This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
Jin Yang finally learned that when a person was too happy, they could not speak.
He looked at the young girl in front of him. A long time later, he said, “Jiu Jiu, I am very happy today because you accepted my proposal.”
Gu Ru Jiu felt faint guilt—because she could not return the other’s emotions in equal measure. So the more serious Jin Yang was, the more insecure she felt.
“Your Majesty, I…” Gu Ru Jiu was going to speak but Jin Yang stopped her.
He carefully took her hand, as though he feared frightening her. He held her hand loosely, not daring to use much force. “I am very happy that Jiu Jiu is willing to marry me.” So, do not say some words.
Gu Ru Jiu’s right hand patted Jin Yang’s hand that held her left hand through the handkerchief. “Your Majesty, I understand.”
Jin Yang smiled. He pulled and wrapped Gu Ru Jiu’s hand in his. They had a long time in the future. He still had many opportunities.
Bai Xian looked at His Majesty and County Princess Changyan’s inappropriate conduct, and buried his head. However, he felt reassured.
County Princess Changyan as empress was a good thing to him. Disregarding everything else, at least he was familiar with County Princess Changyan. This was better than misses from other aristocratic families entering the palace.
He Ming was more shocked than Bai Xian, and even showed a surprised expression. He had known long ago that His Majesty treated County Princess Changyan well, and would think of her in all matters. But he thought that was only due to the empress dowager’s affection for County Princess Changyan, so His Majesty treated her especially well. Who knew that His Majesty had romantic feelings towards County Princess Changyan?
No wonder His Majesty dared to drink the tea that County Princess Changyan gifted without hesitation and he never called himself Zhen in front of her.
Thinking of how he had once accidentally offended County Princess Changyan, He Ming felt waves of regret. If he had known that His Majesty had such deep feelings towards County Princess Changyan, he would not have made such a mistake.
He turned to glance at Bai Xian. He had been puzzled before why Old Fox Bai Xian was as obedient as a grandson in front of County Princess Changyan. So he had seen this, and was gaining favour with the future empress.
Feeling that he had lost, He Ming became more wary of Bai Xian. He had finally climbed to his present position and could not let Bai Xian steal it away.
Gu Ru Jiu and Jin Yang did not sit for long in the pavilion. The sky suddenly darkened, and a wild wind rose like it was about to storm.
“Your Majesty, the weather has changed. Let’s return.” Gu Ru Jiu saw the wind carry up the bamboo leaves. She thought of how Jin Yang’s body could not be rained on, and said, “Tomorrow, I will accompany you to drink tea.”
“Jiu Jiu, remember your words.” Jin Yang smiled and stood up. He walked next to Gu Ru Jiu and blocked the wind from reaching her. “Let’s go.”
Gu Ru Jiu was slightly speechless. Other than drinking tea, could he not think of anything else?
But the heavens were not good. Not long after they left the pavilion, the rain started coming down.
“Ah.” Gu Ru Jiu wiped the rain drops from her forehead and turned to look at the beautiful youth in brocade robes and a jade coronet. She ignored etiquette, and grabbed his sleeve. “Your Majesty, come with me.”
Jin Yang saw Gu Ru Jiu about to start running and a faint smile appeared. He grabbed her hand and pulled her in the direction of Luanhe Palace.
Clap, clap, clap.
Seeing His Majesty and County Princess Changyan running ahead like children, Bai Xian shoved the umbrella in his hand to the young eunuch behind him and gave chase. Along the way, he deliberately made himself more disheveled.
When the two of them reached the eaves of Luanhe Palace, the rain poured down, slamming onto the ground and creating a mist.
Gu Ru Jiu laughed, pressing on her stomach. “Lucky we ran fast. Otherwise, we would be rained on.”
“Lucky that you reacted quickly. Otherwise, in such rain, if we were still in the pavilion, we would be soaked.” Jin Yang took out a handkerchief and carefully wiped the rain from Gu Ru Jiu’s face.
