This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“What is the matter with you” Sima Ling changed into her riding attire and came out. Seeing Sima Xiang’s expression was not well, she looked around in puzzlement. Then she saw Gu Ru Jiu leaving in the distance with several other misses. “You had a conflict with Miss Gu?”
She didn’t know how Third Aunt usually taught her cousin. Their family had come to Jing for many years, and she had led her cousin to attend many gatherings of noble misses. But after these years, Cousin did not appear to be on good terms with anyone. She didn’t know whose personality the other had inherited.
She knew that Cousin was restrained because she was not born in Jing. But if she was always wary of this one and careful of the next even when having fun, then it would be so tiring.
“It’s nothing. Second Miss Gu is young, and I will not hold this against her.” Sima Xiang shook her head. She glanced at the misses of aristocratic families walking together with Sima Ling and smiled towards them.
Seeing her like this, Sima Ling could not voice the words in her chest. She just felt that her cousin had been raised too petty-minded by her third uncle and aunt.
“Let’s go. Today, we did not bring horses and have to pick our own.” Sima Ling turned and said to her good friends, “We cannot let them pick the good horses first.”
Sima Xiang followed behind them and remained silent as she listened to them say what kind of horses they would pick.
There were many horses tied up on the stables. The stablehands carefully comforted the horses so that the important people could slowly pick.
Gu Ru Jiu picked a chestnut horse. She turned and saw Yang Xi Xue come over with a short-legged horse. She smiled and said, “Why did you pick this one?”
“I am not skilled at riding and shooting, and I’m just participating for the sake of it.” Yang Xi Xue knew her weaknesses well and did not plan to force herself. “But you, be careful later.”
“Don’t worry.” Gu Ru Jiu reached out to pat the horse’s neck. “I know my limits. Cousin, don’t worry.”
As the two spoke, Sima Ling’s group were laughing as they walked in. Sima Ling, from the bottom of her heart, felt that the matter had been a tragedy caused by the third branch not raising their son well. A young master of an aristocratic family had no sense of propriety like the wastrel sons of new nobility. They really thought that the capital was the remote village they had lived in where they could do as they wished?
Gu Ru Jiu saw Sima Ling’s group and bent her knees in a bow to them. Sima Ling smiled and returned the greeting as though there was no conflict between the two families. The other misses exchanged greetings and smiled at each other without any awkwardness.
Only Sima Xiang felt her face was hot as she stood within the group. She regretted coming with the eldest branch to this place.
She should not have come. Coming also made her just a joke. She had a brother who was a killer. With what could she still enter the palace? But if she thought like this, the sobs of her mother sounded in her mind, the cries suffocating her.
“The empress dowager and His Majesty have come.”
“It really is His Majesty.”
She suddenly came back to attention and took several steps back along with the other misses. Then she saw a pair of black boots pass by her. Thinking of the means that her family had used in order for her to marry this man, she felt endless courage well up. She ignored her deportment and looked up directly at the emperor.
So it was him…
Sima Xiang thought of the young master she had once encountered on the streets and couldn’t help but grimace. No wonder those young masters of aristocratic families had followed behind him. So he was the emperor.
Jin Yang was careful in personality and rarely left the palace. Even if he did so, he was in the company of the dragon guards and never flirted with misses of any family. As a result, the women of aristocratic families had heard of His Majesty’s great deportment but had never seen him.
The Feng Dynasty was a country that cared about beauty. So when the noble misses saw the emperor’s appearance at close distance, their hearts were stirred. His Majesty was very good-looking!
The stablehands came with the imperial horse. Jin Yang took the reins and mounted the horse. Then he raised his voice and said, “Zhen is not good at riding—everyone, at your ease.”
Even though he spoke honestly, in the eyes of the aristocratic family misses who liked appearance, whether he was good at riding wasn’t important, only if he looked good on the horse.
The empress dowager and the emperor came to say a few words of encouragement before leaving, as though they feared disturbing people’s spirits.
Hu Xi whispered into Yang Xi Xue’s ear, “His Majesty is very good-looking.”
Yang Xi Xue coughed and looked around. Seeing no one paying attention to them, she said, “I heard long ago that His Majesty is outstanding in appearance, and thought that those people were deliberately saying good things. I did not think…”
Gu Ru Jiu listened to the two talk, and turned to look at Jin Yang in the distance. Dressed in black on a white horse, he had an extraordinary presence. If he was not of ill health, he might be very good at riding and shooting.
Someone suggested the noblewomen have a horseracing competition. Gu Ru Jiu saw Sima Xiang step out and mounted her horse, moving towards the starting point.
