The Ugly Prince
Zhang Ping gritted his teeth painfully as he lied on the plank bed.
His body stopped him from daring to move, yet at the same time, he couldn't.
His four limbs had been tied to each post of the bed and his limited supply of saliva (which was his only intake these last few days) had been dedicated to moisturizing his lips.
Furthermore, the tiny straw that had been stuck within his 'wound' rubbed against it, creating the worst sort of pain imaginable.
But Zhang Ping couldn't suffer the injury without inserting it, or else the wound would close and he would have to bear these 3 days again.
Though there was good news, however, and it was that today was his last day which meant that tomorrow, he could finally escape the room that had accumulated this horrible stench.
Furthermore, his wound had healed quite well, and Zhang Ping was told by his castrator that he was certain to survive.
'This was a good thing' He thought, especially as many even within this room hadn't the karma to endure and survive the surgery.
In order to distract himself from the slow ticks of time, he decided to instead think about what sort of work he'd be given.
A sarcastic smile formed at his lips.
Well, it was kind of obvious already.
For new eunuchs such as him who had no care, money or filial piety, it has been proven common for them to be assigned to scrub toilets or refill the night incense.
To summarise, not much good was waiting for him.
Though he couldn't help but fantasize a little:
Maybe the high eunuch would see him to be a sensible man and suit him to the emperor to serve…….
Think about it, It's the emperor!
Not many even know what he looks like.
Maybe he'd live up to the tales of being as eye-pleasing as jade?
And according to countless rumors, the concubines who surrounded the emperor were as beautiful as celestial beings.
Zhang Ping would be able to see them! Every day!
Furthermore, if a noble were to bestow treasures upon him, he and his family wouldn't have to worry about feeding another mouth or sewing another tattered cloak their whole life.
Zhang Ping couldn't hold back the smile that formed at his lips as he thought of his family.
And despite it being horribly ugly, it was still nevertheless a smile.
He had volunteered to enter the palace as an eunuch.
His mother and father had nearly lost their wits when they learnt that he had sold himself as one and pulled him along to the chase of finding the comprador he signed his agreement to.
After offering to return the silver, the family was replied with a mere snort as the comprador showed the signed letters of black and white that contracted Zhang Ping to the palace.
“Do you take this for a joke?”
Was the final few words shared inside the ruckus.
Though they did not give up however and went to seek the chief of the village who flatly refused in the face of the palace's power.
“We ordinary commoners cannot afford to provoke the palace.
It's a shame but if you had to blame someone, blame your son.
He was the one after all, who pressed his fingerprints onto the agreement faster than anyone else could refuse or do.”
Just as Zhang Ping's parents were planning how to run away with the rest, he finally stood up, “Father, mother, being an eunuch isn't all that bad.
Hasn't one of you even told me about the story around castrating the champion in the past? Besides, eunuchs can also be considered officials.
Perhaps your son might even serve the emperor in the future? You may not have to worry about fourth brother, fifth brother or even our nephew's bride money.
And father? Didn't you boast about the many secret techniques of martial arts hidden between the shelves of the palace library? I'm going to enter the palace! I may be able to find a chance to peek through some of them.”
His father's mouth lay agape as his words were stuck, still deep within his throat.
The secrets of the martial arts hidden away had just been lies to excuse himself from the Shaolin Temple he had to attend to every single moment of the day and yet…!
A fool is still a fool and things that have been set cannot be changed.
The pair did indeed need the twenty silvers to save their families lives though both knew the corruption the palace could contain.
The rules and instructions of it layered upon thousands yet it too benefited off the sacrifices of others as a dog eat dog world.
How could their naïve son cope with such an environment? He might even treat it as a second FangDing village.
When they were bidding him farewell, the whole family escorted him to the borders of the village.
Both of his palms occupied his father or his mother's hands who nagged him constantly to the warnings he would soon forget, and his eldest brother and wife who failed to enter the barrier set by the parents hurriedly cried “Once you're released from the palace, we'll surely keep you till you've grown old and weak!”
His younger brothers were too ignorant to completely understand the situation yet still made loud clattering noises behind them.
