This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“Father, Mother.” Gu Ru Jiu walked into the main courtyard and bowed to her parents. Then she bent her knees slightly towards her eldest brother, her second brother and her second sister-in-law. Everyone in the family sitting seriously like this made her feel puzzled. Nothing special had happened in the capital recently, so why were they all so serious?
“Jiu Jiu, come here. Sit down to speak.” Gu Chang Ling, under the gaze of his entire family, was emotional. “Next month, you come of age. This father thinks of the year you were born, you were a wrinkly little ball. Fifteen years passed in the blink of an eye.”
Gu Ru Jiu felt her heart warm up. She stood and bowed deeply to Yang shi and Gu Chang Ling. “Thank you, Father, Mother, for raising me.”
“Parents raise their children in hopes of their health and growth. Children thank their parents for raising them. As parents, we thank our children for coming to our lives.” Yang shi‘s eyes turned slightly red. She used a small smile to disguise her emotions. “So in the future, do not say such words. There is no need for thanks between parents and children.”
“Yes.” Gu Ru Jiu nodded with a smile. She walked next to Yang shi, crouched down and looked up at her mother. “Mother, what is it?”
“I am fine. But you are growing up by the day, and are at an age when you can leave the house. This mother cannot bear it.” Yang shi wiped away the water from the corners of her eyes and reached out to touch Gu Ru Jiu’s forehead. “There is something I haven’t told you. I wanted to tell you the day after, but then the news of Prince Cheng came that day. His Majesty was going to mourn for Prince Cheng for seven months, so I could not mention the matter.”
She looked at her daughter’s perplexed expression and knew that the imperial family had not spoken of this matter to her daughter on her trips to the palace. As a result, her unwillingness decreased greatly. Fortunately, the emperor knew the rules and they had not privately confirmed their marriage.
“The imperial family asked Mistress Hu to come propose a marriage to our family.” Yang shi‘s tone was slow. She clearly did not want to mention this matter to Gu Ru Jiu. “His Majesty wants to marry you and make you empress.”
Gu Ru Jiu’s mind was overwhelmed. Her as empress? This was Jin Yang’s intention?
In the last half year, she had not seen Jin Yang many times. At the start of spring this year, the third day of the third month, she had made two pouches for good fortune and longevity to bring into the palace. Because His Majesty had been mourning for Prince Cheng and she was female, she had bid farewell after a few words.
Later, she had seen Jin Yang at Kangquan Place two times. While Jin Yang had seen her onto the carriage each time, she came and left hurriedly. She had never thought that Jin Yang would have such thoughts.
“I hear that this is His Majesty’s intention.” Yang shi saw her disbelief and sighed. “Your father and I thought, if you are unwilling, we will find a reason to refuse this marriage. Other than us, the Hu family, the empress dowager and His Majesty, no one else knows of this.”
“Let me think.” Gu Ru Jiu stood up dazedly and sat down on a chair. The imperial family had spoken, so how could it be refused so easily? Her mother spoke so easily in order to comfort her emotions, but she was not an ignorant child. How could she not know the powerful connections in here?
The other members of her family saw this and could not bear it. Hu shi whispered, “Little Sister-in-law, what do you think of His Majesty?”
“He… treats me very well.” Gu Ru Jiu thought for a moment. “He never abuses his status and is extremely careful and considerate. Brother, you treat me just like he does.”
Gu Cun Jing heard this and changed expression. He had seen long ago that His Majesty was very good to his younger sister. But at the time, he thought that his younger sister was extremely adorable, so His Majesty had some fraternal feelings. Also, His Majesty hadn’t had such thoughts towards his sister at the time. But now, why was it not a fraternal feeling, but a romantic feeling?
Hu shi heard Gu Ru Jiu say this, and her expression eased slightly. “I see that His majesty is sincere towards you.” But how long could this sincerity be maintained? Two years? Five years? Or ten? While marrying into the imperial family could bring glory to the family, but would a family like theirs need to sacrifice a daughter to gain this glory?
