This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
Jin Yang slammed the teacup in his hand on the desk with a “bang.” He had brought Jiu Jiu here in order to revisit the past, so Jiu Jiu could relax. Now, there was this scholar saying nonsense, and this was such a disappointment.
Yesterday, the imperial censor’s news had passed into the inner palace. Jiu Jiu appeared not to care, but how could he not see that Jiu Jiu’s mood had been affected by this matter?
Before he governed on his own, the empress dowager had arranged teachers for him. But most of these teachers were restrained or very ambitious. Some tried to fool him, some tried to deliberately curry favour, and some people, in fear of taking responsibility, did not dare to say an extra word or take an extra step. Among all these teachers, only Gu Chang Ling treated him as a true emperor and also a student. Gu Chang Ling was never rude when he should be respectful, and never turned a blind eye because he was the emperor when he should be harsh.
He really had not wanted to consent to Gu Chang Ling’s retirement. In reality, he also knew why Gu Chang Ling had made such a choice. For the Gu Family and Jiu Jiu’s peace of mind, he could only bear the pain and agree. His two brothers-in-law were talented, but they lacked experience. After getting experience, they would become great officials of Great Feng.
As an emperor, one could not trust others blindly, but one could not always live in suspicion either.
“Your Majesty, this scholar is just wild because he is young. Do not be angry because of him.” Gu Ru Jiu saw him so angry and became less angry herself. “Even if he does not say such words today, other people will say so the next day. If one is not talked about, then they are mediocre. Even gold and silver are disdained by others as smelling like copper, much less the Gu Family that is not as attractive as gold and silver.”
“How can you compare your own family to such material things?” Jin Yang was both exasperated and amused. He turned to speak to Gu Cun Jing, “If Zhen had not persisted in marrying Jiu Jiu, the in-laws would not have been treated unjustly now. This is Zhen‘s fault.”
The dragon guards at the neighboring table were startled inside. How much did His Majesty trust the Gu Family to say such things?
“It is the Gu Family’s good fortune that Your Majesty trusts this subject’s family. How can this be Your Majesty’s fault?” Gu Cun Jing immediately stood up and bowed. “It is this subject’s family who has not done well enough, so the people of the world feel doubt. But this subject believes one’s heart will be seen over time. Today, they do not believe the Gu Family’s loyalty. Tomorrow, the day after, if this subject’s family will not change, the world will believe us one day.”
“Good.” Jin Yang stood up and walked in front of Gu Cun Jing, reaching out to pat his shoulder. “You spoke well. Zhen believes the history books will have records of Zhen and the Gu Family subjects.”
“Your Majesty is wise!” Hu Yun Qi was the first to stand up. The other dragon guards were a step late, but perceptively agreed, and praised the emperor’s wisdom and the Gu Family’s loyalty.
Not to mention that the Gu Family did not have such great ambitions—just from the emperor’s feelings for the empress, they knew what attitude they should hold towards this matter.
“Call in those scholars who talk so highly—Zhen wants to see what stunningly talented people dare to gossip about Zhen‘s in-laws.” Jin Yang was in a much better mood. He sat back next to Gu Ru Jiu, and then had Bai Xian take two dragon guards to call people from downstairs.
Gu Ru Jiu poured a new cup of tea for him and whispered, “What is there to see?” It was not that she looked down on scholars, but people who talked so arrogantly in a place where important people gathered would definitely not be true talents.
Those who could accomplish great things would not be so impetuous and dare to criticize government affairs when they did not yet know about government. There was a saying among the people—a full bottle would not make a sound. Scholars who spent all day jumping up and down, even if they had some talent, it would not be much.
“If I do not take a look, how will I know if they can be used?” Next year would be the spring examinations. Students from some places would come to the capital a year early to study, to seek famous teachers, to get a good place during the exams.
The students downstairs did not sound like they were from the capital based on their accent. They were likely from other places, coming to the capital to study.
Bai Xian walked downstairs. The atmosphere between the students who had been talking was not good. Maybe they had been stimulated by the words of the previous student. But they could not argue openly, so the atmosphere was a bit stiff.
Some students with keen eyes found that Bai Xian came from that private room, and instantly changed expression.
“My family’s master and mistress heard your discussions and are very interested and would like to invite young masters upstairs. Please, do not refuse.” Then, he asked one of the flushed young people. “Talented Student, what is your name?”
This person was the one who had been slandering the Gu Family previously. While Bai Xian was smiling, his eyes were cold.
“I do not dare, do not dare. This one’s surname is Liang, the name Yu, and my literary name Cong Liu.” The student stood up and bowed to Bai Xian. “Who is Sir’s master?”
