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Chapter 21: Immoral Rumors
“Miss, it is late. You should rest.” Bao Mei walked next to Sima Xiang and whispered, “If Mistress knows that you slept late, she will feel pain.”
“I know. Do not tell Mother.” Sima Xiang put down the pen in her hand. She looked at what she had written on the paper and frowned slightly.
She had heard His Majesty was especially close to Marquis Gu because he liked calligraphy. She had coincidentally seen County Mistress Gu’s writing previously. Her present calligraphy could not compare to the county mistress’. How could she amaze His Majesty?
County Mistress Gu was more than two years younger than her, but her calligraphy was full of spirit and delicate style. But her calligraphy was too regular and not stylistic enough.
People all said the Sima Family was extremely noble and cared the most about etiquette. But she knew that their third branch was much weaker than the first and second branches. Otherwise, they would not have been forced to move out by the second branch.
The new home was bright and refined, but its location could not compare to the previous residence. In a place like Jing, one’s status was not just based on the size of the place, but also on the location. The third branch, on this point, was not enough.
“Bao Mei, what do you think of County Mistress Gu?” Sima Xiang pulled out a pearl hairpin from her hair and suddenly asked.
“This servant is fortunate to have seen an important person like County Mistress Gu through serving by Miss’s side, but this servant cannot know the other’s character.” Bao Mei softly rubbed Sima Xiang’s head for her. “But she appears to be an easy-going person.”
“Easy-going?” Sima Xiang thought back to the Gu Ru Jiu she met a few days ago. The other had never been angry and wasn’t close to any of the aristocratic misses in Jing, but no one had ever said bad things about her.
Even the misses of the Li and Sima families could not avoid gossip behind their backs. When the other misses mentioned Gu Ru Jiu, this girl that was relatively attention-catching in Jing, most people would praise her. Even though they were skimpy on compliments, they would not say bad things. It would not be easy to accomplish something like this
Maybe there really were this kind of people in the world, born with an innate approachability. They would obtain without even fighting something that others struggled to get.
“Go sleep as well.” Sima Xiang sighed and rubbed her forehead. She stood and walked towards her bed. “A few days ago, the manor sent over some fresh prawns and crabs. Tomorrow morning, I will write a note. Have someone take the note along with the shrimp and crabs to County Mistress Gu.”
Bao Mei stilled slightly and then immediately nodded in acknowledgement.
When Gu Ru Jiu received Sima Xiang’s note, she was slightly surprised. She was even more surprised when she heard the other had given her a basket of shrimps and crabs.
Spring was not a good season for crabs. Had Sima Xiang sent over a basket because she really could not eat it all and wanted someone to share the burden?
Or rather, the news she liked seafood had already spread?
But whose preferences was this Third Miss Sima more concerned about—hers or… the young emperor’s?
She and Sima Xiang had almost no friendship to speak of. In terms of relationships with the misses of the Sima Family, she only talked to Sima Ling. The others were just acquaintances.
“This Third Miss Sima is interesting,” Hu shi said wryly, sitting next to Gu Ru Jiu. “Sister, do you have anything suitable as a return gift? If not, I have some mountain produce you can give to her in return.”
“Since Second Sister-in-law has some, I will not expend the energy to prepare.” Gu Ru Jiu immediately turned with a smile to say to Qiu Luo, “Qiu Luo, go to Second Brother and Second Sister-in-law’s yard. Do not be polite.”
“You have said what the host should say.” Hu shi glared and reached out to pinch Gu Ru Jiu’s face. “Let me see how thick your face is?”
Gu Ru Jiu hurriedly turned her head. After the two played around, Hu shi‘s expression turned back to normal. She said, “Before I came of age, I did not have many interactions with the Sima Family. But the family members will usually think three steps ahead and have well-hidden intentions.”
She looked at the elegant calligraphy on the note that appeared to have been personally written by Sima Xiang. It also carried a faint fragrance, so when someone saw the note, they would think how beautiful the person who wrote this was.
“Thank you, Second Sister-in-law, for the warning. I will remember.” Gu Ru Jiu wrote a return note in front of Hu shi after a moment of thought and then handed it to Hu shi to read.
Hu shi took the note with inky fragrance. After reading it, she couldn’t help but smile. “Sister-in-law, you have such cleverness. It is most appropriate to respond like this.” When she had been eleven years old, she would not have thought of responding so thoroughly.
As expected, Sima Xiang did not send anything else over after receiving Gu Ru Jiu’s response. The reason was simple. In Gu Ru Jiu’s response, while she thanked Sima Xiang, she also thanked the other misses of the Sima Family.
These actions showed that she treated all the misses of the Sima Family the same. This would not offend the Sima Family and would also end Sima Xiang’s intentions.
