This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“Today is for us to freely have fun. Everyone, no need for such courtesy.” Jin Yang’s gaze swept everyone before landing on Gu Ru Jiu. “Junior Sister came out to play but did not bring your horse?”
Gu Ru Jiu detected gazes falling on her from all around. She pretended ignorance and looked up at Jin Yang, saying, “I am just walking around with my good friends. We are not walking far, so we did not ride.”
“That should be the way to admire the flowers.” Jin Yang dismounted and threw the reins to the guards behind him. “Zhen also has such intentions. Would everyone be willing to accompany Zhen?”
Yang Chui Wen and the young masters of the Li Family naturally would not refuse. Gu Ru Jiu and the misses could only follow behind Jin Yang, looking very loyal to the monarch.
The young masters of the Li family were led by Li Huai Gu, but ever since Li Chu Rou’s horse-riding accident, Li Huai Gu rarely appeared at the gatherings and his reputation was inferior to before.
Other people did not know, but the Li Family knew that the family had once had intentions of a marriage with the Gu Family. So when the young masters of the Li Family saw Gu Ru Jiu, they couldn’t help but take a few glances at Li Huai Gu.
Jin Yang noticed the glances of the Li Family members. While he had suspicions, he did not show anything. He started to talk about different books and records, occasionally mentioning customs of local regions, and their governance. These young masters of aristocratic families were mostly educated and did not speak nonsense.
In terms of ability and talent, the aristocratic families were better than people who came from ordinary families. But these aristocratic family young masters cared about too many things, and were extremely self-centered. Jin Yang did not dare put them in important positions.
Among these young masters, Li Huai Gu and Yang Chui Wen were the most outstanding. After Jin Yang chatted for a while with them, he felt these two had extraordinary knowledge that surpassed the others’.
Gu Ru Jiu was listening to the lofty talks of these young masters and did not notice the dry branches under her feet. She slid and was about to fall. The moment she was falling, she only had one thought, this was so embarrassing.
“Miss Gu.” Yang Chui Wen had been close to Gu Ru Jiu, so when he saw her stumble, he quickly reached out to help support her. After Gu Ru Jiu steadied herself, he pulled his hand back like a gentleman and took a step back. “Are you all right?”
“Thank you, I am fine.” Gu Ru Jiu bowed gratefully to him. “Thank you, Young Master Yang, for your help.”
“Just a minor thing. Miss Gu doesn’t have to be so.” Yang Chui Wen smiled gently.
Jin Yang turned back to look at the pair. Seeing the smile at the corners of Gu Ru Jiu’s lips, he turned and took two steps back to walk in front of Gu Ru Jiu and block Yang Chui Wen behind him. “Junior Sister, are you injured?”
“I am fine.” Gu Ru Jiu looked around, winked at him and whispered, “Your Majesty, don’t ask. It’s so embarrassing.”
Seeing her act so childishly towards him, Jin Yang smiled. He reached out to help her take a few steps. When they were far away from the dried branch, he said, “Careful, do not fall.”
Li Huai Gu looked thoughtfully at His Majesty and Second Miss Gu’s actions. He turned back to look at Yang Chui Wen who had a faint smile without any unusual expression. He looked down and didn’t speak.
The group did not walk far when Jin Yang spoke. “It rained a few nights ago. It is slippery here. Zhen will see Junior Sister back. Everyone, as you please.” After finishing, he turned to look at Gu Ru Jiu. “Junior Sister, what do you think?”
Gu Ru Jiu looked up at Jin Yang’s eyes and saw her reflection in that pair of beautiful eyes. She looked down and said in a low voice, “Then this subject will thank Your Majesty.”
The other young masters and misses in the “as you please” category perceptively expressed their attitudes and bid farewell to His Majesty.
After Jin Yang’s group left, Yang Xi Xue and the other misses found an excuse to leave the group of young masters, leaving Yang Chui Wen and the young masters of the Li family behind.
