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Chapter 28: Troubles of the Emperor
Bai Xian found that His Majesty had been distracted since he woke up in the morning, and had asked what time it was three times more than he usually did. As a personal eunuch of the emperor, even though he was puzzled, he could only swallow such an event.
Seeing His Majesty ruin two pages of writing, he walked forward and whispered, “Your Majesty, the empress dowager has invited County Mistress Gu into the palace to stay. County Mistress Gu must have arrived by now.”
The emperor, practicing his calligraphy, did not stop moving his brush. He only said, “What time is it?”
Asking again for the fourth time.
“Your Majesty, it is eleven.”
“Yes.” Jin Yang moved his wrist and slowly finished his last stroke before putting down the brush. “There has been a few days since I talked with Mother-Empress. I will visit her today.”
“Yes.” Bai Xian and the other palace maids and court eunuchs assisted him in changing clothes. He did not say an extra word. In the last year, the emperor had become even more authoritative. While he had never been angry at the people who served him, the people in Purple Imperial Hall did not dare to slight him, and became even more cautious.
Outside Purple Imperial Hall, Gu Cun Jing, who was on duty near Quankun Palace, saw Jin Yang come out. He stopped walking and bowed in unison with the dragon guards behind him.
Jin Yang nodded at the guards and went onto his imperial cart.
The dragon guards only straightened after the cart had moved a fair distance away. Gu Cun Jing’s second in command said emotionally, “His Majesty’s imperial authority has grown much in presence. He is not fickle and does not beat or kill recklessly. Even if he does not say a word, people would find it hard to meet his gaze.”
The people behind Gu Cun Jing were basically all people of Gu Cun Jing’s group. They all knew that the emperor’s most trusted teacher was Gu Cun Jing’s father, the Marquis of Ningping. However, the Marquis of Ningping was a friendly person who smiled before speaking and was different from the monarch he taught.
Was he influenced by the other imperial tutors?
His Majesty had five teachers, all of them with different personalities. Other than the Prime Minister of the Right, the other four all came from aristocratic families. Even more coincidentally, these four did not usually interact much in private, and were famed scholars in their families.
It could be seen that the empress dowager had put great effort into choosing the imperial tutors. She could have done no better for her own son.
“His Majesty grows in authority daily. This is good fortune to Great Feng, and to the people.” Gu Cun Jing bowed to the heavens and then said to the people behind him, “It is also our good fortune.”
Everyone smiled and agreed. Inside, they sighed. Official Gu’s ability at flattering people was growing even greater. While the emperor was not present, in less than a day, Official Gu’s words today would pass into the emperor’s ears.
Qiankun Palace, Kangquan Palace, and Luanhe Palace were the three largest and most refined palaces in the imperial palace. Because the position of empress was empty, no one lived in Luanhe Palace.
When one travelled from Qiankun Palace to Kangquan Palace, they had to pass Luanhe Palace. Jin Yang sat on the imperial cart and looked at this slightly quiet palace. His gaze grew dark. Maybe when he was governing on his own, it would be time for the Ministry of Works to repair this palace.
The imperial cart stopped in front of Kangquan Palace. Jin Yang saw there were palace attendants and eunuchs moving items at the gates and asked the eunuch at the front, “What are they doing?”
“Your Majesty, the empress dowager is keeping County Mistress Gu for a short visit. These things are being replaced,” the eunuch whispered in a small voice.
“It is rare for the county mistress to stay in the palace. It is good to be careful.” Jin Yang nodded. After a moment of thought, he said, “Bai Xian, go see what is in Zhen‘s private stores that Junior Sister can use. Bring them over.”
Bai Xian: Your Majesty, there are many things in your private stores suitable for women to use. Should all of them be brought over?
“Yes, this servant will go now.” Bai Xian turned and led a young eunuch into the imperial treasury to select items. During the time of the previous emperor, he had gathered many good things in preparation to give to the consorts or princesses. But he had no daughters, so what he had accumulated for his princesses was left to the dust in the rooms.
With County Mistress Gu’s age and status, he should be able to find suitable items there after a round of selection.
Entering the inner hall, the empress dowager and junior sister were both absent. Jin Yang could only slowly sip at a cup of tea. After sitting for a while, he heard footsteps by the door.
He turned to look and saw Gu Ru Jiu behind the empress dowager.
Junior Sister seemed to have grown taller in these several months of not meeting. The palace dress with twining flowers and dark patterns that Junior Sister wore seemed to be lively and not dull. Even her hair seemed more beautiful than usual.
“This subject greets Your Majesty.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled and went forward to curtsy to Jin Yang. Jin Yang put down the teacup, stood up and said, “Greetings, Junior Sister.” Then he bowed to the empress dowager. “Mother-Empress, have you been well?”
“Good, good, good.” The empress dowager pulled Gu Ru Jiu to sit next to her with a smile. Then she had a palace attendant put out new tea. “I heard people say that Your Majesty has been working hard on your studies recently. Do not exhaust yourself.”