“Jiu Jiu. ” Hu Xi looked worriedly at her and wanted to stop her. But Yang Xi Xue stopped Hu Xi.
“Don’t worry, Jiu Jiu knows what to do.” Yang Xi Xue looked at Sima Xiang in the field and said thoughtfully, “At an event like this today, Jiu Jiu would not let the third Sima Branch get the attention.”
“But when has Jiu Jiu raced anyone?” Hu Xi was panicked. Thinking about the accident two years ago, she couldn’t help but say, “What if she is injured?”
“In the past, she did not compete because there was no need.” Yang Xi Xue sighed. “But if she doesn’t today, and allows Sima Xiang to stand out, then the Gu Family has no face.”
Sima Xiang had borrowed the face of the Sima eldest branch to come here. That was already slapping the Gu Family in the face. If the Gu Family did not respond at all, by tomorrow, the Gu Family would be thought of as weak.
So Jiu Jiu could shy away from her duty at any time except today.
When Jin Yang saw Gu Ru Jiu enter the field, his expression changed slightly. He turned and said to the guard behind him, “Send a guard good at riding to follow. Do not let any accidents happen to these noble misses.” He paused and then added, “County Princess Changyan is young—you have to pay attention.”
The captain heard this and immediately understood. He placed the safety of County Princess Changyan first.
After the guard left, the empress dowager said, “My son, you do not need to worry. The Gu Family members are usually gentle in personality, but this does not mean they are mediocre. Just watch.”
She still remembered her mother’s emotional tone when she had mentioned the Gu Family in childhood. Mother had said at the time, “Don’t offend the Gu Family. This family remembers kindnesses, but also holds grudges.”
At that time, she had not understood why Mother would say this, because in her eyes, Aunt and Uncle had been gentle and good people, and her cousin was a gentleman. When she entered the palace later, she had read through the imperial family records of the last century. She discovered that the Gu Family had always been a moderately important second-class aristocratic family, but in these hundred years, the aristocratic families that had been at odds with them had scattered and declined while they maintained their glory as a second-tier aristocratic family. They never provoked others, but they were not to be underestimated.
When she had initially invited her cousin Gu Chang Ling to be the emperor’s teacher, one reason was that the Gu Family had been very respectful of the imperial family despite being an aristocratic family. They also had some relation to her, so they would invest more effort when teaching the young emperor. The second reason was that she valued the Gu Family’s conduct and principles.
So when she saw Jiu Jiu come out at this time, she was not surprised.
This was the Gu Family. If anyone dared to hit them, they would break the other’s bones and then grind their faces into the mud.
“This son is too cautious.” Jin Yang forced a smile. His knuckles were pale as he gripped the reins and he greatly desired to follow.
If this world completely belonged to Zhen, perhaps Jiu Jiu would not have to do this for the face of her family. He wanted to give her the highest status, the greatest glory, so no one would dare to bully her.
“County Princess Changyan has such interests.” Sima Xiang’s horse stood next to Gu Ru Jiu. The two looked calmly at the front. While the two of them were talking, they did not look at each other.
“Miss Sima has such interests—why should I not as well?” Gu Ru Jiu curved her lips, her eyes cold. “It is just winning or losing.”
Sima Xiang was shocked, and turned to look abruptly at Gu Ru Jiu. She saw the other smiled adorably and innocently.
Suddenly, the copper cymbal was struck and the horse race began.
Sima Xiang pulled her gaze away, gritting her teeth and whipping the horse below her. She shot out ahead.
She could not afford to lose or lose at all. She could only obtain the empress dowager and the emperor’s attention if she was first. Their family had already split into pieces, and she could no longer delay.
No one had seen Gu Ru Jiu ride before, or rather, in the eyes of the misses and young masters of the aristocratic families, Gu Ru Jiu’s horsemanship had always been in the middle-of-the-pack, not far behind but never spectacular. Only today did they learn that this second Miss Gu was stronger than anyone else when she tried.
There were more than a dozen noble misses riding today, but there were two people far ahead of everyone else—Sima Xiang and Gu Ru Jiu.
Because the matter of the Sima and Gu families had made a considerable fuss, everyone was happy to watch the spectacle when they saw the Sima and Gu misses ahead.
The eldest mistress of the Sima Family sat among the women. Hearing the whispers behind her, her smile was stiff. She knew that the third branch would not easily give up. Now, the Gu Family was clearly showing they were opposing the third branch.
If Sima Xiang won, that would be good. If she lost, the entire Sima Family would lose face.
Clop, clop, clop.
The urgent hoofbeats came closer to her. Sima Xiang didn’t dare to turn back and see who it was. She only furiously swung her whip, wanting to create more distance between her and the person behind her.
