This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
It was not a servant girl who inserted the last golden hairpin into Gu Ru Jiu’s hair bun, but an old mistress of the capital with good fortune. The old mistress was more than eighty, and her skin covered in wrinkles, but it was still possible to see this was a pair of well-maintained hands.
“I hope that the bride will have a beautiful and strong love with her husband.” The old mistress’ hands trembled, but she pushed the hairpin in securely. She patted the trembling flying phoenix hairpin by Gu Ru Jiu’s hair. “Miss has clear features, and will have good fortune in the future.”
Gu Ru Jiu smiled. She detected this old person’s goodwill and thanked her in a low murmur.
“This old one has lived so long, seen many people and many events, and presumes to have good foresight.” The old mistress picked up a golden comb from a tray a servant girl held and lightly touched it in front of Gu Ru Jiu’s forehead. “Gold and jade, a full hall, longevity and wealth.”
She put down the golden comb and picked up a gold-embroidered red bag of incense. She hung it at Gu Ru Jiu’s waist, “Good fortune to you, invincible to evil.”
Then she picked up a jade scepter and lightly tapped it on Gu Ru Jiu’s shoes. She said with a smile, “Thousands of flows of good energy, a hall filled with children and grandchildren.”
After doing all this, a servant girl immediately helped the old mistress sit down on the side, presenting tea and pastries without daring to slack at all.
Yang shi went forward and curtsied towards the old mistress. “Old Mistress, you worked hard.” She presented a red envelope with two hands.
The old mistress did not refuse and took the red envelope with a smile. “Blessing the empress is this one’s honor. But the empress is someone with great fortune, and this old woman will be shameless in touching it a bit.”
Her words were all very auspicious. Yang shi liked them greatly and grew even warmer towards her.
Gu Ru Jiu sat in front of the mirror and smiled as she listened to her mother and the old mistress talk.
Suddenly, the snap and pop of firecrackers came from the courtyard along with many voices. The sounds grew closer until they reached her gates.
She pressed her lips together, and slowly walked forward until she reached Yang shi.
Yang shi smiled with red-rimmed eyes as she looked at her daughter. She said softly, “After today, you are the empress of the Feng Dynasty, the mother of all people. You remember the family precepts of the Gu Family?”
“This daughter remembers.” Gu Ru Jiu choked up. “Guard against pride and impatience, sacrifice oneself for the country. Do not be suspicious and jealous, do not listen to words that sow discord.”
“Cultivate oneself for a harmonious family. A harmonious family leads to a country’s governance. A country’s governance leads to the peace of the world.” Yang shi walked in front of her daughter and said with a smile, “My little daughter has finally grown up.”
Gu Ru Jiu almost couldn’t hold back her tears. She curtsied deeply to Yang shi. “This unfilial daughter bids farewell to Mother.”
Yang shi stood there and accepted the greeting. After it was finished, she finally took the veil the old mistress handed over and slowly put it over her daughter’s head.
Gu Ru Jiu watched the world turn red around her. The man about to marry her was composing a Bride Urging Poem outside the room.
“The Hundred Sons Tent ahead,
The Seven Incense Carriage behind,
May I ask if she has finished adorning herself,
Red clouds have come to the east.” 1
She closed her eyes, and forced the tears in her eyes back.
The door opened. She heard footsteps approaching her. She knew this was her eldest brother.
There were other people behind her brother. A red ribbon was placed in her hands.
“Sister, I am sending you out the door.”
Lying on her big brother’s back, she thought of her childhood when her brothers had carried her to play. She thought of how they had looked when they sneaked back snacks for her, and how her parents had spoiled her.
She wanted to look back behind her at her parents and second brother, but Mistress Hu, acting as the matchmaker, whispered, “Noble personage, you cannot turn your head back right now.”
Yes, based on marriage traditions, the daughter could not look back when leaving home. Her throat felt extremely uncomfortable. Her arms tightened around Big Brother’s neck.
Gu Zhi Yu’s steps swayed slightly. He continued to carefully carry his younger sister towards the flower sedan at the gates carried by thirty-two people.
As they turned the corner, Jin Yang, who was walking ahead and held the other end of the red ribbon, suddenly came close to Gu Ru Jiu and whispered by her ear, “Jiu Jiu, don’t be afraid—I am still here.”
