Chapter 4: A Beautiful Misunderstanding
The news that the youngest daughter of the Gu Family had entered the palace in a county mistress regulation carriage, and that she was liked by the empress dowager, passed into the ears of many aristocratic families that very day. However, not many people cared about this. In the view of most people, this was the empress dowager drawing in the Gu Family and showing good-will to second-tier aristocratic families.
The Zhou Clan could only be called the dregs of the aristocratic families. In the home of the Zhou Clan, the Ting Prefecture, they might hold great power, but they were nothing in a place like the capital. If they had not raised the fortunate Empress Dowager Zhou, would they have the glory they had now?
The next day, when Gu Chang Ling went into the palace to thank the empress dowager, he hadn’t said many words before the empress dowager slowly said, “Cousin, I like Jiu Jiu greatly.”
Gu Chang Ling’s heart jumped at the words. What did the empress dowager mean?
“What do you think about me having the emperor bestow her a county mistress title, with an allowance of three hundred households?”
“My young daughter has no talent, virtue or merit—she cannot accept such grace.” Gu Chang Ling was not very familiar with this cousin of his. When the other’s way of thinking was on a completely different level than his, he was extremely confused. Why was his daughter being inexplicably given a title?
“So you have to work hard.” The empress dowager glared exasperatedly at Gu Chang Ling. “You are one of the emperor’s teachers now. Teach the emperor well, and this way, I have reason to reward the girl.”
Reward due to merit and to make the officials feel she was not partial to the Gu Family, she would only title their daughter. Such a good reason.
Gu Chang Ling glanced at the empress dowager. Seeing the other’s anticipation and determination, he was silent for a moment. He could only say, “This subject is the emperor’s teacher, and teaching the emperor is the subject’s duty.”
“Jiu Jiu said that you, as her father, are usually the most casual and open-minded. Why do I see that you are the same as others—someone who doesn’t know to be flexible?” The empress dowager frowned and said unreasonably, “I do not care. Perform well so that Jiu Jiu’s title can be bestowed. That way, she will have more face when she interacts with the girls of the capital.”
After this, she waved a hand disdainfully towards this “unambitious father.” “Go teach the emperor now, and perform well.”
With the empress dowager’s words, even though this hour was not Gu Chang Ling’s class, he could only walk with heavy feet towards Qiankun Palace.
After a few steps, he thought differently. Even the empress dowager liked his daughter so much. So how good was his daughter? He should be proud as a father that his child was so likable.
Therefore, Gu Chang Ling became happy again. His steps as he walked became light. He headed towards Qiankun palace as though he was filled with hope and anticipation towards the emperor within.
When Gu Chang Ling entered the study, the prime minister Zhang Zhong Han was teaching the emperor. Seeing him come in, Zhang Zhong Han stopped.
“Teacher Gu.” Jin Yang saw Gu Chang Ling enter. He put down the book in his hand and stood to give the bow of a student towards Gu Chang Ling
“Emperor.” Gu Chang Ling accepted the greeting and returned the bow of a subject to Jin Yang. Then he exchanged bows with Zhang Zhong Han. “Sorry for the disturbance.”
“Brother Zhou Zhi has come at the perfect time. I have just finished today’s class with the Emperor.” Zhang Zhong Han said in a warm voice, “You are also concerned with the emperor’s education. How is that a disturbance?”
Gu Chang Ling brushed it aside. Seeing Zhang Zhong Han say a few words to the emperor and then leave the study, he shook his head inside. As the prime minister of a country, Zhang Zhong Han was still a bit soft. If it was him, he would not leave at this time. He would remain here and continue to teach the emperor.
He could not see anything from Jin Yang’s face. Gu Chang Ling had him copy the calligraphy of famed scholars. He obediently complied with no questions, with a serious expression and no hint of slacking off.
“People frequently like to view people through their writing. But they do not know that those skilled in calligraphy can use calligraphy to disguise their emotions. As an emperor, you do not have to become unfathomable, but you cannot have people feel you have fickle emotions.” After the emperor practised for an hour, during the resting period, Gu Chang Ling put two pages in front of the emperor. He said in a casual tone, “Emperor, do you feel you can see this subject’s personality from these two words?”
