This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“Insolence!” Jin Yang looked coldly at the righteous-looking imperial censor and said, “Zhen works hard for the people, and there are no other consorts in the palace. Just living together with the empress becomes obsessed with beauty in your mouth. Zhen thinks you want to sow discord between Zhen and the empress, and to cause disharmony. Your thoughts are shameful.”
Jin Yang did not argue with this imperial censor about Purple Imperial Hall at all. He stood up and said expressionlessly, “Zhen thinks that you do not want the best for Zhen, but for Zhen to do what you want.”
“This subject is terrified.” The imperial censor had not expected the emperor to react like this. His knees gave out, and he knelt down. If he had known the emperor would react like this, he would not have stood up and spoken about the matter today.
A few days ago, he had heard someone say the emperor only appeared to treat the empress well. He looked to be in love, but in reality, he just wanted to lull the empress dowager and the Gu Family with his actions, and stabilize the country. He had stood up at this time in order to take advantage of thus loophole, but the truth of the matter was the opposite of what he had imagined.
He wanted to use the chance to gain favor with the emperor and leave his name behind in history, but who knew he had made a bad move. Now, he likely could not even keep his position, much less leave his name behind in history. It would be very difficult to even come back.
“Zhen needs good officials that work for the country and people, not ones who spend all day staring at the inner palace.” Jin Yang glanced at the imperial censor. “Remove him from his position—he will be barred forever.”
The imperial censor heard the words, gritted his teeth, and decided to go all in. “Your Majesty, this subject’s actions are all for the people of the world. Your Majesty, please see. Have you forgotten the Dongning Rebellion?!”
During the Great Wei Dynasty, the Dongning Emperor had favored the empress greatly, and allowed the empress’ clan to gain power in court. After the Dongning Emperor passed away, the empress suddenly took action. She sent armies to imprison all the imperial sons, put on the crown and got onto the throne, making all the court officials bow to her.
The empress was called the Xuanan Emperor after ascending the throne. She was diligent, and the Wei were at peace, and many came to pay tribute. From the people’s point of view, there was nothing to pick at.
But the scholars of later generations spoke badly of her. The main point was that she was a woman. One who dared to take the throne, and also take male consorts. Many people thought this was her being disloyal to the Dongning Emperor, and an embarrassment to women. But some scholars thought that she was a hero of women, and could be called a wise ruler among the other emperors.
But regardless of how later generations treated her, the Dongning affair meant that many later emperors were wary of their empresses. This was to avoid them ending up the same as the Dongning Emperor, and having to wear green hats in the annals of history.
The Xuanan Emperor once said, “Those who are emperors all have three palaces and six courtyards. Zhen is a woman, but how can Zhen be different from the ancestors?”
Because of these words, the Xuanan Emperor was cursed for hundreds of years by later scholars. But no matter how hard they cursed, they had to admit that when the Xuanan Emperor was on the throne, those scholars who claimed to be so noble still obediently knelt at the throne and chanted long live the emperor.
Now, this imperial censor was almost directly saying that the present empress may become the second Xuanan Emperor.
When the shocking words were said, all the court officials changed their expressions. Jin Yang’s face turned dark completely.
“Your Majesty, this subject is loyal to you and has no other intentions.” Gu Zhi Yu came out at this time. He glanced at the official. “Official Jiang slanders the empress and this subject’s family. This subject cannot take on this crime. Your Majesty, please know this.”
Then he took off his black hat and knelt on the ground. “This subject and this subject’s family are loyal to Your Majesty—the heavens bear witness. But if we are to be accused wrongly because my sister became the empress, this subject is willing to quit and return home to show innocence.”
“Official Gu, you do not need to do so.” Jin Yang walked down the nine jade steps, came in front of Gu Zhi Yu and put his black hat back on his head with his own hands. “Zhen knows the loyalty of the Gu Family. You do not have to keep the words of such villains on your mind.”
“This subject thanks Your Majesty for your trust.” Gu Zhi Yu’s eyes turned red. He choked as he bowed deeply to Jin Yang. “This subject has committed a crime, and should not have made trouble for Your Majesty with my actions. But this subject’s family does not dare to accept or endure such a great crime, and would not commit this crime.”
“The empress has mentioned a few times about moving to Luanhe Palace, but Zhen stopped her. So it is Zhen‘s intention for the empress to reside in Purple Imperial Hall. This has nothing to do with the empress.” Jin Yang glanced at the imperial censor who had collapsed to the ground and said coldly, “This person has slandered the empress in court, and also court officials. He is hateful. He will not be allowed to be an official in this lifetime, and his next three generations will also not be permitted.”
The imperial censor seemed to be struck by lightning. He dazedly knelt on the ground, his lips trembling and unable to speak.
It was fine if he could not be an official in the future. But his next three generations could also not. What to do?
