This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“What is this?” Gu Ru Jiu took the gold stamped paper Jin Yang handed her and was curious.
“It is the guest list for this state banquet,” Jin Yang said. “The Duobao are not among them.” He had heard of Jiu Jiu advising Mistress Zhou in front of Kangquan Palace, and was very happy that she had the same views as him on the matter.
This time, if the empress dowager had not sent a decree, he would still have taken the opportunity to punish the Zhou Family. He could keep one eye closed to some matters, but regarding others, they could not be allowed even once. If they were allowed once, they would grow out of control.
Gu Ru Jiu flipped through the list. Other than the officials and marquises above third rank as well as the envoys, there were some famed scholars and warriors. She pondered and understood why.
“There are countries among the envoys this time who want to ask Great Feng for advice?” Gu Ru Jiu scanned the list. “The Duoluo?”
Duoluo and Great Feng’s grievances could be traced back to two centuries ago. Back then, Great Feng had just been founded. Gaoluo took the opportunity to invade. Neither of the two countries benefited, so Gaoluo suggested if Great Feng was willing to marry a princess to the ruler, they would be willing to negotiate peace.
But the founder of the Jin expressed clearly that Great Feng would not make a marriage alliance, would not give up land, would not make reparations. Gaoluo wasn’t willing to retreat, so they could only fight until they were afraid.
The armies of Gaoluo were strong, but they were in the north, and would get snowed in during winter. Their citizens couldn’t eat well during the winter, much less provide the supplies the army needed. Also, even if they had extra grain and fodder, they couldn’t transport it to the border in such terrible weather.
Great Feng was different. Their crops produced great yields and they had a rich geography. Also, before the war started, many people and rich businesses donated money and grain, so Great Feng fought a war of attrition with Gaoluo.
The end result was a prince of Gaoluo was captured, and their general was shot in battle. Gaoluo gave up land and money to ransom back their prince.
After this battle, Gaoluo became docile for nearly a century. Then, a hundred years ago, when the Feng regent and new emperor were fighting for power, they attacked again.
The result this time was worse. The king of Gaoluo wanted to have a taste of taking to the field himself, and then he was captured alive by the Feng soldiers who had ambushed the military base.
Consequently, when this Gaoluo king was escorted into the capital, he was ruthlessly surrounded and watched by the capital’s people.
After this battle, Gaoluo settled down. They gave up land and money, and also submitted to the Feng to become the biggest subordinate country to Great Feng.
However, this subordinate country did not seem to be very obedient, and always secretly thought about how to retrieve their dignity.
“Gaoluo is ambitious. I fear they did not come to congratulate us this time, but to investigate.” Gu Ru Jiu put down the gilded invitation, and said with a frown, “They lost a few times, but are still not giving up.”
“Since they dare to come, what do we have to fear?” Jin Yang looked down but couldn’t conceal the ambition in his eyes. “Our ancestor was able to beat them, and Zhen can as well.”
“I believe Your Majesty can accomplish it, and better than them.” Gu Ru Jiu gripped his hand and said in a tone of unprecedented solemnity, “I, just like always, will support you and stay with you.”
Jin Yang silently pulled Gu Ru Jiu into his embrace and hugged his dainty lover. The last hint of anxiety disappeared from his mind.
When his mother passed away from illness, he had been young. Even though he didn’t remember his mother’s appearance, he remembered her last words, as well as the strength with which the thin hand gripped his wrist.
“Starting today, there is no one to protect you anymore. You have to live well.”
At the time, his wrist had been in pain from his mother’s grip, but he had remembered those words.
He had lived, using all the methods he could to live. He avoided the schemes of the second princess consort and rode the carriage to the capital. He gave all the valuable items of his mother that he had carefully hidden for a long time to bribe the eunuchs and guards of the imperial sons and nephews. Then he used the sparse words of these eunuchs and guards to understand the personalities of the aristocratic families of the capital and the preferences and character of the empress dowager.
They all said he really was the son of Sima shi, measured and well-mannered. In reality, his birth mother died early, and his father did not care about him. Of what he learned, half were things he cautiously learned in secret and the rest was being careful in words and action to avoid people getting a clue.
After entering the capital, he worked harder to learn manners, figuring out the preferences of the empress dowager and of the aristocratic families to make himself more pleasing.
He knew the character of his opponents, so he made himself appear more humble and reserved. In the end, he was chosen by the empress dowager to become the monarch of Great Feng.
At the start, he had admired Jiu Jiu because she had what he didn’t—the love of parents, the care of siblings and a healthy body. Maybe because of this, he didn’t bear for Jiu Jiu to lose these things. He tried to protect Jiu Jiu like he was protecting his childhood dreams.