“Marquis, Lady, Matron Liu from Kangquan Palace has come.” A servant reported.
“Come in.” Gu Chang Ling stilled, and indicated for the chief steward to personally greet her.
Matron Liu entered the main courtyard. Seeing everyone from the Gu Family present, she first curtsied and then said, “This servant has come to shamelessly ask for a cup of tea from Marquis. Marquis, Lady, do not look down on me.”
“Matron Liu is too polite,” Yang shi said with a smile. “We will clean our poor home to welcome you.”
After saying a few words, Matron Liu moved to the main topic. “This servant has come to bring County Princess Changyan into the palace.”
Yang shi hesitated upon hearing this. “We should not refuse the empress dowager’s invitation, but it will be my daughter’s coming of age ceremony soon. I fear…”
“Lady, do not worry. The empress dowager is only inviting the County Princess to stay for two days, and will send the County Princess back soon.” Matron Liu knew of Yang shi‘s concerns and explained carefully. “County Princess is about to come of age. The empress dowager, due to her status, cannot attend in person, and so has invited the County Princess to stay in the palace. Marquis, Lady, please understand.”
As Matron Liu said such things, if Yang shi refused again, then it would be unreasonable. She thought for a while and then looked towards her daughter for her own decision.
“This subject has not seen the empress dowager for many days.” Gu Ru Jiu slowly smiled. “Since that is the case, I will go disturb Aunt for a few days.”
“It is not a disturbance at all. The empress dowager has been looking forward to this.” Matron Liu was overjoyed seeing Gu Ru Jiu consent and her smile became relaxed.
When Gu Ru Jiu went with servant girls to her own courtyard to pack her luggage, Matron Liu said to Yang shi, “This servant has something else to mention to Marquis and Lady.”
Yang shi looked at her silent husband and knew that he could not speak due to being a man. So she was the one to talk. “Matron, please speak.”
“His Majesty’s mourning period has passed. The matter of empress cannot be delayed.” Matron Liu bowed to Yang shi and Gu Chang Ling. “Please, Marquis, Lady, agree to this marriage.”
Gu Chang Ling, who had not spoken all this time, said, “While they say that a marriage is agreed by the parents and the matchmaker, predestined affinity is still involved.” He took a sip of tea. “His Majesty is a benevolent monarch. The Gu Family naturally wants an ideal son-in-law. But in the future, the young people are the ones growing old together, not us old people. So whether this matter succeeds depends on the young people’s opinion.”
Gu Chang Ling’s words were not subtle and Matron Liu understood his meaning. They had no objections to the marriage with the imperial family. The key was whether County Princess Changyan was willing.
She had heard long ago that the Gu Family loved their daughter, but it was rare to see such a degree of love. If another family encountered such a thing, they would have agreed already. Who would be like the Gu Family?
“I am going to see if Jiu Jiu finished packing and avoid making Matron wait.” Yang shi stood up and smiled towards Matron Liu before moving to the inner courtyard.
When Yang shi reached her daughter’s courtyard, she saw that everything had been packed. She held her daughter’s hand and said, “No need to consider so much. We are here.”
“Mother, don’t worry. This daughter understands.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled at Yang shi and hugged Yang shi‘s arm. She leaned her head on Yang shi‘s arm. “You are so good to me. How do I bear to let all of your good go to waste?”
Yang shi patted her back and laughed silently.
After Matron Liu accompanied Gu Ru Jiu into the palace, she went to the empress dowager to report, telling Empress Dowager Zhou what Gu Chang Ling and Yang shi had said.
Empress Dowager Zhou was not angered by the words and laughed. “The Gu Family is always like this. For so many years, Yang shi has not changed. No wonder she could raise a girl like Jiu Jiu.” After saying this, she said to Matron Liu, “Go and tell the Gu Family’s words to the emperor. Also, tell him, based on my maternal relationship to him, regardless of whether he and Jiu Jiu succeed, he cannot become angry with the Gu Family.”
