiao Hui: One of Ruolan’s maids. Qiao Hui used to serve Ruolan even before Ruolan’s marriage. When Ruolan married, Qiaohui accompanied Ruolan to Eighth-prince’s household. Seems to be concerned for her mistress especially regarding Ruolan and Eighth’s relationship.
Ruolan, Maertai: Ruoxi’s older sister. The two are especially close as they are born from the same mother.She is also the Ce’fujin (Second Wife) of the Eighth-prince. Mild and gentle in nature, Ruolan likes to spend a better part of her days reciting Buddhist scriptures. Has a deceased lover who was a soldier in her father’s army. The man was of Han descent and had taught Ruolan how to ride.
Ruoxi, Maertai (Zhang Xiao): Protagonist of the story. Originally a modern day, white collar professional named Zhang Xiao. Under certain unexplainable, supernatural occurrence, Zhang Xiao’s spirit travelled through time upon her death and took over a young Manchurian girl’s body. Now stuck in ancient times, Ruoxi must navigate through an entirely foreign environment armed only with the little historical knowledge she remembers.
Tenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yin’e): The tenth son of Emperor Kangxi. Currently not given a peerage title. A bit of a simpleton. Likes to tease and bicker with Ruoxi. Nicknamed “the blockhead” by Ruoxi.
Thirteenth-prince (Aisin-Gioro Yinxiang): The thirteenth son of the Emperor Kangxi. Nicknamed “the Death Challenging Thirteenth” by his brothers. Has a more carefree and unrestrained demeanor.
Glossary of Terms
(In Alphabetical Order)
Bei’le: Shortened from Duo’luo Bei’le. A peerage title that can be bestowed to those within the royal family. It is the third rank in the Qing peerage system for the imperial line.
Ce’fujin: A title. Meaning second wife or ‘side’ wife in Manchurian.
Di’fujin: A title. Meaning first wife or main wife in Manchurian.
Ge’ge: A Manchurian word for young mistress, or lady. It is a title you would call an unmarried noblewoman (or before they are bestowed an official title by the Emperor) above a certain rank.
Jie-jie: Older sister in Chinese.
Ji’xiang: A standard greeting one of lower status uses to greet people with higher status in court. The word literally means auspicious and can be translated as, ‘I wish good fortunes, prosperity and happiness to you”
Chapter 6 (Parts 1-3)
It was winter, yet there was no wind, and the sun was lovely, inspiring a feeling of rosy cheer, as if all of one’s bones were melting in the warm sunlight! Not to mention with an exciting horse show to look forward to, life was really looking up.
The Crown Prince had, a few days ago, sent around an invite to all the princes, their wives, princesses and nobility of all rank, filled with a whole slew of words like “tournament” and “common sharing of a joyous occasion” etc., which I read simply as, “I’m bored, come and play with me!”
The invitation specified that outstanding riders, of either gender, will be bestowed largess. I suspected none of the nobles would take the largess seriously, it was more in fun. Naturally, plenty of the nobles would take the event seriously, not because of the prize money, but for the chance to impress the Crown Prince and the various princes. If you can impress the future leaders of the court early, they’re more likely to think of you come the day they take power.
Jie-jie did not want to attend, but I begged and cajoled for a long time until she finally agreed.
Although not much of a rider myself, yet I conformed to what everyone else was wearing and donned a riding gear, which I thought, looking in satisfaction at the mirror, added a swashbuckling flavor to my appearance. Even Jie-jie complimented how I looked!
I stared at Jie-jie and at Ruoxi in the mirror and sighed silently to myself that the mother of these two must have been a real beauty. How sad that she lived such an ill-fated life!
The children of Manchurian nobles, men and women, were nearly all riders. This especially held true of the royal court’s descendants, who are well-practiced from early childhood. Hence, at the tournament, everyone who was anyone was out and about, in twos and threes, wheeling, galloping, and walking their horses. And the seats within the area, enclosed on three sides with tent-like material, were mostly empty.