He didn’t know when these thoughts turned to romantic love, and then he worked hard to marry Jiu Jiu. But he always felt slightly anxious. This anxiety came from fear that he would wrong Jiu Jiu and force her when she wasn’t willing to marry into the palace.
Now, Jiu Jiu said she trusted him and was willing to be with him. The empty hole in his heart was finally filled to the point of overflowing, sweet and warm like he had the best dream in the world.
He hugged Jiu Jiu hard. Jin Yang worried that he would hurt her, so he relaxed and picked her up at the waist.
“Your Majesty.” Gu Ru Jiu hurriedly hugged his neck at his sudden action. Then she discovered that Jin Yang’s Adam’s apple was so sexy she couldn’t help but want to lick it.
“Yes?” Jin Yang looked down at her and then moved in the direction of the bed.
“It’s not dark yet.” Gu Ru Jiu hugged Jin Yang’s neck. Her gaze moved from his throat to his chest.
“For me, with Jiu Jiu by my side, day and night are the same.” Jin Yang laughed softly and his chest trembled as well.
Gu Ru Jiu leaned her head against his chest, and listened to his heartbeat.
The surrounding servants all put down the bed curtains and then withdrew with small steps.
Bai Xian and He Ming stood guard outside the hall and let the spring wind blow against their faces.
He Ming slanted a look at Bai Xian and hummed. “I hear that Bai gonggong always receives great attention from the empress.”
“Oh, this one is someone making up for a crime with service and cannot compare to He gonggong.” Bai Xian snorted. He Ming tried to gain favour with the emperor and empress all day, and now was mocking him.
He Ming flicked the whisk in his hand. He lowered his voice and said strangely, “This is only because Bai gonggong gave this one an opportunity. If you did not privately accept the Sima Family’s bribe, when would it have been this one’s turn to serve His Majesty?” Then he suddenly raised his eyebrow and whispered, “Bai gonggong, say, if the empress knew you were punished by the emperor because of private interactions with the Sima Family, what would the empress think?”
He Ming spoke respectfully, but the scorn in his words could not be concealed. Many people knew that the Sima Family wanted to fight for the empress’ position previously. If the empress learned that Bai Xian was punished because of the Sima Family affair, it would be hard to avoid having some hard feelings. Then if Bai Xian tried to gain favour with the empress again, it would likely be useless.
Bai Xian could naturally think of what He Ming could think. His expression changed and he stopped arguing with He Ming.
Inside Purple Imperial Hall, the spring was in harmony and the jade was fragrant and warm.
After the guest list for the state banquet was sent, Duoluo became more panicked. Originally, they felt the Feng emperor was teaching them a lesson, and when the banquet was starting, they would be given a chance to enter. Who knew His Majesty was so vicious that he didn’t even plan to let them enter the palace gates.
Previously, they had cursed at Great Feng’s officials for not giving them face. Now, they started to blame their colleague. What beauty wouldn’t they have when they returned to their country? Why molest a woman from Great Feng? Now, they had angered the aristocratic families and nobility of Great Feng, and caused them to lose face.
Even the weak and poor countries dared to take the opportunity to laugh at them. This was a great shame.
Pity that regardless of their anger and discontent, they could only stay in their courtyard. They watched the other envoys dress grandly, board the elegant Feng carriages, and then travel towards the imperial palace.
In their view, a carriage like this studded with jewels and covered in golden bells was something only kings were qualified to ride in. But Great Feng used this kind of carriage to entertain envoys. It could be seen that the carriage their emperor rode would be grander and more exquisite.
In reality, just like Duobao’s envoys expected, when the imperial carriage appeared in front of them, they didn’t bear to pull their eyes away.
Such a beautiful carriage of gold and jade! How had that flying dragon been carved that it looked as if it were real?
Even the servants driving the carriage wore precious jade. It could be seen how wealthy and powerful Great Feng was.
Some of the envoys had come to Great Feng before. But even though they had seen Great Feng’s wealth before, they couldn’t help but gasp inside and show some admiration.
The grand carriage stopped outside Vermillion Bird Hall. The envoys stretched out their heads and carefully looked in the direction of the carriage, eager to see the true appearance of the rich Feng emperor.
A blue-robed eunuch bowed and lifted the curtain. A young man dressed in black dragon-patterned robes and with a crown on his head walked out . This man looked very young and had white skin, but gave off great authority, so other people didn’t dare to take him lightly.
“Subject greets Your Majesty!” The officials of Great Feng stood and bowed in unison, their voice solemn and respectful. The envoys from other countries couldn’t help but lower their heads.
