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Chapter 23: Growth
While the capital’s Yang Family had the same surname as Gu Ru Jiu’s mother Yang shi, they were not from the same root family and did not have much of a connection.
This Yang Family had made its fortune in the previous dynasty. While they were not as prestigious as the Sima and Li families, they were noble enough. Their family had produced three prime ministers, two empresses and numerous governors. In the last few decades, they had become low-key, but based on the Yang Family’s foundations and their reputation among the scholars, no one dared to insult them.
The ancestors of the Gu Family had not had much interaction with the Yang Family. The two families had only grown closer in the last few years because Duke Yang admired Gu Chang Ling’s calligraphy.
It was not necessarily true that Mistress Yang greatly liked Gu Ru Jiu, but her friendliness towards the Gu Family was very clear. Once Gu Ru Jiu appeared in the inner courtyard of the Yang Family with her mother, Mistress Yang could not stop praising Gu Ru Jiu like she was a rare flower.
“This young girl is rough and not worthy of Duchess’ praise.” Yang shi was not surprised or overjoyed by Mistress Yang’s friendliness. She calmly praised the girls of the Yang Family and the atmosphere was harmonious.
Gu Ru Jiu, sitting next to Yang shi as decoration, noticed Yang Family’s miss on the other side staring at her. So she looked up and smiled at the other. Miss Yang also smiled back. Her smile was like the green lotus blooming at dawn, beautiful and pure.
Noticing the movements between the two juniors, Mistress Yang smiled and said, “The time is good. How about everyone walk around the garden with me, and we will pretend to have culture.”
The people seated all laughed and agreed. Someone clapped and said, “I heard long ago that the garden scene of the ducal establishment is stunning. If your honored establishment can only be considered as pretending to have culture, then my garden will be extremely vulgar.”
The words caused the women present to laugh. Gu Ru Jiu looked curiously at the woman who had spoken. The other was dressed brightly and of a young age. She did not know what family this young person was from that they would laugh out loud and speak up on such an occasion.
When no one was paying attention, Yang shi whispered softly by her ear, “Did you see that woman who just spoke?”
Gu Ru Jiu nodded.
“She is a daughter of Prime Minister Zhang and married Sun Family’s eldest son a few days ago.” When Yang shi mentioned Prime Minister Zhang, one of the newer aristocrats in court, her tone was slightly cool. “While Prime Minister Zhang is a capable person, his daughter is a bit too frivolous.”
Gu Ru Jiu was dumbfounded. So Sun Family’s eldest son had married a daughter from new aristocracy? She couldn’t help but glance at that Zhang shi who had married into the Sun Family. Because the other was dressed overly brightly, she was exceptionally eye-catching among the group of women. It was obvious that while she wanted to perform well among the group, she was out of place.
She had heard that Prime Minister Zhang’s wife was shrewish, and because she did not have a good birth, she did not like to interact with the women in the capital. As a result, her daughters had never entered the circles of aristocratic misses.
“Go play with the juniors.” Yang shi smiled at a nearby spot where several aristocratic family misses not of age were standing. “There is nothing interesting if you stay by me.”
“Then I will not disturb Mother.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled and bowed slightly to Yang shi before picking up her skirt and walking towards the young misses.
Mistress Yang looked at the back of her figure and nodded in satisfaction. A lithe walk, slender, and beautiful features. This miss of the Gu Family had good posture and presence.
The more she looked, the more she liked. Mistress Yang couldn’t help but say, “Madam Gu really knows how to raise daughters. I look at your second miss and like her as my own. But when I think about it, my girl is like a fire-tending servant compared to Second Miss.”
Yang shi said a few humble words before someone nearby came up and praised both misses. All the women present were clear-minded people and could see Mistress Yang’s intentions. But from Yang shi‘s look, she did not seem to be especially enthusiastic about the ducal establishment’s intentions for a marriage.
So busybodies remembered the past grievances between the two Yangs in the capital. There were two Yang families in Jing, one a second-tier scholarly family, the other a third-tier family that had prospered due to military merit.
While the two families were both called Yang, they were not from the same ancestor, so the weaker family could not avoid attracting gossip.
Everyone saw that Yang shi‘s attitude was tepid and couldn’t help but suspect. Was it due to this that Yang shi would not let her daughter marry into the Dingguo Ducal Establishment?
While everyone was curious, none of them showed anything on their faces. But Sun Zhang shi glanced curiously at Gu Ru Jiu who was speaking with other girls. Just an immature girl of thirteen or so. Not stunningly beautiful. What did the duchess like about her?
“Jiu Jiu, Sun Zhang shi is looking at you,” Gu Ru Jiu’s good friend Hu Xi said by her ear. “I don’t know what the Sun Family was thinking. Why…” She bit her lip and felt that it was not good if she spoke like this. She could only cough and swallow her words.
