Author: Chai Jidan
Translator: chiangyushien , Renkun27
Proofreader: Zeraphiel25 , KainGuru
Rain poured on this season of Qing Ming . The Third Prince treaded on the damp grass as he walked on the Palace of Winter’s Verge’s slab stone road. Not far from there was a solitary grave, and inside that grave, a beautiful woman had fallen asleep.
( The Qing Ming Festival 清眀节, meaning clear and bright festival, falls on the 104th day after the winter solstice, which is the 5th day of April each year and in a leap year, on the 4th day of April. This festival is sometimes known as the Tomb Sweeping Day, a day that the Chinese tend the graves of their love ones.)
The Third Prince had once promised to choose a good place to build a unique small palace courtyard for his mother. As a result, Concubine Mu soon afterwards became the only imperial concubine in that palace that had two places for residence, before she was out of the limelight. Behind it, however, there had always been a clear understanding: this imperial palace courtyard was not built for her.
This was built for another woman. The scenery inside it was managed personally by the Third Prince himself. That woman’s name was Lin Yue. She was married to Imperial Tutor Mu twenty years ago.
Lin Yue was born in a town surrounded by water in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. She had a gentle and soft character and knew the books up until the ceremonies . She was the niece of the local magistrate at that time. She was ordered by her father and mother to marry Imperial Tutor Mu, but after she saw Imperial Tutor Mu, Lin Yue adored this romantic, elegant and talented scholar.
(「知书达礼」an idiom which means “to be educated and propriety-minded.)
In that era where male homosexuality was prevalent, Imperial Tutor Mu was no exception to become the target of competition for many people. When he was young, his handsomeness and brightness had made Imperial Tutor Mu provoke a lot of trouble, and the emperor was one of them.
The emperor once promised Imperial Tutor Mu that if he was willing to enter the palace, the emperor would make him an official noble, but Imperial Tutor Mu tactfully rejected him. It was not because homosexuality was not good, it was just because none of those people was the one that he was in love with.
Lin Yue never thought of winning the position for herself even a bit. She only wanted to be able to live peacefully, and she was perfectly content seeing Imperial Tutor Mu at a glance, every now and then.
Imperial Tutor Mu’s concubine, called Mu Wan’er, was Concubine Mu’s younger sister. Later on, he married another woman, and that woman never stepped out of her side room all day long even for a bit. Even the servants in their manor had never seen a glimpse of her until the end.
That woman was pregnant at the same time as Lin Yue. They both gave birth to a baby boy, almost at the same time, but Imperial Tutor Mu made a beeline for that woman’s side room and took away that terrifying Mu Xueshi. While on the other hand, the other one was an equally-handsome-and-adorable little young master; however, he was secretly sent to the palace to be a victim of Concubine Mu’s fight for power.
After that woman, who did not go out from her room all day long, gave birth to Mu Xueshi, she lost her life in that room. As a result, some people would say that she had not come out because her appearance was extremely ugly, otherwise she would not have given birth to such a disgraceful son. However, there were also servants who would bravely say that they have seen this woman, and that her beauty could not be compared and described with anything.
Mu Xueshi was adopted by Mu Wan’er, and Lin Yue strangely died two days later. The ‘daughter’ that she gave birth to was also given to Mu Wan’er. Since Mu Xueshi was born, he had always thought that Mu Wan’er was his biological mother, and his younger sister, Mu Yuanqing, was the daughter that Concubine Mu gave birth to. Mu Yuanqing was really Mu Wan’er’s elder sister’s own flesh and blood so she would care for her a little more. While on the other hand, the ugly Mu Xueshi, the whole manor, including Mu Wan’er, treated him indifferently.
The Third Prince had lived in the palace since he was little. Some said that the emperor was extremely fond of him since he first saw him. Later on, he had always been extremely doted on. It was not only because the Third Prince looked handsome and bright, but more so because his and the emperor’s adoration for Imperial Tutor Mu were somewhat alike.
Except that the Third Prince had never been concerned about these favors in his heart. Perhaps, it was divine will that made the Third Prince remember Lin Yue’s appearance from the moment he was born. After a very long time, there has only been Lin Yue alone in the Third Prince’s heart.
At that time, the Palace of Winter’s Verge had not yet been built. There was only ordinary green grass in that place. Along the meadows, until the end, was the imperial palace’s east wall. In the young Third Prince’s mind, he always wanted to know what was in the world outside the imperial palace wall. He secretly chiseled out a crack at the bottom of the imperial palace wall, and over time, that crack got bigger and bigger. It became a little hole that allowed him to pass through.
It was not until the Third Prince made his way through the little hole that he found out that the outside was nothing but an area of pasture. Next to the hole, there was a mutilated woman kneeling, her whole body was pitch black. After she saw the Third Prince, she quickly crawled using her broken hands toward that distant place. With a single glance, the Third Prince recognized that she was his own mother, so he swayed his little body and caught up to her.
That period of time was the only happy memory that the Third Prince had. Although Lin Yue had been persecuted by Concubine Mu until she had changed beyond recognition, that strand of feeling and that kind of intimacy on her body allowed the Third Prince to recognize her at once.
At first, the two sisters, Concubine Mu and Mu Wan’er, ordered Lin Yue to be dragged to the wilderness. Her whole body was maimed and simply beaten her until she fainted. They thought that Lin Yue had already died. They wanted to burn her dead body, but just when the fire had been lit, the rain started pouring. All of Concubine Mu’s subordinates were impatient. In order to avoid the rain, they left without her permission.
 Additional reading: This is a poem entitled “Qingming” by Du Mu 杜牧 of the late Tang Dynasty, one of the two all-time greatest poets of China.
The literal translation of the poem in English is:
The time around the Ching Ming Festival drizzling rain falls messily
The tomb sweepers around me on the dirt road up the mountain seems soon to lose their souls
I politely asked where is the nearest inn so that I can drown my sorrow in alcohol
The kid cowherd pointed far beyond at Xing Hua village (meaning my sorrow will go on)
The English poetic translation is:
The ceaseless drizzles drip all the dismal day,
So broken-hearted fares the traveler on the way.
When asked where could be found a tavern bower,
A cowboy points to yonder village of the apricot flower.