“The Gu Family has a daughter coming of age.” Yang Chui Wen put his hands behind his back and said with a smile, “A bright jewel, calm, composed. People will fall in love with such a beauty.”
Li Ji An of the Li Second Branch raised an eyebrow and said with slight disagreement, “Just a young girl of fourteen. What kind of jewel do you see?”
“Some women’s beauty is on the surface and not inside. This Miss Gu is different. Her beauty is inside, in her aura, in her mind. Even just one of her glances can make people forget themselves.” Yang Chui Wen sighed when he said this. “If I am able to marry such a beauty, I will have no regrets in life.”
Li Ji An and the others expressed doubts about Yang Chui Wen’s judgement. In their eyes, Gu Ru Jiu was still that young and innocent little girl. They really could not see much beauty to lose their minds.
Seeing his fellows express doubts towards his judgement, Yang Chui Wen was not angry. He said, “It is good that you do not understand how to admire. This way, no one will compete with me to marry her.”
Hearing Yang Chui Wen say this, Li Huai Gu’s brows moved slightly. He opened his mouth, wanting to say something, and then swallowed it back. He turned back to look in the direction the emperor had left in and sighed softly.
On the forest path, Jin Yang and Gu Ru Jiu walked, one behind the other. Behind them were the upright dragon guards whose footsteps caused this path to feel extremely quiet.
Jin Yang walked slowly, so slowly that Gu Ru Jiu could surpass him with a large step.
“Junior Sister, have you ever thought of what the person you admire will be like?” Jin Yang stopped walking. He turned to look at Gu Ru Jiu, his expression one that she did not understand.
Looking at Jin Yang like this, Gu Ru Jiu suddenly realized that this young emperor had grown up into a qualified emperor.
“Your Majesty, this subject has never thought of this question.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled and shook her head. “You, have you ever thought?”
“Not in the past, but now I have. I only fear that she is not willing.” Jin Yang put his hands behind his back and slowly walked forward.
Gu Ru Jiu walked silently behind him. Looking at his upright back, and his legs wrapped in the brocade robe, she couldn’t help but think that, with his appearance, he could compete to be the most beautiful man in the capital.
“Careful, there is a slope ahead.” Jin Yang turned and put his hand in front of Gu Ru Jiu. “I will help you down.”
Gu Ru Jiu looked at this hand, as white as jade, the joints well-defined. The hand was thin, but gave off a determined power.
But she felt that maybe she shouldn’t grip that hand.
She pushed off, lifting up her skirts and running down the slope in a few steps. Then she smiled and looked at Jin Yang up the hill. “Your Majesty, there is a beautiful sea of flowers ahead.”
Jin Yang saw her innocent smile and dropped his hand. He took large strides down. “Really?”
“Look, there.” Gu Ru Jiu pointed ahead. There was a large patch of wildflowers, not the tender bright flowers of the palace, but full of life.
The dragon guards carefully stood around to prevent any accidents.
Hu Yun Qi, who was closest to the pair, sighed inside. Cun Jing’s younger sister could not be kept home. Other people may not see, but he could clearly see how His Majesty looked at Second Miss Gu. Wasn’t this the feeling of love?
The Gu Family may not have such intentions, but His Majesty had intentions.
He wondered, when the imperial family asked to marry Second Miss Gu, would the Gu Family be willing to nod their head?
It was ironic to think of. The Li and Sima families did all they could but His Majesty did not even spare a glance. The Gu Family did not plan to raise a consort, but the emperor just liked their girl. This really was luck could not be stopped if it came, and if one did not have luck, they could not get it.
“I thought about what Your Majesty just asked.” Gu Ru Jiu bent down to pick a wildflower and played with it. “I do not want much, just a person willing to be considerate of me, and walk through this life with me.”
“If… ” Jin Yang turned to look at her. “If that person is…”
The mountain wind rose. Several birds flew out of the trees and chirped as they flew overhead.
