This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“Back then, Tian En Guang helped me, so I made him the chief of the Court of Imperial Stud. With his abilities, he cannot hold a higher position,” Jin Yang explained to Gu Ru Jiu. “I cannot remember what his daughter looks like. Do not think more.”
“I will not think more.” Gu Ru Jiu poked his chest with a finger. “Do not speak nonsense about a good woman like that. You do not remember what she looks like—will she remember you?”
“Jiu Jiu’s words are correct. These are matters of five and six years ago. She must not remember me either.” Jin Yang smiled, in a good mood. He had He Ming bring what he had prepared.
“What is this?” Gu Ru Jiu saw Jin Yang like this and was curious. “Why is this so mysterious?”
Jin Yang went up to open the box. Inside was a stack of books. These books looked old, and some of the binding threads had been worn off.
Seeing these books, Gu Ru Jiu was stunned for a moment. She reached down to touch these books. “Weren’t these from my study?”
“Yesterday, when we went to the in-laws, I saw many notes inside the books, and guessed that they were your favorites. So today, I had people go to the in-laws to move them here.” Jin Yang crouched down as well. “See if there is anything missing?”
Gu Ru Jiu shook her head, her heart soft. She said to Jin Yang, “Thank you.”
Jin Yang touched his forehead to hers. “As long as you like them.”
“Your Majesty, Prime Minister Zhang has a matter.” An eunuch reported from outside.
Jin Yang sighed and stayed unmoving by Gu Ru Jiu’s side.
“Go see—maybe Prime Minister Zhang has something important.” Gu Ru Jiu saw him like this, and pinched his ear with a smile. “Go see first; I will have the imperial kitchens make your favorite dishes.”
“Well, then.” Jin Yang obediently stood up when his ear was pinched. He left Purple Imperial Hall with a few eunuchs. Gu Ru Jiu watched his figure disappear outside the door and then turned back to flip through the books.
Some of the books were ones she had used when she was just a few years old, and others after she was ten. All of them carried her memories.
She opened a travel record. She remembered that Big Brother and his wife had brought this for her not long after their marriage. She had been about seven or so then, and because her hand was not steady, her writing was soft and had no sense of style. When Big Brother saw her, he helped her make a lot of notes.
More than seven years had passed. Eldest Sister-in-law was no longer present, leaving behind Eldest Brother. She worried about him, but could not say the words of having him remarry.
“Your Majesty, what is it?” Qiu Luo saw her expression was not quite right and asked in worry, “Is it too hot, and you feel uncomfortable?”
“No matter.” Gu Ru Jiu shook her head and closed the book in her hands. “Second Sister-in-law is pregnant. Go and see if there is anything in the stores that is suitable for pregnant women and pack it up. Send it for me to the ducal establishment.”
“This servant will go immediately.” Qiu Luo bowed and left with two female officials to prepare gifts.
Gu Ru Jiu looked at the other people in the room and waved her hand. “You may all leave.”
“Yes.” The palace attendants saw the empress did not have a good expression, and perceptively bowed and withdrew.
After these people left, Gu Ru Jiu lifted her dress and sat down on the ground before going back to flip through the books.
She read for a while before she suddenly remembered that Jin Yang may return soon. She gathered the books she had placed on the ground and carefully closed the lid of the box.
Zhang Zhong Han sighed in great relief when he saw Jin Yang appear. He bowed to Jin Yang. “This subject greets Your Majesty.”
“It is so hot today. Does Prime Minister have some important matter to see Zhen?” Jin Yang sat down at the imperial table. Because he had come in from outside, he had a layer of sweat on his face.
“Your Majesty, Sima Hong is seriously ill and likely cannot last for long.” Zhang Zhong Han sighed. “This subject is worried that the Sima party officials will make mistakes, so I came to report.”
Jin Yang’s face dimmed upon hearing this. A moment later, he said, “He Ming, go send for the head of the imperial physicians to go see Sima Hong. Also, take along tribute medicine for him.” No matter how much selfishness Sima Hong had, this old man had experienced three emperors, and made great contributions for Great Feng. A blemish did not obscure the luster of jade. After learning of the illness, he was not relieved but was emotional.
They said that Sima Hong was only eighteen when he placed first in the palace examination. He caused countless women in the capital to fall in love with him. Afterwards, he revived the Sima clan and made the already glorious family even better. But the hero was now old. The once brilliant first place student was now an old man struggling with illness.
Seeing the emperor like this, Zhang Zhong Han sighed in relief inside. The emperor had some pity towards Sima Hong. Then people like him who were loyal to the emperor did not have any worries.
As a subject, one feared the emperor to have too much sentiment, but also if the emperor was ruthless. If an emperor was passionate, the country would not be stable. If the emperor was ruthless, he would not care about lives. Both of these were not good choices.