Jin Yang’s movements were extremely gentle, so gentle that Gu Ru Jiu’s face felt a little itchy. She was slightly uneasy and lowered her head, avoiding his gentle gaze. She shoved her own handkerchief into Jin Yang’s hand. “Your Majesty, wipe yourself as well.”
“All right.” Jin Yang put away his handkerchief. He looked down at the handkerchief that Gu Ru Jiu had given him. The handkerchief was very clean, the soft cotton very comfortable to hold. There was a flower embroidered in the corner of the handkerchief, but it was not embroidered well, and he couldn’t tell what kind of flower it was.
Casually wiping his face, Jin Yang put the handkerchief away. He looked at this palace that had no master. “This place is almost done with renovations. Jiu Jiu, do you see any other place you need to change?”
Gu Ru Jiu looked up. She saw the flying phoenixes and lucky clouds carved on the eaves.
Bai Xian and He Ming went forward and pushed open the door ahead of the two of them.
This was the back door to Luanhe Palace, but even the back door was extremely majestic and exquisite.
Gu Ru Jiu looked back. She saw the open doors and then looked sideways at Jin Yang who had an expectant gaze, and stepped through the door.
Because no one was living in the rear hall, it appeared quiet. As the windows were open, and the decor in the room newly made, it was not extremely lonely. Gu Ru Jiu noticed that many of the items and patterns in here were auspicious and their styles were the ones she usually liked. There was even a chair that was the style she was used to from childhood.
Everything here had been prepared according to her preferences and habits. His Majesty…
Gu Ru Jiu suddenly looked back towards the young emperor behind her. Her mouth was open for a moment before she said softly, “Your Majesty, how long have you prepared this place?”
“This place started renovations from spring last year. The items here were only prepared starting this year.” Jin Yang reached out to touch a plum vase on the shelf and said with a smile, “I had them do their best to arrange here to your liking. But you live mostly in the marquis establishment, and I may not be able to consider many things. So if there is anything you are dissatisfied with, mention it and I will have them change.”
Gu Ru Jiu shook her head. She walked to the window and looked at the orange trees outside the window.
“This is very good.” Gu Ru Jiu looked back at Jin Yang and showed a big smile. “Your Majesty, I like this greatly.”
Seeing her smile, Jin Yang couldn’t help but smile. “As long as you like it.”
Gu Ru Jiu looked dazedly at his smile, and her heart turned soft.
In Kangquan Palace, the empress dowager sat by the window. Looking at the pouring rain outside, she slowly put down the book in her hand.
“Empress Dowager, the rain is so heavy outside. This servant is worried for His Majesty and County Princess Changyan. Do you think we should send someone to get them?” Matron Liu looked worriedly outside the window. His Majesty’s health was not good, and he couldn’t be rained on.
“No need.” Empress Dowager Zhou shook her head, and flipped a page in her book. “There are so many rooms in the palace. Do they not have a place to shelter from the rain?”
Matron Liu saw this and became silent, retreating to the side.
After the rain stopped, His Majesty and County Princess Changyan returned to Kangquan Palace. Matron Liu saw their clothing was clean, and they wore what they had left with, so her worries were assuaged.
At dinner time, Jin Yang suddenly said to Bai Xian who was serving the food, “County Princess likes this braised duck tongue. Move this over.”
Gu Ru Jiu lifted her head and smiled at him, her two dimples appearing.
Jin Yang saw this smile, and the tips of his ears turned red. He didn’t even taste what he put into his mouth.
Empress Dowager Zhou looked wryly at the interactions of the two juniors. She took the soup that Matron Liu handed her and slowly drank it.
As an elder, sometimes, one should have bad eyesight.
That night, Gu Ru Jiu slept well, and seemed to have a good dream. While she forgot the contents of the dream the next morning, this did not affect her good mood.
Right after she finished breakfast, Jin Yang had Bai Xian send over some novel playthings for her to play with. Because he had to go to court, he could not come in person.
