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Thank you for your patience! Please enjoy this first chapter, a gory chapter that sets up what is to come. shudders. Also welcome togekiss and a very very big thank you to Draygan who helped edit this chapter!!! (OMG I SWEAR I POSTED THIS YESTERDAY RIPPP)

Chapter 1: Cornered into Silent, Tearful Agony

Cold winds suddenly rose in the inky darkness of the night, making the decay on the dilapidated residence door more noticeably appalling as it rattled in the wind.

A few elder maids passed through the courtyard hurriedly. A servant with a wider figure than the rest, who wore a green robe with her sleeves rolled up halfway, headed towards the innermost room with a food basket in hand.

A strange odour permeated throughout the residence. A slightly younger maid, trailed behind her and whispered, "The smell is really unpleasant. I don’t know why Master arranged for that thing to be there. It is quite scary." When she got to this point, she could not resist crying out in shock and edged herself closer to whisper into the head elder maid’s ear to continue, "It couldn’t be for-"

"Wang [1], speak less." The green-clad elder maid was slightly annoyed. "If anyone around us overhears, you won’t be spared."

[1] Wang (王贵家): When you’re a servant, you’re referred to as belonging to someone’s family or clan since you’re considered their property. Hence, this is more of Wang’s family maid, or Wang’s family servant.

Wang silenced herself hastily.

Arriving at the entrance, a young, round-faced maid emerged from within and accepted the food basket, before entering the house again. After a moment, she carried an empty food basket out. The green-clad elder maid took it and spoke to the round-faced maid, "Master ordered us to bring the person into the room."

"Is this for-" The round faced maid was alarmed.

"We do not need to know." Sighing, the green-clad elder maid summoned Wang. "Come here and bring the person over there."

A lamp lit the house, brightening the hall slightly. Wang pinched her nose, only noticing the thing that sat in the wooden basin after several moments had passed. Seeing it for the first time, she almost threw up. Over the course of the past few days, even if she had delivered food daily with the green-clad elder maid, she had never seen the person inside clearly.

The thing in the wooden basin could no longer be referred to as "human". All four of her limbs had been severed, her rod-like body propped up, as it swayed in the wooden basin. Her hair was bunched together, with small bits of debris scattered throughout. It vaguely looked female.

The green-clad elder maid stared, sympathy flashing through her eyes. Although she did not have an inkling of this lady’s identity, this lady had already been crippled to this extent, which really made her pity the lady. Furthermore since Master had suddenly ordered them to bring her out today, things did not bode well for her.

Though Wang felt afraid and disgusted, she did not dare disobey her orders. Steeling herself, she heaved the wooden basin out of the house. The lady inside was yielding and did not struggle or cause a scene, as if she was already asleep.

Setting the wooden basin in the Master’s sleeping quarters as ordered, Wang thought to herself, why did Master place this terrifying thing in the house? The lady in the wooden basin suddenly opened her eyes, locking eyes with Wang. Oddly, this extremely frightening lady had a pair of strikingly beautiful eyes, alluring and untainted, cold, yet moving, their clarity akin to water from a creek flowing through the green mountains.

Briefly stunned, Wang turned her head and bolted out of the house.

Jiang Ruan opened her eyes slowly.

After languishing in the dark for a long time, she was unaccustomed to the light. When she considered her situation clearly, she could not help but laugh sorrowfully. She was the legitimate eldest daughter of the Defense Minister and once, she had been the Beautiful Lady Ruan. But now, she was treated as swine, unable to hold her head high ever again!

She then recalled her sixteen year old self, and the words of her father before she entered the palace, "Ruan’er, since you are entering the palace as a concubine, the entire Zhao-Jiang family supports you. You do not need to worry."

Her younger sister held her hand tearfully, "Ruan’er, you are my savior. Even if I die, I won’t be able to repay your kindness."

And him, clasping her hand in his, "Wait a little while longer. After some time has passed, I will marry you properly as my legitimate wife."

But now, her father had already risen to the rank of Prime Minister, a respected official, while her stepmother had become the Prime Minister’s wife. Her sister had become the Empress, while that person ascended to the throne! They had already cast her to the back of their minds, to the point abandoning her and killing her off.

