TOTLS Chapter 72: Arc 5.2

Arc 5: Harem Competing Strategies Chapter 2

“Since when did you become so skilled at playing the pipa?” Sun Yuan, who was the original host’s best friend, asked. His father was General Sun, a close friend of the original host’s father, so they were also good friends.

“I have been practicing diligently for a long time just to surpass Ye Rong today,” Tao Yuan whispered to him. “Everyone thinks I am inferior to him, but I am determined to prove that I am better than him in every aspect.”

“Not everyone thinks that way,” Sun Yuan whispered back. “I have always believed that you are better than him.”

Tao Yuan smiled and said, “Your bias towards me, it doesn’t count. I want even those who are biased towards Ye Rong to acknowledge that I am better than him.”

Yu Qianyun and the others caught up with them, and she said to Tao Yuan, “A-Xi, you were amazing just now. I was astonished. I have never heard such beautiful pipa music before. My brother likes listening to the qin*琴 = Qin; Zither; Piano, but I don’t. He always says that I wouldn’t understand it, comparing it to playing the lute to a cow 1. After I return home, I will definitely tell him that I am not a cow at all. It’s just that those people didn’t play well enough.”

“That’s right! You played much better than… than that person. They come from a scholarly family and always look down on us from the military family. It’s as if their talents are superior to ours, making them one step above us. It’s infuriating to think about.”

“Every time during the flower-viewing banquet, it’s always their turn to shine while we serve as foil every time. But this time, they had to be the background for once. It feels good.”

On Tao Yuan’s side, the noble ladies and gentlemen from the military family felt relieved. Previously, whether it was in terms of talent or poetry composition, they were always overshadowed. The scholarly and military families placed emphasis on different things, and naturally, the upbringing and education of their children were also different.

As for Ye Rong’s side, after an awkward silence, the noble ladies and men started chatting with each other.

“A-Rong, the Empress Dowager treats you very well. That white jade lotus incense burner looks so beautiful.”

“Of course, the Empress Dowager treats A-Rong well. A-Rong’s talent and appearance are the most outstanding among all of us. Whether it’s character or family background, he is the one who satisfies the Empress Dowager the most. The one who will be established as Empress 2 in the future must be A-Rong. “

“Yes, the Empress Dowager and Your Majesty must want A-Rong to be the Empress. No matter how you compare, A-Rong is much better than Mu Xi. Even if the Mu family controls the military power, at best, Mu Xi can only be the Huang Guijun 3, and will definitely not be the Empress.” 

“Those from the military family have simple minds and lack refinement. They definitely haven’t learned those etiquette rules. I don’t think he’s qualified to be an Imperial Noble Consort at all.”

“That’s right, and even if he becomes Huang Guijun, so what? As long as His Majesty doesn’t like him, coupled with his pampered personality, in the future, it is very likely that he will not even be able to keep the position of Huang Guijun. Besides, it is impossible to keep fighting at the border.”

They all felt the Empress Dowager was partial to Ye Rong. So, they unconsciously think the Emperor must also be partial to Ye Rong. Mu Xi has a reputation for being domineering and willful. So, even if he becomes a Imperial Noble Consort the Emperor will definitely reject him. A Huang Guijun, despised by the Emperor and Queen Dowager, is worse than a favored servant. And they felt that with Ye Rong’s 4 appearance and personality, he would surely win the Emperor’s favor.

Most importantly, although Mu Xi’s father currently held significant military power, the hidden danger was even greater. Throughout history, emperors have always been wary and guarded against those who wielded military authority. If his father refused to relinquish the military power when the time came, the Emperor would definitely find a way to eliminate their entire family. Mu Xi, as the Imperial Noble Consort, would then be left to languish in the cold palace.

“Arong, the poem you composed this time is to be presented to the Emperor. You must write it well and let the Emperor see your talent. He will surely be captivated by you in no time.”

“Yes, seeing their smug expressions earlier was infuriating. They act as if they’re so remarkable just because they had a moment in the spotlight. I bet he can only play that one piece. I don’t know what they’re so proud of.”

As everyone kept talking, Ye Rong remained silent the whole time. He didn’t say a word because he already had an understanding of this world and knew that the first person who becomes the Empress 5 will definitely be Mu Xi. 