The older one even started to imitate the elder, announcing, ” Once you've been released from the palace, come to me! I'll feed you!”
It was soon replied by an angry kick by the eldest brother.
Before any intervention was able to be initiated, Zhang Ping was pulled aside by his father who whispered, “Aren't you illiterate? Your mother may have taught you how to recognize and decipher the characters but if you go and misinterpret them then…”
“I won't, father.
I have common sense.” He gave the old man a reassuring smile though it only made the wrinkles on his father's face appear even deeper, “You have common sense? You wouldn't have done such a foolish thing had you really have this thing called 'common sense'.”
“Father, I'm only going to the lose the things that'll be earned back in the future.”
“But, but…alas, it's all your fathers' fault” Zhang Da wiped the drops of tears off his face.
His son may have common sense but he doesn't have that backbone necessary for the man-eating palace.
“Father, there's honestly no need for you to feel responsible.
You, mother and eldest brother have already done your best so it's only natural that it'd be my turn to do so as well.” Zhang Ping sniffled his nose which had started to turn sour.
“Our family has beared so many children too, so you don't have to worry about continuing the family's generation through my blood.” He held back the stuttering and talked with calm fidelity, trying to suppress the emotions that had surfaced through his father's actions.
“An immature brat like you won't understand.
That…to a man is like…” His father dragged his foot to the ground and sighed.
“It's too late to say anything more, what's done has been done.”
Though that had only triggered more tears and sighs from his father, who was pushed gently aside by his mother who patted him on the shoulder.
A painful smile tugged at her lips as she started as well, “We'll visit you in Beijing during these times.
But the responsibility is all on you.
Be careful of everything that you do, get rid of that temper and don't do anything that'll offend anyone.” Her face was contorted like a tiger as she looked up with more determination than she had before, “And don't stick your nose in where it doesn't belong!”
“I understand mother.”
She breathed a helpless sigh.
He understands? To hell he understands.
Despite harboring an honest glint in his looks, he was the most dishonest and worry-inducing child of the family.
Zhang Ping scratched his temples a few times and went to comfort his elder brother again, wondering why he was the one consoling others when he should've been the one who's consoled.
His elder brother was the last to leave only by the urging of the comprador, yet still continued to cry and sigh like his dad.
'The apple never falls far from the tree' was Zhang Ping's last thought before being taken away.
Dry tears stuck to his face as he spent the last day in the darkroom reminiscing on these memories.
Inside swirled the contradicting angst of both expectation and fear which further created fresh tears to run down his face again.
The following day, people had come to pick him away early in the morning.
Zhang Ping had been then placed inside an arranged room that contained several beds with many already sleeping on them, and he too spent some of his time there relishing in the movement and aching of his muscles which had been restrained for 3 days.
A young eunuch approached him, explaining that he was to rest here for three months until all his wounds were healed.
“But during these times, you'll have to learn the proper mannerisms and rules within that of the imperial palace as they pile onto many.
Once you're deemed ready, you'll be bought to the higher eunuchs to be decided for work”
Hearing this, Zhang Ping's raising heartbeat started to slowly reduce.
He had assumed the palace's pay wasn't that bad and it didn't seem like it was as corrupt as what his mother had always depicted it to be.
As his mind calmed, so did the pain and severance of his injury which had recovered quickly over the span of a few weeks.
Once he was able to get out of bed and start walking, he was met with an old eunuch who had come to explain the rules that overlayed the palace.
The senior was quite boring and extremely annoying which spiked the suppressed fatigue of several other eunuchs, though Zhang Ping listened with great focus.
He knew that the experience the old eunuch had dug up through his tireless years were drops of pearls from blood sweat and tears, and that was something he knew he couldn't waste if he wanted to survive in the palace.
Though one particular phrase that the old eunuch kept on repeating endlessly rooted deep within Zhang Ping's mind and that was; When the master is born, the servant is born.
When the master dies, the servant dies.
When the master is glorious, the servant is higher than the normal civilian.
Yet when the master falls, the servant is not even worth a dog.
