This chapter has been brought to you by me, and Adnana.
Chapter 2 The Emperor’s Teacher
With the death of the previous emperor, from the officials and nobility down to the hawkers and servants of the capital, they had to mourn for twenty-seven days and not hold marriages for half a year to show their respect for the emperor.
The aristocratic families and the nobility that liked to enjoy themselves could only pause their usual entertainment. They would eat meat behind their closed doors, but when they were in public, they were dressed in rough hemp clothes and showed sorrowful expressions.
The previous emperor’s funeral was held over twenty-one days in the palace. In the end, his burial title was “Chun”1. Among the trumpets, as the officials sobbed, he was buried in the imperial tomb.
The new emperor was young and did not know how to govern. Zhou shi, who had been promoted to empress dowager, started to accompany the young emperor in his governance. She also taught him along with several tutors. The child emperor was very obedient, filial and respectful to Empress Dowager Zhou. Soon, the two received the glorious reputation of “benevolent mother and filial son” from the officials of the Feng Dynasty.
As the young second miss of the Ningping Count Residence, Gu Ru Jiu did not hear much about matters of government. She only heard her two brothers mention that the new emperor was not very healthy and not much else.
In truth, this was normal. The new emperor was young and had no powerful faction supporting him. The power to speak in court was in the hands of Empress Dowager Zhou. So this new emperor did not appear very important. This could be concluded from how often her father and brothers mentioned the new emperor and Empress Dowager Zhou respectively.
A not very healthy child emperor. It was hard to say whether he would survive until the time he could govern alone. Who would be in a hurry to express loyalty to him right now? The aristocratic families of the capital were usually able to hold their composure and wouldn’t place bets so easily. This was also the reason why, when the dynasties changed, the aristocratic families could still last.
Because of the mourning period for the previous emperor, this year was quite boring. Gu Ru Jiu could not get together and play with her close friends. This was a great regret.
From the age when the daughters of aristocratic families were taught to read, they had to learn many things. In addition to shooting, poetry, painting, genealogy and music, they could not lack appearance and style of conversation.
Compared to her life at present, Gu Ru Jiu felt that she had been very unrefined in her previous life. Due to this, she had respect for the women of aristocratic families who had many skills.
“Miss, Master and Mistress invite you to the main yard for the meal.” Bao Lu spoke with a smile after Gu Ru Jiu finished writing the last character. “Miss’ calligraphy is growing better.”
“You and the others say this every day but I do not see it.” Gu Ru Jiu put down the brush. She felt her calligraphy was all right but lacked style. Other transmigrating girls were skilled at singing, poetry, and instruments. She was dragging down her fellow transmigrators.
Mu Xiang and Qiu Luo came up to help her clean up her table. Qiu Luo comforted her, “Miss, how old are you? Us servants do not understand calligraphy, but even Master says your characters have spirit. It really is good.”
The other personal servant girls laughed and agreed. Even the lowest-ranking servant girl, holding a copper basin for Gu Ru Jiu to wash her hands, nodded emphatically.
Gu Ru Jiu allowed them to soothe her and smiled as she walked toward the main yard with her four personal servant girls. Entering the main yard, she saw the family present. She went up to bow to her parents, brothers and sisters-in-law before sitting down next to Yang shi. “Daddy and Brothers all have happy expressions. Has something good happened?”
“It is a good thing.” Gu Chang Ling caressed his relatively short beard. “In a few more days, the emperor wants to reward the subjects who have merit. Our family is fortunate to be valued by the emperor and will receive some awards.”
Gu Ru Jiu knew that a reward that could cause her father to show joy would not be any gold, silver or pearls. It could only be a noble title of substance or an official position.
The Gu Family was barely considered a second-tier aristocratic family. No important people had come from the family in the last two generations. Even Father’s first-rank count title had been elevated from a third-rank count after Zhou shi entered the palace and his paintings came to the attention of the emperor.
Right now, Empress Dowager Zhou held power. It was possible for her to take care of her paternal family. But in terms of relation, that would be the Zhou Family. What did the Gu Family have to do with this?
Gu Ru Jiu could not understand and was too lazy to do so. With her soft chubby face, she showed a sweet smile to her father. “Daddy, tell me what the emperor is going to reward us?”
If the two sons were unable to hold their composure like this, Gu Chang Ling would have lectured them. But the one who spoke was his favourite daughter. Facing his daughter’s clear eyes, he did not tease. He said with an unconscious smile, “Today, when this father was greeting the empress dowager, the empress wished for this father to become the emperor’s tutor to teach him painting and calligraphy, and become a second-rank marquis.”
Gu Chang Ling’s painting and calligraphy was highly regarded among the scholars, especially his calligraphy. Even the famed scholars of the Feng Dynasty praised it as “rare style, like coiling dragons and flying phoenixes.” Due to this, in the Gu Clan, their branch in the capital was the most respected and revered.
“Really?” Gu Ru Jiu’s eyes immediately turned into half-moons. “This is great. When the emperor can govern on his own, you will be able to get a ducal title.”