She poked the bobble-head doll in her hand, and watched its large head sway around. Gu Ru Jiu smiled and put it down. Then she said to Bai Xian, “Thank you, Eunuch Bai, for making the trip. Did His Majesty have a good breakfast?”
She had heard that Jin Yang did not have a good appetite in the morning, and mostly just ate half a bowl of porridge to fill his stomach.
“His Majesty was in an exceptionally good mood upon waking this morning. He ate a bowl of porridge, two pieces of gold thread cake, a small plate of vegetables.” Bai Xian answered with a smile. “This is the best appetite that His Majesty had in the recent month.”
Hearing the words, Gu Ru Jiu showed a faint smile. Then she went into the inner room and came out with a jar. “His Majesty usually does not have a good appetite. If he occasionally eats a lot, I worry his stomach cannot tolerate it. This hawthorn tea is a folk remedy for whetting the appetite and digestion. Take it and have His Majesty try it.”
Bai Xian received the jar with two hands, and said a few pleasing words before he left with Gu Ru Jiu’s “gift of thanks”.
Not long after he returned to Qiankun Palace, His Majesty came back from the court. Bai Xian helped him remove his coronet and dragon robe. He whispered, “Your majesty, County Princess Changyan liked the small things that you told this servant to deliver and had this servant come back with a gift in thanks.”
“What did Jiu Jiu have you bring along?” Jin Yang looked towards Bai Xian, in a good mood.
Bai Xian presented the white and blue jar in front of Jin Yang. Jin Yang glanced at the jar and said with a smile, “Only she dares to gift Zhen these inexpensive things.”
“This world belongs to His Majesty. What kind of precious things do you not have?” Bai Xian turned and took a teacup from the tray a palace attendant held. He put the teacup on the imperial table. “Most important is County Princess Changyan’s intentions. Just now, the County Princess asked this servant how much you ate this morning, and this servant told her everything. The County Princess feared that your stomach will be harmed from overeating, and told this servant to make this hawthorn tea for you.”
After saying this, Bai Xian knelt in front of Jin Yang. “This servant accidentally leaked your preferences. Your Majesty, please forgive me.”
“If you spoke to anyone else, Zhen would punish you. But…” Jin Yang took the teacup and took a sip of the hawthorn tea. It was sour and astringent. It was not very good. “Jiu Jiu is not anyone else. Zhen pardons you.”
Bai Xian immediately stated his thanks. “Thank you, Your Majesty, thank you.”
In the corner, He Ming twisted his mouth in disdain. Benefiting and still pretending—a shameless old fox!
After drinking a large cup of hawthorn tea in the morning, Jin Yang’s appetite was especially good at lunch. The dishes he usually felt were oily were especially appetizing. After lunch, he picked up the memorandums. Thinking of how Jiu Jiu said it was not good to read after eating, as it would harm one’s mind and eyes, he put the memorandums down and then went on a stroll.
As he strolled, he accidentally reached Kangquan Palace. He spent about an hour in Kangquan Palace, then returned to the palace to take care of the government.
After moving around like this, it took up a lot of time, but his efficiency at taking care of the memorandums also increased. Before dinner started, Jin Yang finished all the memorandums.
“Your Majesty, should we send for food?” He Ming saw His Majesty put down the brush, and went to ask.
Rubbing his forehead, Jin Yang looked at the sky outside the window. “Have them set up the food at Kangquan Palace. Zhen will accompany Mother-Empress for dinner.
Standing at the side, Bai Xian looked calmly at He Ming, and cursed inside. So blind. With County Princess Changyan in Kangquan Palace, His Majesty would find a reason to go there.
Over in Kangquan Palace, Empress Dowager Zhou heard the imperial dinner would be held at her place and was not surprised at all. She smiled and said to Gu Ru Jiu, “It appears that the emperor likes to dine at my place.”
Knowing that the empress dowager was teasing her, Gu Ru Jiu only titled her head and smiled, determined not to speak.