Seeing that he remained silent, the others glanced at each other and said to him, “A-Rong, take your time to think about the poem you’ll present to the Emperor later. We’ll go admire the flowers nearby and won’t disturb you.”

Ye Rong watched them leave and lowered his head to contemplate. However, he wasn’t thinking about the poem he would write. Instead, he was considering the next steps he needed to take based on the progress of his strategy.

Over the past year or so, he has successfully made Prince Yu fall in love with him. But according to his goal, if he wants to become the Empress Dowager, he must enter the palace. 

In fact, after he traveled to this world, he didn’t necessarily need to follow the game selection. He can choose another life. As long as he can get engaged to someone before the Emperor ascends the throne 6, he doesn’t need to enter the palace. However, he wanted to achieve the highest level of strategy in this real world, becoming the Empress Dowager and having his own harem.

 The background setting of the line entering the palace is that his grandfather will support whoever becomes the Emperor. So, it is no longer possible for him to marry Yu Wang. And when he had to enter the palace, he had already told King Yu that even if he*Ye Rong entered the palace, he*Ye Rong would definitely remain faithful him*Yu Wang. The reason why he would say this is to show the helplessness and pain he had to do. In return, it made Yu Wang love him even more deeply. The most crucial purpose is to let Yu Wang know that he*Ye Rong would be faithful to him*Yu Wang. After he has a child of Yu Wang, Yu Wang will support him even more.

According to the plot’s setting, the current Emperor will die in five years. He had to conceive Yu Wang’s child within three years so that he could become the Empress Dowager with the support of Yu Wang. Therefore, before conceiving Yu Wang’s child, he couldn’t have any intimate relations with the Emperor. Otherwise, it would be unclear whose child he was carrying, and Yu Wang would definitely not be willing to support another man’s child. If Yu Wang became the Emperor, he wouldn’t even be able to become the Imperial Noble Consort, let alone the Empress Dowager with his own harem. This era wouldn’t allow a younger brother to marry his older brother’s wife. So he had to plan each step carefully and not make any mistakes.

Ye Rong had already planned the poem he was going to write several days ago. Previously, when he entered the palace to pay respects to the Empress Dowager, she had given him hints, allowing him enough time to prepare and compose a good poem to win the Emperor’s favor.

Although this Emperor would not live past five years, within these five years, Ye Rong was determined to make the Emperor fall in love with him. Ideally, within these three years, he hoped to have Mu Xi sent to the cold palace and replace her as the Empress. That way, his children would naturally inherit the throne. He believed that with his protagonist’s halo, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make the Emperor fall in love with him. He had already gained the Empress Dowager’s favor, and once he entered the palace, he would have plenty of opportunities to earn the Emperor’s love.

The poem that Tao Yuan wants to submit has already been written. Since it will be presented to the Emperor, showing talent is secondary. The most important thing is, of course, writing poems that meet the Emperor’s wishes.

Tao Yuan’s poem, intended to be presented, had also been written. Since it was meant to be shown to the Emperor, showcasing poetic talent was secondary. The most important thing was to write a poem that suited the Emperor’s taste.

For some of them, this opportunity to perform in front of the Emperor was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Only those who had confidence in their own poems wrote them down and handed them to the eunuch holding the tray, secretly hoping that their poems would be noticed by the Emperor.

Just as there were those who wanted to enter the palace, there were also those who didn’t want to. Those who weren’t forced by their families and didn’t want to enter the palace just had to make an effort to reduce their sense of existence.

While the Empress Dowager went to rest, the Emperor had already returned to his study. The eunuch by the Empress Dowager’s side sent the poems to the Emperor and, as instructed by the Empress Dowager, separately took out the poem written by Ye Rong and presented it to the Emperor.

After reading it, Xiao Junye nodded. He had already heard of Ye Rong’s talent, and this poem was indeed well-written. He had often heard his mother speak highly of him. This time, Liu Gonggong 7 specifically singled out Ye Rong’s poem, which must have been his mother’s intention, hinting that his reward should be given directly to Ye Rong.

Setting aside the poem written by Ye Rong, Xiao Junye casually flipped through the other papers on the tray. On one piece of paper, the strokes were skillful and elegant, flowing like clouds and water, catching his eye. He restrained himself from taking that sheet of paper and admired the beautiful calligraphy, praising its graceful and masterful brushwork.