Gu Ru Jiu smiled and glanced at her. She knew what Hu Xi wanted to say—why would a young master of an aristocratic family marry a daughter from a new aristocratic family?
But in her view, the Sun Family made a pretty good choice. Their family lacked power while the Zhang Family lacked reputation. So the two families clicked together and both won.
The only thing not good was that this Sun Zhang shi did not seem to understand how aristocratic women interacted with each other. The women of aristocratic families were usually subtle in their actions. Maybe she did not know that most people present looked down on her.
The girls were playing pitch-pot together. One miss said, “Young Master Li is the best at this.”
“Pity today is a gathering of misses and you cannot see the elegant Young Master Li.” The girl next to her smiled and then picked up an arrow. She touched the wrapped arrowhead. “The young masters of the Sima and Li families are pleasing to the eye, even if they are not playing pitch-pot.”
In the Feng Dynasty, beautiful men were usually welcome. The Feng people were even more enthusiastic towards beautiful men. It was not just a rumor that beautiful men would get fruit thrown at them when they were out—this was a common occurrence in the capital.
It had to be said that the people of the Feng Dynasty had top skills at looking at people’s faces. Of the famous scholars and officials, none of them were ugly. People who were ugly, even if they were lucky enough to enter court, had a hard time getting more attention from their higher-ups.
Regardless of the era, people who looked better would always have an advantage. Gu Ru Jiu watched as the misses discussed in whispers which young master looked better. She couldn’t help but lament for the n-th time, it was fortunate that this time did not demand women follow Confucian philosophy and remain ignorant. Otherwise, she would really have an uncomfortable time.
“Sister Gu, who do you think is the most handsome?” The group had not managed to reach a conclusion after discussing for a while, and the fire finally reached Gu Ru Jiu.
Gu Ru Jiu stilled. She thought of the emperor in the palace. In her view, the boys of the Sima and Li families were not as good-looking as the young emperor.
However, she would just think this and not speak it. “I feel that my second brother is pretty handsome.”
The misses stilled. The second young master of the Gu Family was exceptional in appearance. Back then, before he had married, he had been one of those the misses in Jing pursued.
But a man who was married, no matter how good-looking, could not catch their eye. So everyone wanted Gu Ru Jiu to speak of someone else. Even Miss Yang, who looked very quiet, looked at her with a smile.
Gu Ru Jiu sighed helplessly and said, “Then I really cannot say. There are too many beautiful men in Jing, all with their characteristics. You make this difficult for me.”
Hearing the words, everyone was in agreement. They giggled and forgot the ranking of beautiful men in the capital.
But Miss Yang was slightly disappointed. She had hoped that Gu Ru Jiu would say her brother’s name.
On the street outside the Dingguo Ducal Establishment, the carriage Sima Xiang was in suddenly stopped. She lifted the curtain and looked out curiously. She saw several young masters dressed in brocade escorting a youth in purple robes.
When she saw the features of the youth in purple robes, her hand tightened slightly on the curtain. Was there such a handsome person in the world? Compared to this young master, the sons of the Sima Family appeared mediocre.
As though he had noticed their party was blocking the carriage, the purple-robed youth at the front pulled the reins and drove the horse to the side. The people behind him saw this and also moved aside.
When the carriage was passing by the purple-robed youth, Sima Xiang lifted the curtain again. But even when the carriage had travelled further away, the purple-robed youth did not even glance at the carriage.
“Your Majesty”—Gu Cun Jing looked around—”ahead is the Dingguo Ducal Establishment. Will you…”
Looking at the pair of magnificent stone lions, Jin Yang looked down slightly. “No need. I am just walking around.”
If he went to visit the Dingguo Ducal Establishment, wasn’t that adding face to the Dingguo Ducal Establishment? What if this caused people who were not in the know to misunderstand and think that he valued the people of the Dingguo Ducal Establishment?
“Then…” Gu Cun Jing was out of words because he could not understand why the emperor had suddenly decided to leave the palace.
“How is Cun Jing’s relationship with Yang Family’s eldest son?” Jin Yang turned his horse around and said with seeming carelessness, “I heard this person is talented in both literary and martial arts, and is a rare handsome person?”
“In this subject’s view, while the person is not as exaggerated as the rumors say, the rumors are mostly true.” Gu Cun Jing thought. “Also, he is just sixteen this year. Maybe he will be greatly accomplished in the future.” After he said this, he added, “But this subject is not very close to this person and it is possible there are things that this subject does not know.”
Jin Yang did not speak after hearing this. A beat later, he said, “Return to the palace. I suddenly remember I have some books I have not yet read.”
“Yes.” Gu Cun Jing acted according to Jin Yang’s orders without any hesitation. The other dragon guards also reacted a beat slower.
Jin Yang saw all of their actions, but his face remained emotionless.
Jin Yang: Nothing here to look at, I’m just walking around.