Matron Liu glanced at Empress Dowager Zhou and her complicated expression turned to silence. “This servant will go right now.”
In the western hall, Gu Ru Jiu examined the room she had once lived in. It was extremely clean, and the decor had been placed based on her initial preferences, as though nothing had been changed and was just waiting for her to move in.
“Just unpack slowly. I will go visit the empress dowager.” Gu Ru Jiu took Bao Lu, Qiu Luo and two palace attendants to go to the main hall. When she reached the door, she saw Matron Liu walk out. Matron Liu bowed to her and she dodged slightly and returned a half bow before moving inside.
Matron Liu stood on her spot and waited for Gu Ru Jiu to enter before she continued to walk. After a few steps, she heard the empress dowager’s pleased laughter from inside. While she did not know what the county princess had said, she could tell how happy the empress dowager was.
This was likely the so-called predestined affinity. Matron Liu thought.
When Matron Liu came to Purple Imperial Hall, Jin Yang was looking at the reports of drought and flooding from the different areas. Hearing Matron Liu’s arrival, he put down what was in his hand and had a servant invite Matron Liu in.
“This servant greets Your Majesty.” Matron Liu greeted Jin Yang with a smile and a bow. “Today, the empress dowager invited County Princess Changyan to stay in the imperial palace and invites you to accompany the empress dowager for the noon meal.”
“Matron doesn’t have to be so polite.” Jin Yang reached out for a lifting motion. His eyes lit up slightly. “Junior Sister has not visited the palace for some time. Does she seem well?”
“She seems thinner than before and taller.” Matron Liu saw His Majesty standing upright as though he was not affected, but his gaze was worried. She said with a smile, “But she has grown more beautiful. Today, when this servant saw the County Princess at the marquis establishment, this servant almost lost composure.”
Hearing Matron Liu say this, Jin Yang’s mood grew better. He put his hands behind his back and said with a smile, “Junior Sister has gathered the best traits of Teacher and his wife.” In his view, Junior Sister’s skin was white, her eyes large, her eyebrows curved, and her hair black. No one was better looking.
Seeing His Majesty in a good mood, Matron Liu took the opportunity to tell him what the Gu Family and the empress dowager thought. She had worried that His Majesty would be angered. But after hearing her words, His Majesty started to praise the Gu Family.
“Teacher Gu’s words are sensible.” Jin Yang had intentions of putting the Gu Family into important positions. Part of the reason was Jiu Jiu, but more was the Gu Family’s conduct and their abilities. As an emperor, the officials he wanted were ones who did not cause trouble and who cared for the people.
If a person didn’t even love their family, could he be expected to love the people? If a person was willing to abandon their children for glory and wealth, then attracted by self-interest and power, he could do more daring things.
The Gu Family’s answer caused him to suddenly realize that this was the Gu Family, as expected of the Gu Family.
As a wise monarch, one would hope to encounter good officials. In the past, Teacher Gu was willing to endure great pressure and report the earthquake to him for the people of the capital. Back then, he had known that the Gu Family had the people in their hearts.
Even though Jin Yang had good composure, he couldn’t help but take a few more looks at Gu Ru Jiu after not meeting for two months. He thought he had disguised himself well, but Empress Dowager Zhou nearly couldn’t endure to look.
“Your Majesty.” After eating, Empress Dowager Zhou rubbed her forehead and said, “I am slightly tired. You take Jiu Jiu and walk around the palace. She hasn’t seen the palace for many days.” Son, this mother can only help you to here.
“Mother-Empress, please rest well. This son will take good care of Junior Sister.” Jin Yang returned a bright smile to Empress Dowager Zhou. He went forward to help her stand, and walked with her to the doorway to the inner bedroom before releasing her hand.
“Your Majesty, there is only one way to obtain someone’s true heart.” Empress Dowager Zhou looked at her child who was usually very sensible. “A true heart for a true heart.”
