This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
Because Hu Xi was from an aristocratic family, even if she did not frequently visit the palace, she had still visited a few times over the years. But this was the first time she entered the palace riding a carriage. For the first time, she discovered the guards and eunuchs could have such good attitudes.
The carriage entered from the Vermillion Bird Gates. The guards just asked a few questions, and then let them in. After entering the palace, the carriage travelled for a while and then she heard an eunuch’s voice from ahead.
“Mistress Hu, Miss Hu, the Purple Imperial Hall is ahead. Please leave the carriage.”
Hu Qi stepped on a stool and came down from the carriage with the support of a servant girl. She saw the surroundings were filled with fake mountains and flora. There was a bamboo forest nearby that felt extremely secluded and beautiful.
“Greetings.” During her momentary daze, an eunuch in a blue robe walked in front of mother and daughter. He first bowed and then said, “Please follow this servant. The empress is waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Gonggong.” Mistress Hu saw that this eunuch seemed to be the one with the emperor, Bai Xian, and smiled politely at him in response to seeing him come in person to lead the way.
“No, no, you are too polite.” Bai Xian bowed to the two and then led them towards the Purple Imperial Hall, slightly bowing. He would not be so polite to ordinary people, but this Mistress Hu was in-laws with the Gu Family. He also heard that this Miss Hu was marrying into the empress’ maternal family. The relationship was very close.
Hu Xi smiled upon hearing Bai Xian so polite but did not dare to ask more, quietly following behind him towards Purple Imperial Hall.
Ever since Great Feng was founded, the Qiankun Palace was the residential palace of the emperor. But the emperors had different preferences, so they lived in different palace halls. The previous emperor liked to live in Qingzhao Hall when he was alive, and Qingzhao Hall had been the most luxurious one in Qiankun Palace. After this emperor took the throne, he did not seem to like the style of Qingzhao Hall. Maybe because the dowager empress arranged for him to live in Purple Imperial Hall, so after he settled in, he never moved.
Outside Purple Imperial Hall, white jade made up the stairs. The imperial guard stood guard on the outer perimeter, the dragon guards on the inner perimeter. There was almost one guard every step, and Purple Imperial Hall was securely guarded.
Stepping onto the jade stairs, Hu Xi could even sense the coldness coming from the blades the dragon guards carried. She could not help but think, would Jiu Jiu feel pressure living in this environment all the time?
“Woosh.” When they were near the door, the dragon guards with hands on their blades took a step back in unison. The sound, because they moved in synchronicity, had an unspeakable shock despite its quiet volume.
She couldn’t help but look at these dragon guards. She suddenly thought of her brother who was the vice-captain. These people were Brother’s colleagues?
“Mistress, Miss—please wait for a moment.” Bai Xian bowed to the two and then entered the hall to report. A short while later, he walked out with a smile. “Please, quickly enter.”
Hu Xi stepped into the hall and saw the outer hall was carefully decorated. The palace maids and eunuchs were all standing with their gazes and heads lowered. Seeing them enter, they did not even bat an eyelid. It could be seen how severe the rules of the palace were.
Entering the hall, she saw a woman in a beautiful robe sitting at the front. Her stiff smile immediately grew more sincere. She was about to bow when a palace maid dressed like a female official stopped her.
“Mistress Hu, Sister Hu.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled at the two and then said, “There are only the three of us here—no need for such courtesies. Please sit.”
Mistress Hu saw this, curtsied to Gu Ru Jiu and then sat down. “Your Majesty is considerate of us, but we must not forget ourselves.” She glanced up at Gu Ru Jiu and said, “A few days without seeing, and Your Majesty looks even better.”
Gu Ru Jiu immediately smiled. “You all say this. It can be seen that I recently gained weight.”
Hu Xi said, “Better to be fatter. Two years ago, we were all worried about how thin you were.”
When two years ago was mentioned, Gu Ru Jiu thought of her eldest sister-in-law and her smile dimmed. “It can be seen that people walk forward.”
“I…” Seeing Gu Ru Jiu’s expression change, Hu Xi regretted her impulsive words. She smiled in apology, and did not know what to say.
“You do not have to be like this,” Gu Ru Jiu said with a reassuring smile. “I know that you all worried for me at the start. But time is really a good thing. Slowly, one will learn to accept even the saddest thing.” She just did not know if her big brother could overcome the barrier in his mind.
Hu Xi sighed in relief at hearing this and looked around. Then she whispered, “This hall is so beautiful. But I seem to see some similarity to the decor of your childhood rooms.”
Mistress Hu worried her daughter’s nonsense words would cause the empress’s displeasure and said with a stern expression, “What nonsense are you saying?”