When he saw the word “Mu Xi” signed at the bottom, he was momentarily stunned. He thought that Mu Xi could really write such good characters. Mu Yongsheng’s education of children seems more than just about telling them to wield swords and guns.

After carefully reading the poem’s content, Xiao Junye slapped the table and exclaimed, “Good poem!”

Liu Gonggong was stunned for a moment, then glanced at Ye Rong’s poem that was placed on the table. He continued to stand with his head bowed, hesitating whether to tell the Emperor clearly what the Empress Dowager meant.

The Empress Dowager rested for about an hour in the Nuanxiang Pavilion in the Imperial Garden before returning to where the banquet was held.

The ladies and gentlemen also returned to their tables and sat down. They were waiting for the Queen Dowager to announce that she had received the Emperor’s reward. But they didn’t have much suspense in their hearts. They all thought it must be Ye Rong. Apart from the fact that he is really good at composing poems, the most important reason is that Queen Dowager is obviously biased toward him. So, they thought the Emperor would definitely give him the reward. 

Liu Gonggong came over with the Emperor’s reward. It was graphite. Since it was the Emperor’s reward, it will not be an ordinary graphite. This graphite is a tribute, and there are only five squares a year. This is the graphite the Emperor liked to use when he was the crown prince. It takes two or three years to get one, but Yu Wang can get it if he wants to. 

“Empress Dowager, this is the Xunhui 8 inkstone that His Majesty rewarded.” Liu Gonggong saluted to Empress Dowager while carrying the tray. 

“Oh? “Even the Empress Dowager was a little surprised. “The Emperor bestowed Xunhui inkstone? It seems that the person who received the Emperor’s reward this time must have written a poem that the Emperor liked very much. So, the Emperor even gave him his favorite Xunhui ink.”

When the Empress Dowager said the last sentence, she smiled and looked at Ye Rong. Then he told Liu Gonggong, “You may read the Emperor’s decree.” 

“… Yes.” Liu Gonggong did not dare to delay for too long, and could only read the Emperor’s edict. “His Majesty’s edict, Mu family’s Mu Xi Xiaolang 9), has outstanding literary talent, far-reaching artistic conception, and his writing is exquisite like flowing water. His literary style and brushwork are truly favored by Xuanzhi 10. In recognition of his talent, Xuanzhi bestow the Xunhui Inkstone as a commendation. We hope that young scholar of the Mu family will continue to diligently pursue excellence in writing.”

The Empress Dowager and everyone else, except for Tao Yuan, were stunned. They had all thought that Ye Rong would be the one receiving the reward. Why did Liu Gonggong announce the name Mu Xi?

Ye Rong is the eldest grandson of the Prime Minister and comes from a long line of government officials. His family is known for their literary background, and Ye Rong’s talent and reputation in writing have long been established. How could his poetry be surpassed by Mu Xi, who was born into a military family? It seemed impossible. But why did the Emperor reward Mu Xi instead of Ye Rong?

“Is it Mu Xi that the emperor wants to reward?” The Empress Dowager confirmed to Liu Gonggong.

“Replying to the Empress Dowager, His Majesty said that by having me read Mu Xiaolang’s poem, everyone would know who His Majesty intends to reward and why it is Mu Xiaolang,” Liu Gonggong replied.

“…Go ahead and read it.” Since the Emperor had already said so, what else could she say?

Liu Gonggong proceeded to read Tao Yuan’s poem, and everyone looked at Tao Yuan in astonishment. They hadn’t expected him to possess such remarkable literary talent.

When the Empress Dowager was young, she was also a renowned talented woman and admired those who excelled in writing. She favored Ye Rong not only because he was the Prime Minister’s grandson, and his character and upbringing were undoubtedly impeccable, but also because of his excellent literary skills.

She would like Ye Rong, not only because he is the grandson of the prime minister, there must be no problem with his character and upbringing, but also because of his good literary talent.

In the Empress Dowager’s eyes, Mu Xi was like a proud and domineering peacock. Though he was beautiful on the outside, his character and upbringing were lacking. Such a personality and appearance might be tolerable for a noble consort, but as an Empress, he would undoubtedly be unsuitable. However, Mu Yongsheng did not want Mu Xi to enter the palace. He had previously stated that Mu Xi from their family would only become the main wife.