But no matter how hard she worked, the person behind her still caught up, and drew half a horse-length ahead.
“Go!” Sima Xiang panicked. She swung her whip viciously several times, but the person who was half a horse-length ahead was already increasing the distance. This person was Gu Ru Jiu.
Why would it be her?
It was actually her?
Sima Xiang didn’t know what she felt as she watched Gu Ru Jiu’s horse pass the finishing line. Clapping sounded in the distance along with some whistles. The entire racetrack was filled with cheerful noise, but this had nothing to do with her.
She had lost, she had lost…
She dazedly looked back in the direction of the empress dowager and the emperor. She saw that handsome youth had a smile on his face, his eyes looking at Gu Ru Jiu who was next to her.
“County Princess Changyan has good horsemanship.” Sima Xiang smiled insincerely. “In the past, I did not see it. I have been blind.”
“Thank you, Miss Sima.” Gu Ru Jiu turned her horse around and smiled at Sima Xiang. “I just luckily won this round.” Then she rode the horse to the side and did not stand together with Sima Xiang.
“Miss Gu.” A youth in brocade robes rode over and bowed to Gu Ru Jiu saying, “People will forget the world when they see Miss Gu on horseback.”
This young master had an outstanding appearance and was elegant in his actions. Even Gu Ru Jiu could not pick any flaw. She returned the greeting and said, “Young Master Yang is too complimentary. It was just good luck.”
This person was Yang Chui Wen, the son of Duke Yang. In the past, other than seeing him at all kinds of gatherings, Gu Ru Jiu had never conversed with him in private.
While she did not know the other’s intentions, the other had come over to talk and she could not make the mood stiff. So she smiled and said, “Then I will wish Young Master Yang to win.”
“Thank you, Miss Gu, for your words.” Yang Chui Wen smiled at Gu Ru Jiu, and then rode his horse towards the starting line.
Gu Ru Jiu looked at his back and thought in puzzlement, had he come over to get good luck?
When he saw Yang Chu Wen get close to Gu Ru Jiu, Jin Yang’s expression was not very good. When he saw Yang Chui Wen leave with a smile, his smile could not persist.
At the start, to learn how Duke Yang’s son was, he had found an opportunity to meet this person. Objectively speaking, Yang Chui Wen was a rare talent. Disregarding how he had good conduct along with martial and literary talents, he was very good-looking. No wonder he had such fame in the capital.
If this was three years ago, he might have felt that Jiu Jiu should find a husband like this. But to him at present, the closer a good man was to Jiu Jiu, the worse he felt.
This was the girl he had carefully cherished and adored. How could he be willing to let people with other intentions get close to her?
But Jin Yang’s tiny unhappiness did not influence Yang Chui Wen’s horsemanship. When the race started, he immediately leapt ahead of the other young masters.
When he reached the end point, the cheers and clapping of the women welcomed him. But he ignored them and looked with a smile at Gu Ru Jiu.
When the two’s gaze met in the air, he bowed slightly to Gu Ru Jiu.
Gu Ru Jiu saw this and smiled. Her bright eyes curved slightly.
Duchess Yang was sitting with Yang shi. Seeing this, she couldn’t help but say, “It has been a few days since I saw County Princess Changyan. She has grown prettier.”
Yang shi said with a smile, “She just grew up slightly. Finally not as mischievous as in childhood. She does not deserve your praise.”
Duchess Yang smiled and shook her head, not accepting Yang shi‘s humble words. Her words were not just out of politeness. In her view, Gu Ru Jiu was more beautiful than before.
Last time, Gu Ru Jiu still had a childish air, but now she had some of a woman’s aura—just like a flower bud on the verge of blooming, beautiful and innocent.
She wanted to help her son marry this miss, but the Gu Family was not willing to accept. While she felt this was a pity, she could not do a thing.
Yang Chui Wen achieved victory in the race, so when his horse left the track, he was surrounded by his good friends.
“Brother Yang’s horsemanship is always good, but especially good today. Did something good happen?”
“There are many beauties today, and Brother Yang is excited.”
Hearing his good friends’ teasing, Yang Chui Wen couldn’t help but look for Gu Ru Jiu’s figure. He searched for a while and found Gu Ru Jiu talking with some other girls in the corner.
Maybe she had sensed him looking at her. Just as Yang Chui Wen was about to look away, Gu Ru Jiu suddenly looked back and met his gaze.
Then Yang Chui Wen saw Gu Ru Jiu gave him a bright smile.
“Brother Yang, what is it?” Someone asked him, seeing him not speak.
“Nothing.” Yang Chui Wen looked back and did not let anyone sense his intentions. At this moment, his heart was beating a bit faster and louder.