“Mother-Empress, do not worry. This son will not lose sight of the bigger picture. The servants are just being too nervous and careful.” After interacting for these two years, Jin Yang and the empress dowager were much more casual. The empress dowager had expressed her attitude and Jin Yang had no mental barriers. The two of them were not blood mother and son, but they were relatives that could rely on each other.
“Not that we are not careful, but your health has never been good. They worry about you, and worry about themselves.” Empress Dowager Zhou said, “If something happens to you, they will not end up well.”
The empress dowager spoke the truth. After Jin Yang ascended the throne, everything except his health had been good. The imperial doctors could not find any cause, only saying that he had not been full grown when born and should just be careful.
When people interacted for long, they would have feelings between them. Also, there was nothing to pick at from Jin Yang’s contact. So Empress Dowager Zhou had a considerable amount of sincere emotion towards him.
Mother and son discussed Jin Yang’s health situation. Gu Ru Jiu held a teacup and nodded at the side. Jin Yang saw the butterfly hairpin in her hair wave as she nodded, and couldn’t help but smile. “It is rare for Junior to come into the palace. How about staying a few more days?”
Empress Dowager Zhou raised a teacup and said with a smile, “You do not need to say this. I was going to keep her. Tomorrow, I am going to Five Estate Temple to pray. Jiu Jiu, come with me.”
Gu Ru Jiu nodded. Five Estate Temple was famous in the Great Feng Dynasty. While the Great Feng Dynasty had nothing like a state preceptor or country religion, Five Estate Temple was the first temple of Great Feng.
It was strange to speak of. While the Great Feng Dynasty had all kinds of strange emperors, none of them pursued immortality. The Daoists of Five Estate Temple did not like to make the so-called immortality pills. Rather, they liked making all kinds of medicinal pills that were said to have good effects.
It could be seen that Daoists not skilled in medicine were not good Daoists. Look at the range of Five Estate Temple’s duties. They could explain divination reading, they could read people’s fortunes, they could pray, they could prescribe medicine. No wonder they were so popular and even the imperial house made a habit of going there to pray.
Gu Ru Jiu suddenly remembered that it would be the death anniversary of the empress dowager’s birth mother in a few days. No wonder the empress dowager was going to Five Estate Temple to pray.
Jin Yang also recalled this and said, “This son will not have court tomorrow. If Mother doesn’t mind, take this son along.”
“If you want to come, then come.” Empress Dowager Zhou was amused by his appearance. “Would I not want you?”
Gu Ru Jiu heard this and covered her mouth as she laughed. After a while, Bai Xian came back with a pile of items. Ocean silk covering, precious jade bottle, and all other precious novelties that girls liked.
“Oh, so that’s where all the rare things are.” Empress Dowager Zhou picked up a set of crystal chess, saying with a smile, “In the past, I heard a vassal country pay tribute with a set of crystal weiqi that was completely transparent and pure. Pity no one ever saw it. I hadn’t expected the previous emperor to hide it so well.”
But the previous emperor had most likely forgotten this precious item after playing with it. Otherwise, why hadn’t it been buried with him, and been piled up in the imperial treasury?
“Then it is perfect for Auntie. I do not play weiqi well.” Gu Ru Jiu picked up a few stones and played with them. “It will be a waste to put them into the western hall.”
“Even the most valuable item, if not used, will be the same as stones by the street,” Empress Dowager Zhou said with a smile. “I will leave these items for you to use. Maybe, because of the pieces’ beauty, you will be willing to learn.”
Gu Ru Jiu propped her up face and pretended to be sad. Her affection for playing was limited, and even this set of crystal pieces could not resolve her resentment.
“It’s all right for you in my presence, but if the other noblewomen know that you are not skilled in playing, won’t they laugh at you in secret?” The empress dowager shook her head helplessly. “I think your parents spoil you too much.”
“You say it as though you do not spoil me.” Gu Ru Jiu had a roguish expression.
Empress Dowager Zhou was shocked. Then she covered her mouth with her handkerchief and laughed. “I think that you have grown greatly—your face has gotten thicker.”
But inside, she was very comforted by Gu Ru Jiu’s minor complaint. If she was not close with her, she would not dare to say such words.
Jin Yang looked at Gu Ru Jiu’s smiling face and felt even more worried. Junior Sister’s conduct of daring to say anything was really worrisome. If she was so honest once she married, what to do?
The aristocratic families all hid three words for each word they said. On the surface, they were all friendly people, but inside, they were all corrupt and their loyalty was hard to discern. Junior Sister’s personality would likely give her a disadvantage.
The more he thought, the more worried he became. Jin Yang felt that he was a bit not well.
“After a few months, Jiu Jiu will be fourteen?” Empress Dowager Zhou casually asked after laughing.
Gu Ru Jiu nodded. “Five more months.” She could pretend to be young for a while longer.
“Time has passed so quickly.” Empress Dowager Zhou thought and felt emotional. “It passed in the blink of an eye.”
Jin Yang was even more worried.
Many noblewomen in Jing would start to look at prospective families starting when they were thirteen or so. Then they would prepare for about three or four years before they married.
His junior sister was like this. What personality and family would be suitable for her?
Translator Ramblings: Jin Yang is like a hen with only one chick.