Mu Yongsheng was a valiant warrior, and not only did the Emperor need his support, but the Great Wei also needed his protection. Therefore, Mu Xi had to become the Empress, while Ye Rong, who was originally the most suitable candidate for Empress, would become the Imperial Noble Consort. 11

Upon hearing Liu Gonggong’s recitation of the poem, even the Empress Dowager had to admit that it was indeed a great poem. However, she was still somewhat dissatisfied with the Emperor’s choice to reward Tao Yuan because, apart from her personal bias towards Ye Rong, she also wanted to maintain a balance between the two sides.

Now that Mu Xi will become the Empress, Ye Rong could only be the Imperial Noble Consort, in order to appease the Ye family, she naturally had to show a greater preference towards Ye Rong. The Emperor should have cooperated with her. She thought the Emperor would understand her intentions, so she didn’t directly express her wishes. She truly didn’t expect Mu Xi to surpass Ye Rong in literary talent. If she had known this earlier, she would have told the Emperor that regardless of whether there were better poems than Ye Rong’s, the reward should go to Ye Rong.

But since the Emperor had already given the order, it was too late to say anything. The Empress Dowager could only smile at Tao Yuan and say, “This poem is indeed excellent. No wonder the Emperor rewarded you.” 

The Empress Dowager raised her hand and signaled Liu Gonggong to deliver the things to Tao Yuan. 

Tao Yuan stood up and saluted, “Thank you, Your Majesty, for the reward, and thank you Empress Dowager.”

After Tao Yuan took the tray, Liu Gonggong returned to the Empress Dowager and said, “Report to the Empress Dowager. Your Majesty still has an order.”

“Oh?” The Empress Dowager said, “You can announce it.”

“Your Majesty’s edict, Ye Rong, Ye family’s Xiaolang, is worthy of being the prime minister’s grandson. As a model, Zhen entrusted Ye Xiaolang with the important task of repairing the fragmentary copy of poems in the Changshi* 藏诗 = Cangshi/Zangshi: To store poems Pavilion.”

Upon hearing this, the Empress Dowager nodded inwardly, thinking that the Emperor’s arrangement was indeed better than rewarding both individuals simultaneously. Moreover, if they were to reward both, they couldn’t ignore Mu Xi’s poem after reading it. If Mu Xi’s poem was far superior to Ye Rong’s, it would inevitably disappoint the children of military families.

Although repairing the incomplete collection of poems of the Cangshi Pavilion wasn’t a reward or an honor, it demonstrated the Emperor’s recognition of Ye Rong’s literary talent. It also added an additional layer of trust and served as the best consolation for Ye Chengxiang* 丞相= Chengxiang: prime minister || Prime Minister Ye because trust in Ye Rong meant trust in the Prime Minister.

Tao Yuan thought to himself that the Emperor had been the Crown Prince for twenty years, enduring extreme favoritism from the late Emperor and striving to ascend the throne legitimately. This showed that the Emperor possessed deep scheming abilities. The battles and conflicts in the imperial harem were even more severe than those on the battlefield. Any slight negligence could lead to irreparable consequences.

Xiao Junye held the poem written by Tao Yuan and admired the handwriting for a long time before carefully placing it between the pages of a book. He got up and walked to the window, looking outside while contemplating. He had been the Crown Prince since birth, and in these twenty years, he had experienced countless dangers to reach his current position. Only he knew it best. Even as the Emperor, he still faced many constraints and difficulties in maintaining his throne.

“Cough, cough, cough…” Xiao Junye suddenly coughed. A fishy sweet smell rose from his throat, causing him to spit it out. “Pu!”

“Your Majesty, Your Majesty!” Seeing the Emperor vomit blood, Xu Gonggong immediately ran over to support him and said nervously, “The slave will call the imperial doctor!”

“Wait!” Xiao Junye stopped and said, “I’m fine. There’s no need to call the imperial doctor.”

“But Your Majesty….”

Xiao Junye raised his hand and said, “Help Zhen inside to rest.”

He was very aware of his own physical condition; even if he called for the imperial physician, it would be of no use. He didn’t know how many more years he could hold on, but as long as he was alive, he would never hand over the throne to Yu Wang.

