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Chapter 9: County Mistress
Yang shi entered her youngest daughter’s courtyard. Seeing the servants measured and orderly, she nodded in satisfaction.
Ever since her daughter turned eight, she lived in a courtyard alone. Most of the servants were managed by her daughter alone. She would occasionally come to inspect but did not interfere much.
“Mother?” Gu Ru Jiu had just finished bathing, and was sitting by the window with her servant girls drying her hair. When she saw Yang shi enter, she stood up to welcome her mother.
“So late, and you just bathed?” Yang shi took over the cotton cloth in Qiu Luo’s hand and continued to dry Gu Ru Jiu’s hair. “It is cold at night—careful not to get a headache.”
“I think it is too hot.” Gu Ru Jiu cheerfully sat and allowed Yang shi to lecture her and dry her hair.
“No matter how hot it is, it is night.” Yang shi changed for a softer cloth to avoid damaging the hair. “Tomorrow, your father will take you into the palace to see the empress dowager and the emperor. I cannot accompany you to face the Holy One, so I have to tell you some things.”
Bao Lu and the other personal servants retreated with soft footsteps to leave mother and daughter in the room.
“After this event, the emperor will take the chance to grasp the primary power in court. Originally, I was worried that your aunt and the emperor will be in conflict, but it appears I have over-thought. If Empress Dowager Zhou had wanted to be at odds with the emperor, then even if the notice could have been formally announced, the contents would not have been so beneficial to the emperor.
The notice stated that the forefathers had visited the dream of the emperor, saying that something major was happening in Jing, but did not specify it would be a movement of the earth. If the earth did not move, then having a “major event” happen around Jing would not be difficult, so the emperor would not be forced into dire straits.
If Empress Dowager Zhou had any intentions of taking power, she could have used this matter to turn the emperor into a puppet emperor. But Empress Dowager Zhou had not done this, but did all she could to elevate the emperor, wanting to raise him to become a true wise ruler.
“After the emperor takes power in court, there will be many people in court who want to fawn and gain his favor.” Yang shi caressed her daughter’s hair. After confirming it was dry, she put down the cloth. “The emperor’s birth mother is from the Sima Clan. The Sima Family was greatly impacted by the movement of the earth this time. Many of their antiques were destroyed, and even their precious books were damaged by the heavy rain on the second day.” When she said this, Yang shi‘s gaze held a complicated amusement. “After this matter, the Sima Family will bow their heads to the emperor. The third branch’s members are still preparing to enter court as officials. If they do not bow their heads to the emperor, how can they achieve an elevated position in the future?”
Gu Ru Jiu was puzzled. Wasn’t the reason the aristocratic families were so confident facing the imperial family because they controlled many things that the poor could not learn? Wasn’t the court filled with aristocratic family members that helped each other? Why did her mother’s description not sound as glorious as she had imagined?
“The present aristocratic families are not the ones of several centuries ago.” Yang shi sighed and did not explain this to her daughter. She said, “I am telling you this not to gossip about the Sima Family, but so that you understand the present situation, and are aware.”
Gu Ru Jiu blinked her big eyes at Yang shi.
Yang shi saw her daughter like this and laughed helplessly. “Never mind, you are young; you do not have to worry about such things.”
The Sima Family had two daughters not yet of age to marry but of similar age to the emperor. She feared that the Sima Family would have thoughts of marrying with the imperial family.
She looked at her muddled daughter. It was best not to let her daughter know of such horrible matters.
Mother and daughter spoke for a while more. Yang shi saw that it was late, and left Gu Ru Jiu’s courtyard after a few words, worried that she would affect her daughter’s rest.
In her bed with silky cool blankets, Gu Ru Jiu thought this young emperor seemed to have the property that “anyone at odds with him would have misfortune.” The Sima Family was the living example.
Next morning, Gu Ru Jiu followed her daddy Gu Chang Ling into the palace. However, this time they did not go to Kangquan Palace, but to the emperor’s residence, the Qiankun Palace.
Qiankun meant the heavens and earth, the centre of the universe. The emperor’s residence at Qiankun was to set the world. From the name of the palace, it was possible to see the ambitions the founding emperor of the Feng Dynasty had more than a century ago.
Bai Xian was already waiting outside Purple Imperial Hall in Qiankun Palace. He saw Marquis Gu coming from afar with a young girl and squeezed out a smile. When Gu Chang Ling came close, he took a few steps forward. “Greetings, Marquis Gu. Greetings, Young Female Master. The emperor is waiting inside the hall.”
“Thank you,” Gu Chang Ling said politely to Bai Xian.
Gu Ru Jiu did not have her own title, but her father was a marquis. So Bai Xian calling her “female young master” was the most appropriate. Feeling the friendliness the other gave off, Gu Ru Jiu stopped walking and smiled at Bai Xian.
In the present, people were mostly dismissive of the eunuch officials. The aristocratic families continued to maintain the pride carved in their bones and did not care about people like the eunuchs. People as polite as Gu Chang Ling were rare.
So when Gu Ru Jiu smiled brightly at Bai Xian, he, who was extremely experienced, couldn’t help but still. When he woke up, this female young master had followed behind Marquis Gu through the hall doors. When stepping over the door sill, Marquis Gu turned to hold the female young master’s hand and only released her hand after she crossed.
