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In the scorching heat of June, a carriage moved slowly along the country road leading to the capital. The body of carriage, which was engraved with the emblem of ” Wèi guó gōng fǔ[1]”, was covered in a vermilion lacquer and looked solemn and imposing. However, because there were four palace guards in front of the carriage and behind it, its occupants looked like they were under detention.  

In the carriage, on a couch covered with bamboo mats, Song Jianing leaned her head on the left corner of the carriage frame, squinted her eyes and slept sweetly. Her white, tofu-like plump cheeks swayed gently with the motion of the carriage, creating charming ripples.

Li Mama[2] looked on from the side. She unexpectedly remembered that the other day when she had gone to the main room to inquire about something, on raising the curtain in the doorway, she had been shocked to see that the Shi zi[3], who knew when he had arrived, had been holding her master in his arms. In that short glance, the master’s red chubby little face looked just like it did now. No, it shook even more than now, accompanied as it was by the whine of tears.

It had been two days since. Yet whenever she recalled that scene, she blushed, and her heart raced as if a fire was surging.

Suddenly, there was the cry of a bird outside the window.

Li Mama took a look outside and saw a black magpie flying away while flapping its wings. It was a good omen for a magpie to come to the door. Li Mama was stunned for a moment, but her eyebrows wrinkled deeper and deeper.

Song Jianing was beautiful, and everyone in the capital knew that the Shi zi had a charming concubine, who he had favored for seven years. Now that Gongzhu Duanhui’s marriage with the Shi zi was just around the corner, she had taken advantage of the fact that the Shi zi was away from the Capital to summon Song Jianing into the palace. This was a “Hongmen” banquet.[4]

It was a pity that she had been serving the master for seven years and knew that she didn’t have any thoughts at all. She just wanted to eat, drink and play all day, beckoning cats and teasing dogs. Look at her, in the face of an imminent disaster this person could still fall asleep!

Gūniáng[5], wake up, we are about to enter the city soon.” Li Mama called out softly while helping Song Jianing to wipe away the drool from the corner of her mouth with her handkerchief.

Song Jianing woke up, her little hand covered her red lips as she yawned. The eyes of the beauty who had just woken up, were moist and clear.

Gūniáng, in a while you will be entering the palace. If the Gongzhu asks you any questions, you can answer as much as you can. If you don’t know what to say or are embarrassed to speak, you don’t have to force yourself, just pretend to be a fool. In short, don’t offend the Gongzhu.”  Li Mama repeated once again as the carriage entered the city gate and drew closer and closer to the palace.

Song Jianing nodded obediently.

Li Mama always said she was stupid. But how could she be really stupid after experiencing so many things? Life was no more than smashing a cracked pot[6]. She was muddling along, eating and waiting for death.

Her mother was the daughter of a wealthy businessman in the Capital, and her father was a Juren[7] in Yushu Linfeng. When she was young, Song Jianing had lived a pampered life with no worries about eating and drinking. It was not until her parents died one after another, that she had faced disaster and lost her support. Then her uncle[8] who had become master, decided to give her to the new County Magistrate, Liang Shao, as a concubine.

Better a poor man’s wife than a rich man’s concubine.

The Song family was also a scholarly family, but the family was in decline, otherwise how could her Aunt and Uncle just dismiss her so casually because they did not like her charming appearance?  Song Jianing was carried into the County magistrate’s office with red eyes, but seeing Liang Shao, who was suave and as gentle as jade, her grievances unknowingly disappeared by three points.

Liang Shao was born in Jinshi. He had left his wife at home to care for his mother and had come out to work alone. He had treated Song Jianing very well, and the two people lived in harmony with each other like glue.

After a sweet year, Guo Xiao suddenly appeared in front of her.

Guo Xiao was the eldest son (Shi zi) of Weiguo Gongfu in the capital and had been ordered to go to Huzhou. Liang Shao shared relatives and friends[9] with Weiguo Gongfu and when he learned that Guo Xiao was going to pass through Fucheng, he went to meet him personally. Guo Xiao gave him face and accepted the invitation to visit the County Magistrate’s office as a guest so Liang Shao had asked Song Jianing to come out to meet him. Song Jianing was very happy, thinking it was her husband who valued her, but she didn’t expect Guo Xiao to covet her beauty. What’s more, she didn’t expect that after the two cousins drank all night, the next morning, on opening her eyes after taking a sip of Liang Shao’s tea, she would actually be in Guo Xiao’s carriage!

It turned out that Liang Shao had used her in exchange for the sentence “you will be supported in the future.” from Guo Xiao.

It turned out that the year of love between her and Liang Shao was nothing.