“Us lowly people cannot mention the name of my master.” Bai Xian swept the table with a gaze and called along the other two people who had been loud before. “You three, please come with me.”
The three were puzzled and wanted to ask more. But this beardless man did not seem to intend to discuss with them, and “invited” them upstairs.
The students remaining at the table felt the situation was not quite right. So some people mentioned reporting to the government, but no one was willing to be that person.
Only one person at the two tables did not speak from start to end. He listened to the discussion of his fellows, looked up the stairs, and then frowned.
“Student Peng, what is it?” The man sitting next to him saw this and asked in concern.
“Nothing.” Student Peng shook his head and took a sip of his wine. The status of the people upstairs was likely not simple. The man who had come down had been beardless, and his voice thin. He did not seem like a servant who did manual work, but more like…
His hand shook. He put down his cup and bowed to everyone. “Everyone, I have matters at home and will leave first.”
The group had lost their interest after such an incident. Seeing him speak up, they also got up to bid farewell. In any case, they did not come from the same place as Student Liang and the others.
There were only some students that were on good terms with the three upstairs and curious who the people inside the private room were, who stayed and waited.
Liang Yu and the others followed behind Bai Xian to the doorway of the private room. They saw the beardless man respectfully report outside the door before pushing open the door to enter. He was curious what family’s servants had such great practices that they would bow even before the door was opened.
Walking in, he found that there were two tables in the room. A man and a woman were alone at a table. The others were at the other table, with several people standing behind the man and woman. He entered with his two fellows. The people standing did not even look up.
Liang Yu had not yet reacted when the other two felt that something was not right. They bowed to everyone, expressing respect, and cursed Liang Yu for dragging them in.
“This one is Liang Yu of the Jin Prefecture’s Chongan Academy.” Liang Yu lost half of his drunkenness after entering and seeing that the people in the room had extraordinary presences. He looked towards the couple sitting alone at a table. The man had a noble face which made one ashamed when they saw him. The woman next to the man was dressed like a married woman, but she looked to be only sixteen or so. Her clothing and jewelry were all precious things he had never seen before. Her appearance was sweet and adorable, so that at a glance, people could not help but feel affection. From how the two sat, they were husband and wife.
“Jin Prefecture is a good place.” Gu Ru Jiu examined this scholar. She saw he was very thin and his clothing was ordinary. She said, “I remember the director of the Office of State Ceremonies was also a student from the Chongan Academy.”
Liang Yu saw the people in the room did not respond after his greeting and allowed this woman to talk at will. He felt slightly irritated, like these people were looking down on him.
He hated these wealthy families but he did not dare to offend them. He could only suppress his discontent and embarrassment. “Mistress, Official is a role model for those of us in the younger generation.”
“Yes.” Gu Ru Jiu nodded. “The director of the Office of State Ceremonies is always calm and reliable. He performs skillfully but praises others. You have much to learn from him.”
The three paled upon hearing this. Even as stupid as they were, they knew this noble mistress was saying they were frivolous and incompetent.
“What does Mistress mean?” Liang Yu flushed red. He was both embarrassed and angry. He could not help but argue. “Us students have studied for more than a decade, all for the people. Should we fear speaking up because we fear the powerful?”
“Be an official for the people—the words are right. Since you say you are for the people, why don’t you tell me—what is the price of rice and noodles in Jin Prefecture and the capital, and what is the harvest in Jin Prefecture like?” Gu Ru Jiu raised her teacup and slowly took a sip. “These are very simple and basic questions. Student Liang, since you are for the people, you must know these things well.”
“We, we scholars do not attend to matters outside the window. How will we know these vulgar things?”
Bang! Before he finished, a teacup smashed in front of him.
“If you are an official and do not know the hardships of the people, what is the use of being an official? Your words always mention ‘for the people’, but you do not understand even these important matters relating to the people. It’s not that you do not fear the powerful for the people—you just use it as an excuse to make yourself seem noble.” Gu Ru Jiu sneered. “Scholars do not listen to things outside the window? I think a useless person like you who cannot carry burdens on your back or shoulders, has no open mind, and can only complain taints the meaning of scholar.
“Ignorant, shameless, incompetent—you fail your study of the words of the sages! People like you should not come to the examinations. You should stay home and have your dreams of being upright and noble to avoid ruining the reputation of scholars.”
“You, you, you—” Liang Yu was both anxious and angered. He pointed at Gu Ru Jiu a moment later and said, “You are an ignorant woman—I disdain to talk to you.”
Then he felt a heart-wrenching pain on the back of his hand. He covered his hand and looked over, seeing an expressionless youth holding a sword and standing there. The other had hit the back of his hand with the blade.
