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Gu Ru Jiu was disgusted when she learned a member of the Duobao envoy group had molested a woman and shamefully suggested taking the woman as a concubine in order to avoid a punishment from Great Feng.
“Who are they? Why should a good woman from Great Feng go be a concubine in their country?” Gu Ru Jiu was rarely angry, but this time, she felt disgusted as though she had eaten a fly. She found Bai Xian and asked about the course of events.
Bai Xian saw the empress did not have a good expression as she asked about what the Duobao had done. He immediately became confident and explained all he knew.
“You say the Duobao envoy was eating at a restaurant, saw the girl was beautiful, harassed her and even made physical movements. The girl was angry and slapped him. The scholars nearby saw this, and protected her?” Gu Ru Jiu nodded and said, “These scholars are brave.”
“Niangniang, you are right. In our Great Feng, even our women are brave, and will not be bullied by those men from small countries.” As an important eunuch, Bai Xian felt superior when he faced the people of weak countries. When people he looked down on dared to bully people of Great Feng, he found Duobao displeasing to the eye.
Gu Ru Jiu felt that these neighbouring small countries should not be ignored. Who knew if they were truly respectful, or were traitors inside?
“While they are a small country, they should not be underestimated,” Gu Ru Jiu said. “If one looks down on other people, that is indulging them.”
“Yes.” Bai Xian became wary inwardly when he heard this and couldn’t help but think, did some country have evil intentions?
“Has His Majesty sent a decree on the matter?” Gu Ru Jiu thought, even she knew of this matter. Someone must have reported to Jin Yang. Maybe the chief justice had requested an audience just now for this matter.
Bai Xian told Gu Ru Jiu the emperor’s verbal decree.
After listening to Bai Xian’s answer, Gu Ru Jiu immediately clapped. “His Majesty is really worthy. This is a good way.”
Someone from Duobao commits a crime in Great Feng, then they should be punished by Great Feng laws. If they are not willing, they should just get out and go back to Duobao, and we shall never interact again. But the criminal should be left here.
It was very good Jin Yang could express such a tough attitude. If Jin Yang felt this was a minor matter, and a woman being molested was not worth straining ties, then she would find it terrifying.
Because this was not just a minor matter of molestation, but concerned the dignity of a country, and the attitude of an emperor towards his people.
Today, the Duobao envoy dared to molest a woman. If they did not care, maybe another envoy tomorrow would kill someone, and think of themselves as a honored guest.
Honoured guests were honoured because they first knew to respect the host. If they could not do this, they were loathsome guests.
Bai Xian saw the empress’ expression of admiration did not disappear after she heard how His Majesty had dealt with Duobao. He thought, His Majesty and Niangniang were really from the same family. Their reactions were about the same after learning of the matter.
In reality, Jin Yang and Gu Ru Jiu were not the only people angry. Many officials raised their eyebrows after hearing of the incident.
Great Feng had the habit of not allowing other people to touch their people, no matter how hard they were fighting among themselves. A hundred years ago, Great Feng’s young emperor and the regent were fighting for power. Gaoluo, a neighbouring country, felt their opportunity had come, and immediately sent an army to invade Great Feng’s borders.
The regent and the young emperor saw the invasion and immediately stopped fighting among themselves. They turned around and defeated the Gaoluo mightily and demanded reparations before the two of them contentedly went back to fighting for power.
The more Gu Ru Jiu read about the historic conduct of the Feng emperors, the more she felt the imperial house had unusual ways of thinking. Even the previous emperor was a great weirdo. Supposedly, he liked to hide in the corners and write erotic novels. The protagonists were usually poor scholars or miserable orphans.
The source of the rumour was Empress Dowager Zhou.
Compared to the successive generations of odd emperors in Great Feng, Gu Ru Jiu felt that her emperor was the most normal.
After Jin Yang took care of the political matters, he returned to Purple Imperial Hall. He found a charcoal stove and a steaming copper pot on the table along with all kinds of food. He stilled, walked to Gu Ru Jiu’s side and sat down. “What is this?”
“Last time, didn’t you say that you wanted to eat hotpot like I did before I married?” Gu Ru Jiu said with a smile, “I had the imperial kitchens prepare it today.”
The two washed their hands. Gu Ru Jiu helped him make his seasoning plate and then said with a smile, “This kind of pot is best in the winter. Many people in the capital like to eat this.”
“Good.” When Jin Yang had been in the prince establishment in his childhood, because his birth mother had passed away and his father favoured his second princess consort, Jin Yang could not be his own master. He basically ate what the servants delivered to him. During winter, sometimes due to the servant’s negligence, the food delivered would not even be hot.
He entered the palace at thirteen. After becoming the emperor, he never spared a thought for food. He would just randomly pick dishes from the list the imperial kitchens presented, and never ate a dish where he needed to cook the food in the pot himself.
