Punished to Beat Drums
“Preposterous!” An Sheng Huai’s rage-filled voice shocks Ji Heng and Tian Qi both. Ji Heng raises his hand once again, putting a stop to An Sheng Huai’s scolding.
Tian Qi opens her eyes. The first thing she sees is the fabric on her hand. It is a white brocade fabric with blue flower patterns embroidered onto it. This fabric is manufactured by Song Jiang Manor, it is worth a couple of silver per foot. She is not crazy enough to use this fabric as a handkerchief.
Her heart races, her eyes leaving the fabric and looking up. Above a pattern of blue sea-waves are patterns of clouds. With a dragon. The number of claws on the dragon are five, not four. She relentlessly looks up; her eyes stops at Ji Heng’s belt. It is a dark blue belt, embroidered with faint damask patterns. A precious jewel acts as the button, but she has no idea what kind of stone it is.
(TN: Only an emperor can wear a dragon robe with five claws. As far as I know, his sons (crown prince etc) can wear dragon patterns, but their dragon can only have four claws.)
Perhaps it is because the person is looking at him too earnestly, Ji Heng thinks that eunuch’s eyes are too intense. He suddenly feels a little molested. No matter what, the other party is still a man. He stands there awkwardly, but still manages to compose his expression as he looks down to the eunuch.
Tian Qi’s eyes finally falls on his chest, and then, on his face. It is a handsome man, like light breeze and moonlight. His eyebrows are dignified but are somehow tinged with grief. That man size her up.
“Ah!!!” Tian Qi receives a shock and cry out without thinking, before rolling to the side.
Ji Heng involuntarily touches his own face, does he look that scary?
Tian Qi is aware she had made a big mistake. Did she really just used the emperor’s robe to blow her nose into?
She quickly kneels in front of him and desperately kowtows. The sound of her head banging onto the floor is pretty strange in the middle of the funeral hall.
“This servant lost conduct, begging Your Majesty to spare this servant’s life! Please spare this servant’s life!” Tian Qi begs as she kowtows. Because she is too nervous, her voice trembles. She continues repeating, ‘please spare this servant’s life’ after that. She really thinks she is done for this time. The main focus for now is to save her own life first.
An Sheng Huai who is standing from behind secretly thinks that the brat can really try to shrugs off blame. He actually has a pretty deep impression on Tian Qi, An Sheng Huai is the head of all eunuchs within the Forbidden City. When Tian Qi wanted to serve Song Zhaoyi back then, it was necessary for that kid to harness good relationship with him through bribery. Meeting each other often causes them to be pretty familiar with each other.
They possessed somewhat of a teacher-disciple relationship. An Huai Shi thought Tian Qi’s personality is really not bad. His mind is in good order too, so he allowed him to be promoted. Now that Tian Qi has offended the emperor, he too feels a little sympathy inside. But the emperor appears upset, so he don’t dare to beg for him and only stands by the side, pretending to be transparent.
Ji Heng is a little irritated by the sound of Tian Qi’s kowtow and pleading, “Get up.”
Tian Qi’s ears have been put on alert mode while she awaits for Ji Heng’s reaction. When he says that, she quickly stops. “Thanking the emperor.” After that, she stands up reverently while looking down, waiting for what he is about to say next.
Ji Heng recognize this eunuch, this boy has only been by Song Zhaoyi’s side recently. Other than having a sweet mouth, he didn’t really have anything going on for him. Though he does has a good-looking face. There are other eunuchs with good looks, but this one is not the same as the rest. His eyes are big and clear, it’s almost like he is not a eunuch.
Ji Heng’s mind wanders pretty far. He looks at the eunuch who is looking down. He cannot stop himself from saying, “Raise your head.”
Tian Qi obediently listens and lifts her head, she almost replies, ‘Zunzhi.’ Even though her face is raised, she doesn’t have the guts to look at Ji Heng directly. Her eyes are looking at the ground below, revealing it’s red and swollen nature to Ji Heng.
(TN: Zunzhi (遵旨) means, ‘In compliance with Your Majesty’s order’.)
Ji Heng tucks his hand on his back as he asks, “Why are you crying so miserably?”