Of course, there were daring people who dared to examine this young emperor from the corner of their eyes. Then they saw a woman in crimson phoenix patterned robes walk out of the imperial carriage.
This woman was half a head shorter than the emperor. Her beautiful black hair was pinned up in a complicated yet beautiful style. The pretty phoenix hairpins swung like they would fly in her hair.
“Greetings to Your Majesty.” The officials of Great Feng bowed again.
So this was the empress of Great Feng? The envoys looked at the pair who stood next to each other. They felt awe from the bottom of their hearts and they bowed their heads again.
“Officials, stand.” Jin Yang stepped down from the carriage on a footstool and then reached a hand out to Gu Ru Jiu. He held her hand as they walked towards Vermillion Bird Hall.
There was a place of honor inside Vermillion Bird Hall. There were nine jade stairs, and at the top of the stairs, there were the dragon and phoenix thrones separated by two paces. The dragon throne was slightly forward, and the phoenix throne slightly behind.
Jin Yang stopped in his steps and said something to He Ming in a low voice.
Gu Ru Jiu, whose hand was being held, wanted to speak and stop him, but Jin Yang stopped her.
Zhang Zhong Han, who stood very close to the pair, remained motionless like a statue.
Then the officials saw the eunuchs place the dragon and phoenix thrones together. Standing in the first row, Li Guang Ji frowned slightly. He turned slightly to look at Zhang Zhong Han and Sima Hong. The former did not react and the latter did not have a good expression.
He knew long ago that Zhang Zhong Han had this habit of wanting peace, so he wasn’t surprised at Zhang Zhong Han’s response. But Sima Hong’s reaction was interesting.
Then he glanced at Gu Chang Ling who was standing on the other side. While the other no longer had an official position, as a first rank duke, Gu Chang Ling stood in the front row of the group of nobles.
He hadn’t expected Gu Chang Ling to also look like he saw nothing. He was so restrained it was like the empress favoured by the emperor did not come from his family.
A state banquet had extraordinary meaning. Zhang Zhong Han, as the prime minister, read out the imperial decree thanking the envoys for coming from afar. Then Jin Yang gave a short speech before the state banquet formally started.
Exquisite dishes were delivered to the table. There was beautiful music. On the stage in the hall, dancers danced. Many of the envoys who had come for the first time didn’t know where to look, whether they should first taste the food or admire the beauties.
Fortunately, the envoys all remembered their statuses. Even though they were surprised instead, they did their best to maintain the manner an important official of a country should have.
“It is us subjects’ good fortune to see such beautiful food and heavenly music.” Karu, as a loyal subordinate of Great Feng, immediately stood up and started their flattery of Great Feng.
The general meaning was Great Feng was so prosperous, the emperor so outstanding, and the empress more beautiful than a goddess. Karu was very fortunate to be able to follow Great Feng and become a subordinate country.
Facing Karu’s flattery for the first time, Gu Ru Jiu felt slightly embarrassed when she heard the words. But when she saw the humble and calm expressions of Jin Yang and the officials, she sighed for her ability to accept.
“Zhen thanks your country for their love and your people for their trust. Everyone has worked hard to come from afar, and Zhen toasts you.” Jin Yang raised his winecup.
The prime minister of Karu, Duo Mi, stood in excitement, and held up his teacup in both hands. “Honored Your Majesty, thank you for gracing us with your wine.” Then he drained his cup before Jin Yang could drink.
The other envoys who wanted to flatter Great Feng felt that Karu was shameless and didn’t even care about their face in order to curry favour with the Feng emperor. They were also jealous that the Karu envoy could receive the emperor’s personal toast.
So the cleverer envoys copied Duo Mi, saying a boatload of pretty words and then contentedly drank a cup of wine with the great emperor of the Feng.
But Duo Mi was slightly unhappy about those people using his tactic. So after a round of toasts and flattery, he presented the gifts that he had prepared specially for the emperor and empress’ wedding.
They knew, for the rich Feng, gold and pearls was nothing. So the gifts presented were all with good and auspicious meaning.
For example, the snow flower able to give people a hundred years of life, a moonstone able to bless husband and wife with love until death, a rainbow deer antler that could give people good luck.
The three gifts were said to be stunning, but in Gu Ru Jiu’s view, the dried snow flower was like dried grass, the so-called moonstone was a kind of crystal jade, and the rainbow antlers were not very different from normal antlers.
But seeing the Karu prime minister look so convincing, she still smiled and voiced her thanks. Regardless of the authenticity and usefulness of the items , at least their goodwill was rare.
Jin Yang was interested in the moonstone, reaching out to touch it, and said “Good” to Duo Mi.
