This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
Mistress Hu coming to propose on behalf of the imperial house gave the Gu Family a lot of face. While the Gu Family’s opinion had been asked in secret, no one outside knew that the imperial house and the Gu Family were about to tie a marriage. Later, due to the death of Prince Cheng, the actual proposal was delayed until now.
“Today, I have come with imperial commands. In-law, you have to give me face.” Mistress Hu had daughters and sons, came from a noble aristocratic family, and her husband’s family was also an old aristocratic family of several centuries. So having her come to be the matchmaker for the first ceremony of six in the marriage rites was something the imperial house had thought deeply about.
According to tradition, she first praised the emperor and Second Miss Gu. Then she formally proposed marriage for the imperial family, and the officials of the Ministry of Rites presented the marriage gifts that Empress Dowager Zhou had prepared.
These gifts were extremely valuable. Even the Gu Family, used to seeing precious things, had to admit that the imperial house had put effort in. In just this first rite, they had prepared such a generous gift. When it came to the betrothal gifts, how much would they give then?”
“What virtues or capabilities does my daughter have to receive such attention from the imperial family? This subject is extremely terrified.” Gu Chang Ling first humbled himself, and acted like the bride’s family should. After Mistress Hu and the officials of the Ministry of Rites proposed three times, he finally nodded slowly.
During the proposal, the bride’s side should be reserved. Otherwise, if the bride’s side agreed immediately when the groom’s side proposed, what kind of preciousness was there?
After Gu Chang Ling finally nodded, Mistress Hu’s heart finally landed back in its spot. She had feared the Gu Family would suddenly change their minds, and refuse in front of the officials from the Ministry of Rites. Then it would be a bad matter.
“Then I will first congratulate In-laws for getting an ideal son-in-law.” Mistress Hu was extremely skilled and said many good things before leaving with the officials.
After she left, Yang shi looked at the gift list in her hand and had a servant girl invite Gu Ru Jiu out of the inner courtyard.
Gu Ru Jiu looked at the pile of things in the room, bowed to Yang shi and Gu Ru Jiu before saying speechless, “Is this the proposal or the betrothal gifts that they sent so much?”
“The imperial house is willing to give us such face—this is good to you for the future.” The matter was settled and Yang shi was no longer conflicted. She handed the list to Gu Ru Jiu and said, “Starting today, you need to read more of the genealogies for people related to the imperial family. The imperial family has decreased in number over the last few generations, but the connections are complex. You are going into the palace as the empress. Even if His Majesty protects you, you will still be exposed to such things.”
Also, while His Majesty was filled with emotion towards her daughter now, who knew the future? Something like status, rather than hoping to steady it using the favour of men, it was better to rely on one’s own tactics.
Gu Ru Jiu nodded and took the gift list that Yang shi handed her. There was a long string of names. She did not want to read it after getting through half of the names. But in order to know these things, she persisted in reading the long list.
“Today, we agreed to the proposal from the imperial family. Soon, they will formally prepare gifts and confirm compatibility. In this period of time, do not leave the home.” Yang shi raised her chin towards the doorway. “A few years ago, the Sima and Li families used a lot of tactics for the empress position. Now, the seat has landed on your head. I don’t know how many people outside want to watch the spectacle. If you go out now, they will give you a headache.”
“I understand.” Gu Ru Jiu had experienced the noble women’s ability to get information out. So even without her mother’s words, she did not plan to go out.
Just as Yang shi had said, the outside was lively with speculations. The Li Family was all right. They had guessed that the imperial house was not willing to have a marriage with them. Also, the suitable misses of their family always kept on having accidents or headaches. The elders in the family felt it was unlucky, so they did not like mentioning this matter.
When the eldest and second branches of the Sima Family heard the news, they were eating lunch together.
“The imperial family proposed to the Gu Family?” Sima Hong glanced at the manservant who reported and had him leave after a moment.
“Why would it be the Gu Family?” Sima Hong’s son, Sima Zhi, was very surprised. His volume increased in disbelief. “If the imperial family had such intentions, why did they repeatedly ennoble Second Miss Gu?”
Wasn’t that useless? These titles were used to increase the status of the woman. The imperial family had intentions of marrying this woman and making her the noblest woman of the dynasty. So those previous titles had just been for fun?
“Maybe the imperial family wanted to add some nobility?” Eldest Mistress Zheng shi did not have a deep impression of Second Miss Gu. She only remembered the girl as an adorable little girl, but her beauty and talent were not the best in the capital. She hadn’t expected the imperial family to choose and choose and finally pick this girl.
“In the last few years, the empress dowager showed great affection for the Second Miss Gu. Maybe this is the empress dowager making arrangements.” Second Mistress Sun shi thought of how the empress dowager had repeatedly summoned Miss Gu into the palace and frowned. “Second Miss Gu has frequently gone to the palace to keep the empress dowager company. Why has no one thought in this direction?”