And the question comes! Tian Qi knows her being alive or dead depends on this. She sighs, her eyes layered with sadness, “Mistress is unparalleled. The fragrance has diminished and the jade has perished, even others who has not been bestowed by Mistress’ grace will feel sad, moreover this servant. There is also the little prince. The entire palace has been anticipating his birth and yet…..” After saying that, she uses her sleeves to wipe her tears. She secretly gauge out Ji Heng’s expression before continuing, “Mistress was benevolent, this servant views her like this servant’s parents. Now that she is gone, this servant felt as though he has lost his mother and father.”
(TN: The fragrance has diminished and the jade has perished (香消玉殒): signifying the death of a beautiful woman.)
Sheng An Huai who is listening by the sideline secretly thinks: This kid is so shameless. I like him!
She takes this opportunity to express her loyalty to Song Zhaoyi, saying how pitiful she was, in order to draw in the emperor’s sympathy. She even says that the deceased was benevolent towards her— trying to imply that Song Zhaoyi was fond of her.
Ji Heng narrows his eyes and looks at the eunuch who is crying like a toad in front of him. He has no idea if Tian Qi is being earnest or being smart.
Once she finishes speaking, she goes back to kneeling to admit fault.
Remembering how this eunuch used his robe to blow nose, Ji Heng’s mood returns to being unpleasant.
Never mind, never mind. Just give him a light punishment.
In the end, Tian Qi is punished to beat drums for one month.
(TN: Beating drums is the way to mark time. They are used by night watchmen.)
Everyone in the Geng Gu Fang are servants who had committed wrongs. Every night, they have to go to Xuan Wu Gate’s tower to beat the drums. It isn’t exactly tiring, but it will not give you any profits either.
(TN: Geng Gu Fang (更鼓房): Drum-roll Department? Percussion Chamber? I have no idea how to put this term in English, so I can only romanize it.)
This punishment is pretty light, Tian Qi is secretly grateful. The emperor is really a benevolent ruler, a refined gentleman.
Ji Heng on the other hand, thought that the eunuch must have been sincere to cry in the middle of the night like this without anyone to see.
The impressions both parties have on each other are pretty inaccurate.
On the next day, Tian Qi goes down and writes her future task in the Eunuch Department—– banging drum. After that, she returns to Shi San Suo.
Shi San Suo is a settlement for eunuchs established outside the Forbidden City. Most of the eunuchs in the Forbidden City lives here. Only those who directly serves their mistresses lives within the palace. Tian Qing has only lived in the palace for half a month, and now, she already has to move out. Now that you think about it, it is pretty embarrassing. Lucky she is thick-skinned, so it isn’t a big issue for her.
Upon returning to Shi San Suo, she finds out that her old ‘lair’ hasn’t been taken over by others yet. Good!
One building is shared by three people. The other two aren’t around, so the first thing she do is to take a big nap. Sleep in broad daylight and receives the punishment by night time.
When she opens her eyes, the blue fabric screen flutters a little as a head pokes in.
She seems to have forgotten to lock the door. When the person notices that she has woken up, he happily calls her: Gou Xiao Zi!
Tian Qi quickly gets up and invites him in, “Shifu, which wind blew you to my place today? Aren’t you supposed to be serving Consort De?”
“I came out to do something. I am also here to visit you.” That person is supported by Tian Qi as he sits down. Tian Qi quickly brews him tea, “No need to make such a fuss, I will not be here for long. Let’s chat.”
This man is called Ding Zhi, a shifu that Tian Qi follows ever since she enters the palace. His real name was actually Ding Zhi Yuan, but after he became a eunuch, his name sounded ironic. No matter how high his aspiration is, he is still a eunuch, so he ended up changing it to Ding Zhi.
(TN: Ding Zhi Yuan (丁志远): The Zhi means aspiration or ambition while Yuan means far and distant.)
Ding Zi is a xiaojian from Yu Yong Department. He is a fourth-ranked eunuch, just one rank below the position of a taijian.
(TN: Xiao Jian (少监) means Junior Eunuch and Taijian (太监) means Court Eunuch. Yu Yong Department is the Expenditure/Financial Department.)
