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Chapter 24: The Ideal Choice
“Miss.” Bao Mei helped Sima Xiang off the carriage and said by her ear, “Eldest Master’s carriage seems to be at the gates.”
Sima Xiang turned to look, and walked into the compound with a smile on her face.
In the inner courtyard, Third Mistress and Eldest Mistress were drinking tea. The atmosphere was harmonious and no effect from the rumors of the last few days could be seen.
“Has there been any news from the imperial house?” Compared to Eldest Mistress, Third Mistress could not hold her composure. “The empress dowager has not spoken. I don’t know what she intends.”
“Grand Princess Deyi responded saying the empress dowager subtly refused her suggestion.” Eldest Mistress shook her head, and took a sip of tea to suppress her complicated emotions. “The Holy One is a half-grown youth, and doesn’t know of love. They said that he will not consider marriage before he is governing on his own.”
“He wants to govern before he is married.” Third Mistress snorted coldly. “He thinks wonderfully.” Even if the emperor wanted to, the court may not agree.
Eldest Mistress glanced at her, and then looked at her daughter sitting next to her. She put down the teacup and said slowly, “I came today to tell you of another matter.”
Third Mistress smiled upon hearing this. “What matter is Eldest Sister-in-law speaking of?”
“Grand Princess Deyi has made a marriage proposal to the Sima Family for her eldest grandson. I have agreed.” Eldest Mistress said, “Grand Princess’ eldest grandson is seventeen and a handsome youth skilled in foreign languages. Next month, he will come to the capital to be the vice minister of Court of State Ceremonial.”
Third Mistress’s heart jumped. She did not know her eldest sister-in-law’s intentions and could only say with a smile, “Since Eldest Sister-in-law says he is good, he will definitely not be bad.”
“The family conduct of Sanggan’s Shen Family is trustworthy.” Eldest Mistress seemed to not sense the other’s uncertainty and said directly, “While his position does not appear to be high right now, he is ambitious and has connections to the imperial family. He is suitable for Ling’er.”
Third Mistress was slightly shocked. So Eldest Sister-in-law was not speaking of marriage for her daughter, but for Eldest Miss? Previously, hadn’t the eldest branch wanted to send Eldest Miss into the palace? Why had they changed ideas?
Seeing her sister-in-law not understanding, Eldest Mistress couldn’t help but advise, “They say the Zhou Family wanted to send a miss into the palace as consort. The empress dowager refused.”
Even the empress dowager’s paternal family had not succeeded in sending someone into the palace, much less the Sima Family. The Sima Family only had the reputation accumulated by their ancestors and the small bit of familial relationship with the Holy One’s birth mother.
But what the ancestors had accumulated belonged to them. No matter how much other people revered the Sima Family, they would not place the glory of their ancestors onto their descendants. Even more importantly, since the emperor’s ascension, he had not expressed closeness to the Sima Family, and appeared cold and distant.
The first branch expressed a care about the position of empress in order to express the regard they felt towards the emperor. But this did not mean they had to have the position of empress. If they could get it, then it would be a blessing. But if not, they would not be too disappointed.
She saw that the third branch’s ambitions towards the empress’ position were growing and worried that the other would be embarrassed so she couldn’t help but say a few words. The branches were connected. Regardless of which branch embarrassed themselves, the other two branches would not look much better.
So a few days ago, when the third branch deliberately made public the good reputation of their children, the eldest branch had not obstructed, and even helped by suppressing the previous rumors.
“His Majesty is young, but he has his own ideas.” At this point, Eldest Mistress could not continue. If she did, Third Sister-in-law would be embarrassed.
But to her disappointment, Third Mistress did not give up after hearing her words.
“Eldest Mistress, Mistress, Miss has come.” A servant girl dressed in lotus-colored clothing led Sima Xiang in, bowed to the people in the room before silently leaving.
After exchanging greetings, Sima Xiang sat down next to Third Mistress and silently listened to her elders’ chat.
When she learned that Sima Ling was engaged to Young Master Shen of Sanggan Commandery, she had a shocked expression. Hadn’t Eldest Aunt planned on sending Eldest Female Cousin into the palace? Why a sudden engagement to the Shen Family?
Maybe because her shock was so obvious, Sima Ling, sitting opposite her, smiled at her with a hint of carefreeness.