Father and daughter moved naturally and in unison, as though this had happened many times before.
Just as the rumours said, this was a favoured young girl. Bai Xian couldn’t help but think of the Holy One. The Holy One’s days in the prince residence was the difference between heaven and earth compared to this female young master.
The female official of Purple Imperial Hall guided the pair into the inner hall. Gu Ru Jiu saw a handsome youth sitting at the front. He wore a deep purple soft satin robe with a noble aura.
“This subject-daughter greets the Holy One.” For her first formal meeting with the emperor, Gu Ru Jiu bent her right leg back, bending her head and bowing, her hands held in front of her chest.
“Teacher and Junior Sister do not have to be so polite.” Jin Yang had never before met a daughter of a court official by himself. While the girl’s father was also in the hall, he still had some reserve other people could not easily detect. Calling Gu Ru Jiu his junior sister was something he had thought deeply about.
Marquis Gu was his respected teacher, and so the daughter of his teacher was naturally his junior fellow student. So it was all right he called her so in private.
Hearing the emperor call his daughter “Junior Sister’, Gu Chang Ling blinked and spoke up—”Emperor, you cannot do so.”
“Zhen knows Teacher’s apprehensions, but no one would know about a private appellation.” Jin Yang smiled and waved for the pair to sit down. As he talked to Gu Chang Ling, he would occasionally peek out of the corner of his eye at the female young master sitting below Marquis Gu.
“Cough.” Detecting the young emperor’s curious gaze towards his daughter, Gu Chang Ling coughed. He pulled back the emperor’s attention. “Emperor, you summoned this subject and daughter today…”
“It was not for anything major, but Zhen heard that the female young master frequently keeps Mother-Emperor company and makes her happy, so Zhen wanted to state thanks to the young female master today while Teacher is present.” Jin Yang carefully glanced at Gu Ru Jiu. Teacher Gu’s daughter was so adorable, white and soft like a small bunny people would want to hold.
“This subject cannot accept thanks from the Holy One. The empress dowager is this subject’s aunt and a junior being filial to an elder is proper.” Gu Ru Jiu stood up and smiled innocently and harmlessly at Jin Yang.
Jin Yang’s ears turned red, and he moved his gaze aside. He instinctively touched the jade pendant hanging from his waist and said, “Then you should come into the palace more often to keep Mother-Empress company.” After saying this, Jin Yang regretted it slightly. His words had been slightly tense. Would Junior Sister Gu, this soft and adorable little girl, misunderstand and think that he was displeased with her?
Gu Ru Jiu saw the beautiful youth hold the jade pendant and couldn’t help but sigh inside. Such a beautiful youth. Just looking at this face, she could eat another bowl of rice every day.
“You have met already?” Empress Dowager Zhou walked in at this time. She and the emperor had interacted more, so she immediately saw his unease at a glance. She turned and saw Jiu Jiu’s expression was fine, and knew that the emperor was embarrassed in front of the young girl. So she said, “Emperor, since you are allowing Jiu Jiu to keep me company in the palace, you should give her a good excuse.”
Yes, she was demanding so simply and crudely a title for this girl she liked.
“Mother-Empress is correct. The female young master of Teacher Gu’s family should be respected by a title.” Jin Yang nodded. “But the female young master is too young, so she will temporarily be a county mistress, with an allowance of five hundred households. When you come of age, Zhen will reward you more.”
While he had intentions of giving the empress dowager and Teacher Gu face, Teacher Gu was only a marquis right now, and this female young master was just ten years old. A county mistress title was already a great reward, and a higher title would not be appropriate. So he especially added five hundred households for an allowance rather than having her just have an empty title with nothing attached to it.
So her nickname was Jiu Jiu. This was as adorable as her.
When she married her husband in the future, he would confer an additional title to her and that would be appropriate.
Gu Ru Jiu, sitting at the side, watched a play of the emperor and the empress dowager arranging a title for her and her father refusing and being afraid to accept. She was slightly dumbstruck. Had today’s meeting with the Holy One been just to ennoble her?
While the county mistress title was only a grade five title and she would not have any lands, the title sounded good. Who would dislike having a title?
In the end, this bestowing a reward drama ended with Gu Chang Ling not being able to refuse and bowing to thank the holy one’s favour.
This was a beautiful scene of the ruler and subject interacting harmoniously.
When the newly titled county mistress Second Miss Gu left the imperial palace in a carriage, she couldn’t help but think, if the young emperor already treated the Gu Family with such trust, she sincerely hoped that he would live to be a century old.
She had no good traits, she was just a practical person.
Translator Ramblings: Empress Dowager Zhou has reached the peak of power and can do what she wants a lot of the time. There’s no emperor or mother in law constraining her power. Her adopted son, the emperor, has to show her respect out of filial piety, and she is regent since he is underage.
Also, as an amendment to my previous chapter explanation about rankings, some things got switched around.
Princess Supreme, Grand Princess, Princess, Commandery Princess, County Princess, Commandery Mistress, Township Princess, County Mistress, and Township Mistress.
County princess actually ranks before commandery mistress despite commandery being a large territory than a county. There’s also apparently neighborhood princess (ranking below townships). Technically speaking, there is a difference between princesses of imperial blood or not (in terms of status) and also if they do receive a stipend — those that do obviously get money and not just a courtesy title, and likely ranks higher in social situations.