Gu Ru Jiu looked up at the sky and then glanced at Jin Yang’s pale face. She inhaled. “The mountain wind is cold. Let’s first return.”
She worried that the weak Jin Yang would be ill after the mountain wind chill. “How about we talk as we walk?”
Jin Yang swallowed his unspoken words. He turned and took his cloak from the dragon guards before putting it on Gu Ru Jiu.
Gu Ru Jiu looked down as he used his white fingers to tie the cloak. She said dazedly, “Thank you.”
“Let’s go.” Jin Yang smiled considerately and then walked ahead.
Hu Yun Qi’s breath stuck in his throat and he almost choked. He couldn’t help but go into an internal frenzy. Your Majesty, your words have reached your lips—continue to speak!
Aren’t you usually calm, wise, and decisive? How come you are so indecisive here?
Jin Yang could not hear Hu Yun Qi’s internal shouts. Right now, he was in conflict. He had to make sure he did not touch Junior Sister but also that she did not fall. He carefully walked towards the main hall of Taihe Palace.
When one walked with someone they disliked, a few steps would be hard to tolerate. But if one was together with someone they liked, even the longest and steepest road would feel too short. When Jin Yang saw the main hall of Taihe Palace, he felt slightly disappointed.
While he and Jiu Jiu had chances to meet in Kangquan Palace, the two did not have many chances to speak in private. A chance like today was extremely rare, so he had treasured it.
But no matter how reluctant he felt, he still worried that Jiu Jiu would get sick from the mountain wind. There would be more chances to interact. But if Jiu Jiu became sick, the one in hardship would be Jiu Jiu.
“Empress Dowager, His Majesty has returned.” Matron Liu whispered softly by Empress Dowager Zhou’s ear. “County Princess Changyan came back with His Majesty.”
“I know.” Empress Dowager Zhou nodded. From afar, she saw Jin Yang and Gu Ru Jiu walk in from the outside. She turned and said to the ladies keeping her company, “This Grieving One is extremely grateful to everyone for accompanying this Grieving One to have fun. The Imperial Kitchen has prepared a special meal for you ladies to taste.”
The ladies heard this and said this was good. Inside they thought, did the empress dowager want to observe the noble misses’ manners at the table?
They did not know the true intentions of the empress dowager, but the meal was extremely abundant and even the aristocratic family members, spoiled by all kinds of refined foods, could not pick out a flaw.
When seated, everyone found that Empress Dowager Zhou did not seem to be deliberately observing the table manners of any miss. She seemed to have only invited people to eat, and had no other intentions.
After the meal, the empress dowager invited the women to drink tea. The men started to compete in swordsmanship and archery.
However, the young masters of aristocratic families were good at conducting themselves and were measured in their competition. While there were wins and losses, they maintained each other’s face.
Some of the new nobles clearly put in more effort, and got good places.
In the end, Li Huai Gu won the archery, and Yang Chui Wen won swordsmanship. The two of them were the representatives of the aristocratic family young masters.
Having watched the entire process, Jin Yang praised the two, and had someone give them rewards. Immediately, the atmosphere of the entire place grew lively.
The musicians played their songs. Some with freer personalities started to dance to the tune, and won some praise.
“Does Jiu Jiu want to join in?” Yang shi looked at the men and women dancing and whispered her question. “I saw many girls you know are dancing.”
Gu Ru Jiu shook her head. “No.”
Eldest Sister-in-law was gone. While she did not have to wear mourning clothes each day, she did not want to sing or dance right now.
Knowing what she was thinking, Yang shi did not persuade her. Yang shi only said, “It’s good you aren’t going; we can talk.”
“Then what does Mother want to say?” Gu Ru Jiu put down her teacup and looked at Yang shi.
“For example…” Yang shi raised her chin towards the crowd. “What do you think about the Yang Family son?”