Returning to his residence from the palace, Tao Yuan instructed someone to carefully store the gifts from the Empress Dowager and the Emperor, and then went to bathe and change clothes.

Soaking in the spacious wooden tub, Tao Yuan leaned his feet back and closed his eyes, thinking. Before coming to this world, he had a detailed understanding of this world. He knew that Ye Rong had great ambitions and was playing a significant game all by himself. Because Tao Yuan still approached it with a gaming mentality, thinking that by following the strategy, he would definitely win.

The background and character settings of this world were indeed just like those in a game, but if he approached it solely with a gaming mentality, it would actually work to Tao Yuan’s advantage. It might even lead Ye Rong to his own demise without him needing to take any action.

In this world, every person had their own thoughts, personalities, flesh, and blood. Only he was the protagonist of his own life. If Ye Rong believed that he was the protagonist of everyone and thought he could dominate everything with his protagonist’s aura, he would soon realize that in this world, his protagonist’s aura might bring him some benefits, but it was impossible to completely control people’s emotions with it.

After soaking for about twenty minutes, Tao Yuan emerged from the bath, picked up the neatly folded cotton cloth placed aside, and dried the water droplets from his body. Although this body was only sixteen years old, ancient people matured early, both physically and mentally. The original owner had a tall and slender figure, a slim waist, and a pair of straight, slender, and fair legs.

Although the body structure of Gers is the same as that of the man, their physique is more female and relatively soft and thin. Putting on his inner garment and walking to the bedroom, Tao Yuan decided to get some sleep before getting up to eat. 

Today, in the palace, although the Empress Dowager’s favoritism toward Ye Rong wasn’t overtly apparent, everyone could sense it.

But this was unavoidable. Ye Rong had spent over a year in this world, dedicating most of his time to capturing Yu Wang’s heart and only a small portion to please the Empress Dowager and showcase himself.

And the original owner’s mother died young, and his father spoiled him very much, so his character is indeed a little arrogant, but not to the point of domineering. And the bad reputation of the original master’s domineering character was also spread in the past two years Because of Ye Rong’s secret plan. 

The original owner’s mother had passed away early, and his father doted on him excessively, which did make him somewhat arrogant, but not to the extent of being overbearing. The negative reputation of the original owner’s domineering personality had also spread in the past two years. It was all thanks to Ye Rong’s secret plotting. He didn’t even need to do much personally. As long as he subtly guided those officials and noble ladies who centered around him, they would naturally spread these rumors. The more people who knew, the more people who believed, and over time, it would become the truth.

After the flower-viewing banquet, anyone who received the order from the palace must start preparing to enter the palace for selection. 

their main focus would be on learning various palace etiquette and rules. Although the final status of those who remained in the palace depended on their family background, the female officials and attendants of Chu Xiu Palace would truthfully report their daily performances to the Empress Dowager. This was an important process in determining their ranks.

After entering the palace, these noble ladies and gentlemen were assigned to the best courtyard in Chu Xiu Palace. After all, they were destined to be the masters and couldn’t mix with servants, so their courtyard was separated from the others.

There were fewer Gers in this world, and even fewer of them entered the palace this time, only a little over thirty people. These thirty-plus individuals were allocated to the largest Xuanmo Garden, with two people sharing each room. The rooms were adjacent to each other, with a sizable courtyard in between.

The palace attendants were also aware that the children of civil officials and military generals didn’t get along well. To prevent any trouble that could involve them, they tried their best to assign them to the same room based on their family backgrounds.

This chapter is giving me headache honestly. If someone knows that difference between , please do tell! Thank you~~
Update on FOBTL: Release will be moved on 16 QAQ

EDIT: Please note that from here onwards Empress and Huang Guijun = Noble Imperial Consort. Thus, Empress>> Huang Guijun/Imperial Noble Consort

Please buy the raws to support the author if you can.
If there are any mistakes/error, feel free to comment it down below.

  1. A Figure of speech; It doesn’t matter how beautiful or amazing something is, they can’t appreciate it because they don’t know anything about it[]
  2. 君后 = jūn hòu = Queen/Empress[]
  3. 皇贵君 = Huáng guì jūn = Emperor; 

    I decided instead of writing Empress, better write it as it is.