Just as he wanted to plead, the imperial guard came over and blocked his mouth, dragging him out of the court. He did not know how he came out of the doors of the court. He just knew when he was clear-minded again, he had been thrown down the stone stairs. Other than the expressionless imperial guards, there was no one else around.
He looked up to the end of the white jade stairs. There were the doors to court. He crawled towards the jade stairs. But when his hand touched the jade stair, a blade appeared in front of him.
“Do not trespass into court.” A imperial guard in armor looked coldly at him like he was stupid.
He dazedly pulled his hand back. Soon, people came to drive him away, not letting him stay even a moment.
He could only stand up and blankly walk out of the palace. Halfway, he saw several people dressed as dragon guards appear in front of him.
A dragon guard snorted at him. “I thought that he was some loyal martyr, but he is just a fool.”
He stared angrily, and found the leader was a young and handsome youth. The other did not have much of an expression, but his gaze was the coldest among all of them.
“Captain Gu, it was this person who wanted to harm the empress and the Ducal Establishment. Fortunately, the emperor was wise and was not affected by his words.” The dragon guard tsked at him. “A person like this will give up his face in order to climb higher.”
So this youth with great presence was the older brother of the empress. He thought of the position he had lost, and how he had offended the Gu Family. Even his grandsons had lost the chance to enter court. He could not help but stumble, and almost fell in front of the dragon guards.
Seeing this imperial censor so sad, Gu Cun Jing said coldly, “If any in the Gu Family dares to have any disloyalty towards His Majesty, then let the lightning strike us down. The heavens watch what people do. If there are those who plot against the loyal, they will receive retribution.”
The imperial censor wavered and dazedly walked out of the palace.
It was a coincidence, or maybe the heavens. A thunderstorm happened that night, and the capital was in a terrifying storm. The next morning, everyone found the plaque of the house of the imperial censor had been struck by lightning and even the cypress tree which had lived nearly a hundred years had been snapped off.
When the news spread, many people said that even the heavens could not bear this Official Jiang’s conduct and used lightning to warn him.
The Gu duke was such a good person. Back then, when the capital had an earthquake, how much danger had he risked to warn the emperor? If not for him, the emperor might not have taken the dream from his ancestors as true. He would not have had the people leave to escape the calamity. How many people would have died then?
Also, the empress was someone who even Spiritual Master Chu Yun praised as having good fortune. This kind of person would definitely bless the people. But how did she become a calamity in the mouth of Official Jiang?
The emperor and empress had a good relationship. Would it be better if the emperor had a full harem and was obsessed with female charms?
This Official Jiang had such evil thoughts. He must be purposefully inciting discord between the emperor and empress to influence the court. No wonder the heavens were striking him down. This was good!
Didn’t this Official Jiang want his name in the history books? Now, he was warned by heaven not to frame loyal subjects. It was impossible to not be in the history books. But not in the books of loyal subjects, but of traitorous ones.
Maybe, thousands of years later, people would discuss if this really happened, or if this was a story made up because the official was unpopular with the people.
The imperial censor who had spoken of the empress had no face left to stay in the capital with all the rumors going around. He took his wife and fled to the countryside. He never went to the capital again.
“The lightning yesterday was frightening.” Qiu Luo beat her own shoulders and cleaned up the room as she said to Bao Lu, “You are not on duty today—why have you come here to me in the morning?”
“I…” Bao Lu looked at the earrings hanging from Qiu Luo’s ears. Her expression dimmed. The empress had awarded Qiu Luo the earrings yesterday. Qiu Luo had been awarded, and so were the other palace maids who served the empress. Only she had gotten nothing.
“We have nothing that we cannot say between us, so why are you hesitating?” Qiu Luo folded the blankets and saw Bao Lu’s conflicted expression. She said, “In an hour, the empress will get up. If you do not start talking, I will leave.”
“Don’t go.” Bao Lu bit her lips and said, “I am just a bit scared.”
Qiu Luo walked to sit next to her and sighed. “It is lucky that I am the one to hear this today. If it was anyone else, I fear you…”
“I know that I should not say such things, but I do not know who else to talk to.” Bao Lu gripped her handkerchief, her expression tired. “Yesterday, when I saw the empress casually let Bai Xian drag Yang Liu away for torture, I was very scared.”
Qiu Luo frowned and did not speak.
“Her Majesty has changed.” Bao Lu knotted up the handkerchief into a rope. “Before her marriage, she was not like this.”
“What do you think the empress should be like?” Qiu Luo said in exasperation. “Dignified, virtuous, calm and never upset, letting people scheme against her?”
Bao Lu looked at Qiu Luo’s angry expression and said dazedly, “Even you have changed.”