“Hotpot is only interesting if you cook it yourself.” Gu Ru Jiu had rolled up her sleeves already. She picked up her chopsticks and threw thin slices of venison and mutton into the pot.
“What kind of meat is this?” Jin Yang looked in curiosity at the thin meat slices and asked.
“Venison and mutton.” Gu Ru Jiu said with a smile, “Don’t worry, there is no food you avoid on the table.”
“Just throw it in like this?” Jin Yang copied Gu Ru Jiu and picked up a slice of mutton for the pot. However, he was slightly fearful of the boiling soup, and threw in the meat from a distance.
Seeing him like this, Gu Ru Jiu couldn’t help but cover her mouth and laugh. She didn’t go help, and dropped a plate of seaweed into the pot.
Jin Yang was not angry seeing Jiu Jiu laugh at him. He laughed as well. Then he copied Gu Ru Jiu and put a plate of fresh vegetables into the pot.
“Your Majesty, you cannot cook this kind of vegetables like that.” Gu Ru Jiu looked at the tragic greens floating in the pot and laughed. “Seaweed needs to be cooked for a longer time. This kind of vegetable can be eaten after just washing them in the boiling soup.” Then she picked up vegetables with her chopsticks, swished them in the pot, and placed them in Jin Yang’s plate. “Taste.”
Compared to the dishes that had gone through numerous processes before reaching Purple Imperial Hall, this kind of steaming hot vegetable was novel and exceptionally tender to Jin Yang.
The seasoning was slightly cool and the fresh leaves slightly hot. When they entered his mouth, they were unspeakably delicious.
“Not bad.” After swallowing the vegetables, Jin Yang ignored the rule of not speaking when eating and said to Jin Yang with a smile, “This way of cooking is good.”
“I just knew Your Majesty would be satisfied.” Gu Ru Jiu picked two slices of cooked mutton to put in Jin Yang’s plate. “In the future, with me present, I guarantee that Your Majesty will always have delicious food.”
The greatest joy in life was eating. If one could not even satisfy this desire, what was the meaning in life?
“Good.” The mutton was slightly hot. Jin Yang inhaled two times before saying, “With Jiu Jiu present, even if there is no delicious food, I will also be content.”
Gu Ru Jiu tilted her head to look at him with a shy smile.
At the side, Bai Xian smelled the fragrant hotpot and silently bowed his head.
His Majesty and Niangniang were really a match made in heaven. Even he, an eunuch, felt moved at hearing such loving words.
On this side, the emperor and empress broke the rule of not speaking when eating and hid in their rooms to eat hotpot. On the other side, the chief justice and the people from the Ministry of Justice took soldiers to surround the courtyard the Duobao envoy lived in.
Because the envoys from other countries were also living in the palace, they were given a fright when they saw the Feng soldiers surround this residence. Then they saw the soldiers head directly towards the Duobao residence and immediately understood.
In the eyes of the other countries, the Duobao’s actions were an offense towards Great Feng. The envoys from countries who had been invaded by Duobao wanted the Feng soldiers to arrest all Duobao envoys and then punish them severely.
“Prime Minister, the Feng soldiers took away a Duobao person.” The people from Karu hurriedly returned to the courtyard after getting information, and reported this to the Karu Prime Minister, Duo Mi.
“Duobao dares to offend the people of Great Feng in the capital. They should have expected today’s outcome.” Duo Mi’s tone carried a hint of gloating. “They think Great Feng are like the countries they have bullied before. They deserve being arrested by the Feng soldiers.”
“This lowly subject thinks that Great Feng…” the reporting person said hesitantly, “really do not give the envoys face.”
“Why should Great Feng give Duobao face?” Duo Mi said directly. “Which of us countries dares to offend Great Feng?”
The reporter heard the words and was unable to reply.
“We should rejoice that Great Feng is reasonable. If Duobao had strength like Great Feng, there would be no space left for us in the world.” Duo Mi saw clearly. Karu was a small and weak country. Having the support of a large country like Great Feng was a fortunate matter.
If Great Feng was more vicious, Karu would have hard days.
So from the bottom of his heart, he hoped Great Feng would always be prosperous and that they could always rely on it.
The other countries were happy to watch the spectacle, but Duobao was discontent. But the Feng officials did not receive them at all, and were exceptionally cold to them.
The Duobao envoys made a fuss for two days, and then ceased when they saw Great Feng’s determined attitude. They stayed in their courtyard and didn’t dare to go out roaming around.
But their good behaviour was too late. The names of the Duobao envoy did not appear on the list of guests for the state banquet of Great Feng.