Song Jianing was heartbroken. Seeing her resistance, Guo Xiao did not force her. After returning to the Capital, he settled her in a village estate[10], talked to her about current affairs, accompanied her across the mountains and rivers, and waited until she could be amused by the maids. Guo Xiao just wanted her. One night, Song Jianing tasted the difference between martial arts practitioners and weak scholars, and then she shed her last tear for Liang Shao.

For Song Jianing, forgetting Liang Shao was not that difficult. In terms of family background, Guo Xiao was the eldest son of Weiguo Gongfu, and a general who had been praised by the emperor. He beat Liang shao by thousands of miles. In terms of appearance and bearing, Guo Xiao had a strong physique with swords-like eyebrows[11]. If Liang Shao was a steed, Guo Xiao was a unicorn. Even in terms of sleeping at night, Guo Xiao made her more comfortable than Liang Shao.

She was not ashamed or embarrassed. She had a comfortable life. Who would worry about those people who tried to make her uncomfortable all day? They were all concubines anyway.

Song Jianing had forgotten Liang Shao, but in the eyes of outsiders, Guo Xiao had doted on her alone for seven years, which was deep and affectionate enough.  However, she was no longer tempted by Guo Xiao because she knew very well that no matter how kindly Guo Xiao treated her, in his eyes, she was just a beautiful concubine. A woman whom he could seize if he was so inclined. With such an identity, Song Jianing didn’t want to think about anything. She was happy living alone on the estate, and calmly waited for the day when this lust will fade.

Since Song Jianing had no expectations of Guo Xiao, when he told her that he was going to marry Gongzhu Duanhui, Song Jianing was slightly surprised but sincerely happy. Guo Xiao probably didn’t believe it. He was silent for a long time and told her many things: saying that Gongzhu Duanhui was his own cousin, and that he needed to treat her with dignity. He said that he will come to the estate less often in the future, but that he will never forget her.

How dare song Jianing fight for favor with a princess? She repeatedly guaranteed that she will be honest. If it was inconvenient for Guo Xiao, it did not matter if he did not visit the estate. As a result, Guo Xiao walked away with an angry face. But before leaving the Capital, he broke into her room like a thief, and silently tossed her for a long time.   

Afterwards, Song Jianing collapsed on the bed and was extremely aggrieved. Surely this didn’t mean that he would have been happier if she was jealous?

He was a rather baffling man.

While thinking wildly, the carriage stopped.

After getting out of the carriage, Song Jianing wanted to secretly admire the palace of the Heavenly Family, but found that because she was standing between two high walls, her vision on both sides was blocked, and there was only one path that led to nowhere. The sun couldn’t get in and it looked gloomy so she was disappointed. Song Jianing and Li Mama followed a serious-looking female official and walked forward with seven or eight turns before finally reaching the legendary imperial garden, after which she was warned to bend over and not look around.

Song Jianing did not dare to look around randomly.

Two quarters of an hour later, she was taken to a pavilion facing the lake. The lotus leaves in the lake were verdant green, and the pink lotus flowers stood tall and majestic.

Well, Gongzhu Duanhui’s justification for summoning her to the palace was to appreciate the lotus blooms.

But Song Jianing felt that the pond in the palace was far smaller in comparison to the Taihu Lake in Suzhou. Thinking about the big lake she had seen as a child, and the fact that Gongzhu Duanhui could only live among these high walls and face such a small pond all day, Song Jianing felt a little sympathetic to her.

“You are from the Song family? Look up.”

A lazy and contemptuous voice sounded from the pavilion. Song Jianing looked up nervously and saw a gorgeous woman in a big red gauze dress sitting by the stone table in the pavilion. She was wearing a jade hairpin and standing behind her were two ladies-in-waiting, who were fanning her. How graceful and luxurious.

“So audacious, daring to peep at the Princess!” one of the lady’s-in-waiting scolded.

Song Jianing was taken aback, and quickly touched her forehead to the ground again, as if the ground did not feel hot anymore.

As she lowered her head, Gongzhu Duanhui looked blankly at Song Jianing’s plump face which was still in front of her. The women of this dynasty regarded thinness as beauty, and in order to create a small waist that could be held with one hand, all the concubines of the former emperor wished they could forego all three meals. She had long heard that her cousin had a favored concubine, and she had expected Song to be beautiful, but she did not expect Song Jianing to be a plump beauty.

It was true that she was fat, and she even seemed to have a double chin, but even so, in her heart, Gongzhu Duanhui still could not say that song Jianning was ugly. In truth, Song Jianning was more beautiful than all the women she had met. Her beauty was like that of a fox spirit. No wonder she was capable of snatching away her childhood cousin!

