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Chapter 22: Marriage?
The young emperor had just turned sixteen two months ago. According to the laws of the Feng Dynasty, the men were only of legal marriageable age when they were seventeen. Many people among the common people did not follow the rules, and the government offices basically did not pursue these matters if people did not complain. But Jin Yang, as the country’s ruler, could not ignore the law.
While there was no hurry for the marriage, one could start considering the choice for empress. The members of the imperial family had hinted to Empress Dowager Zhou about this matter. Regardless of whether they were truly thinking for the imperial family or had other intentions, this proved that Jin Yang’s marriage was the focus of much attention.
The people of Jing were curious and Empress Dowager Zhou was also under considerable pressure. The Li and Sima families had thoughts about the empress seat. Even Grand Princess Deyi, who lived in the Sanggan Commandery, sent a letter mentioning the emperor’s marriage. The suitable candidate Grand Princess Deyi mentioned was the granddaughter of the eldest Sima branch, Sima Ling.
If this was any other person, Empress Dowager Zhou could have refused directly, but the writer was Grand Princess Deyi. In terms of seniority, she had to call Grand Princess Deyi Aunt.
But in Grand Princess Deyi’s letter, she appeared to recommend the miss of the Sima Family, but also lightly mentioned her own granddaughter. The meaning was deep.
The Sanggan Commandery’s Shen Family was a famed and prestigious family going back a few centuries. Not long after Grand Princess Deyi married into the Shen Family, she followed her husband out of Jing to settle down in Sanggan County. Compared to those princesses that had male courtesans and shamed their husbands, this princess was gentle and low-key.
Empress Dowager Zhou felt a headache after reading the letter. She felt she should not be the only person troubled, so she sent someone to invite Jin Yang. Mother and son were silent as they stared at the letter in thought.
“Does Emperor have anyone in mind?” Empress Dowager Zhou did not want to be at odds with the emperor on this matter. She had refused without thinking the daughters the Zhou Family had sent into the palace as consorts. They had taken so many steps already. Right now, she was preparing to have the emperor have his capping ceremony early so he could govern on his own. How could she be willing to have the emperor misunderstand her on this?
Jin Yang shook his head. “This son’s entire mind is focused on governance and has no attention to spare for these aristocratic family misses.” His gaze swept across the words “Sima” on the letter and his brow creased slightly. “The misses of the Sima Family… might not be suited to me.”
“Their family’s misses are outstanding in beauty and presence. How do you know they are not suitable without ever seeing them?” While Empress Dowager Zhou felt that the Sima Family was not a good choice, this was still Jin Yang’s birth mother’s paternal family. Even though everyone in the world could state their opinion on the Sima Family, she could not easily speak up.
Jin Yang smiled, and closed the letter. He bowed to the empress dowager. “Please, Mother-Empress, write a refusal to the grand princess. Just say this son, being young, uncapped and not in charge of court, cannot discuss matters of marriage.”
Not getting married before ruling on his own?
Looking thoughtfully at Jin Yang, Empress Dowager Zhou smiled and said, “Never mind. For you, I will be the villain. No matter how noble the grand princess is, she cannot overtake you. If you are not willing, no one can force you.”
Jin Yang stood and bowed deeply to Empress Dowager Zhou. “This son thanks Mother-Empress.”
“No need for thanks.” Empress Dowager Zhou lifted him up. “We mother and son are connected in mind. It doesn’t matter if I am the villain for you. I only hope you can be kind to the people and give Great Feng a prosperous era. Then it will not fail all I am doing now.”
“This son will remember”—Jin Yang looked solemnly at Empress Dowager Zhou—”and will not disappoint Mother-Empress.”
After Jin Yang left, Empress Dowager Zhou picked up the letter on the table and smiled disdainfully. A princess of a previous generation who had not returned to the capital for decades dared to interfere in the emperor’s marriage. Did she think that she and the young emperor were easy to bully?
“Ha, you still think it is the time of the previous emperor?” The white hand crushed the letter into a ball and casually threw it to the side.
During the night, the time of beautiful dreams, Jin Yang was in an unsettled sleep on the dragon bed.
He felt that he was walking on a crowded street. Everything around him was white, with only the grey passersby pushing him around. He did not know where he was going, and blankly followed the flow of people.
There seemed to be many people speaking, but he could not hear them distinctly. He could only see the lips on the faces shrouded in white mist move.
Where was this, why was he here? He looked around blankly. He did not feel panic, only perplexity.
“Your Majesty, why are you here?” At this time, a young girl dressed in yellow ran over and grabbed his sleeve. “Quick, come with me.”
He suddenly looked up and saw a young girl with her hair in two buns. The golden bells hanging from her hairpins gave off pleasing rings. The white mist on the young girl’s face spread. He saw a large pair of eyes, white soft skin, and the curved eyebrows above the eyes.
He opened his mouth, wanting to say the other’s name, but he could not speak.
“For you!” The young girl took out a sugar person from somewhere. The sugar person was dressed in bright red palace robes and looked like the young girl after she grew up.
