This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“Your Majesty?” Bao Lu looked in shock at Gu Ru Jiu who was sitting and leaning back, as though she had heard incorrectly.
“You did not hear?” Gu Ru Jiu looked down at her teacup. “Bai Xian, take her to the side-room. Get her to speak.”
“Yes.” Bai Xian and two strong eunuchs dragged the green-robed palace maid away, her mouth covered so she couldn’t even make a sound.
The eunuch and court maid in charge saw the other palace maid being silently dragged away and felt cold jump through their bodies through the bottom of their feet. Before Gu Ru Jiu even spoke, they knelt down.
“This palace heard that palace maid say she is from the Food Bureau?” Gu Ru Jiu used the cup lid to brush against the floating tea leaves, the gentle brushing sound causing the two people in charge to tremble more.
They were in charge of the Food Bureau, but in front of these important people, their life and death were just a matter of a few words. The labels of gonggong and matron were all useless.
“Your Majesty, Yang Liu was sent to the Food Bureau a few days ago. She was very good in her duties, so this servant was negligent and allowed her to offend the imperial procession. This servant is guilty.” The matron suppressed the terror she felt, and said in a slightly strained voice, “Your Majesty, please forgive me.”
“Yang Liu… a good name,” Gu Ru Jiu said sarcastically. “Lightly colored with dew, light and untouched by dust.”
The two people in charge didn’t dare to breathe even more. They heard the pained grunts coming from the next room. They didn’t dare to think what kind of punishment Yang Liu was enduring that she would make such sounds even when her mouth was covered.
Then they looked up and saw the expressionless empress looking down and drinking tea. She seemed to not have heard the noise coming from the next room, and didn’t even frown.
With this one glance, everyone felt cold all over. They said that the empress was an easy-going person who did not casually punish servants and who was extremely amiable. But today, she was so vicious. It could be seen that everyone had their weak points that could not be easily touched.
For the empress, what could not be touched?
Naturally the emperor!
Yang Liu dared to try to seduce the emperor, and caused them to be held accountable as well. She was so daring and really did not want to live.
“Since Yang Liu was just sent to the Food Bureau, where was she before?” Gu Ru Jiu put down the teacup and heard the quieter sounds coming out of the next room. She said to Bao Lu, “Never mind—have Bai Xian bring her over.”
“Yes.” Bao Lu walked to the next room with a pale face. She saw that the palace maid called Yang Liu did not have any marks on her, just an unpleasant complexion, so she said, “Bai Gonggong, Her Majesty wants to see this palace maid.”
Bai Xian took the handkerchief a young eunuch handed him and wiped his hands. “My hands have grown unskilled after so many years of not doing this. Since the empress wants to see this criminal servant, I will temporarily spare you.” He smiled at Yang Liu. “Miss Yang Liu, the empress is usually benevolent—it is best you obediently answer her questions. Otherwise, I will be in trouble, you understand?”
Yang Liu glared at him and didn’t speak.
Seeing her so stubborn, Bai Xian’s smile disappeared. He threw the handkerchief onto a nearby stool. “Take her over.”
Bao Luo saw two strong eunuchs drag the weak Yang Liu over and moved aside. Her steps paused before she followed.
Bai Xian noticed her action, sneered and then strode to the main hall.
“Your Majesty, Yang Liu was originally in Jingan Palace, and then because she made a mistake, she was punished by being sent to the Food Bureau.” The matron of the Food Bureau knew that there was something fishy in this matter. How would a palace maid who was really being punished be sent to a place like the Food Bureau where there was a lot of profit to be made?
But this was something between important people. They, as palace attendants, would not dare to speak on the matter. Now that trouble had been caused, they could only beg the empress to be merciful and not demand their lives.
“Jingan Palace?” Gu Ru Jiu laughed softly. JIngan Palace was the residential palace of Dowager Consort Qian and Dowager Consort Sun. Regardless of whether this matter had anything to do with the two dowager consorts, at least the two dowager consorts knew about it.