After that session, Zhang Ping's body was beaten blue with the instructions on kowtowing, questioning, retreating and being able to see the upper body despite kneeling on the ground.
And finally, the day that he'd be decided by the high eunuchs arrived.
His batch included a total of fifteen fresh recruits including him, though there were two who held no nervous complexion.
The others figured out that these two had clung to the thighs of the more powerful eunuchs who had already promised positions for them.
Zhang Ping was of course not among the two and had only an empty palm to offer.
Giving him the privilege of waiting for his destiny to be bestowed whether it'd be good or bad.
Which had contributed to the fear and hope that swirled together messily throughout his veins.
Though the ratio of fear had tipped dramatically once he saw some eunuchs offer up some silver.
It wasn't much but it was enough for the deciders to place them in good positions.
One was sent to the ink department; where he went to learn how to repair and manage its vast expanse of books.
The other had been sent to the drum department; where he'd learn how to 'play' the bell and drum in front of the sacred temple whilst also being instructed on some acrobatic operas techniques.
While the ones who had the 'relations' also fared quite well.
One was assigned to the Shangshan dietary department to learn the arts of food while the other was assigned to the food department for the responsibility of distribution for wine, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, tea, vegetables, melons, fruits, meat and finally poultry.
Creating the twinge of jealousy among practically everyone present.
The younger eunuchs were taken away one by one, and Zhang Ping was quite queasy to see the oldest among them was only seventeen years old.
With only six people left, he felt a sudden stab of anxiety that pushed against his hip…though he kept it under as he adjusted his breathing to suppress it.
Impatiently waiting for the decree the seniors would give him.
The grand eunuch who claimed to be Sun Chen traced the book and stopped at a certain name.
The little one next to Zhang Ping looked up as the man pointed his finger towards him, “Xu Fu right? That is a good name.”
“Many thanks to Grandpa Sun” Xu Fu wasn't old at all and looked to be only about eleven years old, but he definitely wasn't an ignorant fool and immediately bowed in gratitude.
Sun Chen nodded his head in favor, considering the child as quite smart and good-looking.
So where shall he place him?
“Do you have anywhere you want to go?”
Xu-Fu flinched and shook his head at once, “This servant will go where ever grandpa wants me to go”
Sun Chen nodded his head and smiled, satisfied.
“If that's the case, then you might as well join our department.”
Xu Fu was absolutely stunned and instantly kowtowed and kneeled, declaring Sun Chen as his master.
Zhang Ping's eyes turned red.
Sun Chen, the great eunuch was a member of the Imperial Palace department who was responsible for the appointment, punishment, and comprador of all eunuchs in the whole palace.
It was a system that made an eunuch feel faint in his legs, to say the least.
Sun Chen's line of sight finally landed onto Zhang Ping, who lowered his head.
He studied the look within Zhang Ping's eyes and also asked, “You're called Zhang Ping correct? Where do you want to go?”
Zhang Ping was about to utter out that he'd like to go to the ink department though he stopped himself.
Sun Chen was definitely going to compare his attitude to Xu Fu's and then…
“This little one is dumb and therefore wishes Grandpa Sun to decide.”
Sun Chen nodded his head and scanned the book.
His mouth had already opened to decide Zhang Ping's fate.
“It just so happens that there's not enough servants in concubine Xian Fei's residency, and you seem to be quite honest so how about you go there?”
Xian Fei concubine? Zhang Ping hadn't ever expected he would suddenly rise towards serving a royal concubine, yet immediately realised the reality.
Even if he was dreaming, Zhang Ping would have known he would never truly serve the concubine.
It was probably just going to be some tedious work like household chores or refilling incense.
Though a small smile played at his face as little buds of hope bloomed in his heart.
This was his new life so he was bound to accept it sooner or later.
Hello, this is one of my first translations so please forgive me if it doesn't seem too…well…good.
And if there is anything wrong, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me.
By the way, I contacted the original translator though she hasn't replied to my email so I just picked up this project.
So if she (well, I'm wanting to refer to you) sees this and has any problems with it, I'll immediately back down.
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