As expected, in the next two days, Jin Yang would eat a meal a day in Kangquan Palace, and would stay for up to four hours there.
The day that Gu Ru Jiu prepared to return home, Jin Yang came to Kangquan Palace early and then saw Gu Ru Jiu to the carriage.
“Jiu Jiu.” Jin Yang knew that Junior Sister was going to hold her coming-of-age ceremony after she returned home. He could publicly propose to the Gu family. “After returning, you have to take care.”
“Your Majesty is the same.” Gu Ru Jiu bowed to Jin Yang and said with a smile, “I hope the next time I see Your Majesty, Your Majesty will be even healthier.”
Jin Yang smiled and placed a redwood box into Gu Ru Jiu’s hand. “I thought for a long time and didn’t know what kind of gift to give you for your coming-of-age. I thought about it, and this peace jade pendant has the best meaning.”
Gu Ru Jiu held the box and smiled at Jin Yang.
“Go onto the carriage. Teacher and Teacher’s Wife must be looking forward to your return.” Jin Yang helped her onto the carriage and smiled as he put the curtain down. The horses stepped off, and the copper bells hanging on the carriage immediately rang out.
“Your Majesty.” The curtain rose again to reveal Jiu Jiu’s smiling face. “This subject waits for Lord’s good news.”
The curtain came down again. The carriage turned around and slowly headed out of the palace.
Jin Yang dazedly looked in the direction the carriage left, and gave a bright smile like the sun after the clouds parted.
After the carriage left the palace, Gu Ru Jiu looked down at the box she had placed on her knees. She hesitated, and then opened it.
The box was covered in soft silk. A milky white jade pendant the size of a thumb was placed on the brocade. The jade pendant’s craftsmanship was mediocre, but the jade was extremely good in quality, and appeared to have been nourished by being previously worn.
She took out the jade pendant which was tied with a red string. The shape was a bit like a fish, and also like a drop of water. Gu Ru Jiu liked it upon first glance.
She looked closely at the jade pendant and saw words carved on it.
“Live a hundred years with health and peace.”
Gu Ru Jiu quietly recited the words and her heart was slightly touched.
This looked like the jade an elder would give a junior to subdue to their bodies. Many families, after they had children, feared that their children would not safely grow up. They would give the children things like chains of longevity or pendants of longevity to wear, thinking that the jade could subdue the child’s soul and lock it down.
Then she thought of a possibility. Her hand trembled. She took a deep breath and she carefully placed the jade pendant back into the box.
There were aristocratic family misses holding coming of age ceremonies every year in the capital. So the news that Second Miss Gu was holding her ceremony was an ordinary matter to most people in the capital. Regardless of whether they were on good terms with the Gu Family, they would still give the gifts they should. Everyone had to do the things needed for reputation.
Originally, no one thought of this ceremony as anything major. When the day came, everyone saw that the main and supporting guests were all famed female scholars of Great Feng, and the reception was taken care of by ladies in the capital with good fortune. They thought inside, how many favours had the Gu Family spent to invite so many people?
In their view, the Gu Family had flourished in the recent years, but their foundations were inferior to the Sima Eldest Branch and the Li Family. But this coming-of-age ceremony was not any less than that of the Sima Eldest Branch’s miss. The Gu Family was usually quiet and low-key. They were not used to them abruptly becoming so flamboyant.
When Princess Consort Cheng reached the Gu Family on her carriage, the outside was filled with carriages, covering almost half the street.
She knew that this was not Jin Prefecture. She, as the widowed Princess Consort Cheng, was not very special in the eyes of these aristocratic families of the capital. So she did not have her servant drive away the carriages in front of her and waited silently for the Gu Family to make arrangements.
“Mother, this is just a marquis—they dare to make us wait.” Jin Shuyi spoke unhappily. “The people in the capital are really rude.”
“Settle down.” Princess Consort Cheng sighed and glared at her daughter with beautiful eyes. “You know this is the capital, not Jin Prefecture. This place’s rules are greater than Jin Prefecture’s.”