The present emperor was just right.
“Zhen heard that the Li Family is as busy as a market recently.” Jin Yang took a sip of tea, and said slowly, “Prime Minister Zhang, have you heard about this?”
“This subject… did hear of it.” Zhang Zhong Han felt an inexplicable cold rise up his back. “Some of the officials that sided with the Sima family were anxious after Sima Hong retired. Some of them plan to turn to the Gu and Li families. But Duke Gu frequently closes his doors to guests, so these people all went to the Li Family.”
“They are Zhen‘s subjects, but need to join the Li Family in order to get a foothold.” Jin Yang snorted. “It can be seen that Zhen, this emperor, is not as good as the Li Family in their hearts.”
“Your Majesty.” Zhang Zhong Han’s cold sweat gushed out. He said hurriedly, “These are just ignorant and mediocre officials. Please do not be angry because of this.”
“Of course Zhen will not be angry because of this.” Jin Yang jerked the corners of his lips. “Does Prime Minister Zhang have any other matters?”
“This…” Zhang Zhong Han hesitated and whispered, “The empress has entered the palace for more than five months, but there has been no good news. Some people in court are starting to criticize.”
“Criticize what?” Jin Yang frowned, and showed an unhappy expression.
Zhang Zhong Han saw this and felt very helpless inside. He just knew that it would become like this. Other people did not know the truth, but he felt that the emperor had true feelings towards the empress. Otherwise, he would not have done all he did for the empress.
As to the sayings that these were just pretense, Zhang Zhong Han thought nothing of them. Who would play-act to such a degree for a woman that one did not like? Even an ordinary man could not do that, much less this emperor in front of him.
Right now, he was a firm supporter of the emperor, so he had to say what he must. Otherwise, if the matter grew bigger, it would be more troublesome.
“Some think you are young and healthy now, and should take many consorts and spread the imperial blood.” Zhang Zhong Han gritted his teeth and spoke out.
“Young and healthy?” Jin Yang’s white hands gripped his teacup and sneered. “Zhen thinks that these people worry that Zhen is not of good health, will not live long, and won’t leave behind children?”
“Your Majesty!” Zhang Zhong Han knelt and said in terror, “Your Majesty, you will live ten thousand years.”
“Ten thousand years? Where in the world are emperors who live ten thousand years?” Jin Yang saw Zhang Zhong Han this scared and smiled, having him stand back up. “Prime Minister Zhang, do not be like this. Even if Zhen will not live ten thousand years, but will live a long life, a hundred years.” Otherwise, if he left Jiu Jiu alone, would she not be lonely?
“These people keep thinking about Zhen‘s inner palace—what are they thinking?” Jin Yang sneered. “If they have such thoughts, why don’t they think for the country and people? It is really interesting for them to put their minds on imperial consorts.”
Zhang Zhong Han agreed. “Your Majesty, you are right. You have no need to take these people to heart.”
“Zhen knows that you also have thoughts of Zhen taking consorts since you brought this up to me.” Jin Yang had Zhang Zhong Han stand and said in a calm tone, “Zhen will speak clearly to you today. In the future, there is no need to bring these words to Zhen‘s ears.”
“Your Majesty?” Zhang Zhong Han faintly felt something was bad.
“Zhen only has the empress at heart. Even if other women entered the palace, they would just be decoration. Zhen does not want the empress to be sad, and other innocent women to be alone for a lifetime,” Jin Yang said. “Zhen and the empress will live in peace and stability, and you all have no need to worry about the inner palace again.”
Zhang Zhong Han seemed to be struck by lightning. He knew that the emperor had deep feelings towards the empress. But he never thought that the emperor would do this for the empress. He knew about the emperor’s health. The empress was just fifteen or so now, and not at the easiest age to get pregnant. If anything happened…
But no matter how much he could not accept, facing the emperor’s stern face, he did not dare to say anything in objection. He could only kowtow and say in a serious tone, “Please, Your Majesty, reconsider.”
“Zhen considered seriously before proposing to the empress. Prime Minister Zhang, there is no more need to say more regarding the inner palace. Zhen will not change idea.” Jin Yang waved his hand. “If there is nothing else, you may leave.”
Zhang Zhong Han looked up at the emperor, and saw the other had a determined expression and no intention of continuing. He could only kowtow and say, “This subject bids farewell.”
Leaving the imperial study, he stood dazedly under the hot sun. He thought of the court, thought of the inner palace, and the emperor’s expression when he had mentioned the empress. A long time later, he sighed and said, “Great Feng’s emperors finally produced a true love.”
History proved that Great Feng’s emperors never valued their women. The only thing worthy of praise was that the emperors were relatively ethical, and never stole the women of their brothers, their fathers, their sons, or their subjects. This was better than the previous dynasty.