“Thank you, Mother-Empress. This son understands.” Jin Yang bowed to Empress Dowager Zhou.
“As long as you understand.” Empress Dowager Zhou waved her hand. “You can go.” Even though he was standing there, his heart was in the front of the hall.
Gu Ru Jiu was admiring the teacup in her hand at this time. This teacup was fine to the touch, and perfect in shape. Even the flower patterns on the surface were refined and beautiful. It could be called a work of art. The crisp green tea leaves floating in the cup looked peaceful against the white porcelain. Even before drinking the tea, it was extremely elegant.
“Jiu Jiu.” Jin Yang walked next to her, hesitated, and then sat down next to her.
“Your Majesty.” Gu Ru Jiu put down the teacup and moved to rise. Jin Yang stopped her. “We do not have to be so polite.”
It was the end of summer and the beginning of fall. The weather was slightly hot, and Gu Ru Jiu’s wide-sleeved dress was made out of silk. While Jin Yang was touching her arm through her sleeve, she could still sense the warmth in his palm.
The warmth his palm felt caused Jin Yang to quickly pull his hand back. “Apologies for the accidental offence.” But his palm felt as though it had been burned. Even though it had left her arm, it still felt extremely hot.
“No problem.” Gu Ru Jiu looked at his helplessness and smiled faintly.
“There is a bamboo forest behind Luanhe Palace. It is quiet and peaceful there. Could Junior Sister accompany me there?” Jin Yang looked at Gu Ru Jiu and worried that she would refuse his invitation.
Gu Ru Jiu looked up into his eyes, nodded and said, “Please, Your Majesty, lead the way.”
Seeing her agree to his invitation, Jin Yang was overjoyed. He ordered the palace attendants to prepare tea and pastries in the bamboo forest ahead of their arrival.
Leaving the main hall, Gu Ru Jiu saw Bai Xian and He Ming were both standing guard. She stopped and smiled at Bai Xian.
Bai Xian respectfully bowed to her, and took a step back to express respect. Ever since last year when he fell out of favour with His Majesty, his days had not been good until that day he encountered County Princess Changyan.
Not long after that day, he received His Majesty’s summons and returned to imperial service. While He Ming was still an obstruction, the days were much better than when he was snubbed by His Majesty.
In a place like the palace, if one wanted to inquire, there were no secrets. Also, Bai Xian had served His Majesty for so many years. There were people in Qiankun Palace that had been helped by Bai Xian. So after inquiring about it, he knew the truth.
After County Princess Changyan met him that day, she had said a few words with His Majesty. While she had not deliberately spoken on his behalf, His Majesty finally remembered him.
So half of his return to glory was due to County Princess Changyan.
Leaving Kangquan Palace, there were places with sunset. He Ming took the initiative and held up an umbrella for Jin Yang. Bai Xian did not bother to compete with him. He carefully opened an umbrella and walked next to Gu Ru Jiu. This way, the sun would not shine on her, and the breeze would reach her.
They passed by the fake mountain, the lotus pond, and a nine-turns bridge before finally reaching the bamboo forest. The bamboo forest was very clean, without any pests like mosquitoes. She could even see incense burners tucked away.
“This place is peaceful and calm.” Gu Ru Jiu looked around. Bai Xian put away the umbrella and moved to the side in a timely manner without even looking at He Ming next to him. He sneered inside. The other served His Majesty but could not see the emotions that His Majesty held towards County Princess Changyan. He thought to compete like this?
Even if he did nothing, He Ming would be killed by his lack of sight sooner or later.
“I know you have a hard time in the heat, so you will like this place.” Jin Yang pointed at Luanhe Palace. “When the Department of Household Affairs and the Ministry of Works were repairing this place, I had them connect this place to the palace. So one only needs to take a few steps from Luanhe Palace to come here.”
Gu Ru Jiu silently looked at the palace shining with golden light underneath the sunlight. The wind caused the bamboo leaves to rustle.
