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Chapter 11: Racecourse
There was a horse racecourse in the city suburbs reserved for the use of the imperial house and nobility. The officials on duty here greatly anticipated young nobility coming here to race horses as they would receive great rewards each time.
So when they heard that the young masters and mistresses of the Sima Family were inviting others to race horses, they were so happy they started preparing several days in advance. They washed all the horses in the stables even though the nobility would mostly bring their own horses. It was better to be prepared.
This racecourse belonged to the Office of the Imperial Horseman, but the highest official here was just a minor eighth grade official. In front of the sons of nobility, he didn’t even have the daring to raise his head.
In the morning, before the sky was even bright, Steward Zhao climbed out of bed, and patrolled the racecourse with others before feeling reassured.
Early in the morning, the nobility came in small groups with their horses, each of them with guards skilled in riding and shooting. They were loudly arrogant and full of spirit, making Steward Zhao and the others who were standing in the corner feel admiration and fear.
The first to arrive were the hosts of this gathering, the Sima Family. The young juniors of the Sima Family were handsome and beautiful, dressed in grand clothing and beautiful jewelry that made countless people feel ashamed.
The next to arrive were people from not especially prestigious families. These people were extremely polite and courteous to the Sima Family, but the Sima Family treated them rather ordinarily.
Just as it was about to be nine o’clock, some young girls came in together. The soft hoof beats attracted attention from many people who looked in their direction.
When they saw that there were people from the Gu, Yang, and Zhang families, some young people got off their horses, and gave friendly smiles to the incomers. These people were mostly ones from families on good terms with the three families, or wanted to be on good terms with their families.
The Yang Family was the paternal family of Gu Ru Jiu’s maternal grandmother and the Zhang Family was the husband’s family of her sister. So no one was surprised when she arrived with the girls from these two families.
On horseback, Sima Ling hesitated for a moment. Then she gently pulled the reins, urging her horse to walk a few steps in Gu Ru Jiu’s direction. “You finally arrived. We were just talking about you right now.”
“I would not bear to miss an invitation from Elder Sister Sima.” Gu Ru Jiu briskly dismounted from her horse. She looked at Sima Ling with laughter in her eyes.
Sima Ling stilled slightly and then also dismounted. Then she went forward to lightly grip Gu Ru Jiu’s hands and said with a faint smile, “We have not met for many days. I have not yet congratulated you.”
“That is not anything major that needs so many people to move.” Gu Ru Jiu blushed slightly in embarrassment.
Sima Ling smiled and did not mention Gu Ru Jiu becoming a county mistress.
Just a young little girl. Would the emperor want someone like this?
Sweeping a look at the baby fat on Gu Ru Jiu’s face, Sima Ling lightened her grip on Gu Ru Jiu’s wrist. “Since you are here, have a fun time. There are many people today and it will be lively.” As she spoke, Sima Ling released Gu Ru Jiu’s hand, smiled and exchanged a few words with Gu Ru Jiu before turning to greet everyone else.
Yang Xi Xue and Zhang Yu Qin saw this and understood. Seeing Gu Ru Jiu still smiling, they knew she definitely had not guessed Sima Ling’s thoughts. They sighed helplessly. After the three walked into a corner, Yang Xi Xue spoke. “Jiu Jiu, be careful of the girls from the Sima Family.”
“Ah?” Gu Ru Jiu looked in surprise at Yang Xi Xue. Did she look so easy to fool?
But Yang Xi Xue saw her like this and thought she did not know the intentions of the Sima Family. She whispered, “The Sima Family has thoughts of having their daughter marry into the imperial family. Uncle is the emperor’s teacher, and I worry they will use you.”
It was no wonder that Yang Xi Xue was so worried. Gu Ru Jiu’s face was really deceptive. Anyone who saw her would think that she was a harmless little white bunny. They would not want Gu Ru Jiu to be stained by the darkness, but also worried that she would be harmed out of ignorance. So as Gu Ru Jiu’s elder cousin, Yang Xi Xue worried that her cousin would be bullied or be led astray by others. Her heart was very burdened.