“Who are you that you dare to wound people in public?” Liang Yu shrank back. “You are just one to use your position to bully others.”
Gu Cun Jing did not want to talk to these pendantic and incompetent scholars. He went back to his spot and took a drink of wine from his cup. The other dared to point at his sister. Not breaking his hand off was letting him off lightly.
“You cannot even argue against an ignorant woman like me—aren’t you more useless?” Gu Ru Jiu did not want to speak with these scholars who did not have much ability and looked down on women. She turned to Jin Yang. “Husband, I think we should change a place to eat to avoid being affected by this kind of people.”
Jin Yang nodded. He frowned at Liang Yu and then turned to He Ming to speak. He whispered to Gu Ru Jiu, “I am curious what the orange tree in your courtyard looks like.”
Gu Ru Jiu’s eyes lit up. “You mean…”
“Shh…” Jin Yang put his finger to his lips and gave a smile of “you know.”
In the neighbouring room, Jin Xiang was with Wu Chong and the other wastrels of the capital having fun and drinking. He suddenly heard a thin voice from the hallway and stilled. The voice was slightly familiar.
He pushed aside Wu Chong who was trying to get him to drink, opened the door to look, and his knees gave out momentarily. While he was not on duty today, as the dragon guard vice-commander who had just been on the job for a couple of months, he was slightly guilty about encountering the emperor when he was drinking and having fun outside.
He glanced at the wastrels behind him, and as he left the room, he closed the door. He walked in front of Jin Yang and bowed. “Young Master, Mistress.”
Tsk, tsk, tsk—the emperor knew to have fun. He even brought out the empress.
“Why is Elder Cousin here?” Jin Yang glanced at the room behind Jin Xiang and immediately understood. “I have other matters and will leave first.”
Jin Xiang saw that the dragon guards behind him had good skills and was reassured. He nodded hurriedly. “As you please, as you please.”
Gu Ru Jiu nodded minutely at Jin Xiang and smiled politely before leaving with Jin Yang.
Liang Yu and the other two people they left in the room were dumbstruck. Why was the person called the elder cousin so respectful to the handsome man? This was so strange.
But seeing them leave, Liang Yu secretly sighed in relief. He thought the other would give him a beating, or find a way to make trouble for him. But they left just like that.
This caused him to feel less ill towards the powerful. At least these people did not treat people’s lives like grass.
“Who are you?” Jin Xiang saw there were three scholars standing in the room where the emperor had been. The food on the table did not appear to have been touched. He looked fussily at the three and snorted.
The three were irritated by his lofty gaze, and so angry they could not breathe.
Jin Xiang ignored them, glancing at them coldly and turning to leave.
Liang Yu cursed in a low voice. “Just some pests that rely on their ancestors to live rich lives.”
“Brother Liang, do not say more.” His fellow grimaced. “The capital is an important place which is not lacking for important people. If you offend someone that you should not, maybe we won’t be able to attend the examinations. Wouldn’t the loss be more than the gain?”
The other person also urged, “Once you pass, then you can change the situation. If you offend them now, how will you realize your ambition?”
Liang Yu was finally convinced by them, and went downstairs with them. The two people with Liang Yu decided that after today, they would stay away from him. Though they were students of Jin Prefecture and should help each other, it was better not to have stupid teammates like this.
“I saw you were so angry just now that I thought you would order them imprisoned.” After leaving Delicious Fish Tower, Jin Yang and Gu Ru Jiu walked together on the street. They watched the people move by hurriedly, and smiled at the sense of vitality.
“Do they not say that the Prime Minister can hold a boat in his belly? How can I, the empress, have less tolerance?” Gu Ru Jiu whispered. “Also, there are more scholars like him. What is the use in arguing with him?”
Will a towering tree compare height with a bean sprout? They were not people of the same level. If she demanded beatings and killings for this, she would be too petty. In any case, this person who had offended her would not have a chance to become an official in this life.
This Student Liang’s words had reached the ears of countless people by now. The Delicious Fish Tower had an unknown number of ears in there. So at next spring’s examination, the officials of the court would not allow this person’s name to appear on the rankings.
Reality will let the scholar know what it was to be careful in words and actions.
After the noon meal, Jin Yang went around and around with Gu Ru Jiu until they finally reached the gates of the Gu Family. Then Jin Yang turned to Gu Cun Jing and said, “Second Brother-in-law, I am thirsty after walking for so long. Do you mind if I drink tea in your home?”
Gu Cun Jing glanced at his sister who was hiding behind the emperor and laughing. He said that he did not dare, and then welcomed them in. The doorman saw Second Young Master so careful and was confused. When he found Second Miss was also present, he realized.