    Still, Huang Guijun is lower than the Queen?? I’ve been searching if it was an honorary title, like a rank, maybe in the harem. But I cannot find anything it would always show Emperor/ Your Majesty; Following the one before, Huang Guijun will be the Noble Imperial Consort. Still if anyone knows the right term please do say so[]

  4. The author wrote 叶汐 = Ye Xi, but I am assuming this is a typo, and they mean Ye Rong, not Mu Xi.[]
  5. Queen 先当上君后的人 = the one who becomes the Queen first. TN: So I’m guessing Mu Xi became the Jun Hou De (Queen of the King) in the game, instead of becoming a Huang Guijun. In short, I am still confused about the difference between Huang Guijun and Jun Hou De. They are both wife, but which is higher between the two? I dont know. Please send help, if anyone knows. []
  6. But he already did, so maybe another plot hole. Or maybe what the author means is that before he fully stabilized the throne.[]
  7. 公公 = Eunuch; So it’s Eunuch Liu. Keeping it for the ‘ancient’ set-up[]
  8. 熏晖 = Smoked, but smoked ink does not sound so good. So we’ll keep it as it is.[]
  9. Xiaolong = Young man if you forgot ;[]
  10. Xuanzhi, Zhen = Imperial ‘I’[]
  11. If anyone can help. Please do. This has been a confusion of mine. According to Chinese translation websites, it seems Queen and Emperor (or Empress in MX and YR’s case) are interchangeable. But I am pretty sure, one of them is higher than the other. I thought it was Queen then Empress, then IDK. Sooo… From the novels I read before Empress/Queen are the highest – the real wife then followed by the concubine (not really considered wife, but still wife in ancient CN culture). 

    Anyways, when I tried to chop them up, I noticed something. 

    This might be higher:

    君 = jun : monarch; lord; gentleman; ruler

    后 = hou: back; behind; rear; afterwards; after; later; post-; empress; queen; (archaic) monarch; ruler

    Than this:

    皇 = huang : Emperor

    贵 = gui : expensive; noble; precious; (honorific) your

    So, according to this observation. 

    Jun hou = empress/queen; to avoid confusion, it will now just be empress.

    Huang gui = precious Emperor will now be a higher than usual concubines but lower than empress/queen (>> noble king ); aka imperial noble consort

    MAIN NOTE: If you know the difference between these. Please help. (^人^)Thanks~♪  

    **I will follow this. So I might change the previous chapters.[]

1 Comment

  • ross16 says:

    Hello, thank you for your translation and for putting so many notes; it is incredible and very thorough of you.

    I don’t know if it’s too late to tell you this or if you already found out, but in all the novels I’ve read, some of them explained (informative notes) that in the context of ancient China (before the 20th century and from more previous eras) there was a very marked hierarchy in the harem, that is, it has probably seemed to you in ancient novels that a man to be successful must have 3 wives and 5 concubines (I think that is the exact number of concubines, I don’t remember that part well), but even among those wives there are levels, the first being the official and main wife with a greater rank of power only surpassed by her mother-in-law and husband, it is to her that all her children are considered legitimate and to whom the other children of the other wives and concubines must refer. as a mother (They have another title for their biological mothers that I don’t remember and only in very private private can they refer to them as mom). And only if she adopts a child from another wife or concubine how the child can become legitimate. Another thing is that the second wife helps manage the harem alongside the main one as if she were a secretary to the main wife, l those that follow are mainly for the entertainment of both the husband (sexual and playful) and the first wife (only playful). In that same hierarchical system it is expected and owed that The other wives and concubines go to greet the first wife and the mother-in-law with respect (I don’t know if every day or from time to time but they must do it) and give them training (citara, Go, poetry, dance and so on). And with all the above said, it is clear that the empress is equal to the main wife and therefore with greater rank (Only the dowager empress surpasses her for being a mother-in-law by that you have to have filial piety with your elders) and the one in charge of the harem (functioning and distribution and pacification) and the noble consort is the equivalent of the second wife and the next p The highest ranking person (second only to the Empress Dowager and the Empress) in the harem and must help maintain order in the place as the Empress’s assistant.

    I hope this can help you. A little long but that’s all I know about harem hierarchy (Although there are more specific things even just between concubines) and sorry for the spelling errors, I am using the keyboard translator.

    Thanks for translate.

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