Jin Shu Yi pursed her slips, unhappy but unable to argue.
In the half year they had been in the capital, she had experienced the feeling of not being fawned over by other girls. The misses of the capital aristocratic families were all outstanding in appearance and extraordinary in speech. Regardless of what they were doing, no one could pick a flaw. The things they played, the food they ate were all more refined than in Jin Prefecture. She, a commandery princess, was at a loss like rural folk.
While these misses of the aristocratic families were all polite towards her, she could sense that they did not welcome her, and even looked down on her. She was a commandery princess. How could the daughters of officials look down on her?!
She was discontent, and wanted to vent her anger at them. But facing their flawless manners, she didn’t even have the confidence to rage.
Now, she would dream every night of bullying Jin Yang in his childhood. How smug she felt then was how much regret she felt now. She was afraid almost every day that Jin Yang would take revenge.
But after waiting so long, the palace did not bully her, and had their family live and eat well. Her worry and fears gradually disappeared. What came was discontent and anger. She was the commandery princess of a prince’s establishment—how could she not be as noble as the daughters of officials?
Soon, servants came to arrange for them to step down from the carriage. The second daughter-in-law of the Gu Family, Hu shi, came to receive them. Hu shi was extremely polite towards them, and there was no flaw to pick at. Until Jin Shu Yi followed Princess Consort Cheng to be seated, she finally reacted that she hadn’t even had the time to say a word.
Sitting next to them were two old commandery princess consorts. Princess Consort Cheng courteously spoke with the two commandery princess consorts. As for Jin Shuyi, she only buried her head and drank tea from beginning to end.
When the ceremony started, Jin Shu Yi finally looked up and examined this County Princess Changyan that the empress dowager supposedly had great affection for.
She had entered the capital for more than half a year, but this was her first time seeing Gu Ru Jiu. In past gatherings, if Gu Ru Jiu hadn’t been absent, she had been absent. They had never met.
She looked… just so. Other than her skin being better, and her hair blacker, her beauty couldn’t compare to the two misses of the Sima Family. Her eyes were bright and lively. But just this was enough to merit special treatment from the empress dowager and the emperor?
Gu Ru Jiu stood with her long hair loose and waited for the main guest to say blessings before returning to the inner courtyard. She changed into a red wide-sleeved dress and put her hair into a beautiful cross-shaped hairdo.
“Miss, the jade pendant…” Qiu Luo came out with several servant girls holding different boxes filled with jade pendants with different auspicious meanings.
“Take out the cedar box in my inner room.” Gu Ru Jiu swept a look across these boxes and shook her head.
“Yes.” Qiu Luo put down her box and quickly went into the inner room. She presented the cedar box in front of Gu Ru Jiu.
She knew that either the empress dowager or the emperor had given Miss this. Because, other than the imperial family, no one would easily use boxes made from cedar.
When the box was opened, Qiu Luo was slightly disappointed. Inside was not a precious treasure, but a jade pendant of good but common quality.
Gu Ru Jiu took the jade pendant out of the box and placed it in her pouch embroidered with lotuses. Then she hung the pouch at her waist.
After dressing, Gu Ru Jiu once again appeared in front of the guests. After thanking the guests, the banquet finally started.
When the dishes were served, everyone was surprised again. The Gu Family was planning to be high profile to the end? These dishes were all ones that would appear at very important events. While the coming-of-age for their second miss was important, it was not so grand?
Everyone attended, their minds inattentive, and left the Gu Family with doubt.
Princess Consort Cheng was more worried than other people. She worried the Gu Family would look down on the gift she had given, and when she came to visit in the future, the Gu Family would not help her.
Three days later, Mistress Hu put on her ceremonial robes, and came with the officials of the Ministry of Rites and a large amount of precious gifts to knock on the main gates of the Gu Family.
Translator Ramblings: I keep wanting to cast Princess Consort Cheng in the role of the evil stepmother, the empress dowager as the fairy godmother, and Jin Yang as Cinderella.