“This is good but also bad.” Yang shi sighed. “Husband, have you seen the emperor?” They could not blame her for pouring cold water at this time. Her husband was really too innocent and unaffected, born an optimist. Among the four children, only her youngest daughter had his personality. If father and daughter continued to give free rein to their imagination like this, the Gu Family would become one of the first-tier aristocratic families in Jing tomorrow.
Empress Dowager Zhou and the emperor were not biological mother and son. The emperor was young and sickly. This emperor’s tutor position looked glorious, but she feared it would not be so glorious on the inside.
“How would I not have? In the past, I just saw him a few times during court, and we only talked privately today.” Gu Chang Ling said with a complimentary expression, “While the emperor is young, his speech and bearing are extremely elegant. His appearance is like jade and the moon, so people will forget the mortal world when they see him. He is also pleasing to talk to.”
“The emperor is very good-looking?” Gu Ru Jiu heard the words about jade and the moon, and became alert. She asked, “He really is that handsome?”
“Naturally. Even more importantly, the emperor is an extremely polite and compassionate child. The emperor dowager has raised him well.” Gu Chang Ling said emotionally, “Pity that Princess Consort Cheng died so early. Otherwise, the emperor would be even more stunning.”
The emperor’s birth mother came from the Sima Clan. The Sima Clan was one of the first-tier aristocratic families, whose members were usually respected and emulated by others.
Yang shi looked depressedly at her husband and daughter, those of the “appearance faction”, happily discussing the young emperor’s appearance and presence. Fortunately, the other three children were not as innocent as their father. Otherwise, her heart would break from worry.
“Madam, no need to be so worried. The matter has already been decided, and there is no benefit to thinking more.” Gu Chang Ling, who had been chatting with his daughter, said to Yang shi, “Also, I am only teaching the emperor painting and calligraphy. There is nothing to worry about.”
Yang shi stilled. She glanced at her husband and then laughed. She didn’t know if he really was innocent or if he knew. While he had appeared innocent and unaffected in these past years, whether by the heavens or coincidence, their branch achieved increasingly better living over the years.
Gu Zhi Yu and his younger brother Gu Cun Jing silently listened as Father and Younger Sister moved from the emperor’s appearance to the pastry shop on Eastern Street. Gu Cun Jing said painstakingly, “Mother, when will the meal start?”
Yang shi helplessly had someone go send for the food. She turned and said to Gu Chang Ling, “Wash your hands and eat. Our daughter is young—do not speak of this to her.” How would it look to have him speak to his young daughter about how handsome a youth was?
Gu Chang Ling also realized this and coughed dryly. He forcibly changed topics. “Jiu Jiu, how has your writing been recently?”
Gu Ru Jiu looked silently at Gu Chang Ling. Gu Chang Ling’s heart softened at his daughter’s gaze and he said with a smile, “Eat, eat.”
While the Gu Family took great care in public, when they were behind closed doors, they did not hold to such troublesome etiquette. Yang shi was usually gentle and did not like to be the evil mother-in-law. So the two daughters-in-law could be seated at the table and did not have to follow unnecessary etiquette.
After the noon meal, Gu Chang Ling suddenly said, “Right, I forgot to mention something. When I was leaving the palace today, Empress Dowager mentioned Jiu Jiu. She said that she hasn’t seen Jiu Jiu for many years and wants her to visit the palace.”
“Did the empress dowager say which day?” Yang shi was not surprised at hearing this and asked.
“She did not say. It should be in the next few days. Prepare the things Jiu Jiu needs to enter the palace. When the empress dowager makes her summons, we will not be in such a panic.” After Gu Chang Ling said this, he said to Gu Ru Jiu, “The empress dowager is a gentle elder. You do not have to be nervous. Just be like you usually are when you are in the palace.”
Gu Ru Jiu blinked her eyes at her father. Did he mean that their family did not have to curry favour with the empress dowager?
Seeing what his daughter was thinking, Gu Chang Ling blinked as well and gave an expression of unspoken mutual understanding.
So Gu Ru Jiu understood that her father had a good outlook on the young emperor. There were still misgivings so he was not in a hurry to take sides, but he would not have the emperor misunderstand him.
After learning the family’s position, Gu Ru Jiu was reassured. She had originally been slightly worried that her family, due to the connections of the past generation, would become firm supporters of the empress dowager. Then it would be troublesome.
It wasn’t that she understood governance so well, but in the histories she had learned in her past life, she had seen too many bloody cases caused by taking the wrong side.
The blood of history told everyone a truth—one should not pursue momentary glory. Only the correct path led to long-lasting prosperity.
When she thought of this, Gu Ru Jiu couldn’t help but think that, if the young emperor was really as good as her father described, it would be better if he lived longer.
Gu Chang Ling’s expectations were correct. After two days, Empress Dowager Zhou sent two fifth-rank female palace officials to welcome Gu Ru Jiu into the palace.
The carriage the empress dowager had arranged for Gu Ru Jiu was not an ordinary carriage but one for a county mistress. No one knew if the empress dowager wanted to honor her or if there was deeper meaning.
Translator Ramblings: The moral of this chapter is – appearances is everything, just keep everything out of sight.
- Chun can mean good, pure, or simple. ↩