He dazedly took the sugar person. He heard a boom of thunder in the sky, looked up abruptly, and saw only darkness.
“Your Majesty, it is spring thunder.” The eunuch on duty heard movement behind the curtain and hurriedly reported. “Were you startled?”
Jin Yang balled his right hand, and felt that it was empty.
“Zhen is fine.” He was completely clear-minded as he looked up at the top of the bed hangings. “What time is it?”
“Your Majesty, it is almost three. Are you going to rise?”
“No need. You can leave.” He put his warm hand over his face, breathed out softly and closed his eyes again.
Spring rains were as valuable as oil. Gu Ru Jiu leaned against the windowsill. Looking at the wet courtyard, she turned to her servant girl Mu Xiang and said, “Mu Xiang, bring over my pouch.”
It was a very artistic thing to embroider a pouch by the window. While her embroidery was not good, she had to keep up the posture.
Fortunately, aristocratic families did not demand much of their daughters’ embroidery. Otherwise, people like Gu Ru Jiu would have so many more classes on embroidery.
Ever since she was seven, the family had hired several female teachers for her, but all in the four arts, economy, or management. There were no teachers for embroidery, and she only learned a few simple things from her mother.
According to Yang shi, the daughters of important families would not hold threads and needles all day. Embroidering a pouch was a leisurely hobby. Only seamstresses would be proud of one’s embroidery skill, not daughters of aristocratic families.
But Gu Ru Jiu’s leisurely activity did not continue for long as someone from the main yard came to invite her over.
She neatened her clothing and then went with her servants to the yard of her parents. When she entered the door, she heard her daddy speak of the young emperor having his capping ceremony early.
Gu Chang Ling did not avoid the topic when he saw his daughter come in. He waved her in to sit. “The emperor having his capping ceremony early is certain to proceed. Many people in court have a good outlook on the emperor governing on his own. Almost no one is publicly objecting. The Sima and Li families support this matter.”
“Has the date been set?” Gu Zhi Yu thought for a moment and understood the reason. “The empress dowager wants His Majesty to start governing early?”
Gu Chang Ling nodded with a smile. “The empress dowager does have such intentions.”
“The empress dowager is a decisive and intelligent woman.” Yang shi sighed emotionally. “It is His Highness’s fortune to have encountered her.”
Gu Chang Ling said with a smile, “Wife is correct. But the empress dowager choosing His Majesty is also her fortune.” If she had adopted a terrible one, the empress dowager would have a headache.
“The emperor starting governance early means that his marriage will be earlier.” Yang shi sighed. “The capital is really going to be lively now.” As she said this, she couldn’t help but look at her daughter. “Jiu Jiu, have you encountered His Majesty on your recent visits to the palace?”
“When I go to the palace, I usually just visit the empress dowager, and do not frequently encounter the Holy One.” Gu Ru Jiu shook her head. “It must be four or five months since I last saw the Holy One.”
Yang shi nodded upon hearing this. A moment later, she said, “A few days ago, the Dingguo Duchess invited me to tea tomorrow. You should accompany me.”
Gu Ru Jiu stilled. Wasn’t that the scholarly Yang Family?
She could not tell what her mother intended and nodded obediently.
Gu Chang Ling looked at his wife and daughter, chuckled and didn’t speak.
In Kangquan Palace, Empress Dowager Zhou watched as Jin Yang turned his head to look at the door for the third time. She took a sip of tea without a change in expression.
“Mother-Empress, I heard that Junior Sister Gu was going to visit you in the palace today. It’s almost noon—why hasn’t she come?” Jin Yang picked up a peach cake. “She likes this pastry. It is a pity she is not here to eat it.”
“There was rain last night, and I worry that the wetness is not good for her health, so I had her rest home.” Empress Dowager Zhou’s gaze swept across the plate of nearly untouched peach cake. “Emperor usually also likes this—why have you not touched it today?”
Jin Yang responded with a smile, “Before coming, I ate half a plate of mung bean cake so I am not hungry.”
Empress Dowager Zhou nodded. Mother and son changed the topic.
When Jin Yang was soon going to leave, Empress Dowager Zhou suddenly said, “Not having Jiu Jiu come to the palace today is a good thing.”
Jin Yang looked with puzzlement at her.
“I heard the Dingguo Duchess is holding a tea party today. Her family has good conduct, simple relationships. Her eldest son is skilled in both martial and literary arts, and is of good virtue…” When she said this, Empress Dowager Zhou paused. “I heard that this duchess likes Jiu Jiu greatly and will definitely invite her to the tea party.”
Jin Yang stilled slightly. His hand, holding the peach cake, paused. He said, “Is the Yang Family as good as the rumors say? Some aristocratic families have beautiful reputations that do not reflect reality.”
Empress Dowager Zhou’s gaze landed on the peach cake crumbs that had fallen on his knees and looked down.
Peach cake was usually soft and loose. Eating it tested a person’s conduct and posture because if it was held just a bit too strongly, it would break apart.
Translator Ramblings: Jin Yang isn’t old and experienced enough to get one over the empress dowager.