Gu Ru Jiu’s head moved slightly as she tightened her grip on the red ribbon.
Mistress Hu, who was holding the umbrella for Gu Ru Jiu, almost broke her heart in worry. What was going on with His Majesty? The bride hadn’t yet left her home and he was already talking to her? Didn’t this break the rules?
But the other was His Majesty, so she couldn’t say anything. She only pretended not to hear it. Fortunately, when they turned the corner, His Majesty returned to normal, and stopped sticking around the bride. Otherwise, it would be indecent.
With each gate the groom and bride walked through, lively firecrackers would resound. When they passed the main gates of the Gu Family, the firecrackers rang through the sky and could be heard on many neighboring streets. Other than the guests who had status, no one was able to get close to the gates of the Gu Family, much less watch the groom and bride on the streets.
Gu Zhi Yu carried Gu Ru Jiu onto the sedan. As he withdrew from the sedan, he looked back reluctantly before he allowed Mistress Hu to put down the curtain.
Sensing his eldest brother-in-law’s reluctance to part with Jiu Jiu, Jin Yang bowed to Gu Zhi Yu. “Eldest Brother-in-law, do not worry. I will take good care of Jiu Jiu.”
“Your Majesty’s words are worth nine sacred cauldrons. This subject trusts greatly in them.” Gu Zhi Yu bowed in return.
Jin Yang smiled, and turned to bow deeply to Gu Chang Ling and Yang shi who were standing at the gates. “This son-in-law bids farewell to Father-in-law, Mother-in-law, and Brothers-in-law.”
Gu Chang Ling and Yang shi silently returned the bow. Gu Cun Jing raised his folded hands but his gaze was on the sedan.
In the sedan, the tears Gu Ru Jiu had been holding back finally fell.
“Welcome the return of the phoenix. Rise.”
The guests congratulated the emperor as the sedan slowly moved away under everyone’s gaze.
They had almost been stunned dumb when they saw His Majesty come in person to receive the bride. The Feng Dynasty had no precedent of an emperor personally welcoming their bride. Even the crown prince welcoming his princess consort had only occurred during the founding times, and then the ceremony had gradually been cancelled.
The emperor had acted so to show how important he regarded the Gu Family?
As to the possibility that His Majesty was deeply in love with Miss Gu, everyone unconsciously excluded this alternative. This probably was due to the fact of the fickleness of the last two emperors, so people didn’t even think in that direction.
The streets had been cleaned with water before. The imperial guards stood solemnly at the two sides of the streets to avoid any accidents. The people living beside the street only dared to open a small crack in their window and peek at the groom who was riding at the head.
When they saw His Majesty’s appearance, some people almost pushed the window open in their excitement. This beautiful youth in red fiery robes was His Majesty, the one blessed by the ancestors so that everyone in the city
had avoided the disaster of the earth dragon?
Compared to His Majesty, the young masters of the Yang, Sima and Li Families were lacking a lot.
Therefore, unknown to Jin Yang, his appearance increased the positivity many citizens felt about him.
Jin Yang had no thoughts to spare for how the people thought of him now. There was only one thing repeating in his mind, that was: He finally married Jiu Jiu.
While he was on horseback, his mind had flown back into the sedan. The Imperial Dragon guards behind him couldn’t bear to look at him as he took repeated glances back.
Your Majesty, do not be so unrestrained just because there are no people on the streets now. You know that there must be big crowds of people peeking through those closed doors and windows. Could you be more reserved for your glorious image?
The Imperial Dragon guards were almost in a breakdown, but Jin Yang could not understand their feelings. His smile was dazzling.
“They all say that the Sima Family loves their daughter, and wants to send her off with ten miles of dowry,” one guard whispered to Hu Yun Qi. “I think that the Gu Family is the one who wants to give everything to their daughter.”
Hu Yun Qi glanced back at the endless dowry procession and said with a smile, “That’s really so.”
Ever since he was young, he had a good relationship with Gu Cun Jing. He knew how much the Gu Family loved their daughter, and agreed with his colleague’s words.
The long wedding procession passed through the main gates of the imperial palace. The court officials and titled ladies standing solemnly by the gates bowed in unison when the sedan passed through the gates.
The sedan stopped. Zhang Zhong Han stood in front of the sedan with an imperial decree in hand.
