This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
The knuckles of Jin Yang’s hands hidden in his sleeves were white as he clenched his fists hard. But his expression was exceptionally calm, like a puddle of dead water. No one could see his emotions.
The two people standing in the room had prominent positions. They were his two grand-uncles, the commandery prince of Ping, and the commandery prince of Kang.
“Your Majesty, heaven and earth are in harmony, the yin and yang are balanced. Men and women marrying is the destiny of heavens. I am already very old. I only hope to see Your Majesty and the empress in harmony.” The commandery prince of Ping swayed where he stood, but his voice was not quiet at all. “The miss of the Sima Family has virtue and talent, as well as a noble birth. She qualifies for the phoenix throne.”
He was the oldest commandery prince in the imperial house and the closest to the throne. While it was meddlesome for him to mention marriage to Jin Yang, this was not an overstep.
But while his actions did not transgress, it did not mean that Jin Yang felt pleased. The marriages in the world were always ones of willingness. There was no reason to force the cow to drink.
Jin Yang knew that these people dared to direct him because they felt he was young and ignorant. They all tried to pursue benefits for themselves.
Was the commandery prince of Ping working for the Sima Family because the wife to the heir of the commandery prince of Ping was a miss from the Sima Family?
“Zhen understands Granduncle’s concern, but marriage is an important matter.” Jin Yang smiled slightly, looking like a kind monarch. “The Sima family’s etiquette and teachings are flawless, but…”
He paused slightly, his gaze landing on the commandery prince of Kang. “The daughters of other families in the capital cannot compare?”
Commandery Prince Kang was not a person who liked offending others. Commandery Prince Ping had pulled him along today because he wanted to strengthen his position.
They had not been in favour in childhood. After their father-emperor had passed away, they had just been imperial sons without any title. Later, once their elder brother ascended, he had remembered them and ennobled them as commandery princes. While they had an allowance of eight hundred households, they did not have their own lands. In the imperial house, they were considered invisible people who just ate for free.
After Jin Yang took the throne, their status was not high but their seniority was. They relied on how the young emperor’s foundation was not stable, and wanted to use their status as elders to pull over some of the aristocratic families, and gain benefits for their grandchildren.
They had lived muddle-headed for most of their life. While they were not smart, they were not stupid. Hearing the emperor say such a thing, they knew the emperor was displeased with the Sima Family.
What could they say? Say that the miss of the Sima Family was the best, and no one could rival her?
In these years, many aristocratic families had moved to the capital, all of them famed locally. Even if they truly felt that the Sima Family miss was outstanding, they would not dare to say that no one could rival her.
“Your Majesty speaks too seriously. The ladies of aristocratic families are naturally all good in their upbringing.” Commandery Prince Kang saw the state of the situation and hurriedly stood up to keep the peace. “Commandery Prince Ping is just worried about Your Majesty’s marriage and was slightly impetuous in his words.”
“Even if Uncles are worried for my son’s marriage, you should discuss with this Grieving One. Why have you come to interrogate my son?”
The two old commandery princes turned back in unison and saw Empress Dowager Zhou coming over wearing a nine-phoenix robe. Her expression was majestic and authoritative.
The two men’s hearts jumped. As male elders, they could say many things to the emperor, but they had many other considerations when facing the empress dowager who was their niece-in-law. While they were slightly discomforted by Empress Dowager Zhou’s pressuring attitude, they knew their status and bowed to the empress dowager.
In the imperial house, status was considered first before seniority.
The empress dowager returned the bow of a junior to the pair before sitting down at the front with Gu Ru Jiu’s support. She said sedately, “Which miss do Uncles wish to be empress?”
Gu Ru Jiu had heard there were two old commandery princes in the capital who did not have their own lands. One was absurd in his conduct while the other did not manage a thing. So these two appeared to be them. In her view, the two men’s conduct was inappropriate, not because they were recommending the miss of the Sima Family, but because they did not discuss with the empress dowager and instead talked privately to the emperor.
Did they feel that the emperor was young and would feel something after hearing their descriptions of Miss Sima? But while Jin Yang looked gentle, he was someone with his own ideas. A person like him would not be petty, but no one could persuade him from what he had decided. These two old commandery princes were used to looking at their unaccomplished sons and grandsons so they thought that Jin Yang was like them?
Detecting Jin Yang looking over, Gu Ru Jiu gave a smile towards him before quickly lowering her head.
