步步惊心/ Bu Bu Jing Xin
Startling Surprises with Every Step
Written by Tong Hua
Chapter 5 (Part 2-3)
Translated by Hoju!
Brought to you by the Magnolia Translation Team
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 demeanour.
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 5 (Parts 2-3)
A person with such unsurpassed grace and refinement. I simply cannot comprehend how Yongzheng would, how he could, how he could even have the heart to confer the name of ‘A’qi’na’ on him. Perhaps this is actually the greatest expression of Yongzheng’s hate, far stronger and more resolute than just killing him!
Looking at him, my heart floods with thousands of emotions and a hundred sighs.
I do not know how long I have been sitting here, but I am starting to get hungry. I look all around and see that on his desk there are two plates of refreshments. After hesitating many times, I finally decided to get some. Standing up, I walk over, arbitrarily choose one, and begin eating. He lifts his head, glances at me, and his lips curl up into a smile.
I say to him, “If I don’t go back now, Jie-jie will definitely start to get worried.”
The corner of his lips still carries a hint of a smile. He lowers his head in silence for a moment, and then raises it again. As he rubs his temples, he calls, “Li Fu.”
Li Fu enters the room swiftly, bows, and waits for instruction.
“Escort Second Miss back.”
Li Fu hurriedly retrieves my cloak and hat for me and waits on me as I put them on. When everything is readied, the two of us pull open the door and step out.
The snow is still falling down, and there is still no one around. Li Fu is leading the way up ahead. I look around carefully. The route he chose consists solely of secluded pathways that normally would not see many people and even much less now, when even a bird cannot be seen. After many twists and turns, the path intersects another. With a bow, he tells me, “Follow this path and you will quickly see Mistress Lan’s dwelling. Your servant still needs to go back and wait for further instructions, so I shall not escort Miss any further.”
Nodding, I reply, “Go.”
Over these last few days, I would unconsciously stare at my left hand and fall into a daze. I feel like I seem to understand what the Eighth-prince is thinking but at the same time, I don’t understand. While I was in high school, I had been in a serious and impassioned relationship before, but at the time, we were just a young boy and girl whose hearts were easy to understand. Now, though, I have absolutely no idea what he is thinking.
Love? Not love? Playing around? Serious? Spur of the moment? Planned? I don’t know!
To these men of the palace who are frequently absorbed with plotting and maneuvering, beautiful women are merely like scenery that you admire when you are happy or someone to have fun and banter with when you are bored. Even the straightforward and enthusiastic Tenth-prince felt he could have both Mingyu Ge’Ge and me. I really do not dare hold any hope or expectations for them.
When I started learning geometric proofs, I developed a habit. If I could not work out a problem at that moment, I would put it aside. Sometimes, after a period of time had passed, I would be able to solve it. So, this time, when I realize I cannot figure it out, I decide to simply give up on this extremely difficult problem. Time will tell me the answer.
The issue facing me now is that the Tenth-prince’s wedding day will be in three days.
For more than a month, since that day I went into the palace to see him, we have not seen each other, I only heard that Kangxi had given him his own manor.
I have been constantly deliberating, should I go to his wedding or not? But my thoughts are: the more trouble I can avoid, the better. It would be best if I do not go.
When Jie-jie hears me say I am not going, she answers indifferently, “Then do not go.”
However, very shortly after, Qiaohui pulls me aside and advises, “Besides New Year and other holidays when Mistress must go to pay ceremonial respect to Di’fujin, Mistress usually does not ever go to pay respect. The other side is already not very pleased. If young Miss does not go to offer your congratulations to their ge’ge, I’m afraid that side will blame Mistress and say that we do not know proper etiquette.”
So, I have no choice but to go to Jie-jie again and say that I want to go. Jie-jie’s tone still is indifferent but she immediately adds, “If you go, you absolutely must not cause any trouble.”
It seems as if, in the blink of an eye, the Tenth-prince’s wedding day has arrived. I pick out a pink, lined jacket with a gold thread-edging to make myself look more festive and to conceal the dejection I felt in my heart.
The Eighth Bei’le had already gone ahead of us. A little while later, Jie-jie and I sit in a sedan chair together and head over. The wedding reception is being held in Tenth prince’s newly bestowed manor, and when we arrive, many resplendent carriages are already parked orderly in the front.
Even though this manor is not even comparable to the Eighth Bei’le Manor, in the eyes of this modern city dweller, it is already considered magnificent.
Lanterns and banners decorate everywhere along the way. Lights glimmer, and the smoke of incense winds its way up into the air. Music accompanied by drumbeat echoes out. Words cannot adequately describe the atmosphere of wealth and social status or the tone of good fortune and happiness.
Laughter, singing, talking. The entire hall feels like a sea of cheerfulness. Everyone is celebrating, but Jie-jie and I are very quiet as we sit off by ourselves. In this setting, the two of us look as if we are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Although I have been keeping my eyes lowered, I know, from the moment I entered this hall, everyone here has been watching me, pretending their gazes are accidental when in reality they are absolutely intentional, in order to secretly assess me. As I sit here, I feel extremely uncomfortable and wish that I could stand up immediately and leave. However, I know that if I go now, the mocking would be even worse, so no matter what, I need to wait at least until the bride has arrived.