When Jie-jie and I entered, Thirteenth and Fourteenth prince, who were chit-chatting before, hurried over to pay their respects to Jie-jie. I thought Thirteenth prince looked like he was in high spirits and stole a few glances of him.
But I was noticed immediately and he tilted his head and, with a smile-that-wasn’t-a-smile, raised an eyebrow at me. I hurriedly looked away, but saw that Fourteenth prince was watching us and, though it wasn’t anything, I still blushed.
There was a burst of cheers from outside the tented area, accompanied by a smattering of applause. We all glanced over with bated breath and I saw a pure white horse that appeared to be floating, nay weaving in a space that was neither heaven nor earth.
A lady in red sat on its back with perfect posture, a crimson cape flying in the wind behind her. Sporadically, she used her horse whip to take out the tiny flags that were scattered on the ground, and as she continued to hit a flag with every single stroke, the applause for her performance swelled! I had never seen so fabulous a horse-back performance in my life and I was mesmerized, clapping and cheering along with everyone else.
She finished her round, and trotted her horse slowly back out of sight, and yet the applause and cheers didn’t entirely die down. I was very excited and tugged at Jie-jie’s sleeve, exclaiming to her, “Now I know what ‘magnificent’ and ‘dashing’ really looks like! It was worth it coming today to get to feast my eyes on such skill!”
Jie-jie smiled and gently pulled away “If you’re so impressed, tomorrow we’ll start you on learning to ride as well.” I reflected on the performance with boundless admiration and sighed “Everyone has their strengths, it’s no good trying to force the issue.” Thirteenth and Fourteenth princes who were standing next to us heard this and spluttered into laughter.
I was still immersed in the memory of that scene, when the lady in red riding gear and carrying a horse whip walked over to us. Immediately I had to rein in my turmoil, shock and embarrassment.
The heroine of my latest daydream turned out to be the Mingyu Ge-ge turned Tenth ‘Fujin’! I inwardly sighed, Thirteenth prince certainly has reasons to love her. Which hero would not bow to such magnificent grace?
She strolled over and casually looked over us. Thirteenth and Fourteenth prince bowed and paid their respects to her. I felt a surge of sympathy for Thirteenth prince. How the words “Tenth Sister-in-law” must claw at his throat!
She raised her chin and looked at me, saying “Still so little manners.”
Which led to me realize that with her new status, I too owed her an obeisance. Yet upon reflection, since she didn’t bow to Jie-jie to pay her respects, why would I pay her my respects?
I was just resolved to ignore her, when I remembered, with a pang, Thirteenth prince being there to see this. I struggled internally for another moment more and finally decided that it was better not to cause more trouble and grief, and reluctantly executed a perfunctory bow to her saying “Blessings to Fujin” She snorted but paid me no attention, making her way to a seat. I waited for her to seat herself and took a seat myself.
There was a moment of awkward silence.
At that moment, the Crown prince strolled in, followed by Fourth, Eighth, 9th and Tenth prince. We all hastily stood up to pay our respects. The Crown prince laughingly bid us rise, and as he sat addressed Tenth Fujin “Father has long praised the princesses of the Guoluoluo family as being the ones with the most Mongolian spirit of us all. Today I got to confirm that with my own eyes!”
Tenth Fujin smiled “The Crown prince is too kind. That is Father’s way of praising my older sister, I daren’t steal her glory!”
This was the first meeting with Tenth prince since the wedding and I felt a pang of uneasiness. Since walking in, he has kept his eyes fixed firmly on me, and I, heart pounding, did not dare to even glance his way.
In the arena, a young man was performing, but even I, who dislike Mingyu, couldn’t deny that he wasn’t a half as skilled as our Tenth Fujin, and didn’t really pay him any attention. I was desultory watching when I heard Tenth Fujin speak up
“Maertai Ruoxi, why don’t you get up and perform since you’re all geared up?”