Jin Yang saw her movement, and his hands slowly relaxed in his sleeves. He gave a small smile.
“Empress Dowager, this old man feels that the ladies of the aristocratic families are good, but you will have to be the one to work on this matter. The position of the empress is very important. I am old and have bad eyesight. I do not understand these juniors and don’t know about these matters.” The Commandery Prince Kang’s strongest trait was following the wind, and changing faster than the weather.
Hearing him say such, Commandery Prince Ping glared at him. He expressed great displeasure towards his wavering behaviour. “Empress Dowager, this old man feels that the miss of the third Sima branch is very good.”
“Uncle’s daughter-in-law is from the Sima Family. No wonder you trust the Sima Family so,” the empress dowager said neutrally. “This Grieving One’s niece-in-law is a member of the Sima first branch. The miss of the Sima First branch seems to be already engaged to the Grand Princess’ eldest grandson?”
“The miss of the first branch is engaged, but the third branch miss can do.” Commandery Prince Ping was not very confident and his volume decreased as he said this.
Empress Dowager knew their abilities and temper so she wasn’t angry. She said, “This Grieving One and His Majesty accept Uncles’ goodwill. But the choice of empress is important, and this Grieving One has already planned.”
“Who…” Commandery Prince Ping’s eyes lit up. He wanted to know details from the empress dowager.
“After His Majesty’s capping ceremony is this Grieving One’s birthday. This Grieving One likes young children. For the birthday, we will invite the young masters and misses of the aristocratic families to the Tai’an Palace to tour.”
The Tai’an Palace was in the suburbs of Jing. It was extremely large, filled with flora, and had a hunting ground and hot springs. This was the place that emperors usually went to stay when they were bored in the palace.
The pair understood the empress dowager’s meaning, and knew that what they had done today was not good, so they timidly bid farewell.
After the two left, Empress Dowager Zhou snorted. “The Sima Family is very skilled to persuade Commandery Prince Ping to come talk.” For the face of the emperor’s birth mother, she did not speak very unpleasantly. But she was very displeased by the Sima Family’s conduct.
As an outsider, Gu Ru Jiu lowered her head and played with a beautiful pouch hanging from her waist, expressing that she did not hear the empress dowager’s words.
“The Sima Family’s network is complicated and has great influence in court.” Jin Yang paused. “The Sima and Li daughters cannot be empress.”
Empress Dowager Zhou looked at the emperor and nodded. “As long as you understand this matter. This Grieving One is old, and should just enjoy good fortune.”
“Aunt, Your Majesty, this subject misses my unborn nephew and has written a letter for home for my second brother to take back and for my elder brother to recite to my unborn nephew.” Gu Ru Jiu felt that she could not listen to more of the pair’s conversation. So she smiled with her friendly and innocent face. “I just saw my second brother outside the hall. May I go and hand it to him?”
“I know you are a good aunt. Go.” The empress dowager nodded with a smile
“Thank you, Aunt.” Gu Ru Jiu cheerfully curtsied to the empress dowager. After taking a step, she stood and bowed to Jin Yang before hurriedly walking out.
Seeing her figure as she stepped outside the door, Jin Yang couldn’t help but smile. When he turned and saw the empress dowager looking at him, he forced his smile away.
The empress dowager pretended to not see the smile on his face and said, “Your Majesty, after your capping ceremony you can no longer delay the matter of the empress.”
“This son understands.” Jin Yang’s smile faded. He had been used to seeing the second princess consort and the concubines back in the prince establishment, as well as his spoiled younger sisters. His hopes for the so-called aristocratic family misses were not high.
He did not want to set up an empress right now mostly because he did not want to compromise with the Sima and Li families. These two families had complicated factions within the court, and he was not willing to add more glory to them.
When his mother had passed away in his childhood, his stepmother had given care to him due to the Sima Family. But after seeing the Sima Family not pay attention to this motherless child, she gradually started to neglect him and started to scheme after the position of heir.
If the previous emperor hadn’t been childless and he was chosen by the empress dowager after being summoned to the capital, he didn’t know how long he would have lived with his fragile body in Jin Prefecture.
The Sima Family had never given care to him. He felt no hatred, but he felt no closeness to the Sima Family. In court, the factions all fought for power. Within the circles, they would also fight when their interests conflicted.