At the age of five, her biological mother passed away early and her brother perished in war. Her father’s concubine was promoted as the second wife. A passing Taoist priest divined her birthdate and mentioned that she bore bad luck for her parents. She was then sent to a residence in a village. At nearly fifteen-years-old, Jiang Quan finally recognized her as his own flesh and blood and brought her back into the manor. Not long after, there was news from the palace that the daughter of the Jiang family had been chosen as the Emperor’s concubine.

The Emperor suspected that the Jiang family had colluded with the Eighth Prince and summoned him into the palace. On the surface, he appeared to be benevolent and caring, but it was merely to keep the Eighth Prince in check.

The Jiang family only had two legitimate daughters. Jiang Susu’s body was weaker with a gentle and innocent personality. As no one could defy the Emperor’s edict, Jiang Quan ordered Jiang Ruan to enter the palace and become the Beautiful Lady Ruan [2].

[2] Beautiful Lady: A rank

Even though she kept trying to accept her situation, she could not endure pleasing the Emperor sexually. At her ripe, blooming age, she began to wilt in the inner palace. If it was not because of the constant comfort from the Eighth Prince, she would have hung herself in the inner palace with a white cloth. Growing up, other than her dead brother and mother, there wasn’t anyone else who treated her this considerately. She entrusted her heart to him, stopped causing a fuss and willingly settled in the palace to pass messages along, acting as a chess piece for him and the Jiang family. Who could have guessed, after forcing the Emperor to abdicate, the Emperor died tragically. They then imprisoned her, accused her of murdering the emperor, and laid the title of a country-wrecking temptress on her!

When she stood on the platform, meeting the cold look of her father, she finally understood that she had been abandoned. As soon as she was of no use to them anymore, they deserted her.

Trapped in the dark prison, she thought she had regained hope when someone saved her. But it was only the beginning of her nightmare.

Her innocent, fairy-like sister smiled faintly as she watched people chop off Jiang Ruan’s limbs, reducing Jiang Ruan to human swine. Jiang Ruan felt despair and anger, unwilling to be resigned to her fate. However, she heard the fairy-like person continue, "Does elder sister know, I usually love cleanliness? I cannot even tolerate even a grain of sand. Elder sister, you are a grain of sand that I have already endured for many years. Now, it is time to clear you away."

She added another sentence with a slight smile, "The Eighth Prince is going to crown me as the Empress. Let me help elder sister enjoy the glory that elder sister could not partake in." Pain seeped into her bones. She finally understood what true numbness was. However, Jiang Ruan could not fathom why Susu hated her to this extent.

Susu almost read her mind as she smiled and spoke, "Isn’t elder sister’s mother the beloved daughter of the General’s manor? Didn’t you rely on this identity to look down on me? What a pity!" She supported her cheek as she tilted her head, "Yesterday, the General’s manor was executed in the afternoon bearing the crime of rebellion." She stared at Jiang Ruan, articulating every word slowly, All one hundred and three members were seized and beheaded."

Shock coursed through her like thunder. Her mind was in complete chaos. The General’s manor was her maternal home. Although her mother had angered the General with her determination to marry Jiang Quan in the past, and they had not communicated since, blood was still thicker than water. How could she escape the knife slicing through her heart?!

She directed a dead stare at Susu. Yet, Susu only sneered mockingly, "Is elder sister angered by a mere provocation? Don’t be anxious. I still have a large gift for you. You shall receive it very soon."

Hence, Jiang Ruan was sent to a dimly-lit house. After struggling for a few days to survive, she saw the light again today. The door opened with a sound. A fat man who reeked of alcohol, grabbed and threw a young boy onto the ground in front of him with a hideous expression. The young boy appeared to be struggling with all his might. When Jiang Ruan looked at the boy’s face, color drained from her face.

That was- Pei’er!

The luck of palace ladies ran thin. There were many who could not bear the Emperor’s son, and many who passed away after they did. Pei’er’s biological mother was merely a lowly palace maid, meeting her death shortly after giving birth to Pei’er. The Emperor did not value his low-born son. With a twist of fate, Jiang Ruan became his foster mother. Six years went by and Jiang Ruan and Pei’er had long since developed a mother-son relationship. When the situation in the palace began to change, she commanded her personal palace maid to flee with Pei’er in her arms. Yet, they had failed to escape.