Hadn’t Second Miss already gone into the palace to be empress—how had she come back with the young master? Had she argued with the emperor, and come back to her paternal family?
The doorman did not dare to think, and bowed from the corner. After Second Young Master and Second Miss went towards the inner courtyard, he rubbed his head. From how they looked, they did not seem to be in a bad mood.
In the main yard, Gu Chang Ling, Yang shi, and Hu shi were talking with Gu Pan Qi and Zhang Shao. Yang shi was in a very good mood because her daughter had come back home with her son-in-law and her grandson. When she heard the steward say that Second Young Master had come back with Second Miss, the smile on her face froze.
“Who did you say Second Young Master came back with?” Yang shi asked in shock. The other people in the room looked in confusion at the doorway. What was going on?
“Mistress, Second Young Master did not come back just with Second Miss, but also with another young master. He said this is an important guest.” The steward was a smart person. He had already guessed the status of the important guest but did not dare to speak it. “The important guest is extraordinary in presence, and this lowly one does not dare to look at him directly.”
“Quick, invite them in and serve tea.” Gu Chang Ling stood up, walking out as he said to his family, “Come with me to greet the important guests.”
Zhang Shao hurriedly stood up. Gu Pan Qi had a servant girl take her son away and then said to Zhang Shao, “Do not be nervous; my younger sister is also here.” Gu Pan Qi was simple in her view of the matter. Since the emperor was willing to privately take the empress back to her paternal home, then they must have a good relationship. Men, if they valued their women, would give their in-laws enough respect. Otherwise, where did the saying “love the crow with the house” come from?
The group had not yet reached the second door when Gu Pan Qi saw her sister come in with an extremely handsome man. They looked extremely close.
Seeing the couple like this, Gu Pan Qi was slightly reassured. While they said that being the emperor’s woman was not easy, at least the pair had the foundation of feelings. Even if new people entered the inner palace in the future, her sister, as the empress, would not have too hard a time.
Thinking of this, she sighed softly. Zhang Shao sensed her emotions were not quite right. He held her hand and looked at her in concern.
Gu Pan Qi smiled and shook her head at seeing him like this, indicating that she was fine.
“Father, Mother.” Seeing her parents, Gu Ru Jiu sped up. She went forward to bow deeply to Gu Chang Ling and Yang shi with red-rimmed eyes. Then she pulled Gu Chang Ling and Yang shi‘s hands, not letting them bow to her.
“Father-in-law, Mother-in-law.” Jin Yang bowed to his in-laws. He turned and saw Jiu Jiu, who never cried, had reddened eyes. He felt both heartsore and worried. He put an arm around her shoulders and comforted her softly.
Yang shi saw her daughter like this, and also felt very sad. But with the imperial presence, she could not cry, and had to suppress the urge. Seeing the emperor comfort her daughter, her emotions were slightly relieved.
“Your Majesty, please enter to sit.” Gu Chang Ling’s eyes were a little red, but he looked slightly calmer than Yang shi.
“Father-in-law, please.” Jin Yang supported Gu Ru Jiu with one hand as he indicated for Gu Chang Ling to walk first with the other. The two refused for a bit, before Jin Yang led Gu Ru Jiu to walk at the front.
Zhang Shao, following behind them, saw this, and whispered to his wife, “The emperor is really good to Father-in-law.”
“You are also good to them.” Gu Pan Qi smiled at him. “Even my mother says you are her son, and I seemed to have been picked up.”
“As a son-in-law, one should respect the in-laws.” Zhang Shao smiled openly. “I just feel it is really not easy for the emperor to manage to do this.”
Gu Pan Qi smiled and did not speak.
The group entered the main courtyard. After getting seated, Jin Yang said, “Today, we coincidentally passed by the in-law home when out of the palace. I thought that Jiu Jiu must be missing her parents, so I came with her to visit you. Today, it is a private visit, so there is no need to strictly adhere to the etiquette of monarch and subject.”
As a mother, Yang shi cared about her daughter the most. Hearing Jin Yang say this, she said with a smile, “My daughter being unreasonable has made things difficult for Your Majesty.” But her eyes scanned Gu Ru Jiu several times even as she spoke.
“Jiu Jiu is very good. It is my good fortune to have married her,” Jin Yang said with a smile. “I decided to go on the trip today, nothing to do with her.” Then he turned to glance at Gu Ru Jiu. He saw her eyes were still red, and felt distressed again.
Hearing his words, Gu Ru Jiu smiled at him. But her eyelashes were still wet and she looked pitiful. Jin Yang almost couldn’t resist taking her into his arms and comforting her.
Translator Ramblings: I find it such a nice touch the author used the “orange tree” for Jin Yang to make his excuse … considering just how inedible those oranges actually are.