Yes, why had no one in the capital thought that the empress dowager wanted Miss Gu to be empress?
They thought about it. Maybe it was because of the Gu Family’s attitude. From how they raised their daughter, and their usual conduct, they did not appear to desire sending their daughter into the palace.
From this perspective, it was likely the imperial house had asked for this marriage.
Soon, a servant came to report how many gifts Mistress Hu had brought with the officials of the Ministry of Rites when she went to propose on behalf of the imperial house.
“No wonder the imperial family gave the Gu Family so much face and prepared so many gifts.” Thinking of how the third branch had done so many things but hadn’t been able to send their daughter into the place, and how the Gu Family had no such intentions but the imperial family put so much effort into the proposal, Zheng shi felt that fate was really a difficult thing to understand.
Hearing his daughter-in-law mention the third branch, Sima Hong felt helpless. Ever since Sima Ji was executed last year, the third branch nephew felt that he had not made an effort. Recently, the two families had not interacted, and the third branch had publicly complained about him.
Who among the aristocratic families would act like this?! Sima Hong wanted to explain but the third branch was not willing to hear. After a while, he did not want to attend to them and just let them complain in public.
And their daughter. She was sixteen now, originally talented and beautiful, but raised by her parents to be extremely small-minded. Now, she secluded herself in her home. No one knew what she was planning.
With such a group of troublesome relatives, a bunch of Sima Hong’s hair went white. “Third branch… Try to look after them and make sure there is no trouble.”
He knew that the third branch desired greatly to send their daughter into the palace. Now that the imperial family wanted to have Miss Gu as empress, he worried that the third branch could not accept it and would do something they should not.
While the Sima third branch was not as bad as Sima Hong imagined, they were not far.
Ever since their son was executed, the Sima third branch hated the Gu Family greatly. Hearing that the imperial family wanted to have Miss Gu as empress, the Third Mistress instantly smashed a tea set.
“Such a good Gu Family, they get all the benefits!” Third Mistress thought of her son and tears streamed down her face. “If not for them, why would my son’s head be separated from his body? They lost a daughter-in-law and got an empress position in trade, so profitable.”
In Third Mistress’ mind, all the wrongs were the Gu Family’s. The eldest mistress of the Gu Family dying with her child was the Gu Family being careless. Her son being executed was the Gu Family’s malicious retribution. The imperial family proposing marriage to Miss Gu now was the Gu Family harbouring evil intentions.
“My pitiful child, my pitiful child.” Third Mistress almost couldn’t breathe as she cried. She suddenly looked at her daughter standing in the door and said with a vicious expression, “My daughter is more beautiful, more talented, and has better birth. Why is she the empress?! The heavens are blind!”
Third Mistress had no reason left at all. Other than vicious curses, she had endless complaints.
Sima Xiang stood dazedly, numbly listening to Third Mistress’ curses without any emotion inside. In the last year, because she had constantly listened to her mother’s cursing, all this was normal to her, regardless of how bad or unreasonable these words were.
She knew that something had happened to her mother’s mind, causing her to be like this.
But what was the use if she knew? She had been given a fright by a black cat and lost her composure in front of the noble ladies of many aristocratic families. What else could she do?
“What is your mother cursing about now?” Sima Yue stood behind his daughter and looked at the mess in the room. He immediately had no intentions of stepping in. In this year, after losing his son, he had no more thoughts of sending his daughter into the palace. Each day, he had to listen to his wife’s curses and endure the pain of losing his son. Sima Yue seemed to have aged a decade in this short year.
“Father.” Sima Xiang turned and bowed to Sima Yue.
“Return to your courtyard. I am here.” Seeing his daughter’s numb and blank expression, Sima Yue sighed. “Your mother is like this everyday. You should be used to it.”
“Yes.” Sima Xiang obeyed and left the main courtyard. When she was leaving, she looked back. Father was standing motionlessly at the doorway, and Mother’s cursing hadn’t stopped.
If she could have predicted today before, she would not have done what she did that day. Maybe the heavens had eyes. The evil she had committed in the past was coming back to her now.
As expected, a few days after the imperial house proposed formally, they received the birth characters of the Gu Family’s daughter and sent them to the Astrology Bureau.
Spiritual Master Chu Yun had praised Second Miss Gu as someone of good fortune. Of course the Astrology Bureau could not divine anything bad. When the people of the Astrology Bureau combined the characters for His Majesty and County Princess Changyan, they were stunned. Their characters were too suitable to each other rather than being unsuitable.
Those that were able to hold a position in the Astrology Bureau had some skill. They had divined many marriages for aristocratic families, but never encountered such suitable characters.
Usually, they liked praising other people’s marriage as a match made in heaven, but that was just for luck. His Majesty and County Princess Changyan’s characters were a true match in heaven and they were benefactors for each other.