“Mistress Hu, no need to be so careful. Sister Hu and I have been good friends for many years—there is nothing we cannot say.” Gu Ru Jiu looked around and then copied Hu Xi, lowering her voice to say, “The decor here was redone after I came into the palace. It was not like this before.”
“It can be seen that the emperor really loves you.” Hu Xi’s smile grew more sincere as she said this. “Since you can live so well, us sisters will be reassured.”
Among the childhood friends, Gu Ru Jiu was the youngest, but the first to marry. Though she married the noblest man in the Feng Dynasty, because of the other’s status, they were more worried. Jiu Jiu had been held in the palm of everyone’s hands as she grew up. Now, she had married into the palace. She looked peerless in her glory, but who knew how many wrongs she would endure in the future.
She was slightly reassured upon seeing the emperor use such care with Jiu Jiu. At least, the emperor had feelings. In the future, no matter what consorts came into the palace, she thought the emperor would not make things too hard for Jiu Jiu.
“Do not worry, I am very well.” When Jin Yang was mentioned, Gu Ru Jiu’s smile grew. “Pity that the emperor is at court today; otherwise, he would have greeted you with me today.”
“The emperor has to attend to thousands of matters each day—how can we disturb him?” Mistress Hu saw the empress did not mind her daughter’s words, and relaxed as well. She looked around, and only saw Qiu Luo present before she lowered her voice and said, “Your Majesty, there is something I want to tell you.”
“What is the matter?” Gu Ru Jiu saw that Mistress Hu’s expression was grave and thought that something major had happened. Her smile faded slightly.
“Your Majesty and His Majesty are young, and should not have to worry about children. But there are some with bad intentions outside the palace that are preparing to send requests for His Majesty to take consorts,” Mistress Hu said worriedly. “Your Majesty, please plan ahead.”
The Gu and Hu families had been close for many years. The present glory of the Gu Family was a good thing to the Hu Family. So she was happy to see the empress in a strong position, and the Gu Family rise.
“Consorts?” Gu Ru Jiu frowned. She looked up and saw Hu Xi’s eyes filled with worry and anxiety. She said with a smile, “If the emperor wants to take a consort, with everything that I could do, I cannot stop him. If he is unwilling, even if the court officials force him, it will be useless.”
“Your Majesty.” Mistress Hu sighed. As the matchmaker for the marriage between the emperor and empress, she had complicated emotions. She believed that when the emperor married the Gu daughter, he really did like her. But the love of a man was like a tide. It came quickly, and retreated fast. If the emperor really took consorts, what could the empress do?
In reality, the empress was right. If the emperor wanted a consort, there was no use no matter how much planning the empress did.
At court, after the officials reported on what was happening in the different regions, Jin Yang said, “Zhen knows what beloved officials have said. If there is no other matter, then court will end.”
Some in the room looked at each other. In the end, one of them stepped out. “Your Majesty, this subject has something to report.”
Jin Yang glanced at the official robes that this person wore. This was a fourth-rank imperial censor. They were only allowed to attend major court sessions, and during small court sessions, there wasn’t even a place for him to stand.
He patted the arm of his dragon throne with his right hand. Jin Yang took back the line of sight, and slowly said. “Speak.”
“Your Majesty, the inner palace is empty now. The empress has had no good news after going into the palace for half a year. Us subjects think, for the sake of offspring and future generations, you should take good women to fill the palace, to produce heirs for you.” The imperial censor had a serious expression. “Your Majesty, please think about this.”
“Produce heirs?” Jin Yang slowly repeated the words, and then said, “The empress has been in the palace for five months, and you are in such a hurry for Zhen to take consorts with the excuse that the empress has no children. You really disappoint Zhen!”
“Your Majesty.” The fourth-rank imperial censor paled upon hearing the emperor say this. “Your Majesty, this subject has no ill will, just…”
“Shut your mouth!” Jin Yang interrupted this person, and scolded angrily, “The ancestral emperor once said that the monarch cannot be lusty and favor concubines over a wife. You are a court official, you have studied for more than a decade, yet you do not know how to act like a gentleman? Will you all, not even half a year after you marry your wife, be in a hurry to take a concubine if she is not pregnant?”
“Your Majesty, the courtyards of us subjects are family matters, your inner palace is a state matter. How can us subjects compare with you?” The imperial censor did not dare to take on the bad name of being lustful, and said, “Your Majesty, please see clearly.”
“See clearly? Zhen understand well.” Jin Yang said coldly, “Zhen sees that you are a lustful man who favors concubines over your wife. Otherwise, how can you say such a shameless thing? It is an embarrassment to the court to have such a person as you as an imperial censor.”
The officials were dumbstruck upon hearing this. Wasn’t His Majesty well before this? How come he exploded when the matter of taking consorts was raised?
Honestly speaking, not many officials present dared to pat their chests and say they were not lusty. But it was fine for them to know it. It was not so glorious if they had to speak it out loud.