I sighed. Here it comes!
But in consideration of Thirteenth prince being present, I didn’t want to make things worse and so swallowed my pride and didn’t respond. Jie-jie shot me a look of approval.
But in a few seconds, Tenth Fujin started up again “I heard General Maertai’s daughters all grew up in the camps, so their horse-riding skills must be extraordinary. Why not grant us the treat of seeing that today?”
And I, entirely silently but viciously, thought- Shut up already! With your skills, even the average male noble here cannot compare, clearly you’re out to embarrass me in front of everyone!
As I thought this to myself, I glanced at her, and then at Thirteenth prince and finally chose to maintain my silence.
Jie-jie beamed her approval of my sudden tolerance.
Unfortunately the Crown prince laughing took up “Maertai Ruoxi, why don’t you get up and do a round for us?”
I hurriedly stood up but before I could open my mouth, I heard Tenth prince say “She can’t ride, the last time she rode with us, we had a servant lead the horse she was sitting on.” I silently thought- Tenth! Do you really think you’re saving me this way? More like killing me!
And as expected, Tenth Fujin gave a cold laugh at this and said “I see the rumors of your family’s prowess are unfounded. I’ve heard that not only can every single person in Maertai’s camp ride and shoot, but that the majorities are superior equestrians! Too bad it’s all nonsense and seems like though there aren’t many heroes, there might be a zero or two.”
She had barely finished her sentence when Jie-jie stood up, and with a gentle smile addressed the Crown prince
“Your humble servant is willing to stand up and take a turn around the arena. Only I haven’t brought a riding horse with me today, and would like to borrow Tenth Fujin’s horse.”
I winced, of all the topics to pick on me about, Tenth Fujin certainly picked a bad one. Jie-jie’s one sensitive spot! I worried a little since I had no idea what Jie-jie’s riding skills were like, but there wasn’t anything I could do except stay silent and watch.
The Crown prince nodded, and Jie-jie disappeared outside the arena. Anxiously I walked to the edge of the arena to get a better look.
In a moment, the same white horse from before sprinted back into the arena, carrying Jie-jie on its back. Her speed of riding was about the same as Tenth Fujin’s in the last round, but Jie-jie shifted her position while in saddle, moving from regular to side-saddle, sometimes leaning forward and even supporting herself only with her hands on the pommel, sometimes flipping herself around, sometimes standing… Jie-jie was not so much a person riding a horse as she was a free spirit dancing on the back of the horse!
Wave after yet-higher wave of cheering hit the crowd gathered outside the arena, and within, uniform calls of “Bravo!” could be heard! A few of the more equestrians amongst the princes, e.g., Tenth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth, were full of loud praises. Needless to say, I was going wild with vigorous applause!
As the finale, Jie-jie stood on the horse and, from a large distance, starting galloping towards the grand-stand in the arena.
Jie-jie was wearing a narrow sleeved, satin skirted coat. At her waist was tied a bow braid, her hair was in a simple bun held together by twelve pale, pearl pins. As she stood on the horse-at-full-gallop, her skirt and ribbons danced in the wind behind her, and she who already was graceful and beautiful, was, in that instance, the fey, earthly manifestation of the Ninth Fairy.
She got closer and closer to the grand stand and yet her speed did not decrease- I started to worry, and even the guards started to get uneasy and moved closer to the stand.
Closer she came. And closer yet. The atmosphere became tense, and gradually the whole area fell silent with everyone holding their breath.
And suddenly, with a loud neigh, we saw the horse standing, perfectly still, not 10 steps away from the grand stand, with Jie-jie standing blithely on top.
We all held one more moment of silence, and then, both inside and outside the arena, a wave of thunderous applause hit the skies!
Jie-jie leapt off the horse, tossed the reins to a guard standing nearby and strode onto the grand stand.