“I have not changed but I see the situation clearly.” Qiu Luo stood up, her expression slightly distant. “In the ducal establishment, Her Majesty was a pampered daughter of an aristocratic family. She had the affection of her parents and the protection of her siblings. Of course she had nothing to worry about. But now she is the empress, the mother of the country, His Majesty’s wife. If she was like before, it would just harm her.”
Bao Lu frowned. “But that does not mean that you can easily decide someone’s life and death.”
“If people respect me a foot, I will return them ten. If someone offends me, I will make them suffer worse than death.” Qiu Luo neatened her hair. “These are the rules of the palace. If you cannot accept them, then ask the empress to let you out of the palace. With your many years of service to the empress, she will not refuse your request.”
“The empress will wake soon. I am leaving.” Qiu Luo interrupted her and left without looking back.
From young, she knew the empress was the master and she was the servant. As a servant, she just had to be loyal to the empress. She would not think things that she should not, and do things she should not.
If not for the empress, her ill mother and weak younger brother would have died long ago. How could they live like they did now, healthy and rich, her younger brother even able to learn to read and write?
Which of the personal servant girls had not received the empress’ favour? If they could not achieve even basic loyalty, how could they live up to how well the empress treated them?
Walking to Purple Imperial Hall, Qiu Luo saw His Majesty silently come out with Bai Xian and the other eunuchs. He looked so careful she could not help but sigh at how good His Majesty was to the empress.
Seeing her come, Jin Yang made a motion for silence. “Her Majesty did not sleep well last night. Be more quiet and do not disturb her rest.”
Qiu Luo curtsied to Jin Yang and took a step to the side. The palace maids behind her also followed her in moving aside a few steps, and waited respectfully, bowing, to see the emperor off.
Qiu Luo prayed inside as she watched His Majesty leave—hopefully His Majesty would always treat the empress so well and never change.
Because the thunder last night was so loud, Gu Ru Jiu did not sleep well, and got up later in the morning. After washing up, she looked at the food on the table and did not have much of an appetite. She forced down a bowl of congee and then said, “Has the rain stopped?
“It is still coming down.” Qiu Luo wiped her hands and whispered, “This morning, this servant heard something interesting.”
“What is it?” Gu Ru Jiu took the handkerchief from Qiu Luo and wiped for herself.
“I heard that the imperial censor who criticized you yesterday had his house struck by lightning. Even the plaque was burnt.” Qiu Luo’s voice contained a bit of pleasure. “A person who speaks such nonsense deserves it.”
Gu Ru Jiu stilled and then said with a smile, “Just a coincidence. You should not say such things in the future.”
“Yes.” Qiu Luo nodded. She ordered the other palace maids to take away the dining set on the table. “Your Majesty, His Majesty said this morning when he left that if you feel bored, you can go take a stroll.”
“I know.” Gu Ru Jiu looked at the dark weather outside and yawned. She had no desire to go out.
An hour later, Bai Xian hurriedly walked in and whispered, “Your Majesty, the rain is going to stop soon. His Majesty is preparing to leave the palace, and had this servant come ask you whether you will come as well.”
“Leave the palace?” Gu Ru Jiu became slightly alert. She put down the book in her hand that she had not read many pages of. “Have His Majesty wait for a moment, and I will come after changing.”
“Yes.” Seeing the empress show a joyful expression, Bai Xian sighed. His Majesty really understood the empress the best.
In the imperial study, Jin Yang summoned Gu Cun Jing, Hu Yun Qi and the others, saying that he was going to take the empress out on a private visit.
It was not a strange thing for emperors throughout history to go on private visits, but it was rare to go with the empress.
As the second brother-in-law to the country, Gu Cun Jing had to stand up. “Your Majesty, Her Majesty is the mistress of the palace and cannot easily leave the palace. I fear…”
“Rules are dead, people are alive. How can Official Gu be so rigid?” Jin Yang said. “Before the empress entered the palace, she frequently went with good friends to ride and enjoy the scenery. Now, she has married Zhen and lost a lot of freedoms. It cannot be that she is not allowed to step even a foot out of the palace.”
Gu Cun Jing was immediately speechless. You are the emperor, you are the law. He was also distressed that his younger sister was stuck in the palace all day and could not have freedom.
But the other dragon guards were slightly moved when they heard the emperor’s words. The emperor was really very good to the empress. No wonder the emperor was so angry yesterday when the imperial censor spoke nonsense.
When the empress arrived, the dragon guard saw husband and wife dressed like ordinary nobility. They could not help but lament once again, no wonder the emperor loved the empress so. Her style was very similar to the emperor’s.
Gu Cun Jing examined his younger sister. He saw that she had not lost weight, but gotten a bit fatter. So he was reassured. It appeared that his sister was living comfortably in the palace. Otherwise, she would not have gained weight.