Taijian is generally the term people use to address eunuchs, that is also the official term in the palace. But taijian are actually the eunuchs at the highest rank.
All servants inside the palace are divided into 24 big departments, each with their own ranks and responsibilities. They usually completes their responsibilities while serving concubines at the same time, if they do a good job, they will get good rewards from their masters. Of course, not all concubines are with money. Those who does not possess them will not have eunuchs running over to serve them. Both Tian Qi and Ding Zhi are eunuchs with double duties. People like Sheng An Huai are even more powerful, he is a eunuch with multiple duties.
Ding Zhi is now serving Consort De. Consort De is older than the emperor by two years. Her looks aren’t the most eye-catching, her age isn’t that young too, so now, she is walking that virtuous path. Even though she isn’t the most prominent out of all consorts, the emperor still has her in mind. He will still visit her every other month.
Tian Qi calls a junior eunuch to brew tea for her. She then presents them to Ding Zhi.
He opens the tea lid. Such a clear green color of tea, transparent and vibrant. It is like a cup of transparent emerald. Soaked and stretched tea leaves floats inside the cup. How rich and refreshing. He close his eyes and sniffs it, the scent of the tea is so invigorating.
“Lu Shan Yun Wu tea.” Ding Zhi opens his eyes. “You are such a golden rake, you brat. You get all the good things. Where did you get this from?”
(TN: Lu Shan Yun Wu (庐山云雾) is a type of tea. The direct translation will be Lu Mountain’s Cloud.)
Tian Qi scratches her head and laughs, “The late Song Zhaoyi bestowed them to me. I knew you like them, I’ve been intending to send them over to you, but I forgot about it because of Song Zhaoyi’s death.”
Ding Zhi lifts the lid slowly and gently blows into the tea. He immerses himself in the pleasant fragrance of the tea. “Seems like you were doing well with Song Zhaoyi over there.”
“It was great. It’s a pity the beautiful moment didn’t last for long.” Tian Qi replies in disappointment.
Hearing that, Ding Zhi puts down his cup and comforts her, “You must not be discouraged. There will be another one now that this one is dead. The harem will always be full of ambitions. Now that you have chosen this route, just throw yourself into a good boat and establish a firm foothold, you will eventually have your day.”
Tian Qi shakes her head, “My good shifu-ah, you have no idea what I always go through. I jump into a boat and that boat sinks.” After she says that, she lifts three fingers and points them to Ding Zhi. “This is the third one. To tell the truth, I am getting disheartened.”
Ding Zhi ponders for a while. Tian Qi isn’t wrong. He suddenly sympathize with this disciple of his and starts giving out suggestion, “Why don’t you check your bazi? Old Liu from the Imperial Kitchen is well-versed in this. Why don’t you give it a try?”
(TN: bazi (八字) a Feng Shui term that refers to one’s date and time of birth, or the destiny that one is born with. Credit to Moonblossom of Shushengbar!)
“Don’t even bring it up. I went to him long ago. He told me my bazi is too hard.”
“What to do?” Ding Zhi is anxious for this disciple, “Is there a way to override it?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Tian Qi shakes her head again. “Old Liu’s reading isn’t too accurate. He actually told me I have the fate of a Ladyship.”
Ding Zhi laughs at her. “That bastard is really nonsensical. It will make more sense if he says that to a maid.”
Speaking of maids, Ding Zhi suddenly steers the topic. Which maid is good-looking, which maid is capable, he is so familiar with everyone. Tian Qi hears him until she is numb. After that, she tells him about her encounter with the emperor last night and how she was punished to beat the night drum.
Ding Zhi is shocked. “What happened?”
Tian Qi describes last night’s event, though hiding the blowing into the emperor’s robe part. She only tells him that she cried and didn’t notice the emperor’s arrival.
Ding Zhi sympathize with her once again and promptly comforts her. When he leaves later, Tian Qi packs him half of her Lu Shan Yun Wu tea, coaxing a large delighted smile from that shifu of his.
After sending her shifu away, Tian Qi cannot sleep anymore. She gets into a daze as she lies on the bed the entire noon. She eats dinner early before leaving to Geng Gu Fang.