Once on the grand stand, she bowed to the Crown Prince “Your humble servant has been overly bold, please allow me to accept your punishment.”
Crown Prince laughed “Such outstanding horse skills- fit for being rewarded, how could I punish you?”
I sneaked a glance at Tenth Fujin, and although her face was dismayed, there was a look of admiration in her eyes.
The Crown Prince allowed Jie-jie to rise, and at the same time commented to Eighth prince “Eighth brother, this Eighth Fujin of yours’ horse-skills exceeds your own!” Eighth prince elegantly smiled “It is indeed so.”
I felt a pang in my heart, does he know the history behind my sister’s skills?
After two such stunning performances the audience didn’t have the heart for any of the other shows. Since retreating to her seat, Jie-jie looked lost in thought, barely concealing her heavy heart. Eighth prince’s head was bowed in a slight smile, and yet, to my eyes, the smile too was full of bitterness. I also felt the moment pressing down on me, and quietly slipped away from the stand.
I wandered aimlessly thinking that just from Jie-jie’s skills you could tell that her teacher could only be better. Her love must have been a heroic, dashing person. By all rights they two should have been as a pair of magnificent eagles, in flight in the vast North-western dessert. And now, one slept forever underneath the earth, and the other locked always behind the doors of status and royalty. As my heart hurt, I heard a half-mocking voice behind me say “He already belongs to someone else, being depressed doesn’t change anything.”
I turned and saw Thirteenth prince looking at me with a languid smile-that-wasn’t-quite-a-smile, leading a large black horse. I was miffed at the expression on his face, and though I knew how he must have misunderstood my expression, yet I couldn’t be bothered to correct him and instead steady said “Speak for yourself!” Then turned away and left.
He seemed a little stunned, thought about it for a moment and then unexpectedly laughing loudly, followed after me.
His peculiar laugh made me stop. Still laughing he stopped too next to me and pointing at me said “Ahh… no wonder! I was thinking that you were uncommonly sweet-tempered in the stand! So it’s because… because you thought I was in love with her!” And having finished, burst into new peals of loud laughter!
At first I was annoyed by his mysterious laughter, and his words left me at a bit of a loss, and yet, thinking upon it, the situation was quite ridiculous- I mistook him, and he mistook me? What’s not to laugh about? And joined him in his giggling.
We stood there like a pair of fools laughing for a long while and when that subsided stood there for awhile just smiling at each other. And in that smile, our small animosity fell away. I started walking and he too, still leading his horse, matched my pace.
As I walked I thought- how did things turn so topsy-turvy? A smile tugged at my lips and I couldn’t resist saying “I’m not in love with Tenth prince either.” He started and stopped in his tracks. Looking at my serious expression, he again burst into laughter while I watched him with a smile. After he collected his composure, he sighed “Now we’re even!”
We strolled up a sloping hillside. I picked a flat area to sit, and, hugging my knees, gazed down at that, by now, far off arena. He sat next to me and following my eyes watched with me the vague shapes of humans and horses there. The black horse stopped with us, and pawed the earth.
We were silent for a long while, and finally I couldn’t resist asking “So what were you unhappy about that day?”
He gazed in the distance and didn’t answer me for another long while. I wait a few more heartbeats and then softly said “If it’s too difficult to talk about, then don’t.”
He brooded for another moment and then said “It isn’t much. That day was my mother’s death anniversary.”
I uttered a little cry, and looked at him sideways. I was at a loss for words, and couldn’t do anything but turn and glance again at the distance without saying anything.
Another long moment of silence and then he forced a laugh “And many years before that, on that very same day, was the day mother married Father.”
My heart contracted painfully at this. To think a woman’s life left with little more than that. Perhaps today, other than her son, no one remembers her beauty or joy at her marriage, nor that she died on the anniversary of that same day. And the one person who ought to remember all this, because he owns the wealth of the four seas, simply cannot remember the day he lifted the red, jade-like of the wedding veil.