"Mother! Mother!" Pei’er howled as he struggled. Yet, he could not break free from the pair of hands on his privates.

Jiang Ruan only felt a chill encase her entire body. She had learned of the despicable acts that Senior Marquis Li Dong was capable of even before she entered the palace. But now, she could only stare at her own son being humiliated by this monster.

She screamed loudly. Yet, she could only produce hoarse and unclear sounds, "Ah, ah-"

Li Dong eyed her with disgust and hatred. "I do not even know why Her Highness deems it necessary that this thing must watch me perform my duties. This really ruins my appetite." He thought about it, but in the end, he still bent to imperial power. He did not dare make excessive motions, as he focused solely on bullying the unconscious child.

Jiang Ruan sat inside the wooden basin. Only then did she realize why Jiang Susu had only left her a pair of eyes at this time. Jiang Susu wanted her to see her final relative die in front of her. Like a mannequin, she sat blankly in the wooden basin, every scene from the past playing in front of her eyes: the defeated look on her mother’s face before she passed, her father’s thin, cold smile, the Eighth Prince’s vow, Jiang Susu thanking her as she held her hand, the Emperor’s cold detached eyes and her sufferings in the inner palace. In the end, everything morphed into the struggling, tearful Pei’er in front of her very eyes.

Li Dong inadvertently turned around, unexpectedly catching sight of the person in the basin. Startled into falling off the bed, he shouted, "Someone, come!"

Two lines of blood and tears streaked across the stupefied expression of the lady in the wooden basin, emphasizing feelings of bitterness and dismalness. The housekeeper, who broke the door down and entered, stopped in his tracks. He felt as if he had encountered a vengeful spirit from hell seeking to take his life. His entire body felt as if it had been enveloped by a type of frigidness.

Agitated, Li Dong asked, "What are you standing there for? Beat it to death with a stick." In the midst of his uneasiness, he dismissed the Empress’s orders unconsciously. It did not matter anyway, for the entire residence was guarded by his subordinates so he did not need to worry about the news leaking out.

The housekeeper recollected himself, rushing forward with a stick in his grasp to swing down at her face continuously without explanation.

No one could hear the most profound curse that came from the person’s heart who was inside the basin: Even if I can never reincarnate, even if my ashes are scattered and I am dispersed, I am willing to become a vengeful spirit for eternity. Let those who harmed me pay their debt in blood!

At the same time, inside Yang Ping palace.

"Your Highness seems extremely spirited today," Jiang Susu smiled gently.

The newly-crowned Emperor lifted his eyes to gaze at the lady at the opposite of him. Her majestic phoenix crown and red cape coupled with her refined face made her seem unlike a mortal; she resembled a fairy from the Nine Heavens. Jiang Quan’s youngest daughter was truly absolutely exquisite.

"There is still no news from Jiang Ruan?" He asked suddenly with a low voice.

Jiang Susu’s face darkened. "No, I believe that elder sister has taken Pei’er with her and escaped. Indeed, she has exhausted herself these past few years. However, regardless of the situation, she should not have doubted Your Highness..."

The newly-crowned Emperor thought about Jiang Ruan. Yet he realized that no matter how hard he tried to recall Jiang Ruan, she remained a blurry shadow in his memory. With her tarnished reputation, she could only be at best, a lady with good looks. He was marrying for the immense power backing the Jiang family, so there was no difference between Jiang Ruan and Jiang Susu. Since Jiang Ruan had been the previous Emperor’s woman, he definitely would not marry her.

Although Jiang Ruan was now an abandoned chess piece, he still hesitated slightly. Many times, he had overcome many critical circumstances with the help of Jiang Ruan in the past few years. Indeed, she had helped him quite a bit. But, why had she escaped from prison first without waiting for him to come to a decision?

He did not like the feeling of losing control.

The new Emperor tutted coldly, "Ungrateful thing. The time has come. Let us go."

Jiang Susu curtseyed and placed her hand within the man’s palm.

A new emperor ascended the throne in the eighteenth year of Xuan De, crowning Miss Jiang personally as the Empress and tying an eternal knot with her.

Translated by togekiss

TLCed by Draygan and Tranzgeek and Yang Yang (XD)

Edited by Draygan and Anks

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