With an inward sigh, I tell myself, “It is already like this so I might as well play along.” I try pulling the corners of my mouth up and discover that I can still squeeze out a smile. I hurriedly put on a brilliant smile, raise my head, and look around leisurely. Slowly, my eyes meet with all sorts of curious gazes. What is funny is that I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, but the instant they encounter my gaze, they quickly turn away.
I sneer in my heart and make my smile even more beautiful and charming. Suddenly, my eyes lock with those of the Fourth-prince. Those cold, icy, dark eyes seem as if there is no substance in them, but I feel the smile on my face slip slightly. I feel as if the unhappiness and confusion in my heart are completely bare and on display, and there is nowhere to hide from his penetrating stare.
I suck in a little breath and force myself to smile. I even wink at him before beaming and meeting the next set of inquisitive eyes.
A servant rushes in and announces, “The bride is nearly at the gates of the manor. Get ready to receive the sedan chair.”
Only now does everyone realize they have not seen the groom this whole time. My eyes sweep around the hall once and discover that the Eighth Bei’le is also not present. Jie-jie and I exchange a glance, both of us feeling a little anxious.
I quickly slip over to the Fourteenth-prince and ask in a lowered voice, “What is going on?”
Bewilderment is also on the Fourteenth-prince’s face. “Everything seemed normal when I saw Tenth Brother yesterday.”
I am starting to get nervous. For goodness sake! Tenth, you had better not stir up any trouble at this crucial moment. The Fourteenth-prince sees that my face has grown a little pale and hastily assures, “Don’t worry. Eighth Brother is here. No real issue should arise.”
I can only nod.
The noise in the hall is growing louder and louder, and my heart feels as if it is getting squeezed tighter and tighter. Just then, from outside the door, a voice can be heard crying, “Tenth prince, Tenth prince!”
I look over and see the Tenth-prince, dressed in wedding attire, standing in the doorway beside the Eighth-prince before he is rushed out by the eunuchs, who lead him to the manor’s front gates.
A smile is on the Eighth-prince’s face as he gracefully enters the room while greeting people along the way. When he goes over to pay respect to the Crown Prince, the Crown Prince asks, “What was going on?”
The Eighth- prince chuckles, “Ol’ Tenth was complaining that his wedding robe does not fit. He was embarrassed and did not want to come out.”
When the crowd hears this, uproarious laughter breaks out in the hall. Immediately, someone shouts, “The Tenth-prince is afraid the bride will not like it and refuse to go into the nuptial chamber with him.” The laughter grows even louder.
His hands clasped behind his back and a faint smile on his lips, the Eighth prince stands behind the Crown Prince, all the while greeting the people in the hall with a friendly gaze.
Seeing that his eyes are about to sweep over me, I quickly bow my head. This is the first time I have seen him since that day we walked in the snow together. I am not sure why, but I am a little afraid of seeing him. As my head is lowering, I catch a glimpse of the Fourth-prince amid the laughter of the people. His expression is still cool and he is looking outside the hall impassively.
After a while, the sound of beating drums and music echo up, and everyone flocks to the entrance of the hall.
I allow myself to fall to the back of the crowd. I can barely see the Tenth prince, who is holding a long, red ribbon, leading the bride, whose head is covered by the wedding veil, into the hall. Then, with the crowd’s gleeful laughter accompanying them, the two are sent into the nuptial chamber.
After watching to this point in the event, I heave a silent sigh. In a short while, the Tenth-prince will have to come out again and go to each table to toast the guests. I really do not know how he is going to be able to toast me. I gesture at Jie-jie, pointing towards the door. She nods.
Looking around, seeing that no one is paying attention, I quietly slip out of the reception hall.
During the twelfth month, Beijing is very cold. But I feel that this cold is precisely what I need. Only it can ease that stifling feeling in my heart.
My hands are clasped together, one in the other, my shoulders is shrugged, and my back is hunched over, shivering, as I search for a quiet place to go. I am walking along when I hear a voice from in front of me say, “If you’re so scared of the cold, why are you out here strolling in the wind?”
I lift my head. It turns out it is the Thirteenth-prince. He is sitting with his legs straddled on a railing and looking mockingly at me. Startled, I blurt out without thinking, “Why aren’t you drinking in the reception hall?”
 Orig. 阿其那. Folklore says that after Eighth prince lost the fight for the throne, Yongzheng gave him the name ‘A’qi’na’, which sounds like the Manchurian word for dog. However, experts now say that is a misconception. They believe that this may have been a name that Eighth prince gave to himself after he failed to obtain the throne and means “cold fish on a cutting board”, describing himself as a failed person who was now at the mercy of others, waiting to be slaughtered.
 Orig. 打千 ‘da qian’. Originally a form of Manchurian social etiquette. In the Qing dynasty, men used this when greeting or paying respect to someone of higher rank or authority. When performing this ceremonial salutation, the left foot steps forward and bends at the knee, the right leg bends slightly in the back, the right arm points straight downward, and the upper body bends forward slightly at the waist. It is like a cross between a bow and fully kneeling.
 This is not referring to December. The Lunar or agricultural calendar (农历) was used during ancient times. In general, the twelfth month would fall somewhere in January or February of the Gregorian calendar.