The group left the palace. Jin Yang suddenly became interested and had Gu Ru Jiu ride the horse while he held the reins and walked ahead like an ordinary husband, occasionally buying some fine playthings for her. Their closeness made the dragon guards behind the pair unable to keep watching. There were two unmarried dragon guards who were blushing and felt anticipation towards their future wives.
From this, it could be seen how lethal the power of showing affection was.
“Do you not feel…” Hu Yun Qi came next to Gu Cun Jing and pressed his ear. “The emperor is this?”
Rumor had it in the Shu Prefecture, many men feared their wives and were laughed at by others as “soft ears.” Hu Yun Qi’s movement was directly saying His Majesty feared his wife.
Gu Cun Jing said through his teeth, “If you keep talking nonsense, careful the empress will hear. Don’t forget that in a few days, Mother-in-law will be bringing Sister-in-law to the palace to see the empress.”
Hu Yun Qi coughed and moved away from Gu Cun Jing, using his actions to express he would not speak more.
Gu Ru Jiu was high on the horse, and showed a hint of a smile as she looked at Jin Yang who was holding the reins. Just then, she heard a ruckus come from the restaurant nearby. Someone seemed to be fighting.
She looked over curiously and couldn’t help but smile. “Husband, look there.”
Jin Yang heard this and turned his head. He saw a plaque hanging from the restaurant with the words “Delicious Fish Tower.” So he could not help but smile as well. “I had not expected to come here again.”
A few years ago, he and Jiu Jiu had still been ignorant when they met here. He thought Jiu Jiu his sweet and adorable junior sister. Jiu Jiu thought him a gentle and kind emperor. The two of them had not understood the relationship between men and women back then.
Several years had passed. Delicious Fish Tower was still that tower, but he and Jiu Jiu had become husband and wife.
“Let’s go there and sit.” Jin Yang handed the reins to Bai Xian and then walked next to the horse to help Gu Ru Jiu off the horse. “This counts as a revisit.”
“Can you use revisit like this?” Gu Ru Jiu smiled and pinched his ear. After a moment, she felt it was inappropriate and glanced back at the dragon guards behind them.
The dragon guards all looked away, looking at the sky, the ground, and the restaurant plaque, and not at Gu Ru Jiu and Jin Yang.
Jin Yang smiled unconcernedly and held her hand. “Let’s go.”
The other dragon guards saw this and hurriedly went forward to arrange for a private room and then avoid other people to invite the two into the room.
When they entered the private room, the hall downstairs was still fighting. Some students seemed to be discussing present matters, but the two sides were not reconciled, and so the arguing grew louder.
Gu Ru Jiu listened for a few moments, and heard these people mention the vassal princes and the empress. So she stopped listening and took a sip of tea.
The tea outside the palace could not compare to the one inside the palace. She put the tea down after a sip. She looked up and saw Jin Yang, finding his expression was not good. But when he saw her looking at him, he recovered his smile.
A while later, their food was delivered, and she heard the voice of a young person from downstairs.
“Even the waiters know to fear the strong and bully the weak. The important guests arrive in their private room, and the wine and food is hurriedly delivered. We have waited a long time, but only half of our food has arrived.” The person’s voice was slightly drunk, and he seemed to be very dissatisfied with the state of society.
“Pity that we have studied diligently by a cold window for more than a decade, but cannot compare to these people born in nobility—so laughable!”
“Brother Liang, you are drunk.”
The people at the table feared that he would cause trouble and hurriedly placated him. Even the noise of the hall weakened as well, as though they feared offending the important people upstairs.
Everyone knew that Delicious Fish Tower had good business. The private rooms upstairs were for the use of the important people. If they did not come, the rooms would remain empty rather than be used for guests. It could be seen how high the status of these people was.
Didn’t they, as scholars, study for so many years because they wanted to be selected by these important people, and jump through the dragon gate? If they rashly offended these people, what future would they have?
Fortunately, the important guests in the private room were very tolerant. They did not try to pursue anything because of this Student Liang. So the students present sighed in relief.
But before they could completely relax, the drunk Student Liang spoke again.
“You persuade me this way only because you fear the people upstairs,” Student Liang said cynically. “As a student, you fear the powerful so much. How can you talk about being an official for the people?”
The underlying meaning was… all of the powerful were not good?
The other spoke so loudly that Gu Ru Jiu could not even pretend to not have heard.
“Also, you have been praising the Gu Family all day—isn’t it just because their family produced an empress? You bow and curry favour for your futures, but this is not the way of scholars!”
Gu Ru Jiu felt that she was frequently meeting villains recently. An imperial censor recently left, now this inexplicable scholar suddenly popped out.
Who did the Gu Family offend that they got hit with arrows even when lying down?
Translator Ramblings: This is a fantasy story so I’m not really going to go into the great class differences, the economic and political disparity in Ancient China and so on, and just say I’m glad I live in the modern world.