Jealous, Princess Duanhui coldly glanced at Song Jianing and said to the lady-in-waiting: “I’m tired. I want to rest a while. Don’t disturb me.”
The ladies-in-waiting all complied.

Princess Duanhui moved with lotus steps[12], leaned against the beauties, and truly closed her eyes.

Under the steps outside the pavilion, Song Jianing still maintained a kneeling posture with her forehead touching the ground. She was exposed to the scorching sun and within a quarter of an hour she was sweating profusely, and her arms kept trembling. She was uncomfortable, she was wronged, but this was the Gongzhu, and if she dared move before the Gongzhu spoke what was waiting for her will be a board, or even the king of hell.

So, Song Jianing endured it.

As the sweat on her face kept dripping, her knees were numb with pain, and her body was almost unable to support her, Song Jianing suddenly didn’t want to live anymore. Her tears mixed with her sweat. Did she want to be Guo Xiao’s concubine? Did she want to get in the way of the princess? She didn’t want to. But this was her life. What could she do? She lived because she was afraid of death, but now, life was a fate worse than death. So, what was she doing alive?

Just when Song Jianing was ready to get up and plunge into the small broken pond to kill herself, people suddenly ran out of the pavilion, plopped at both sides of her and kowtowed: “We have seen His Majesty.”

His Majesty?  

Song Jianing wanted to see what the most noble emperor looked like, but she suddenly remembered that the female official had told her not to look around. Just as Song Jianing was about to kowtow, she thought that since she ready to die what use were the rules? Before she died, if she could see the emperor, she would not have lived in vain!

With this thought, Song Jianing gave up and turned her head to look back, but she didn’t expect that after kneeling for a long time, her arms and knees would give way. With her head tilted, her body also followed suit and it became a side lying posture!

Suddenly, the new emperor, who was preparing to pass by, subconsciously looked towards the ground. 

Song Jianing had been kneeling for a long time, and the clothes on her body were all wet. Now that she was lying on her side, her cheeks were flushed, her eyes tearful, her hairpin was askew, and her hair was sticking to temples that were damp with sweat. It was simply the charming appearance of a woman who should be pitied by others. The new emperor had ascended the throne at the age of 27. Prior to that, he was unmarried, and then he had taken the initiative to maintain filial piety for the former Emperor over the past three years. Although he was this old, he had not yet touched a woman. At his first sight of Song Jianing in this state, his gaze lingered for a moment.

Song Jianing took the opportunity to look at the emperor clearly. The emperor wore a plain red dragon robe. He was slender and tall, and stood before her like green bamboo. He looked to be about the same age as Guo Xiao. His skin was as white as jade, and his eyes were clear. Guo Xiao was also a cold man, cold enough to scare people. But the emperor was different. His coldness was like the clouds and mist lingering on the top of a distant mountain after the rain, making people feel like he was inaccessible and difficult to understand.

Song Jianing suddenly remembered three years ago when she went out with Guo Xiao and heard gossip from among the people, saying that the emperor was able to ascend the throne because of his deep scheming. Though he seemed to have no conflict with the world, he had secretly murdered the crown prince and his brother, otherwise the throne would have nothing to do with a stammerer prince.

So, this emperor was the cruel stammerer?

Song Jianing jerked uncontrollably and knelt down again. Her head drooped low, revealing a white and beautiful neck.

Zhao Heng took another look.

“Get up” Gōngzhǔ Duanhui saw the look and said with a sarcastic smile: “Why? Does brother Emperor also think that the Song family girl is so beautiful? Since it’s rare that there would be someone who is noticed by the emperor, it is better to ask Guo Xiao to send her to the palace. She has served two men, and I think she must be used to it, so she won’t come here to die in order to proclaim her virtue.”

Song Jianing’s face turned as white as paper.

Zhao Heng didn’t enter the pavilion. He stood at the side of song Jianing’s body with his back to her and said indifferently, “Women should quit jealousy. Enough is enough.”

Zhao Heng had a speech impediment and his words tended to be short, which was very demanding on the listener’s ability to understand. Gongzhu Duanhui had been dealing with several imperial brothers since she was a child. Naturally, she knew what her Emperor brother meant. He was reminding her that the Song girl was her cousin’s favorite concubine. If she went too far, her cousin will definitely settle accounts with her on his return. Gongzhu Duanhui was really afraid that Guo Xiao would hate her, so she gritted her teeth and pointed to the stone table and said to Song Jianing, “Forget it. I wanted to invite you to the palace to enjoy the flowers. Since you are delicate, you may go back. These are the new tribute lychees from Lingnan. I’ll reward you with a taste. I hope you will abide by your duties in the future.”

Hit with a stick and then give a sweet date, lest she file a complaint with her cousin.