But they were just better in this one aspect. Because the number of women in the Feng emperors’ inner palaces was not any less than during the previous dynasty.
It was really hard to accept the sudden appearance of such a true love.
Was it because this emperor was adopted, so he was different from the previous emperors?
Shaking his dizzy head, Zhang Zhong Han limped out of the palace. He decided, the next time he met the Gu Family, he would be more polite.
Not long after Tian En Guang returned home from the audience with the emperor, he heard the steward mention rewards had come from the palace. He had no time to change his sweat-soaked robes and led his wife and daughter to meet the emperor’s envoy.
Walking to the main hall, he saw the blue-robed eunuch he had met before in the imperial palace standing at the front. He hurriedly bowed. “It is so hot—thank you, Gonggong, for making the trip. Please be seated.”
“Official Tian, no need to be so polite. We are working for Her Majesty the empress.” Bai Xian took out a gift list and said profoundly, “The empress heard Miss Tian is intelligent and beautiful, and once helped His Majesty, therefore sent us with some gifts for Miss Tian. Miss Tian, please accept them.”
“This was this subject’s duty, and does not dare to accept the empress’s thanks.” Tian Bi Yue bowed gracefully to Bai Xian. She remembered this eunuch. Back then, it had been this eunuch by His Majesty’s side. She had not expected that after so many years, he would be running errands for Her Majesty. It could be seen how much the emperor loved and trusted the empress.
“Miss Tian, no need to be polite. Her Majesty wants to thank you, so do not worry and accept.” Bai Xian smiled and put the gift list into Tian Bi Yue’s hands. “Her Majesty is a benevolent person, and was very grateful after learning you helped His Majesty, so she urged this one to come with gifts of thanks. If you do not accept, this one does not dare to go back to the palace.”
Tian Bi Yue smiled reluctantly. Gripping the gift list, she bowed in the direction of the palace. “This subject thanks Her Majesty for her grace.”
“This is not grace, but a gift of thanks,” Bai Xian said and then bowed to Tian En Guang. “Official Tian, this one has to return to the palace to report, and will not stay. Farewell.”
“Gonggong, take care.” Tian En Guang saw Bai Xian off to the front gates. After the carriage left, he returned to the room and said to Tian Bi Yue, “This gonggong seems to be the empress’ chief steward—he is really friendly.”
“Father, he is not one of the empress’ people.” Tian Bi Yue smiled bitterly. She looked at the gift list and the things in the room. “Do you not not find this person familiar?”
“This…” Tian En Guang thought for a while and did not know where he had seen this person except in the imperial study.
“Back when the emperor left Jin Prefecture, wasn’t the eunuch he had with him this person?” Tian Bi Yue whispered. “He served the emperor many years, but is running errands for the empress now, and is warning me for the empress. This empress is not a simple person.”
Tian En Guang did not understand. Wasn’t this Gonggong polite the entire time? How was this a warning?
Seeing her father not understand, Tian Bi Yue could only say straightforwardly, “The empress likely knows some of my thoughts from back then.”
At her words, the entire family paled. Mistress Tian murmured, “How is that possible—that was a few years ago. How could the empress know?”
Tian En Guang also paled. “No, even the emperor did not know your thoughts. How could the empress know?”
“His Majesty did not know, but it does not mean that his eunuch did not see. He followed His Majesty for so many years, and still has such glory. This means that person is capable.” Tian Bi Yue saw her family so pale and urged, “Do not worry. Since the empress had him bring gifts, that means that she will not make things difficult for me. This empress must value the emperor greatly, and is a perfect woman.”
Because if she did not value His Majesty, she would not have used such a method to express her position. The noble empress, the daughter of an aristocratic family, could easily make things difficult for a daughter of a minor local official like her. But she did not, and used this upright way to protect her honor.
The empress did not want to make trouble for the emperor, and did not want to harass her, the daughter of a minor official. Her breadth of mind and foresight could be seen.
“The emperor married a good empress.” Tian Bi Yue looked down and sighed. “Father, Mother, I feel unwell and will return to my rooms.”
“This…” Mistress Tian looked at her daughter’s back and felt both helpless and heartsore. A moment later, she complained, “What good empress—I think this empress is just jealous. The present empress dowager who was once married could become empress. Our daughter does not have such a good birth, but is both beautiful and talented. Why can’t she enter the palace as a consort?”
“Quick—shut your mouth! Can you say such things?” Tian En Guang was so angered by his wife’s words he was speechless. “How can our daughter compare to the empress dowager? Are you muddle-headed? Also, the empress dowager entered the palace back then because she had a great fate, and the previous emperor wanted her. The present emperor is in harmony with the empress. How would he proactively mention taking our daughter into the palace?”