Jin Yang looked over. On the pages, he saw the character for “humane” written on the left, and “power” on the right. The “humane” was soft and gentle. The “power” character was sharp. There was no similarity to be seen.
Jin Yang looked silently at the two characters and then at Gu Chang Ling who was holding a teacup with a calm expression. He stood up and bowed deeply to Gu Chang Ling with a grave expression. “Teacher, thank you for your teachings.”
Gu Chang Ling put down the teacup and rose to hold the emperor’s hand. He said with a smile, “Emperor, you do not have to be like this. This subject believes you can do the best.”
After showing off like this, the emperor would know how good his calligraphy was and would learn calligraphy and painting from him in the future.
Jin Yang saw Gu Chang Ling’s eyes were filled with trust towards him. He was slightly moved inside. He had not thought that the Count of Ningping had such a high opinion of him. Even he was not sure right now he could be a good emperor.
He knew what those aristocratic families and the nobility thought of him. Some of the teachers that the empress dowager had arranged for him were exceptionally diligent while others only had perfunctory respect. He saw clearly but he did not show it.
The Count of Ningping, who had just arrived to teach him, didn’t just teach him calligraphy but reminded him of one’s conduct as an emperor without any of the fawning of someone who wanted to gain favour. This made him feel positive.
Once someone was willing to settle down and study, and the other was willing to show his skills and teach, they complemented each other well. After two hours, both teacher and student were pleased. Jin Yang even saw Gu Chang Ling to the gates and respectfully called Gu Chang Ling as “Teacher Gu” rather than the Count of Ningping to show his respect.
When Gu Chang Ling returned home that night, he praised the emperor to his wife. He said the emperor respected his teachers, was intelligent and hard-working, and a rare god youth.
His two sons had no opinions about this and only listened silently. Yang shi was used to her husband’s surges of emotion. She did not even listen to the words. Her husband always liked to praise someone excessively to her after returning home. If she remembered each time, wouldn’t her mind burst?
But Gu Ru Jiu, after hearing Gu Chang Ling’s words, couldn’t help but think, was this emperor really a youth of good conduct?
Her father was happy-go-lucky, but in her memory, those people that her father had complimented were all doing well right now. Their reputations in court were good, and two of them had even become famed scholars.
In reality, she felt the court should give her father the title of “auspicious mouth.”
Five days later, Gu Chang Ling being elevated to the Marquis of Ningping was formally decreed. Accompanying the decree were rewards from Empress Dowager Zhou and the emperor. There were all kinds of decorations, silk and brocade fabrics that attracted attention.
But later, as more imperial decrees were sent to the other residences, the new marquis Gu Chang Ling was not so eye-catching.
All of Jing was brimming with good cheer over the rewards from the new emperor. The hint of gloominess from the previous emperor’s death disappeared. This caused everyone to realize that the Feng Dynasty had changed masters.
They were just not sure temporarily whether this master was a woman or a young emperor that would grow up.
Half a year had passed, and the common people could hold their funerals and weddings. There were no rumors of conflict over power between the empress dowager and the emperor. The capital once again became lively and prosperous.
The young masters and misses once again started their gatherings. Riding, hunting, poetry and painting viewings, sight-seeing, ball games, pitch pot. They would play whatever was popular and novel.
The most recent news in Jing was that the Sima Family’s third branch was coming to Jing.
As a first-tier aristocratic family, the social relationships of the Sima Family were the focus of much attention. Right now, the first and second branches of the Sima Family were residing in Jing. So the third branch was coming to Jing in order to rely on them.
It was known long ago that the old master of the Sima third branch liked to play, and did not like an official’s career. For his descendants’ future, he had to enter Jing to rely on the first and second branches. One had to say that power moved people’s hearts.
Translator Ramblings: I switch between Jing and the capital since sometimes, “the capital” sounds weird where Jing sounds like a normal place in a sentence.