“Good, good, good.” The head of the Astrology Bureau brushed his beard while repeating saying this. His apprentice looked at his master and asked curiously, “Master, what is with you?”
“This old man has been in the Astrology Bureau for so many years and has not encountered such a good pairing.” The bureau head spoke emotionally and wrote the words “Heavenly Pairing, rare in the world” on the paper.
“Are His Majesty and County Princess Changyan’s characters so suitable?” The apprentice had heard several officials say that His Majesty and County Princess Changyan were a match in heaven but thought that was just the officials trying to say auspicious things. Now, even his master was saying this. The apprentice couldn’t help but become curious.
“I told you to study divination but you dismissed me. Now you are curious?” The old bureau head was in a good mood. Seeing no one around, he whispered, “I’ll tell you today but you cannot spread it around.”
The apprentice nodded. He was the one that the old bureau head had raised as a son, so he naturally knew they could talk about some things in private that could not be spread around.
“His Majesty’s fate carries nobility and he is shrouded by the true dragon, but…” The old head stopped and lowered his voice. “When one is shrouded by the dragon and doesn’t have enough good fortune, it is a premature death.”
The apprentice’s eyes widened in shock. He covered his mouth, not daring to make a sound.
His Majesty did not yet have an empress. If everyone knew that His Majesty had the fate of a premature death, wouldn’t the Feng Dynasty be in chaos?
Seeing his apprentice pale in fright, the old bureau head pointed at the red paper with County Princess Changyan’s eight characters. “County Princess Changyan has great good fortune and an extremely good fate. But this good fortune is so great that ordinary families cannot bear it. If an ordinary person marries this county princess, their fate cannot suppress hers.”
“So what happens if they cannot?” the apprentice carefully asked.
“The King of Xiang has a dream but the goddess has no desire. In the end, it will only be unwillingness.” The old head shook his head. “Amazing, amazing.”
The apprentice was more confused, but seeing his master like this, he could not ask, and patiently listened.
“Therefore I say that His Majesty and County Princess Changyan are a match once in a century.” The head put the two’s characters next to each other. “The true dragon has good fortune and will fly through the skies, glorious and flourishing.”
“You mean…” The apprentice understood this so he was shocked. “His Majesty and County Princess Changyan’s marriage will…”
“Yes.” The astrology head showed a contented smile. “Our Feng Dynasty will finally have an era of glory seen only once in a thousand years.”
The apprentice thought with great anticipation, what would an era seen only once in a thousand years look like?
Empress Dowager Zhou saw the comment the Astrology Bureau submitted and couldn’t help but smile when she saw the “match made in heaven.” She said, “The Astrology Bureau is accustomed to using these four words.” Then she handed the comment to Jin Yang who was sitting next to her.
Jin Yang took the comment and repeatedly read the words “The marriage fated by heaven, a match made in heaven” before carefully putting it down. He said with a smile, “This son feels that the Astrology Bureau’s reading is good. Aren’t I and Junior Sister a match made in heaven?”
Empress Dowager Zhou smiled helplessly at him. “Fine, fine, I fear that your junior looks good to you in all aspects. I think we should have the Astrology Bureau divine a good day soon, and let you get your desire. Otherwise, you will wander around me all day without giving me any peace.”
Jin Yang said with a smile, “I do not fear your laughter. I really wish that Junior Sister can marry me tomorrow. But I worry if the marriage is too rushed, it would slight Junior Sister.” When he said this, he picked up the comment paper again to take a few more glances. “One person will only have one marriage in their life. It’s better that Junior Sister has no regrets.”
Hearing Jin Yang’s words, Empress Dowager Zhou only smiled, her features full of joy.
The Astrology Bureau’s commentary wasn’t just sent into the palace—a copy also went to the Gu Establishment. Yang shi‘s thoughts were the same as Empress Dowager Zhou’s. She felt that the words “a match made in heaven” were used so much by the Astrology Bureau they were worthless.
But regardless, as long as their characters were complimentary. If their characters were in disharmony now, then it would be a bad joke.
After the exchange of characters was the sending of betrothal gifts. Other than that long long list that almost seemed endless, the most eye-catching was that pair of squawking large geese.
In the past, when the imperial family married with an aristocratic family, they would send golden geese to show nobility. It was really unique for His Majesty to send living geese.
After the Ministry of Rites and the imperial family members coming on behalf of the emperor left, Gu Cun Jing reached to poke the honking geese. One of them suddenly twisted its head and almost pecked him.
“Ouch! As expected of imperial geese—pretty fierce.” Gu Cun Jing drew his finger back and took a step away.
Hu shi pulled his sleeve and whispered, “How old are you that you still play like this?”
“He is marrying my sister, and won’t allow me to touch the geese?” Gu Cun Jing snorted. He expressed strong discontent towards His Majesty being about to marry his younger sister.