Song Jianing tried her best to support herself, and kowtowed in thanks.

But in the end, she was taken out of the palace by Li Mama and got on the carriage. Li Mama helped her sit down, rubbed her legs in distress, and said a lot of comforting words.

Song Jianing felt bitter. Gongzhu Duanhui was so powerful, will she not think of other ways to deal with her in the future?

It would be great if Guo Xiao was willing to let her go.

The future was bleak.  But catching a glimpse of the plate of lychees that Gongzhu Duanhui had bestowed on her Song Jianing swallowed. She had a problem with delicious things since she was a child. No matter how sad she was, as long as the people around her brought a plate of delicious food, she would successfully transfer her grief.

At the beginning when she was drugged by Liang Shao and given to Guo Xiao, she did not seek death to prove her virtue. Perhaps, in addition to feeling that Liang Shao was not worthy, it was also because the three meals Guo Xiao offered were too attractive, right?

Looking at the dish of plump red lychee, Song Jianing’s legs didn’t seem to hurt so much. She grabbed one and peeled it seriously.

Li Mama saw her and could not help smiling despite herself. To be simple-minded was to be happy. No need to worry.

The lychees were peeled slowly and by the time the carriage left the city, only half the dish was left. However, the road had become uneven. After another bump, Li Mama reminded Song Jianing in a low voice: “Eat slowly, be careful not to choke.”

Song Jianing smiled. How could she be so stupid?

As a result, the newly peeled lychee was just put into her mouth when suddenly the carriage jolted violently again and Song Jianing felt that her throat was tight.

Half a month later, there was a stir in the streets of the capital. It was said that Gongzhu Duanhui had killed the concubine of the eldest son of Weiguo Gongfu and that the Shi zi was so angry that he refused to marry her!

Translator Notes:

The first protagonist to die by Lychee.

Hello. I am considering picking up this novel and this is a test chapter.

Welcoming new friends.

A few disclaimers:

I MTL. Given the difficulty of historical novels, if a proficient mandarin speaker would like to translate this novel. Please let me know.

However, if I do wind up picking this up this novel, translations will likely be slow. I fly solo (for now) on this site and have two other ongoing translations. see here and here.

Unlike my other novels, I haven’t read this novel yet and cannot vouch for the plot in future chapters.

However, after reading a lot of historical novels with vengeance as a theme, this first chapter was especially refreshing and had me chuckling. So, for now, If I do pick this up, I am looking forward to exploring future chapters with you together.

Let me know your thoughts on the story so far and the translation. Thanks

[1] wèi guó gōng fǔ – Gong fu is a term used to refer to government posts in the Han Dynasty. Wei Guo Gong fu thus refers to the Official residence of Wei State/country

[2] Mama – Informal title for a wet nurse

[3] The term used here is Shizi (世子; Shìzǐ; šidzi), meaning “heir son”, refers to the heir apparent to a qinwang (Prince of the First Rank)

[4] Hongmen Banquet – You would use this idiom to describe a situation where it appears to be festive, celebratory, fun, an opportunity for pacification, but it is really a situation that is dire, dangerous, or even deadly. It is based on a historical event that took place in 206 BC at Hong Gate.

[5] Gūniáng Appellation – Meaning Girl or Lady

[6] pò guàn pò shuāi  lit. to smash a cracked pot (idiom); crazy despair in the face of a blemish, defect, error or setback

[7] 举人 [jǔ rén] [a successful candidate in the imperial examinations at the provincial level in the Ming and Qing dynasties]

[8] Term used here is叔父 [shū fù] – refers to Her Father’s younger brother

[9] [zhān qīn dài gù] Meaning to be related somehow or other

[10] The word used here is Zhuangzi which I believe means Hamlet. Changed it to Estate

[11] Straight eyebrows slanting upwards and outwards

[12] Lady like steps

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6 Comments on NATIONAL BEAUTY – CHAPTER 1Tagged , , , , ,
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Callista Soo
Callista Soo
2 years ago

Hi, thank u so much for picking it up even if it might not be long term. I agree that the first chap is quite refreshing. FML isn’t reincarnated nor from another world, it’ll be interesting to see if she’ll fly high like a phoenix or fall like leaves on the ground.

Lazy Reader
Lazy Reader
2 years ago

enjoying the translation so far. I hope you decide to continue further. The story itself has an interesting premise, i might mtl to further read the story, but will also look at your translation if you decided to continue down the road.

2 years ago

I mtl it further and I can say that it’s a light hearted one for now. I really wanna help but I also mtl.

2 years ago

This story is adorable! It makes me really want to MTL, but OTOH your translations are so smooth that I hesitate to do so. 🙂

I may have to do both. :3

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