The other countries also gave precious treasures, but ever since Jin Yang had seen the things in the previous emperor’s personal treasury after he ascended the throne, he did not have much interest in the so-called precious treasures.
After seeing a lot of precious treasures, one would become accustomed.
“Your Majesty.” Gaoluo gifted a golden tree and then the envoy said, “This subject heard the mighty Feng has many strong warriors. Us lowly subjects cannot compare but hope to see. Your Majesty, please allow this.”
It finally came. A neighboring country wanting to compete in martial arts with the country finally appeared.
Gu Ru Jiu looked with interest at this Gaoluo envoy. The other was handsome, and didn’t look like someone from Gaoluo, but from Great Feng.
Jin Yang saw Jiu Jiu examining the leading envoy of Gaoluo and gave a few looks as well. Then he approached Gu Ru Jiu’s ear, “What does Jiu Jiu think?”
Seeing Jin Yang make such an intimate action in public, Gu Ru Jiu coughed. Seeing him look innocent, she could only say, “Since the other wants to learn, how can we not agree?”
“Jiu Jiu is correct.” Jin Yang smiled at her and slowly straightened. He looked down at the bowing Gaoluo envoy, and said loudly, “Zhen is also very curious about your honoured country’s warriors. Since this is the case, how about we have our countries’ warriors spar and everyone can enjoy themselves.”
The actions of Gaoluo were all under his eyes after they entered the capital. How could he not know the plans of Gaoluo?
As for this envoy who looked like he was from Great Feng…
Jin Yang lifted his winecup and took a sip. He had a small smile and looked like a benevolent monarch.
The sword was called the weapon that gentlemen used. Great Feng had many outstanding swordsmen, and most of these swordsmen were handsome young men with both martial and literary skills.
So when a dark-skinned Gaoluo envoy with small eyes and a flat nose stood next to the handsome and tall Feng swordsman, everyone felt the scene was hurtful to see, and then focused on the handsome swordsman in brocade robes.
Many people also looked at Gu Ru Jiu and Gu Chang Ling, because the Feng representative was none other than Gu Ru Jiu’s big brother Gu Zhi Yu.
While Gu Zhi Yu was an assistant minister of the Office of State Ceremonies, his swordsmanship was among the best among the civil officials.
The Gaoluo envoys had met Gu Zhi Yu before and knew he was a civil official. They had sent out the top swordsman of the country, yet Great Feng sent a civil official. This was really looking down on them.
Because the envoys were extremely discontent, they couldn’t help but show it on their face. Gu Ru Jiu saw the unpleasant expressions of the Gaoluo envoys and smiled.
If these people from Gaoluo looked down on scholars in their minds, they would suffer.
Jin Yang raised his teacup towards her, and she could only pick up her winecup to touch his.
The two had beautiful wine cups. In reality, the cups held water, not wine.
“The visitor is the guest—please.” Gu Zhi Yu made a beautiful spin with his sword, and made a gesture of invitation to the Gaoluo swordsman.
“Please.” The Gaoluo swordsman returned the greeting and said in shoddy Feng, “Then I won’t be polite.”
One should be fast, nimble, and clever when fighting with the sword. He was able to become the best swordsman of Gaoluo because his sword was so fast ordinary people couldn’t ward it off.
But his usually invincible sword moves were all useless in the face of the seemingly gentle swordsman. His moves were blocked, and the other seemed to have a faster and more agile sword than him.
How was this possible?!
He was astounded, and dashed sideways to avoid a blow. He used his sword in a backhand to block his opponent’s attack and received a moment of rest.
How could a civil official have such good swordsmanship?!
How many powerful people were there in Great Feng? Otherwise, how could a civil official compel him to the point he was unable to fight back?
In the view of the Gaoluo swordsman, he had dodged with difficulty, but he managed to escape.
But in the eyes of others, Gu Zhi Yu looked relaxed while he was a sorry figure. In the view of many, if the Feng swordsman did not care about the face of Gaoluo and purposefully took it easy, the Gaoluo swordsman would have lost long ago.
People were biased. The Feng swordsman looked handsome and elegant, while the Gaoluo swordsman’s face was squashed.
Harm came from comparison. As the handsome youth suppressed his opponent, the people present unconsciously raised their opinions of the youth’s swordsmanship.
From this, it could be seen that one had to be wary when making a provocation. The harm from looking at one’s appearance was too great.
Translator Ramblings: I don’t know where this martial skill of Gu Zhi Yu came from, but considering the novel has spent less “screen” time on him than his siblings, it’s possible he is a skilled pugilist and a whole secret life (just killing) but we don’t know since the story is dominated by the love journey.