This was the feeling he had felt back when he had been praised by his teachers in childhood for writing a poem. While it was not ecstasy, it was slightly joyful surprise. He had to hide this joy in his heart so people could not detect it.
“Emperor, where are you going?” Empress Dowager Zhou saw Jin Yang ride away on his horse and asked.
“This son is just going to walk around.” He thought of his not-so-good health and his eyes dimmed. “I will not race horses, do not worry.”
Empress Dowager Zhou saw his dispirited expression and did not ask. She just nodded and had the dragon guards follow.
“Your Majesty.” Hu Yun Qi followed behind Jin Yang. Seeing him wander aimlessly, he suddenly worried a young miss would come out of nowhere for an encounter and could only say, “How about this subject arranges for people to open the way.”
Jin Yang pulled at his reins to stop his horse. Then several misses appeared ahead of him. Hu Yun Qi recognized the leader as Miss Sima.
The Hu and Gu families were relatives by marriage and family friends. So facing members of the Sima Family, Hu Yun Qi’s smile faded slightly.
Sima Ling and the others had not expected to encounter Jin Yang in the forest. They stilled, and then dismounted their horses to curtsy to him.
Jin Yang nodded coolly at them and urged his horse forward. Behind him, Hu Yun Qi looked back and saw among these girls, there was an especially beautiful one looking up.
He moved his gaze away and glanced at this expressionless emperor. Pity that all those feelings were not seen by this emperor at all.
This forest had the most flora in Taihe Palace. It was not a surprise the noble misses came here to view the scenery. As they moved along, Hu Yun Qi had encountered several young masters and misses. But His Majesty was not in a good mood and did not allow anyone to accompany him.
“Jiu Jiu, your performance just now surprised me.” Hu Xi pushed aside the branches in front of her and then said to Gu Ru Jiu who walked next to her. Jiu Jiu, who had changed out of her riding attire, did not look as intimidating as she did on the race track. She still seemed to be that adorable and gentle girl, as if that leader on the horse track was not her.
Hearing Hu Xi’s words, Gu Ru Jiu rubbed her legs and grimaced. “My legs are aching now.”
Maybe because the mountains were cooler, the flowers that had withered in the city were blooming beautifully here.
Zhang Yu Qin, Yang Xi Xue, and Hu Xi’s families were all on good terms with the Gu Family. So when they heard Gu Ru Jiu say such a thing, they felt slightly helpless.
They, as misses of aristocratic families, could be as free and play as they wished usually, but they could not let their family’s face be stepped on. People all said that the members of the aristocratic families were extremely well-mannered, measured in their speaking, skilled in all four arts, and were the best of the people.
In reality, they were the same as ordinary people. But from birth, they had to understand one truth. Each of their words and their actions represented the face of their family.
This was why outsiders felt that members of aristocratic families were good at everything and special at everything.
People who acted like the Sima Third Branch were not common in the aristocratic families. Or rather, people like them would appear in aristocratic families going towards decline.
They looked down on the conduct of the Sima Third Branch, so they naturally were not willing to interact with Sima Xiang. This was the conduct of the aristocratic families.
The Gu and Chen families had been rooted in the capital for over a century. While they were not first-tier aristocratic families, they had a certain status in the capital. The Sima Third Branch had just moved in from outside, and relied on the glory of the Sima surname to survive. Where did they get the confidence they could protect themselves after killing someone?
They really thought the aristocratic families of the capital were weak and easy to bully?
Sima Yue was only a member of the Sima Third Branch. Even the most prestigious eldest Sima Branch didn’t dare to have the confidence to say they did not fear the other aristocratic families of the capital.
“Someone seems to be coming towards us.” Hu Xi heard hoofbeats and whispered, “There seems to be many people.”
Gu Ru Jiu curiously looked up and saw a group of people heading over. But they were obscured by the flowers and trees so she could not clearly see them.
“Miss Gu, you are here?”
Just as Gu Ru Jiu was guessing who the incomers were, several more people appeared behind them. It was Yang Chui Wen and the young masters of the Li Family.
The two groups exchanged greetings. Before they could say a lot, the procession ahead came close and the hoofbeats interrupted their conversation.
Seeing the leader of the group, these young masters and misses of the aristocratic families all took a step back and then bowed in unison.
“Greetings, Your Majesty.”
Jin Yang looked at the young men and women that were clearly divided. At a glance, he could see this was just a coincidental meeting, and not moving together.
Of course, to him, this was not the most important.
The important thing was, how had Junior Sister encountered Young Master Yang?
Translator Ramblings: Romantic rivals having horse races … the medieval equivalent of race cars.