“The heaven and earth are at peace, the yin and yang are harmonious, and rule all living things. In the fourth year of Delong, Gu shi is fifteen years old, from a famed family, dignified in manner, intelligent and beautiful. Zhen sincerely seeks to marry her, crown her empress to be one with zhen, to mother the world. The world celebrates.”
The people hearing the decree almost couldn’t stop their mouths from twitching. What was “zhen sincerely seeks to marry”?
Your Majesty, this edict crowning the empress would be recorded into the history books. You want your action of elevating the empress and diminishing yourself to be known through history?
Do you want your face?
Closing the decree, Zhang Zhong Han took three steps back, and made a big bow. “Your Majesty the Emperor, ten thousand years; Your Majesty the Empress, a thousand years.”
“Your Majesty the Emperor, ten thousand years; Your Majesty the Empress, a thousand years.”
Gu Ru Jiu sat in the carriage. Listening to the sound of greetings from outside, the corners of her mouth moved.
“Zhen sincerely seeks…” She murmured and then laughed softly.
No matter the future how, at least now, he treated her sincerely.
After the officials made their greetings, the sedan continued to move forward before stopping at the gates of Qiankun Palace.
Mistress Hu went forward and lifted up the curtain of the sedan. Then a matron went up, preparing to carry Gu Ru Jiu out of the wedding sedan. But His Majesty suddenly walked over and blocked her.
“Your Majesty?” The matron looked with shock and puzzlement at Jin Yang.
“Withdraw—zhen will do it.” Jin Yang took the joy ball from the matron’s hand and walked into the large wedding sedan.
The matron looked cluelessly at Mistress Hu who shook her head and didn’t speak. The matron could only move silently to the side.
“Jiu Jiu.” Jin Yang put the red ribbon into Gu Ru Jiu’s hands and said softly, “I will carry you home.”
Gu Ru Jiu stilled. She thought of Jin Yang’s sickly body and hesitantly extended her hand.
Jin Yang gripped her hand and then crouched down in front of her. “Come up.”
Gu Ru Jiu climbed onto his back and then put all of her weight on him.
These shoulders were not as wide as Eldest Brother’s, and the back not as sturdy and strong. But it was gentle and warm. He walked very slowly, but each step was steady. He seemed to carry her as carefully as a precious treasure.
Gu Ru Jiu’s heart seemed to be warmed by the heat of his back. She put her arms around his neck.
In the main hall of Qiankun Palace, the empress dowager sat at the highest position and showed a smile when she saw her son carry Jiu Jiu in.
There were mats placed in front of her. The official of the Ministry of Rites almost couldn’t keep his expression in place when he saw the emperor carry the empress in. Fortunately, he saw the empress dowager’s satisfied expression and managed not to show his own shock.
Jin Yang put Gu Ru Jiu down when they reached the mats. He held one end of the red ribbon and his smile grew when he saw Jiu Jiu gripping the other end.
Gu Ru Jiu felt that her neck would soon be bent by her golden crown. When she bowed, she almost fell forward. Fortunately, the moment before she fell, a hand stopped her.
Even through the veil, she could sense this was the hand of a man.
The empress dowager saw Jin Yang taking so much care and said with a smile, “Today is your day of joy. This Grieving One doesn’t care about these ceremonies, so this much ritual is sufficient.” Then she looked at the official from the Ministry of Rites.
The official perceptively swallowed his words and announced, “Into the bridal room.”
This time, Jin Yang still kept the matron away and carried his bride himself. He walked towards Purple Imperial Hall, his joyful little steps showing no weakness.
Pity that after he sent his bride into the chambers, he could not stay. He had to go receive respects from the court officials and drink a few cups with the imperial house members at the banquet.
“Jiu Jiu, I will return soon,” Jin Yang whispered to Gu Ru Jiu from the bedside. “I will do my best for the Ministry of Rites to remove unnecessary ceremonies and to return as soon as possible.”
Gu Ru Jiu smiled and nodded minutely.
Jin Yang stood and walked out. After taking two steps, he returned. “I will have someone deliver food. If you are hungry, don’t worry about those traditions—just eat.”
Gu Ru Jiu nodded again.