“This palace knows.” Gu Ru Jiu looked over the two people in charge. “The palace has rules, and the eunuchs and palace maids have long had rules on their appointment. You did not act according to the rules, so you will be punished. But because your reasons are excusable, you will each be given five blows and fined two months of salary. If the Department of Household Affairs dares to do something like this again, this palace will punish you severely.”
The Department of Household Affairs was the department in charge of all palace maids and eunuchs. All six bureaus, including the Food Bureau, were under the jurisdiction of the Department of Household Affairs.
“Thank you, Your Majesty; thank you, Your Majesty.” The pair were overjoyed. This punishment was exceptionally merciful to them. They kowtowed several times to Gu Ru Jiu before leaving for their punishment.
Leaving the main hall, they encountered Yang Liu being supported by two eunuchs. Both sneered coldly and hurriedly left.
After entering the inner hall, the two eunuchs threw Yang Liu onto the ground. She struggled for a moment before managing to get into a kneeling posture. “This criminal servant greets Your Majesty.”
Seeing her like this, Gu Ru Jiu closed her eyes. A moment of silence later, she opened her eyes and said, “Speak—what was your goal in approaching His Majesty?”
Yang Liu pressed her forehead to the ground and said in a trembling voice, “Your Majesty, this servant just accidentally offended the imperial procession and does not dare to have other intentions.”
“You still do not want to speak honestly?” Gu Ru Jiu frowned and then sighed. “This palace has never had blood on my hands and does not want to. But if you still persist in this wrong, this palace can only set an example.”
Jin Yang was not the previous emperor’s blood son and was wary of the aristocratic families and major clans. Had no one had other thoughts?
If something happened to Jin Yang, then the aristocratic families and major clans could use the opportunity and push out a new emperor. This emperor may be Jin Yang’s half-brother, or one of Prince Rui’s three sons.
If she wasn’t the empress or maybe had no feelings towards Jin Yang, then she wouldn’t bother with this matter. But Jin Yang was her man, and she could not watch as someone schemed against her person.
Yang Liu’s back stiffened. She kowtowed after a moment and said, “This servant… this servant doesn’t know what Your Majesty means.”
“Your Majesty, this servant heard that this palace maid called Yang Liu has a young brother and sister at home. If she does not know, how about summoning her siblings into the palace to ask? Maybe her family members know.” Bai Xian was used to these people with their hard mouths, and knew what tactics were useful against this kind of people. “Your Majesty, how about this servant goes to summon these people?”
“No, no.” Yang Liu crawled in front of Bai Xian and hugged his leg. “Bai Gonggong, they know nothing—please spare them.”
“Then do you know or not?” Bai Xian pulled his leg out of Yang Liu’s hands.
It did not matter whether the tactics were novel, just whether they were useful.
“I’ll speak, I’ll speak.” Yang Liu crawled up and kowtowed to Gu Ru Jiu. “Your Majesty, please spare my family—they really know nothing. This servant knows the wrong—please have mercy.”
“All right, stop kowtowing.” Gu Ru Jiu put down the teacup and said, “Speak—who had you come here, who taught you to sing a folk tune from Jin Prefecture?”
“This servant… This servant was originally Dowager Consort Sun’s palace maid. One day, this servant accidentally saw His Majesty, then this servant…” Yang Liu looked at the empress’ expression and saw the lack of emotion. Her shoulders shivered and she continued, “Later, I accidentally heard Dowager Consort Qian and Dowager Consort Sun discussing His Majesty, saying His Majesty’s birth mother, no, the original Princess Consort Cheng had a beautiful voice and stunned Prince Chen with a Jin Prefecture folk song. This servant’s mother is from Jin Prefecture, so this servant knows some songs…
“Originally, this servant only dared to hope inside, but a few days ago, Dowager Consort Qian told this servant she will think of a way for this servant to get close to His Majesty, and… become a favoured consort. This servant was muddle-headed for a moment and had inappropriate thoughts…”
Yang Liu stammered but Gu Ru Jiu understood. Both dowager consorts had participated in this matter.