“Cousin Yang?” Gu Ru Jiu thought of the kind Yang Wen Ji and nodded. “Pretty good.”
“I do not mean him. I mean the young master of Duke Yang’s establishment.” Yang shi carefully observed Gu Ru Jiu’s expression.
“What do you think of him?”
“He…” Gu Ru Jiu looked towards the crowd. Yang Chui Wen was dancing with some of the other young masters. Maybe because he seemed exceptionally good-looking, he was eye-catching in the crowd. “I do not understand him well. But his appearance is outstanding.”
She had a faint guess about her mother’s meaning. But in her eyes, Yang Chui Wen was just a beautiful youth with good bearing that she had no intentions of marrying.
Hearing her daughter say this, Yang shi knew that her daughter had no intentions towards Young Master Yang. Yang shi said, “I understand. Will you go to Duke Yang’s tea party in a few days?”
Gu Ru Jiu shook her head. “No, I will stay home and keep Big Brother company.”
Yang shi heard this and patted her shoulder, sighing.
In Jin Yang’s view, the men and women in the capital were much more open-minded than the people of Jin Prefecture. The genders did not avoid each other so much. Maybe because the daughters of aristocratic families were extremely precious, such a culture had formed.
He looked silently at the dancing men and women. He saw how Yang Chui Wen would accidentally come into contact with several misses when dancing and couldn’t help but think, how could such a fickle person match Jiu Jiu?
“Your Majesty?” Empress Dowager Zhou saw Jin Yang looking at other people dancing and thought he was interested. “Your Majesty, if you want, join in. Today, the monarch and subjects can have fun together. There is no need for so much politeness.”
Jin Yang smiled and shook his head at Empress Dowager Zhou. He raised his cup and took a sip of tea. “I will just watch.”
Empress Dowager Zhou thought that he was not going because of his health and felt slightly sad. She turned her head and said a few words by Matron Liu’s ears.
“Matron Liu?” Gu Ru Jiu saw Matron Liu come and put down her teacup in puzzlement. “Matron, is something the matter?”
“County Princess, please forgive this servant for disturbing you.” Matron Liu bowed to Gu Ru Jiu and said, “The empress has invited you to chat with her. Please, County Princess.”
Yang shi nodded towards Gu Ru Jiu.
Gu Ru Jiu returned the bow and said, “I do not dare. Keeping the empress dowager company is this subject’s honor.” She stood, neatened her dress, and followed Matron Liu towards the empress dowager’s seat.
“Jiu Jiu, come sit here.” Empress Dowager Zhou had Matron Liu place a chair beside her for Gu Ru Jiu to sit next to her. After Gu Ru Jiu sat, she asked in concern, “How come you are so thin? Have you been taking good care of yourself?”
“Maybe because I have recently grown taller.” Gu Ru Jiu touched her face and squeezed out a smile towards the empress dowager. Seeing the other’s concerned gaze, she lowered her head and said, “After something like that occurred, Big Brother almost collapsed. I always worry that he will do something stupid.”
“Child, your thoughts have become so grave.” Empress Dowager Zhou touched her face. “Zhi Yu is a son of the Gu Family. No matter how sad he feels now, he will not do anything stupid. This is your growing time. It is not good to expend so much effort all day.”
“Aunt is right, Jiu Jiu understands…” Gu Ru Jiu took the teacup that the palace attendants had handed. She grimaced and said, “But when a person is suddenly missing from a perfect family, I always feel sad.”
Empress Dowager placed a plate of pastries in front of her. “I had the imperial chefs make this for you. Taste them.”
“Thank you, Aunt.” Gu Ru Jiu picked up a piece to taste. But before she could swallow, she heard noise coming from below.
She took a sip of tea and swallowed the pastry. Then she looked in the direction of the noise in surprise.
Today was the empress dowager’s birthday. There were so many people present. Who would be so stupid to make a fuss at an event like this?