Seeing this smile, Sima Xiang was slightly dazed. Eldest Cousin could easily give up. Could she?
Gripping tightly her sleeve, Sima Xiang returned a smile to Sima Ling. “This younger sister will congratulate Elder Sister.”
Sima Ling covered her mouth and laughed softly, the joy in her eyes showing unconsciously.
After Sima Xiang and her mother saw off the members of the eldest branch, Third Mistress raised her eyebrows. “The miss of the eldest branch is engaged, the second branch… Now the only hope of the Sima Family that can go into the palace is you.” If there was a matter in the future, the eldest and third branches would have to help.
Seeing the smile on her mother’s face, Sima Xiang was dazed for a moment. Then she said lowly, “Yes.”
She and Sima Ling were not the same, so the things they wanted were not the same.
After Jin Yang returned to Qiankun Palace, he practiced his writing for a while before having Bai Xian call in Gu Cun Jing.
“Your Majesty.” Gu Cun Jing wore his usual clothing, appearing as though he had switched his shifts with a colleague and was preparing to return home.
“I called you over for a personal matter.” Jin Yang had other people leave the room. He placed his hands together on the imperial table. His right thumb unconsciously curled. “I heard that your parents intend to engage Junior Sister to the young master of the Yang Family?”
“There is such a thing?” Gu Cun Jing stilled. He thought carefully of the last few days. “My mother did not mention this matter.”
Seeing Gu Cun Jing appear to be honest, Jin Yang relaxed his clasped hands. He hesitated before speaking. “Marriage is an important matter for a woman—it cannot be done carelessly. It is reasonable to say that I should not speak about Mister’s private family matters. But Junior Sister is like my sister. I always worry she will encounter a villain.”
“Your Majesty, do not worry. My family all cares for Jiu Jiu so we will not slight her in her marriage.” Gu Cun Jing hesitated. “This subject will thank Your Majesty for your concern on behalf of my sister.”
“My wishes for Jiu Jiu are like yours.” Jin Yang smiled. “I always hope that she will live well.”
Gu Cun Jing smiled but he was puzzled inside. Prince Cheng also had daughters, but after His Majesty ascended the throne, he had not given titles to his siblings. He did not appear to be a good brother who was concerned about his younger sisters?
After returning home, Gu Cun Jing spoke of this to Gu Chang Ling.
Gu Chang Ling said with a smile upon hearing this, “I heard that the commandery princess of the Establishment of Prince Cheng is completely opposite in personality to her father. She is decisive, as hot as fire, and countless people fear her. I hear that when His Majesty was in the Establishment of Prince Cheng he had a gentle personality and did not frequently interact with the commandery princess.”
It was not easy to turn unruliness and wickedness into such subtle terms.
Thinking of the valiant deeds the imperial princesses and commandery princesses of the Feng Dynasty had committed, and then of his own sister, Gu Cun Jing felt that he could understand why the emperor would put his extra affections on Jiu Jiu.
With a wilful and bullying half-sister, the mistress of the establishment being the sister’s mother, and his own father one who did not manage matters, he could guess what it had been like without even thinking about it.
“Father, who do you think the emperor will ask to marry as empress?” Gu Cun Jing asked curiously.
“Which family do you think?” Gu Chang Ling asked in response.
“Based on the emperor’s present attitude, the Sima and Li families are not quite possible. But the emperor will definitely not allow a daughter of a new aristocratic family as the empress. So the empress must come from the second and third tier aristocratic families.” He tried to remember the families in the capital with good reputation, noble and virtuous enough but also low-key. Then he said with slight uncertainty, “Would it be … the Ducal Yang Family?”
Gu Chang Ling smiled and didn’t respond. When Gu Cun Jing could not restrain himself, he said, “You only considered the situation, but not people’s hearts.”
“Hearts?” Gu Cun Jing looked at his father who was pretending to be profound and remained doubtful. “His Majesty… does not seem to be one who puts great emphasis on emotions.”
Gu Chang Ling raised an eyebrow and glanced at his son. He said lazily, “Wait and see.”
As father and son spoke, they heard the sound of servant girls giving greetings from outside. Yang shi and Gu Ru Jiu had returned.
Gu Cun Jing saw his younger sister behind his mother and couldn’t help but think of the emperor.
Was the young sister the emperor desired like his sister?
Translator Ramblings: Gun Cun Jing is a little bit slower than his father …