Now, the Duobao envoys panicked. They had come to congratulate the emperor for his wedding and to use this opportunity to get benefits out of Great Feng. Now, they couldn’t even meet the emperor, much less discuss benefits.
“General, what to do now?” The envoy looked anxiously at the highest ranking member of the group, General Batuhai. “What if the Feng emperor will not meet us at all?”
“Damn, I hadn’t expected that this new emperor has a bigger temper than the last one despite his youth.” Batuhai punched the table. “Didn’t they say this emperor isn’t the son of the empress dowager, that the empress dowager holds the power rather than him?”
“I heard that the empress dowager gave power to him after the emperor married the girl the empress dowager liked.” The envoy’s eyes lit up when he said this. “How about we go see the empress dowager and the empress’ paternal families?”
“This idea is good,” Batuhai immediately said. “Go prepare great gifts. We will go visit the paternal families of these two noblewomen tomorrow.”
When Yang shi heard a general from Duobao was asking for an audience, she was slightly surprised. Why was Duobao asking to meet them?
Yang shi had heard of the Duobao envoy molesting a woman, so when she heard the request from the general, she immediately said, “No, say the duke is not home.”
Sitting next to her, Gu Chang Ling smiled and nodded. “Yes, yes, yes, just say I am not here.”
The steward returned to the guest reception hall and bowed to Baituhai. “Official, unfortunately, the duke is not home today, and cannot receive you.”
“What, he isn’t here?” Baituhai frowned. “Didn’t they say that your lord is no longer an official of the court?”
Hearing such rude words. the steward’s smile did not change as he explained, “While the master is no longer holding duties in court, he has some good friends and left this morning to visit them.”
“Since that’s the case, we will not disturb you.” Batuhai snorted. What visiting friends—probably just didn’t want to meet him.
Leaving the Gu family, Baituhai’s party headed towards the Zhou Family.
When they arrived at the Zhou Family, they finally did not hit a wall. They met with the members of the Zhou Family and gave out the rich gifts they had prepared.
After receiving the Zhou Family’s promise of “trying their utmost,” Baituhai returned with satisfaction.
“Didn’t they say the Zhou Family is the empress dowager’s paternal family, and the Gu Family the empress’ paternal family? Why does the Gu Family posture more than the Zhou Family?” Baituhai was angry when he mentioned the Gu Family. In the eyes of the Duobao, the empress dowager was higher in status than the empress, so the empress dowager’s family was of higher status than the empress’ paternal family.
The other envoy said, “Maybe this is the ‘small man intoxicated by success’ that the Feng speak of.”
Batuhai thought of this, and then nodded with great approval.
The next morning, Mistress Zhou requested an audience with the empress dowager in the palace.
As a member of the empress dowager’s paternal family, Mistress Zhou had some face in Kangquan Palace. When she entered, a palace maid advanced cordially to lead the way.
When she entered the inner hall, she saw a young woman sitting there with the empress dowager. This woman had her hair styled like a married woman, and a phoenix hairpin in her hair bun. She looked both noble and delicate.
Mistress Zhou rarely saw Gu Ru Jiu but guessed Gu Ru Jiu’s status at a glance. She immediately smiled and bowed to the empress dowager and Gu Ru Jiu.
“Eldest Sister-in-law, quick, take a seat.” The empress had a palace attendant serve Mistress Zhou tea, and asked her about the wellbeing of the family and the children.
Gu Ru Jiu sensed the empress dowager was not very enthusiastic towards Mistress Zhou. When she mentioned members of her paternal family, there was more politeness, and less closeness.
However, Gu Ru Jiu could only pretend not to know of the empress dowager’s paternal family matters even if she sensed something.
“Empress Dowager, I heard that an envoy committed a crime in the capital?” Mistress Zhou suddenly changed the topic to what had been going on a few days ago.
“There seems to be such a matter,” the empress dowager said unconcernedly. “This Grieving One has not paid attention to the matters of court in the last two years, and doesn’t know the details.”
“I’ve heard a bit of the matter.” Mistress Zhou put down her teacup. “Really, it is not a big deal. That envoy saw a beautiful girl and complimented her. But the girl has a big temper, and the nearby scholars added fuel to fire, so this matter caused trouble.”
Gu Ru Jiu frowned upon hearing this. She glanced at the eagerly smiling Mistress Zhou and didn’t speak.
“You know this matter well,” the empress dowager said neutrally. “Did you see it with your own eyes?”
“I did not see it in person, but people from Duobao came to visit Master yesterday and spoke of this matter.” Mistress Zhou thought of the gold, silver and precious treasures Duobao had gifted them and continued, “I think they know their crimes. Isn’t it too much if His Majesty doesn’t allow them to attend the state banquet? They travelled a thousand miles to reach the capital. Their good wishes are hard to come by.”