He was the emperor. These people were subjects that wanted to scheme more benefits from him. This was his greatest advantage.
“Your Majesty,” Empress Dowager Zhou slowly said, “as the emperor, it is most important you understand people’s hearts. Understand your officials, understand your people, and understand yourself.”
Jin Yang stilled. “This son understands.”
Empress Dowager Zhou saw his expression clear and stood up. “As long as you understand.”
This was the child she had recognized. She could not bear it.
Outside Qiankun Palace, Gu Ru Jiu openly put the letter into Gu Cun Jing’s hand and said with a chuckle, “Second Brother, when you return, have Big Brother mention me frequently to my nephew.”
“When Fu Shou had not yet been born, you frequently wrote these letters as well. Will a child in their mother’s womb understand?” Gu Cun Jing casually shoved the letter into his clothes, not caring if this letter would be creased. “You are so troublesome.”
“How will it be useless?” Gu Ru Jiu puffed out her cheeks and said smugly, “Hasn’t Fu Shou been especially close to me, the aunt?” She looked back at the hall. “I have to return. Remember to have Big Brother recite the letter to my nephew.” Then she skipped back into the hall.
“Such a child.” Gu Cun Jing muttered. He turned back to see his colleagues and said with a bow, “Do not laugh.”
His other colleagues only smiled and praised Gu Ru Jiu for being adorable. They did not feel anything was wrong. A child of thirteen or so, favoured by the empress dowager, still thought of her unborn nephew. This was a good girl. Those with men in the family who were not engaged started to have thoughts.
Two days before the emperor held his capping ceremony, an imperial decree came from Purple Imperial Hall. This decree had nothing to do with court, but it made people feel slightly strange.
Because Second Miss Gu had merit due to caring for the empress dowager, she was promoted from fifth-rank county mistress to third-rank county princess. Her original three hundred households became four hundred, and the emperor’s title for her was Changyan.
Everyone knew that the Gu Clan’s home was the Qingyuan Prefecture. The Qingyuan Prefecture had a county called Changyan. Supposedly, the girls born there were exceptionally long-lived and beautiful. The emperor and empress dowager used this as Second Miss Gu’s title as their wish for her.
She had been promoted skipping a rank from county mistress to county princess. While she had no lands, she could use a county as her title. In addition, she had her own allowance. The favour of the imperial house towards Second Miss Gu was unrivalled.
They originally thought that the imperial house was biased towards the Gu Family. But if they were, then the titles should go to the two sons, and not to a daughter that would marry into another family.
However, what did the imperial house intend in putting such favour on Miss Gu? Did they want to have a daughter of the Gu Family as empress?
But that wasn’t correct. If she was to become empress, why would they try to elevate her title? Wasn’t this an extraneous action?
Also, from the attitude the Gu Family raised their daughter with, they did not seem to be raising an empress. Who didn’t know that the Gu Family favoured their youngest daughter so, even more than their sons?
Would Empress Dowager Zhou choose this innocent and naive girl as empress?
The aristocratic families and new nobility could not conclude anything. In the end, they could only say that Spiritual Master Chu Yun was really accurate, and this Miss Gu had a good destiny.
In reality, even the members of the Gu Family were surprised. This time, the reward from the imperial house came without warning. This imperial decree had been sent directly from Purple Imperial Hall to Kangquan Palace. Gu Chang Ling, as director of the department of state affairs, had not known at all. So when the news reached him, his expression was not much calmer than others’.
“What does His Majesty mean?” Yang shi frowned as she looked at Gu Chang Ling and her two sons.
Gu Chang Ling slowly shook his head. This time, even he did not understand the emperor.
“Cun Jing, you are on duty around His Majesty. This matter… did you not know of it?” Gu Chang Ling turned to look at his second son.
Gu Cun Jing shook his head. “The emperor never shows his emotions. Before the imperial decree was sent, I did not get any hint of the news.”
Hearing this, Gu Chang Ling frowned. He said after a moment, “Tomorrow, I will go into the palace and thank His Majesty.”
Translator Ramblings: Relationships through in-laws are a mess. Here’s an example. Jin Yang is second branch Sima daughter’s son. His cousin, Sima Ling, the daughter from the Sima first branch, is engaged to a grand princess’ grandson, essentially his great aunt’s, child. So Jin Yang and Sima Ling are first cousins and also … cousins by marriage several times removed …