“Move away!” Wu Dong Yun pushed Sima Xiang aside in anger. She looked at her torn dress with a red face. “Who are you pretending to shed crocodile tears for?”
“Miss Wu, I apologize.” Sima Xiang curtsied gracefully to Wu Dong Yun. “If you do not mind, I will accompany you to change.”
She did not say she had done it on purpose or explain. But in the eyes of others, her actions made it appear that Wu Dong Yun was making trouble for no reason and Sima Xiang was calmly taking care of the problem.
“Ha, you accompany me. Who knows what accident will happen if you come with me.” Wu Dong Yun sneered and lowered her voice until only the two of them could hear. “You think I do not know you deliberately damaged my dress and waited for me to erupt?”
Sima Xiang’s eyelids flickered and she did not speak.
“Everyone in the capital knows I have a fiery temper and don’t have reservations in my speech and conduct. But that doesn’t mean my mind is stupid.” Wu Dong Yun raised her chin and looked in the direction of the emperor’s seat. “If you want to use me to gain exposure in front of the imperial family, you have to know who you are. If I had an older brother about to be executed after fall, I would stay at home. I would be embarrassed to go anywhere.”
“Miss Wu, accidentally damaging your dress is my wrong. I apologize to you. But please do not humiliate my family.” Sima Xiang increased her volume and spoke.
“Look at your tactics.” Wu Dong Yun laughed disdainfully. “You are a miss of the Sima Family at least. Don’t you think you embarrass your family by using a tactic like this? I fear the centuries-old reputation of the Sima Family will end in your family’s hands.”
Sima Xiang bit her lower lip, looking darkly at Wu Dong Yun without speaking.
“Those from remote places are from remote places. Even if you put on the skin of the Sima Family, you do not have the Sima Family’s presence.” Wu Dong Yun snorted coldly. “I think nothing of your trivial tactics.”
She finished and then left, holding up her dress, without looking at Sima Xiang’s expression.
After this incident, the men and women dancing around could not continue to have fun and returned to their seats.
Sima Xiang’s hands, hidden in her sleeves, were tightly clenched. She only relaxed when her fingernails pierced her palm. She turned back to look in the direction where Eldest Mistress Sima was sitting.
Eldest Mistress Sima had a smile on her face, and her emotions could not be seen. However, she was speaking to a lady beside her and didn’t even glance at Sima Xiang.
Empress Dowager Zhou finished watching this drama and turned to whisper to Gu Ru Jiu, “Jiu Jiu, you have to remember this truth. Truly smart people will learn to watch the drama, and not be the one acting in it.”
Gu Ru Jiu smiled faintly and nodded.
“This young girl is a pity. While she has some cleverness, she was ruined by being raised in the Sima Third Branch.” Empress Dowager Zhou shook her head. “A good daughter yet they don’t think of teaching her bearing and an open mind, rather having her learn such lowly tactics. This is not the conduct of an aristocratic family.”
This fuss might have been an accident in other people’s eyes, but for Empress Dowager Zhou who had lived in the palace for many years, this was a drama that Sima Xiang had directed and performed.
She knew the Sima Family wanted to send their miss into the palace. Disregarding that she basically did not want a member of the Sima Family as consort, even if the Sima Family was an ordinary aristocratic family, a girl like Sima Xiang was not suitable for the palace.
“She is so beautiful, she should not… be like this.” Gu Ru Jiu did not have any good feelings about the Sima Third Branch, but she could not lie and say that Sima Xiang was not beautiful.
Empress Dowager Zhou shook her head. “Even the best-looking men and women will grow old and ugly one day.”
“A beautiful person will be a beautiful old person even when they are old.” When Gu Ru Jiu said this, she inexplicably looked towards Jin Yang. “For example, like His Majesty…”
Jin Yang saw Gu Ru Jiu look at him. While he didn’t know what she was saying, he still returned a gentle smile.
Seeing his smile, Gu Ru Jiu thought, so beautiful one forgot hunger was just like this.