While Sima Xiang wanted to be on good terms with Gu Ru Jiu and use her to get close to the imperial house, this did not mean she did not have the pride of an aristocratic family lady. It was hard for her to lower her head once. After learning the other would not feel grateful, she definitely would not lower her head twice.
After learning about this matter, Yang shi was very satisfied with her daughter’s actions.
“While the Sima Family is prominent, our Gu Family does not have to revere them. It is their own matter what they think, but they cannot think to use us.” Yang shi looked at Gu Ru Jiu. “What you did was good—you were polite and also maintained the status of the Gu Family.”
“I just feel that Sima Xiang was neither cold or warm to me in the past. Now that Second Brother and I are slightly acquainted with the emperor, she is so friendly. It is very boring.” Gu Ru Jiu felt that Sima Xiang looked down on her from the bottom of her heart. This was why Sima Xiang thought that she would be like the misses of aristocratic families in decline; if the Sima Family crooked a finger, she would immediately go over.
What did they think the Gu Family was that they used this kind of simple and crude method to recruit others to their side?
Spring left and autumn came. It was another year. Other than the two people involved in the matter, other people forgot about the event.
The year Gu Ru Jiu turned twelve, Sima Ling had her coming-of-age ceremony. The main guests and supporting guests were famed female scholars. Many noblewomen in Jing were envious for half a year.
After Sima Ling held her coming-of-age ceremony, as another year passed, the third miss of the Sima Family, Sima Xiang, was also preparing for her ceremony.
But the influence of the third branch in Jing could not compare to the first branch’s. So the people who came to preside over the coming-of-age ceremony for Sima Xiang could not compare to those for Sima Ling’s.
Originally, this was an ordinary matter, but some immoral person made a comparison between the two misses of the Sima Family. This caused many people in Jing to feel that while Sima Family’s third miss was good, she was slightly inferior compared to the Sima Family’s eldest miss.
As a spectator, Gu Ru Jiu did not know whether Sima Xiang was discomforted, but she felt that the person who had been spreading the rumour was not just intending to gossip.
Because from when those words spread until now, it had turned from Sima Xiang being inferior to Sima Ling, to the sons of the third branch being inferior to the sons of the first branch, and the third branch being poor relatives who came to the capital to sponge off the two older brothers.
The aristocratic families thought nothing of these words, but this was a hot topic among the common people. They did not know the connections and interactions between aristocratic family relatives. They thought the aristocratic families would be like this, and would argue over half a pound of wheat or two ounces of oil. So the rumors grew uglier and transformed as they spread.
Fortunately, the Sima Family responded in time and the rumors about them quickly disappeared. But some people were influenced by the rumors this time and could not avoid comparing the Sima first and third branches.
But in the eyes of the aristocratic families, these unbased rumors were not of any influence. It was not rare for some slander to appear occasionally against great families like the Sima Family. As long as the family members were clear and not influenced by this kind of rumor.
Everyone’s expectations were correct. Soon, there was the painting and calligraphy arts of the third branch young master that aroused much praise in Jing, and then a certain female scholar came out to praise Sima Xiang’s extraordinary beauty and talent.
“The Sima third branch is not composed enough.” Behind closed doors, Gu Chang Ling spoke to his family about what had happened to the Sima Family this time. “While they have reversed the impressions of the third branch in the minds of the common people, their actions lower them in the opinion of the aristocratic families.”
Gu Zhi Yu nodded and said, “Son also feels this is not appropriate. This originally was not a major matter, but after they did this, there may be a barrier between the two branches.”
“The third branch has thoughts of raising an empress and naturally cannot ignore other people saying bad things about their daughter.” Gu Cun Jing smiled disdainfully. “They don’t even think whether the emperor wants their miss.”
“Cun Jing!” Yang shi‘s expression darked. “As a member of an aristocratic family, should you privately speak of underage misses like this?!”
Gu Cun Jing also felt his words were not appropriate after his mother’s scolding. He said embarrassedly, “I just feel the Sima third branch is making this ugly.”
“Whether or not it appears ugly is not important.” Yang shi took a drink of tea. “As long as their miss becomes the empress, no one will ever mention the past.”
Gu Cun Jing, who had been promoted to the captain of the Dragon Guard, coughed. In his view, the emperor, who was sickly but never had any major illness, did not seem interested at all in women.
Even if the Sima Miss were the most beautiful of the country, the emperor might not even consider her.
“It is not up to us to worry about the marriage of the emperor.” Gu Chang Ling caressed his beard, and his gaze swept across his daughter who was sitting in the corner, drinking tea and eating pastries. “The empress dowager and the emperor naturally have their own plans.”
Gu Ru Jiu nodded in agreement. The men of the Feng Dynasty mostly married after they were eighteen years old. The young emperor was just sixteen. Why were these people in a hurry?
Translator Ramblings: Poor Sima Xiang … I feel she’s too mature for her age. I wonder if the expectation of marriage in your teens causes people to mature faster and gain a more adult outlook.