Seeing her remain silent, Jin Yang was not discouraged. He led her to the pavilion to sit down and then personally poured a cup of bamboo tea for her. “Jiu Jiu, do you understand my intentions?”
Gu Ru Jiu looked at this pair of hands that presented the teacup. Clean, white, and flawlessly beautiful.
She looked up at him and said after a moment, “Your Majesty, making me your empress is not the best choice.”
“For me, this is the best, and the only choice.” Seeing her not accept the teacup, Jin Yang did not pull back. He reached out and said with a smile, “When I first saw you, you were a half-grown little girl. Your face was white and round, and you looked like one of the attendants of a goddess.”
“Your Majesty, you judge people by their appearance?”
Jin Yang smiled and shook his head. “Back then, I thought, which family does this fortunate and adorable girl belong to? She looks so healthy, so likable.”
Gu Ru Jiu touched her face that was between a sunflower seed and a goose egg. She showed a faint smile. “I was only ten years at the time. It was normal for me to have more flesh on my face.”
So five years had passed in the blink of an eye.
“Yes, I felt you were very good.” Jin Yang’s smile remained on his face. “Later, I learned you were the daughter of Teacher Gu, and became more happy. I felt that I had a special predestined affinity with you, and wanted to spoil you like you were my younger sister. Later, you grew up, and I started to worry you would be slighted if you married into another family. I worried that other misses would bully you. I would even feel that if I did not protect you, I would not be able to eat well and sleep well. Each time I heard you go to gatherings with young masters and misses, I always thought, there are so many young masters and misses of aristocratic families in the capital. Will there be some that are not on good terms with the Gu Family that use the opportunity to bully and embarrass you?
“In the end, even I felt that my problem was not good.” When Jin Yang said this, his smile became slightly bitter. “Ever since I understood my feelings for you, I was afraid. I worried that before I proposed to you, you would marry someone else. Or that you have no feelings towards me at all, and I would do you wrong for an entire lifetime if I forcibly married you.
“I kept on worrying like this until Duke Yang’s family proposed to you.” Jin Yang stopped and looked down at Gu Ru Jiu who was looking down silently. “At that time, I felt that if you married someone else, I would want to destroy that family, and then steal you into the palace.”
When Jin Yang thought of the embarrassing and small-minded thoughts he had, his bitter expression grew. “So, I have such despicable thoughts towards you.”
Gu Ru Jiu looked at the hand that trembled holding the teacup. The green tea rippled in the cup. She slowly reached out and took the teacup. “Your Majesty, this subject is not as perfect as you imagine.” Sometimes, young love would automatically give the love a beautifying halo. But after this halo disappeared, the love would become ugly.
“I am jealous, vengeful, small-minded and ambitious.” Jin Yang smiled and looked at Gu Ru Jiu. “Jiu Jiu, could you be uglier than my inner heart?”
“Your Majesty!” Gu Ru Jiu frowned and looked at the beautiful youth in front of her. “Jealous and vengeful, small-minded and ambitious are all ordinary emotions. You are the ruler of this world. No one is greater than you.”
Jin Yang heard this and his smile grew brighter than the sun in the sky. “So, to me, whatever Jiu Jiu is like is better and more adorable than anyone else. In the world, no other woman can rival you.”
Gu Ru Jiu turned the teacup in her hand. The teacup swayed and the hot tea spilled onto the back of her hand.
A soft handkerchief covered the back of her hand. A gentle hand wiped the water away for her. “If Jiu Jiu is empress, Zhen is willing to never have a consort, in hopes of growing old with Jiu Jiu until death.”
The wind blew on the bamboo leaves. The bamboo shadows swayed, and a cool wind rose.
Gu Ru Jiu could hear her own voice, not loud, but carrying calmness and anticipation that surprised her.
“If Your Majesty is willing to grow old with this subject, then formally propose marriage to my family.”
When she said this, it was not so hard to accept, and there was no feeling of awkwardness.
Translator Ramblings: We are now at the proposal stage!