“Insolence! Dowager Consort Qian is a consort of the previous emperor and wouldn’t do such a thing,” Gu Ru Jiu said with a darkened expression. “Do you know the crime for slandering a consort?!”
“The servant’s words are all true—Your Majesty, please ascertain.” She hurriedly pulled up her sleeves and revealed white arms. “Your Majesty, please look. Dowager Consort Sun gave this bangle to this servant.”
Gu Ru Jiu looked down and saw that there was a thin gold bangle on Yang Liu’s wrist. It was against the rules for a palace maid to wear such an adornment.
Bao Lu took the gold bangle off of Yang Liu and presented it in front of Gu Ru Jiu.
Gu Ru Jiu did not take the bangle and had Bao Lu return it to Yang Liu after a few glances. She stood up and said, “Detain her first, and have them guard her carefully.”
“Yes.” Bai Xian waved a hand towards the eunuchs who hurriedly grabbed Yang Liu and quickly left the hall.
“This servant is here.” Bai Xian bowed and came forward.
“This Yang Liu must be carefully guarded—do not let anyone near.” Gu Ru Jiu said after a moment, “Tell her, if she dares to commit suicide out of fear, then her sister can take her place in the palace.”
“Yes.” Bai Xian only wiped the sweat from his forehead after leaving Luanhe Palace. This empress was really terrifying when she became vicious.
“Your Majesty, if this reaches the emperor’s ear, will it be detrimental to you?” Bao Lu hesitated to speak. “Moreover, this servant worries about such conduct… harming the heavens and peace.”
Gu Ru Jiu put her hands into the copper basin and carefully washed each of her fingers. “If the emperor distances himself because of this, then I can only blame myself for not knowing people well.” She took her hands out of the water. Qiu Luo hurriedly wrapped her hands in a clean towel and wiped away the water.
“As to harming the heavens and peace?” Gu Ru Jiu laughed. “Should I just allow these things to happen, and just be a kind person who does not get angry—would that be right?”
She looked at her palm, smooth and white, and with the marriage line clear and long. “If someone touches me or my man, so what if I harm the heavens and peace?”
Bao Lu curtsied and whispered, “This servant thought incorrectly.”
Gu Ru Jiu glanced at her and stood. “Go to the imperial study.”
“Yes.” Qiu Luo handed the towel to a palace maid next to her, and took a step to walk in front of Bao Lu. Bao Lu stilled and then silently followed behind Qiu Luo.
He Ming stood guard outside the imperial study and hurried to bow and greet the empress when she came.
“Is anyone else present?” Gu Ru Jiu looked at the half-closed study door and asked quietly.
“Your Majesty, His Majesty is just reviewing memorandums, and there is no one else here.” He Ming hesitated for a moment. “If you want to see His Majesty, this servant will report immediately.”
“No need.” Gu Ru Jiu raised her hand. She took a few steps forward and saw Jin Yang at the table through the door.
He sat with a straight back like a cold blade, giving off a sharpness people could not ignore. He had strong brows and starry eyes. He was extraordinarily majestic. Just sitting like this, he was dazzling.
This kind of Jin Yang was completely different from when he was in front of her. The former was like a sharpened blade while the latter was like a peerless piece of jade, perfect and gentle without any sharpness.
She looked back and walked to the side, saying to He Ming, “No need to mention to His Majesty that this palace came.”
He Ming bowed upon hearing this.
Gu Ru Jiu smiled warmly and turned to leave.
He Ming saw the empress’ departing back and felt slightly puzzled. What was with the empress?
In the imperial study, Jin Yang glanced up through the door. The doorway was empty. He frowned and put down the pen. “He Ming, what time is it?”
“Your Majesty, it is four.”
“So late already?” Jin Yang picked up the pen again and finished reviewing the last few memorandums. Then he stood up and said, “Go, return to Purple Imperial Hall.”