“Eldest Sister-in-law, what do you mean?” The empress’s face darkened. “You feel my son has not handled this matter properly?”
Mistress Zhou saw the empress dowager’s expression and her heart jumped. She hurriedly explained, “Empress Dowager, I have no such intention. I just feel the Duobao desire to repent, and we should give them a chance…”
“Stupidity!” The empress dowager threw the cup to the table in anger. The cup lid hit the cup and gave a cracking sound.
“How much benefit did you receive from the Duobao envoys that you made a special trip to this Grieving One to say good things for them?!” The Empress Dowager stood up. “If you come to ask mercy for Duobao, there is no need. This Grieving One will pretend not to hear.” Then she turned to leave, ignoring Mistress Zhou’s stiff expression.
“Empress Dowager…” Mistress Zhou hadn’t expected the empress dowager to become so angry. She stood up awkwardly, wanting to give chase but not daring. She could only watch the empress dowager’s figure disappear behind the door. She laughed embarrassedly and turned back. She saw the empress still present and became even more embarrassed.
“Mistress Zhou, Mother-Empress is unwell, and likely cannot entertain you.” Gu Ru Jiu used a handkerchief to wipe the nonexistent tea from the corner of her mouth. “This palace will see you out.”
“I do not dare, I do not dare.” Mistress Zhou was not smart, but also not stupid. She knew that her actions today had made the empress dowager unhappy and didn’t dare to stay.
“You are a member of Mother-Empress’ paternal family—there is nothing you do not dare to do.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled, and walked next to Mistress Zhou. “Mistress Zhou, please.”
Mistress Zhou felt the words were not quite right. What was ‘You are a member of Mother-Empress’ paternal family—there is nothing you do not dare to do’? She was slightly unhappy, but didn’t dare to show it on her face and could only follow behind Gu Ru Jiu with a smile.
Leaving Kangquan Palace, Gu Ru Jiu stopped. She looked at Mistress Zhou who was slightly bowing and said, “The Zhou Clan has produced ministers, empresses, and great generals on bloody battlefields. These people are famed in history.”
Mistress Zhou looked in puzzlement at Gu Ru Jiu and didn’t understand why such words were said. Who in the capital didn’t know that the Zhou Family was different than in the past? If not for Empress Dowager Zhou, they wouldn’t even be able to maintain the dignity of an aristocratic family.
“The glory accumulated by your ancestors has been wasted.” Gu Ru Jiu sighed. “This palace doesn’t know what Duobao said to you and what benefits they gave you. But you need to remember you are of Great Feng. Your actions and words must not let down your ancestors and the people.”
Then she finished. She didn’t want to get entangled with Mistress Zhou. “This palace has other matters—goodbye.”
If today, it wasn’t the Zhou Family who spoke for Duobao but other people, her words would be exponentially more unpleasant, and she may even have sent down a decree to reprimand them.
But this was the empress dowager’s paternal family, and she had to care about the empress dowager’s face.
“Farewell, Empress.” Mistress Zhou suppressed her anger and bowed to Gu Ru Jiu.
She felt ashamed at being scolded by the empress dowager. Now, she was being scolded by a girl in her teens and felt her face burn. She hated Gu Ru Jiu for not giving her face, and also hated Duobao.
If they had not come with a request, would she have come here and offended the two noblest women in the inner palace?
Returning home, Mistress Zhou fought with her husband, Empress Dowager’s older brother Zhou Xian Wei. She blamed him for pushing the matter to her, and causing her such embarrassment.
The next day after the couple fought, Empress Dowager Zhou’s decree arrived.
This time, Gu Ru Jiu had left them face, but Empress Dowager Zhou did not plan such a thing. She reprimanded Zhou Xian Wei in her decree, and demoted him from duke to marquis.
The empress dowager’s actions caused the Zhou Family’s discontent, but their entire family depended on the empress dowager, so they could only receive the decree with respect despite their displeasure. They also went to the palace to ask for forgiveness from the empress dowager and from the emperor, to show they were deeply repenting and wouldn’t commit this mistake next time.
While the Zhou Family were discontent with Empress Dowager Zhou’s actions, the people of Great Feng and the scholars were full of praise.
Even the historians recorded the matter of the Gu Family refusing to receive the Duobao envoy and the empress dowager reprimanding her paternal family into the “History of Great Feng.”
For a time, the reputations of Jin Yang, the empress’ paternal family, and the empress dowager reached new heights among the people.
Many of the people felt that Jin Yang’s resolute attitude against Duobao, and having an emperor to protect his people, was a fortunate matter.
The scholars of Great Feng wrote many poems praising the emperor, so loving they could rival a love poem. The bored Gu Ru Jiu saw these poems and had goosebumps.
When scholars expressed their emotions, normal people could not bear it.