“Really, I feel His Majesty’s sincerity is enough.” Hu shi smiled and persuaded her husband. “Gold geese are easy to make, living geese hard to find. The intentions are there.”
“He didn’t capture them himself, there is no sincerity.” Gu Cun Jing sniffed. “When I proposed to you, I caught that pair of geese with my own hands.”
“I know you are the best to me.” Hu shi shook Gu Cun Jing’s sleeve and managed to cheer him up.
As the couple showed off their love in the corner, the other members of the family pretended not to see it. Gu Ru Jiu, as the other party, held the long list. She looked at the pair of geese with their legs tied up, and saw the knot and then couldn’t help but laugh.
The son of Commandery Prince Ping, Jin Xiang, was one of the more reliable members among the younger imperial generation while being a person of leisure. He also had a good appearance and could speak well, so the empress dowager had him represent the imperial family to give the Gu Family the betrothal gifts.
After Jin Xiang finished his duty, he went into the palace to report to the empress dowager and the emperor.
“Did the Gu Family like the pair of geese?”
Hearing His Majesty ask this, Jin Xiang was puzzled but responded, “This subject saw that the Gu Family was very satisfied with the betrothal gifts.”
He didn’t know why His Majesty put such attention on the geese. He had the guards put the geese into a cage so he could catch them with his own hands, and also tied them up himself. Since he was willing to give such a large pile of treasures as betrothal gifts, then why didn’t he bear to make a pair of geese out of pure gold as a gift?
“As long as they are satisfied.” Jin Yang smiled upon hearing this. He asked Jin Xiang a few more questions until the other was bewildered and then let him leave.
Leaving Kangquan Palace, Jin Xiang was not in the mood to have fun with a few of his usual friends. When he was preparing to ride home, he encountered the young master of the Wu Family, Wu Chong, along the way.
The two were symbols of high level wastrels in the capital. When they met, they couldn’t help but say a few words.
“Heir, where are you coming from?” Wu Chong bowed to Jin Xiang and asked with a smile.
“I went on a trip for His Majesty. A celebratory matter.” Jin Xiang chuckled. “The empress dowager and His Majesty let me make a trip to the Gu Family to deliver betrothal gifts for His Majesty.” When Jin Xiang mentioned the betrothal gifts, he couldn’t help but speak of how abundant there were, how highly the empress dowager and the emperor valued the Gu Family, and how good the Gu Family’s conduct was. He said a long list of good things.
Wu Chong agreed with him and after Jin Xiang left contently, Wu Chong murmured to himself, “Saying so many good things, isn’t it just to gain favour with His Majesty and the Gu Family?” Two years ago, Commandery Prince Ping had spoken on behalf of the Sima Family to His Majesty. While the news had not spread, there were no impenetrable walls in the world, and maybe the Gu Family would hear of it one day.
Also, even he knew of this matter. Maybe the Gu Family had heard long ago.
The imperial family exceeding regulations with their betrothal gifts to the Gu Family quickly spread through the capital. The families reacted differently upon hearing this. Many people felt that this was the empress candidate that the empress dowager wanted, and not the emperor.
Supposedly, many of the betrothal gifts had been ones the empress dowager had added in. The emperor had followed the empress dowager in adding more things.
Some people said Empress Dowager Zhou desired to raise an empress of one mind with her to strengthen her position. Some said that the empress dowager was wary of the emperor and chose the daughter of Gu Chang Ling, well trusted by the emperor, as the empress, to show her compromise.
Regardless of what these people thought in private, most still expressed envy of the Gu Family’s good luck. Who would have expected the throne of empress to land on the Gu Family?
Hu Yun Qi snorted at these rumours. From deep inside, he felt as though everyone was drunk and he was the only sober person.
Who said His Majesty was not happy to marry Miss Gu?
He was clearly mad with happiness. Didn’t these people have eyes?
Gu Ru Jiu, admired by countless people, was memorizing the relationship charts of the imperial family. She had no attention to spare for the rumours outside. Only until the day before the Astrology Bureau divined the marriage day, she finally had the real feeling she was about to be married.
The empress-welcoming ceremony was set for next year, the eighteenth of the second month. It was the tenth month now, and there were only four months left until her marriage.
“The empress-welcoming ceremony has been set. In the last few months, except for very important gatherings, ignore them all.” Yang shi knew that these people would not dare to invite her daughter to an unimportant gathering.
Gu Ru Jiu hesitated for a moment. “You mean that I still have to go attend gatherings in these months?”
“You are the future empress, not a criminal. If you stay in your home all day, people will find you small-minded.” Yang shi smiled at her daughter.” Don’t worry, I will arrange it for you.”
Trusting infinitely in her mother’s embrace, Gu Ru Jiu nodded obediently.