Zhang Zhong Han saw that the imperial censor was in a cold sweat, and even his legs were trembling. He could not help but sigh. These people were in too much of a hurry.
The empress was not yet sixteen, and had deep feelings with His Majesty. If someone jumped out now and said that His Majesty should go favor someone else, it would be a wonder if His Majesty agreed.
Thinking of what the emperor had said to him before, he sighed again. He truly hoped that the emperor was only thinking this for a time, and not truly planning to live with the empress for a lifetime without any other consorts.
“Your Majesty, please do not be angry.” Li Guang Ji came out and said loudly, “This subject knows that you and the empress have deep feelings, but please think again for the sake of Great Feng. This subject believes, with the empress’s virtue, she will support this for you for the sake of Great Feng.”
“Zhen knows the empress’s virtue.” Jin Yang looked expressionlessly at Li Guang Ji and said, “But this matter is not whether the empress supports or not, but whether Zhen is willing or not. If Prime Minister Li thinks that taking a few women will make Great Feng more prosperous, why doesn’t Zhen gift you a few women, and see if these women will make the Li Family more prosperous?”
“Your Majesty!” Li Guang Ji had not expected Jin Yang to say such a thing. He had originally planned to use this speech to force the empress to state her attitude. But the emperor blocked this path, putting everything on himself. What could they do now?
The emperor was not willing. They could not force him to take a consort, and did not dare to do that. If they did do that, and it reached the ears of the people, then it would become the emperor and empress were in love, but certain officials with evil minds forced the emperor to take a consort. What would the intention be?
When this reached the ears of the future generation, that would be even worse. The emperor and empress would end up a pair of tragic lovers, and the people who spoke of the emperor taking a concubine would become shameless and treacherous officials.
He had planned all this, but the only thing he did not plan for was the emperor being so determined to not take a consort. If His Majesty was not willing to agree, no plan could work.
“Court ended!” Jin Yang left with a dark expression. He did not look at the people at court, and ignored Li Guang Ji who was still in a bowing position.
With the matter like this, no one had good expressions. Especially the imperial censor that Jin Yang called the “embarrassment to court.” He was as white as paper, and could not stand steady.
Everyone looked at everyone else, and then left the court in small groups. Some with keen eyes found that Zhang Zhong Han did not even blink from start to end, as though he was not interested at all. So some of the officials close to Zhang Zhong Han came up shamelessly to ask.
“Officials, you are joking. In this one’s view, the inner palace is the emperor’s family matter. No man in the world will be happy for other people to interfere in one’s family matter. Also, the emperor is the ruler of Great Feng, the master of the people. He is extremely noble. How can the emperor not be angry at such an offense from Officials?” At this, he swept everyone with a glance. “Officials, you are all men.”
This sounded reasonable, but there seemed to be something wrong.
The officials around Zhang Zhong Han thought dazedly—as men, they hoped to have more beauties around them, but as men, they really did not like other people interfering in their courtyard.
So did the emperor truly not want a consort, or disliked others trying to control him? This seemed to be the most important point. So they all looked at Zhang Zhong Han again. Prime Minister Zhang, could you give an answer?
“The emperor is the son of the dragon. Us subjects cannot guess his thoughts.” Zhang Zhong Han calmly bowed, and then staggered out of the hall under everyone’s gazes.
They looked at his back, and swallowed the blood that had reached their throats.
The fourth-rank imperial censor stood there for a long time before he managed to recover some energy. He also staggered out. But after a few steps, someone called him. He turned back to look, and immediately grimaced inside.
“Assistant Minister Gu.” The imperial censor bowed to the other. The other was a third-rank assistant minister of the Ministry of Revenue, and was two ranks higher than him. He could not even pretend to not have heard.
“Official’s speech was exciting today, and this official will remember it.” Gu Zhi Yu bowed with a smile. “This one will leave first. Please take care.”
So what did you call me for? The fourth-rank imperial censor wanted to cry without tears. Thinking of the other’s smiling face and soft words, his legs gave out. His left foot tripped his right, and with a bang, he fell to the floor, and his forehead hit the jade stairs hard.
He hurriedly climbed up. He saw his colleagues hurry to avoid him like he was some kind of scourge.
At this moment, he suddenly understood why his other colleagues were not willing to step up today. Only he stupidly became a pawn for testing the emperor’s attitude, and did not even know that he was being used. Now that he had been scolded by the emperor, and the Gu Family had a grudge, no one came out to speak for him. The promises from before this, in the face of self-interest, dissipated like smoke, like they had never existed before.
“Your Majesty, Your Majesty, walk slower.” He Ming chased after Jin Yang, holding up the umbrella and panted out, “It is hot; do not get heatstroke.”
Jin Yang ignored him and continued to walk forward.