“Our family helped him greatly. Why can’t he take our daughter?” Mistress Tian came from an ordinary business family, and thought simply. In her view, the emperor taking a consort was a simple thing. Their family had done a favour to the emperor, their daughter had some feelings towards the emperor, so wasn’t the emperor taking their daughter into the palace a win for both sides?
What about the empress? It was a normal thing for the emperor to have three palaces and six courtyards. With what could she stop that?
“He is the monarch and we are subjects.” Tian En Guang knew that he could not reason with his wife and said helplessly, “Just remember. You cannot speak nonsense, and do not have thoughts you should not.”
Mistress Tian saw her husband like this, and twisted her mouth in discontent. “In other words, isn’t this because our family is not an aristocratic family?”
Tian En Guang said, “Even if our family were an aristocratic family, that would depend on whether the emperor was willing.” He worried his wife would cause calamity and explained to her, “Our daughter has some beauty, but do you know how beautiful the misses of the Sima and Li families were? Yet the emperor withstood the pressure and did not take women of such beauty and birth into the palace. He proposed to the Gu daughter whose family was not as good as the Sima and Li families, and went to the Gu Family in person for the wedding procession. Do you feel our daughter can win against the daughters of the Sima and Li families?”
Mistress Tian was made speechless by her husband. A moment later, she said unwillingly, “Don’t they say the emperor married the empress because of the empress dowager?”
“Who cares why? Our family cannot offend the empress’ family. Otherwise, we cannot survive in the imperial city.” Tian En Guang sighed. “The Gu Family is an aristocratic family going back a few centuries. If we offend the Gu Family, we offend several other aristocratic families. With our family’s status, which family can we afford to offend?”
“If our daughter goes into the palace and gains favour, these people will still bow their heads to us,” Mistress Tian reluctantly muttered. But she knew what her husband said was right. They had no foundation in the capital. The position in the Court of Imperial Stud was because the emperor remembered the past favor.
She twisted her handkerchief. “All right, I know. I will just say these things at home.”
She turned to look at the inner courtyard. She worried about her daughter and said, “I am going to see Bi Yue.”
“Go.” Tian En Guang sighed. “Comfort her, and do not let her go into a corner.”
In the Grand Princess’ establishment, Grand Princess Deyi had been low-key for a few months. Hearing that court officials were planning to request the emperor to take consorts, she said to her granddaughter, Shen Qian Yi, “This palace knows—the love between emperor and empress is just this much.”
Even the greatest love, once other consorts entered the palace, would lose its original color.
Shen Qian Yi frowned and said after a moment, “The empress has not yet entered the palace for half a year, so it is normal not to get any good news. These court officials are…”
“You are still young and do not know the importance,” Grand Princess Deyi said with a smile. “These officials are not worried about the emperor’s children, just their own interests.”
Shen Qian Yi saw that her grandmother’s smile seemed to carry a hint of pleasure. She felt somewhat uncomfortable inside. Since they were all women, why hope that other women did not live well? Even her grandmother did not allow Grandfather to take even one concubine in this life. Why was she like this about the empress?
Could she not put herself in the other’s shoes?
“Even your future husband’s family will likely interfere in this matter.” Grand Princess Deyi smiled. “The Li Family will not be happy to see the Gu Family higher than them.”
Shen Qian Yi heard this, and just frowned slightly.
Originally, her marriage with Young Master Li was set for the third month of this year. But Grandmother offended the emperor after entering the capital. The Li Family then found an excuse and delayed the marriage to the tenth month.
She did not know if it was just a coincidence, or the Li Family was really watching the Shen Family’s current status, but regardless, she did not have good feelings towards her future husband’s family.
Seeing her granddaughter frown, Grand Princess Deyi worried the other was worried for her marriage. She said, “The Li Family has delayed the marriage, but do not worry—the marriage will not change.”
Shen Qian Yi managed a smile. “Grandmother, this granddaughter worries the Li Family doing this will cause His Majesty’s displeasure. I fear that our Shen Family will be dragged in as well.”
“How many men in the world do not like beauty?” Grand Princess Deyi said uncaringly. “This one is of a young age. Once he sees more women, his enthusiasm towards the empress will decrease greatly.”
At this, she said with pity, “Back then, if you… Oh, no need to mention it.”
Shen Qian Yi sat with her head properly bowed, pretending not to hear the words.
Grandmother was old now, and was losing measure in her speech and conduct. Grandmother was becoming muddled but she could not follow.
Maybe she should mention to her parents the matter of the Li Family. Based on the present situation in the capital, the Li Family did not seem to be the best to ally with.
The aristocratic family she married into did not have to be the most prominent, but had to be a stable and safe one.
The Li Family’s present conduct did not fit with her vision.
Translator Ramblings: Bai Xian is the best wingman.