“Sister Yang is correct.” Zhang Yu Qin was Zhang Shao’s sister. Before Gu Pan Qi had married into the Zhang Family, she and Gu Ru Jiu had been good friends. She also worried that Gu Ru Jiu would be fooled by Sima Ling and hurriedly nodded in agreement with Yang Xi Xue’s words. “The Holy One is already fourteen and will have his marriage in a few years. The Sima Family and the Li Family are privately worried for the Holy One concerning the empress’ position. Later, no matter what requests they have, do not agree.”
Zhang Yu Qin’s words were relatively subtle. In more honest words, the Li Family and the Sima Family were fighting over the position of empress.
Seeing the two look at her as though she was a naive young girl, Gu Ru Jiu nodded and said, “Do not worry. I will be careful.”
Seeing Gu Ru Jiu so confident, Zhang Yu Qin and Yang Xi Xue exchanged a look and saw the worry in each other’s eyes.
The Li Family’s members were the last to arrive, but from how close the Sima and Li family members looked, who could see the two families were fighting over the position of empress?
Just like the Sima Family, after the Li family members greeted the Sima family members, Li Chu Rou walked towards Gu Ru Jiu and said a few words before leaving.
“It seems they all want you to say good things in front of the empress.” Yang Xi Xue’s tone was slightly disdainful. She felt that even the noblest of aristocratic families were just so and nothing more when facing their interests. She appeared slightly cold. Her childhood longing for the aristocratic families had long disappeared.
Once one saw the reality of the essence, one would find that top aristocratic families or new nobility, regardless of their conduct and speech, were the same in their pursuit of interests.
Sima Ling was not in a good mood because Li Chu Rou’s attire today had stolen a lot of her limelight. In terms of appearance, she was not any less than Li Chu Rou, but Li Chu Rou had a better figure. Who in the world, regardless of gender, did not care about their appearance or wanted to compete?
“Elder Sister.” Sima Xing noticed that Sima Ling’s smile was slightly stiff. She turned around and gently touched the back of Sima Ling’s hand.
Sima Ling refocused, and her smile once again grew perfect. She suggested for everyone to race horses, and admire the flora along the way.
Everyone had come for horse-racing to start with, so no one refused Sima Ling’s suggestion. The men and women surrounding Li Chu Rou all scattered.
Seeing everyone around her all leave, Li Chu Rou’s expression did not change at all. She only nodded slightly at Sima Ling and gave a perfect smile.
Sima Ling returned a flawless smile and said in a gentle tone, “Younger Sister Li’s riding attire is beautiful today.”
Li Chu Rou smiled gently and said, “Thank you for your praise.” Then she jumped onto her horse, swung her riding crop and passed by Sima Ling’s side.
Sima Ling looked calmly at her back. She took the riding crop that a guard handed her and also briskly mounted her horse. Just as she was about to swing her riding crop, she saw a white horse slowly walk over. On the back of the horse was Gu Ru Jiu.
This was a short mare who looked extremely gentle. Gu Ru Jiu looked like an innocent child sitting on top of this horse.
While Sima Ling did not think highly of second-tier aristocratic families like the Gu Family, when she saw Gu Ru Jiu’s face, she could not muster up any feelings of dislike. If the other smiled at her, she felt that she didn’t know how much mental power she needed to decide to scheme against a girl like this.
“There are many people in the race course. Miss Gu, be careful. Everyone has come together for fun—do not care too much about winning,” Sima Ling said to Gu Ru Jiu before leaving so quickly Gu Ru Jiu had no time to state her thanks.
Gu Ru Jiu looked at the other’s moving back. She couldn’t help but touch her white face. Did she really look so worrisome that even the miss of the Sima Family couldn’t help but worry for her?