“Your Majesty, if you harm your body, the empress will be sad again.” He Ming noticed that His Majesty had a lot of sweat on his forehead and he was flushed, but his lips were pale. He said worriedly, “Even if it is for the empress, you have to take care.”
Jin Yang suddenly stopped in his footsteps. He Ming could not stop in time and almost tripped.
“Zhen… has failed the empress.” Jin Yang sighed. He covered his face with his hands, and was in low spirits. He married Jiu Jiu and should have kept her carefree, but made her worry for him. Now, because of the ambition of these court officials, she had the bad name of being jealous, and a calamity to the country.
All of this was clearly his fault, so why did Jiu Jiu have to take them on?
In Purple Imperial Hall, the Hu mother and daughter were preparing to leave when they saw a black figure hurry in. They hurriedly stood, but before they could bow, the emperor had already sat down next to the empress.
“This subject Hu Yang shi greets Your Majesty.” Mistress Hu took a step forward, and bowed to Jin Yang.
“Mistress Hu.” Jin Yang saw that it was Hu Yang shi and his expression eased greatly. He gave her a smile and then looked at Hu Xi. “This is your daughter?”
“Your Majesty, this is my daughter,” Mistress Hu answered.
“Zhen frequently hears the empress mention your daughter, saying that she used to take care of the empress.” Jin Yang washed his hands in the copper basin that a palace maid was holding and he said, “Zhen has to thank Miss Hu.”
“This subject and the empress are good friends. We should take care of each other—Your Majesty does not have to thank me.” Hu Xi looked up and smiled at Gu Ru Jiu.
Gu Ru Jiu returned a smile to her.
Mistress Hu saw that His Majesty did not have a good expression when he came in and guessed that His Majesty had a matter on mind. So she found a reason and stood to bid farewell.
Leaving the imperial palace, Mistress Hu said to her daughter in the same carriage, “If His Majesty were a normal man, it would be very good for the Gu daughter to marry him.”
Considerate, good-looking, polite to his wife’s family and friends. He was flawless.
The only shortcoming was his status.
“Maybe… His Majesty will really never have a concubine because of Jiu Jiu,” Hu Xi said uncertainly. “In history, weren’t there emperors who never had consorts?”
Mistress Hu looked at her daughter’s young face and did not speak. She wanted to tell her daughter that emperors without consorts were as rare as phoenix feathers, while emperors with consorts were as common as cow hairs. But she could not bear to say such things to her daughter.
Although this was a delusion, but… what if?
“What is with you?” Gu Ru Jiu used a wet handkerchief to wipe Jin Yang’s flushed face. “How come you are so red?”
“No matter, I just walked a bit fast.” Jin Yang held her hand. “Do not worry.”
Gu Ru Jiu’s gaze swept across his face. She hesitated for a moment before speaking. “Did someone want you to take consorts?”
Even Jiu Jiu knew. It could be seen that the matter had already spread. Jin Yang hugged her and said firmly, “I will do what I promised you.”
Gu Ru Jiu placed a hand on his chest and did not speak.
She could not do something like urge her husband to take a consort.
That night, after their conjugal activity, Gu Ru Jiu lay on Jin Yang’s chest and suddenly said, “Chenjun, do you know what is the saying that gossip is a fearful thing?”
Jin Yang stroked her smooth back and said in confusion, “What does it mean?”
“I mean…” Gu Ru Jiu flipped and sat on his belly, brushing her hair behind her ears. She said with a smile, “I just want to see, when these officials hear others say they are lusty, if they can maintain their calm.”
Jin Yang first stilled, and then laughed. Gu Ru Jiu, sitting on him, trembled as well.
“What does Jiu Jiu want to do?”
“I will not tell you.” Gu Ru Jiu lay on him and snorted. “These people want to imply that I am jealous? I will let them know what true jealousy is.”
A day later, the news that the assistant minister of the Ministry of Rites had written poems for a singer from a flower house reached the ears of his wife at home. That afternoon, his wife smashed the doors to the flower house, and beat the assistant minister’s face black and blue. He did not even have the courage to look at other people.
This was not the worst. The worst was a Directorate of Education Chancellor who had something going on with a nun. The nun even got pregnant and came to his home. The wife was so angry that she led her father and brothers to destroy the gates of her husband’s house, and even took her children and dowry to the Ministry of Revenue to sue for divorce.
Some other imperial censors were caught having something with the wives of their brothers, and even their father’s concubines. The gossip that came out was more than enough for the people in the capital.
So some people said, no wonder these imperial censors wanted the emperor to take consorts. They were guilty themselves, and wanted to drag the emperor down as well. Who knew the emperor was wise and was in harmony with the empress, and was not deceived by them.
As for being wise and not taking consorts had what to do with each other, the public said that was completely unimportant .