“Then I’m leaving.” Jin Yang dillydallied as he walked out. He saw the window was open and moved over to close the window. “It is cold in early spring—don’t get cold.”
“Your Majesty, you should go to receive the respects,” He Ming warned in a whisper from outside.
“Zhen knows.” Jin Yang finally made his way slowly out of the door. He couldn’t help but take a few glances back at the door before he stepped out.
He Ming wiped his face, full of trepidation. Just now, the gaze that His Majesty gave him had caused his knees to weaken.
The room became silent again. Bao Lu and Qiu Luo, now palace attendants as part of the dowry, didn’t dare to speak. They carefully stood around Gu Ru Jiu, prepared to react immediately when Gu Ru Jiu had a need.
Gu Ru Jiu squirmed over to the bedpost and then leaned herself against it. “Bao Lu, quick, knead my neck.”
Bao Lu hurriedly went forward to knead her. “Niangniang, you want to eat something?”
“I can’t eat right now.” Maybe because today was an extraordinary day that influenced her emotions, she didn’t feel hungry at all after all this trouble.
Under Bao Lu’s careful massage, she felt her neck was finally slightly better.
“His Majesty is so good to you,” Bao Lu whispered. “He looked especially reluctant when he left just now.”
Gu Ru Jiu heard this and laughed silently.
On the emperor’s wedding day, it was tradition for the officials to pay respects to the emperor. The officials all bowed properly, but this emperor was clearly in more of a rush than them. After receiving the respects, he said nothing and turned to disappear.
“It appears that His Majesty greatly respects the empress.” Li Guang Ji stood next to Sima Hong and said with a small smile, “What does Official Sima think?”
“It is good fortune for our dynasty for the emperor and empress to be in harmony,” Sima Hong said with a smile. “You and I only need to congratulate His and Her Majesty—what else needs to be said?”
“Ha, ha.” Li Guang Ji looked sarcastically at Sima Hong with an unfathomable expression. If this was someone who was not open-minded enough, his expression would have made them spit blood in anger.
Fortunately, Sima Hong was an old official who had experienced three emperors. Li Guang Ji’s actions were not much in his eyes, so he managed to force down the flames.
“Official Sima, Official Li, His Majesty has set up the wedding banquet in Vermillion Bird Hall. Officials, please.” Zhang Zhong Han went forward and interrupted the pair’s conversation. He looked towards the sky and suddenly said, “The clouds are bright red this sunset—this is a good sign.”
At these words, many officials looked up towards the sky. Just as Zhang Zhong Han had said, the horizon was filled with bright red clouds of twilight.
If this was summer, it would be ordinary, but this was early spring and such a phenomenon was rare.
“This is a sign of great auspiciousness,” an official from a nouveau riche family said. “A good omen, a good omen!”
The officials from aristocratic families inwardly looked down dismissively at the nouveau riche, but they had to admit to themselves that the shining red sunset was dazzling.
Was this really the heavens foretelling that the union of emperor and empress was auspicious?
Evening gradually descended and the wedding banquet formally started in Vermillion Bird Hall. Only members of the imperial house, officials of high status and their families could appear at this banquet.
Jin Yang was still thinking of Gu Ru Jiu who was in the wedding chamber, so he was slightly distracted when he faced the toasts from his family. Fortunately, no one dared to actually get him drunk, so they just went through the motions.
Everyone knew His Majesty was not in good health and today was his wedding day. If they got him drunk and something happened, would they get to live in peace?
After three rounds of drinking, Jin Yang stood and said, “Officials, as you please. Zhen will not keep you company anymore.”
The people from the imperial house teased him and then let him go.
Seeing His Majesty’s hurrying shadow, Jin Xiang rubbed his chin and thought, a beauty was waiting in his rooms. If it was him, he would also have no inclination to stay here.
Jin Yang returned to Purple Imperial Hall much faster than when he left. Even the wedding matrons behind him had to jog to keep up.
He strode into the room. Jin Yang saw the bride under the candlelight and stopped. He waited for his breathing to calm before he continued forward.
“Jiu Jiu, I have returned.” He walked next to the bed and crouched halfway down in front of Gu Ru Jiu, reaching out to take off her veil.
“Your Majesty.” One matron handed over the wedding steelyard.