“Yes.” He Ming bowed his head and followed.
In Purple Imperial Hall, Qiu Luo presented a sandalwood box to Gu Ru Jiu and then asked curiously, “Your Majesty, why are you looking for this?”
Gu Ru Jiu smiled and didn’t speak. She opened the box. Placed inside was a jade stone the size of a pinkie and carved into a droplet shape. The craftsmanship appeared ordinary at first glance, but when one looked closely, they could see the characters for “good fortune” and “longevity” carved in the small jade droplet.
The jade droplet was tied with a red string and was something a child wore. This was one of the countless pieces of dowry that Gu Ru Jiu had gotten from the Gu Family when she married. It was prepared for her future child.
“Good fortune and longevity.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled as she placed the jade droplet back into the box. She lifted her head and saw Jin Yang come in, so she said to the servants in the room, “You may all leave.”
He Ming, behind Jin Yang, hesitated but then retreated as well.
The attendants in the room immediately cleared out. Gu Ru Jiu beckoned to Jin Yang. “Chenjun, come.” Ever since she told Jin Yang the story of two brothers in love with the same woman, Jin Yang did not like her calling him Dalang.
“What is it?” Jin Yang saw Gu Ru Jiu so serious and thought there was something major, so he hurried in front of Gu Ru Jiu. “What happened?”
“Lower your head.” Gu Ru Jiu looked at him with a smile.
Jin Yang obediently lowered the head and then saw Jiu Jiu tie something around his neck.
Then Gu Ru Jiu caressed the jade droplet and said with a smile, “Now I have tied you up.”
Jin Yang looked down and saw a jade stone of good quality. The characters carved into it were small but had a vigorous style. The craftsmanship was very fine. Although Jin Yang knew this was something children wore, he didn’t mind and said happily, “Thank you, Jiu Jiu.”
“You are wearing my thing, so you are mine. If someone dares to snatch you away, I will cut off her hand.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled brightly. “If Chenjun goes with someone else, then I will lock His Majesty up and not let anyone see.”
Jin Yang met her eyes and crouched down to her level. “I have the same feelings towards Jiu Jiu.”
Their gazes met in the air. Gu Ru Jiu reached out to lightly brush his brow, and then slowly smiled.
Jin Yang tucked the jade droplet into his clothes so it was against his skin. The cool droplet gradually warmed due to his body temperature.
In Jingan Palace, Dowager Consort Sun was copying a Buddist scripture. The footsteps outside interrupted her thoughts, and she made a misstroke.
She frowned, looked at the writing and put down the brush. She folded up the paper and threw it to the side.
“Dowager Consort, this servant has something to report.”
She nodded and the palace maid serving her summoned the person inside. The eunuch outside came in and said, “Dowager Consort, Yang Liu was punished and has been detained by the main steward of Qiankun Palace, Bai Xian.”
“Bai Xian of Qiankun Palace?” Dowager Consort Sun washed her hands with the help of the palace maid. She said as she wiped her hands, “This is interesting. The empress is taking care of someone, but used one of the emperor’s people. What did Yang Liu say?”
“Yang Liu said that Dowager Consort Qian ordered everything,” the eunuch whispered. “The empress even used secret torture before the interrogation.”
“Hasn’t this empress always been friendly? Why has she started to use such means?” Dowager Consort Sun stood up with a half-smile and walked to the window. She gazed at the grasses and flowers out in the yard. “Does the emperor know she used such means?”
“The torturer was Chief Steward Bai Xian.”
“Ha, this palace underestimated this empress.” Dowager Consort Sun sneered. “She wants to tell the emperor that she is fair and aboveboard in using torture?” Rather than pretend to be virtuous and generous, it was better to make the emperor think she was truly concerned for him and would not hide anything from him.
She wondered, did this emperor like a true personality like this? When men liked you, everything was good. When they did not, a true temperament was being tyrannical. This empress was too young—she thought the emperor had true feelings now and that everything would be fine.