Jin Yang looked at the cold stick and said coolly, “Zhen and Empress do not care about these things.” Then he ignored what the matron thought and used his hands to slowly take off the veil embroidered with dragons and phoenixes.
“Your Majesty.” Gu Ru Jiu looked up into Jin Yang’s eyes and gave a faint smile.
Seeing her smile, Jin Yang instinctively smiled back.
Jin Yang led her by the hand to sit down at the table where lotus soup, peanuts and other items were placed. The matron who was originally responsible for feeding the empress had her job taken away by His Majesty just like the previous matrons.
Peanuts and lotus seeds all had the meaning of birthing children. Jin Yang watched Gu Ru Jiu eat what he fed her and felt a sense of accomplishment. Then he lifted the bowl of tangyuan. Jin Yang used a spoon to scoop up one, blew on it and then held it by Gu Ru Jiu’s lips.
“Hot.” Gu Ru Jiu took a bite and then looked at Jin Yang with wide eyes.
“Is it still hot?” Jin Yang pulled the spoon back and put the rest of the tangyuan into his own mouth. He said with a frown, “It’s raw.” 2
“Raw?” Gu Ru Jiu looked at him smilingly
“Yes, raw.” Jin Yang put down the bowl and frowned. “What is with the kitchens that they cannot even make tangyuan properly?”
The four matrons almost collapsed mentally. Your Majesty, are you here to cause chaos?
Also, Empress, how can you let His Majesty say what you are supposed to say?
“Don’t blame them. As long as you feel they are raw.” Gu Ru Jiu took the bowl with a smile, scooped up a ball and blew on it. She put it in front of Jin Yang. “Come, eat one more.”
The matrons felt their knees go weak. That was an impulse to kneel to the empress.
Jin Yang looked at the smiling Gu Ru Jiu and obediently ate this raw tangyuan.
Bao Lu and Qiu Luo covered their mouths with their handkerchiefs from where they stood at the side. They almost burst into laughter.
Gu Ru Jiu took out a handkerchief and wiped Jin Yang’s mouth. Then she ate a tangyuan. “We will birth together.”
Hearing Gu Ru Jiu’s words, Jin Yang stilled and then realized what this meant. Immediately, his ears turned red.
“Cough, cough.” The leading matron perceptively bowed and said, “Your Majesties, please rest early. We will bid farewell.”
“Thank you.” Jin Yang nodded at them. Bai Xian and He Ming went to see the matrons off.
“Matrons, take care.” Bai Xian and He Ming bowed as they ushered the four matrons out of Purple Imperial Hall. Bai Xian said, “Thank you, Matrons, for today.”
“No, no.” The four matrons hurriedly returned the bow. After leaving, they wouldn’t dare to speak of what had happened today.
Everyone else withdrew from the room to leave only Gu Ru Jiu and Jin Yang behind.
“Are they having fireworks outside?” Gu Ru Jiu heard the sound of fireworks but she couldn’t see as the windows were closed.
“Jiu Jiu wants to look?” Jin Yang put an outer robe over her and led her by the hand to the window he then opened.
There were fiery trees and silver flowers blooming across half of the sky.
Gu Ru Jiu looked up and said with a smile, “So beautiful.”
Jin Yang looked at her. His hand slowly, slowly stretched over and then wrapped around her waist.
“Cannot rival you.”
Gu Ru Jiu looked back and then her face touched warmth.
She stilled and then smiled, her hands covering the arm around her waist.
Jin Yang murmured by her ear, “Today is my happiest day.”
She lowered her head and laughed. “I hope Your Majesty will never forget today’s words.”
The window closed again. The fireworks outside drummed on like the opening of the most pleasing symphony.
In the dead of the night, the fragrance was devoured by the beast who hated the night for being too short. Again and again, the celestial cave holds the golden sword. Endless pleasure until one in the morning.
Translator Ramblings: I feel that there should be fireworks going off.
- This poem is actually by Lu Shuang, a Tang poet, as part of a set of poems composed to “urge” the bride, in this case Princess Yunan, for her marriage to Liu Shijing. The last part of the red clouds refers to 1) it’s late in the morning, it’s time to get married; and 2) the marriage makeup, in this case, the blush = red clouds. ↩
- In Chinese, raw and birth/life use the same character. Traditionally, the bride is supposed to say “(I will give)Birth” after eating the raw tangyuan. ↩