The eunuch didn’t know how to respond and remained silent.
“Find someone to pass the information to Dowager Consort Qian, and say the empress suspects she ordered a palace maid to seduce the emperor and has malicious intentions.” Dowager Consort Sun smiled. “The inner palace should be more lively and interesting. It has been too dull in recent years.”
“Mistress, the palace sent information—the plan succeeded.”
In a dim room, a woman dressed well gave a satisfied smile. “Really?”
“Mistress, why do this? If this is discovered, you, the master and the young master will suffer. Even your paternal family…”
“My good younger sister did not do it just for me.” The woman sneered. “Don’t say more—I know.”
She could not watch helplessly as these people lived in comfort while her daughter, not even having had a glorious coming of age, was lying under black soil.
“Is Sima Xiang still in contact with that Gaoluo person?” she asked.
“They met again yesterday.”
“Very good.” The woman laughed. “Now this did not waste my secretly sweeping the obstacles away for her. I want to see how far she can go, how high she can go.”
This way, when she fell down, it would hurt enough.
Her daughter could not have died for nothing.
In Yixin Palace, Dowager Consort Qian finished hearing the eunuch’s report and sneered. “Since it is just a suspicion, then it is merely a suspicion. This palace will not accept—what can she do?”
“Dowager Consort, this servant worries that Yang Liu cannot endure. What happens when she insists it is you?” The eunuch said worriedly, “His Majesty treats the empress well, and this servant worries the emperor will be dissatisfied with you.”
“The emperor is the empress dowager’s adopted son. How satisfied with this palace can he be?” Dowager Consort Qian snorted. “I am a consort of the previous emperor. If there is no conclusive evidence on this matter, he cannot touch me. Otherwise, he cannot pass the obstacle of the imperial censors.
“Let’s watch. Even if I cannot escape culpability, Sun shi is not much cleaner.” Dowager Consort Qian glanced in the direction of Jingan Palace. “She really thinks that I did not see her intentions. She wants to use me to scheme against others. She should see if this palace is willing!”
Back when she and Sun shi were both consorts of the previous emperor, they were enemies and friends. She knew how cunning this woman was. So how could she trust the other completely now?
The envoys ate and drank for free in the capital of Great Feng for nearly a month before preparing to leave. Before their departure, what they looked forward to the most was the gifts Great Feng would give in return.
Back during the previous emperor’s time, he had been a very generous person. If they said a few nice words, there would be lots of things.
But this present emperor did not seem to be so easy-going, so they were both worried and looking forward to it. Especially the Duobao envoy who had offended Great Feng. They were extremely worried that they could not explain to the king after they returned.
In reality, Jin Yang did not surprise them. He gave them some things they could not eat or use to take back to their monarchs.
What, you say you did not have an easy time coming from afar?
But didn’t you come to give congratulations? What reason was there for guests to leave with more gifts than they had brought?
You dare to speak nonsense?
Didn’t you come with sincerity to congratulate the emperor and empress—did you come to beg?
No one dared to say they were here to get things for free, and they did not dare to offend the officials of the Office of State Ceremonies. They could only state their thanks, pretend to be happy, and put away the items Great Feng gave to their rulers.
Though there were not many things, they were precious. Didn’t you see Duobao only received a remonstration letter from the Feng emperor?
It was neither the best case nor the worst. They had to be satisfied.
The only exception was Li. They received Great Feng’s rescue grain and medicine. Their prince, under the name of receiving Feng education, stayed in the capital.
In the view of the other envoys, this was Li sending their prince as ransom to Great Feng in exchange for grain.
So while they admired Li slightly, they did not plan to have their own princes come to be hostages.
Only Qi Lian’s expression darkened after hearing the news.
They were willing to send a prince as hostage rather than work with Gaoluo?
The actions of Li were clearly a slap on his face.
Translator Ramblings: I have no knowledge of palm reading so hopefully that part makes sense.